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Nerando Johnson - Keeping Momentum, Community, and Socialization as a Service

Season 2, Episode 7 | May 17, 2021

In this episode of the podcast we talk to Nerando Johnson, a full stack developer, about running freeCodeCamp meetups in Atlanta, learning through hackathons, and how his next endeavor should be socialization as a service for tech events.


Nerando Johnson profile photo
Nerando Johnson

This is Nerando, he likes to use programming to solve problems, (Yup, he is a developer). Nerando has been a community organizer for freeCodeCamp Atlanta for over the last two years. He has been to a few hackathons and is an infrequent blogger. When not coding, Nerando enjoys coding cooking, reading, the act of creating something from nothing and consuming the odd blog or podcast about the human mind (Hi, NPR).

Show Notes:

In this episode of the podcast, Dan and Bekah talk with Nerando Johnson, a full stack developer looking for his next job, about running freeCodeCamp meetups in Atlanta, learning through hackathons (including that one time his team won the hackathon and donated the $40,000 in winnings to charity) and how his next endeavor should be socialization as a service for tech events. We also talk about the importance of having a solid support system and we laugh...a lot.

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Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello, and welcome to season two, episode seven of the Virtual Coffee podcast. I'm Bekah, and this is a podcast that features members of the 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 cohost, Dan.

Dan:

And this episode, we talk with Nerando Johnson, a full-stack developer, and in my mind, a living, breathing ray of sunshine. Nerando shared some of his experiences running freeCodeCamp meetups in Atlanta, learning through hackathons, and his approach to learning in general, as a developer. Bekah and I also decided on his next endeavor: Socialization as a Service for introverts at tech events. It was a true delight as always to spend some time with Nerando. And I know you're going to enjoy it.

Bekah:

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- you're going to sail around the world. What's the name of your boat? We hope you enjoy this episode. Hey, I'm Bekah. I'm a front end developer from a small town in Ohio. And if I was going to sell around the world, my boat's name would be, I think I would probably go with the name of my first pet, which was a hamster named Starscraper to the Highest Moon. And, um, that would be my boat's name too.

Dan:

Second appearance of Starscraper, I feel like on the podcast, do we have any pictures of Starscraper to the Highest Moon?

Bekah:

No I don't think I have any Starscraper.

Dan:

all right, well, we'll have to dig it up in my head

Nerando:

I was, I was saying, okay, go for it.

Dan:

Um, hi, my name is Dan I'm a front end developer from , Lakewood, Ohio. And, um, if I'm going to sail around the world in a boat. I, somebody asked a boat related name, you know, boat naming thing on slack, I think a while back. And I came up with float none, which was a CSS joke that I was just giggling to myself about for the rest of the day. And so I'm sticking with that float float colon none is my boat name.

Bekah:

Right.

Nerando:

Um, hi, my name is Nerando. I am a, uh, call myself a level 1.5 full stack developer out of Atlanta. If I was going to sail around the world with that boat, what would the name be? Yeah, I'd call it Almost There. So every time, every time you asked me, where am I Almost There?

Dan:

That sounds familiar. I like that.

Bekah:

That is awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here with us today. We're really excited to talk to you. And we always like to start with the origin story. So how did you get to this point? Um, what is the backstory of Nerando

Nerando:

so there is a 15 minute version and the five minute version on a three, I'm going to give it a three. Um, because I talk so much in my early teens, my mom sent me off to teacher's college in the Caribbean. So I started teaching when I was. 19 cause I'm one of those kids who are way too smart for anything. So I became a professional teacher at 19, along the way. I discovered that my students learn to way more when I put them in front of a computer than I actually stand in front of a classroom teacher. So I'm like, all right, cool. I started making like drag and drop games for them. And I hit like 28. I was like, yeah, I can't do this anymore. Um, so I. A couple of other stuff happened and I'm like, you know what? Let's make a shift because I lived in Jamaica, but my family lived here. And my mom says if you want to make a move, like, all right, cool, give away everything and sell everything. Move. Being here, the book world. Was a big thing. CS 50 was a thing. And I am like, I was always a techie guy. I also have a background as a computer. I'm a trained computer repair technician. So I've always liked. Had like small programs to like fix and build stuff. But the code was always like, there I up, like I've been running Linux since like 2010, like Ubuntu was my thing and I've made stuff. I fixed stuff. I'm like, it was always cool, but the code was always there and I'm like, you know what? Let's go learn this. HTML and CSS was fun. And then JavaScript promptly decided to drop me on my face and reminded me that I have no idea what now my dog,

Bekah:

Sounds familiar.

Nerando:

um, while doing all of this, I mean, freeCodeCamp came out. Like the first version came out and I'm like, Ooh, this is cool. I went through my first meetup, fell in love with it. Um, that group canceled most of my second meetup group, which was in, um, the Sandy Springs area of Atlanta. This is like 2017. I met some cool people and I never dropped a habit. I'd always wanted to drop it because it's frustrating, but I've never dropped the habit after that. Um, did some community work with one of our other men became good friends with a lot of people. Did some community work with like one of my friends called Mark Noonan. I don't know if he's a guy who should be on this next. He can tell the other, usually he can tell the other side of the story. Um, we've done. I've done a hackathon. I got a scholarship to go to Flat Iron. That was interesting, like the whole nine yards. And I eventually got to the place of like, did the bootcamp experience failed along the way? Got back at it, finished the boot camp went through the job search. My last place was Warner, but COVID decided to borrow back, take back my job from me. So I'm currently on there. So yeah, bear bearing in mind along the way. I almost learned to code in high school, college ones. Cause all my friends learned to code. I didn't um, when I was teaching, there was a program that came up. I never took it, but every time coding came up, I stepped away because I was more interested in other things. So the last time it came up, I'm like, yeah, we're going to take this

Bekah:

nice. Were you online for Flat Iron or did you go to campus?

