Nadia Zhuk: Anybody Can Code, and Your Background Doesn't Define You

Nadia Zhuk: Anybody Can Code, and Your Background Doesn't Define You

πŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Nadia Zhuk πŸ‡§πŸ‡Ύ! Nadia made a switch to coding from journalism at the age of 25. That decision has got her moving countries not once but twice! Nowadays, she lives in London, works at Intercom, and helps aspiring developers. She's also written a book, Crossing the Rubycon, filled with practical advice and insider tips on learning to code and building a programming career.

In this episode, Nadia shares her story and many things she's learned along the way! You'll get to know what's it like to learn to code without a technical background, how to manage your mindset and mental health during the process, and what's Nadia's take on choosing your first programming language. Nadia and Alex also discuss common stereotypes about programming, Β gatekeeping within the industry, and what are the critical but often overlooked factors in choosing what to learn.

πŸ”— Connect with Nadia

⏰ Timestamps

  • Nadia's journey into coding and move to Poland (01:41)
  • Can you learn to code with no computer education whatsoever? (06:48)
  • Why Nadia chose the self-taught route (08:16)
  • How and why Nadia chose to learn Ruby (11:17)
  • What influences your choice of a programming language (13:33)
  • How to choose your first coding language if you're not technical (14:43)
  • What to do (and what not to do) if you're learning to code on your own (17:03)
  • Is coding creative? (23:17)
  • The biggest stereotypes about being a programmer... and why they're wrong
  • Can anyone learn to code? (28:26)
  • Gatekeeping in the industry - and gatekeeping that's self-imposed (29:50)
  • Quick-fire questions: favorite programming language, JavaScript, frameworks, chatbots, caffeinated beverages, London, and cats! (32:54)

🧰 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

Nadia (00:00):
My family could afford the computer when I was 15. Then, I didn't have a connection to the internet for a pretty long while, but still, it hasn't prevented me from learning to code and kind of moving first to Poland then moving to London to work in big tech companies. Everything is possible. Your background does not determine your future.

Alex (00:19):
Hello and welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I speak with successful devs about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior dev job. I'm Alex. Today I'm joined by Nadia, a product engineer in London by way of Belarus and Poland. Growing up in Belarus is a big part of Nadia's story. It was tough and there weren't many opportunities for a young woman, like Nadia, to learn to code, certainly not at school. At an age where many people would think you should have it figured out, Nadia took the courageous decision to move to Poland and learn to code all by herself. Now, she works at a really well-respected company called Intercom and a Women Who Code London lead. I could just tell Nadia is passionate about helping those on the same path as her just a little bit behind maybe.
We spoke about choosing your first programming language, how tough it is to stay consistent when learning to code and about some of the gatekeeping or more discouraging things that Nadia and I sometimes hear, as people who have been in the industry for a while, and we think junior developers should just dismiss. Nadia's story is definitely going to inspire you. Yet, this is The Scrimba Podcast, we always bring it back to actionable advice to help you on your journey towards learning to code and becoming a hireable dev. Let's get into it.

Nadia (01:41):
My journey into coding wasn't that traditional. I initially started out as an English teacher, generalist and an editor. I actually used to run my own independent news magazine back in Belarus. I did that for a couple of years and it was great, right until the moment it wasn't that great and we had to close down the magazine. Then I was kind of forced to make a decision of what I wanted to do with my life next. I was 25 and I needed to decide what the next step in my career would be. I didn't want to do anything related to journalism or news or politics, at that point. I knew that I wanted to move from Belarus to Poland. I also knew that I didn't have any transferable skills that would allow me to build a successful life in Poland. I also didn't know the language that well, I didn't know the culture that well and [inaudible 00:02:31] I didn't know anybody in Poland.
I quickly saw that getting technical skills would be my surest way to start a new life in a new country. I did a lot of research and gradually I came to the realization that learning to code will be the best way for me forward. It took some effort to convince myself that this was the way forward, because there was a lot of internal resistance for me to learn to code. I would say that before that I never thought of myself as somebody who was the type of person who could learn to code, whatever this means, but it was difficult for me to start thinking of myself as someone who could be a programmer.
In every story, there is always a villain. For me, in this case, there was just one villain, there was my internal resistance to this change, but eventually drip by drip, I conquered this resistance. I started to learn to code. I did the self learning thing. I didn't go to a bootcamp or college or a course. I taught myself to code. It took me nine months. In nine months I went from zero technical skills to getting a job as a software engineer in Poland. I moved there and that was the start of my career.

