Season 2, Episode 2 | April 10, 2021
In this episode of the podcast, Dan and Bekah talk with Lucia Cercie, a Software Engineer, about the importance of having a growth-mindset, asking questions, and pair programming.
Lucia Cerchie is a software engineer from Phoenix, AZ. She spends a lot of time orbiting outside her comfort zone and when she's not coding, she likes to make her baby laugh.
In this episode of the podcast, Dan and Bekah talk with Lucia Cercie, a Software Engineer at StepZen, mom, and Arizona transplant, about the importance of having a growth-mindset, asking questions, and pair programming. We also talk about the power of community and feeling comfortable asking questions and asking for help. When she's not coding, Lucia likes to make her baby laugh.
Hello, and welcome to season two, Episode Two of the Virtual Coffee podcast. I'm Bekah, and this is a podcast that features members of Virtual Coffee community. Virtual Coffee is an intimate group of developers at all stages of their coding journey. And they're here on this podcast sharing their stories and what they've learned. And we're here to share it with you. Here with me today is my co host, Dan.
Thanks, Bekah. In this episode of the podcast, we talked with Lucia Cerchie, a software engineer mom and Arizona transplant. We talked about the importance of having a growth mindset asking questions and pair programming. And we also talked about the power of community and feeling comfortable asking questions and asking for help. It was a great conversation as always with Lucia, and I know you're going to enjoy it.
We start every episode of the podcast like we start every Virtual Coffee, we introduce ourselves with our name, where we're from what we do, and a random check in question. Today's question is, if you could write a book, what genre would you write it in? We hope you enjoy this episode. Hey, I'm Bekah, I am from a small town in Ohio. I'm a front end developer. And if I were to write a book, I've written one nonfiction, so I would not do it again. in that genre. I would do thriller, I would write a thriller, I think, oh, super thriller.
A superhero thriller. Nice.
Cross genre. Hi, I'm Dan, front end developer from Lakewood, Ohio. And if I could write a book, I have not written any books. So I don't have any past experience. nonfiction. So you know, I think I would go fantasy, but I feel like with fantasy and thriller, you really have to make sure you've connected all the dots, you know, and everything. So which could be fun, but also is a lot of work. But I feel like I could push through it. It'd be cool.
Fun to map it out.
Yeah. Alright, fantasy. That's my answer.
Hey, I'm Lucia. I am a software engineer from sunny, Sunny Arizona. And if I had to write a book, it would definitely be fiction, and probably in the sci fi realm, because I've been reading a lot of it recently. So yeah.
Very cool. Any good recommendations.
Um, I have been reading a lot of the like, best sci fi of this or that year collections, like short stories, and I really liked 2017. That was a good year, and sci fi short stories, apparently.
Cool. So welcome to the podcast. It's so good to have you here. It's always nice to see you in Virtual Coffee. And I know that's changed a little bit since you've taken a new job. So it's good to to see you today. And I always like to get started with your origin story. So how did you come to tech and where you are right now?
Yeah, I was a teacher for four years and transitioned into digital marketing for some software as a service startups. And I saw what the software engineers were doing there. And I liked it. So I started coding last year. Cool. And did you do a boot camp or self taught? How did you kind of make that transition? Yeah, I did a self paced boot camp, which really worked well for me because I'm also a mom. And I also enjoyed doing things outside the boot camp, like blogging my journey, and networking with Virtual Coffee and those types of things. It was, it was it felt like a really good choice for me, and it's worked out well. So
Yeah, nice as a self paced for me, too. And it was pretty much the only option for me as a mom, because there there was no way that I can just set aside that time for an intense boot camp. That was all day or whatever.
Yeah, I feel I learned better too doing, you know, eight hours versus 12 hours a day I think is healthier pace.
Right. It's so intense. And I think that trying to balance mental health and motherhood and career changing. That's all that's a lot of stuff to do. And if you don't have any time and you're super exhausted from doing that all day, it just leaks into your life in a lot of ways that are usually not good.
Yeah, I got to get that rest time in.
Okay, so you're an early career developer, and you are a fairly new mom. And so you've kind of made a lot of transitions in the last couple of years. So can you kind of talk through what those transitions were like for you and how you navigated the challenges?
Yeah, yeah, they were all pretty much happening over one year, which is also you know, the year that we've had this pandemic going on. So there was a lot of changes. Not all of them welcome, because all the things that happened because of Coronavirus, but a lot of them were very welcome, like the birth of my daughter and the discovery of my passion for coding. And it's felt a little bit like, like me, and my daughter and my computer are a little bit it's almost like an ice floe. And like, anytime I look up, it's like, oh, the environments completely changed, right? But we've got, I've got these core things that are anchoring me like my family. And you know that my daily practice of coding really helped me get through the past years, it was very helpful to have some things that stayed the same, like getting up every morning at the same time. And, you know, still having my family and my house with me every single day like that. Sometimes, you know, when you're in the same house, the same people, everybody knows now that that can, can become a strain, but it's also something that you can really rely on, it becomes a strength as well.
Right. I love that. And so, I think, too, there are a lot of parallels between being a mom and being a new mom, and the growth that you experience and also like, career changing, too, right? There's these moments that can be really great and powerful. And then there are some that are so challenging that like, Am I going to make it through this problem? I don't know if you had anything like that? Or if if there's any advice you want to share to moms out there listening as they're going through this too?
