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🎙 About the episode
Meet Tiffany Jachja 🇺🇸! Tiffany is a data scientist, career coach, engineering manager, and Twitch streamer! By day, she works at Vox Media. In her free time, she helps fellow developers by sharing career advice and her computer and data science knowledge. In this episode, Tiffany helps you understand a company's organizational structure so that you can come to your job interview prepared!
Alex and Tiffany also talk about resumes: what is their function, and is there such a thing as an ideal resume? You'll also learn the main differences between studying computer science and taking a bootcamp, how to approach the job-hunting tips you find online, how to know if you're ready to apply for your first developer job, and why inspiration matters. Tiffany also shares her favorite online coder communities and job boards!
🔗 Connect with Tiffany
- How Tiffany got interested in coding thanks to Neopets (02:07)
- What's the main difference between studying computer science and taking a coding bootcamp? (04:10)
- The importance of trying stuff out (05:36)
- What drew Tiffany into management... and data science (08:40)
- What does Tiffany's typical day at Vox look like? (09:52)
- Understanding company hierarchy for new developers (10:56)
- Project management vs. people management (16:00)
- What should a new developer look for in their engineering manager? (18:37)
- How does Tiffany choose between a stronger technical fit and a stronger culture fit when hiring? (22:42)
- Should you meet 100% of the requirements when applying for your first junior role? (27:41)
- How to build up the confidence needed for career advancement (29:09)
- How does Tiffany get out of her comfort zone? (32:31)
- How Tiffany became a career coach (33:26)
- What should a good resume do? (36:46)
- Why are resumes so difficult to get right? (37:14)
- Attaching numbers to your contributions on a resume: how to do it, and why? (40:48)
- How to approach online advice on job-hunting, so you don't lose your mind (45:38)
- Tiffany's advice for a new developer entering the job market (46:59)
🧰 Resources Mentioned
- Video: From Student to Senior: Career Development 101
- Danny Thompson's Commit Your Code community
- RemoteJobHunters on Reddit
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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 🙏
Tiffany Jachja (00:00):
I've asked everyone for their input. Hey everyone, I'm going to engineering management for the first time. Can you tell me all of your tips? And then I took all the tips out of context and I tried to apply them and that went miserably wrong. And I felt like I wasn't even a leader for myself. I realized it's better for me to come into situations, experiment, try things out for me, find things that work for me, and get it right with my team, versus subscribing to a model of this is the right way to do something.
Alex Booker (00:26):
Hello and welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I speak with successful developers about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior dev job. If you're new to the professional world of development, knowing who sits on a development team and what their jobs are isn't really obvious. Project manager, product manager, engineering lead, engineering manager, hiring manager, line manager, scrum master, maybe you recognize some of these titles, but don't know how their different or what they want to see from a candidate such as yourself.
Knowing who's who and what they care about in their role, is a prerequisite to framing your skills in such a way that they want to hire you. Thankfully, we're joined by the awesome Tiffany Jachja, who is a developer turned engineering manager at a company called Vox Media. In this episode, she is going to break down who's who and how development teams generally work, so that you have a better chance of succeeding as a junior developer job interview. As a person hiring developers herself, we also get to learn from Tiffany, what she is looking for from candidates during the interview process.
You'll get the vibe very early on that Tiffany is passionate about helping those a few steps behind her. Yes, by day she works at Vox, but by night she offers career advice to developers for free, out of passion I think, on her Twitch stream, you'll be hearing some of Tiffany's best advice today. Here with me, Alex Booker, only on The Scrimba Podcast. Let's get into it.
Tiffany Jachja (02:07):
I got into programming basically when I was a kid in elementary school. I actually spent a lot of time on the computer growing up. One of the first internet video games that I ended up playing was Neopets and that initially got me into coding before I even knew what coding was. And I didn't really think anything of it. It was just a way for me to express myself, have a cool little HTML site. But that led to me learning how to do graphic design and Photoshop and photography and then, towards the end of high school, there's this expectation that you know what you're going to do and I had no idea. I was applying to art schools and then I didn't make it to any of them. And I ended up going to my state school and doing the computer science program when my dad had suggested it. That was the start of getting into computer science and programming, actually, for me.
Alex Booker (03:01):
It's interesting you were considering art programs and things when you actually ended up doing something called computer science. I guess it's funny because computer science is one of the sciences, but there's still a huge amount of creativity to building and designing applications. Even code in some respects can be quite creative depending on how you solve problems and structure your code. Did that comparison ever come into play?
Tiffany Jachja (03:22):
Yeah, it did a lot. I ended up graduating with a computer engineering degree and the reason why I had pursued two halves of computer science, both the engineering aspect and then the programming computer aspect was because of that. I wanted to tinker, I wanted to solve problems. And of course, there was part of me that, even still today, I want to express myself. I want to find ways to build cool things and I feel like a lot of people relate to that, especially in this field.
Alex Booker (03:55):
I saw on LinkedIn, you got a 4.0 GPA.
Tiffany Jachja (03:55):
That was actually for my master's.
Alex Booker (03:57):
I had a cheeky google, and it said it was like an A or something, so I assumed it was pretty good, fair play to you, that's awesome. I was wondering, what were the things that you got from school that you might not have got had you gone the self taught or bootcamp route?
