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🎙 About the episode
Meet Stephanie Chiu 🇺🇸! Stephanie is a self-taught iOS software engineer and career coach. She's also a chemical engineer who thought she would never code... until she met people who actually worked in tech!
In this episode, you'll learn everything about her path to becoming a developer and landing her first job at PayPal! You'll also learn how important it was for Stephanie to be a part of a local developer community. Stephanie will teach you how to optimize your LinkedIn (and think about what recruiters see), seek mentorship, and reach out to senior developers for coffee chats, even if you're introverted.
Stephanie and Alex share excellent tips to help you find your niche and stand out as a new developer. They also discuss predictions for the state of the industry and job market in 2023.
🔗 Connect with Stephanie
- How Stephanie started coding even though she thought she would never do that (01:36)
- The life of a chemical engineer working as a production supervisor and why Stephanie wanted to change careers (04:28)
- The collaborative nature of getting into tech and how to do coffee chats with developers (05:52)
- Why you should go to hackathons (07:13)
- Why getting out of your comfort zone can lead to cool stuff (08:17)
- How Stephanie surrounded herself with tech people and why that was helpful (09:16)
- Should a junior developer work remotely or in person? (11:48)
- Ad break! Reading your podcast reviews + next week on the show: a comedian-turned-developer Amy Corson! (14:00)
- How Stephanie picked her tech stack and approach learning to code, and why you shouldn't focus on collecting certificates (16:58)
- Why iOS developer communities are tightly knit (20:51)
- Why iOS developers generally receive higher compensation (21:55)
- How Stephanie got her job at PayPal and why you shouldn't sleep on LinkedIn (25:32)
- Do small companies hire juniors in the current job market? (27:34)
- How Stephanie was found on LinkedIn by a manager at PayPal... and then rejected (28:50)
- The engineers replied back to Stephanie's thank you email, she took up one of them on an offer to help her with learning, and the rest is history! (30:56)
- The engineers initially doubted Stephanie (32:28)
- How Stephanie's manager needed somebody who could think outside the box (35:24)
- What is more important for junior developers: a resume, portfolio, LinkedIn, or GitHub? (37:46)
- How to teach LinkedIn's algorithm what is it that you want to become (39:55)
- The key to using LinkedIn is curation (40:53)
- How the Skills section on LinkedIn makes a difference in what you see and who reaches out (42:33)
- People don't scroll, so put the most essential things on top! (44:17)
- What recruiters see on LinkedIn, and why Stephanie put her GitHub projects into the Experience section (45:36)
- Stephanie's take on the state of the job market in 2023 (47:24)
🧰 Resources Mentioned
- Levels.fyi - Salaries and tools to level up your career
- Scrimba podcast with Austin Henline: How to make your LinkedIn profile standout according to a LinkedIn expert
- Scrimba's Discord server!
⭐️ Leave a Review
If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a 5-star review here and tell us who you want to see on the next podcast.
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 🙏
At the time, I had LinkedIn Premium. I noticed one day that there was a senior engineering manager from PayPal looking at my profile and I go into her profile and I was like, "Whoa. She's worked at so many companies. She's worked out of four out five FAANG companies, why would she want to look at my profile?" Two weeks later, I actually got a interview request from a recruiter at PayPal.
Alex Booker (00:22):
Hello and welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I speak with successful developers about their advice on how to learn to code and get your first junior developer job. My name is Alex and today I'm joined by Stephanie, a self-taught developer who works at PayPal. She's also the creator of The Road To Tech a website to help you build confidence in coding and land opportunities without applying online, it never works, networking on LinkedIn is the key and you're going to learn about that from Stephanie in this episode. She really knows how to make the most of LinkedIn, so that recruiters come to you.
Don't forget though, this is The Scrimba Podcast and you are going to see firsthand how Stephanie got a job at PayPal. Would you believe she got rejected the first time, but refused to let the opportunity go cold? One of the interviewers actually said something like, "Reach out if you need anything," and Stephanie was like, "Yeah, I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity." And when they got a taste for her skills, she eventually got hired, but I'll let Stephanie tell you all about it a little bit later in this episode. Let's go back to the beginning. You are listening to The Scrimba Podcast. Let's get into it.
I wasn't that sort of person where I started coding from a kid or I even had a thought of doing it. For me, it's more of a career. The interesting thing is that, back in high school, I took a college level computer science course. In the US it's called the AP Computer Science, and I did so poorly on the final exam that I was just like, "There's no way I'm ever going to code again, because this just really crushed me." The language I was learning was Java at the time, and I didn't realize there were other types of languages out there. I really told myself like, "I'm never going to code again."
In fact, I pretty much held that mindset up until I had quit my first job after college. When I quit the first job and I decided I was going to move cross-country, two weeks later, I came out to San Diego, California. That's actually when I met my first people who actually work in tech, because before then I knew Google and Apple existed, but I never thought about somebody who actually works at a company to actually build out all the different things that they have. When I talked to some product managers who were living in San Diego at that time, that really opened up the world to me and different possibilities. I was still very hesitant about coding for a while, they were suggesting to me that product management would be a great role for me, so I was learning that and also UX/UI design before I decided, "Okay, those fields are way too difficult to get into," or, "I'm not that interested, so I'm actually going to try coding instead." That's kind of how it came about.
