How to become a successful Junior Developer with Danny Thompson

How to become a successful Junior Developer with Danny Thompson

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🎙 About the episode

Meet Danny Thompson 🇺🇸! Danny worked in gas stations frying chicken for 10 years before teaching himself how to code. Since then, he’s gone from strength to strength, working at Google for a stint before returning to a company called FrontDoor as a Software Engineer. Along the way, he’s amassed 140k+ followers on Twitter, helping others learn to code and break into tech with measured, actionable advice. He joins the Scrimba Podcast to talk job-hunting strategies and mindset, plus answer quick-fire questions so we can get to know him better.

🔗 Connect with Danny

⏰ Timestamps

  • Introduction (0:00)
  • Danny has 141K followers but he doesn’t want you to follow his advice blindly (01:22)
  • Danny’s new role - returning to work at his previous company after working at a FAANG company (03:02)
  • Should Juniors look for work in their local area, remote, or both? (14:59)
  • Transferring skills from your previous non-technical jobs with confidence (17:32)
  • Alex challenges Danny about what to do if you’re sensitive to rejection (21:24)
  • “The best thing that never happened to me” (25:34)
  • Tailor your application to the role or you’re probably going to fail (27:37)
  • Anticipate what employers want to know and prepare an elevator pitch (30:05)
  • Quick-fire questions (32:20)
  • Closing words by Danny (37:16)

🧰 Resources mentioned

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💬 Transcript

Alex Booker (00:01): Hello and welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. My name is Alex. And on this weekly show, I speak with successful developers about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior developer job. Today, I'm joined by the energetic and wise, Danny Thompson.

Alex Booker (00:17): I learned of Danny about a year ago because they were always, always, always trending on Twitter sharing solid advice for new programmers after his experience breaking into tech with no degree after frying chicken at a gas station for a decade.

Danny Thompson (00:32): I remember going into interviews and my brain would literally be screaming at me, "Get out of here, you don't belong here. They don't want to talk to you. This interview room now smells like chicken because of you. They don't like you, they don't need you. They want someone with higher capabilities, they want someone that comes from a degree background."

Alex Booker (00:46): That is how Danny got started. But in the years since he has become a fountain of measured, actionable, and inspiring advice for anyone learning to code and trying to break into tech, no matter who you are or where you are from.

Danny Thompson (00:59): You know the show 90 Day Fiancé, they can't even get a fiancé in 90 days. You're going to come over here and get a brand new six figure career in 90 days? Give yourself the permission to take your time.

Alex Booker (01:11): I am excited to bring you more of that in this episode. And remember to stay tuned to the end because I throw Danny some fun quickfire questions. Let's get into it.

Alex Booker (01:22): Sometimes what we see on Twitter, isn't always the reflection of what you should be working on if your goal is to become a junior developer. Something that I know you're very passionate about and talk about a lot.

Danny Thompson (01:31): I often say that follower account is not a direct representation of genius in a subject. A follower account is actually a direct representation of how much you run your mouth. It just so happens I run my mouth a little bit more than the average, so people hit the follow button a little bit more frequently on my profile compared to a few others. But I've met some absolute geniuses that have 300 followers, and I've met some people that literally make my eyes roll that have half a million followers.

Danny Thompson (02:01): Your follower account doesn't mean that should be guiding the masses, it just means that sometimes you share some ideas or some memes or some posts that people really resonate with. But what I will say is, don't allow someone outside of your local market to give you advice focused on your local market. For example, I'm in Memphis, Tennessee right now. I have no way to know what the market is in London or Ireland or anywhere else to give very specific advice. And so a lot of people on Twitter they share this very specific advice applying to them, but it doesn't apply to the global market because it's completely different.

Danny Thompson (02:35): Like where I am in Memphis, Tennessee is the biggest tech that you can have to land a job in tech here. That's not the case for every single state or city in the country. For example, some areas Python is king, some areas like Washington, D.C. Ruby is king, right? That's why I always say, especially if you let some random cartoon character image dictate your life decisions, I think that's a very dangerous way to go about selecting things. Even with me, I try very, very hard to ensure that I don't give bad advice. I do a lot of research, but I don't always get it right.

Danny Thompson (03:08): So I know if I'm not getting it right, I know other people aren't getting it right. And if they're not getting it right that means they're not doing the due diligence to let people know on the front end like, "Hey, this could apply to you, this may not apply to you." Do that research. So even if you get advice from me, even if something on this podcast that we talk about today is really sparking an idea for you, let it spark that idea, do your research and see if it applies to you.

Alex Booker (03:32): I happen to know in your last role, you were very focused on community, helping with conferences and things like that, whereas this new role seems to be all about building software. Was that a conscious decision for you? Since I know that both things are actually very important to you and things about which you're passionate.