Nerando:

In person. Dear God, in person, it was good.

Bekah:

Yeah. I always was curious about that because I did their online self-paced program and it always seemed interesting to be able to like go on campus and see other people and to have those conversations. But I mean, it wasn't available around me and also I didn't have that availability either.

Nerando:

Mhm, in person is a whole different experience because it tends to be at any one time you have two cohorts on campus back then when you were doing the first module, you had three. But it was always, I, it was collaborative. It was a lot of people going crazy. You saw that you are the only person losing your mind, trying to learn so much stuff at one time. Yeah. Stuff like that, but it was good.

Bekah:

I feel like that's a really important part of the process because when you're isolated in learning, there's nobody else to kind of compare that to. And so having that. I don't know if it's community support or at least that recognition that like, oh, other people are, are really struggling right now, too. There's this weird feeling of, okay. I feel, I feel good that everybody's struggling, right? Like,

Nerando:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, learning collaboratively while learning for yourself is helpful because the emotional support is there. And you get to ask questions because some parts of it you get, but some parts you don't get and you get to ask like instructors or TAs or your classmates. So yeah.

Bekah:

so you mentioned Mark Noonan and we were in a Virtual Coffee one day and we were talking about like how to stay motivated. And he said, you need a Nerando because he makes sure that I stay on top of these things. And I thought.

Nerando:

okay. All right. So the joke around that is that, um, Mark's been my friend since God. It's 2021 now. So I think 2017, 2018, we got to be really good friends through our hackathon. And because I have a teacher's grown, it kind of helps me literally go stay on task and get it done. So Mark's like, oh, pretty butterfly. I'm like, you are not. The dog from Up, you do not have a squirrel moment. Focus. He's like, "what? No, I want to!" I don't care. And he's like, "but you don't know how to write a code". I'm like, no, but if I put you here long enough, we'll get it done. He goes, "I hate you". But yeah, it's it's to this day, I'm still learning how to be better focused at stuff, but it's a continuous progress and project for me. Because it's like the one thing that nobody really tells us as human beings is that you have finite time to do anything you want, not infinite, finite, like you have this amount of years before your body stops working or your mind goes, and you've got to get all this done before that, but we keep thinking we have all the time. No you don't. So yeah.

Bekah:

Okay. So you've been involved in a lot of different things and you talked about being involved in freeCodeCamp already, hackathons, and in boot camps. And so I'm curious, like what were some of the lessons that you learned there, but also what were your favorite experiences?

Nerando:

um, so you say hackathon, bootcamp. Um, alright.

Bekah:

freeCodeCamp.

Nerando:

freeCodeCamp. So let's start with freeCodeCamp. Cause that's where it all began for me. freeCodeCamp taught me that A: learning in a community is really good for you. The operation sides of running a meetup is way different from just talking, because like I learned and I'd be there. And I learned stuff when I started running it, I learned from like 15 minutes, cause I'm walking around and talking to them, people breaking the ice so-and-so stuff, so and so forth. And at the same time, I'm really good at making connections. Cause then I like I've learned over the years that frequently we have a lot of teachers, former teachers, we have a lot of former musicians, which is weird to me and we tend to have like 40% left-handed people as developers, which

Bekah:

I always wanted to be left-handed.

Nerando:

The trick is that I'm left-handed so I notice it. Like we have a lot of left-handed people. So those aren't experienced. I learned in there, like some people will come learn. The code would be wanting to be a developer. Others will learn it. Want to be a developer and then go hey, not for me. And you should be that's okay. You will have hobbies. Like I learned how to deal with moms with children. Like that's a whole nother thing. I've never had to think of. Um, I learned how to deal with people who can come for an hour cause they are running Lyft or they're working on a Sunday and that's all they can do. I learned how to support peopleonline, like stuff like that. I learned how to do, I'm still learning, but those are the things that I learned, uh, hackathons, the myths of thinking you can't create something from an idea over 24 hours. Is not true how good it is is that total different ball game, but you can do it in 24 hours filled with the right set of people and coffee and no sleep and red bull. Um, MARTA's hackathon was one of the best experience I've ever had. I still have pictures of all the food they put on the table. And one of the chairman or one of the senior guys singing and singing karaoke at one o'clock in the morning. Cause we were all up. Um, but like hackathons tend to, I encourage everybody, even if you you're not confident, Hey, I don't know anything. Nobody cares. Like honestly, nobody in the room will care because you will have something to contribute.

Bekah:

Let's jump back to freeCodeCamp for a minute. Cause I think that's really interesting. So you attended two different freeCodeCamp meetups, but you also ran freeCodeCamp meetups, right?

