Kevin Truong - Tech Career Coaching

Season 3, Episode 5 | August 2, 2021

In this episode of the podcast, Dan and Bekah talk to Kevin, a senior software consultant at Test Double and a coding career coach at his company Tap into Tech, about his approach to interviewing and how to navigate some of the biggest challenges early-career devs face when trying to break into the industry.


Kevin Truong's Profile Photo
Kevin Truong

Kevin Truong is a senior software consultant at Test Double and a coding career coach at his company Tap into Tech. Previously a coding boot camp instructor and mentor, Kevin realized that boot camps were missing a lot of information when it came to the final steps of getting hired. With his years of experience, he has developed a program where he has coached dozens of early career devs on how to improve their results on getting a tech job.

Show Notes:

In this episode of the podcast, Dan and Bekah talk to Kevin, a senior software consultant at Test Double and a coding career coach at his company Tap into Tech, about some of the most common challenges early-career developers face getting into tech and offers practical advice for working through those problems. We dive into visualization, personal support, and ways to change the interview process in tech.

Links:
Virtual Coffee:

Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello, and welcome to season three, episode five 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 are here to share it with you. Here with me today is my cohost, Dan.

Dan:

Thanks Bekah. Today we talk with Kevin Truong. Kevin is a senior software consultant at Test Double and a coding career coach at his company, Tap into Tech. We had a really great time talking with Kevin. He shared with us his personal approach to interviewing as well as some really great methods and approaches for people looking to improve their interviewing game.

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 if you could hang out with any cartoon character, who would you choose and why? So my name is Bekah. I am a front end developer from a small town in Ohio. And if I could choose any cartoon character, I was never a huge cartoon kid, but I loved the X-Men cartoon. And so I professor X, like I always wanted him to be my mentor and teach me all of the things because, you know, I'm pretty sure that I would fit right in there with the X men.

Dan:

Um, I'm Dan. I am from Lakewood, Ohio. I do front of development. Um, Yeah. I'm, I'm kind of conflicted on this.There's like...Professor X is, you know, a mentor kind of figure. You know, my, my first instinct was Optimus Prime, you know, for the same reason, but I also feel like he might not be that fun to hang out with. So if the question is like hanging out, Then my answer is gonna be, you know, you know what I mean? So, uh, so like I think I'm going more, um, I think I'm gonna go with Raphael from Ninja Turtles, uh, or maybe Michelangelo. I dunno, same, same problem with Michelangelo, but Raphael's a little serious sometimes, but, uh, well the problem is he's grumpy, everybody our age remembers the movies more than the cartoon. The movies He's really like a really kind of a grumpy jerk, but in the cartoons. Not like that. Uh, so I feel like the movies, you know, did him wrong anyway, uh, ninja turtle. So I feel like it would be fun hanging. So it says

Bekah:

out with the Animaniacs.

Dan:

if I was the learn from somebody it'd be Splinter, but like, he wouldn't be that fun to like, hang out with, you know what I mean? So it's like,

Kevin:

Get some looks like walking around the street with that. Yeah.

Dan:

right, you got

Kevin:

one of the characters, but you know.

Dan:

Plus yeah, if you can go a transformer, then, then they can like drive you around and stuff. So that's cool too.

Kevin:

Okay.

Dan:

Um, I think Michelangelo is my fate. My, my, uh, is going to be my official answer.

Kevin:

Nice. Well, hello everyone. My name is Kevin Truong. I am a software consultant at Test Double. I'm also a coding career coach at my own business. Uh, Tap into Tech. Um, he located in new Orleans. Not sure if I said that. Um, Hm. My first answer. And I already told you earlier was I said SpongeBob, like, cause I was thinking about SpongeBob square pants. Cause I grew up watching that a little bit and I'm like, this is a terrible idea. Hey, I can't hang out under water. So this would not be a good idea. And then it's SpongeBob like this, isn't a, this isn't a good character to appear. And then a little bit more thought I'm going to go with, uh, Rick from Rick and Morty. I don't know if I could keep up with that kind of person or what kind of crazy antics like, or I just feel super inadequate hanging out with him, but I think it'd be fun. It'd be a total 24 hours of craziness. And, uh, yeah, I think it'd be a wild ride.

