3 Months and 600 Job Applications Later: How Fredrik Became a Junior Developer in Record Time with Scrimba

3 Months and 600 Job Applications Later: How Fredrik Became a Junior Developer in Record Time with Scrimba

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πŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Fredrik Ridderfalk from Sweden πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ͺ! He went from not knowing any code to landing a Junior Developer role in just 3 months! Having studied before, Fredrik knew exactly how to structure his learning on Scrimba so that it worked best for him. Thanks to trying some other jobs in the past, he also had a good idea of how to crack the coding interview. Β In this episode, Fredrik imparts the knowledge that got him hired in record time to YOU.

πŸ”— Connect with Fredrik Ridderfalk

⏰ Timestamps

  • Introduction (0:00)
  • Creating your own Junior Developer roadmap (03:37)
  • How Fredrik became job-ready in 3 months (06:13)
  • How to remember what you learn better (08:08)
  • Applying to 600 jobs Β (11:01)
  • Remember: A job ad is a wish list not a must-have list (12:48)
  • Accidentally being interviewed for Senior roles Β (14:18)
  • Fredrik lost faith in tailoring cover letters to the job - is it really necessary? (15:35)
  • Building original projects to stand out (17:18)
  • Expanding on Scrimba Career Path projects (20:49)
  • What the interview process looked like specifically (24:15)
  • What does a Junior Developer do now they’re hired? (26:42)
  • Getting paid to learn (28:22)

🧰 Resources mentioned

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You can also Tweet Alex from Scrimba at @bookercodes and tell them what lessons you learned from the episode so they can thank you personally for tuning in πŸ™

πŸ’¬ Transcript

Alex Booker (00:00): Hello and welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. My name is Alex. And on this weekly show, I speak with successful devs about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior dev job. Today, I'm joined by Scrimba's student, Fredrik from Sweden, who went from not knowing any code to landing a salaried front end dev job in just three months. Now, whenever I hear someone found success in just three months, I'm always a little bit cynical because that is a remarkably short period of time to find success. Often, these stories leave out really important elements like how the candidates dabbled with code whilst they were a teenager or even had an uncle at the company in some ridiculous cases. Fredrik had some advantages, but my goodness did they work hard to come up with an efficient study plan and demonstrate his potential to employers.

Alex Booker (00:52): In this episode, you will learn what Fredrik learned after applying to 600 jobs and how his projects impressed recruiters and his now employer. Fredrik built a game, which the recruiters even played before Fredrik walked in the door. This is very much a success story for Scrimba and one that I'm proud to share on behalf of the team. However, there is a lot you can learn from Fredrik, no matter your circumstances. Let's get into it. I think your story so far is remarkable because from what I understand, you studied for quite a while to earn a master's in molecular biology, then you studied pedagogy I think, to go on and become a teacher. And then if I was reading your LinkedIn profile correctly, and I understand rightly, you were working as a property manager for a little bit.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (01:37): I've had a lot of different professional artistes so far. I even have a degree in business and marketing.

Alex Booker (01:44): Oh, I missed that. Jesus.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (01:46): Yeah, yeah. That came before molecular biology. So I've been searching for my fit for quite some time. And I really enjoy my experience in science and also science teaching. It was very fulfilling. I was going in a direction that would give me fulfillment in my job. And I ended up not really enjoying the workplace, the culture, the work life balance wasn't fitting me. There were a lot of things that didn't fit me. I felt like the missions I was involving myself in were very fulfilling, but the work conditions just weren't satisfying to me. I was also lucky because comparing to the US, I didn't have to pay a huge amount of money for a master's degree so I had the liberty to do higher education a bit longer.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (02:42): And then the pandemic happened and really, it changed a lot of things. I think me and many others, they reprioritized a lot. And I simply didn't know that it was a possibility for me to get into software development. I thought with so many years already spent in higher education, I didn't have the luxury of yet another five years for a CS master's degree. And I thought that was really necessary. I have a lot of software engineer friends, and that's the way they have gotten to the place they are. But then I met my partner actually, and that's how I learned that there are alternative routes into this. So she did a three month San Francisco bootcamp, Fullstack bootcamp, and she got employed not too long after that.