Nerando:

I'm still running it. We're more we're slowed down because of COVID, but yeah.

Bekah:

Right. that freeCodeCamp Atlanta?

Nerando:

Yes, it's freeCodeCamp Atlanta. We have like a Facebook group that we use that we do, like once, like once a month we have like a check-in I'm trying to go a little bit bigger, but I kind of have a lot of other things going on. So I'm trying to just slow down for a minute. Hopefully by the end of this year, next year we can start doing in-person meetups again, that would be awesome. Bekah you should submit for our in-person conferences.

Bekah:

That's referring to a tweet yesterday that I sent saying I'm very tempted to start submitting for in-person conferences, again, I miss it. Not even speaking, just being there and having the experience.

Dan:

Can you tell me a little more about what you do at the freeCodeCamp, Atlanta meetups.

Nerando:

all right. So our freeCodeCamp Atlanta meetups are generally structured as in we find a comfortable place that we can all sit and have food and all of that stuff. And we just for, our use-case we sit and whatever project you're working on, you can come and ask questions and discuss it. We tend not to be structured. We've always tried going structured, but it never works out so it's... more like a group of chill, people just sitting and working and stuff. But what happens from this though? Because we have no structure. We tend to refer people to like other meetups. We tend to have people who are further ahead in their career. So you have mentorship going on. You tend to have networking opportunities where somebody could say, Hey, can you apply it to this job? Because mine has an opening, bearing in mind that the opening has not been made public, but. You see somebody who has a potential to go. And even if you don't pass the interview, you have the experience

Dan:

great. Yeah. So cause, cause freeCodeCamp, like, so everybody's maybe a different, you know, different levels of whatever. And so your meetup is more of just like a, almost like a support group,

Nerando:

well, yeah, that's, that's

Dan:

Yeah. That's awesome. That's really cool. I am also looking forward to in person meet ups, uh, becoming a thing again, you know, we had the Cleveland React meet up and it was, it was a lot of fun and we had, you know, it was just pizza and that same kind of thing, and went online and, you know, we were still doing meetups, but they're, I don't know. It's just, it's so much more nice to

Nerando:

I

Dan:

be in the same room with people. Huh?

Nerando:

I think we all took pizza for granted.

Dan:

I still have in my notes, my like, you know, script for running the meetup about, you know, directions and pizza, you know, where the, where the pizza is and stuff like that. Oh, man.

Bekah:

I think one of the nice things though, that's come from all this, like I could never attend a meet up because I've got four kids and I live in a small town. Um, But in the post COVID world, I imagine there's going to be a really nice balance of those things and maybe even some hybrid events that are going to be happening. And I think that'll be nice to provide community for so many more people than then would have had it. Otherwise

Nerando:

I have been thinking about that too, even as a organizer, because then you see like, it. It like, it helps way more. Like I've had friends who say, Hey, I can't meet in the meet up, but if you can grab your laptop, turn on your hotspot go in your car and set what else for an hour. I probably could walk you through an issue you're having. And like you're at home, you could make it. But instead of driving 30 minutes to us bearing in mind, we've had members who used to drive an hour just to get to us just because they liked the environment. But if you can just spend the time and come. I mean, it helps.

Dan:

Yeah. I, um, I'm very, I'm very interested to see what happens to w all this. There was definitely some, um, some groups experimenting with like, sort of hybrid designs, stuff like that before you COVID I, um, I cannot remember what. ReactaDelphia. That's what it is. The Philly, the Philly React group was doing a lot of work with this, um, before COVID, you know, uh, where, where they were streaming, they were having in-person meetups, but they were also streaming. And I think projecting, I'm not sure if they were doing this too, but, um, like having maybe zoom or something like that, where, uh, people could sort of be sort of there virtually, you know? Um, and there's a lot of, you know, there's a lot of Opportunity for cool stuff coming up, but it really is. I mean, like the same with Virtual Coffee, right? I mean, Virtual Coffee is, you know, I don't know if this was some other thing where it wasn't a pandemic, you know, but same situation. It might've ended up being a local thing, you know? Um, the Steubenville, you know, I don't know, developers meet up or something and, uh, you know, the, the exposure and the, the. The flexibility of the virtual meetups is huge. Right. But, well, I think we're lot of people are missing actual in-person feel of some things. Um, um, um, I'm looking forward to the future. You know, I feel like there's a spot for all, all of this, all this kind of mixed together, you know?

Nerando:

Bekah, you had a point.

Bekah:

You read my face. Our initial tagline for Virtual Coffee was "The Always-Remote Hallway Track". Right. Cause there's that hallway track at conferences that is just really nice because you get to meet people and have that support and talk to people, get that interaction. And then at some point, I mean, we are Virtual Coffee, but I think I. I mean, I hear it over and over. Like when are we all going to meet? Right. And there is something very special about these friendships and the community that's been formed. And that's why I like really like this idea of a hybrid model because also in-person, I don't get to meet people that are on the other side of the world or. In Canada, even, you know? Um, so it's nice to be able to meet those people and then like finding that space where you can have a physical presence, I think would, is going to be a really amazing thing when we get to that point.