Bekah:

Sounds like fun. I like it. Well, thanks Kevin,

Kevin:

answers is going to come for all of us after this.

Bekah:

Thanks for being here. Um, we always love to start off with everyone's origin story, where he came from, how you got to this point. So if you want to give us your story, we'd love to know.

Kevin:

Sure. Yeah, I've got it. I've got somewhat of a journey. So let's see. I'll start. Um, I guess I'll start off as a kid, maybe in middle school, um, early high school, like I always knew what to do. Some sort of engineering. Um, it was between computer engineering, electrical engineering. I remember like on college board.com comparing majors, like when a friend has going to school and I was like, I really don't want to do coding. So I'm really fascinated with power. So I'll go with, um, with electrical engineering. So I, I kind of start off there. And I've always been fascinated with power. Like just how power is generated. I love solar energy, wind energy, nuclear, and then, and how it gets distributed to homes. And

Bekah:

Yeah.

Kevin:

that was what fascinated me. And, you know, with electric engineering, there are some programming classes. Now I've taken a program class before and I hated it. It was, it was in Java. I would have failed the class if my partner, Dustin, if you're out there listening, like thanks so much, like he saved me, but I still hated program. I hated Java. Um, and. That was kind of like my first name, like this is not me. I do not wanna learn how to program. This is terrible. Um, but electro engineering had some programming classes to do some like robotics, a little bit of microcontrollers. And it was those kinds of projects that for some reason, like gave me my, my flow state. Like I was staying up late hours working, like I'm going to figure this out. Um, and that was kinda what I got re-exposed to programming a little bit. And then you fast forward a little bit to right out of school. Uh, right out of college with my electric engineer degree, I worked in oil and gas actually. Um, so I was working on the oil rigs, like working in oil and gas industry, like flying out helicopter rides two weeks on two weeks off, meaning you're out there for two weeks coming back in land for two weeks. Um, and that was a summer programming job, right? It was programming we're we're programming valves, right. Example, I can give, like if a, the pressure in a tank is rising too high, if statement conditional right. Then shut off a pump, right. That's or, you know, if a fire is detected, throw a bunch of Firewater onto the, onto the platform kind of thing. Um, so that was, that was kind of another little reintroduction to more programming kind of side of things. And. This is kind of where web program kind of came in. I was working there for two years and I'm like watching all these people like startups happening, like people are working from home. You, one of those like crazy Instagram pictures, like I'm just coding here in my laptop on a hotel pool. Like this could be your life too. And I fell for that. I was like, I want to do this. Like, I'm seeing all these billion dollar startup companies making websites, web apps. And I kind of, part of me always knew I wanted to do something online. Um, I, for some reason, just put 10 years, like I'm going to work for 10 years and then I'll go do my own business or something. Um, thankfully oil and gas, that job kind of accelerated that. So I, uh, I started teaching myself. I was on the oil platform, like, you know, you work for 12 hour shifts and then you kinda go to your bunk and kind of thing. I remember like having my laptop out, teaching myself, HTML, CSS, get, um, and just kinda like learning that in my spare time. And I remember. Like, I call this the, I guess one of my top dumbest best decisions I ever made is I just quit. I didn't have a plan. I didn't have like a software job lined up, but I was like, I'll figure it out. And, uh, I quit to kind of go into training mode, which was learning how to code, uh, attended a bootcamp. Um, and that's where kind of web programming kind of came out at. Um, and then in the meantime, while I was looking for software jobs, I was like consulting, doing freelance gigs. Um, making WordPress sites, like, you know, just kind of saying yes to any opportunity. Good. Which kind of led to me learning everything I know, like I, I had, uh, I think in one of our previous episodes, you guys had a prompt saying, yes, I'm in drew. Who said that? Right? Like you just had a prompt saying yes. And that was me. I was just saying yes to every opportunity I could. I don't have a job. I'm just going to figure it out this. So I learned WordPress. I learned like someone had a Squarespace, like never did it, but I'll say I can cause I'll figure it out. Um, and so I was doing that in between, and then I started looking at applying for software jobs and getting better at doing that, um, doing bootcamp instructor. So I ended up being a bootcamp instructor for the bootcamp I attended, uh, which led to other roles at other different boot camps. I got to see different systems and different boot camps. Um, and you know, kind of seeing other people go through the job hunt process, as well as doing it myself. So kind of a long-winded origin story, but fast forward to now, um, I'm a senior software consultant at a great company, um, using everything I learned, but also the, all the skills and experience I've learned. I've managed to find a great company of my own and applied for it. And history is history.