Danny Thompson (03:47): My last role was in developer ecosystems and developer relations endeavor. Essentially what we would do is from the teams that we're creating the languages all the way to individuals utilizing them, we worried about the entire life cycle of that language. I was really focused on helping people get learning resources and hands on workshops and making sure that people were able to learn what they needed to know to really utilize that language. And especially bringing really valuable speakers.

Danny Thompson (04:15): One thing that I noticed with that job was we did a lot of community work and I love community work, but I was starting to move away from the community work that I really, really enjoyed the most where it's helping beginners or helping people learn how to code it in the beginning as opposed to helping developers with 15 years experience working at X, Y, Z company, right? I loved helping them, but I want to help all cycles of developers.

Danny Thompson (04:40): I wasn't able to really focus on the technologies that I enjoyed. For the last six months of my life I was supporting Android technologies. And I really liked the people I was meeting, but Android isn't really necessarily something that I'm super, super passionate about. I really loved web development, I loved React and Angular and utilizing Golang or Java. I wasn't necessarily able to do that in the last role. Although I did get to learn Kotlin, I did get to learn a lot more stuff in Java, but mainly in the mobile developer side of things.

Danny Thompson (05:11): And so I said, "Okay. I want to get back to the technologies that I enjoy the most." And the one thing that I noticed about DevRel is you're talking a lot. Like you're meeting people, you're talking to a lot of people, there's not much that you can do outside of that. And so I said, "Okay, I need to go ahead and get to a point where I can focus on the technologies that I want to focus on. And then whatever community efforts that I want to do, it's really focused on the things that I want to be a part of"

Danny Thompson (05:40): Essentially with this new role, I'm going as a Golang React developer for a company called Frontdoor, amazing company. I get to work on a phenomenal team with great individuals. And traditionally that's like a big focus of what I look at when deciding on a company that I want to work for, getting to work on products that I really want to work on, and get to work on initiatives and things like that, that I'm really focused on, so definitely looking forward for that. But the biggest thing of all is I get to work with technologies that I really want to work with. And I want to get better at microservices and backend technologies, and Golang is a great way for me to do that.

Alex Booker (06:11): Excuse me if I misremembering, but did you work at Frontdoor before?

Danny Thompson (06:15): Yep. When I was leaving my last role I interviewed with several companies and I had several really aggressive offers, but Frontdoor really came with an offer that I couldn't turn down. And the biggest point of all was I truly loved the team that I was with. And the individuals that I get to work with on a daily basis are what make a job for me. A job is a job. You're going to provide value, you're going to do what you need to do, but when you get to work with people that you actually like, and you get to work with people that make it worth all that effort of the late deployments or trying to hit a time crunch and they're great individuals, it makes that journey all worth it for me.

Alex Booker (06:52): I'll tell you what, man, we look at a lot of new developers LinkedIn profiles, and people have questions around how to prioritize things, how to position themselves. It's very rare, but also incredibly encouraging to see on somebody's LinkedIn profile that they worked at a company, they went on to work at another awesome company. And then they liked working with them so much, they hated to see them go and now they're welcome back. You could ask for anything more on a LinkedIn profile. That's very cool.

Danny Thompson (07:15): That was one thing that I really was appreciative of. Anytime I go into a role I always try to provide as much value as I can. It was a really awesome feeling when I was able to not just provide value, but when they found out that I was looking for an opportunity, they came right away, we had a great conversation discussion. I had actually given my notice without another role lined up, so for them to really scoop in and the hiring process was incredibly fast because they already knew what I was able to do.

Danny Thompson (07:43): And I left everything on really good terms. And that's kind of one thing that I always say, when you burn a bridge you can never cross over it again. But if you leave that bridge intact, you never know when you want to meet mutually on one side or the other and for them to be receptive of that. And that's another thing too, when I tell people about creating some kind of presence online. This time when I was interviewing around, it was one of the first times that I heard from several individuals. Before I interviewed a candidate, I've never heard so much about them from multiple individuals.

Danny Thompson (08:11): And so I was going into all these interviews where they had already heard about me or someone told them about me before they even met me. And I thought that was a great testament of why people should be sharing content online, not just in the aspect of writing a random blog post to write it. Or, and I see this very frequently, being a high school kid and you're sharing career tips. I don't think you need to do that. What I think people need to be sharing is the most authentic version of themselves and how they approach problems. And when you do that, people will connect with that. And if they connect with that, that connection being authentic and real will provide more opportunities for you down the road.

Danny Thompson (08:53): People love to be a Xerox copy of somebody else, instead you really should focus most on who you really are. And if you can create a post and create a tweet or create a LinkedIn post or create a blog, but it's really about what you're learning, a problem that you solved and how you approached it, or something along those lines, that I think is going to produce way more value for you than anything else that you could ever copy of somebody else's one. Of the biggest factors to people even following me on social media, it hasn't been because I take great photos and I post witty comments. It's they feel like they're truly connecting with me because everything that I post is authentically real.

