Scrimba Community Hero Yin Chu: Be Consistent, Play the Long Game, and Help Others

Scrimba Community Hero Yin Chu: Be Consistent, Play the Long Game, and Help Others

🎙 About the episode

Meet Yin Chu Rijnaard 🇳🇱! Yin Chu is a new developer who landed a job offer after only seven months of learning to code! In the meantime, he also became a Scrimba Community Hero.

In this episode, Yin Chu shares his approach to learning to code, why he chose front-end development and some of the struggles he encountered along the way. He also talks about his involvement in the Scrimba Discord community and how he became our Community Hero. On Scrimba's Discord, you can award karma points to other users, and Yin is currently on top of the leaderboard. You'll learn more about online communities, their unexpected benefits, and Yin Chu's approach to helping other newbie developers online.

Plus: Alex shares Scrimba's origin story!

🔗 Connect with Yin Chu

⏰ Timestamps

  • Yin Chu got into coding by way of business school (01:27)
  • Front-end development for visual learners (02:40)
  • How Yin Chu learned to code while at work (04:11)
  • Yin's approach to learning (05:11)
  • Learning to code when English is not your first language (09:04)
  • How to become a Scrimba community hero (11:39)
  • A surprising benefit of being in Scrimba's Discord community (15:10)
  • Why you should help people (16:20)
  • Yin Chu's new job... and LinkedIn's Easy Apply (17:23)
  • Good LinkedIn profile strategies (19:29)
  • Yin Chu's interview process (21:24)
  • You have to play the long game (24:50)

🧰 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 🙏

💬 Transcript

Alex Booker (00:00):
Hello, and welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I speak of successful devs about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior dev job. I'm Alex, and today I'm joined by Yin who just got their first junior developer job. Yin worked as a customer service agent for Google on one of their business facing products. I was quite surprised to learn that it was during the quiet times doing customer service, that Yin learned web development on Scrimba and Yin found success pretty quickly by also investing in his projects, portfolio and LinkedIn, even though we kind of bashed LinkedIn Easy Apply on this podcast, it worked for Yin, because his LinkedIn profile was just that good and he played the numbers game. We break that down so you can learn from it in this episode. I'm just going to say finally, that Yin is a little bit famous in the Scrimba Discord server, which is a place where new developers hang outs and help each other. He actually holds the record for having the most Scrimba karma points as a result of being so helpful to others.
In this episode, we talk about Yin's motivation to help others, how it helped make him a better developer, and I was also quite curious to learn that he was skeptical about developer communities in the first place, but it actually turned out to be very impactful for his success. So let's see what we can learn from that in this episode. Let's get into it.
Were you always going to be a coder?

Yin (01:27):
Well, I actually did a very, very basic HTML and CSS course when I was in high school, but I didn't continue doing that because the new school year started again. But then when I went to university, I did an internship in qual and lumpur at a coding bootcamp school. And there, I basically learned the importance of programming and software development. And so when I came back home, because it was obviously in another country, I decided for myself that, ah, I like this, I've done this before, so I really want to learn how to code. So I try to learn Python and SQL for data science, but it didn't go so well because I basically much later on realized that I don't like statistical analysis and therefore it didn't go so well. Then I forgot about it again.
I continued my studies, graduated, but then in November of last year I suddenly had this urge again to learn this programming. That's when I picked it up again. I didn't really know much about front and web development. I just stumbled upon it. So I did HTML and CSS on free code camp. And then I found Scrimba on YouTube and that's actually how it started out.

Alex Booker (02:36):
That's amazing. So you found that front end web development was just more interesting to you?

Yin (02:40):
Yes, probably because I'm a visual learner. So it's really cool to see that all the changes happening as you added to HTML and CSS, SQL. So I guess that really helped me understanding what's going on behind the scenes because otherwise, with Python, it's not so much visual. So for me, it may be a bit more difficult to see what's actually going on.

Alex Booker (03:01):
I would agree with that completely. When I first started learning to code, it was all terminal apps and things, like building basic calculators and utilities, which was kind of nice. Like it's a little bit visual, but when I started building websites, I could see the results of the code I wrote in a very visual way very quickly. And not only that, but I could share the pages with family and friends and be like, Hey, this is the thing I've been locking myself away in my room to work on for hours on that end. It feels like you have something you can show off to people and that's quite a motivating feeling, I think.