Bekah:

That's awesome. I love that. I think we both come from different ish backgrounds, but have similar ish journeys. And so, you know, once I left, I taught for 10 years, college English, and, and once I left, it was the same kind of thing. You know, I did the bootcamp, but also I was taking jobs. I was like, can you do a WordPress? Yeah, I can do a WordPress site. It was like one of

Kevin:

the time.

Bekah:

ever worked on. I did not like WordPress at all. And then eventually that project got drawn out and then I was like, well, you know, that we're presses outdated. So let's just do it in Gatsby. And then like that got outdated and I'm like, we can move it to Jekyll. As I figure out what I like doing and what is valuable to people, then I just kind of follow that line. Also saying, yes, I'm getting a little bit better at saying no to things now, but, um, it's just a lot of fun exploration of trying to figure out, you know, what, what you're going to do with all of the new things that you've just learned.

Kevin:

And a lot of people I coach, they always like say, oh, I wasted so much time doing that. And I don't want to call those a waste because now you know exactly what you don't want to do. And it's better to do that very early on your career versus wasting your time dropping something to go chase this and finding out that, oh, this was a terrible idea. So now it's a, you always end up where you have to be at, so it always has to happen the way it has.

Dan:

So you are a consultant with Test Double, right? And, and so Test Double is an agency that does work for other clients, right?

Kevin:

Yes. That is correct.

Dan:

with them, you're just doing sort of client where you're doing development and stuff like that. And then you correct. me if I'm wrong, but you've founded, uh, Tap into Tech.

Kevin:

Yeah. Yeah. Tap into Tech is, is something that came before maybe early 2020, late 2019. It was something I've always done. That's why I don't really have a hard date. So with my years as a boot camp instructor, um, I've always just had mentees, I'm going to call it, but just people in my circles that needed jobs. And it kind of just started off with just emails, back and forth, random, um, communities and slack and just messaging back and forth text messaging. So it's like, Hey, I have this interview. Like, what should I do? Is this resume look good? Um, and I've always just had a fascination with that. And the idea of tapping the tech came in, I was giving a tour at a local company here in new Orleans with my current cohort at the, at the time. And it was about six, seven different, um, people in this cohort. And we went to go tour this company that was a software company. And they're literally telling us like, yeah, like just finding talent in new Orleans is tough. Like there's just not enough good people in the city. And I'm like sitting, looking at my class. I'm like, you know, not everyone's a hundred percent ready, but I bet if you gave this person a shot, this person would fly. I'd bet with this other person with maybe two months of actual more production ready work. As I like to call. They would be someone who could fly, be coached and do well at this company. Um, and that's where it kind of sparked where I realized that we're bootcamps are missing it. Right. They're teaching the technical skills side of things, but what does production ready look like in the real world? Right? Like, I don't want to bash on anyone, but you know, anyone can make a weather app. If you followed a turtle, anyone can consume a weather API and throw it out there. If they follow the tour, what to do list those kinds of apps are all very true. But what does actual production look like in boot? Bootcamps? I think fail at teaching this, oh, let me say that some bootcamps fail at teaching that. So I've realized that I wanted to fill in that gap. I wanted to fill in what's your 80% of the way there. What's that last, very important 20% look like. Um, so I started just kind of curating, finding out the needs of certain people and kind of inviting them to this group of, Hey, let's do this together. Let's work on this and let's get you a tech job.

Dan:

I think that's really cool. I imagine you last times were given very similar advice to different people, you know, based on where they were in their journey, you know? Um, and I think that's great, like being able to tie that into basically a service you can provide to, you know, to lots of people.