Alex Booker (03:12):
It's interesting you felt like coding was easier to get into. I get it though, it's really hard to convince a company to take a chance on a product manager without any experience, because you just have no track record to demonstrate that. But as a developer, there's obviously so much you can do at home in terms of building projects and what have you to demonstrate your ability.
Yeah. What I actually ended up experiencing was that I did get associate product manager interviews, but I wasn't able to ever make it past the first interview round, and the feedback that I always get is that there's always somebody else more technical than I am, and even though the product managers I had done coffee chats with, they said, "Oh, you don't need a technical degree. You don't need a technical background to get into product management." There was just way too much competition and, at the time, I was unemployed, I was trying to explore a new career while being unemployed, not having any government assistance. I wasn't a really tight pinch, so I ended up having to go back into manufacturing, which what I thought was my destined career. So, it still took a few different tries in order to find out that, "Oh, okay, I finally have the confidence to change careers and to code as a job."
Alex Booker (04:28):
Can you tell us a bit more about what you were doing between school and pivoting to coding?
I was working as a production supervisor at Colgate, the toothpaste company. I was in their personal care division, so that means that we were making a lot of the Softsoap hand soap, a body wash, basic deodorant. That was a difficult job, because even though I was a startup manufacturing plan, and you have a lot of similar startup problems as a tech startup, I had a work shifts essentially. That was really hard on my body and also on my mind. Once I started talking to people who actually work in tech, I realized that there are actually other careers out there that might be more suitable for me. The mental health and physical health were the two things that really led me to quit that first job and try to seek something better.
Alex Booker (05:16):
Shift work is just brutal, isn't it? It just wrecks havoc on your schedule.
Yes. It was 12 hours and eventually I had to move to a night shift, so that was really hard.
Alex Booker (05:28):
When you work 9:00 to 5:00, it's quite easy to say, "Okay, 5:00, turn my laptop off. I'm going to go and recharge and do something that I value." But I feel like when you do shift work, it just is really hard to discern and achieve that work-life balance.
Oh yeah, no work-life balance. I also had to drive at least 45 minutes each way and then because you're a supervisor, you're supposed to arrive 30 minutes before, and stay 30 minutes after, and it was just a hot mess.
Alex Booker (05:52):
There's no wonder then that tech appealed to you, because for all the hard work that it entails, it does afford a lot of benefits as well, like the ability to work predictably at predictable hours inside of an office or from home. I love, by the way, the way you're describing the beginning of your journey, because it sounds very collaborative, like you mentioned that you had some coffee chats with product managers, for example, and when you did these interviews for associate product managers, you were getting feedback and constructive criticism that allowed you to course-correct. How did you approach this? Are you just quite extroverted by nature and it just came easy to you to solicit that feedback or ask for a coffee chat? Or did you really have to plan it out?
I used to be very introverted. Now, I'm not as much, otherwise I may not be doing a podcast. Back then I happened to be dating somebody who was a data scientist, and he was working in a company, he was trying to help me figure out what the heck I want to do with my life. He actually suggested that I talked to this one product manager, and I kind of figured out all my own how to get connected with other product managers or other people within tech. I always ended the coffee chat conversations with, "What resources can you recommend to me? And is there anyone else I should talk to?" Then that always led to other conversations.
Alex Booker (07:12):
Yeah, that's a good tip.
I hope anybody out there listening will use it, because it's super, super helpful. Otherwise, the conversation really just ends there. I also pushed myself to go outside my comfort zone, because previously I just hated talking to people, it just gave me a lot of anxiety. But once I realized that it's not that scary and really good things come out of it, I was able to just make more connections that way. Went to a hackathon when I was teaching myself UX/UI design. I just want to see what it's like to work with other engineers and work on a team within tech. So, I pushed myself to do two hackathons in 2018 and then, crazy enough, that second one was where I met someone who ended up being a really good friend of mine, still a good friend today, and when I got laid off from my third job, he actually offered to mentor me to get in tech. So, just by putting myself out there, even though I was very shy, very introverted, it really led to more doors opening down the road, even though I didn't see it at that time.
Alex Booker (08:17):
Yeah, it's like forcing yourself to be uncomfortable leads to some really important growth. It's better to preempt it and push your own comfort zone by your own accord by going to hackathons, reaching out to people for coffee chats, because eventually if you're going to get hired as a developer, you're going to find yourself in an uncomfortable situation when you're having to network or sit in the interview seats. For those reasons, it's better that you have some practice, some familiarity with what's coming rather than being sort of dropped in the deep end and being massively behind schedule because you're just not getting where you want to go.
Oh yeah, definitely. In fact, I would say putting myself out there actually helped me with interviews. When you interview, it takes a lot of practice, but for somebody who's like myself, who was very introverted, it took a lot more than just practice. It took failing a lot of interviews in order for me to really get comfortable on talking myself and thinking on the spot. Yeah, just really have to put yourself out there and not be scared.