Yeah, yeah, moms and and bootcamp students, something that I tell every bootcamp student is because I came across my first really long bug. And I thought was helpful for me, too, is to remember what I used to teach my students about the growth mindset, which is like, just because you don't know something, now we're just dealing with something that doesn't mean you can't do it, right. And when the first time I hit like a three day bug, I was like, Oh, my gosh, was I cut out to do this? You really start to start questioning yourself when you're in your first big challenges. But, I remember the thing that I used to teach my own students about the growth mindset, I was like, Oh, I understand why this was so hard for them now, because it's hard for me, but I have to like, I think what I did was like, write down what I was feeling about it, and then write down, you know, what the truth about the situation was, which was that I was learning about how to debug things, and that it was going to be fine. And you know, in a few weeks, I'd have my website out there. And that, that helped me kind of externalize that growth mindset. A lot better, was super helpful, but it's also totally normal to, you know, get the first time the first huge challenge and coding and feel that feeling of like, Oh, no, and am I cut out for this? You know, it's something that I think everybody may feel, unless, you know, they're completely bathed in that growth mindset from early childhood, which not everybody is. But everybody may feel at one point or another when they're on this journey.
I love that. Like the...and i feel like that's true, not just with career change, you know, any big transition or, you know, any, any new thing you're trying to get into, it's, there's always...I don't know about always, but it's a very common thing, right to run into some huge thing and and the "Am I cut out for this" question is, I don't know it's very real and hard to sometimes get get through you know, and and it'll it'll interfere with actually solving the problem or whatever it is, you know, to fix that
That happens with parenthood too, right? Like, I look at my kid and like, Oh, that's, that's my child. Whoa, like, and and imposter syndrome can reroute there too. And that can make you it's, it can make you compare yourself to other parents, you know, in good or bad ways, things like that. I've it's less of like, when is my daughter going to discover that I'm not a mom, I'm three owls in a trench coat and more like, Am I a good parent, you know, I mean, but at the same time, you know, just like with coding, it's like, I've got to where I am now. I'll keep improving. Your kid is alive. You know, you're alive, you guys have this relationship. And that's a wonderful thing. And there's there's nothing that can change the power of that relationship. So
that's awesome. Definitely, I've had plenty of "am I cut out for this" moments with the kids over the last almost five years to have Ben's about to be five on Sunday. So well, I can relate anyway.
I've got an 11 year old and I still sometimes feel like that. I did this four times, I still am not sure whether or not I am any good at what I'm doing. But I think it is, you know, you push through those moments. And then you think about those other moments. And I always try and tell people who are new to coding to look at how much they've grown. So I haven't made any progress. But if you look at where you were last month, or a year ago, or even yesterday, you probably have grown, sometimes it's big leaps. And sometimes it's tiny steps, but it's still forward progress. Right. And I think that it can be hard to recognize those subtle moments, but it it's super important.
one thing you mentioned earlier was, like a part of your process as writing, you know, like writing things down, like writing, working, you know, you're talking about working through the huge bug or whatever. And I've always, I've been, I don't know, I like noticed and admire, you're like, just you're sort of...I don't know what the right word is, but...I don't know, you're writing a lot. And, and I thought that was really cool. I was wondering if, if you, like, if you started out with the plan of, you know, learning and writing as you learn, or if you came to it naturally, or if it was like part of an assignment for your, you know, for your boot camper, you know, like, how did you get yourself to do that as like, while you're, while you're learning to code and everything like that.
So at first, it was definitely very intimidating thinking of blogging, what I was doing, because it felt like, just another thing to learn to do. But I think it was eventually going to happen anyway, because I write to process almost everything in my life. So learning, writing is like a natural way for me to learn something. So I eventually started doing that just to be able to process things. Or if I wanted to learn something, sometimes I had assigned myself a blog post, you know, but I just found that really, really helpful way of going about it. And yeah, it's just nice to have something out there to, to you also not just to learn something, but to look at where you like to have a marker of where you were right, because I've learned things I've I've written blog posts that were either just like, oh, that was just the wrong way to think about it, you know, or, this was kind of like an older way of going about approaching solving this problem. And someone in the comments brought up a new way to do it. But that, like it records that moment in time for me, which I think is really helpful just to see, okay, you know, this is where I've come, this is where I started. Yeah, just kind of going with that whole growth theme.
And I feel like you push yourself so much, or I don't know if this is a natural thing, or if you work on getting out of your comfort zone. But you know, you're blogging, we did our first round of lightning talks in November, and you're they're doing a talk and you're you're competently asking questions, which I think is a really hard thing. And so, you know, is this been pushing yourself out of your comfort zone? Or, you know, how do you channel that confidence because I think that is something that that can be really hard to do.
I would say a little bit of it is probably being an extrovert in a pandemic. So there's there's a lot of me that wants to get out there and communicate and all the ways that I can't find out which is not in person. So that includes giving talks and joining groups and asking questions. But another part is, um, something I've been trying to do over the past year. And this is this applies to I think, parenting too, but it's like your comfort zone is not a place of growth, like it's okay to be there for a little bit, you know, if you need to just have some time to rest, but it's wherever improvement comes from kind of like, being completely out it like not completely uncomfortable, like there's psychological safety that always needs to be there, right, but but just being like, Oh, this is new, this is something that I haven't done before, you know. And, yeah, it's a little uncomfortable because of that. But if I don't keep doing that, there's no learning happening.