Yin (03:32):
Yeah, definitely. That's also what I've been doing when I first built my first portfolio. I showed it to some friends and they were all like, oh wow, that's amazing. So cool. So that really goes to show that if you can really show something visual to anybody else, it can really motivate yourself to keep going.

Alex Booker (03:48):
So if you had to estimate, how long have you been coding in total?

Yin (03:53):
I don't know if I can actually count Python and SQL up to the list, but I would say it's really only since November of last year and actually the end of November. So it's only six, seven months now, I guess then. So it is really not that long.

Alex Booker (04:06):
Still, that's really, really fast to like learn to code and get your first developer job.

Yin (04:11):

Alex Booker (04:11):
That's pretty amazing, man. Congratulations.

Yin (04:13):
Thank you so much.

Alex Booker (04:14):
You were kind of working full time while also learning to code this year, right? How did you balance those two things?

Yin (04:20):
Well, the job wasn't very busy most of the time. So I basically got paid to learn to code because I did most of it, I would say 95% or maybe 90%, I did during office hours.

Alex Booker (04:33):
What was the job you were working?

Yin (04:34):
I was working as a customer service agent at Google.

Alex Booker (04:38):
I think people might be surprised to learn that was a job which was quiet enough that you could also learn to code on the side.

Yin (04:46):
It really has to do with the Dutch market because it's very small compared to say the German market because the German team, they work nonstop. And also actually, if you have another division, say the Google Play Store, they also have a support team. They are also much busier than I ever was. So it's really the market for what I did was very, very quiet.

Alex Booker (05:06):
Maybe Dutch customers were more self-sufficient or something. And that allowed you more time to learn to code while you were on the clock kind of thing.

Yin (05:14):

Alex Booker (05:14):
So what was your approach to learning exactly? Because even if learning to code was your full-time job, still a pretty fast time to make things happen, so I'm really excited to learn a bit about your approach to studying, what resources you used, how you structured your study sessions and how you made sure that the things you were reading or watching actually made you a better developer.

Yin (05:36):
I started with free code camp and it was all good, but then I got to JavaScript, which is more of a difficult language. It's not like HTML, CSS. I would say those are the very basics and therefore it's not that difficult, but through code camp, it was 100% self centered. So I immediately noticed that it was pretty difficult for me. So I then found a course from Scrimba online on JavaScript. And that actually introduced me to Scrimba for the first time. And I never looked back. I learned most of it through Scrimba. So I'm a little bit biased of course there, but I also learned a ton from YouTube and watch a lot of tutorials, explaination videos on certain topics that are maybe a bit more difficult and also through building project of my own, of course. I mean, I guess that's one of the best ways to learn how to code.

Alex Booker (06:28):
I think a lot of people listening will know this already, but for the few who haven't come across Scrimba, the way in which it's different is that the coding screencasts are interactive. So you're not watching an MP4 video, like on YouTube, you can actually click inside what appears to be a video, edit and play with the code, see the result immediately. And then you can almost resume the video and go back to the instructor's voice and example. And the reason why we did this, the reason why this product exists is because fundamentally we believe it's the best way to learn to code. Because when you're just watching YouTube videos, it's very easy to kind of play it at 1.5 X speed, think that you are learning because you're watching a lot of content, but actually you're not practicing enough to really remember what you're learning. I'd love to hear from you, was that interactivity part as helpful for your learning as we might hope?

Yin (07:17):
Yes, it was definitely beneficial because like I said, JavaScript wasn't the easiest for me at the beginning. So having these interactive screencast and actually someone that talks to you and explains things on the go, it really helped me to get my fundamentals. And that allowed me to actually continue sort of on my own. It was pretty much the same with react. It was very good for me to have a teacher as capable as Bob Zewell to basically talk you through things you need to know. Again, that really gave me the fundamentals I needed to continue learning on my own. The course is like an introduction course. And then after that, you just learn by yourself, by building stuff. I can imagine having it done on another platform. It would've been not so great for me personally, because of the way how I learned things.