Tiffany Jachja (04:10):
I think the biggest thing that I got was a lot of context. You have these professors, professors have PhDs in their fields. If you have a lecturer, they're somewhat qualified to be teaching you programming or these concepts. And the nice thing about that is you get all of their mindset transferred to you and you get to talk to them. Versus a bootcamp where that ecosystem might be a lot smaller, might be more self-contained. In a university program, you have access to all these academics. You have a lot of resources, and it's not to say that you don't have that in a bootcamp, but a bootcamp is hyper focused or specialized, it's meant to get you in and out, versus university.
Some people will stay five years, six years for their programs and I think even for engineering, the average is five years for people to graduate. So I think that was one of the things that I really got, being able to just ask questions, get things wrong for an extended period of time, and then finally figure it out. Sometimes it's just one thing that someone says or explains to you in a certain way. It suddenly clicks with you. I had more chances to get that right in a university setting than in a bootcamp setting, where maybe I'm doing it part-time or I'm doing it after work. In a university setting, of course, if you work during university, you work during university, but your life is centered around university. That's one of the benefits I would say.
Alex Booker (05:36):
Was there an element of exploring and trying out a bunch of different types of programming and levels of programming, whether that's low level, high levels, something like that, and figuring out specifically what you wanted to specialize on? I guess when you go to bootcamp route, you're absolutely right, it's an intensive experience. You're a hundred percent in and out and you are being molded to a template of an engineer that can contribute and start their career. I mean, it's awesome, but you don't have as much room certainly to explore and to think and experiments and things like that. I'm wondering if that benefited you in helping you narrow down what you wanted from your career specifically.
Tiffany Jachja (06:13):
It did for me in particular, because I did a lot of experimentation. There was a little while where I thought I was going to be an embedded programmer or low level programmer. I tried it out. I even took some time off of school to be a part of a co-op, which is basically time off school to work full time at a company. So I did that and I realized, oh, maybe I don't want to do this. I actually don't really like the environment. And then I tried something else. And then my first job out of college was at an operating systems company and I was a software developer there. So it was interesting. It was a blend of all of my backgrounds.
And that's the cool thing, as you're experimenting, trying things out, getting closer and closer to finding what you like. It's sometimes a blend of all of the past experiences that you've had, or at least the ones that you feel most passionate about. It's kind of beautiful when it all blends in together like that. So I highly encourage people to, if they sound interested in a topic, look it up, look into it. There's a lot of resources out there online, even for people who are no longer in school. Even today, if there's something new that's coming up, I'm looking through Twitter, I'm looking things up because I just don't have the same environment as I do in the past.
Alex Booker (07:24):
I think maybe video games are to blame or something because we think that all progress is quite linear. We go from level one to level two and so on. But oftentimes, if you zoom out far enough, it's a bit more of a zigzag. You try something, you go far enough that you realize this isn't what you want to do anymore, it wasn't what you expected. That's the point to quit. Quitting is okay, if you get to the point where you can see the path ahead of you and you realize, actually, this isn't true to myself. This isn't the path I want to take. I'm not scared of the hard work. I'm ready to do the hard work, but I don't think the payoff is right here. So you go back a step, but then you take two steps forward. When you zoom out over the course of a career, which could be a couple of decades plus, this little experimentation part at the beginning, it's probably much more of a blip than a pattern right? But had you gone down the wrong route, you might not have had such a prosperous career.
Tiffany Jachja (08:13):
Yeah. And I think oftentimes you get new mechanics, right? You're like, "Oh, there's this new thing coming out. I want to pursue this or I want to go down this path."
Just because we decide that we want to take a different path, doesn't mean that we're not making progress. It's just our own path and it's for no one else to be able to understand but us, best.
Alex Booker (08:32):
Nowadays, you're doing things a bit more of a data side and you're also an engineering manager. What drew you to that part of the programming world?
Tiffany Jachja (08:40):
Actually, that's what I specialized in, in my graduate degree. So after I graduated, I started working and then I decided that I didn't quite get the chance to dive in deeper in other concepts and in machine learning in particular. So I ended up pursuing my master's degree in computer science, and then I took all of those courses and specialized in that. Well, I was basically sold within the first two years of my program and I was like, okay, we're going to find some way to get, to do some work with data and machine learning because it's just really cool and the applications are really great and lots of fun problems to solve, lots of open questions in this space.
So I made that pivot into management and then also into data, from the standpoint that I had a lot of experience in DevOps. So delivering software and doing it in a sustainable way. And that's a particular area that machine learning, your data science team struggle with. It was quite a nice pivot. And so I was able to apply a lot of DevOps practices into what I knew on a theoretical basis, and then what my teams were doing as well.
Alex Booker (09:42):
And you work at Vox, right? Is that the same Vox I watch on YouTube?
Tiffany Jachja (09:46):
Maybe, Vox media.
Alex Booker (09:48):
That's sick then. What does a typical week in the life as an engineering manager at Vox look like?
Tiffany Jachja (09:52):
I think everyone's is a little bit different, because we get the freedom to lay out how we want to structure our days and it's very team dependent because some teams may have multiple product managers. Some teams may have a project manager and they'll help delegate out the team ceremonies, but it's standard across a lot of common agile engineering teams. We have daily stand ups, one on ones with people, team syncs. I think the majority of my day is spread across different meetings and I try to bundle them together in certain parts of my day.
And then the rest of it is particularly special because I get to review the work that's happening and then work with other stakeholders to lay out the priorities and the key milestones for every project. And we have a couple of different products. So sometimes it's also doing a little bit of research on what needs to happen, what domain information does everybody need to know and making sure that it gets disseminated in a proper way.