Let's talk about, I want to kind of move forward with the conversation about all this stuff that you're doing and this idea of confidence. And, you know, I want to touch maybe a little bit more specifically on asking questions and the experience that you have with pairing because I think that that's one of the things that I missed out on a lot at boot camp. And along the way, some people had said, like, well, you should try pairing more. But it wasn't naturally set up. And I didn't understand the value until I started working. Because you learn and you grow so much. But also it can be a really scary experience. And I know that, that a lot of people are hesitant to do that. So, you know, why? Why did you start asking people to pair and how was that experience?
Well, it was really, I mean, it was because I was comfortable in Virtual Coffee, and provided a safe environment for me to be like, Oh, I running into this bug in this framework I've never worked with before I know you have, would you like to pair with me? Can you navigate me. And that's, that's been the essence of a lot of the pair programming. I really like Martin Fowler's article on it. But it also doesn't have to fit into any of those definitions, you know, it's just two people same piece of code. Another thing I've run into out there that I think least some of the intimidation around pair programming is that there's like a perception that you have to like, I don't know, reach a certain level or a certain amount of tools to start doing and it's like, no, like, there's no reason you can't just pay her on your first few lines of HTML. You know, there's, there's absolutely no reason. So that's another thing that I just think because it's out there, that is just a perception that needs to change.
Yeah, that's, that's interesting. Just even the I came to pairings sort of organically, mostly through Virtual Coffee to and hadn't read any articles. I hadn't read any of any of that stuff. And so it never really even occurred to me to like that people will be hesitant or whatever about the actual process, you know, because I, I guess, I mean, mostly because I just didn't know, there was a formal process to know. But I... you and I have had some, like really good pairing sessions, too, I found as a teaching tool, it's like one of my favorite modes to write because, because it people can just kind of like work together and work through a thing, you know, instead of...as opposed to somebody asking, oh, like, trying to copy whatever the bug is in, you know, from your console, and like hope that, you know, like, somebody can find the, the answer, you know, like, like, just kind of, like, hanging out and going working through something together. Always just seems like, it's just one of my favorite ways to both learn and and like and helping, you know, and teach.
And it's just, it's it, like you said, there's an efficiency aspect to it to where you're not just going back and forth. Like with screenshots, trying to recreate the environment. It's definitely I think saves time. But also, like, builds relationships between programmers, you know, and maybe you could say more about this Dan or Bekah, but I've heard a lot of a theme I've heard in Virtual Coffee a lot is that both navigator and driver get to learn. It's not just one or the other. That's, that that's not how it goes. And I was wondering as, as people who have navigated a lot, I wonder what that's been like for you guys.
Yeah, I want to say, you know, I've been on both sides a lot in the last year, and I have learned so much. And I do think that you hit on something, this idea of psychological safety or feeling comfortable asking within the community, because I think that that just kind of decreases the feeling of like, I'm taking a risk here. And like, what is the risk really, if you pair with someone and you don't know what you're doing, you just don't know. Right? And then you have an opportunity to learn and you have an opportunity to grow but I know even when I've paired with people on their projects when they were asking for help, I had to look stuff up and ask questions and just that ability to have the conversation, the back and forth, we for sure, we're both growing through that conversation, whether it's how we communicate with each other, or I hadn't thought about it that way, let's kind of explore that and walk through, it can be a really great way to get a better understanding of different ways that people interact with code, how they think about things, and that inform your process going forward. And so I think it's been, you know, one of my favorite things of the last year being able to pair with so many different people.
Yeah, I totally agree. I, the, I mean, it's, you're always gonna learn things looking at, like learning about how people make, you know, solve problems and their own way. And every, every new code base has a whole bunch of stuff to learn about, even if it's tech that, you know, you know, extensively, you know, there's always stuff to learn. And the, as I say, the driver, navigator, like, thing was never really a formal thing in my mind, you know, and I know that it's, it can be helpful for people to like, sort of navigate the social structure, but at least at the beginning, before, before you've like, worked together enough to build up a rapport, you know, but, you know, it's just such a useful tool, and you're right, like, both, like, everybody should be alert, like, everybody should be learning all, like, can be learning all the time. We I've heard stories of people having, you know, bad experiences with pairing, and most of the time, it's because of usually the person who is hoping to learn something, you know, and ask him for help. And then the other person, I don't know, just like, I don't really know what the right phrase is, but just drives without any input, you know, like, you know, like, if we're gonna use the driver, navigator, then like, the driver is driving, but not like actually asking for navigation, right? Or, you know, something like that, right? The just kind of like powering through something without actually communicating and working together. And, and I feel like that just misses the point, you know, I'm sure there's a million YouTube videos of whatever that problem is, you know, that somebody could go watch, like, as a passive observer, you know, but the, the pairing, I mean, it's like, it's in the name, right? It's like, actually a pair, it's not just teaching or something, or not just learning, you know, it's, working together
yeah, yeah, I think, like, there's a lot of strict definitions out there, right. But I think it can at least be helpful for the people in the session to talk to each other about it, like, just lay some expectations like this is how long we're going to do it. This is what this relationship is, we're a team on whatever this is, and we're learning from each other. You know, it's just a few things like that before, before we get started. That way, you can avoid, hopefully, some of those experiences.