Alex Booker (08:04):
You mentioned that JavaScript was a bit harder than HTML and CSS. What were some of the challenges that you experienced with JavaScript?

Yin (08:12):
Well, I'm not going to lie, class constructures and class in general. They are a bit abstract, and I guess abstract is really the best word for it because abstract things are difficult for me to understand. So realizing and getting ideas of how they are used in project was very difficult for me. So I guess I would say that's a topic that I'm not very confident in.

Alex Booker (08:32):
Yeah, man. That's tricky with like prototypes and prototypical inheritance and constructive functions and stuff. And the weird thing is, if you're a React developer, you don't really rely on it very much. And it's kind of hard to answer, what problem does this actually solve? Or like, where am I going to use this in the project? And so it feels quite abstract and theoretical, doesn't it? Compared to something like states and props, which are not easy to learn and react, but at least you can see what they do on the screen, right? And you're like, ah, that's a little thing I can use in my projects.

Yin (09:04):
Yeah, definitely. It's also because English is not my first language. Sometimes I have a bit of a hard time understanding what I'm actually reading and that also causes some trouble sometimes because especially with all of these fancy terms and jargon, it's sometimes difficult to fully comprehend what you're actually reading, because you may understand the global service level of what's been written, but to actually fully understand what's going on sometimes is a bit difficult. So that can also be a bit tricky sometimes.

Alex Booker (09:33):
Learning a technical subject in your second or third language. That's a pretty advanced thing to do because there's a lot of nuance in the writing. And it's like the combined difficulty of not only passing text in your second or third language, but also understanding something technical. But it is interesting, isn't it? That development is a thing across the globe, and yet if you're using JavaScript, you're using English keywords, right? And if you're reading documentation like MDN, I think some of this stuff has been translated, but the point I'm getting at is that except for some parts of Asia I think, English is the predominant language at developer conferences and documentation and tutorials and podcasts. Yeah, was that quite tricky across the board? Over time did you maybe find it a bit more comfortable?

Yin (10:15):
In the beginning it was definitely hard for me, and it still is sometimes. I won't lie about that, but it's definitely gotten a lot easier, especially since these core concepts are now a bit more embedded in my system. So it's a bit easier to see what's going on or understand what they're writing about. And even I'm now reading documentation for fun actually.

Alex Booker (10:35):
Oh, wow.

Yin (10:36):
Not like full time, but recently there was the live stream about Imba. And I just read the entire documentation just for fun. It was actually good to read because it was also sort of like a refresh on vanilla jazz because it is basically JS, you know?

Alex Booker (10:53):
That's very interesting. I guess, for people listening who don't recognize that, is actually built in a custom programming language called Imba it's open source and available for anybody to use, but really the only company using it is Scrimba. And there's a crazy backstory there where the whole reasoner Scrimba was created is because Cindra wanted a way to teach people his programming language called Imba. Cindra is a co-founder of Scrimba, and so he created this interactive screencast formats called Scrimbs and Scrimba was born. And then Scrimba kind of became its own thing as it was so useful for learning. You can imagine learning CSS Grid or Flex Box or something on a platform where you can visually see what's happening alongside your code. Anyway, little digression, but super exciting that you tuned into that stream and managed the benefit from the documentation a little bit.
I would really like to learn more about how specifically you got this job and how you found it, what the interview process looked like, and things. We'll get to that in just a second. I was hoping to learn actually before that, a little bit about your involvement in the Scrimba community. We don't normally talk about Scrimba so much on this podcast actually, but one thing people should know Yin is that you are active, active member in the Scrimba Discord community. We have like a karma leaderboard system where basically, if members give you karma, you climb the leaderboard and you're number one. And not only that, but you're a community hero. So take us back to the beginning.