Alex Booker (03:37): So you knew that it was at least possible to go from not knowing much or any code to getting a job in three months, but you decided not to go the boot camp route, you almost decided to create your own curriculum and hit it from all angles, if I understand rightly?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (03:51): Yeah, I've talked to a lot of people who have expressed that they have a really hard time with self studies. I never felt that, I have always felt quite comfortable designing my own roadmap and keeping up the discipline needed to reach my goals. So I believed that it was possible for me to do it the quick and cheaper way as well. Because coding boot camps aren't necessarily cheap. Eventually, I ended up with a roadmap that was working for me, but along the way, I got stuck in tutorial hell, and I tried out so many different resources, some were good, some were not a good fit and I didn't really feel that it was going to be possible for me to make this career change until I found Scrimba and the front end developer career path. When I was on that, I definitely recognized that this was what I needed to become hireable.

Alex Booker (04:54): What did your sorts of first impression of a roadmap look like and how did it change once you started using Scrimba?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (05:01): The first step was figuring out what coding direction I wanted to take. I could go towards more back end or I could go in the front end direction and having somewhat of a background in design way back in high school, that's something that really clicked with me. And that first resources that I was consuming, they were either very broad, so they also included a lot of backend. I started off learning Python, but I didn't feel that itch to continue learning. When I got to HTML CSS, that passion for design was awakened. I have spent a lot of time learning how to learn, but I still got stuck in tutorial hell. I was not hands on enough with the code. I went through challenge after challenge after challenge. It was a lot of problem solving, but I didn't get that project at the end of a challenge. That's something that I got with Scrimba and that set me down the road I felt like all my needs were met.

Alex Booker (06:13): When you were learning to code and your goal was to become a junior developer, you sort of want to hit it from multiple angles because even though most of us have 16 hours in a day, far less, when you consider life's other responsibilities, you can't study every waking hour. Your brain gets tired, you can't hold the information any longer. How did you structure your days optimally to learn and get a job in three months?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (06:33): I'm definitely a morning person, so I learn a lot in the first hours of the day, but it's definitely the case that there's only a certain amount of hours that you can retain focus on learning something that is completely new to you and is challenging you on so many levels. And of course I couldn't continue being on the edge of my own knowledge for 13 hours a day so I did what I could until I started feeling the fatigue feeling like I was starting to hit a wall or being unable to retain focus. And instead of doing something non-coding related, I backtracked and went back to something that I had already exposed myself to, I had already consumed, I redid a lesson on Scrimba or I went back to an old project and looked at it, I listened to videos that I had already listened to. That was me still emerging myself in all things development, but I could also feel like I relaxed.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (07:42): The most important thing I think about doing that is you regain your confidence. Your confidence is going to drop when you hit a wall when learning. When I hit that wall, the rest of the day would be simply me either going back to old material or listening to a podcast or someone talking about how they would relearn coding if they did it today.

Alex Booker (08:08): What other advice could you offer to someone listening who is struggling to remember what they learn and maybe doubting their ability and confidence?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (08:17): To anyone who's doubting their abilities, I didn't feel like I needed to produce something new after every lesson or every project. I watched a lot of other people like Scrimba teachers, like Kevin Powell, watched them build a landing page from scratch. And I wouldn't do anything myself, I would just sit there in my own environment, copying every move. And if I did that, I would feel that, okay, I was somewhat in control of this and then I would do it again with a similar video. And all of a sudden, I would know how I could do things differently and I would start going outside of whatever the instructor was doing. I would just pause the video and feel like, okay, I know how to take it from here, I'm going to do this thing differently and this thing differently.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (09:11): I did the same with design projects, I didn't just code, but I also learned Figma. The way I did that was simply I watched how other people designed different features or pages using Figma and I was just completely a hundred percent copying their every move. And in a very short time, I felt comfortable diverging from that a little bit and eventually I could just do my own project completely from scratch. And another really great way to boost your confidence is actually to share what you produce, because I think we are our own worst critics. When I did something that I wasn't really happy about, I would still show it, I would still share it to my partner or friends or the Scrimba community. And they would like it a lot more than I did.

Alex Booker (10:04): If you are enjoying this episode of the Scrimba Podcast, please do us as Scrimba a favor and share this episode 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. Next week, I'm talking with Anna McDougal about the marketing tactic she used to transition from an opera singer to a junior developer during a pandemic in record time.

Anna McDougal (10:29): I'm good on camera, I'm a performer. So I said, ah, I'll record a new video introducing myself to employers. At that point, I think I had about 5,000 followers on Twitter and I was like, oh, I'll post it on Twitter and I'll post it on LinkedIn. And I wasn't ready for a job so I wasn't really trying, but I had built up this network of people and this network of interest. So I think that tweet in the end got something like 25,000 views. Basically, as soon as I sent it out, within 24 hours I had, I think it was 12 or 13 different job leads.