Alex (03:41):
Honestly, that's just incredibly impressive. Not only the decision to change career at 25, which I think is a time when a lot of people feel a lot of pressure from friends and family that they must have figured it out by now. Did I understand you right? You didn't speak very much Polish and you didn't know anybody in Poland, but you still moved there to not only go to a new country, but start a new career at the same time.

Nadia (04:03):
I knew basic Polish. I would say that I understood most of what people would say to me, but I found it very difficult to speak Polish because Belarusian language and Polish language are very similar, so that helped. Yeah. I didn't have any friends there. I visited Poland before, but I wouldn't say that I had that much of an understanding of this country. It was challenging to move. But to be fair, I would say that I had a pretty easy process of integrating into Polish society.
I didn't have a huge cultural shock when I moved, but still it was intense because I had to apply for permanent residency, go to government offices without speaking ... My Polish wasn't that great. I had to find an apartment, again, by calling people and talking to them in Polish. It was a challenge, but I felt that this was the right way forward for me. I thought that moving to another country would open new opportunities for me, for a career, for growth that I wouldn't have back where I was. It turned out that I was right. This was the right decision for me.

Alex (05:05):
Obviously, you didn't move to Poland until you were 25. You did all your schooling in Belarus. Did you have any computer or programming type classes when you were in school?

Nadia (05:14):
I didn't have any computer science education at all. We didn't learn Scratch or Pascal, like many people in Belarus did. I was kind of focusing on humanities in school. I had a lot of classes devoted to English, German. We had English literature classes. We started Russian, Belarusian languages and the kind of literature in all of those languages, but science education was not there. Also, I spent a lot of time focusing on preparing for English level Olympiads. Olympiads like state level Olympiads are very competitive, which means that you just spend months preparing for them. It is intense. That was kind of my focus for several years. I finished high school without having ever done any computer science at all.
Then, afterwards, I actually went to study to American university in Bulgaria where I first studied ... I first wanted to focus on business administration, then I switched to journalism. But then again in college I knew people who were majoring in computer science. Then I knew somebody who was doing a minor in information systems. It was sort of computer science related, but still amazingly enough, it was my friend, but I never even thought of asking her what she was learning there. I wasn't curious. It just seemed like something that was so foreign to me. It wasn't something that interested me at all. Funny thing is that my own brother, he has been a software engineer for 20 years. I never asked him what he was doing for a living. I think that nobody really understood what he was doing. Everybody just said, "Oh, he's good with computers. He's doing something with them."

Alex (06:46):
That sounds really familiar.

Nadia (06:48):
Yeah. No context whatsoever. It kind of seemed like a very foreign world to me. I think that right now, I live in London, I work in tech and it's sort of easy to be kind of judgemental of myself and be like, "Oh my God. How could you have been so ignorant? Why didn't you start learning all of this earlier?" But to be fair, in my life, and in my background, I never had any kind of context where I could have become interested in tech or involved with coding or with startups or with anything along those lines. My childhood in the 1990s in the former Soviet Union, it wasn't rosy. There wasn't any environment for me to get involved with these things. I think that in reality, yeah, perhaps I could have started earlier, but perhaps not.
I think that the point of me kind of sharing this is that I wanted to show to people that even if they grow up in environments that have nothing connected to tech, maybe they have family who couldn't afford a computer ... My family could afford a computer when I was 15 and it was in 2006. Then, I didn't have a connection to the internet for a pretty long while, but still it hasn't prevented me from learning to code and kind of moving first to Poland then moving to London to work in big tech companies. Everything is possible. Your background does not determine your future, I would say.