Yin (12:17):
Well, that's a very interesting question actually, because I don't think I've ever been part of an online community like that before. As a matter of fact, I was very skeptical because I was like, when you join up for these communities, they often say, oh, a place for like-minded people to meet. I was like, okay, sure. I mean, I guess, but it was actually pretty good. I have, like I said, I've never been part of anything like that before. And I haven't used this code before, Scrimba, so it was all 100% new for me. I just looked around and I read it. It was good to participate.
So I was like, okay, I won't be too pessimistic. I'll just try and just eventually lead to me trying to be as helpful as possible to others. Not always in the technical part of things, but sometimes just basic things. And the reason I tried to be helpful was because when I'm stuck with something, I would like to be helped as quickly as possible so that I can continue learning and not be busy troubleshooting or something like that for hours. So that's also one of the main reasons I tried to be helpful because I would like to receive help quickly if I were in their shoes.

Alex Booker (13:24):
Coming up on the Scrimba podcast, what specifically Yin's coding challenge for the job looked like?

Yin (13:30):
It's definitely unlike any other thing I've done.

Alex Booker (13:33):
We'll get back to the episode of Yin in just a second, but I wanted to interrupt the episode just to remind you, for if you are enjoying this episode of the podcast, please do us at Scrimba a favor and share it with your friends on social media, like on Twitter or in your community, like in a discord server, for example. Word of mouth is really the best way to support a podcast like this. Help us reach new listeners and show us that it's something you would keep listening to and want to see more of or hear more of. If you haven't already, it would also be super appreciated if you went to Spotify and or apple podcasts and left this podcast a five star review. It really helps us reach new people. As a reminder, this is a weekly podcast. Last week actually, we uploaded our 52nd episode in a row, which means we haven't missed a week in over a year. Make sure you subscribe as not to miss anything. Next week, I'm talking with the highly experienced Scrimba teacher, Gale Hernandez.

Gil Hernandez (14:25):
I kind of got into coding by accident. I was terrified of it back in the days, right? That stigma of you got to be really good at math and algorithms and programming stuff. I kind of avoided coding at first, but before that I was a musician. Then I got into multimedia design. Back in the day, web design wasn't as cool of a thing, but it was still interesting to me, right? You can by yourself create this project and it can be interactive. Back in the day we use things like flash, but I could upload it to the web and share it with people and then people can interact with it. And it felt really good. Like I could code something, upload it, and there it was. So, that kind of got me hooked.

Alex Booker (15:06):
All right. Back to the interview with Yin.
So, when you came across the community, you weren't really sure what to expect? I totally get what you were saying by the way. I think so many companies spin up a Slack server or a Discord server and they're like, yeah, join our community. But then it's not really a community. They just want an email list. Like they just want to promote stuff in there and not foster conversations between the members, but just talk directly at you. Like, that's something we're very cognizant of at Scrimba, so it's super cool to hear. What were some of the benefits of being in a community that you hadn't expected?

Yin (15:42):
Learning new things. I mean, it's true that you learn from others as well, but I didn't realize it would be that substantial because you go to the server, you read other people's questions and then you see, because there's obviously a lot more experienced developers on the server than me. And they explain stuff to other people and I'm like, wow, that really help me. I didn't even ask the questions. So it can be really helpful to just go to the server every now and then, and see if there's like a good question being asked. And then if there's someone who replies, just try and read it. I mean, it can definitely be beneficial, even if it's not something you are working on right now or not learning at the moment.

Alex Booker (16:20):
One thing you sort of touched on and I certainly recognize, is that you would often help people with their coding problems and that takes time. Was it just like an altruistic thing? Did you just like helping other people, or did you think about that a slightly different way?

Yin (16:34):
On one hand it's because like I said, it's very good to be helping others because they can then go about that day and not be worried about a stupid bug or something very small. But on the other hand, it's also, I guess, sort of a primal instinct of wanting to be helpful. So I guess just that feeling of being helpful when someone says, oh, okay, thank you so much for your time, etcetera. That's right. So I guess it's a bit two-fold there.

Alex Booker (16:59):
Oh, that's really nice and wholesome. I like that answer a lot. Let's talk a little bit about the new job opportunity. So, you were doing customer support essentially at Google. Have you stopped doing that now or are you kind of in a transitionary period?

Yin (17:12):
As we speak it's my second to last day. So, Friday is my last day. So it's only two more days and then I'm done.

Alex Booker (17:19):
And so regarding the new job, what's the company? What's the job role?