Alex Booker (11:01): Back to the interview with Fredrik. Take us to the place where you felt ready to start applying to jobs. Because again, as I understood it and for anybody listening, there's a really great message you sent in Discord. And I think in that message or a follow up, you sort of explained how you applied to, well, how many jobs did you apply to Fredrik?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (11:21): Within the course of one month, I applied to slightly over 600 jobs, I think. And obviously not all of these jobs included a cover letter, that would've meant more hours than anyone has in a month. So I found LinkedIn and another site I really want to mention, AngelList to be two really good resources. AngelList is a job portal for startups, where I found a lot of jobs that I was semi qualified for. And both LinkedIn and AngelList, they have a fast application process where you upload your resume and what you're looking for, and you can include a personal message to the recruiter and you press send. And that's how I could apply to over a hundred jobs a day that also included a lot of jobs that I felt like I wasn't qualified for whatsoever. I didn't feel comfortable doing this, but I also heard a lot of people including yourself, say, even if you don't feel qualified for the job listing, even if they require three years of experience in React, apply because it's an ambitious wishlist in many cases. I did feel uncomfortable in the beginning. Some of these jobs even had senior in the job description, senior front end engineer.

Alex Booker (12:48): Just to interject quickly, sometimes you have to apply a degree of judgment as to how much of the skill list you meet. So I often think about a job description as the hiring manager's wishlist. And if they're asking for two or three, but you have one and a half say or one, you're not even halfway there technically, but you can still apply and they might still consider you. I think if you're applying to a senior role or something like that, when you've never had a professional job, the only way I can see that working is if there's a team who's growing fast, they get an application and they see that a junior applied for a senior role and they're like, oh, this must be a mistake, maybe they applied to the wrong role or maybe they think, oh, you know what? We weren't hiring juniors for five more weeks, but Fredrik looks like he's worth a chat with, I'll put him in touch with the person who's hiring juniors in a few weeks. But still, I think that would lead to a pretty low percentage of success. What's your kind of observation now having been through the application process?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (13:42): The percentage of success for that is definitely low. So I did both, right. I did fast applications to a lot of jobs through LinkedIn and AngelList, but I also wrote a lot of cover letters. When I felt quite qualified I would spend more time on the job application. If I didn't feel very qualified, it would be a quick application and effortless.

Alex Booker (14:07): Good point. It cost you nothing, right? You press one button, you upload your resume, why not? And then if you saw one that looked exciting and you had a good chance at, this is when you put a bit more effort into it, but the reward is probably higher as well.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (14:18): Exactly. And fondly enough, I had two interviews for a senior position.

Alex Booker (14:24): No way. Really?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (14:25): Yeah. Yeah. But then the take home project that I got after that was definitely over my head. I learned from that. I learned what is expected from a senior role. I treated the whole process as a learning experience and the success rate for my applications, let's say it was around 600 jobs, I think I got about 30 interviews so that's about 5%. So maybe that's something people can expect, apply to 20 jobs and then maybe you'll have one interview. And I actually think that I spent a lot of time and effort writing cover letters and it was no effort to do the fast applications and I think the success rate was only slightly less for the fast applications, not so much less. So if you factor in your time, which is valuable, I really recommend people doing that as well. In fact, the job that I got, I got it through a fast application where I didn't have a personalized message or a cover letter when applying to them.

Alex Booker (15:35): I spoke to someone previously who had a very similar experience. They applied and they applied, they put loads of effort into tailoring every application and they were feeling a bit defeated, so they took a break and they were like, you know what? I'll ramp back up to that, let me just start quick applying, and that's the opportunity they got, that's the one that turned out to be successful for them. So I'm not here to offer a conclusion, but it is interesting, nonetheless.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (15:58): Yeah. And additionally, the job that I ended up getting had a stated hard requirement, two years of front end experience. Now, obviously I did not have that, I had just learned to code two and a half months earlier, but they were really interested in the projects I had done, especially two of my projects. Those projects were worth that lack of experience.

Alex Booker (16:24): Tell us about the company and what they work on. It's called ... am I pronouncing this right, TULI?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (16:30): Yeah. Yeah, exactly. They're a tech company involved in the healthcare industry as well. So they transform UK pharmacies into diagnostic centers. So they get different diagnostic tests. Right now it's a lot of COVID tests during the pandemic. They get those tests to the pharmacies and then people can ... they can do these tests and the samples are shipped to a lab that TULI is also in charge of. And the diagnostics are done and then through the TULI website or their app, the results are being communicated. So they have onboarded over 200 pharmacies in the UK so far. And the plan this year is to increase that.