Danny Thompson (09:32): And I don't always say the most coolest thing in the world to say to get the most likes. I don't care about likes, because at the end of the day I've had posts get 20,000 likes, I've had post get 10,000 likes, my dinner tasted the same, my family stayed the same, my clothes looked the same, none of that changes. So what matters most is if you're connecting with somebody it's authentic, because if it's authentic they'll stay with you, they'll ride with you, they'll really care about you at the end of the day, as opposed to you just being somebody that they toss to the side. So just focus on being the most authentic version of yourself and I guarantee you more fruitful opportunities will head their way towards you.

Danny Thompson (10:10): This is the exact same thing that I did when I had zero followers, zero connections. To be completely honest for over 10 years of my life I was working in gas stations. And I realized that LinkedIn was a place where I could actually get into contact with all these hiring managers and recruiters and the actual decision makers for roles. I was terrified, like literally mortified terrified of reaching out to these individuals. And I realized something in the moment, the chances of these individuals, these hiring managers, these recruiters that work at these big Fortune 500 companies, right? The chances of them ever walking in my gas station are literally zero.

Danny Thompson (10:47): So the only way that they'll ever know that I even exist is if I reach out to them, because they'll never know who Danny Thompson is. They'll have no reason to know who Danny Thompson is. And so I started reaching out to hiring managers and recruiters. I'd start DMing them, I'd start commenting on their post, I'd start looking at a lot of their content. And in the beginning they're like, "Who the hell is this Danny guy?" And now they're like, "Oh, I love Danny. I knew Danny from the beginning. Danny's the best." But it never would have happened if I didn't start creating a network.

Danny Thompson (11:20): And one thing that I ended up doing with that network is after creating many opportunities for others and myself, I started creating pipelines. When somebody would approach me with a role I be like, "Hey, really, really happy that you approach me with this. I'm not interested, but before you walk away I have somebody that I think would be a perfect fit for you. Let me make that introduction. Obviously if you already like me, you're going to like my judgment and who I could possibly send that way." With a lot of these hiring managers a lot of my focus was I want to show you that you can find mid-level developers or junior developers that can fill the roles for positions that you were looking for that were slightly higher.

Danny Thompson (11:53): If you were looking for a senior let me introduce you to a mid-level developer, if you're looking for a mid-level developer let me introduce you to a junior that really knows their stuff. And what ended up happening was we started seeing companies that never hired juniors start taking these opportunities to start hiring. And one thing that I've even told to several hiring managers is if you have five senior developers, there's no reason why you can't and have one junior joining that. Because you could spread that workload across those five and it wouldn't really seem like a lot to them, but it creates that pipeline of junior developers for you that number one, you can get at a cheaper rate.

Danny Thompson (12:24): But number two, instead of trying to break bad habits out of a senior developer with 10 years of experience, you can create the junior developer habits that will be a senior in three years saving you a massive fraction of the money and you get exactly what you want out of it. And I'm not saying like, "Oh. We've got a million junior developers that we're hiring now because of this." No. But where there was zero opportunities maybe there's one now, where there were two opportunities maybe there's four. So it hasn't been life-changing, monumental differences, but we've started getting people in the door and I think that's what matters the most. Even for me with Frontdoor, I'm like one of the first few people that they ever hired that didn't even come from a degree background, right?

Alex Booker (13:02): Nice.

Danny Thompson (13:02): And they liked me so much that they brought me back, I provided that value. And I think that's crucial that if you actually do get these opportunities, you don't just get it and survive, but you last and thrive. If you get in there and a hiring manager's willing to take a chance on you, invest his time in you, it's now your duty to rise to the occasion. You're opening the door for people to follow behind you. And you're leaving that impression with that hiring manager that I can take chances on opportunities on juniors, I can take opportunities on developers that may not be a senior developer 5, 10 years of experience.

Danny Thompson (13:33): And I think this is something a lot of juniors need to keep in their mindset that regardless of where you are in your career, where you are in your journey, what you know in your tech stack, you bring value. But the thing that needs to change in the expectation of a junior developer trying to enter the industry is coding is not the most important thing you can do it's the least important thing you can do. They're not hiring coders, they're hiring problem solvers. You need to be able to look at a problem, break it down to a lower level, and solve that problem.

Danny Thompson (14:04): The code is just the tool that you utilize to give your solution to that problem. And a lot of people they come with this mindset, I know what state is, I know what a prop is, I know what an array is, where these jobs at? And I know for a lot of people that bootcamp advertisers to get to them and 90 days to make six figures in tech. Like 90 days. You know that show 90 Day fiancé? They can't even get a fiancé in 90 days. You're going to come over here and get a brand new six figure career in 90 days? Give yourself the permission to take your time.