Alex Booker (10:56):
I think a lot of new developers will be wondering, who am I going to work with on the team? And I know that engineering manager comes up a bit. I think oftentimes, because the engineering manager is involved in the hiring process, but there's also things like your line manager, scrum master comes up sometimes, engineering leads, project managers and these all sound like senior leadership type roles. And presumably, each engineer on a team isn't reporting to four or five people. That would be a bit chaotic I think. What is the structure and hierarchy of a typical team? And where does the engineering manager specifically fit within that? Who do you collaborate with and how do you end up working with the engineers on the team?
Tiffany Jachja (11:32):
Firstly, you have what are called individual contributors. These are typically your engineers. They're not quite managing anything. They may contribute to work at an individual level, and that's sort of one way to look at it. And then you have, what are called your managers and then your owners. So your managers are typically people managers, they manage some aspect of the work that's happening and that's when you'll get an engineering manager. That's typically the person that you report into as an individual contributor. And then as part of the team, you have support for what you're building. That'll typically come in the form of a program, a product manager, a project manager, your scrum master is also the manager of your scrum or your agile workflows. So you get certain titles associated with how your team is set up. And those people will typically manage tasks or core responsibilities. And that's how you interact with other people on the team. So there's different areas, when you think about a team and that's how it's typically set up.
And product managers could have other product managers that were poured into them or they were poured into their own product line, but engineers are typically focused on that individual contributions and so the better that you can work together with your manager, product manager, whoever else is on the team, the stronger team that you have essentially.
Alex Booker (12:57):
So more often than not, a newer developer on the team would be an individual contributor in this scenario?
Tiffany Jachja (13:03):
And then you can have things like becoming a team lead or a staff engineer. In a team lead, you're leading up a particular development of a milestone. In a staff engineering situation, you're part of contributing to multiple teams. So everyone just has their own specialty or tracks for growth in their particular role. An engineering manager may be a leader of multiple teams in the future, or they may be a leader of other managers and then they don't have individual contributors reporting into them. They're instead, the manager of those managers who have individual contributors.
And then, you have your product managers, which I forgot to also talk about more. Product managers who have domain expertise around the products that are being built. You have your project managers who have experience for managing projects. You get these specialties in teams that are helpful. And in data we have data scientists, data engineers, machine learning researchers. These are just additional specialties to a typical engineer that you'll have on the team. And that structure of whether or not they're individual contributor or more of a manager can differ as well, so it can get quite complicated.
Alex Booker (14:12):
Coming up on the Scrimba Podcast, why there's no such thing as a perfect resume.
Tiffany Jachja (14:17):
It isn't just about getting your foot in the door.
Alex Booker (14:20):
But first Jan the producer and I, want to ask you if you would be so kind as to share this episode.
Jan Arsenovic (14:26):
That's right. Word of mouth is the best way to support a podcast you like. So if you are enjoying this interview and if you're finding it insightful, useful, uplifting or all of the above, we would really appreciate if you shared it with someone, be it on socials, in person or in your discord community. We are a weekly podcast and you're currently listening to an episode number 78. This means two things. Number one, if you're just getting acquainted with a show, you have a pretty sizable backlog to listen to. And number two, there's way more where this came from, so you can subscribe to the podcast in your podcast app choice, so you don't miss the upcoming episodes. Next week, Stevie Gill will tell us his story of career change from scientist to editor, to video game writer, to developer.
Stevie Gill (15:15):
I actually was a scientist. I worked in a genetics lab for years. I did learn some coding at school, but this was back in the eighties. They taught us basics. So I used to do a little bit of making really rubbish text games on my ZX Spectrum at home. So yeah, it's something I always wanted to do and in 2017, because I used to work as an editor on a medical journal. I just needed to do something different. So I had this crazy idea and I quit my job and I decided I was going to become a professional video games writer because I had a lot of spare time on my hands. I came across freeCodeCamp.
Jan Arsenovic (15:53):
That is next Tuesday on the Scrimba podcast. And now we're back to the interview with Tiffany.
Alex Booker (16:00):
I suppose, the bigger the company, the more people and leaders and levels of hierarchy involved and that kind of thing. But it is quite typical, I would say, even in smaller teams, to have a project manager or product owner who coordinates with stakeholders and gathers requirements and represents the customer sometimes. And then there's oftentimes an engineering manager who is involved in managing the work, ensuring all the individual contributors come together to deliver on those requirements.
Tiffany Jachja (16:25):
Yeah, and sometimes there's a little bit of an experience gap between others on your team and then your engineers, your engineering team. So an engineering manager can help bridge that. When my team had a product manager, we don't have one at this moment. So it's actually interesting because sometimes then, your engineering manager ends up taking over some of the product management, but you can have syncs and conversations to help bridge the gap between product management and engineering. So you can really help scope out how much time is something going to take, what may be the technical challenges of a particular idea. So you can come at it from a practical standpoint or just even from a standpoint of implementation.
Alex Booker (17:04):
I like the distinction you introduced before, between project management and people management and some parts of leadership ensuring the delivery of projects, other parts of leadership are to do with the success of the individual team members. And of course there's a huge amount of overlap as well. One thing I've encountered in the past is sometimes your engineering manager is not also your line manager, because I think the idea is that, if there is something that is affecting the team potentially, you might want to have a different leader involved. And likewise, sometimes you'll request vacation days from your line manager rather than your engineering manager and there'll be a sync and everything's communicated obviously, but some teams do just have that little separation between the project management and the people management. Is that something you've come across?
