From Air Conditioning Technician to Junior Developer in 7 months

From Air Conditioning Technician to Junior Developer in 7 months

Meet Dan (35) from Australia πŸ‡¦πŸ‡ΊπŸ¦˜. After working as an Air Conditioning Technician for 9 years, Dan enrolled in Scrimba's Frontend Developer Career Path to become a hireable web developer. 7 months later, here we are!

Success found Dan much quicker than he expected - not because he was the absolute best coder (Dan admits he stumbled through the technical interview) but instead because Dan successfully demonstrated his teachability and potential. Now Dan is earning to learn. If you follow Dan's advice you could too!


  • Introduction (00:00)
  • How Dan became a Junior Developer in 7 months (01:32)
  • How Dan managed to stand out to an employer and get a callback (06:45)
  • Dan assumed his test questions were JavaScript but they were actually PHP 😧 (09:44)
  • Instead of idly waiting for a decision Dan improved his skills (14:06)
  • Dan continued to follow-up and sell himself after the interview (15:57)
  • Dan think he stumbled through the on-site interview but the employer reassured him (17:07)
  • Dan got the job πŸŽ‰ (19:06)
  • How Dan's experience talking to customers surprisingly helped him land a a Junior Developer job (20:16)


Alex from Scrimba (00:01):
Hello coders, welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I speak with successful developers about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior developer job. I am really excited to bring you this episode with Dan from Australia, who managed to convince a company to hire him with only six months of development experience. Previously, Dan was an air conditioning technician, but he grew to really, really disliked that job. And when his hours got dramatically cut because of the pandemic, Dan turned to Scrimba and The Frontend Developer Career Path, to learn web development and become a hireable developer. Now be under no illusion, in six months, you will not be the absolute best developer. Dan, that by his own admission, has a lot more to learn, but his story proves that employers aren't always looking for the absolute best or most experienced programmer.

Alex from Scrimba (00:55):
In this episode, you will learn how to impress an employer and stand out despite not having the most experience. Dan managed to get his foot in the door by writing a very compelling cover letter. I've also linked Dan's cover letter in the show notes so that you can learn from it. In it, he describes being 35 and looking for a career change, and he also highlights his interpersonal skills and desire to improve. Dan reminds us, you never know what is around the corner. Except now, the interview Dan is around this corner. Let's get into it. Daniel, welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. It's so great to have you.

Dan Holmes (01:31):
Thank you. Thanks for having me on.

Alex from Scrimba (01:32):
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where you're based and how long you've been coding for?

Dan Holmes (01:37):
Yeah, I mean, Adelaide, South Australia, about January, what's that? Seven months ago now, I signed up to Scrimba pretty much, as one of the first things I did. And yeah, that's my coding history basically.

Alex from Scrimba (01:50):
I have to say I did notice, I think in January, around the time you joined Scrimba and the community, you posted in one of our discord channels, which is all around people celebrating and sharing stories about when they found work. And I think you wrote something to the effect of like, "Wow, that's a great story." And then what? Seven months later, you're sharing your own. I felt that was awesome.

Dan Holmes (02:12):
Yeah. I forgot that. Totally forgot about that actually. That's really cool. I often think back to... I was in air conditioning before this. Refrigeration and air conditioning. I wasn't enjoying it and I often think back to moments where I just wish I could be doing anything else. And I remember thinking, "Oh, maybe one day I can become a developer." You don't know what's around the corner. You just have no idea.

Alex from Scrimba (02:36):
Why did development stand out to you? So I have this picture of you working as an air conditioning tech, just thinking about the future and thinking about becoming a coder.

Dan Holmes (02:44):
Last year, when COVID hit, I wanted to do something with my time because our hours got dropped at work. So I had some spare time at home. And I released a physical product. I was developing it. So I was looking for podcast for entrepreneurship and all that soft of thing. I came across Indie Hackers podcast and it's amazing. But at the time I was like, "Ah, I don't know how to code. This is not relevant to me." But I just listened to anyway. Fast forward a bit. I was like, "oh, digital product seems so much easier than physical goods." Less capital, just less everything. Just as much hard work I'm sure though. And that's where my girlfriend actually kept pushing me into making websites because I was making a website for myself on, what was it? On Wix. And she kept telling me how I was good at doing it and I should pursue it. I was like, "No, no, no, no, no, no. No, I'm not that good." It's just all the self doubt kind of thing.