Alex Booker (17:18): And you mentioned that they were sort of impressed by your projects. What were the projects and what did they have to say about them?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (17:25): The project that I found most recruiters were interested in was an Android app that I developed, not on my own. In fact, I mostly did the design work and I teamed up with my partner who is a software engineer, she's really experienced in React, so we developed this in React Native, and I did the product design, I did user research and collected feedback. This was a sports app, a very simple streamlined score keeping app for padel, a very popular sport in Sweden and Spain right now and something I myself play. So I would go and talk to a padel players and see what they wanted from this. Because I noticed there was this lack of any kind of score keeping for people playing padel and nobody wanted to do anything outside the court so everyone was just counting in their heads and everyone was also wearing smart watches so I thought that that would be something that actually had real life value. And this is what I told the recruiter. I identified a real world problem and tried to solve that through a user research feedback and then design. And I also helped with the logic of how to score the actual points and implemented interstitial and banner ads in the app.

Alex Booker (18:54): You didn't just copy another app, which can be a really good approach by the way, you actually found something that you care about, like a game you play yourself is a problem close to home. But the fact you went to these players and interviewed them and did customer development calls essentially, that's incredible because I think in lots of companies, building software is not just about the code, far from it, you need to build the right features and often that falls to a project manager or a product manager to sort of figure out in collaboration with the customers. But everybody wants to work with people who care. If you care about what the customers actually want, and like you described when you spoke about adding banner ads and things, something kind of rather new for the product essentially, as a way to bring business value as well. I mean, you're hitting it from both angles and showing a huge amount of initiative. What happened next?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (19:38): What happened next? It didn't matter whatsoever for all the recruiters that I talked with, that it was a collaborative project, that it wasn't just me doing it, it was someone else who additionally was more experienced than me, didn't matter whatsoever. So that's why I really highly recommend anyone to partner up with someone, perhaps someone even more experienced. And if you don't know anyone personally, which I doubt because it seems like everyone is becoming a software engineer or a software developer these days. But if you don't know anyone, I've seen communities that help you find someone that has an idea and would like to design and build something.

Alex Booker (20:16): There are ways to kind of bring value to other developers by making up for each other's weaknesses and strengths. And if you approach it from that angle, provided you find a good community, like you mentioned, Fredrik, I think that's a good idea. And if I was really being creative in thinking through this some more, maybe you could even hire a freelancer or something. I know that sounds a bit ambitious, you might not be in this situation to do that. But the point I'm getting at is, if you can somehow arrive at the same place you did Fredrik, I think that's a really good place to be. Maybe there's a few different ways you can get there and you might have to think creatively about that, but the point remains, it's a really good approach.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (20:49): Yeah, I absolutely agree. Now my role in that was, I was the less experienced coder and so my role was design heavy and identifying problems doing use research. So I definitely felt like I needed to make up for that. So my other project was me developing a novel game, technically not novel. So, I loved Ania Kubow's JavaScript games that she had us do in Scrimba but also on her YouTube channel, they're amazing, Pacman, snake, lots of different games. I loved doing those and I was copying those. Every single game that she did, I copied those as well. And after I did, I felt like I learned the concepts, I learned the JavaScript, I needed to make something similar myself. And I remember this game that I enjoyed a lot during my high school days. And for the life of me, I couldn't find it anymore, it was a very small, little fun browser based game, couldn't find it. So I decided to make somewhat of a tribute clone of that. To my surprise, actually, in a lot of interviews, the recruiters had before they came on, they had played through my levels.

Alex Booker (22:07): Amazing. What was the game.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (22:08): The game is a maze based game. So I called it Destiny. I published this on GitHub pages so that anyone could easily access it and play through it. I made six levels, so six different mazes. Basically all you do is you use your keyboard arrows up, down, left, right, to reach the goal. There were also some recruiters that really enjoyed that I made several Chrome extensions. This is something that I learned from one of the first JavaScript lessons by [Per 00:22:43] at Scrimba. So me and my partner, her being from the US, me Sweden, and we were always talking in Celsius and Fahrenheit between each other, not knowing what each other's metric system was. So I just made a Chrome extension that I could install and she could install that would convert Fahrenheit and Celsius. I did another countdown timer and bookmark keeper. These Chrome extensions people seem to really like.