Tiffany Jachja (17:45):
That's fairly common. Especially if you have the setup that allows for it. It's probably a good thing because then not everything ends up being very personal, especially if there's very hard deadlines or additional communications that have to happen because someone's going to be out later and that sort of thing, it's really good. And it's also helpful to have other people advocate for you as an individual contributor or just as an employee. The more people who support you or saying good things behind your back or when you're not in the room or in a meeting, the better it is, typically.
I see those as benefits to that as well. But yes, an engineering manager will also, typically look out for the career development of their individual contributors or their direct reports. And so some of that can include having one-on-ones tracking goals, getting to know the person, talking about what does career development look like, and that sort of thing.
Alex Booker (18:37):
And this is all great information. The engineering manager, the line manager, these are two people you'll definitely encounter during the interview process. You might not have both if you're in a smaller team for example, but it's really good to know who they are, what they care about. Now I feel like someone listening is a bit better equipped to make the interview a dialogue. Ideally, an interview should be a two way streets. The first step to feeling confident in that environment is to understand that person's role and what questions would be appropriate. And as an engineering manager yourself, I was curious to hear from you. What are some of the things that junior developer should be looking for from their engineering manager? What are some green flags that they should keep an eye out for? And maybe even try and tease out with thoughtful questions during an interview process.
Tiffany Jachja (19:19):
I would ask questions around what is the mission of the team? How do you see it growing and make sure that you're happy with that answer. A lot of times the engineering managers who can't advocate for their team or don't understand the work at a high or an in depth level or a certain degree, won't be able to advocate for you and your growth. I think it's just, oftentimes I've experienced that as an individual contributor myself, understanding that your team exists for a purpose and that other teams and other parts of the organization need to be able to understand that in order for you to feel like you can focus on the work when you're there. This is why we have engineering managers in the first place, to manage the existence of the team. So I think it's important to always have someone or a team lead there to be able to remind the organization of the mission values and how the team contributes to that larger picture in an organization. That's one thing they'll look out for.
The second bit is, do you work well with this person? Do you think that you have something to learn from them? I think that as an engineering manager, you have the unique opportunity to be able to mentor or coach your direct report. And so if you can see yourself growing because you're working closely with someone, that's typically a good sign in terms of whether or not this person would be a good manager. You can also ask them questions about how they think about engineering management, how they do one on ones. Do they do one on ones? That sort of thing. Those are typically good questions to ask as well.
Alex Booker (20:53):
I like that a lot, because it's surely something about which they're passionate and will have not only things they've read and values, they're excited to talk about, but there should be some real world examples to attach with that. And I think just by poking around a little bit, you'll get a vibe you're not going in there with a checklist or a test or anything, but I reckon you can attribute a lot of the likely success of you in that role to the vibe that you feel. Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel excited? Do you feel interested? Because if you don't feel comfortable or interested, excited in the interview, you're probably not going to feel those things when you're working the job.
Tiffany Jachja (21:24):
Yeah, and typically this is the thing. In my fireside conversations or interviews with people, I want people to get excited. I answer questions in a way to also inspire people because I know that's the kind of manager that I want to be or leader that I want to be. And so if I visibly see people getting excited or asking more questions, then I know that this person may be a good person to work with in the future. I see that person feeling empowered by the words that I say, they're going to get results by working with me or we're going to get results as a team. So it is essentially a good vibe check or a good check when you're talking to someone, if you're feeling excited because we want to extend offers as hiring managers, we want to extend offers that make people feel excited, right? There are times when, it's the hiring process, we're talking about salaries, we're creating job descriptions. And I'm like, "Okay, if this is a job description, this is at least what I want to have approved from HR budget wise, compensation wise."
I'm not going to embarrass myself by giving X amount of dollars for particular role, right? I want to make sure that it's fair. I want to make sure that people are excited for the opportunity and then feeling like they're getting paid enough to do it. There's a level of equity and even just inclusion when you are talking that you want to think about as a hiring manager too, from a hiring manager's perspective, I guess.
Alex Booker (22:42):
Say you are talking to someone and they are obviously super excited about the work. They're curious, they like the domain that you're in, the projects are vibing with them. They're all really excited. And you think that they're going to be a great contributor in the sense that they're a team player, they work well, they listen, they know how to express themselves. You think they'll be positive and popular on the team, but their skills, their hard skills as an engineer might be just a little bit behind some of the other candidates. How would you perform that equation in your head of comparing this candidate as has the complete right attitude and enthusiasm for the role, but is maybe not the absolute strongest technical contender.
Tiffany Jachja (23:23):
I did this a little bit in the last role that I hired for, but essentially you have to think about it from the perspective of who else is on your team and who may be able to support that person, if they are going to go through a longer learning curve. This is true. Not only in a technical aspect too, you could have this from a domain expertise level. There's some roles that are very, very specialized. And so you have to look at it from the perspective of, okay, if this person cannot do this aspect of the role, am I okay with that? Or is it a hard requirement? There may be also some fundamental skills or experiences that a candidate has and they don't get to show that, but it may be worthwhile and those skills may be what allows them to learn whatever hard requirement we have around a technology or particular skillset.
So you can think about it from that perspective too, of based off of what I know about this person, how much time are we going to be down? What is the estimation around how they're going to be able to perform? Because at the end of the day, we're hiring someone for a particular responsibility, particular area focus. So how well are they reasonably going to be able to do the work? And sometimes that requires an additional interview process, because you just don't know the answer. So most times, I'll schedule something but firstly, we have to deliberate as a team, find out what were the gaps, do a little bit of a gap analysis and then ask additional questions. And sometimes that doesn't happen because you get other candidates in the applicant pool. There's some really great people who may also be very popular or well liked on a team and they are able to do the job or they have the skills or they have already that sort of thing.