Alex (08:08):
By the way, what made you make the decision to go the self-taught route instead of going back to school, for example, or doing a coding bootcamp?

Nadia (08:16):
For going back to school, I think that I didn't want to spend four years doing that. I kind of wanted to move to Poland quicker. I was looking for a quicker way to get a new profession. I considered going to a boot camp. This is something that I researched back then. I wanted to study Ruby on Rails, so I was looking for Ruby on Rails boot camps in Europe. However, the cost of those boot camps was just prohibitively expensive for me. There was no way for me to afford any of them. I think there was one that was for free in Romania. I vaguely remember writing or applying there or something, but I don't remember why it didn't happen.
All in all, back then, there were a lot fewer options of affordable or free boot camps. In the town where I was living, there weren't any boot camps related to Ruby on Rails. So, that was kind of the only choice that I had. But also I would say that it suited me pretty well, because I am the sort of person who learns well on their own. I'm conscientious and kind of organized. This is the route that worked well for me, but definitely it's not the ideal way for everybody.

Alex (09:20):
Coming up on The Scrimba Podcast, can anyone be a programmer?

Nadia (09:24):
When I hear people say that, "Oh, I will never be able to learn to code," I'm not convinced.

Alex (09:29):
Pardon in the interruption, but I wanted to ask that if you are enjoying this episode of the podcast, please can you do us at Scrimba, a big favor and share it with your friends on social media, like on Twitter or in your community, like on Discord with your programming group chats. Really, word of mouth is the best possible way to help us reach new people and show us that this is a podcast you enjoy and want to see more of. A big thank you in advance. If you haven't already, please, could you also leave a five star review on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Again, it really helps us reach new people.

Jan (10:01):
Hello, Jan the producer here. Next week on the podcast Alex is speaking to Jonathan. He's a front end and key way engineer from Canada who started coding out of passion for tech. He'll tell us his story of learning to code and becoming a junior developer.

Jonathan (10:17):
I worked in a tech company for about three years, where I did mostly [inaudible 00:10:21]. Towards the end of that job, during the last maybe six months, we needed an extra engineer to reproduce Figma designs that our designer did. So they asked me if I could figure out, let's say in a week, how to reproduce a Figma design with the code. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I said, "Yes," anyway. They said, "You need to add your code in this specific file. You need to add your CSS in that other specific file." They sent me Scrimba course.

Jan (10:48):
That's next week on The Scrimba Podcast. Now, we're back through the interview with Nadia.

Alex (10:57):
It's interesting you chose to pursue Ruby. I think Ruby had a reputation, at the time, as being a language for a lot of startups and really cool tech companies are using. I think Twitter was originally and probably still is using Ruby, if not modified a little bit. Then it's fun because you've come full circle and your book is called Crossing the Rubycon.

Nadia (11:17):
Yeah. This is the name that I still love. Initially when I was starting to learn, I think as many people, I first tried to understand ... The first question is what language should I learn? For me, after Googling for a while, I saw that the best language to learn with the JavaScript. This is what I initially tried. However, I had such bad luck with the tutorials that I saw online, that they just didn't work for me. I couldn't understand anything. I couldn't move forward. Then, luckily I remembered that one of my friends, a couple of years prior to that, recommended the language called Ruby. Then, he told me about this framework, Ruby on Rails, which allowed you to very quickly bootstrap websites and be productive very quickly. I would get excited about this. I decided to try Ruby on Rails.
I found a great tutorial that I still recommend to everybody called Ruby on Rails tutorial. This was a tutorial that sort of changed my life. It sounds a little bit extreme, but it's not, because this was the first moment when I started understanding something about programming. Something started to click for me, and this is a magical moment I think for anybody who is not technical and learning to code, when you start understanding some small items, some small concept in programming. When you start thinking that maybe you're not completely hopeless and maybe you can move forward and you can learn. This is what happened for me with Ruby on Rails. Gradually, I fell in love with the framework and with the language and I started enjoying using it and working in it. Then, as time went on, I learned more and more about the language and kind of the ecosystem and I came to enjoy a lot of features of the language and the community around it.
Despite people telling me that Ruby, and Ruby on Rails is dead. People still ask me, "Why do you use this language?" I've been able to [inaudible 00:13:02] on a career, at least using this language and haven't had any trouble finding new jobs in it. Yeah. I've just been feeling pretty blessed to be able to use this beautiful language in my day to day work. But with this recent job, I've kind of transitioned into being a full-stack engineer, so I also write front end code as well. Yeah. That's been my journey with the languages.