Dan Holmes (03:39):
And then I don't know. I guess, she planted the seed. And then eventually through listening to Indie Hackers, through having that thought in my head going, "Maybe I could make something on this." When I joined Scrimba, I don't know if I had the goal to actually leave my job and become a junior developer. I don't know if that was on the radar. I was just doing it to learn to code. And I think, probably about, I don't know, month or month and a half into it is when I probably started realizing, maybe I could leave work because I'm really not enjoying this.

Alex from Scrimba (04:12):
That's cool. So your girlfriend almost planted the seed and in the first few months you were just watering the plants, but then it started to blossom and you're like, "Okay, maybe I should become a full-time gardener," to take the analogy one step too far maybe.

Dan Holmes (04:24):
And you don't realize is at the time. Is it the butterfly effect? One tiny little thing that you do, one tiny action. And I sometimes wonder if I didn't come across the Indie Hackers podcast, I wouldn't have got that much into coding, I wouldn't have cared much about doing that.

Alex from Scrimba (04:36):
What was your experience on Scrimba like Daniel?

Dan Holmes (04:38):
It was good. I don't know if I realized that at the time, but that structure on Scrimba, it really helped with the efficiency of learning, the speed at which you can learn going from no code to completing that course is, I can't remember what the website says you could do it in, but I did it in probably five months, realistically, with work and all those sort of things. And since finishing it, trying to learn other things like PHP and some other things that are going on at work, my progress has slowed down so much. And I think that's because you go from one little course you go, "Oh now, I'll learn this now." You learning that. And then you think, "I've got to learn something else." And you're jumping from thing to thing to thing. Whereas on the Scrimba, you just going through the whole [inaudible 00:05:19] each module and then the next module learning quite efficiently.

Alex from Scrimba (05:22):
There are two parts to Scrimba which is the pedagogy which is about not just passively watching someone else code, but actually clicking the editor and participating. But also the path is designed so that you get the skills that enable you to build applications independently. I think is quite difficult when you're a self-taught programmer to create your own path. It can be hard to know when you've learned enough of HTML to move on to something like CSS or later, JavaScript. And likewise, at some point, you might want to bring in a framework like React and the career path caters to making sure you have the foundations and move on to the next step.

Alex from Scrimba (06:00):
We have that belief, but it is a belief and everything and it's built based on our experiences, self-taught programmers and working with the Scrimba community, but still it's only a belief. And so when someone comes back and says it really worked for them well, that's just awesome feedback. Thank you.

Dan Holmes (06:16):
Yeah. Yeah. No, it was really good. And you see a lot of people online asking you if they should learn a framework or what framework should they learn? And they haven't grasped even the fundamentals yet. And I don't know, maybe that's another thing that I took for granted. Where on Scrimba, you get taken through the fundamentals of CSS and HTML and also Java script. There's people who aren't following a structured course, just winging it, doing a bit of this and a bit of that, and then learning a framework without knowing the basics.

Alex from Scrimba (06:45):
So what happened there then? Because you mentioned your goal essentially, it wasn't a clear goal, but as it emerged, you were thinking you might become a full-time developer towards the end of the year, the beginning of next year. But after about six, seven months your [inaudible 00:06:59] a day, and I'm excited to learn a bit more about how that job came about and the interview and things like that. But at first, why did it come about so much quicker than you were expecting?

Dan Holmes (07:08):
Actually, I think that had to do with my job at the time. I actually just moved to a new company in January. I'm a different company. Thinking that, it's going to be better and I was going to enjoy it more. About a month and a half into it, I realized it's not the company, it's the career, it's the work. I couldn't stand the work. One particularly bad week and bad day, I just thought, "Screw it. I'm going to apply for this job." Because I was looking on the job listings site for jobs, just at what they were. I had no intention of applying at first. And then yeah, after one really bad week, I just went for it, I applied, it was more of a software developer job. I got the email saying, "Sorry, you didn't get it." Which was fine.

Dan Holmes (07:48):
And then I applied for another job. That was a junior front-end developer. I even forgot that I applied for that one. So it wasn't that significant. And then this listing came up and the way the listing was written was so, I don't know, just stood out. Like they cared about people. I don't know. I can't explain. It was just really well written. I can't remember it too much. And it caught my eye. And I thought, "Yeah, I really want to apply for this one." And I don't know if other people are like me, but sometimes you see a listing that really catches you and you want to go above and beyond to try and get that job. Whereas some other listings, they seem a bit bland, a bit boring, I'll apply, but your heart's not in it.