But I also look at career development and longevity, oftentimes people who check off all the check boxes of a job description, they're the same people who maybe will outgrow a team very quickly, or they may not get as much from working with the team or getting a particular job opportunity versus someone else. So you look at it from the growth potential as well and that sort of thing. So I like to ask questions as a hiring manager around what are your career goals? Where do you see yourself growing? And I try to make sure that people who we're going to extend an offer to, won't leave within the next three to six months. So there's a little bit of that goes into it as well.
There are people who come in the pipeline, the interview pipeline, and they're overqualified for the role and it's not personal, but it's like, all right, this person is overqualified for the role, they're going to outgrow quickly, their career goals don't line up with what we're looking for. So that's also an indication that this person may not have the best time on the team and that's not anything personal, but it's just an evaluation of the interview process. And then just as a people manager, you want to make sure that people are happy. That's one way to look at it as well.
Alex Booker (26:10):
And yeah, the high attrition probably isn't great for the team, who might have to fill the gap that's left and overall it's just a waste of time, I suppose, because hiring and onboarding people is very expensive from a time and the cost perspective. And I think most employers recognize that as an employee, you are better value economically. I mean, apologies for speaking in purely monetary terms, but at the end of the day, and I think it's kind of helpful to realize it's a developer, that a lot of companies are essentially for-profit companies and a lot of it is to do with contributing to the company's share price as a public company or taking the company to the next level of growth or something. And so there is an element of that. Companies want you to stick around for a while, because you have the best chance of contributing back to the product in that respect
Tiffany Jachja (26:51):
The idea of maximizing potential or looking at levels of potential and seeing how you can grow other people, that tends to be really, the rewarding parts of management. When it comes to interviewing, that's sort of what we look for, how can this person help us grow, but how can we also help them grow?
Alex Booker (27:09):
Every situation is individual. You said that first and foremost, if you are comparing hard skills and soft skills, there is no true answer. It depends on a lot of things like the specific profile of the person applying, but also the profile of the team and where you think this candidate's gaps might be and if you can fill them. How well they've convinced you, perhaps that they can grow into the role, but you also made this point that if somebody fits a hundred percent of the requirements, they very well might be at the point of graduating to the next level in their career. And they therefore might not be terribly fulfilled in the role, they might move on.
And what I reverse engineer from that is that if you read a job description and you don't meet all the requirements or maybe you're close or you're on that track or there things that you wish you could fill, there are things you want to get better at, maybe that's exactly the reason you should include yourself and apply, rather than count yourself out. Because by your description, say you're applying for a junior developer role and you meet a hundred percent of the requirements. Oftentimes that means you're almost not a junior anymore and within a few months you should hope to be promoted and therefore you might be under compensated in all these things.
Tiffany Jachja (28:10):
Yeah, it's so true. I review resumes on Twitch when I streamed sometimes. And there was one person who had shared their portfolio and they were talking about how they were fairly young. They were in their early twenties, bootcamp developer, has projects. We look through their portfolio, probably one of the best portfolios I've ever seen. And he asked, should I apply? Should I continue to apply for junior roles? Or do you think I'm set for junior roles? And I was like, you should be applying for senior roles.
Alex Booker (28:39):
Tiffany Jachja (28:39):
I think oftentimes, we're always of this mindset when we're learning or trying to solve problems that we're somehow behind on the problems that we have to somehow chase them. And we do, we have to change our mindset and we have to have approach problems with differing mindsets and perspectives. That's how we solve them. Because if we had the same mindset, we wouldn't be able to solve problems. There wouldn't be problems. I think sometimes it's so easy to get under leveled or underappreciated because you don't see the value or you don't really have that comparison across what you have, versus what you can contribute sort of thing.
Alex Booker (29:09):
You gave a lightning talk, I think, about career development at Doc Day. There's a recording on YouTube, which I can link in the show notes. And you reminded us that if you're waiting to feel ready, you may never feel ready. I think that's super related to what you just said. And you observed that a lot of students are already ready, but they themselves don't feel ready. They're waiting for this emotional hit of preparedness, you said. And that might never come. So you could be waiting around forever. And by the way, I really love the way you put that because it's inherently empathetic. I know that when people are struggling with imposter syndrome or they're wondering about their readiness to apply or move on, they're often met with a logical step of questions or ways of reflecting on it and that can help, in time. But it is ultimately an emotional feeling of like, "Ah, I just don't feel confident."
It takes time to build that up. If someone's listening and they feel a bit like they're waiting for that emotional hit of preparedness and they're trying to overcome that fear, that uncertainty, the risk of failure, right? You have to put yourself out there. How do you feel about it? Because I know you've pushed yourself throughout your career. You've had an ambitious career. Oftentimes that's synonymous with pushing your comfort zone, right? And almost pushing past this feeling of waiting to be ready.
Tiffany Jachja (30:20):
I think about this often, it's like this idea of new level, new devil. That even if you think that you understand certain concepts and you trust yourself and you have this certain level of confidence or a certain understanding of your skills and your motivations, that there's still even more that you have to learn about yourself. And I think that's one of the things from a practical standpoint of just even doing a check on yourself, what skills do you have today? What is your story? Where did you start? What are you grateful for and what are you going towards? And are you willing to give up what you have right now in order to get what you want? Because I think there's always a level of sacrifice that needs to happen when it comes to pursuing what it is that you want. You have to be willing to give up some level of comfortability.