Nerando:

I think like one of the things I learned like over the years, so here's a cheat code to anybody who is going to think about this. When conferences come back in one of the easiest way for like junior devs or level one developers to get into big conferences is to volunteer. I've done that at Connect.Tech when it was that thing. And I don't mind the physical work cause sometimes that literally like physical work and cooking literally is like therapy for me. So when I got my ticket, I'd get the ticket to go to the all-day conference. I've met so much people over two, three years just by doing that. Um, another thing is like when they have the after-parties for conferences. Those one thirty conversations. They are like, it tends to be the persons who present, who socialize. So you are in a newbie learning from somebody who's been doing this for like 10 years. Like I met Chris DeMars. He, I think he's been here before. I don't know if he's ever been on Virtual Coffee, but Chris DeMars is we, he presented, I went to his talk while at Connect.Tech and then, when they had the after party, me, I'm one of my batch mates, um, to any kind he works for, I think FullStory now, but we were there late. And then I met somebody like along the way I met, I got to develop a better relationship with this guy called Homer Gaines. Homer does accessibility. He is crazy. He also makes music. So. I didn't meet. I didn't know these people until then. And then I thought another connection to go to another conference by meeting somebody else just they're like, Hey, would you like to come? And I'm like, no ticket, no time. They're like, okay, we'll get your ticket. You got to find your way there. A friend of mine and a friend of mine connected me to go to the conference. I'm like, my car won't make it. They're like, okay. Uh, how much do you need to rent a car? I'm like, oh, and what you're like, you need to exposure. So it's like conferences that helps that's a cheat sheet right there. I'm giving away that one.

Dan:

I think that's right. I mean, volunteering is great. I mean, like that's great advice, I think in general, and it's the same. If you're helping out, you know, it, people are always gonna appreciate it and you know, they'll go a long way, but I actually was actually had, thinking about what you said about like after parties and the late night, you know, or like the diff the conversations outside of the events, you know, and, you know, honestly for me, that's the, those are the things that, um, at conferences that stick in my brain the best, I was just thinking back, you know, and, and just sitting on like a patio of a restaurant with, with like Dan Cederholm and Andy Clarke like having conversations with these people that I like look up to, you know, and I don't. I'm sorry. I don't remember what their talks were about. You know what I mean? But like, I very much remember like sitting there and just soaking it up and you know, like talking on, I don't know. It's cool. I don't really have a point other than like, I was just, it made me nostalgic, um, for

Bekah:

I think I have lots of thoughts now, but I will say too, there's also diversity scholarships. So if you're from an underrepresented group in tech, that's a way to get into some conferences. Some of them even pay for your travel. Um, sometimes they'll offer discounted tickets too. So I think that number one, recognizing if it's not doable, For you reach out to the conference organizers because there might be some way to get you there. And I think Dan, like what you're talking about, and Nerando what you're talking about, it's the idea of these personal connections that are being made there. And I love that aspect of the conference and that's one of the things that I think I wish would go on beyond that. Right? Because you have this conference, you make these connections and then there's. At least most of them that I've been to, there's not been that like, Hey, let's continue to keep up in some way. And I think that that would be a really fun thing to continue to do all throughout the year, because then you grow together.

Nerando:

All right. There is some, like, what I've learned with for myself is how to keep up that con conversation. So I have been known to not be afraid to stop be like, one of my friends says, do you want, if your greatest skill is that you're never afraid to walk into a room where nobody knows you and talk to people. I'm like, I know what I need from the room. So like Virtual Coffee came to me by means offs like posts. How should I say it posts COVID Warner. Like when I was at Warner, because I've worked, I'd like I needed a group. I couldn't find anywhere. I'm not like somebody like a Virtual Coffee. I'm like Virtual Coffee? Like okay. Hopped in first meetup. I'm like, Ooh, like this room. And then we had Mike Rogers walk into room and hype in the room up. I'm like, who is this dude? And how shall I be his friend? And then Meg, like for me, Mike Rogers, Meg, um, Debra-Kaye is like, I, the energy that comes to the room and then Bekah's kids were running through the background? And I'm like, mom, I'm home. Like, that was awesome for me. But to further on the conversation is like we don't tech is on Twitter and a lot of us are afraid of using Twitter for what it is. Talk to people, engage. I am a fan of Gary V and the whole conversation of like, understanding who you are, what you're about. Yeah. Do that. Some conferences will have like swag, like Bekah, I'm throwing this out there. We need stickers. And also we need to get, we need to get Mike. I want one and we also need to get Mike his official Hype-Man t-shirt I'm just saying, but we con like, like for us as developers, engage, talk to each other. Like some people will be the best thing that ever happened to you. And some people suck and that's okay. Filter, keep it going. Because at the end of the day, developers are highly in demand and the better off we are like a developer can make quarter-million dollars, easy trick is that you can only do one job. There'll be 50 more that you know of that needs to be filled. And you have, if you make better associates, it's better for you in the longterm. So I'm just saying. Yeah. I learned about an AWS developer that makes quarter million dollars and my head is still hurting.

Bekah:

I love, I think, well, for me to, uh, conferences, I am super shy and an introvert. And so I get really nervous going into there. But I think if you know, someone ahead of time, um, making sure that you meet up or have that friend person, um, there. So Nerando, you'll be my friend person because I'll just follow you around.