When I did coding club, pre pandemic, one of the rules was, you could never take the keyboard or the mouse from someone else, right. And I think that's kind of what happens in these situations. So they're not necessarily physically taking it, especially if you are remote. But if you just kind of, don't communicate, you don't talk through things, then you're you, you are taking that away, you're taking away that person's voice, you're taking away their ability to play an active role. And both people, the driver and the navigator should be taking an active role in what's happening.
I like that a lot. And just thinking about it more. That seems like a really great analogy to describe what happens and could be extended to I think other situations. In tech too just it's just a lot to think about.
I was just imagining, physically, like pulling a keyboard from somebody, you know, like, I don't know, sorry. There's a scene...
Even like Oh, just just give me the computer and then you know, they just like move it and start doing the typing. It's Anyway, there's a scene.
Oh, yeah, no, no, it was a NCIS or some one of those shows. And the, the two tech people like one person was like typing and trying to solve the thing. And the other person said, move over. And instead of like that person moving over in the second person typing on the keyboard, they both just started typing on the keyboard, just different sides of the keyboard at the same time, which well, it's it's funny, I don't think very effective pairing method, but....
Yeah, but I think it's in a way. The fact that most parent has moved to zoom has made us better communicators because it can get a little bit frustrating when you're like, no the the button at the top right at, Cuz I don't know where I left from, right? And like, oh, the other right? Sometimes the days you have to think about the words that you're using to describe what you mean. And yeah, there's that there's kind of a list of little helpful things you could do, like, go by line number, not by like, what the word is, and the function. Things like that.
Yeah, I think that's, I think that's good advice. And like, thinking about that, there's like a lot of general things like that, that help. And if you pair with the same person, you know, enough, like, I feel like it's two or three, but you start to learn, you know, how to navigate, you know, the way that their brain works, or whatever, you know, which is different for everybody. That's kind of cool, too. Yeah, I mean, it's just like, with everything, it's just like, the more you do it, the more effective effective it'll be, you know, for yourself and for your team, stuff like that. Um, so you recently started a new job, right?
I did Yeah, it's at StepZen we're "one API for all your data", that's the tagline. And I'm really enjoying it. It's, it's been great. I am. It says, a startup and we're all remote. We have a meeting every day. Stand up meeting every day. At least one. And then yeah, so I've been it's, it's fun. It's been fun meeting everybody. But it's also I think, this is probably experience, a lot of people are out there about spending interesting starting a job without having met anyone at it. You know, be hope to meet each other someday, but it's, it's still not going to be within the next few months. And that's also been something that's been our point Virtual Coffee too. I would just love to fly and see some of you Okay, now, but it's, it's, it's it's been tough with, but it's also like, opened up some, some doors like I would, which I think I'm trying to think here. Yeah, like, I don't know that I would've joined Virtual Coffee if the pandemic hadn't happened. And my, the startup that I'm at expanded to remote because of it. And that's how, that's why I was eligible, you know, cuz they were, I think, California, specifically beforehand, so, yeah, yeah.
Is there I was really just gonna ask if there's any pairing going on, you know, at the new at the new job, or if that's part of the company at all?
I haven't seen it as part of like, that defined protocol. But I've paired a lot with people doing that. Yeah, yeah, it's been good. It's been been fun. It's definitely a culture where I feel very comfortable asking questions. And it's, it's encouraged. So I have been appreciating that a lot. feels a little bit like pairing in Virtual Coffee. So that's, that's awesome.
What What is, what is like one way that they made you comfortable being able to ask questions?
it was really, like I've said, so far, it's been modeling. So I've just seen everybody from the CEO to like the hybrid just before me, not that we're like on a flat structure right now. But they've all been comfortable, just like popping the slack and being like, Hey, I run into this error, like, anybody know what's up here. And that has really, really helped me feel more comfortable, just come out there and asking my own questions. And there have been some, some of my teammates have been very strong in showing that, like, you know, they've been in the field for many more years than I have. And they're, they're still have like, a growth mindset. And I just appreciate that so much. You know, I think those are, I'm new to the idea of like, what you call psychological safety backup, but I've, I've a feeling that that's part of it, you know? So, yeah, I'd like to hear more of like about what you think is part of that definition.
Yeah, we're gonna have an episode coming up this season, that's going to talk a lot about psychological safety. And I'm really excited for that. Because I think, you know, it's, I think I've heard that term before, but hadn't really thought about it that much until hearing so many different stories through Virtual Coffee, and especially the places that do not create psychological safety, right, where there's micromanaging going on and there's constant. There's a lack of appreciation, there is a lack of acknowledgement that you're making progress. And instead, it's just this, you need to keep doing these things over and over. And it doesn't matter how much you do, because it will never be enough. And there are people who will always be right. And there are people who will always be wrong, right? Like, they're just these behaviors that that are totally unreasonable. And I think I'm totally miss that you have a human being in front of you, right. And so instead of like, recognizing this is a person, and I want to support this person, it's like, this is a being that does work. And I only care about their productivity, and how much I can control that more than anything else. Right. So there's a dehumanization, that happens in environments where there's a lack of psychological safety. And so when you are in a positive environment, I think sometimes, that's when you really recognize that, oh, wait a minute, maybe that place didn't allow me to grow. Because when you're so caught up in just trying to feel safe, it's very hard to grow. You're just in protection mode.