Alex Booker (09:16):
How did you go about finding more people to have coffee chats with? Was it always that they recommended someone and you just followed their advice to connect with somebody else, or were you maybe using social networks to find people?
In the beginning, it was through other people. I meet one person and ended up meeting somebody else. Some of the other connections I met were through the hackathons. The group that I was a part of in the second hackathon, I ended up hanging out with them from time to time on the weekends, because they were all part of a startup and they would meet up on the weekends while they still had a day job. I didn't become close friends with any of them, but just being around people who have this similar mindset of growth, everybody was self-taught, so that was also really helpful being in that sort of environment.
We would just talk about anything happening in tech, and that's how I ended up immersing myself. At the time, I wasn't using as many of the resources that I use today like Reddit or Twitter. So, I wasn't really getting a lot of my info about tech or coding through those means. I was really actually learning it through real people. Those are two main ways I ended up getting connected. Then nowadays, to be honest, I don't really talk to as many people, a lot of people that I'm connected with are actually through my Instagram and Twitter. I just love having conversations with people virtually. It seems natural and some of that blossoms into friendships and, yeah, that's how I network these days.
Alex Booker (10:47):
I just feel like it's the kind of easy learning. You don't take notes when you're on Reddit or listen to a podcast often, but it builds your kind of worldview. If you imagine a map from where you are to where you want to go, maybe you've got a checkpoint, like your first junior developer job, but you might want to understand what's beyond that and what other sorts of verticals there are in tech or what paths and titles and things are available to you.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Shifting gears a little bit. I got hired on for my first job fully remote, and then I realized about a year end, that remote is great, but then I never get to talk or meet anybody. It's just so different when you do it through a video chat versus in person, and I actually still have not met my whole team in person yet. It's kind of sad. I've been working on my job for a little over two years now. Yeah, it's just so different.
Alex Booker (12:44):
What do you generally recommend to new developers, a remote job or an in-person job for their first opportunity?
In my opinion, I would recommend being hybrid, as long as the whole team is hybrid, otherwise, this doesn't really work. But my general idea about this is that you all get to learn so much more by being in person with your seniors. There's going to be conversations that you're going to be able to have with them that you might not be able to get when you're just doing everything over Slack or everything over a Teams or a Zoom call. There are things that happen at an office like happy hour after work. You might not like going out and chit-chatting all the time, but that's actually really how you gain your knowledge, how you build your network over the long run and you just go to them occasionally. You don't have to go to every single one.
That's why I think being hybrid is really important, but if you are also somebody who is neurodivergent for example, or you have other mental health things that you're struggling with, then the remote part is really great. You get a break from seeing people, maybe because it overwhelms you or you're just really tired one day and just truly cannot get out of bed. With hybrid is what I would recommend for first-timers, then after that you can decide what suits you the most.
Jan Arsenovic (14:00):
Have you left our show a review yet? Some people did. Somebody on Podchaser said, "The best podcast for new or aspiring developers. I found it really motivating and inspiring for my personal career change." A listener on Castbox wrote, "Always solid advice for people who haven't landed their first job yet. Keep listening, new devs, our day is coming." And a listener from the United States on Apple Podcasts wrote, "I've been listening to current and previous episodes for several weeks now and as someone preparing to get into full stack development, this podcast has helped me to gain a vision for what's possible. Thanks to Alex in the podcast, as well as the excellent resources provided by Scrimba that have helped me get kickstarted in my new career path."
Do you have something to say about the show? Well, you can leave your review in any podcast app that supports it. Basically, wherever you're listening to this right now, if it's not on our website, take a look whether there's a rate and review kind of thing somewhere at the bottom of the screen. And yeah, tell us what you think, maybe next time I read your review. Thank you.
Alex Booker (15:11):
I will be right back with Stephanie in just a second, but first Jan, the producer, and I wanted to ask if you would please share this episode if you're enjoying it.
Jan Arsenovic (15:20):
That's right. Word of mouth is the best way to support us. So, if you're learning something from this show, please either share it on socials or tell somebody about it in person. You can share the podcast on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on Mastodon, on Facebook, if we're still using it, or in your favorite Discord community. This is a weekly show. There's a new episode every Tuesday and we interview both industry experts, like Stephanie, and recently hired new developers. Next week, it's Amy Corson with another great story of career change.
Amy Corson (15:53):
I graduated college with degrees in theater and telecommunications. I really wanted to be a comedy writer. I wanted to write for television. I moved to Chicago right after college, which is a big comedy hub in the United States, and spent the first five years working like a daytime data entry position and spending most of my nights and weekends taking classes, writing, performing around the city. Then obviously a lot of that changed when the pandemic started. All I was doing at the time was this data entry position that I realized, in a vacuum, I really didn't enjoy it. I think I was just casting around looking for skills that I could develop. My brother actually is a self-taught developer as well, and he had just, I think, gotten his first developer position and he was like, "I think that this is a skill that you have the capacity to learn." I was like, "Well, I might as well give this a try," and I really loved it.