You have to be willing to give up sometimes some level of security. Maybe you feel secure right now in your role, but you feel miserable, right? You have to be willing to give up those feelings in order to pursue something where, or a job opportunity where you may feel very aligned with the work and satisfied and happy coming into work. I think sometimes that's what you have to think about. Are you willing to give up what you have now? And then also just making sure that you're doing a check of your skills. There's a lot of people who will say, "Oh, I'm interested in this thing, but I'm just going to go back to school or I'm going to do another bootcamp, or I'm going to do another project."
When they have all the things. They have objectively, the skills, the experience, just the ability to learn as well and it's not like they're going from zero to a hundred, you've made progress. Let's do a little check of what you've done and how you're going to get there and not have the feelings add on to the list of things that you have to do before you go and try.
Alex Booker (32:03):
In my view, it's a form of procrastination essentially. Doing another course, doing another bootcamp. You are feeling like you're making progress and that makes you feel good and you're simultaneously avoiding the really hard thing, which is to get out there.
Tiffany Jachja (32:17):
And I think the best leaders, the people who are true to themselves are the people who come out from behind themselves, in a lot of ways. You come out from behind your excuses, behind the fear and you pursue the thing that you want.
Alex Booker (32:31):
Being brave is not never feeling scared, being brave is doing it anyway. Is there a time that you can think of in your career where you are maybe comfortable enough and you decided to push yourself anyway?
Tiffany Jachja (32:42):
I think there's been a lot of instances of that, but I think there's also moments when I feel very inspired to do more. And that reminds me that maybe there's another opportunity or another calling that I have to do something. I think just staying inspired, oftentimes gives me this idea of, "Okay, this is a cool thing that I want to try."
So there's part of me that just wants experimentation and progress by nature. I think I'm very driven by that, but there have been times where I feel comfortable. I mean, even this past year, I felt very comfortable. And it's times when I travel to conferences or talk to other people or even hear what everybody else is doing, that I'm inspired. I hear what people are doing. And I'm like, "Well, I want to push what we're doing to the next level."
Alex Booker (33:26):
I think that's really good advice. To seek inspiration, whether that's podcasts, books, conference talks, conversations, interactions on Twitter. When you feel a bit lost maybe, it's because you don't have all the information in front of you to make a clear plan or understand yourself. And just going exploring a little bit can make a huge difference. Where does this passion for career coaching come from anyway? Because you're established doing your thing as an engineering manager and as far as I can tell, a lot of the Twitch live streams and resume reviews you do, they seem very generous to me. I think it's obvious, that it's something about which you're passionate.
Tiffany Jachja (33:59):
Wanting to see your impact outside of your own circle, I think is the biggest thing for me. As an engineering manager, you get to impact the people who report into you, your direct reports, your organization in a meaningful way. And I think one of the things that I wanted to learn this year was tangibly, what else could I do outside of that? And then realistically, how many people can I help? And I think that question comes up often as an engineering manager, or even as an engineer, you get questions of how big is your team? How long have you been in management or how long have you been an engineer? The question comes up so often, and it's a probing question around impact and scale, right? The scope of your work and the scale of which you do it. And I think one of the most beautiful things about career coaching is that you can help people define what is point A and what is point B and how are we going to help you get there? And then seeing them get there.
I think that's such a rewarding experience and you get that as a people manager, but you can also get that outside of your work. And for me, that was meaningful because there are things like budget freezes this year and I still wanted to explore different topics of people management, but I wanted to be able to do those things without feeling limited or pressured to make them all happen in my work. So I also do it on the side and help people out. And I think that's been a really great way to also develop the skills in order to coach my direct reports at the same time.
Alex Booker (35:21):
Do you have fun doing it?
Tiffany Jachja (35:22):
Yeah. And it's so much fun. I tell you it's one of the most rewarding experiences ever. And it's changed me a lot. I think one of the things that got me into coaching in the first place was just my love for personal development. And then also getting to work with great coaches. People who've helped me break through certain limiting mindsets or beliefs. And even if they hadn't gone through the same things that I had gone through, even if they were in completely different industries or specializations, I was able to learn so much about my life and even my career through that work. And being able to give that back, or even just have that experience of helping push someone through their own mindsets is really helpful and rewarding.
Alex Booker (36:03):
There is this idea I think that, say you want to get stuff out of life, that maybe you should just go ahead and take it. That sounds intuitive in some respect, but counterintuitively or at least it might sound counterintuitive. You tend to get the most when you give the most, whether that's coaching or helping or creating content or spending time, it all comes back in a really great way. And you have every right of course, to feel awesome about the contributions you're making to people's careers and by extension lives, we'll be linking your profiles high and proud in the show notes so people can check them out. I know that you do these resume reviews, which are super valuable because not only can people submit their resumes, but they can ask questions in the Twitch chats and almost guide the direction of the live stream to make it as relevant to them as possible. I think that's really cool.
Tiffany Jachja (36:46):
I think one of the interesting things about a resume is that it showcases how well you're able to speak to the work that you've done and oftentimes getting a neutral party to look at it can encourage you to think more deeply about the work and some of the ways that you've contributed to it, because sometimes even that is biased when we're going in and writing it in our first draft. And if you can get more perspective, it becomes easier to tell the story and maybe map it out and that's sort of one of the things that I try to help people with.
Alex Booker (37:14):
I don't know if you strictly agree, but in my very honest opinion, most resumes out there are not that great. I think they're far from optimized and by extension far from effective. The reason I bring it up actually, is to acknowledge that most people just don't come out of school, great at writing resumes. It's a very specific skill. And I also think that realizing that many people aren't that good at it, means the potential impact of having a good one is so much greater because you can stand out above the rest. In general, what do you think? Why are resumes so difficult to get right?