Alex (13:22):
Do you remember what year, roughly, you were taking that course and learning Ruby?

Nadia (13:28):
Was 2017.

Alex (13:29):
Scrimba didn't quite exist then. You might have turned out to be a JavaScript developer in another world.

Nadia (13:33):
Yeah. This is kind of what's interesting about this, is how much influence some things can happen on you. For instance, if you find a tutorial that really clicks with you, this might determine the direction of your professional future in a way. On the contrary, I've heard of people who choose language that doesn't click for them. Very often it is Java, for some reason. They start with a tutorial or a book or something, or a course that just doesn't make sense for them. They become so disappointed and they lose hope. I've heard of people saying that, "Programming is not for me. I just don't get this at all." They give up and they never pursue this career.
I think that this is what is so sad that some people give up, but I kind of help a lot of people who are learning to code. I always try to tell them that you just need to keep looking for a tutorial, or a course, or a teacher who will help you understand the stuff, because this, by this I mean web development, it is difficult, but it's not rocket science. You should be able to understand it. If you don't get something, it's just because you haven't had it explained to you in a way that clicks for you. You just need to keep looking and kind of keep pushing.

Alex (14:43):
It is fascinating how developers pick their first language. Whenever I meet somebody and their first language is Python, I always find it such a coincidence, almost, that they stumbled upon Python or whichever language. Then you learn, there are some reasons like maybe their friend got them into it or it was just the first thing they found or maybe they learned it at school. Meanwhile, you have people who know they want to become web developers, but haven't yet really learned enough to know that it's all about coding languages essentially. They start wondering like, "Oh, what's the best coding language to learn?" At the end of the day, the language that is going to help you build a project, you actually want to build, is going to be the language you're more likely to learn. Likewise, if you can find a course that resonates with you, or a teacher, or a community, these are the most strong signals about which language to pursue and to learn.

Nadia (15:30):
If you are completely non-technical, if you have never interacted with any of this stuff, you need to find a language that has a low barrier to entry, which is easier to understand without having any sort of background. This is why I still think that Ruby is a great language to try, and also Python is a similarly popular language for beginners. This is why Python is typically taught to kids who are learning to code. A language that looks like natural English, that you can just sort of read and understand what's happening, I think it's very helpful, because I think that one thing that we don't really talk about enough is that the mental state of somebody who is learning to code is very important. It is also very fragile, I would say.
You really need to be careful about what we recommend to people who are learning to code. We need to be mindful of how scared and how clueless they might be and how much pressure they might be under. Alex, you mentioned before that, for instance, by the age of 25, usually there is the expectation that you kind of have everything figured out. Imagine if somebody's learning to code at 30, they have this pressure, they have those responsibilities, but they still want to learn and they want to try. We need to be careful what advice we give them, what kind of books we recommend to them. We need to make sure that we are empowering them and not scaring them so much. This is why I'm kind of advocating for people to try the simplest thing they can get their head around. Once they have this confidence, they can build up from there and they can learn further, but it's so important to help people see that they can actually master this stuff first and then empower them to move forward.