Alex Booker (14:40): If you are enjoying this episode of the Scrimba Podcast, please do us at Scrimba a favor and share it with your friends on social media or in your community. Word of mouth is the single best way to support a podcast that you like, so thanks in advance. Back to the interview with Danny.

Alex Booker (14:59): I do think there is sometimes a bit of a disconnect between reality and social media, which can be everybody's highlight reel. There's always going to be an outlier who did get a job after 90 days. What they don't tell you is they started coding when they were 12, maybe dabbled with code every year for 10 years, and then just happened to give a last mile and get a job and attribute to the bootcamp.

Alex Booker (15:19): But I like what you said at the beginning about looking at your local job market and these opportunities around you. Just on that topic, I think the game has changed a little bit. What do you do now with so many junior jobs are remotes? Like you still look at the local area? Or do you maybe expand your horizons a little bit?

Danny Thompson (15:34): Let me preface this by saying, my following and the people that I talk with it's completely international, right? So when I say local market, number one, I am definitely referencing your local area, the area around you and maybe your nearest biggest city. But I'm also referencing a lot of people, for example, in Asia and Africa they say, "Well, only opportunities that exist for us is in the west." So they're desperately trying to get jobs in America, London, and Ireland, et cetera, or even in China.

Danny Thompson (16:01): And I try to tell them that there are problems that can be solved in the west, but there's also problems that can be solved in your local area and Jimmy's insurance company down the street is always hiring, right? And they have problems that they need to solve. The problem is people often disregard their local area and they're looking forward these big tech hub cities. When you are in your area around you, your competition is going to be way less. I'm in Memphis, Tennessee, if I start trying to get jobs in New York and California, I have all the Californians there but I also have all the people that are trying to get remote jobs in that city as well.

Danny Thompson (16:31): My competition and all the possible candidates that are going for this opportunity increases exponentially. Where if I'm in Memphis, Tennessee looking for a job, maybe I'm going up against 10, 15, 20 developers, whereas if I'm going against the global market maybe there's thousands upon thousands of developers applying to the exact same job. Hiring managers for the vast majority, they definitely want to hire people that are within their city, right? They want local talent. If you can fill that void, I think that's huge.

Danny Thompson (17:00): But if remote is your option I'm going to be honest, in my opinion becoming a junior developer in a completely remote position far outside of your state, city, country, it's significantly harder than if you were to become a junior developer where it's local to you. For a lot of these companies, they've created a workforce that can work online, but they don't necessarily have the systems in place to take a complete beginner and mold them into the junior developer that they're looking for. Whereas in-person, they have those systems.

Alex Booker (17:32): There are so many people who are breaking into tech from other industries. And one thing I know you believe is that you can always parlay or transfer your experience or knowledge into that new job. But where the difficulty comes in is like how. Maybe in your specific case working as a fry cook, how do you take those skills and package them up and tell an employee, "These are the things I'm bringing with me."

Danny Thompson (17:52): That's the most common thing I hear. All these jobs they want five years of experience for a junior developer now. It's crazy. And I agree, I've seen the job ads and I was like, "Junior developer, two years of experience. How are they going to have two years of experience for an entry level position?" Right? And one person said one thing that stuck with me, "Entry level doesn't necessarily mean entry level as in entering the field for the first time, it could be entry level to get into that company."

Danny Thompson (18:15): Thank companies are a great example, right? Google, Facebook, they start hiring their developers at level three position. So they're not necessarily saying, "We want junior developers with zero experience, we want you to already be seasoned when you come into this place." And this is the advice that I could ever give you when it comes to jobs that are looking for experience, apply. Simple as that, apply. Do you know the main languages that they're looking for? Apply. Do you know 50% of the requirements that they're listing? Apply. Worst case scenario, they say no. You're in the exact same position you were before, right? Nothing's changed.

Danny Thompson (18:46): Best case scenario, they say yes. Or at the very least you get an opportunity to show them how valuable you really are. No company in the history of the world has ever turned down a sure-fired bet to make money. Now when it comes to showcasing your past experience, don't go in there saying, "I was a cashier." If you're a cashier don't start telling me, "I rang up customers on a register, I bagged up groceries." I know you did that, I'd be more shocked if you didn't. If you told me you had a calculator on the side, that would be crazy of a story, right? Give me the quantifiable win. You shown someone somewhere something that you were good at that job, what was it?

Danny Thompson (19:29): You were at that job for two years. It wasn't that you just showed up to work on time, you showed something else that kept you there that got you that raise. Did you increase impulse purchases at the point of counter? Did you go ahead and increase customer satisfaction? The purchase of sales? Did you increase the ability for customers to walk out with more product? Did you reduce spoilage? Talk about these wins and add a number to it. Don't just say you increased revenue, nobody knows what that means. Is that a dollar? Is it $10,000? Is it a million? But if you were say, "I was able to increase revenue by 3% year over year by creating more impulse purchases, which resulted in my boss loving me and giving me X, Y, Z." Right?