Right? Yeah. Cuz because you won't. Yeah, you're gonna be inside your comfort zone out of defense at that point, right. Yeah, which is something I've been very lucky so far, I believe, just with Virtual Coffee, and at my new job, just to have been in environments of safety like that, but I, like, you know, I'm trying to think of times where I was like, I was at a, a restaurant job as a teenager, or there was definitely no psychological safety present whatsoever. So I'm sure everybody has had an experience, and I think talking about it will help people define those experiences and help them avoid them in the future. So I think that's going to be a good episode. I'm looking forward to it.
Yeah, the the topic of being feeling comfortable asking questions, I feel like comes up a lot in our in virtual coffees, you know, discussions with, you know, with newer devs. I lost my point, I don't really know... I was just gonna say like, it's a pretty common, like, struggle that I think there's somebody who does struggle with is being able to feel comfortable asking questions, or like, you know, showing that it's okay to ask questions. And I was just gonna say, it's really cool. That your, your, your new company at StepZen, like they, the modeling, you know, the modeling that behavior is, I'm pretty sure how you phrased it. And I think that's perfect. Like, that's the way that like, it seems to me, the best way to, to do that, right, is to have more experienced devs model it because, as we all know, or should know, at least, at least, more experienced devs also still have lots of questions all the time, you know, like, it's just a very natural normal thing. For a developer. It's just part of being a developer, right, is not knowing a thing. And then like, I don't know, you like work on it. And then he asks you, you know, you get stuck and ask questions. Like, it's just like, this circle of life
It's also a part of being human, right?
And I think it comes up, I mean, it should come up probably every professional field, right, because being human means to learn. But I think it comes up a lot in our field, because it changes so quickly. And that just means you're learning a lot all the time. And there are, I think, some perceptions out there in tech that like, you might just be born being extremely authentic and extremely natural coder. It's like that's, I mean, you know, as really, anybody can learn how to do it, but you have to invest the time. And that's, I think that's important to get out there, there too. Yeah, or so.
Yeah. And I think the other another piece of that is that so many people learn on their own in various ways. Like both of you, you know, did and I mean, and I did too, like, it's you know, you come up you come at it at your own angle, you know, and I don't know there's, there's wait until you work at a company there's there's or until you find a community like Virtual Coffee there's like you know, your peers or it's hard to like it's hard to know you know, how to find the like normalized behavior for you know, what, what is normal for a new developer or, and if if most of what you do is read to it, like follow Twitter, follow like people with have like millions of followers on Twitter or, you know, blog posts where, who knows who it is, it can be easy to get the perception that like, it's important to just know everything or, you know, the only successful people like know everything and don't ever ask questions, which is just like, very much not the case, you know? So
yeah, yeah. And that's, that's kind of it makes me think of parenting too, you know, it's like, yes. But the thing about parenting, I think this is it kind of taught me how to do this, when I started learning to code, too, is like, I don't have time to not ask for help when I need it anymore. I mean, it's just like, I have it, I have a daughter, and I'm responsible for her. And if I need help, being responsible for her, I am going to ask for that help right away, you know. And when it came to coding, like in college, I used to, like, sit and struggle over things for hours and hours and hours before asking someone to help me with it, you know. And that, you know, there is there is definitely you want to have the experience of your like three days to a week to who knows how long working on that one bug, because everybody's gonna have that, and it will come up again. And again, I'm not saying it's not part of it. But but but like, when I was doing boot camp, when I needed to ask for help, I was gonna go do that. As soon as I realized it would become more valuable for me to learn that from someone else than for me to keep struggling. Because there is a balance, there's like, there's value in the struggle and learning how to do things yourself. But there's also a point where it's like, okay, the cost benefit analysis makes it such that I need to go ask for help right now, you know, and that's, that's been something that's been super helpful.
Yeah, that's a great point to keep in mind. Right, especially once you're working for somebody is, you know, you're spending their money, right when you're working. And I forget who was one of our guests, I don't know if it was, I guess, or somebody on a Virtual Coffee, like just one of our talks, but somebody had a company that worked for had sort of a sliding scale?
Drew, I think
Was it Drew? Yeah. So we like so they had like a sort of general rule of if you're, if you're like, stuck, like spinning wheel stuck for x, like, an hour or something, you know, that, like, that's when you should reach out and ask a question or, you know, something like that. But then on certain projects, you know, they would change the scale, you know, they all sort of knew what that meant. And then the the managers or whoever would, you know, running a project would say, Okay, this project is like, there's a lot of more moving pieces, or I don't know, it's higher priority, or something like that. And so, you know, for this project, we're going to bump that up to half an hour and seven hours, you know, like that. And I think that was kind of a cool, it was a cool way to approach it, that modulating, like how, how long you take to, you know, dig into a problem before you reach out and, you know, things like that can change per team per person, and will change over your, of course, the course of your career, too. And...I would say personally, it doesn't get easier, like trying to figure that like when that line is, you know, yeah, it's like, it's not always easy to figure out.
Yeah. And then if you're on the more junior side, and you're asking, sometimes what's in your head is like, Oh, no, am I gonna waste their time, but I was recently I realized, you have to flip the tables, like, you know, you're, you're on the clock here. You're gonna save some time by by asking for help. And again, yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, you're, like you said, this, the, the struggle is like important too. You know, like, it's like, obviously, you don't want to just like, it's the second you get stuck, you know, ask random question, but I don't know. It's just something to learn in practice. But it's just like, the idea of being able to, like, feel uncomfortable at being able to ask questions is, is very important. And it's something to take art and practice, as well.