Jan Arsenovic (16:50):
Amy is next Tuesday on The Scrimba Podcast. Now, we're back to the interview with Stephanie.
Alex Booker (16:58):
Shifting gears back a little bit, I really like what you did there, sort of jumping ahead to tell an interesting anecdote, coming back to your entry into tech. It sounded like during some of these interviews you were learning that you just didn't quite have the technical knowledge and I reckon that probably led to a key learning, which many of us stumble upon. It's that learning to code is a great entry point into tech and there are so many branches within tech. Maybe you become a product manager, maybe you become a customer success engineer and work a bit more in sales. These are the kind of jobs that are quite difficult to get from a standstill, just because you can't demonstrate your experience, you'd really be counting on someone to take a chance on you. But with coding, thankfully, we can demonstrate our abilities before getting in the interview seats.
Anyway, you stumbled upon this kind of school of thought. How did you actually go about teaching yourself to code? There are always so many resources and before you choose a resource, you kind of have to choose what you're going to focus on and learn. If I understand right, you chose to focus on iOS.
When I would be designing, I would also think about the different transitions that would happen and maybe microanimations and little things like that, that I couldn't prototype at the time in 2018, because the software I was using at the time, it wasn't that advanced. So, I was thinking like, "Oh, why don't I just try coding it myself and making it come to life. That's what I did and yeah, I was hooked. That's like how I figured out iOS was for me. Then how I learned to code for iOS development was that I was using two main resources. One of them was Hacking with Swift, and then the other one was a Udemy course from Dr. Angela Lu. That's pretty much all I used and my mentor recommended that as long as I learned the basics on how to use Xcode and how to use Swift, I didn't have to complete a course before I start building my projects, because projects is really what gets you in the door. Not completing courses, not completing boot camps.
Alex Booker (19:43):
Well, that is such a good point. I think a lot of people have this Pokemon, got-to-collect-them-all kind of attitude towards certificates-
Oh my god, I love that.
Alex Booker (19:52):
So, some people have a CS degree, but the interesting thing is that people usually only take one mobile app course when they're in college. Then even from there, that's actually not enough to get you a job, so you end up having to code outside of school anyway. Everyone who's a iOS developer is pretty much all self-taught, that's a really interesting thing where we're all bonded over that thing, bonded over the fact that we're all self-taught. There's actually not a lot of iOS development boot camps out there. I think everybody in the iOS development community, that's why we're all really close and we all are trying to uplift and help each other out. It's really interesting to see on Twitter, too. I'm connected with a number of iOS developers, some people, I've never talked to before, and then suddenly they ask me questions in the DMs. I'm a career coach on the side and they just end up being a client and then they say like, "Oh yeah, I know you from Twitter."
Alex Booker (21:48):
Yeah, or it's like you reaching out because of Twitter. Yeah, the iOS community is great.
Alex Booker (21:55):
This is a bit of an anecdotal experience, but I remember at the first startup I worked at, we, I say we, more like they, found it quite difficult to hire good iOS engineers or Android engineers specifically. It wasn't as challenging to find a full stack developer or a front-end developer or even a backend developer for that matter. But I remember two things. One, they really struggled to find a good iOS developer and what that normally means in a supply and demand market is that they were willing to pay more for an iOS developer. Even though the iOS developers on the team were obviously really talented, and I had a lot of respect for them, I noticed that they were getting compensated more for their specialized knowledge, their business value and their contributions were similar I think to other developers. But there was something about the specialization that companies really valued. Was that a one-off experience or do you think there's something about that in the industry?
Are you familiar with the website called Levels.fyi? Levels.fyi is a website where people can anonymously submit information about their total compensation. I've actually looked into how much people get paid at different levels depending on the type of tech stack that they are hired for.
Alex Booker (23:05):
I noticed that for web developers, they tend to get paid a little bit lower than iOS and Android, but then you have the AI and machine learning engineer and they get paid a hell lot more.
Alex Booker (23:18):
I think backend engineers get still paid a lot, probably a comparable amount to iOS or even more. I think just the reason why is because of a few things. The market is more saturated with web developers simply because, I mean, the web has been around for decades at this point, so you have more of those engineers, whereas for iOS, it's really only been around for 10 years. You actually don't have that many iOS engineers. If you are trying to hire somebody who is very highly skilled, let's say they've been coding since 2013, then they are going to be really expensive, because there are not that many around. Whereas iOS really got popular, I want to say, within the last five years.
With Android developers, that's also pretty interesting, because I feel like all the countries except the US have more Android users than iOS. But I think in the US, just because there aren't that many people who have an Android device, there aren't as many Android developers and the ones that are really good, have already been hired, aren't getting paid really well. But that's not to say that people should pursue something simply because of pay, because at the end of the day, if you're a web developer and you end up specializing in a specific area, then that's what you're going to get paid top dollar for, because there is going to be a company out there that really values that.