Danny Thompson (20:09): The other thing that I try to tell people all the time when it comes to your resume, LinkedIn, et cetera, it is not your autobiography, your interview is your autobiography. Your resume, your LinkedIn these are your hooks. You need to construct it in a way to where it like, This is really interesting. I need more information. Let me call Danny. Let me go further with this." So many times do I see people where they're adding paragraphs to each bullet point? You need a line max to saying, "I did X, Y, Z. This was the thing." So one tip that I'll give you keep a small book by your desk, by your table, wherever. And at the end of the day just jot something down.

Danny Thompson (20:46): Small wins are still wins. But the problem is when it comes time where we're trying to write everything down, we forget. We forget about all those times where the boss is like, "Hey, you really did it today. Great job. So proud of you." We forget about those small moments. And so when it's time to really construct this stuff, we're like racking our brain for something and we lose track of that. Having that little notebook, you can write things down throughout the year. And guess what? I guarantee you at the end of the year, you're going to have 15, 20 wins in there that you forgot about.

Alex Booker (21:14): I really want to challenge you a little bit on a couple of those points, if that's okay. Just from the perspective of people who maybe I've even shed the same advice. You know I say, "What's the worst they can say? They're going to say no and you're in the same position." But they're like, "Well actually Alex." I feel like my self-confidence is going to be really bad after that. I think it's going to be a major setback to me.

Danny Thompson (21:31): Here's the thing. I think there's nothing more powerful than getting a no and then realizing you didn't break. I think for a lot of us, we think that we're fragile when in reality we're not. And sometimes testing the fragility of our being is one of the best things that we could do. If you're in an interview and you realize, man, this interview is just terrible, it's not going the way that I want. Bomb it with style. You'll walk out feeling like a million bucks knowing, I knew that was not going to go the way that I wanted, but I took control of it, I said everything that I wanted to say, it went fantastic. I guarantee you, you're going to walk away feeling way more profound and way more comfortable to yourself.

Danny Thompson (22:06): If one person tells you no, it's not the end of the world. There's 7 billion people on this planet. I just need one of them to fall in love with me, see what I bring to the table, and give me the opportunity in my lifetime. One says no, I'm on to the next one. You don't like everybody on this planet, I don't like everybody on this planet. There's some people that I genuinely love, I appreciate, I try to support and there's some people that I avoid because I just don't like who they are with their natures, jobs are the exact same way. Everything that I'm saying right now is like constant trial, error, failing, getting back up.

Danny Thompson (22:35): I love failure. This is the same mindset that I had before. Because if I didn't fail, if I didn't push that idea or if I didn't push that constant a little bit further, am I leaving anything on the table? Am I underselling myself? Am I even bringing enough value for this conversation? I guarantee you, if you fail and you bring yourself back up from that opportunity, you'll find yourself number one, being able to learn from that experience and bring more. But number two, you'll be able to bring the necessary skill set that an employer is looking for. And I think that is crucial because oftentimes we do the bare minimum hoping for the highest rewards.

Danny Thompson (23:12): I get asked, "Danny, what's the least I need to know to get a job." Why aren't we looking at what's past that? Why aren't we looking at how much more can I do to make sure that I'm not just getting a job, but I'm getting the opportunity that I needed to help me reach that next level. Here's the thing, in development there's no shortage of bodies to perform tasks, there's a shortage of very skilled developers to solve problems. Problem solvers are not the ones just getting the jobs, they're the ones growing careers. Don't just say, "I've learned how to code in React. Or I learned Angular, I know how to write a test." It's further than that.

Danny Thompson (23:47): When it comes to failing or getting told no, there was a job that I wanted in tech real bad. I did every single thing possible to make sure that I got that job. Everything looked like it was lining up perfectly for me. I remember I went to the last interview, I came home, I was on cloud nine, I killed it, man. Me and my wife started celebrating. It was like four o'clock in the afternoon, we're jumping up in the kitchen, we're dancing. I'm like, "Gas station days are over." And I get a phone call, they didn't want me. I have never been so sick in my life.

Danny Thompson (24:17): I actually took the next two days off of work, I stayed in bed, they didn't want me. To this day I don't know why, because I did everything right. I said it all the right things, I answered the technical interview perfectly, they just they didn't want me. And I wish I knew what I could have done to turn that situation. But the reality is, even if I knew the answer it wouldn't change the outcome. It was the best thing that never happened to me. And the reason why I was in that moment, I believed that this opportunity's given me everything possible, that it checked off all the boxes, a week and a half later is when I got approached by Frontdoor for the first time.