Yeah. Something I tell myself, which I always tell my students is like, what can they do to take away your birthday? What are they gonna do?
That'd be so sad,
Yeah. Nobody has the power to do that. So I'm just gonna go and ask a question.
Yeah, I think, you know, Lucia at you and I both come from teaching backgrounds. And for me, it was, it almost made it harder to ask questions, because I had spent 10 years like in front of the classroom answering questions, right. And there was an expectation that I would know all of the answers to all of the questions and there's a total different mindset in tech. So it took me a while to try and transition from those like learn habits of you don't ask the questions because you're the one that should be answering them. But I think you've done a much better job than I have. But how has your background I guess, in teaching kind of informed how you've approached all of this.
Um, so I was a literacy coach. And that meant I was dealing with a lot of students from very different backgrounds. And a lot of them had learning differences. Because of, I was meeting students who, usually, we're falling below the mark for reading, right. Um, and so I think it gave me a, it made me more like, understanding of myself when I was running into a problem. I was like, okay, like, you know, you're a new mom, and it's a pandemic, and have a lot going on. So maybe like, instead of, you know, imposing needless suffering on yourself, go for a walk and take a break, and then come back to this later, with a fresh, fresh brain. And that I think it's important for everybody to be like, this kind of goes back to pairing but for me to be on the teaching and learning side. Cuz both both coding and teaching are in my family, like, I have a lot of uncles who do those two professions. And my dad went from here taught for 20 years, then he went back to get his PhD. And after he came back from getting his PhD, he told me like, I am so gentle with my students now because I understand the strains that go on outside of just student life. Like they're, they're not just a student right now to me, like they have everything there pull people, and going back to school for him while being a dad helped him understand that. And I think, again, just having that perspective with yourself when you're learning something new is is really important. Just like, again, keep going. I can't get stuck though. Like just take a break and then come back to it because there's there's no reason there's no rule that says you can't just like take 10 minutes to breathe. Yeah, and I get I get so bad that I breathing like while coding. Oh my gosh, sometimes I realize like, I'm dizzy from going purple because I like have been holding my breath while debugging it's.
Yeah. All right. Well, I'm glad that I'm not the only person in the world that...
I just really like did that the other day and then I googled it and like, it's a it's a thing. So it's like, computer...something
Alright, I'm gonna have to Google it, because I definitely do that I like will be breathing like incredibly shallowly, just through my nose, and like I don't, man that's
I don't know what's triggering that, I feel like there's a bear chasing me or
maybe that's like, fight or flight or something.
Email apnea, that's what it's called
Oh, my God.
Yeah. The 14. Yes. So a former Apple executive coined that term, or it's credited to her Linda Stone. But it's it is it's the, it describes the long periods where you go without breathing or hold your breath without realizing it while at your desk or while at work. I like to do it all during the day. And I just noticed it the other day, I was like, oh, I've been holding my breath for a while now. When I get into deep thought mode, I don't know my brain needs to be reminded that it should be breathing.
Because I got so much going on. I'm not gonna modulate breathing.
Yeah, that's why I like yoga. That's a whole other thing...
No, yeah, that I mean, that kind of stuff. The taking a walk the breathing. I mean, it's so important and hard, hard to do without practice. I mean, I assume it gets better with, with practice, I couldn't exactly tell you because I'm still really bad at it. But it's so important. It's so useful, like such a useful tool, even to solving problems, right? I mean, just like you were saying that just like, take the walk, you know, go away from your computer, and it will be better. Like, it's like, every time I do it, it I'm like, why don't I just do this every time? You know,
yeah, haven just like do a tour, like load the dishwasher. And then like in the middle of a job like, Oh, I need to check my environment variables ... staring at your screen, it sometimes becomes unproductive.
I listen to a...oh sorry,
I listened to a podcast recently where a neurologist was talking about that. And that was the first time when I was like, Oh, yeah, maybe I should listen to people's advice. But once you hit a certain age, it's hard to create, like neuroplasticity or whatever in your brain. And so you have to approach it differently. So as a kid, like you could keep going through that and trying and trying and Trying, and you would learn it because of, you know, your ability to create those pathways as a kid. But like, once you get older, it's harder to do. And the better tactic he was saying was, you go until the point of frustration, and then like, maybe a little bit more, and then you take a break, and then you go back to it and keep going in that pattern. And as adults, that's how our brain creates those pathways that we need to learn. And I thought, Okay, well, that kind of makes sense. And taking that walk like this is, this is a strategy for learning and growing. And so there's like, the science behind that, too.
I, my wife, was, I don't remember exactly where she learned this, but was this phrase about like, treating yourself like, this is actually like, abusive, you know, I mean, like, not not taking the breaks like not, you know, like treating this. I mean, it affected me because it was like, okay, the way I treat myself sometimes where I'm like, really deep into something, and it helps to say just like, imagine if, instead of yourself, you're like, forcing some other person to sit at this desk until this thing is solved, and like,
And you're not allowed to breathe,
Not allowed to breath, not allowed to go to the bathroom or whatever, like, you know, like, you must sit there and just imagine you're doing that to somebody else instead of yourself, you know, and that's been, like, incredibly instructive to me. Like, and helpful. Like, I don't know, it was just like, a weird way. Like, you could kind of like, imagine, like, you're making these choices, but like, for somebody else, and your choices are going to be probably much different than, than what you're forcing yourself to do. Sometimes, you know, it's like, you know, I see my kid, like, whatever I'm like, okay, he needs a break. Like, let's just, you know, you know, I mean, like, this is very obvious, sometimes with a three year old or four year old. Like, we just need to remove him from the situation for a little bit, you know, and I, if it was myself, you know, I wouldn't, you know, he just kind of keep like, banging my head against my keyboard or whatever. And if I saw somebody doing that, I'd be like, Hey, go...go take a walk, you know?