Dan Holmes (08:28):
So yeah, this one particular one in the cover letter, I didn't have any experience to write about. I was an air conditioning tech and I'd been doing Scrimba for what? Four months at that stage maybe, three or four months. So I just told them what I'm doing in life at the moment and where I want to go and how much dedication and work that I'm putting in to achieve that. Yeah, I redid my resume as well. My resume for air conditioning and refrigeration isn't amazing. It's pretty bland, pretty boring. I online and looked at some templates for tech industry resume, found a nice looking one and I just copied it and put that together, set that off.

Dan Holmes (09:04):
So a few weeks had passed and hadn't really heard anything and I was losing a bit of confidence, as you do as time goes on. And started discounting the possibility and starting to get back on with thinking about learning and finishing Scrimba. I had told a lie, I haven't actually finished Scrimba yet. I've got up to, I'm in the React module actually. And I think that was about the time when I started applying for these jobs. And they say, "Oh, we're using this framework or we use PHP". So you scramble because you've applied and you go, "Better learn as much of that as I can just to prepare for this slight possibility I got the job."

Dan Holmes (09:44):
So anyway, I hadn't heard anything in a while. Went back to Scrimba kept learning. And then I got the email saying, "Congratulations, you've made it through to the next round." And that was a phone interview. The email is contain a few questions and they really wanted to know where you were at in your skill level. You didn't have to complete the questions. They actually stated, "Look, they're not compulsory, no points off if you get them wrong." But of course you do them anyway, because I think would be still not so good if you didn't do them.

Dan Holmes (10:12):
So I attended these questions. I thought they were JavaScript. Spoiler, they were actually PHP. And I didn't know, because they didn't put PHP tags in there. And I was like, "Oh, okay. Something about her arrays and key-value pairs. So there's a little bit of Googling. I didn't want to research too much to give a false sense of where I was at for the company. Seeing they didn't care too much about it. I think what saved me or not, maybe not what saved me, but what made a big difference was putting my explanation in my reasoning, right? Actually explaining what my answers were. I guess it's like mathematics, in school, we didn't just write the answer, you wrote down your working out. And then if you got it wrong, at least the teacher can go, "Oh, okay, he's done this and this and this and this, but it's just messed up there. So he understands that."

Dan Holmes (10:56):
I did that with my answers, submitted it, organized a phone interview and I was pretty excited. Because it actually validated that this could be a possibility after all this time of not enjoying my work. Yeah. It was a scheduled to be, what was it? A 15 minute interview. And it went for 45 minutes.

Alex from Scrimba (11:15):
That is always a great sign of a good chat don't you think?

Dan Holmes (11:18):
Yes. Amazing. We just didn't stop talking really.

Alex from Scrimba (11:20):
And what were you talking about? What is it coding questions? Or about your story? Ambitions?

Dan Holmes (11:25):
A little bit of story, but mostly I guess, you call them soft skills. So how you talk to clients? I think there might've been a couple of scenarios of what would you do in this scenario or how would you approach this client and that thing. Again, it just came down to honesty as well and life experience. And not trying to sound better than you are and just really speaking from the heart and connecting with the person on the other end.

Alex from Scrimba (11:50):
If you are enjoying this episode of The Scrimba Podcast, please do us at Scrimba by a favor and recommend it to your friends. Word of mouth is the single best way to support a podcast that you like. So thanks in advance. Next week, I'm joined by my old friend Phil Leggetter, who is going to teach you all about developer relations and the career options that exist within this relatively niche but it's exciting division of many technology companies. Bill was a director of developer relations at a company called Vonage, which is listed on the public stock exchange and shares not only his views about relations, but his general experience as a hiring manager, such as how companies go about hiring from the inside.

Phil Leggetter (12:30):
There are lots of developer relations roles available. Lots and lots, and lots. The demand has never been bigger. But there aren't enough candidates right now. So I think that actually the problem at the moment is a bit more reversed. So to listeners who are in software development and thought about, or even haven't thought about developer relations but are now aware of it, it's a genuine opportunity. If you're interested in either variety or you like learning new things, creating new things, and sharing, and enabling others, and supporting communities, or a subsection of those, there are lots of roles and DevRel.

Alex from Scrimba (13:01):
That's next week on The Scrimba Podcasts. So make sure you subscribe so you see it in your feed and support the show. Back to the interview with Dan.

Alex from Scrimba (13:10):
I like your attitude a lot. You want to put forth some effort, right? Googling and Stack Overflowing. I think by now we can all except, is part of any developer's role. But you didn't aim to exaggerate your knowledge. In this case, you could answer honestly and say, "Hey, I'm not the most experienced I'm here to learn." And that was in theme of your cover letter. So I think just in general, being honest insincere served you really well here.