Danny Thompson (24:53): And they literally checked off every single thing. Without Frontdoor I doubt I would've been able to grow so much in my career or learned as much. They invested in my mentorship, they gave me opportunities to learn, hands-on learning. They gave me free Coursera access to make sure that I'm learning anything that I want to learn on Coursera. They gave me everything, and I would've missed that opportunity if I went with that other one or if they gave it to me. And knowing what I know now, obviously hindsight is 2020.

Alex Booker (25:19): Of course.

Danny Thompson (25:20): But knowing what I know now, that opportunity never would've compared to what I had at Frontdoor. And I could say that knowing what Frontdoor offers and what they offered. But they didn't want me and I'm so grateful for that now, because if they said yes and I said yes, there's no time where I'll even be right now in my career.

Alex Booker (25:34): The best thing that never happened to me, I like that a lot. I grew up in the countryside looking for my first developer job because all my friends had gone to university. They all had a clear path to success or at least it seemed that way. As a 18, 19 year old kid, teaching myself to code on Pluralsight and YouTube and things like that, there was no real guarantee of what was to come. And I thought I had to stay in this local area, but there just weren't many jobs. And one time I came across an opportunity I thought would be perfect. I explored it a little bit, but I just felt really defeated. Like there just were no good opportunities here.

Alex Booker (26:05): And eventually that pushed me out of my comfort zone to move to London, where again there are a few more failures along the way. The job I ended up getting, my first tech job, they had a role on their website for some weeks, some months even that I knew was perfect for me. This was the one I was like, "Wow. I'm the best match for this?" And I was like, "Damn. If I apply and I don't get this, that's going to be really bad." And I procrastinated, basically. I didn't exactly bail out but I procrastinated until the point where the job went off the website. And I was like, "Oh well, what am I going to do? Nothing I can do about it. The job's gone off the website."

Alex Booker (26:36): And I was really lucky because they sent me a lifeline in the end. That company posted on Twitter looking for someone to do a freelance job. And when I did it I was like, "Right, this is my shot." And I completed the freelance task in record time, I made them a YouTube video showing off all the work, put on my best presentation voice, all that kind of stuff to try and stand out. But anyway, eventually I got the job and that was great. One day you will be in the position you dreamed of being in and no matter how many wrong turns you took along the way or how many setbacks were there, you realize if not for those twists and turns, you couldn't possibly have ended up where you're meant to be.

Alex Booker (27:07): And that's probably one of the best ways to look at failures. And I think something else you said which is a 100% true, is like, it's a two-way street. You might interview at a company and be like, "Whoa, these guys are clowns." Or like, "Whoa, there's so many red flags. How do they treat people like this? Or they're not passionate about the tech at all they're just chugging along. You're entitled to an opinion like that. And similarly, you might find that it's not about good or bad or better or worse, it's just about compatibility at the end of the day. And just because one thing is more compatible doesn't mean it's better necessarily.

Danny Thompson (27:37): Yeah. One thing that'll even say is, when it comes to applying to jobs a lot of juniors do the spray and pray method, right? They're just spraying a thousand jobs and they're getting two callbacks. And I'll never ever tell you not to apply to a job, you absolutely should. But what you should be doing is customizing that resume for each application. And the reason why is when you do that, you're exponentially increasing the opportunities that you actually land. And for example, prime example I'll give you, is if you have a generic resume that you're giving out but, for example, the job description is saying, "Hey, we're really looking for a JavaScript developer with the experience with these libraries."

Danny Thompson (28:13): If you don't highlight your experience with those libraries, how would they ever know that you know that because you're using a generic resume to apply with these generic points, right? I can't tell you how many times people are like, "I've applied to a thousand jobs I got two callbacks." That's a 0.02% callback rate, right? Like that's insanely, insanely low. I'm not saying to stop applying to jobs, but the strategy needs to change. You can't apply to that many people and not get callbacks. If you're not getting callbacks, you're not doing something right. So customize that resume each time to make sure that you're being very focused.

Danny Thompson (28:43): It takes more time, absolutely, but I guarantee you you're going to go from a thousand applications for two callbacks to maybe 20 or 30 for a callback. And I think those odds are going to be significantly better for you. But what I'll end up telling you as well is you need to be on LinkedIn and you need to literally put yourself in a position where not only are you having a very strong profile, because a strong profile will land you in job searches, but you need to be networking and you need to be talking to developers. And not just developers but hiring managers, recruiters.

Danny Thompson (29:15): You can use a feature on LinkedIn where you go through the search and you can filter by posts and search the companies that you're looking for. And you can actually put in the filter term the companies around yo that you're looking for by I name, and you can see posts that they're saying, "Hiring JavaScript developers or whatever." And message the poster directly. Like saying, "Hey, I saw that you were looking for a developer for this. I think I'm the perfect candidate for that. I have three reasons why I think you and I need to have a conversation. One, two, and three." And once you do that guarantee you you're going to start getting a lot more callbacks. Either they're going to be like, "This person's way off base." Or they're going to say, "Let me check out the profile." They check out your profile. And once it's a strong profile, they're like, "You know, I really need to have a conversation with this individual."