Alex (17:03):
These days, there are so many courses, videos, books, resources, whatever. There's no shortage of information. There's actually a really good quote, which is, "If more information was the answer, then we'd all be billionaire with perfect abs." It's not as simple as just having access to the information. You need experience. Experience only comes from trying and failing, trying and failing, trying and failing, a lot. So I often think that the odds of learning to code and being a good programmer is just showing up every day and being consistent, which is really superficial advice. People will tell you, "Oh, yeah. You just have to do it every day," but you just have to peel it one layer back to realize all the reasons why that is so difficult. That's one reason why I'm such a big advocate of setting study goals, going kind of easy on yourself because you can push yourself to do anything, but by definition, if you're pushing yourself, you can't do it every day. You can't overexert yourself every day or you'll burnout. I mean, you're a self-taught developer. What was the experience like for you?

Nadia (18:00):
It's very important to be consistent. It's very important to manage your mental state. The most difficult thing about all of this wasn't the coding itself, although it was difficult, but I think that managing my own mental state was the most difficult thing. For me, the hardest thing about all of this has been to understand that it was okay that I was so bad at coding, at that point. So, the advice that I usually give to people who are learning to code is, you are allowed to be the worst, especially if you're coming from a previous career where you were good, maybe you were exceptionally good, maybe you were the best in your career. Now, you're changing jobs, you are older and maybe you come to work at a company where you realize that you are the worst.
This was what were happening to me, in my first job. I thought that I was the star of English Olympiads in my country. I was like a celebrity student. I was so good. But then I switched careers, I came to a field where I wasn't good. I was the worst programmer in that company. This is the way I felt. I saw that I was struggling so much. It was so difficult to just realize that it was okay and that I had the choice, I could either let go of this perfectionism and kind of being so hard on myself and allow myself to learn, or the other option would be just to quit and kind of go back to doing whatever I was doing before, for instance, to writing or editing, to go to the stuff that felt easy and to the stuff where I was already good. I made the decision to keep going and kind of let go of myself.
I can't say that I ever kind of completely let go of my nature of trying to be perfect and doing things correctly. But I think it helped me so much to just realize that I am learning. This is the beginning for me. If you look at children, they are learning to speak. They're just learning. They're not analyzing themselves. They're not being hard on themselves. If you're learning to code, you need to take this attitude of being a beginner, of being a learner, of making mistakes. It doesn't matter how old you are, you are just coming into this field. You shouldn't compare yourself to people who have been in this industry for 10 years or 15 years. For me, it was weird that I was the most junior person, but also I was the oldest person in the team. Also, all of the people they were much younger than me, but also they had spent a decade coding. A lot of people who studied computer science in college. They also program in high school and middle school and earlier.
That was strange and it wasn't comfortable for me, but I still had to work through that and I had to become fine with it. This is what I try to share with people who are learning to code. This is, I think, the most difficult thing, kind of managing your mental state, allowing yourself to be the worst, allowing yourself to make mistakes, being consistent, and also being very grateful to people that you meet, to people who teach you, because if you get your first job, when you get your first job, there will be people there who will be working with you, they will be reviewing your code, your terrible code, they will be helping you learn and improve. You can have this attitude of being defensive and of being like, "How dare they say this stuff about my code," and kind of taking all of it personally, but also you can take another approach and you can treat everyone you meet in this journey as a teacher. You can just be grateful to everybody you meet and kind of treat every interaction in the industry as a way to learn and improve.
I'm telling you that this kind of mindset, it will change everything for you in this industry. It'll make things so much easier. This, along with kind of making those small steps consistently, you don't have to overexert yourself and do so, so much every day, but you do have to be consistent and do something small regularly to improve. Then, after a while, you will just be amazed at how much you have achieved. Those small steps, they don't feel like anything. If you are doing them every day, you just feel that you are not doing anything, but then a year after you will be amazed at how much you have progressed.