Alex Booker (24:43):
I think there is some key learnings there though that we can apply across our job searches, like our specialization or how you position yourself can have an impact on your ability to get a job. Maybe it's just that there is not many people with that specialization, so you find the interview process a bit easier. Maybe there's less competition, maybe that also happens to result in more salary. But as you mentioned, that's not the only thing to align by. Also, thanks a lot for sharing Levels fyi. That's the other reason people listen I think to learn core resources. So, we'll link that in the show notes, too. If I understand right, you got your first iOS developer job, after teaching yourself, at PayPal. Can you take us back to around that time when you were applying and looking for jobs? What was your strategy and how did this opportunity at PayPal come about? Because, honestly, that's a pretty sick company to get your first developer job out.
I honestly feel very lucky and grateful. This is something that everybody always wants to know. The trick is that I honestly just use LinkedIn. I learned how to optimize it. I learned all about keywords. I learned how to position myself that I understood how the algorithm works and the fact that, if you post something, let's say you post a project and you include maybe a screen recording of what it's like and you write a little bit about what you learned and stuff like that. If you have enough connections, your first degree connections are going to see it, and as long as somebody likes, shares or comments, then their first degree connections see it, which are your second degree connections.
Hopefully, by doing that, you actually get some recruiters and hiring managers finding your particular post showing up on their dashboard or the homepage or whatever LinkedIn calls it. I use that strategy to get more hiring managers and recruiters to notice me. I also put in my handline, iOS software engineer, and I also put that I'm a UX design enthusiast. Actually by putting just that specific last part, I stood out and I did that very strategically, because I wanted to let others know that I'm a software engineer, but I also have a really good eye for design and I proved it through my various apps and by posting like this.
Sure enough, let me see, the pandemic happened when I was trying to look for a job, that slowed things down. That was March 2020. Then things picked back up from between June to September of 2020. I did notice that more hiring managers reached out and they were specifically saying that they wanted to talk to me, because they're looking for somebody with some design skills. It was really interesting. In fact, all the recruiters and hiring managers that reached out were actually from big, well-known companies, which you would think is the opposite. You usually think, "Oh yeah, smaller companies will want to go for somebody who is junior, trying to look for their first job."
But my experience is that a lot of these smaller companies or startups, they no longer want to spend a lot of time and resources hiring a junior, because then it just takes more time to train them up. They find it cheaper to just hire one staff or senior engineer than hiring three or four juniors. They're also trying to get funding as soon as possible. Part of their funding rounds is that they have to show the investors who their engineering team is and their backgrounds. So, if you have too many juniors, then maybe that might deter investors from investing and there's all these little things. Yeah, it was very interesting.
Back in 2018, I did try to apply to various companies, like startups, and I did actually have a little more success in getting bites, but definitely this time around, in 2020, unless that company reached out to me, I had tried applying to smaller companies on AngelList. I also kept an Excel sheet just tracking all the different places that I applied to and the rate that I was hearing back from companies in general, was extremely low, unless it was somebody who reached out to me. That's also how I got my job at PayPal. I know you asked earlier and I forgot to address it.
Alex Booker (28:50):
No, no, yeah.
Here we go. At the time, I had LinkedIn Premium. With LinkedIn Premium, you can see who viewed your profile. I noticed one day that there was a senior engineering manager from PayPal looking at my profile and I go into her profile and I was like, "Whoa, she's worked at so many companies. She's worked out of four out of five FAANG companies. Why would she want to look at my profile?" So, I just didn't really think that much about it and then two weeks later, I actually got a interview request from a recruiter at PayPal and she was like, "Hey, do you have some time? There's this open position."
That's how I ended up moving through the interview rounds and I didn't connect the two and two together until at the end of our conversation, the interviewer said, "Oh, I think you have your information here, because the manager submitted it to me." And I was like, "Oh." I was actually found on LinkedIn and that's really how I ended up getting the role. I will say that the interview process, it was really challenging and I actually got rejected the first time. I went through the whole final interview round. I had interviews with four of the engineers on the team and then on PM, and one UX/UI designer, and at the end, there was two of the engineers who just were not that sure about my capabilities and they were afraid that if I was to join a team, because they were building out an SDK at the time, that was pretty new. They were afraid that I would fall behind or I would need a lot more mentoring than they thought.
Yeah, my manager, she was the one who was like, "Hey, do you have some time? Let's hop on a call." That's how she broke down the news to me. Then she said, "Oh, we are going to be doing another hiring round in a few months. If you're still looking, we'll consider you then, because everybody liked you." I was like, "Oh, okay, fine." The thing that really helped me was that I always sent out thank you emails to people. This time, people actually responded back. In fact, there was one person, he responded back and he ended the email saying, "If you have any questions any time, please, let me know." I was like, "If he says that, I'm going to try taking it up on the offer."
I was struggling with a specific concept at the time that I knew was really important to level me up and it was protocols and delegates. We hopped on a call. He actually went through it and we talked about it for about 30 minutes and I decided that I was going to try building two projects and just utilized the concept that he taught me. Then I think it was a week or two later, I reached back out to him. I was like, "Hey, I built this thing and do you mind if we jump on a call and just see if I'm on the right track?" Then, after that, a few weeks later, the manager reached back out to me and she was like, "Hey, you still looking for a job?"