Dan Holmes (13:32):

Alex from Scrimba (13:33):
I don't know what it is about developer jobs in our industry, but there is a lot of room for opportunity. If you're the person who hasn't got a computer science degree, who is maybe trying to change career, or maybe honestly just had a bad start in life and you're learning to code as a way to change your life. There are a lot of giving people in positions to hire and it doesn't just come down to the coding knowledge, it comes down to the attitude and the affects and the, well, how much you care, right? How much are you willing to improve?

Dan Holmes (14:06):
Yeah. So if I was successful with that interview, the next round was going to be an onsite, a day in the office. Initially, they were going to have a few of us in the office all at once. Then it ended up being just... I think less people got through than what they were initially expecting. So they could have one person at a time thing, which probably is best. After the interview, another thing I just remembered was we had a really good chat about what I should learn moving forward. Just in case, I asked the question, if I was to get this position, what should I be learning? What should I be focusing on? He mentioned they do a lot of WordPress and using PHP. So that's what I did for the next two weeks. Every waking minute, studying PHP. Because I'd never touched PHP before.

Alex from Scrimba (14:56):
So they let two weeks pass between that phone interview and the onsite one?

Dan Holmes (15:01):
I think it was about a week and a half.

Alex from Scrimba (15:02):
Okay. But during that time you were all over PHP and WordPress?

Dan Holmes (15:05):
Yes. I think I was really just focusing on PHP, not really WordPress, because he did say, "Focus on PHP, in particular, string functions." So that's what I need. I wanted to stick in his mind. Because I thought I was one of the very first phone calls that he had. So I thought, well, if there's a lot of people, I don't want him to forget about me by the end of it.

Alex from Scrimba (15:27):
Everybody wants to be a memorable candidate.

Dan Holmes (15:30):
Yeah, that's right. You can prove your chances. So at that stage, the interview was on the Friday. I think by the Monday, I'd emailed him a question, that PHP question, and that was doing two things, that was bringing me back to the forefront of his mind, and it was so showing him that, hey, I'm actually doing what is suggested I should do. And to me, I think that showed that you can follow instructions, follow orders, whatever you want to call it. And I think people would like that.

Alex from Scrimba (15:57):
You were selling yourself. It sounds backwards, but if someone's selling a house or the realtor is selling a house, they don't just present it and let the person forget about them. They're going to phone them and make sure they're front of mind. And that's what selling is. And you are selling yourself and that's how you get a job, basically.

Dan Holmes (16:14):
Yeah, totally. We had a couple of emails back and forth. Yeah. Again, you don't want to disturb them. They're busy, they're busy people. They're directors. The last thing you want to do is email them with a very simple question that you could have searched for. But at the same time, I don't know, you're worded in a way where it's a little complex and having some insight would be a good thing and I can give that to you.

Dan Holmes (16:34):
So anyway, I scrambled to get some other sites finished and part of the PHP that I was learning, I built a, what was it? I called it Headshot Recruiters. It's like a poaching company to get workers from other company. So that involve PHP where it had a form you would enter in some data, it would populate. Then you'd see all the listings on their homepage. So I emailed them again. I sent that to him. I said, "Hey, just made this one for you." And I think that was good. Because again, that show that I was progressing, making progressing. Seeing I'd never touched PHP five days prior to that.

Dan Holmes (17:07):
And then eventually I got the email and about a week and a half later to say that I'm successful into moving into the office, for a day in the office. So again, it was the most exciting email I've ever got.

Alex from Scrimba (17:18):
More exciting that your invitations to The Scrimba Podcast Daniel, what do you mean?

Dan Holmes (17:23):
Well, that comes after. So then it was another mad scramble, of crap, I've got to learn more. I've got to just keep learning, keep learning, keep learning. Then the day came, I went to the office for the whole morning. I didn't touch one line of PHP code, not one thing of JavaScript, CSS, nothing. All I was doing was using terminal. I've never used terminal before. Never used Git, on the command line at least. Pulling down sites onto the local machine and doing updates to the plugins and whatnot with a WordPress, or using Composer and command line.

Dan Holmes (17:57):
I thought, I tanked it. I'm going so slow. He's telling me what to do every step of the way, he's telling me what I have to do in the next command. And I was like, "Yeah, I should write this down in notes." So then he had to go through it again so I could write it down in notes. And yeah, I mean, we went out for a burger and a beer actually, for lunch. So that was pretty cool. Had a chat.