Alex Booker (23:11): That's wonderful. And you presented them all in a portfolio, which I think I recognize the design of. I think it's from one of Kevin Powell's courses on Scrimba actually, if I'm not mistaken. What was your kind of approach to your portfolio and what do you think made it successful?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (23:25): I made the portfolio quite early on in my journey. So I treated it just as another project that would teach me a lot about CSS and building something responsibly. I didn't update it much after that. I didn't get any recruiter talking about my portfolio. I feel like what they looked at was my resume, where I also listed my two biggest projects.

Alex Booker (23:52): Did you then include links to the live projects? So if you sent someone a PDF of your resume, they could basically click that link and experience the project quite quickly?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (24:01): Absolutely. In my resume, I had a link to my GitHub to the repo where my code was, and I also had a link to the GitHub pages where they could try out the project themselves.

Alex Booker (24:15): And so what did the interview process look like?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (24:17): The recruitment process for TULI, it was a initial call, a quick call, 30 minutes where we discussed my previous experience, what I've done, what I'm looking for and I got to learn a lot about the company. And then I got a take on project in Vue.js, a framework that I had never worked in. And I had recently learned React. I agreed with the CTO that I was being interviewed by who said that this is an opportunity for them to see how quick I can learn something new. I value that because there's a lot of technologies that we might not have experience with, but you can pick it up really quick on the job so maybe it shouldn't matter that much. So I got a week to learn Vue and do a project which included incorporating two different APIs and making one page that was well styled.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (25:12): I had big issues with this. I couldn't even get the Vue app running. I spent days trying to figure out how to just get started. And apparently not only did I have the wrong Node.js version on my computer, but if I changed it to an earlier version, another version, that didn't help either because there was a folder on my computer that was messing things up so I had to manually delete some old Node.js folders and then switch to an older version of Node.js and then I could spin up a Vue app. I didn't mention this in the upcoming interview.

Alex Booker (25:52): I was going to ask about that, on one hand you want to present yourself as good as you can, but on the other, you overcame some adversity there and you learned something in the process, which was their question about you I feel like. Just quickly, what was the behavior of the app?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (26:07): It was using an API called Mapbox, which gives you kind of like a Google Maps map that you can zoom in and zoom out of. And you can interact with it in all sorts of ways. So I needed to take existing post codes of London and additionally, an input from a user. So I had an input field the user could put in their postcode and when they press a button, a flag on that postcode would show up on the map, together with a bunch of other existing postcodes.

Alex Booker (26:42): And so now you're like in the swing of things at TULI, what parts of the business are you working on?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (26:47): My main responsibility is their web application. They are right now going through a rebranding phase and they have an existing website, but they want to update the whole application, the whole look of TULI. And they have been working for some time now with a design studio, they have the design ready to go. We're in the final stages. And now my main responsibility is turn that into an actual website. Because this is a very early on startup, there's a lot of room to take on other responsibilities. So I had my first interview yesterday, where I was on the other side, where I was interviewing someone else that would join the engineering team at TULI, that's a completely different responsibility. Also, we are now leaving the design studio but there needs to be a transition period between leaving the design studio and hiring an in-house UX/UI designer. So my responsibility is to bridge that gap because of my confidence and experience in Figma, the design tool and my experience designing.

Alex Booker (28:02): Is it just you working on converting this design studio's work to the responsive production website or do you have someone you can look to for guidance and inspiration?

Fredrik Ridderfalk (28:11): Right now we're just two members on the tech team, on the engineering team. It's me and the CTO. The company is still really small. We're about to be 10 people I think.

Alex Booker (28:22): So if I'm understanding you right, you are getting to learn from an experienced CTO, you're getting to work on a website which is obviously going places and has a design studio behind it and obviously it's an exciting rebrand. You have the opportunity to grow and learn other disciplines within the company, whether that's interviewing or bridging design and development. And just to be clear, you get paid to do all of this, that's crazy.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (28:45): Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's crazy. I'm learning a lot, but this is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to learn on the job and there's so much I'm learning right now that I couldn't learn on my own.

Alex Booker (28:57): Brilliant. Brilliant. Absolutely terrific. Fredrik, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing the story behind your success.

Fredrik Ridderfalk (29:03): Thank you so much, Alex.

Alex Booker (29:06): That was Fredrik, a successful Scrimba student from Sweden. You can find all his links in the show notes. Thank you for listening. If you made it this far, please consider subscribing for more helpful and uplifting episodes with recently hired juniors and industry experts alike. You can also tweet me, Alex Booker your host and share what lessons you learned from the episode so I can thank you personally for tuning in. Seriously, try me. And until then, I'll see you next week.