Nerando:

I have no problem. I got no problem with that. Believe me. I will, I will take you on as my wing man. And literally goes, oh yeah, this is Bekah. You should talk there. I literally have done this to somebody before. I'm like, this is Bekah. You should talk to her. She's awesome. She runs Virtual Coffee. Here's a website. Goodbye. It was like, why are you leaving me here? Talk mingle. You'll be fine.

Dan:

Yeah, I have that too. That that's probably really why I have more fond memories of sitting like at the table. You know, it's like a little easier to kind of know what to do. I don't know. Then when you're in a large group of people, but I'll follow, I'll follow you guys around too.

Bekah:

just having your little line of Virtual Coffee people.

Dan:

Right. It's just gonna be dropping us off.

Nerando:

Stay right here. Talk to all these wonder people I'll be back. I was like, why are you doing this? Because I can stress you out for the fun of it. The people that know me on Twitter, if they ever hear this podcast are going to start crying, especially Homer is going to start laughing. I know this already.

Dan:

I have it. This is socialization as a service. This is, it started charging. So you just like, you know, somebody, somebody pays a fee and then you you'd be walking around in the conference. I love it. All right.

Nerando:

Socialization as a service. I like that one. All right. We missed, we missed one topic. I think hackathons. I think the thing that stops a lot of, I'll never say junior developers because it doesn't really feel good. Level one developers from, and people who have no code experience from even trying is because they think that there's this bar there and you have to be as good enough as this to do. As I have previously stated I don't care. So I'll just go, okay, this is something I need to learn, or this is something I need to have an introduction to and I'll go. They, again, this is an industry where you knowing somebody is way more important than actually knowing what you're doing, because along the way, people can help you. So it's one of them things where it's like, just go, like, nobody cares. Just go. And you learn. Like I learned way more than I've ever learned. Like, I made better friends. I've made better connections. I learned a lot. I learned how to speak on stuff. I stood in front of a crowd of like a hundred people and spoke about what we were working on. My knees didn't work properly, but I did it anyway because I don't like public speaking. Don't laugh that the irony is not lost on me

Dan:

That's so, yeah. Yeah. So how many hackathons have you have you like done?

Nerando:

far. As a long process, three MARTA, however, broke theirs up into four. So technically it would count as five. Yeah.

Dan:

that's awesome. I've never done one. I, by the time I was sort of interested in them I had kids and it was just, I don't know, it's much harder to spend 24 hours away. And, um, also I'm old. And so being losing sleep really

Nerando:

did you

Dan:

for longer than it used to.

Nerando:

Did he just drop in? I'm older really quickly.

Dan:

I was just going to move on from that, but the recovery time from a, from a all-nighter is much worse now than it was. Um, I had an accidental all night or, um, the other day and was just, uh, just a horrible wreck the whole, the whole rest of the day. So it's like another hackathon related, like as like, ah, that sounds cool. But now I'm just like, I don't know. I gotta think about losing all that sleep, which then I'm like, oh yeah, cause I'm old. I don't know.

Nerando:

I think for me with hackathons, I'm more energized with what we learn and where what's going on than anything else. So I will, I mean, I'm the guy I need five and a half hours asleep to be okay. I can survive on four and I I've done college in Jamaica, which is no fun some days. So I learned how to survive on no sleep, but hackathons really like. The pro you learn so much, like so much so quickly, you meet so much different people.

Dan:

Okay. I think that's cool. I've never really thought about hackathons as, as like a tool for career devs. But now that you mentioned it, I think that's a great idea because, uh, like you're saying, you just, you're just stuck there. So you have to learn. I'm one of, you know, one of the problems that I've heard a lot from people learning is like, I don't want choosing what to learn or how to learn or all that stuff. And when you are stuck in a room and, you know, working with other people. Yeah. I mean, you, you soak up the knowledge from other people, but also you're just like pointed in one direction. You don't really have, you know, you know, have choice, I assume not having done it, but I would assume that if you are a less experienced dev sitting there, then the people will help with like choosing what, to, you know, what you should do, right. Or whatever, and, um, and kind of just have one target and move forward. Um, that seems like a great, great opportunity for, you know, people learning.

Nerando:

So from that, you'll also learn like the other side of dev work, which is like figuring out how to build what to build quickly, figuring out what we need really quickly, um, figuring out like what storage that I learned, how to write stories in a hackathon. I never knew about user stories before. So from. So from hackathon, like with MARTA in Atlanta Mark is technically the leader in this thing and I'm his right hand, Mark Noonan. And from that they changed policy like the city change policy and I'm like, oh my God, they listened to us. We worked on paratransit and how to make that better. And that got better. And then we took that and when somewhere else and enter just for the fun of it, same concept, because we wanted more awareness to the problem we're having that, that, that process of like six or seven months are a bit longer. We ended up winning that hackathon. And because we never, because MARTA literally made us never winning anything. We signed the agreement between all of us to give away the money in case we won anything. The trick is that we won. We won 40 grand and gave it away. To this day, I'm still beating myself because we could have all put it in Bitcoins, walk away with Mac books and still give away 40 grand. But it's a really cool conversation to have. Okay.

Bekah:

Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, it seems like you're no, go ahead, Dan.

Dan:

I was just laughing. I don't have anything to say.