Bekah:

Well, you know, in Kevin, you and I had talked, this was a while ago, I think about some of the major problems that we're seeing with bootcamps or, or students who are coming out of boot camps. There's a lot of promises that bootcamps give and there's a lot of, um, you know, people out there saying, oh, there's so many jobs in tech, just go to a bootcamp. Right. And yeah, like there's a lot of senior dev jobs out there, but they're the opportunities for junior developer. There's there are not that many and you really have to be able to differentiate yourself. So I guess maybe where I want to start is what do you see as the biggest problem or challenge that people coming out of bootcamps face, as they're trying to find that first job where there's a lot of competition.

Kevin:

Yeah, that's a good question. I fight this every day. So, um, I work on eliminating all of that with people every single day. So. Um, I think the problem is let's say with, we'll start with atypical, bootcamper kind of thing. I call it production ready, right? Like, let's say it's a three-month course. You walk out with three portfolio pieces, but at that point it was like our users. If you had a thousand users on that pro that portfolio piece, would it be ready for that? I would wager most of the time it's a no right. That would wager that. Is it something that people could use and get something valuable out of? And I'll, I'll start with this one concept. That's one of my main concepts of what did I try to teach is I call it, flipping the script, right? Imagine the perfect job landed right in front of you right now, the hiring managers asking you, would you be ready to take this? Again, I'd wagers. Most people, some people would be, most people would probably lose that opportunity because they weren't just that production ready. They made it not conveyed themselves. Right. Maybe their online presence didn't feel right. So it didn't look experienced enough for this hiring manager to pick them. Um, and so I, I start with one just kind of filling in what the ex that experience looks like. In some ways it's starting with a passion project. I know that term gets used the way to like a passion project, but then really taking that project and making it something valuable, useful, where someone could say, dang, a hiring manager saw this on your, like, back to that example, hiring manager just saw you, Hey, I have this live website up right now. You can try it out. We can walk through it if you want. And that says, damn, I need to hire Bekah. I need to hire Dan. Right? Like there's. So, and that I I've merely, I don't think that obstacle is that tall. Right? It's doable. It's challenging, but it's doable enough where someone says, well, this is well thought out. It's well-designed it shows that this person can hook up a domain, can deploy an app and can really work with this technology. Let's let's say react, right? Like I need to have this person on my team. Right. Those are the kinds of things that I try to get people to aim for. Right? Like I need you to be able to go in front of someone, say, yes, I need to have this person on my team. Um, another one, you know, technical side to skills is. Communication skills. I feel like that's something that definitely doesn't get touched on. Um, some boot camps do good at it. Some most, let me say this do not, they don't even touch on it once they get your 10 grand, they're just, you know, here's your certificate out. You go, right? Like you did your 200 commits then, which is a terrible metric, but some people do it. Um, and in communication is valuable because for early career devs, Because you may not have a hundred percent of the technical skills, but by having great communication skills, someone that I know I could put you on my team, my team will like you, you have enough of the technical skills that I know you can fill in the gaps as you go. Kind of thing I'd say is just as important, if not, maybe slightly little bit more important than the technical skills, right? Like coachability, I've heard this from thousands of exaggerate, hundreds of recruiters and hiring managers. Right. That's what they say. They're really looking for. Right. Don't need perfection. I need to know that someone, I can take someone and mold this person into someone that I can make an all-star team member, but it all starts with a union. Need to know a little bit enough to code and problem-solve and be just being able to communicate with your team members on how to get better.

Bekah:

Yeah, I like that idea of coachability. I think I've probably heard that, but not really thought about it very much until you were talking about it just now. And I know for me and a lot of other. Developers who came out of self paced bootcamps, or for developers learning on their own coachability is a skill that we don't talk enough about and that we don't really practice. Right. Because what you're doing is you're learning independently and that that's great. Right? It's great that you can go out there and find the resources that you need to accomplish the, the. Thing. Right. But also you miss out on a lot of that communication. You miss out on being able to learn from other people and to ask questions while someone's telling you something. So if they're breaking down an issue for you and talking through it, then how do you know how to ask questions? And I know for me, that was a real big challenge. And sometimes it still is because there's. Um, you've developed habits of staying in this world of, oh, well, my job is to go out and find the answers to those things myself, rather than like, let's start by asking questions that can get us halfway up this path rather than having to start from zero and moving forward. Does that make sense?