Tiffany Jachja (37:47):
I agree with that point because it is really hard to get it right. And unless you're thinking about it in a deep way, unless you have some sort of insight into what people are looking for, what works and what doesn't, you've tried hundreds of times and you failed, or maybe you've gotten into an interview process with a bad resume and then you realize, oh, this didn't set me up for a good start into the interview process. Then you don't really know how to craft one in a nice way where you are getting the attention of a hiring manager. I do think that being able to understand the power of a resume, even outside of writing a good resume or having a good resume is really helpful because it isn't just about getting your foot in the door. It's also setting you up to tell your story and have a conversation in the interview process.
Alex Booker (38:36):
Because if it's convoluted in any way, you might get into the interview process and the interviewer is asking you all these questions about a project, which you maybe didn't think was that relevant, or you're like, "Ah, why aren't they asking about this thing instead? This is the thing that matters here."
And it's because you set a narrative in some respect, you set the tone. And a resume's incredibly powerful in that respect.
Tiffany Jachja (38:55):
Yeah, this is even true, and this is why I like resume writing, is because I see it as an exercise for what you've done, what skills you have and how you've used them. The resume, ideally outlines some of the skills you have, the experiences or the projects or the things that you've done with those skills, to showcase at what level do you use them or know them? It tells us a story of how you've grown with those skills. So that's really nice because even if you get an interview without ever showing someone your resume, which sometimes happens through referrals, cold emails, outreaching, you're still able to acknowledge exactly that story and how it all maps together.
And so that's why I really do enjoy that resume writing process because it gives you that clarity, but that's also the hard part. Being able to map out what skills are really important, how have you used them? And remember how you use them, because for some people it's across several roles, it's across several projects. Maybe they're not able to even talk about the work or showcase the code base, which is pretty often, in a very detailed manner. Maybe you have a security clearance, maybe the work was confidential, that sort of thing. Maybe you had a non-compete so there's several human layers to this that make it additionally challenging. So the more tips that you can get from people who are either in your industry or have at least some insights into it can be really helpful.
Alex Booker (40:18):
It's actually such a fine skill because you're storytelling, you're writing clearly, you're using design elements to give emphasis to things in your resume. I wouldn't suggest, by the way, going into Figma or Sketch or something and going for a crazy design, I'm talking more, even subtle things, right? What order do you list things in? What do you make bold? Do you use formatting consistently? It sounds so minuscule, but it makes such a big difference.
Tiffany Jachja (40:42):
Even things like, how does all the bullet points lay down on the page? What does it look like printed?
Alex Booker (40:48):
A well intentioned piece of advice that gets shared a lot, I think is to attach specific numbers to your contributions. Have you come across that before?
Tiffany Jachja (40:56):
I've heard that in circles too, of being able to measure percentage increase or numbers. And I think that's very valuable, right? Because in some way you're quantifying your impact. But I think one of the things that you want to strive for, even just before that is what was the impact? And so I like to have this in any bullet points. So typically resumes will have bullet points and under your experiences or under your projects. And I like to tell people, if you're going to be talking about your skill and you're going to write this in a bullet point, I want you to have a past tense verb, what you did or what was the impact of the work and what skills did you use. So I build it into the formatting of how I talk about the work and then you want to get to the next level of what are the numbers?
I think oftentimes you could throw numbers, you get into this pitfall of like, okay, I need to be able to measure things or my impact. If I just say a number that will showcase impact, it doesn't necessarily always equate to impact. I think the important thing that you want beyond just numbers is that impact and not every bullet point has to have numbers. I'd rather see impact and then the numbers of how you scaled monolith into thousands of microservices or hundreds of microservices. That's cool to see. Or maybe even the volume of traffic getting increased to an application because you did optimizations on performance, that sort of thing. Maybe you decreased latency by adding additional page load tests, that sort of thing, whatever it is, I don't specialize in front end development. Maybe I was completely wrong on how I said that.
Alex Booker (42:23):
No, no, you're on point.
Tiffany Jachja (42:24):
You're talking about the impact of the work by using X, Y Z skill. So that maps out to, I did this because of something that we needed to have as a feature or as a capability in a product or as an important part of my role in this software development project or in this product or as my role, this was important for me. And being able to outline what was the most important bits, is really helpful because it indicates, will this person succeed in the role that they're applying for now? Are they able to also acknowledge what are the responsibilities for this role and how they're able to map to that? So I think, even just being able to pick out what was most relevant for you is really helpful because it showcases what are your priorities as a software engineer, whatever role that you're applying for.
Alex Booker (43:10):
I think you're spot on here and you're highlighting one of the challenging things about resumes. There's no one size fits all answer. And a lot of advice, for better or for worse, is shared as a blanket statement. That's actually one reason I was quite hesitant to make a blanket statement myself, because I think that it's easy for people to hear a soundbites and internalize it and form their worldview about it. But the thing about resumes is that, you can share it on LinkedIn, a quick tip and it's nice and they'll get a lot of likes, but there is a degree of nuance to it. And there is no such thing as a golden rule when it comes to... Okay, there's a few golden rules. Maybe don't use comic sans on your resume and stuff. But what I'm getting at, principally is when you hear some advice, you need to be judicious about how you apply it.