Alex (21:55):
That perspective about time is so important, but so elusive for new developers. I would make the comparison between, imagine being 17, about to turn 18 or, or 20, about to turn 21 in America and places, that year of anticipation where you like officially become an adult and everything's unrestricted. That feels like a long time to wait. But once you're past 21, say, and you're in your mid or late twenties time slows down a lot because it just doesn't feel as urgent anymore. I think with coding, it's a very similar thing where if you're brand new to coding, everybody seems ahead. You always feel like you're catching up. You can't go quick enough because you have this goal.
But once you're like Nadia, myself, and you've been doing this for a few years, you just realize how the pace is not actually that fast. That, actually, one year, even two years, even three years is nothing compared to the decades you hope to work in the industry. In 10 years time when you're a senior developer or whatever, you won't even remember the beginning. Other people certainly won't and certainly won't judge you about it.

Nadia (22:59):
Yeah. I agree with the point how the perception of time changes as you age. I think that's kind of the benefit of growing older, is that you don't have this urgency. I think it's hard to get this kind of advice because if you are young and you hear this advice, it doesn't really register, for some reason. I don't know. It didn't register for me, but it is true.

Alex (23:17):
I really liked that comparison you made that when you're a baby or a kid or something you're learning, but you're not judging it. Once you're an adult, basically and you have some experience under your belt, you judge everything. A lot of that is kind of informed about what you think other people are going to think. If you just keep bashing your head against the wall, basically, and overthinking it, you can get demotivated very quickly. I think it's like atomic habits, this idea of just getting 1% better every day. It doesn't feel like a lot in the moment, but it adds up in a meaningful way to the point where you can not only code what you can imagine independently, without tutorials, but offer a service to employers and actually get the job.

Nadia (23:56):
I think that also, it helps to think about this in terms of creativity and how we are embarrassed to think of the stuff that we did when we were children, or the pictures that we drew and the stuff that we made for our mothers as Mother's Day gifts, but still when we were making the stuff, we didn't feel self-conscious, we just enjoyed building. We weren't taught yet to be as self-conscious or kind of compare ourselves to others. Then as we grow up, we start doing that. This is why creating stuff becomes so much harder as you grow older. But I think that being a developer allows you to go back to this creativity a little bit.
Although, I think a lot of people are put off the idea of becoming developers because they don't think of this field as creative. They have this stereotype of creativity being related to art and drawing and playing music. But if you think of it as a pure sense of the word creativity, as in bringing something into life, then coding is actually a very creative outlet. I think that if you treat it this way and you think of it as just a way to build something that will be used by people, software allows us to build something that will be used by millions of people. There is kind of no limit to how many people will benefit from your creation. I think this helps so much. If you just treat it as a way to express your creativity and kind of go back to this mindset of being a child who is creating something from nothing and just enjoying it in the process.

Alex (25:13):
A lot of people falsely assume, I think, that programming is mechanical, I guess. When, actually in the purer sense, as you say, it's very creative. I think that's the big misconception people have coming into tech. There's actually a few more that I'd love to get your take on. Another one, I hear all the time is that, "I want to be a coder, but coding is only for math wizards and people who did sciences at school or got good math grades." Where does that stereotype come from do you think? How true does it hold in the real world?