Kevin:

Spot on. Right. And it's exactly why I like communities like Virtual Coffee or created my own because doing it alone is rarely the best decision. Right. And this is personal experience for me. Not to go too far, but like I grew up in a household, just do it yourself. Right. Don't pay for that. Learn how to do it, save a thousand dollars and do it yourself. Right. And then, and I always, I still do have this mentality. Right. Like, it's very hard for me to ask for help I'm breaking through with that. But, um, especially when you work solo for, I did consulting for three, four years, right? Like it's, it's when you're alone, like you got to learn a heck of a lot. Right. Me trying to be cheap and not pay for a $10 a month. Server has taught me so much about dev ops. That's

Bekah:

Okay.

Kevin:

not enough, but you know, just ways to save $5 a month in, in managing my own servers. And now, as, as I look back, I'm like, that was really dumb. I could have just saved a lot of time, but, um, but the idea of, of seeing surrounded by a positive community and asking for help. And having that expertise on hand of, Hey, this is what the real world's going to look like. This is what you should prepare for, or here's how collaboration looks with, how do you, you know, do PRS properly, right? Like I think you guys with the Virtual Coffee, GitHub repo, right? Like it's teaching people, oh, I create this branch. I do this PR it gets approved. Right. That's a process that. I think only half the bootcamps I've interacted actually sit down, they'll give you a, year's a link to how to do it. But as we all know as coders, right, it's, it's always, um, doing it over, just consuming it creation over consumption as I call it. Right. You gotta do this stuff, not just read a blog post and expect to be able to walk out and say that was worth a graduation certificate kind of thing.

Dan:

I was, uh, to go back a little bit to the, um, production ready part of It Right. I've seen this a lot where people have the portfolio pieces. Right. And they're just kind of linked on their portfolio, but, um, you know, maybe a couple of paragraphs or whatever, but when you, excuse me, when you are helping people take their portfolio piece to be production ready, do you find that they're missing like, that there's actually like holes in the project itself? Or is it, um, more like the stuff around it, the ops, you know, the, the hosting stuff like that, that you find that people. Maybe not, not going all the way to get to production. Ready.

Kevin:

is a little bit of both. And I also add in yeah, that there's holes, which is fine. I think people need to get overlap. It's not going to be a thousand percent perfect. You know, I, I think some people fear like, oh, if I make this open source, they're going to see the curtain, like get over it. Right. Like it's something as a talking point, right. I love using blemishes as a talking point of, oh, actually let me point out my blemish for you and tell you how, if I had enough infinite time, I would fix it like this, but I actually don't have enough time because I'm working on my freelance side. Right. There's definitely some holes. I would also add that it's just not pushing the envelope enough, right. Again, it's, I'm taking a recipes app and I'm adding a little thing like this, right. Like, okay, well, how can we add design into it? Right. Like let's add in tailwind and see how you like using that. Let's add in some, um, again, that wow factor that someone lands on as like, okay, this is polished, right. They actually, and not everyone has to, you don't have to be a massive design. I teach people or I do it myself to just steal designs, right? Like, I'll go on a different website. Like, Hey, that font pairing looks pretty nice. I'm gonna use those exact same font or this color scheme. Like I'm just going to use that. Um, and I think by removing some of those analysis paralysis barriers, right? Like, oh, like design, I don't want you to design, like, stop thinking about it. Just go use something that works so that you can move on kind of thing. Um, I think it's a huge mindset barrier to hold people back when, when they're not, they don't feel like they're things. Perfect. Um, but I say embrace it and use that as a talking point of this is why it's not perfect. You know, you may not notice it, but I'll show you where I see my problems at.

Dan:

Yeah, I like that. Yeah, me too. I like that kind of thinking. And you know, I've, I've seen some people have like blog posts where they explain stuff like that, you know, about their projects, about the, when they're, you know, when they're on their like learning journeys and stuff. I always find that really, really valuable. Um, you know, as, as somebody who has, you know, hired people or whatever, you know what I mean? It's, it's like the, that, that idea of using, uh, don't know, kind of, like you said, like using, using a hole in something, but like being aware of it and explaining why it's there or whatever, what you would do if you had the time, what you would do, if you, you know, or what you're going to do next, that kind of thing. I think that's great. That's a great idea.