Alex Booker (29:55): I think that's a great way of looking at it. And there are so many awesome tips and advice and things you can do on you're LinkedIn and your resume to improve it. I know that you have a YouTube series about this, which we'll link in the show notes for sure.

Danny Thompson (30:05): The other thing that I'll even emphasize there is especially when it comes to interviewing or conversations with people. One thing that I often find, and it seems so obvious to me but I guess it's just not obvious to others, is I rarely enter into a conversation without having thought about what they might be asking. What is the one question that we know every single hiring manager is going to ask you at the very beginning of an interview? Tell me about yourself. So many people come up with answers in real time, as opposed to having something prepared that they feel is like a really strong answer that highlights a lot of their major, major points in life.

Danny Thompson (30:40): You should have a very strong elevator pitch of 15 to 30 seconds that you use to answer that question. Because guess what? That elevator pitch number one, will control the narrative of the rest of that interview. You can give an answer so strong at the very beginning of that interview, that it now dictates the next 45 minutes that you're going to have with that hiring manager. To give you an idea, a hiring manager is basically what I call a treasure hunter, right? Like they're a fact finder. They don't necessarily know any damn thing about you, make it easier for them.

Danny Thompson (31:10): They ask abstract questions because they're searching for the little nuggets of information, the details. And if you can deliver that elevator pitch, instead of them going down the predetermined cookie-cutter set of questions that they had trying to get that information, they now have it. And so like, "Oh, tell me more." This is something that I used. In the beginning I don't remember exactly the way that I used it because it's been so long, but I would say something along the lines of, "Hey, I'm Danny Thompson. I am extremely passionate about software development. And I am a community leader where I work with meetup communities and we hold meetups every two weeks.

Danny Thompson (31:41): "But I'm extremely passionate Java and Angular technologies. I've recently made an application in Java Angular where it was a city database name where you'd enter the name of a city and it would tell you whether it was rural and urban based on population density. And we would use Java on the backend to feed in the API and do the analytical thinking, display it on the front end with Angular and we'd create SQL tables off of that." So now I've given them three of my strongest points, Java, Angular, SQL. So instead of them saying, "Well, do you know React?" That question's not coming up? "Do you know C#?" That question's not coming up, because I've told them what I know. I've given them so much to go off of just off of those couple of lines that I can now keep them where my strength is.

Alex Booker (32:20): There's so much power, I think, in knowing what the recruiter is looking for and how to lead them there. What do you say just for fun? To wrap things up, we do some quick fire questions.

Danny Thompson (32:29): Sure.

Alex Booker (32:32): What would you prefer remotes, hybrid, or in-person work?

Danny Thompson (32:36): I do like in-person, if I'm being completely honest. I do love the aspect of being able to work with my team. But I will also say that now with my roles being remote, I've also enjoyed the extra time with my family.

Alex Booker (32:47): What do you prefer? Flexbox or CSS Grid?

Danny Thompson (32:49): Oh. So I do like Flexbox. I tend to use that quite a bit unless I'm designing an entire layout of a page, then I'll utilize Grid. Otherwise it's always Flexbox most of the time.

Alex Booker (32:59): Danny, we'd love to get to know you a little bit better. So why don't you tell us your favorite kind of music?

Danny Thompson (33:03): I love everything besides country, and that's ironic as I live in the south. But I just can't get into it, I've tried so hard. I definitely tend to lean a lot towards hip hop, I do like pop, I like rock. But when it comes to rock, it's usually classic rock old school. Really, really like that genre.

Alex Booker (33:20): Do you listen to music while you work and code?

Danny Thompson (33:21): Lo-fi all day. So something about lo-fi beats, it just lets me hit that focus that I need and it helps me block out distractions. But the other thing too is, if you don't have something in little slight noises can distract me. So it's that sound buffer that I need.

Alex Booker (33:35): What is your favorite way to get ready for the day?

Danny Thompson (33:37): Water on my face, brush my teeth, get out the door. I mean, that's about it. I'm very low maintenance, so just honestly, as long as I can see the day, I've seen another day, it's a good day.

Alex Booker (33:48): And do you just get out of bed and start to work? Or do you actually leave the door these days?

Danny Thompson (33:53): For those that don't know, normally I start my days around four o'clock in the morning give or take. The reason why I do that is my family's asleep, so I have no distractions, I have nothing distracting me. It is my personal time, but I do nothing work-related. So either learning something I want to learn or expanding that knowledge in a certain area, but 4:00 AM to about 7:00 AM when they wake up that's three hours dedicated to me. So as usually when I wake up I may get the blood pumping a little bit, maybe do some work around. But outside of that, it's focused on whatever it is that I'm trying to do, once the family gets up it's all time dedicated to them.