Yin (17:23):
The company I'm going to work for is a digital media agency in Athens, in Greece. And they basically produce the websites for some major news outlets in Greece. The job is mainly font end HTML, CSS, JavaScript, that kind of stuff. They told me it would be easy in the beginning and then trying to ramp things up as I go.

Alex Booker (17:43):
As a digital media agency, does that mean the clients come to the agency with projects and then you and your team will basically bring those projects to life?

Yin (17:52):
They've told me that they have like, I guess 10 to 11 clients that are full-time clients that they do project for. So I think it's more of like some large clients and not so much a lot of smaller clients.

Alex Booker (18:05):
That's pretty cool. It means you've got a few opportunities to contribute to websites people will have heard of. And that is nice to have that stability, I guess. How did you come about the opportunity?

Yin (18:17):
It was just Easy Apply on LinkedIn. I applied to a ton of jobs on LinkedIn, mainly using the Easy Apply button. And I was because I was too lazy to go to the website and fill out every single detail and upload my resume and a cover letter every single time. And that also had to do with the fact that I was still working and I was still very junior, junior. I was only like four or five months into coding. And I was like, okay, never in a million years that they're going to want to have me. So I didn't put a lot of effort into applying. I mean, of course my cover letter and my CV were, I tried to make it look as good as possible, but I didn't want to spend my time filling out applications online. So the Easy Apply button was very good. I did apply to jobs in the Netherlands by hand. I just noticed that it wasn't going very well. So I was like, okay, I'll just apply here in Greece as well.

Alex Booker (19:08):
Right? Because you are from the Netherlands and you moved to Greece. You were thinking maybe, you could get a job in the Netherlands and go back. But before that had a chance to happen, through Easy Apply, which is amazing. This company got back to you.

Yin (19:18):
Yeah. I didn't expect it actually, because from say 100 easy apply applications, the 99% is always, oh, we've gone for someone else. Sorry. So it was good to see the other side of the spectrum.

Alex Booker (19:29):
Do you think there's anything about your LinkedIn profile that stood out to them and made them think, Hey, let's have a chat with Yin and see where this can go?

Yin (19:37):
I did used to spend a lot of time trying to have a proper profile with a profile photo and introduction, some skills listed languages, listed education, listed all of the basic stuff, but I wasn't very active on it. I didn't post anything. So I guess my profile is and was just a regular profile.

Alex Booker (19:57):
Now you're talking about it, I'm sort of flicking through your profile and I think you've done a few things really good. Like, you've got an awesome profile picture I think. You have like a list at the top about what you talk about, like React, JavaScript, et cetera. So people know exactly what you're all about. In your bio, it says front end web developer, like your headline I mean, so basically on LinkedIn Easy Apply, a lot of the candidates, a lot of the people who apply are just like not qualified at all. They're just applying for random jobs almost. And so I think you would've put their minds at ease. I'm not going to lie. It's pretty cool to see that you worked at Google, even if it wasn't a developer related role.
Like, I think that's really impressive to a lot of companies. And it's really hard to miss that on your profile. You have like a really nice about section man. I could keep going. Like you've got a recommendation from Per, the CEO at Scrimba saying something really nice about you. Like, I think your profile looks pretty awesome to be honest. You've got certifications. You have your education there. I think it's a great profile. It's not that surprising that the company wanted to speak with you honestly.

Yin (20:55):
Okay. Thank you then. Thank you.

Alex Booker (20:56):
Was this just like common sense to you or did you kind of learn a bit about how to make your LinkedIn profile work for you?

Yin (21:02):
I learned it at business school because like many students from Scrimba and switching careers. So I used to, I studied international business for Asia, so I got most of these skills or informations from there because I used it to try and get internships in the Netherlands and in Asia. That's why it's filled out, I guess.

Alex Booker (21:24):
That's tremendous about your LinkedIn profile and we'll link it in the show notes, by the way, under a section, which is called connect with Yin, where people can like find you on Twitter and LinkedIn and stuff. So hopefully that's inspiring to people. When DPG media replied to you on LinkedIn, after your easy apply, what did they say to you? I assume they wanted to set up an interview of some kind.