Alex Booker (31:36):
Yeah. I was like, "Hell yeah, I am." Then she said that. These two pair programming sessions I did, they actually used that as my interviews. So, they said they really liked what they saw from that and that they want to hire me. Crazy, huh?
Alex Booker (31:53):
I can't believe it. I had no idea. And what a story as well. I think you did the perfect thing. There is so many people looking for help when you're learning to code and they ask questions, they ask for mentorship, and it's really draining actually on people who can help, and there's nothing more encouraging than when you help someone and a little while later they come back to you and show you that they got benefit from your help and they actually followed up with the hard work to implement it and make it come to life. I'm not surprised that they got back in touch and wanted to hire you. Just out of morbid curiosity, was the person who did a pairing session with you, one of the same developers who weren't completely convinced about your skills during the first rounds of the interview?
Yes, yes, he was.
Alex Booker (32:36):
Oh my gosh, that's perfect.
Then the other engineer who was not very convinced, funny enough, a few months later, when we were having... We do peer programming when I'm stuck on stuff, but we also enjoy having conversations and he actually apologized to me.
Alex Booker (32:52):
Yeah, he was actually, he said that he's sorry that he doubted me and then... So, the manager was the one who really wanted me, but she said that she just wanted to respect the opinions of everybody on the team. In one of our one-on-one conversations, she was telling me that there were certain engineers on the team, she wasn't going to name who, who had doubted me just because of really small things. Like for example, when you name a class, you typically would capitalize the first letter in the class name, but I didn't, because I was so nervous, I forgot.
Then that was one of the things that the engineer had pointed out. He was like, "Oh, I don't know if she really knows how to code, she doesn't..." But then my manager told him, "You don't really have to capitalize something and that doesn't really show whether or not someone knows how to code." Yeah, she's been in the industry, she's been coding for over 20 years and she's done a lot of interviews. She is also self-taught, so she could tell whether or not someone would become a good engineer, but not by judging somebody on how they named... Naming convention or capitalization. That's really interesting.
Alex Booker (33:55):
Yeah, I get that it could be spooky or something. You might think that you're not somebody who thinks about code readability or something. Obviously, the casing of something is not the same as making code readable, but it might just spooked them and they might think, "Well, what if then they don't think about readability or something." But at the same time, this is not what the interview process should be testing, because that's something you can learn. It's like a convention, basically. Any reasonably smart person can learn that in a minute.
Alex Booker (34:24):
You can't learn how to think a programmer in a minute. You can't learn an eye for design in a minute. You can't learn to communicate in a minute. You can't learn professionalism and mindset and communication in a minute. These are the things that you can't really fix once you hire someone overnight. There's exceptions, if it's an entry level position and the whole point of the role is for you to grow in it. That's all about showing your rough edges and potential.
But yeah, if you can change something overnight, then it shouldn't play into the decision, in my opinion. Obviously, hiring someone's a really big deal, but it sounds like you had this internal advocate almost who identified with you a bit, if they were a self-taught developer themselves and, hey, you are breaking into the industry, but they obviously saw something in you and believed in you as well enough to challenge the engineers and hurry to give you another opportunity. I'm wondering if you were to reflect on those, your early interactions with this person, what do you think are some of the things that stood out to them and showed them that you would be a great person to work with?
The first interview that I had after the recruiter interview was actually with the manager herself. I actually was not expecting to code on this interview, but hey, it was an hour long and I guess I should have asked.
Alex Booker (35:34):
That's happened before, by the way, Stephanie, a few of my guests have said something like that. They just think it's going to be a get to know each other kind of call, and then they're blind slated with a coding interview and they felt nervous as well. I totally get that.
Oh shoot. Okay. That's a good heads-up for me in the future if I interview again. Maybe it's because sometimes we don't think of engineering managers as people who tend to code, because there's some managers out there who've been managing for five-plus years and, once you're a manager, you don't normally code. That's just not part of your job anymore. I was a little bit blindsided, but that's okay. She ended up asking me this question that I thought was fairly easy and I was trying to solve it, a LeetCode way, but then she actually turned out she wanted me to solve it like an iOS-specific way. I think what she was really looking for was somebody who could really think outside the box and also really did enjoy coding in iOS development, since she was hiring for an iOS developer.
I remember one of the questions that she asked me was very iOS specific and unfortunately I did not realize that I was going to be coding during the interview, so I bombed that one and she saw that I was struggling. Then instead of just ending the interview there, she actually switched to a different kind of question and it was actually design related and she could tell from my answers that I'm somebody who does think of all the edge cases and I was thinking outside of the box on how I can make something work. I believe that's what she was looking for.
I know that's not a super good answer. I'm sure people were like, "Yeah, you want to know how to code, obviously." But I think she was also looking for somebody who would also fit well with the team and I noticed that that was the type of team that she ended up hiring. Everybody got along really well. Everybody was very willing to do pair programming or to help each other out, to jump in. It was very much about technical abilities, but also just about your personality as well. And I've come to understand and appreciate that myself that it doesn't really matter the product that I'm building, if it's not with the right people, then it can feel very draining.