Nerando:

Go go ahead, Dan,. I'm still, I know you're laughing at me. It's okay.

Dan:

I was mostly just laughing at you hanging your head at the end of that story.

Nerando:

I'll I'll I'll drop the article when this is done. So you can read the article cause Mark actually wrote an article on it.

Bekah:

Yeah, we'll put that in the show

Dan:

definitely send that.

Bekah:

Um, okay. So you've been involved in all of these things and. I feel like you're constantly moving and you never stop. And so now you said that, I think you said, what are you like a level one and a half developer? Right? Like, and one of the things that I found is that there's not that many people that are talking about like, what that means like that stage. Cause I feel like it's kind of a hard stage, right? You're like you're beyond that level one and you're trying to make it to level two. And so there's these growing pains going on? But nobody's talking about those growing pains. So I don't know if you have any thoughts on that or, you know, like what your experience has been, but I'd love to hear it.

Nerando:

so you want like, like mentally I've had this talking. So now 1.5 for me means you have to pick up a stage of mentoring being mentored and discipline. So. You have to write about what you learned. This is not the conversation you have to teach. You have to get better at a core stack. So if you are a modern stack, I'm React/Ruby, if you are something else, you'll have to get better. I will never stop emphasizing this. JavaScript is on an ending like JavaScript for me is like the 12 levels of hell. And we keep going down into it and you're just going to have to keep going. It's cool. It's fun. It's annoying because it changes every couple of years, but you will have to get better at your core language. It's building stuff. It's walking away from tutorials. However, pretty they look it's asking way more questions is volunteering for stuff that you might not be ready for, or it's failing horribly at something it's asking for way more help than you're comfortable with. I have a toddler in the background. I probably should get up and go lock the door, but I'm too lazy. So I'm around my nephew right now. He's here. Yeah. his time in the morning. Um, so it's that stage of being aware that I'm not junior anymore, but everybody will see you as junior and that's fine. What do you think in your head rules? Way more. And then you will have to prove that you're there to yourself. It's collaborative coding. It's learning how to run our own GitHub without losing your mind. It's learning git like that. It's being comfortable with the terminal. It's finishing projects. It's having conversations about code it's like when you reach the stage of having the code dream you have, right. I don't, I don't know if I've had the code dream.

Bekah:

I mean, I have nightmares about testing all the time.

Nerando:

Yeah. Oh, dream it seeing like basic stuff, like elevators and literally working out. How would this work in my language, my coding language. I've done it in Python and JavaScript.

Dan:

I am not sure I want to get into a JavaScript elevator.

Nerando:

Okay. Ah, come here. It runs the internet. It's not that bad. God.

Bekah:

Okay. So, so you have your doing all of these things, and that was just a ton of great advice. I want to say, first of all. Um, but, okay. So how has this been looking for new jobs? Because you're saying like, well, people will see you as, as a junior, but you're like really reaching for this next goal. And I imagine that's kind of where you're going in your job search too. So that been a thing.

Nerando:

So the first trick I learned from job searching was by this guy called Eliot Sanford, I think is his last name . So I was supposed to go to Eliot's conference and didn't make it. And we became friends and he gave me advice. So he literally goes. Watch Danny Thompson's thing, optimize your LinkedIn, then walk away for anybody who doesn't know who Danny Thompson is. We are in for a wild ride because he's awesome.

Bekah:

He just got a new job, right?

Nerando:

Congrats to him. Anyway, um, that now, literally gets you to the place of interviewing over and over for positions that makes you that you think you're ready for some, you might get some, you may not get it's annoying because everybody wants five years, but nobody is junior developer at five years experience. So first thing I learned from my days off Career Karma, because that also helped me. So my Career Karma, that was really awesome. Ruben Harris, um, for our sake, um, Keisha Lake, who you should talk to one of these days, she was my batch mate. And she's awesome.

Bekah:

talk a little bit about what Career Karma is?

Nerando:

So Career Karma. If I'm to distill it to simple essence, it provides connection to an individual, to foreign individual to get into tech in a variety of ways. So if you're a developer, if you're a software engineer, if you are a data scientist, if you want to get into tech sales, which I learned was an actual thing. A couple months ago, they provide. Will match you to the, probably the right school for you they'll even help you find funding if needed or find a proper agreement for you to go to school. Cause you have some schools that do ISAs. Some have really good ISAs, some suck and that's, but they will help you find the right place for you. So that's one, that's one part. I think I was one of the first persons out of the group first like good batches to actually like really work with them and I got the help I needed. So yeah. And it's not lost on me that because of them, like I went to Flat Iron, I had a full ride scholarship, like all of those coming work that I did helped. Um, we, they also helped me find all the funding to do other stuff. I'm like, that was cool. So that helped. So like with all of that, and now it's like, you know, A lot of things. That's how I got to have that in my head.

Bekah:

no, that was really great. And so how, how is this kind of pushing you into that next stage of job that you're looking for?