Alex Booker (34:24): You've been doing a lot of Twitter spaces in the last few months. Are there any or even just one Twitter space that stands out as your favorites?

Danny Thompson (34:30): You know, there was one that we did and I almost broke down. I was tearing up. I did one space where literally every single person that came up as a speaker where talking about how they just got a job in tech and it was because of advice I gave or coding help that I gave. And I have a discord, so we do a lot of stuff in there and they were like, "You helped me here and this helped me kill the interview." And so every single person just kept coming up.

Danny Thompson (34:54): And I was like, "You all, I didn't pay these people to come up. I didn't know this was happening." And it was just person after person. I think it was like 12 people in a row they were like, "You literally helped me get a job. And I'm so grateful for that." And for me, I don't charge for any of this. It's completely free, anything that I do is just to help people. And so to hear that it makes it all worth it.

Alex Booker (35:13): Are there any Twitter accounts you can recommend to people listening if they're looking to learn more about how to break into tech?

Danny Thompson (35:19): So many. And you're going to have somebody hate me, like, "I can't believe you didn't mention me in this list."

Alex Booker (35:22): I know, right? [crosstalk 00:35:23].

Danny Thompson (35:23): There's so many people. One thing that I'll say is there are gems whether they have 100 followers or 100,000. What matters most is making sure that you resonate with the ideas and that they're not just regurgitating what somebody else said, right? Why follow the Xerox copy when you can follow the original, right? So I try to find people that share very unique individual ideas. So Angie Jones, phenomenal example. I believe she's the first woman Java Champion, if not the first black woman who is a Java Champion. She totally kills it. She created an entire free course to teach people Java. There's also Catalin Pit, I think is fantastic. Eddie Vanek is an amazing individual. We have [inaudible 00:36:01] Dakota who's incredible. And Annie Bombanie, she's incredible.

Alex Booker (36:05): That's cool.

Danny Thompson (36:05): She's all about CSS. Cassandra, she's phenomenal. There's also James Q Quick. He's a big reason why I'm even in tech, phenomenal human being. There's coding pads, I believe he's on TikTok. His name is Lawrence Lockhart, phenomenal human being. Highly, highly recommend Lawrence. There's the entire Commit Your Code community, my discode channel which is the link in my Twitter bio. We have over 7,000 developers, super active.

Danny Thompson (36:28): There's another group that's called Code Connector, highly recommend checking them out. They're phenomenal. They have groups all over the country, but phenomenal. There's also amazing GDG leaders, GDG Google Developer Groups. There's leaders that literally dedicate time to hosting events in their cities trying to help people grow and become better. I think the one thing you should be searching for is not who's tweeting, "Oh. Here are the five steps to land a job in tech," but who's really adding value to your timeline.

Alex Booker (36:51): Just let people know, gave Danny no warning or cautions about what questions are coming up. So you just know that you're deeply involved the community representing people. I appreciate it a lot. And just one last question, bit of fun and a nice way to come full circle. Danny Thompson Web, no, I can't ask you about Web 2 or Web 3, can I? It's too contentious. We'll just have to call it a day. Danny, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast.

Danny Thompson (37:14): No problem. And If I could just say one last thing.

Alex Booker (37:16): Of course.

Danny Thompson (37:16): For a lot of you all I know you're in a position, especially if you're beginner trying to get the first job in tech. I know you're doubting yourself. And it may seem long or it may seem like everyone's getting a job besides me. Trust me, take your damn time, please. I fried chicken all my life. I'd walk into meetups and my nickname was Popeyes. Like people call me Popeyes and I'd laugh in the moment, but in reality it created this in immense amount of imposter syndrome. Because I was like, "I'm not even on the same level as these individuals. Why would they ever want to give me a job?"

Danny Thompson (37:47): And I remember going into interviews and my brain would literally be screaming at me, "Get out of here, if you don't belong here. They don't want to talk to you. This interview room now smells like chicken because of you. They don't like you, they don't need you. They want so with higher capabilities, they want something that comes from a degree background. They want someone that comes from a better family, they grew up in a better environment, they know something better. That they bring more value to the conversation, they bring more value to the teams. Get out of here, you don't belong here." I can safely say my imposter syndrome, my doubts, my insecurities, even my haters, I absolutely made it. I'm Danny Thompson, I'm a Software Engineer and I absolutely love everything that I get to do and you will too.

Alex Booker (38:26): Danny, thank you so much.

Danny Thompson (38:27): Thank you.

Alex Booker (38:27): That was Danny Thompson, a former fun employee, community leader, and software developer. Thank you for listening. Psst! If you made it this far, you might want to subscribe for more helpful and uplifting episodes with recently hired juniors and industry experts alike. You can also tweet me your host, Alex Booker, and share what lessons you learned from the episode so I can thank you personally for tuning in. My Twitter handle along with Scrimba's is in the show notes. See you next week.