Nadia (25:46):
I've heard of the stereotype. I think that I had this idea of what being a programmer was. I think that everybody has a different idea, but my kind of understanding was that there are people who can code and who do math and then there is me. There are people who are good at math, and then there are people who are good at languages. I was in kind of the second camp. I think that the story of a normal programmer can be something like the person who starts coding very young, at six years old. This is a person who's great at math, physics, computer science, who goes to Olympiads in STEM and then studies computer science in the university. All of this is so easy for them. They never struggle. Then their whole life revolves around coding or building robots or writing their own programming language in the free time, which is totally chill and easy.
This kind of image, it sounds very intimidating. I think that this is what scares people so much. Who can fit this image? When I was starting to code, I wasn't anywhere near it, so I thought that this field wasn't for me, I found that a lot of people are actually scared of math and math can be a little bit scary and difficult. There is a stereotype that you have to be very gifted at math to be a programmer. I think that the stereotype comes from the fact that the first programmers were mathematicians. Also, if you go to study computer science at college, you will have a lot of required math classes. Yes, there are certain programming specializations that require some knowledge of math. Things like machine learning, artificial intelligence, cryptography, game programming, you will need math. However, if you're going into web development, knowing math is not a prerequisite, I have never had to use any math beyond basic arithmetic. I cannot say that my experience is like this crazy outlier.
What people I think don't understand, who are outside of this world, is that being a programmer and learning to code is not about math or numbers. It is about learning how to solve complex problems in efficient ways. That's about it. If you want to be a programmer, you need to have logical thinking or you need to develop logical thinking to be successful. You will have to analyze a complex situation with a lot of inputs, a lot of requirements, and you will need to come up with alternative solutions, kind of choose the most efficient one and then implement it and kind of own the result of it. I think that it's very important to be good at problem solving, but you don't have to be good at math. If you want to go into things like machine learning, then yes, you will need to learn math. But again, if you didn't understand math in school, it doesn't mean that you won't be able to learn it now. You will, but it's just that you will need to spend more time learning it and kind of preparing for this additionally, to learning to code.

Alex (28:26):
Can anyone learn the code, in your opinion?

Nadia (28:30):
I think that if you are able to think critical and kind of think in a logical way or develop the logical thinking ... Again, I think that this is a skill that can be developed. In general, problem solving skills, for some people, those skills are better developed and for others, they are less developed, but still with enough practice you should be able to become better. The more you do of it, the better you will become. It's just that everyone is different and everyone is coming from a different place. When I hear people say that, "Oh, I will never be able to learn to code," I'm not convinced that they are right. It might be that they just haven't tried, or they haven't spent enough time learning. I think that with enough practice and enough time, you should be able to grasp this stuff.
Because as I said, it's difficult. It's difficult to become a software engineer, but still, it's not rocket science. A lot of people are able to learn to code within a year to become employed as a coder. Actually, if you want to learn to build simple websites, you can learn to do this in just a few weeks or maybe months. I think that this is something that people don't fully realize. One of the greatest things about this profession is that you can see the results of your learning relatively quickly. This is what people, I think, don't fully understand and they don't try, but if they try and they can see the results of what they're learning in just a few weeks, I think this will give them more confidence to keep going.

Alex (29:50):
There are just different types of coding and different levels of coding. Even when you say you can code at a hireable level, all jobs are kind of made a bit different. There are many companies that will hire you on a lower end of a salary band and train you up. That's an opportunity to kind of get paid while you learn, essentially. There are also different calibers of programmers, I think. There are people who live and breathe it, people who have like vast ambitions to change the fundamentals of computing or have a bit of their code run on everybody's phone. I love this. I'm quite an ambitious developer myself, but there's one thing you wrote in the book, Nadia, that I just can't skim over why this job as software developers people treat so uniquely. You wrote, "Nobody expects an accountant to be obsessed with accounting and spend all their weekends working on spreadsheets for fun and things like that." There's nothing wrong with being a journeyman developer.

Nadia (30:38):
We talk a lot about gate keeping in this industry, I think, but honestly, in my experience, I've had a pretty great experience working in Poland and UK, and I've never faced with any external gate keeping, but I think that people do so much gate keeping for themselves. They think that if I don't want to dedicate my whole earthly existence to programming, then I'm not the right programmer. However, this field is so vast, it's constantly growing and it needs all kind of developers. There are different companies and different expectations. There will be some companies that won't hire you if you don't build side projects, and if you don't contribute to open source and that's fine, but also there will be so many companies that won't expect you to code all the time and they will actually encourage you to pursue other interests outside of coding and maintain work life balance and develop in other areas of your life.
I think that we should take it down a notch and maybe not treat this job as something completely different from all other careers. Other jobs, you're expected to just do a day of honest work, get paid and go home and do other stuff that you love and enjoy and spend time with your family and maybe do some other projects. Also, I think that there is another stereotype that people have is that you should have this ... This is a calling that you have. This is a calling to be a programmer and you need to get it early in life. Then if you didn't get it, then that's it for you. What I've come to realize, with age, is that life is long and you can have several callings along the way. For instance, if you're a child and you have this calling to be a teacher or an actress ... Does it mean that you have to be a teacher when you're 30 or 40, if you don't no longer feel like it? Why do you set such constraints on your life and your journey?