Bekah:

Yeah, it's nice to be able to break things down into a process. And to also, I mean, that does a lot to show how you think through things, how you're able to talk about those things and communicate those things. And you know, that just goes back to your point. Like that's an underdeveloped skill in a lot of the developers that are coming into, into the industry, right? Yeah.

Kevin:

yeah. And this a thousand percent applies to technical interviews, right? When, when being stumbled upon something, right. I went through the experiment of applying for a bunch of different jobs, because I wanted to see if can I even do this right? How can I teach you what to get a job of? I don't even know. I can't get a job. Um, and I, and one of the things that I love kind of just showing, bringing up to people was like during technical questions where it's something really simple, Like I always tell people just to laugh it off and be like, look, I have no idea. Like, oh, that's a really good question. Um, I don't know the answer now, but let me kind of just stumble my way through and kind of just make it very lighthearted and playful. Like, um, you know, let's pretend we're we're in this techno interview and they just ask something about some ridiculous searching, sorting out of their guns. And then I was like, look, I can sit here for 30 minutes and not give you a good answer. So let me just talk to you about how I would go through and do what you said back, like just. Teach like, go explain your thought process around it. Because again, I would say that's also probably just as important, if not more important than the actual solution itself kind of thing. And that's kind of the mindset I always get to just like own everything you do. Like don't worry about all those little things like that own it kind of.

Bekah:

Yeah, for sure. And I think one of the things that a lot of technical interviews or interviews in general don't don't take into account is that you have the ability to ask. And most of your workplaces and you should be asking questions, right. And so if you ask somebody, Hey, just solve this thing that you've probably memorized because you've been studying for this technical interview. Like what does that even show? But to say like, I think it is valid to say, okay, well, this is kind of how I would approach it. This is the question that I have for you, because I feel like I might get stuck at this point. So can you tell me how you would communicate that to me when I asked you this question, you know, Pushback. I mean, but also I will say that I will not take a technical interview for those reasons, because I don't think that they're valuable in most circumstances. And I think that they, um, leave out so many, um, underrepresented minorities in tech because of the type of preparation that has to go into them. And they don't account for the privilege that you have to have to be able to spend. All this time. So this is me getting on my soap box again, and

Kevin:

Go for it. Come on, back up, back.

Bekah:

but I also think, you know, there's, um, this is going back to a point that you said earlier about, I can't remember exactly where it was coming from, but talking about this idea of learning on your own and how that's almost never the best, um, the best way to approach learning, how to code for a lot of people. That's the only way. Unless you have community though. And so this is something I keep going back to, and I keep thinking a lot about how to encourage this, but have community collaborative with them in some way, right? Like participate in a study group or talk to some people and say, I would really like to be able to build a project together with you. And maybe it is a to-do app. Right. There's a difference between building a, to do app by yourself and building a, to do app with four people. So I've kind of gotten in my mind that, that there's this like nice thing about groups of four. I'm not exactly sure why, but for me, the approach is, you know, finding those four people and forming your own cohort. And then you do whether it's projects together or you walk through curriculum together, but in the end, you're all collaborating and creating something. That you can show, like I worked as a team on this passion project and that's more meaningful than working on something on your own.

Kevin:

Again, it ties to that whole, again, collaboration being part of production ready. Right. If you're going to be thrown onto this team, I need some do that. You can work with this team. Um, and it gives great opportunities for during interviews, right? Like the, all those, uh, kind of cheesy scenarios. So tell me a time when you blank, right? You don't have to lie anymore. Right? Tell me about a time when you, you guys had a dispute in your team, right? Like you could have those discussions, have some ammunition ready to answer those questions. Like, oh, let me tell you about this group project that I had, where, you know, work with this guy named Kevin, he had this idea of this, what the to-do list should be like, but we sat down and we talked it out. We, we use some proper, you know, user stories and we found out like, Hey, maybe it's better to do it this way. Instead of that way. You know, that's, that's all those experiences add up and against your point, like, you've, you've got to do this with other people. Like it's such a tough journey already. At least we can do it together and share our losses and wins kind of thing. And I'd like to ask it again. I'd love checking in Virtual Coffee, slack. Like haven't been able to participate too much, but every night I open up and just see like people share. This is what the new stuff I'm going to this interview. This one didn't go so well, but Hey, there's next time everyone comes in times in, right? Like it's nice knowing that people have your back. And I think that's part important facet of going through the early career job hunt kind of thing.