Alex Booker (37:46):
Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about breaking into tech. What is more important during the job search for a junior developer, résumé, portfolio, LinkedIn or GitHub?
In my opinion, just because of how I got my job and how I've helped clients get their jobs, LinkedIn is so important. I almost say that is number one, but it's my specific strategy of how I've been able to get myself a job and other people jobs. So, that would be LinkedIn, résumé, and GitHub. All three are very important to have. If you don't have a résumé, then you're still not going to be able to move on into the interview process, because they need a resume. And then if you don't have a GitHub, that could be an issue too, because the recruiter doesn't look at your code, but your engineering manager and the interviewers will. Having a well-structured READMEs are really important and just having that GitHub existing with commits that you've done is really important.
Alex Booker (38:46):
I think it is a sort of tricky question, because you need to think about how you're going to be perceived and experienced through the lens of a recruiter checking out your profiles. Obviously, they might want to go a bit deeper and see your GitHub and eventually look at a project better to give them a nicely polished GitHub repo with a README and description than a ZIP file or something. They might not download it in case they think they're getting a virus. But it's interesting to have your mind jump to LinkedIn when I asked that question.
Obviously, it's been really successful for you and obviously on LinkedIn you get this benefit where a résumé only works for you when you're applying, but you have the potential of being discovered on LinkedIn. It's truly the best social network in the sense that you'll see such a diversity of posts, because I would say half of what I see is like, oh, Stephanie commented on this. Per reacted to that. Ryb shared this. That's great when you're trying to immerse yourself, if you're following our advice in this episode and immersing yourself in the world of coding, you see so many new and topical things, but you can also take massive advantage of that to have your posts and your activity be seen, even when you're newer to the platform or don't have a huge, relevant professional network at this stage.
The thing about LinkedIn that I discovered on my own, and was looking for my first tech job, is that it's just a giant algorithm. Also, when you think about it, this is the most commonly used platform that recruiters use to find candidates. So, if you're not on there, you don't have a profile with your work experience and your different projects that you've built and also just write a blurb section about why you decide you want to switch careers or you want to become a software engineer, you're really missing out on a lot of easy access to a whole community. If you can figure out how to teach the algorithm that you want to become a software engineer, that puts you in a really good position. I know LinkedIn is a hot mess, even I don't usually like going on there sometimes.
Alex Booker (40:42):
I quite like it.
I feel like it's shifting the type of people who post on there. I feel like it used to be a lot more professional, but then now a lot of people are posting a little bit of everything.
Alex Booker (40:53):
Yeah. But there are some accounts that genuinely curate quite good advice. So, I think a lot of the art and most social networks and especially LinkedIn is curating your feed. I connect with very few people. I only connect with people if we've had an interaction, for real, if I'm connected with someone, if I phone them or message them, I don't want them to be like, "Who's Alex?" I want them to know who I am. That way it's really helpful if I'm working with someone and I can say, "Hey, if you see if I'm connected with someone on LinkedIn, I'd be happy to connect you." But then the other trick is to... Some of the people I want to stay connected with, their posts aren't relevant to me. That's not to mean that I don't really, really like them or loved working with them or wouldn't recommend them to someone else. It's just noisy in my feed. So, with no personal intent at all, I just mute their posts.
Yeah. I think it comes down to curation a lot. Following people is a good idea as well. There is some good advice that floats around on The Scrimba Podcast and then the Scrimba circles. We had Austin Henline on earlier in the podcast. He works at LinkedIn and he shared some great, I think, hygienic advice. I say it's hygienic, because everybody should wash their hands. Everybody should have a good profile picture on LinkedIn. Another thing which I've seen to be incredibly impactful is putting the job title you want in your LinkedIn header, because the recruiters you want to reach are searching for React developer or iOS developer. They're not searching for bat cave scavenger or ostrich farmer or whatever you happen to do in a previous life. What else can we do to make our profiles easy to discover, Stephanie? Once someone does discover our profile, what makes us inviting to reach out to?
Okay. One really big thing that I've noticed makes a difference would be the skills that you put in your skills section. I actually played around with this when I was first trying to make a 180-degree switch on my profile from being very production supervisor and process engineer-heavy to iOS engineer. I decided to completely throw out every skill in the skills section and then just place it with everything related to iOS development. But at the time, because I also wanted to stand out as a developer who could design, I decided to put in some UX/UI design-related keywords like wireframing, Figma, user research, and I noticed that by doing so, it ends up being that I was starting to see some job posting related to UX/UI design and I was getting recruiters reaching out to me about UX/UI design jobs on top of iOS development jobs, and I was like, "Wait, but I only want software engineering, iOS development jobs." So, I decided to play around with it and I removed those particular skills and that changed everything.
Alex Booker (43:36):
On LinkedIn, it's interesting, because you need to keep your goal in mind. The profile of an influencer might not look like the profile of a job searcher and the profile of a job searcher might not look like the profile of someone who's searching for their first job in tech ever. It's a good bit of advice to include quantitative numbers on your profile to describe the impact you've had on a software project. Great advice for job changes, if you're maybe changing companies as a developer, but for your first job, that isn't really going to be applicable. One thing I noticed about your profile, I don't think I see any mention to your previous experience working as a production supervisor. Oh, there totally is. I just wasn't scrolling down far enough.