Alex from Scrimba (18:16):
Is it how you do it down in Australia, bears for lunch? Or is that a special occasion?

Dan Holmes (18:21):
Pretty much. It was a good experience. And yeah, worked through to the evening. I really thought I hadn't made it much at all. He walked me out and said, "You did really well." And told me not to worry about how slow I was, because it's my first day or first time using command line and that sort of thing. And I didn't know. I thought I can't get my hopes up. I was so excited, but you can't get your hopes up. Part of you still going, "Look, you might not get that job." So I just tried to focus on life. And I can't remember how long the wait was, maybe another week and a half or so.

Alex from Scrimba (18:57):
Damn, that's quite a long time.

Dan Holmes (18:58):
It felt like eternity.

Alex from Scrimba (18:59):
Well, yeah. Come on Daniel. How did this job offer come your way? And what did it feel like, man? we know it's coming.

Dan Holmes (19:06):
I did send a couple of emails back and forth again, just to touch base, not to nag him, but just to touch base. And eventually, yeah. Eventually got an email that say "Congratulations, you've made it." And I don't know, it was a strange feeling. A strange feeling going, "I can leave my job. I can leave the job that I hate." Yeah, to put it simply, I hated my job. And now I'm moving into something, but I've been spending the last seven months dreaming of. And I've made it.

Alex from Scrimba (19:34):
Must've been a proud feeling.

Dan Holmes (19:36):
Oh yeah. Yeah. Definitely.

Alex from Scrimba (19:37):
Let me go back to the interview for just a second, because I'm curious about your perspective. During this interview, when there wasn't such a high expectation to get the commands perfect, to be totally independent, what was going to make you successful in that interview then if it wasn't just knowing all the answers?

Dan Holmes (19:55):
Another thing they were really, I guess, watching out for was how you act as a person, who you are, or you get along with a team. I really don't know. I still ask myself, for the forth week of working there once I started, I was still asking myself, why me? What did I do to get this job?

Alex from Scrimba (20:13):
You emailed him a hundred times, Daniel.

Dan Holmes (20:16):
That's right. Probably got sick of me. I don't know what they were looking for on the day. I honestly think it was just seeing who you are as a person. I think I'm very lucky in the fact that they're not looking for amazing coding skills or even junior coding skills. You're still a junior, but these guys are looking more for people who can interact with their clients because you're going to be talking to the clients, going to be communicating with them, translating technical problems or technical things into something that the client understands.

Alex from Scrimba (20:47):
Maybe your experiences as a air conditioning tech is relevant there because, for my impression, you'd be going to customers' houses or places of business and understanding the problem. Surely there would be hiccups here and there like, "Oh, we need a part." Or, "This is just out of warranty," or something. All kinds of little things.

Dan Holmes (21:04):
Exactly. You've got it. Right. I think that's maybe what gave you an advantage, of being able to talk to people of all levels, whether it's a fast food part-time worker, explaining it to them when their manager isn't around. Or the general manager of a large hotel in the city, you've got to be able to talk to everyone. I think that's what gave me a big step forward in this was that communication.

Dan Holmes (21:25):
As to your question about what it was that day in the office, it just came down to being able to interact with the team.

Alex from Scrimba (21:32):
You demonstrated potential. And I think for what it's worth, if I add it all up, it was probably six to eight week interview process. During which, you were improving rapidly, right? At the beginning, you couldn't even tell PHP from JavaScript if we are honest.

Dan Holmes (21:48):
No. No.

Alex from Scrimba (21:49):
But by the end, you could demonstrate that you'd learn some PHP. And I think that demonstrates a lot of promise. And that's a great thing for an employer, along with your communication skills and enthusiasm to invest in. Congratulations again, Daniel, this was an epic story.

Dan Holmes (22:02):
Yeah. Thank you.

Alex from Scrimba (22:03):
That was Daniel Holmes, who's links you can find in the episode show notes, as well as his impressive and convincing cover letter from which you can learn. Coming up next time on The Scrimba Podcast, my old friend, Phil Leggetter joins me to talk about developer relations and with the hiring process looks like inside of a multinational company from his point of view as an employer as. That's next Tuesday on the weekly Scrimba Podcast. So make sure you subscribe in your podcast app of choice, so you don't miss it. And also, support the show. This episode was edited by Yan [inaudible 00:22:36] and I'm your host, Alex Booker. You can follow me on Twitter @bookercodes where I share highlights from the podcast and other news by Scrimba. See you next week.