Alex (32:23):
There is honestly a lot I could say about gate keeping and things, but genuinely the tides have changed. I think, now more than ever, and with everybody going online, largely due through the lockdowns and things like that, there are so many accessible opportunities and there are people like Nadia who are there to help. Whether that's in some kind of mentoring session, because I know Nadia, you do a lot of stuff in person in London, or it could be through a book, for example, like your book, which I will link high in the show notes. Just to wrap things up, Nadia, how do you feel about some quick fire questions?

Nadia (32:54):
Oh, sure. Let's go ahead.

Alex (32:57):
What is your favorite programming language to this day? I think I have an idea.

Nadia (33:01):

Alex (33:01):
Have you been using JavaScript now you're a full slack developer? How does it compare?

Nadia (33:05):
Yeah, I think it has its moments.

Alex (33:07):
Oh, that is a short answer.

Nadia (33:09):
It's very British.

Alex (33:11):
What fronts and frameworks do you like and use? Or perhaps you don't use any in your work.

Nadia (33:15):
I use [inaudible 00:33:16] right now, but I also used React, previously.

Alex (33:18):
Oh, sick. You work at Intercom right now, which is a company and product I know well. Really great product. Also, the company was sort of based nearby where I used to work and they hire a lot of talented people. What is one of the sort of tasks you've accomplished at work recently that you can tell us about? Maybe something particularly challenging or just you're pleased about having done.

Nadia (33:37):
Yeah. I focus mostly on improving bots, chat bots and automation at Intercom. One of the projects that I worked with was allowing users to add paths to resolution bot, which is a machine learning powered bot that we offer. It allows users to build like complex, multi-dimensional answers to users' questions, which I think is pretty neat.

Alex (33:57):
That's very neat. What do you prefer, coffee or tea?

Nadia (34:01):
Coffee in the morning and tea later.

Alex (34:03):
Ooh. I like that. Something to give you a boost in the morning, but just sustain you in the afternoon. What do you prefer, Nadia, dogs or cats?

Nadia (34:10):
Cats, definitely.

Alex (34:12):
Tell me if I'm wrong, but you're cat sitting right now, aren't you?

Nadia (34:15):
Yes, I am. I'm a professional cat sitter, I would say.

Alex (34:18):
Full-time developer, part-time cat sit. I like that.

Nadia (34:20):

Alex (34:21):
You mentioned before, you've lived in 20 plus places in London. What's your favorite part of London?

Nadia (34:28):
Oh, definitely. Westminster. I'm very much interested in history. Old center of Westminster, old London, old historical places. Very dear to my heart.

Alex (34:46):
I like that a lot. All right, Nadia, thank you so much for joining me on The Scrimba Podcast. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Nadia (34:48):
Thank you so much for having me on. I enjoyed it so much. Thanks.

Alex (34:48):
That was Nadia, a product engineer at Intercom and author of Crossing The Rubycon. This book actually has nothing to do with Ruby. It's all about Nadia's in depth advice on learning to code and breaking into tech, almost a continuation of this episode so you can check it out in the show notes if you'd like. A big thank you, however for listening. If you've made it this far, you might want to subscribe to this weekly pod for more helpful and uplifting episodes with recently hired juniors and industry experts like Nadia alike. You can also tweet at me your host I'm Alex Booker and share what lessons you learned from the episodes so I can thank you personally, for tuning in. I'm always crawling Twitter and so on looking for tweets about the podcast to like, and get involved with the conversation. You can find my Twitter handle in the show notes. By the way, this episode was produced by Jan Arsenovic. See you next week.