But here's the thing, A lot of people, they don't realize that people don't really want to scroll the whole time. That's why it's really important that, if you can, that's why you put your projects in the experience section, because it's going to be one of the first things people would see. So, unless people really want to click on show more experiences and really see all the things I've ever done in my life, you might as well just put in as much information you can about the projects that you've done, maybe any freelance work, you know?
Alex Booker (44:43):
Yeah, I love this about things like résumés and portfolios and LinkedIn profiles. You can literally control people's minds. It's very simple, if you make something big, they're going to see it first. If you put it at the top, they're going to see it first. We all read stuff at the top, but not always at the bottom. And here I am checking out your profile for the first time, much like a recruiter might, and I see your experience at PayPal, but then you've actually included, you've put your GitHub projects as experience. By the way, let me just emphasize, and I'm realizing this for the first time, on LinkedIn, it doesn't say work experience or professional experience. The section is called experience. You've really taken liberty of that and added your GitHub projects. Yeah, I didn't even apparently scroll far enough down to see all the ever experience, but it's there if you want to look deeper. Was that a conscious decision then to feature your GitHub projects as part of your experience?
Yes. It was a very conscious decision to put my projects in the experience section. I actually saw this from somebody else's profile and I realized like, "Oh, that's really cool. Let me try that for myself." After doing that, I did see improved results in recruiters and managers reaching out. One of the reasons why is because on their end of LinkedIn recruiter, and you can actually Google this, if you Google, "LinkedIn recruiter," and then you search by images, you can actually see what recruiters and hiring managers see on their end when they're looking for candidates, so they can filter for candidates by all these different Booleans. Once LinkedIn gives back a list of profiles/candidates, then they can also see what are your past experiences. So, if your current and past experiences are all filled with different kind of projects that you've worked on, that are all software engineering related, then that's how you can really stand out from somebody else who says in their headline that they're a software engineer, but they worked as a legal assistant or something.
Alex Booker (46:39):
Hey, Stephanie, we're almost out of time, unfortunately, but I'm wrapping up the interviews these days with a question about your 2023 outlook. Obviously, tech has had an interesting couple of years with the pandemic and a huge influx in salaries, for example, for senior developers. But in recent months over the summer and coming into now the end of the year, there's been an increasing number of layoffs and there have been some shifts in the tech world. I have personally noticed, and I've heard anecdotally that recruiters are reaching out less now and there seems to be fewer jobs and fewer activity on job boards around this time. Do you think that's like to do with the shift in tech that's happening at the moment, or do you think maybe it's just to do with it being the end of the year and probably things will ramp up again in January?
I think it's a little bit of both. Whenever people ask me this question, and I've gotten asked this quite a bit recently on my Instagram, is that just remember that there are a lot more industries you can apply into than just tech. Think about all the more recession-proof industries like pharmaceuticals, personal care, foods and beverages. Those are always going to be very robust. So, you can still work as a software engineer at Walmart, for example, they have an app, they have a website, and every company needs a website. You just might be working in a tech department rather than for a tech company.
I would say people should always just try to think outside the box on what type of jobs that they can go apply to and what they would qualify for. On the note of recruiters reaching out, it's very interesting because personally, I don't have looking for work turned on my LinkedIn profile, but I have noticed there's been a decrease in a number of recruiters reaching out.
Although, recently, over the past few weeks, I did have three more reach out and I think it's just because they're trying to get some of the ducks in a row, do the first interviews this month, before continuing it in January. I'm working with two clients right now who been working with them for I think two months now. And then they both recently started updating and optimizing their LinkedIn profiles. They're actually getting people in their inbox. One of them got reached out to for a contract role with Apple, so it's still definitely possible to get roles. Just might need to think outside the box on how you can get the roles.
Alex Booker (49:00):
Well, hopefully, you got some ideas today. Always on The Scrimba Podcast, we're trying to bring new ideas about how to stand out. It could be perceived as a busy market in one way, but you're absolutely right. It's all about finding your vertical and finding your angle, and sometimes that involves sidestepping the competition, but no matter what, it always serves you to have your profiles optimized as good as they can be, whether that's LinkedIn, whether it's your GitHub or a portfolio. Stephanie, thank you so much for joining me on The Scrimba Podcast. It's been a pleasure.
This has been really fun. Yeah, thank you so much for the opportunity.
Jan Arsenovic (49:32):
That was The Scrimba Podcast. Thanks for listening. Check out the show notes for resources as well as different ways you can connect with Stephanie. If you made it this far, subscribe, you can find the show wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also find all the episodes at scrimba.com/podcast. The show is hosted by Alex Booker. You can find his Twitter handle in the show notes. Make sure to mention him if you're tweeting about the podcast, because he does read it all. I'm your producer, Jan, and we'll be back with a new interview next Tuesday. See you.