Tiffany Jachja (43:53):
I honestly believe that when you're so focused on measurement, that you can sometimes forget the outcome or the bigger picture and I think oftentimes, people who are so sold on the numbers and this sort of thing, forget that. And it becomes a type of culture that perpetuates more of that, more of the measurement, more of the numbers, and then people are comparing against each other and it's not always the best feeling. I'd rather people feel like they're able to talk about the metrics in a meaningful way. I work in data. I love data. We like numbers. We like to hear about impact, but not every framework or methodology of expressing something works for every scenario. And you want to have a good distribution of things. Everyone's distribution of how they like to speak about problems, how they like to tell stories, how they like to talk about their work is going to be different.
You just have to find one that fits you because the last thing you want to do is have this very stern resume, where you have all these numbers, you write about it in a certain way. It's well balanced, but it's just not you. That's not how you talk about problems. That's not how you tell a story. That's not how you map out things. So I tell people, take it with a grain of salt. This is how I would make changes to a resume. You can pick some of it. You can take none of my advice. You may say like, "Oh, this doesn't work for me at all." And not do any of it. And that's completely fine.
I've been in the situation where I've asked everyone for their input. I did this when I was first a manager, I was like, "Hey everyone, I'm going to engineering management for the first time. Can you tell me all of your tips?" And then I took all the tips, out of context and I tried to apply them in my role and that went miserably wrong. And I felt like I wasn't even a leader for myself. This wasn't even me. And I realized, it's better for me to come into situations, experiment, try things out for me, find things that work for me and get it right with my team. Versus subscribing to a model of, this is the right way to do something.
Alex Booker (45:38):
I couldn't agree more with you. Just to give another example really, there was this fad of 4:00 AM morning routine videos and people making their own and following them and things. And then people would shoehorn their life into a morning routine when they're evening people and like-
Tiffany Jachja (45:51):
4:00 AM morning routines.
Alex Booker (45:53):
Literally. You have to keep your ears open, continue to learn and grow, but always be true to yourself and relate it to your own journey with context. And that's true for you as an engineering manager and an experienced developer, but it's true as well for anybody listening, newer on their career. And I'm sure if they reflect on it, they'll find other examples from their life that aren't necessarily to do with coding, but reign true all the same.
Tiffany Jachja (46:15):
And lean into those times when you are going to go on a journey on your own and find answers on your own because you may be able to help someone in the future. When I joined into people management, I said how I had just shared how I tried to get the right answers from everybody else. I stopped that model, tried something else completely different, wanted to be a leader and do things on my own. And after a while people noticed that and they were like, "Well, you should talk to Tiffany. She has all these great ideas or she has these new quirky things that she's doing."
Or I'll try something out with my team and then I'll blog about it. And people also try it out and they see what works for them. And that doesn't just apply for management, that applies for engineering, that applies for anything that we're doing in our careers or in our life. So yeah, I think it can definitely help people.
Alex Booker (46:59):
Unfortunately, we're almost out of time, but I was reflecting a little bit on your experiences as a developer and a career coach. And I had a question I wanted to ask you in closing, if you were to sit down with a new developer today, maybe they're self-taught or went through bootcamp and you were to make a strategy about how to break into the industry. What would that conversation look like?
Tiffany Jachja (47:19):
I like that question. I would, of course, get to know them a little bit more about what was their background and what they're hoping to accomplish in tech. I think that's the really important thing, is if you want to be a software engineer, what technologies do you want to use? What have you used in the past and how would you like to spend your time moving forward? And then from there I would take a look at their projects, or at least some of the ways that they've used their skillsets and then map it out to, can we talk about this in a meaningful way and get you a career out of it?
Alex Booker (47:48):
Are there any sort of strategies you would suggest you think?
Tiffany Jachja (47:52):
I would look into communities where there are other people who are in similar situations or even just communities where they're sharing opportunities for you to break into the industry. There are a lot of roles and opportunities for you to do so in a team that's equipped to do it. You want to be in a situation where you're also able to grow very well and scale yourself out and also learn from other people. There's a discord community by Danny Thompson, it's called Commit your Code! That's a really great one. There's remote job hunters. They're also on Reddit and you can find them and they'll post opportunities are really great for entry level roles in programming. And it's really a good way to get into, for people who are just starting out, to find roles that are especially geared or going to really nurture them in their careers at the moment that they're in them.
And I always tell this to people, if you're starting out, prioritize yourself. Later on in your career, as you go into a team lead, a senior engineer, a manager, whatever it is that you go into, right? It's going to be more and more about other people, but when you're starting out, make it about yourself, because that's really what the role is designed for. It's designed to give you opportunities to learn new things, be mentored by others, ask really great questions and prioritize yourself before you have to prioritize everything else, like deadlines and that sort of thing. So really make it a special time for you.
Alex Booker (49:19):
Right on. Tiffany, thank you so much for joining me on the Scrimba Podcast, it's been a pleasure.
Tiffany Jachja (49:24):
It was a pleasure. Thanks so much, Alex. And I hope everyone found this podcast useful.
Jan Arsenovic (49:29):
That was Tiffany Jachja, a data scientist, engineering manager, Twitch streamer, and career coach. Thank you for listening. And please check out the show notes for Tiffany's links as well as all the resources mentioned in this episode. If you made it this far, please consider subscribing. You can find us wherever you get your podcasts, and while you're at it, we will also be really thankful if you left us a five star review on Spotify or on Apple podcasts, that way you can make sure we can keep doing what we're doing. We are a weekly show and we alternate between recently hired juniors and industry experts. Stay tuned for a new episode next Tuesday. The Scrimba podcast is hosted by Alex Booker. You can find his Twitter username in the show notes. I'm your producer, Jan Arsenovic and we'll see you next week.