Yin (21:43):
It was very, very different from these bigger companies, because usually there's an HR department that does all the communication with applicants and it goes for weeks before you have an interview, but all of this was done in less than nine days. The interview, second interview. So it was all very, very quickly. I guess they really needed a junior developer in that team because they were basically just asking all about me, telling about the job in general. And then they were like, okay, when can you start? So the next, it wasn't really an interview. It was just a Google meet video conversation. It was just formalizing actually, because in my mind, I was already going to say yes because I really wanted to get some experience as a web developer. So any chance you can get you take it.

Alex Booker (22:31):
So there was no like coding task or anything like that?

Yin (22:33):
There was one. There was one. It was again, very basic. I don't know why it was so basic, but it was. So I basically had to recreate a new section on the website in mobile view actually, just with HTML, CSS. And it was pretty easy actually. I had it done in an hour. I sent it to them and they were like, oh yeah, sure. It looks great. You're hired. Just like that actually.

Alex Booker (22:55):
Oh nice.

Yin (22:56):
It was like a tab and I was asking, do I need to implement the go to the other tab functionality with JavaScript? And I was like, no, that's not necessary. So it's definitely unlike any other thing I've done.

Alex Booker (23:08):
Wow. It's hard to say. The fact that you found it easy might say more about your ability than it does the difficulty of the coding challenge, but also let's be kind of honest if they liked your profile and stuff, in our industry, you often have to prove your skills during the interview. And that's a bit contentious actually, because if you're an accountant or something, I don't think like an accountancy interview is like to do a spreadsheets and doing crazy formulas and stuff like that. They're going to trust your qualifications and things like that. At the end of the day, if you have a good portfolio and stuff, does that person have to prove themselves from the beginning? But I do completely understand the company wanting to just do their due diligence and just a little challenge to make sure that those projects are yours and that you coded them and stuff.
So I think possibly they sound like a good company, right? Like, just having quite a frictionless interview process and they're ready to work with you. And I mean, at the end of the day, you'll work with them for a few months before you figure out whether you both like the relationship and stuff. That's pretty normal as well. There's no need, I think sometimes to create a crazy high barrier to entry.

Yin (24:13):
Yeah, definitely. It really feels like a more friendly company to work at then let's say a very big company. I mean, that doesn't mean big companies aren't nice to work at, but just from the communication alone, it really feels like it's just a relaxed environment to work in.

Alex Booker (24:29):
Just in closing, I was wondering if you, as a self-taught developer and someone who managed to make a stake and find your first paid opportunity quite quickly, had any sort of closing advice to other new developers learning web development about how they should go about things and find success?

Yin (24:50):
You have to try and play the long game because it's really about consistency. It's not so much about scale, I guess. I mean, if I'm being honest, I would say I'm, I'm just average. I'm just an average developer. I mean, there's so many more talented people out there who just built stuff like crazy in the beginning and I'm just average and that's okay, but it's really about consistency. You have to really want to learn it otherwise it's not going to take, and I would definitely just say content web development specifically. It's really important that you really know your JavaScript. It's a fundamental skill to have. I know I spend maybe not enough time with it. I could spend more time with it. And so really understand JavaScript to the core before you move onto any framework. I guess that's my advice. And like I said, called consistency is the key. Just keep going,

Alex Booker (25:35):
Focus on the fundamentals and you will have fun it sounds like.

Yin (25:39):

Alex Booker (25:40):
Yin Choo, thank you so much for joining me on the Scrimba Podcast. It's been a pleasure.

Yin (25:44):
Thank you so much for having me, was a great time.

Alex Booker (25:46):
That was Yin Choo, a recently hired junior developer and a little bit of a Scrimba Discord server celeb. Thank you for listening. If you've made it this far, you might want to subscribe for more helpful and uplifting episodes with recently hired juniors like Yin and industry experts alike. As a reminder, I'm speaking with Gil Hernandez next week, a Scrimba teacher. And so make sure to subscribe as not to miss it. You can also tweet me your host, Alex Booker, and share what lessons you learned from the episode, so I can thank you personally for tuning in. I'm always kind of crawling through Twitter, looking for posts about the podcast to like, and jump into the conversation about. You can find my Twitter handle in the show notes. See you next week.