My daughter makes a noise, like, ehhhhhh time to remove her from the situation. But yeah, it's hard. And she does, she'll do that for like two minutes straight. But yeah, it's, it's hard to monitor these things for yourself, just because you can't, it's sometimes it's as simple as you just can't see yourself, because your eyes are in your own head. So. But it's hard to find ways to be able to monitor yourself.
We kind of talked about this in Gant's podcast, Episode Two, where he was saying, just this idea of knowing your body and the things that you do, and then kind of exploring, like, Oh, my body did this thing. Why did it do that thing? Or what's going on here? And it's really interesting to kind of do that monitoring as we go through these different problems, right? Because I think like, you know, I was holding my breath, or, you know, whatever. There are certain, like, our body gives us the indications, but we just keep, we're ignoring the notifications of our body, right? Like, but approaching that and saying, like, Okay, look, here's some evidence that there this thing is about to happen, or I'm getting a little bit better about like, that was my anxiety of things like, Oh, I just felt this way. Now, I know what comes next here. And this is the opportunity for me to try and move in a different direction. And I think that those things like recognizing those are super important. And, and that's how we help ourselves to grow to rate by listening to what our body or whatever is telling us.
Yeah, 100% Yeah, it's amazing how smart your body is.
Okay, so you have been going through this journey, right, of a lot of different things that you've talked about here. And so what are some of the most important tools that you think have helped you to make it through and get to where you are now?
Oh, man, that's a that's a big question. I'm because there's so many things that said, I've had a supportive family, you know, and supportive friends. I've I've had a year in digital marketing, which is really helpful. I think for job searching. I could probably do a whole nother podcast. But um, I've Yeah, I think the the family and friends thing is really big too, though, because, you know, like, my husband and I, we were both working from home now. And we've been on our computers eight hours a day with a baby If you know, during the pandemic, and that's not easy. So we like constantly been having conversations about like, Okay, how are you doing? Do you need any support here? And like how are you feeling is like this, you have the baby from this hour to that hour and a half or from that or to that or is working for today, you know. So during that has been been really key and so has having Virtual Coffee, because I started when you can, like go somewhere and meet people. So most of my friends I've made in tech or online, you know, and the support I get there's as online that a lot of that has come from, from Virtual Coffee also from like the willingness to just ping random people who seem like they know things and be fun to talk to you on Twitter, that can actually that's less safe than like within the community of Virtual Coffee, obviously. But it's also had some really good results. For me, I have enjoyed talking to some people. And they're like, there's one guy I made like a recursive tweet. His name is Oisn Moran. And he was like, just willing to talk to me for a half hour about how he worked at the API to like, it was a retweet of the same tweet. That was the like, it's hard to even describe it. But he did. It was pretty cool to talk about it. Yeah, so just just being able to, I think rely on community is really important for anybody just starting this journey out. Because you can't, I mean, sometimes it feels like you're coding on an island, because you're in your house on your computer coding, but you're not, you know, and nobody can code on an island and learn how to do it, especially by themselves. So
there's no Wi Fi on the island.... I think that what you just said about, like, randomly pinging people is been one of the things that I decided to do this year. I don't know why, like we you know, what are you going to lose? And so then I've been able to talk to people who have so much more experienced than I do, and almost everybody has been really generous with their time. And in walking me through those things. And I think that, you know, sometimes that feels risky, but it's not.
I mean, there's like a safety thing with like zoom bombing, you know, but if you pick someone who was like public enough on Twitter to be accountable, then I think that's there's that certain level of, of safety there. But yeah,
yeah, for sure. I am one of the other things that you said that I really liked is you have this background in digital marketing. And that's been helpful. And I was talking to a hiring manager at a pretty large company recently. And one of the things that he was saying was, you need to people need to approach the job search, like it's marketing, because you are marketing yourself. And you found a job. I feel I feel like it was pretty quickly. And so can you just talk a little bit about how that how those two kind of work together?