Nerando:

It's...I just classify it as work. So it's the discipline to finish this stuff, to get better at algorithms to own my truth, to be able to walk into a room, I'm going, Hey. I am great at this, this and this, but I'm not great at this, but I can learn this and that's it. That's, that's kind of where I am when it comes to a lot of those things. And that's just fine, like near my job coach on Flat Iron said something that really stuck to my head. She says, everybody is cooking and you are not going to be the right ingredient for everybody. You're going to fit one place. And that one place is what you're looking for. So I have literally gotten nos from one company that has so many departments that I've been refused twice and were like, we're throwing you in there again. And I'm like,

Dan:

I like that. I like that metaphor. I'm adding it to my, my, metaphor collection. it a metaphor analogy? I think It's similar. I gotta, I gotta

Nerando:

It's an, it's an English saying that means something else. We don't care what you title it.

Dan:

Fair enough.

Bekah:

Okay. So along with that job search thing, when you, when you're looking for jobs, do you have an ideal job in mind or is this, I am just looking for work because I'm curious, like, what does Nerando's ideal job look like?

Nerando:

I work from Wednesdays to Fridays two hours of day, and you pay me half a million dollars just to look cute. However for code sake. Um, An ideal job for me right now is using my stack, which is React and Ruby, or just JavaScript and front end stuff for while teaching. Like it teaches me other stuff. So it's a level, 1.5 or Ruby React developer, or you want to throw me into the JavaScript stack, understanding that I can learn it. And it's. Like I've had good team experiences and I've had bad team experiences. I mean, it's like having the ability to like go to somebody and go, I don't get what's going on. So like, that's what I'm looking for now. So I just have to be able to like go through everything and just keep going. But that's like somewhere where my learning potential and abilities there where I can. Like I have the track record to show that I can build stuff, but also to understand that look, he's still growing, but I also have other skills, which is like somebody said socialization as a service. I'm still let them serve, wrapping my head around this thing. But yeah.

Dan:

you're looking for, you know, a job or are you looking for something where it's just code or, um, like or something where you can use some more of your, you know, communication abilities and teaching experience, stuff like that. You know, cause there's some jobs where even on a good team, your job is really going to be sitting and coding, you know? Um, and there's some jobs, I think we're probably, you're going to be doing a little more personal, you know, interpersonal work with coding. I just, I'm just curious if like, if that's the sort of thing you're like sifting through you're searching for, jobs or are you, um,

Nerando:

I think for, I think for me right now, between I'm like, I say 1.5. So between 1.5 and 2.5, I'm going to spend a lot of time honing my craft. The trick is that I'm a social person. So between freeCodeCamp, which I may step away from, but still be an active participant in .Virtual Coffee is not losing me anytime with anytime soon. So y'all life suck because I'm going to join Mike as a hype man, next. I will do more teaching. Teaching is second nature to me because. There is so much more persons who need the knowledge who need somebody to say, Hey, um, this is how you do this, or talk to me. So I'll still be using my social skills, but for a job job. It might not be the top priority when I write stuff if needed. Yes. Will I be able to speak for my company if the time comes. Yes. But it might not be the priority, but eventually I think dev rel is looking really interesting to me down the road.

Dan:

That's kinda what I was wondering if you were, if you were starting to look at any of those kinds of positions, um, if, um, I haven't like done a job search for a while, you know? So like, I don't know if those, like, if devrel positions, I don't even know, are There a lot of, like, I don't know what the landscape looks like out there, you know, is there just like a couple and they get snatched up right away all the time, or, you know,

Nerando:

They are close knit. I think devrel people are close, close knit group. So I tend to, I know a couple of them and I talk to them from time to time about the job, but I think I wanted to spend more time mastering my craft first because to be able to speak to the code and teach the code, you have to know the code. It's like science. Like I was a middle school science teacher for what, eight and a half, nine years. I've been a science nerd since I was about nine, so I can teach science in my sleep. So I know it's, I can teach it. I need to know my craft a bit more before I'm able to say, Hey, we have this new tech and this is how you use it. And yeah. So yeah, stuff like that.

Bekah:

I also think there's something valuable about people seeing you learn as you go too, though, right? Like, because sometimes it's inaccessible to watch people who know all the answers or who get to places really quickly. And so, I don't know. That's one of the things that I can appreciate about people who are live streaming, their coding process, because they're working through these problems at the same time, kind of that you are as you're watching them. Right. And it's nice to know that, all right, this wasn't super, um, packaged and perfect. There was a lot that went into that process. And so I do think that you can hone your craft in some way at the same time while teaching other people in a way that is really authentic. Um, as opposed to like, oh, I've been doing this for a long time and. This is how it looks because that's just not as relatable to people who are learning for the first time.

Nerando:

True. I think you'd literally just did something that I've been trying to avoid. So I've been trying to avoid tweeting out what I'm learning every day and you just share, enforced the idea that the action we need to do it. So good luck Twitter. Here I come.

Dan:

mean, I think it's good advice. I think it, I think writing and sharing what you're learning, even if you're not going for a devrel like, like even not to do with the devrel in general, but said before about how teaching helps you learn and stuff like that. And, think watching people's journeys through learning is, is great. It's helpful for people and it's helpful for people to get to know you better. I, you know, I feel like it's helpful for, prospective employers, you know, to understand, um, where are you at and to understand that you are learning and the, you, you know, like as opposed to, if it's just a black box or whatever, you know, then you'd have to hope your resume. I suppose, speaks, speaks enough, you know,

Nerando:

I think speaking to the whole teaching, what, you know, like it came full circle to me too, is. I had to help teach one of my sisters how to drive and driving to me is one of them unfunded pleasures that I have, but explaining to her how, what works is, was totally different. Also I'm a fan of the whole Dresden Files book. And there's a part in there that, um, main character, Harry, is teaching a new wizard, how to be a wizard. And he goes, it's all fun and games until you have to teach somebody, something new, because now you have to justify why you would prefer it to have a conversation, then curse somebody or something to that effect. And I'm like, yep. That's all

Dan:

I about that series. I think I read the first couple they were fun. And then I about them.