Yeah, um, so I finished boot camp right before I started this job. And I hadn't, I was thinking of a job search or something that I was going to be doing eight hours a day, which is ended up not being the case, which was nice. So I was what I was doing during boot camp, it was and it was a long boot camp, too, right. It's like, nine months, though, is every day I was pinging people like random people to talk to, just to start building my community. A was tweeting, I did the 100 days of code thing on Twitter that gets you in the habit of sharing what you're doing pretty consistently, and that was helpful. I was blogging, I was going to Virtual Coffee. And if I saw a job that really made sense for me to apply to in the sense of that, like, I either knew the person or they had approached me first, then I would apply and so that was what my job search was like. And I had several interviews, too. And that that was that's what it was, like, I feel like it was like, you know him to like, Okay, this is I should make a portfolio site because I can't just have these skills, I need to communicate them, you know, and I need to do that in a very online way. And that there's just a bunch of things that I habits that I naturally had from a year in digital marketing, like consistency is more important than volume when it comes to like being on Twitter, for example, or things like I know, just like, this is a nice color scheme and it's a little bit different from every other color scheme I've seen out there so I don't use it for my portfolio website. You know, now I want to go back and redesign it so I realized it was not accessible. But you know, like there there are things like that, that do that. Do help us And, you know, I'd love to, you know, maybe do a brown bag on that for Virtual Coffee people because it's in a way, it's, it's almost not fair that that's the way it is now, because sometimes, like, there's a lot of these jobs where you're like, you aren't doing marketing, as you're coding. That's, that's a lot of what my job is like right now. But some of them, you'll just be coding click, you know, and it's, it's, it's hard, because you, it feels like you have to learn two jobs in order to get one, you know, but there are a few tips, I think that can really, really help with that. And investing little bits of time along the way through your boot camp can be really helpful and make it a lot easier afterwards, I think,
Do you...like, what piece of ... aside from actually learning the coding part. Not to like "aside" that, cuz that's hard. Everything. Like, what do you think was the most impactful thing that you did over that, you know, over that? To help like to help this process? Like, was it the blogging? Or was it you know, like, if you had to just pick like the top the top of the list? That's hard. Yeah. Like what, like, what do you think the most impactful thing was, that helped you, you know, like, find a pretty awesome job.
I mean, I could ask the people who hired me...but, but like, as far as like, getting the all the interviews that I did get, um, I think I did not take like this scattershot approach of like just applying to literally every job on LinkedIn. And indeed, I've heard that has worked for some people, you know, so I'm not saying, like, the way that I did is the only way but I did make sure that I had a connection every time I apply it, and I, you know, would mention it in my cover letter. And so that that was definitely helpful. But I think blogging about what I did was probably the best, the best thing. And it was, it can be a little bit difficult to learn how to do it, but I had done it in my previous job. So it was a little bit easier to pick it up. But then again, try to think what I'm trying to say here, if you've never done it before, you shouldn't be afraid of it, you know, like, just pick it up. It doesn't have to be a fancy topic. It doesn't have to be even a new topic, if you're if you're just starting out just because blogging is new to you. And what you're trying to learn to do is learn how to blog. Right? So yeah, it's the most important thing there, I think, is to just get started because it shows in a way that someone who's looking at your portfolio can digest that you've think about, you know, these things that you're thinking. And if they've gotten to that point, then it can maybe even like segue into a conversation later, which, which has happened a lot interviews, it's kind of a natural way to discuss something that you're interested in, which is, which is always I think, I think that's a good strategy in interviews is try to direct the conversation, something you're interested in, because you want to, you want to show your passion. And unless you're actually interested in it, you're not going to be able to show your passion for that it's not going to naturally come up in your tone of voice and your face. Right. So
I think that's great. I think it's great. I'm glad you like it. Maybe I led you there. But I'm glad you said love blogging, I think that it's incredibly important for especially for developers who are hoping to find a job, it's like one of those things that will, in my opinion set you far apart more much more than like a random portfolio side project. Do you think that isn't? You know, you know, like, those projects are good for learning and important to do you know, but if you're not like reading about it, like alongside then it, you know, it doesn't mean much to somebody who's like looking at your portfolio site, like
Yeah, because occasionally, unfortunately, some boot camps really hold your hand through those or all have the same type of portfolio project, you know, so,
right, absolutely. And there's no way to really know what, if any of that is the case, if as somebody who's just looking at them, right, but if I can read about your struggles, you know, going through it or what you learned or like, whatever, however you just like approaching it, it makes it makes a huge difference. Plus, it shows some communication skills, which like, even if you're just developing and not doing any marketing, communication skills remain very, very, very, very, very important. and writing skills, you know, I mean, writing is just part of communication, but it's, it's, it's, if you can manage to convince your brain that it's part of like learning how to be a good developer. You know, which I think it is, but yeah, I feel like, you know, for anybody listening who's on the fence about it, I feel like it will, it will go a long way.
And it's okay to not know everything in a blog post, like part of Yeah, I think almost a main thing and communication is understanding what you don't understand. That's, that's always where you want to start a conversation to if you're not sure, with the other person, but being able to define that as is a huge, huge thing.
Yes. 100% agree. Yep. Again, we're talking to again, about the exact same thing about about that, like, starting blogging in you know, not knowing everything and like, that it can actually be a virtue, you know, like, you know, and help your, you know, people reading trust you more if you are sort of honest about what you don't know, you know,
that kind of goes into ask him for help to just it's okay to be vulnerable without being apologetic, you know?
Yes, it is.
It is not your fault that you don't know. Right. But you can admit that you don't. And that's that's, that's fine.
Yeah, I think that's such great advice, and you hit on so many important things in this episode. I really love that idea of it's about consistency, more than volume, I think that you said and the idea of like, being open and being out there and communicating. So thank you so much for talking through your journey and for being here with us on the podcast.
Thank you. Thank you for giving me a platform to have this conversation on really. And I've always enjoyed talking to you guys.
Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel, and edited by Dan Ott. If you have questions or comments, you can hit us up on Twitter at Virtual Coffee, IO. Or you can email us at podcast at Virtual coffee.io. You can find the show notes plus you can sign up for our newsletter to find out what Virtual Coffee has been up to on our website at Virtual coffee.io
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The Virtual Coffee Podcast is produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel and edited by Dan Ott.