Nerando:

If you want, I'm not going to throw any spoilers, but Mouse is now terrifying. I love Mouse.

Dan:

well, after to swing back, I think I have a,

Nerando:

Um, I'm, I'm personally waiting for the next book. I have all of them. Yeah.

Bekah:

Okay. So I think that you are always super positive about things, but I imagine that some point you have been feeling lots of challenges, too, right? Like you made a lot of transitions, a lot of changes, you're looking for a job. So how do you stay positive through those challenges? Or like what's your process for working through that?

Nerando:

I don't stay positive some days I have really bad days. What I do have is that over the years I have had. Really good people who literally will watch out to see if something is wrong. Like my friends know if I get too quiet, they call. So I build the network. I have family support. I have de-stressors. I have days that I turn off. It's hard. Like job searching is hard because after a while you feel like I'm not good enough, I have had those moments to go. I quit. I literally almost quit code twice because I've put in so much effort and time after a while I'm like, okay. But my, my, my support system will go. Go over there and cry. You get 10 minutes. That's allyou get. Now. Let's get back to work. And would you like ice cream or coffee? And I'm dead serious. I have persons like those in my life who stand up for me when I can't stand up for myself. I'm a part of a community like Virtual Coffee. Like I go, I went quiet two weeks ago and from Virtual Coffee, Meg went, where are you? And Mike did the hype man thing and like a couple of my other friends call and my friend, I have a friend now who I'm helping to learn code called G G has been my friends since E in 17, so awhile. And she'll reach out and see if I'm okay. And my other male, I have male friends.I have female friends. And so we reach out and see, who's what you're, it's never going to be easy all the time. And you just have to keep going. You have to find your why. I think while we were at bootcamp, two persons point this out to me. Our lecturer back then, his name is Brett Butler. I think he's at condor right now. Um, he pointed out that why you are doing this is way more important than how, how fast or how much you learn, because when I failed, my mod one, he goes, you just need more time. I thought this is a giant mistake and I don't know how to do this. He goes, you just need more time. So sometimes you need more time. Sometimes you're having something else that's hindering what's going on. Sometimes you just need somebody to like, yeah, you need a hype-man or a hype-person or a mantra or like affirmations. I'm old school. So I will go pray. I will go walk. I'm like, okay, how do I do this now? Okay. But support system. And you literally finding your why the other person who literally highlights all of this was I remember I was taking a train with my batchmate, then Keisha, Keisha would read a book called, um, Grit by Angela... I think her name is or something I can't remember. And I listened to the podcast for it, and it was basically understanding that all everything you've ever wanted to do is doable. You just have to break them down. So, no, you don't have good days. You don't have it. Great. I'm not always super positive. Sometimes I have bad days, but I have, I've taken time to build a support system. That's it?

Bekah:

I think that's such great advice. And I think that's the thing that nobody kind of teaches you in school, right? They, these are the subjects and this is how you learn them. But having that support system is so key to being able to keep moving forward. And I was having a rough day the other day and somebody in my Mom's in Tech Slack group DMed me. And just out of nowhere, just to, you know, provide an affirmation about what I was doing. I was like, you don't even realize how much I needed that today. Um, But it's such an undervalued thing and you do it for so many people, too. I mean, any conversation I have with you is a good conversation and I always feel happy after I've seen you, even if it's for like three seconds and the big, the big zoom room or whatever, but it's always great to have you. And I'm glad that you have a support system that's able to take care of you. And that you're open to talking about that with us.

Nerando:

um, I don't know how much time we got left, but two things you just mentioned, um, please don't ever get me started on talking about how horrible school equipped us all for our surviving as adults, because you teach me math and not taxes. I'm upset or support systems, like stuff like that bothers me, but also like. A lot of us keep not understanding that sometimes you just need to reach out to people like, yeah, just reach out because you don't know how much you saved them. Like you don't.

Dan:

Yeah, somebody else just said the same kind of thing. I think it was Gant , was saying just, if you like a tweet even or something was meaningful. Or a blog posters, you know, it's just like, send them a message, send it, send a quick one sentence, you know, I really like this thing that you wrote, you know, or I don't know. I think that's important to you. I it's something I, I don't know, I forget to do or, or struggle with doing. And, um, but it's right. When it, when it comes out of nowhere, it's it's I dunno. It's, it's always nice to hear good things from people from your friends

Bekah:

Nerando, this has been really great. We appreciate you sharing with us and we look forward to seeing you at Virtual Coffee in the future. So thanks so much for being here.

Dan:

Thanks, Nerando.

Nerando:

No problem guys.

Bekah:

All right. Well, I'll talk to you later.


The Virtual Coffee Podcast is produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel and edited by Andy Bonjour at GoodDay Communications.