Bekah:

Yeah, for sure. And I don't even think it's limited to early career too. Right? Like we've had a lot of senior developers in Virtual Coffee, move on to new positions in the last couple of years. And Virtual Coffee has played a role in that, you know, even talking about salary negotiations or, you know, just cheering them on or saying this was my experience in this position or this other person that I, I know did this thing. You might want to try it too. And that's allowed them to just kind of take that information, especially if they haven't been applying for positions. And in the last couple of years, if you've been in the industry for awhile, And you're interviewing for the first time. And I don't know, even five years, things

Kevin:

Oh, the world's changed Yeah.

Bekah:

So I know that, you know, one of the we're talking about communication, right. And communication can be hard for people. So what are some of the different approaches that you take to kind of coaching people on how to communicate and to present themselves in a, in an interview in a way that is, you know, the person that you would want to have back for a second interview?

Kevin:

Gotcha. Yeah. Good question. Um, it's a journey. myself have gone through it. I've super shy. I still am introverted and that's not a problem. It's just that I was always very shy, always afraid to speak up. Kind of always passive with the when during like, not even just interviews in real life. Right. Does business and in relationships and everything. And that's it. Wasn't fun. Let me say it that way. Right. Life got a lot more fun. Once you're just allowed to talk and you be comfortable with talking kind of thing, um, with interviews rightfully so. A lot of people walk into a lot of anxious energy, like, whoa, man, like, you know, great grimacing at the idea of, I've got to talk to this person for 30 minutes and it's going to be tough. Right. And immediately that's a losing game, right? Immediately you walking into that is. Just ultimate failure. Right. And I always use this as an example. Right? Like, imagine yourself going to those dreaded networking events that you go to. Never like, you know, no one kind of thing. Imagine yourself walking into that same kind of room, just very anxious. Like I'm just going to go sit in this corner and just kind of hold my drink by the bar. Right. And it's super uncomfortable. I've been that person. It's the lamp. Um, now imagine, you know, stepping out that door and playing this mental exercise with me, like, I always walk people through this. Cause I think mindset is mindset. Mindset is module zero in my program, right? Like you're not going to get far, unless you get your mindset in the right space. You can't go through this whole experience. Get one rejection then just like go put the sheets over your head. And like, like, no, that's not how it is going to work in tablet attack. Right. You've got to keep chugging along. Um, the back to that example right now, imagine if you walked into this networking event, just knowing, like you don't give a F about what anyone thinks, anyone cares what anyone says to you, like imagine like how lifted you would feel. Right? Like, just like whatever I'm just going and have fun. Like I'm just go there and meet people. Never go see these people again, blah, blah, blah. Let's go have fun. And you just walk in. So imagine that. How you envision yourself, like I'm there just having fun. Like that's, that's the point. And I try to emulate this with people and get them into the right state. I call it, um, I'm borrowing from a lot of different psychology or NLP concepts that I've learned over my time, but, you know, getting yourself in the right space. Bringing your energy in gets kind of where we will be at some point, some people don't accept it as much as others, some people do. And I am, I lean into that, right? Like brand new energy just imagined you there to have fun. And that's the kind of energy that needs to be conveyed during your interviews. Right? Not saying being super quirky, be super unprofessional, just like dancing on the table. Just saying, go in there. Just like. I don't really care what happens at the end of his interview. I just want to get to know the company. Like I just, you know, not being tied to the result. I just want to come here and have an interview and have fun. And now imagine again, flipping the script, right. I'm the interviewer and I see person a come in kind of anxious energy, like yeah. Yeah. I'm looking forward. Thanks for having me versus person B's like, Hey, thanks for having me. Nice to meet you. Great office space. Like let's have some fun, like, you know, tell me more about the company. It's kind of one of those hack ways of getting, improving your chances of the job. Right. Just being more likable. And again, I'm, don't try to teach you being some wildly crazy extrovert. I'm just trying to teach you to be in a better state. Right? You don't get stumbled. When a tough question comes up, you do take those pauses. You do take those breaths. You don't freak out and then your brain gets, you know, it's happened to me many times before where I've just one bad question. Just kind of be slowed down. Nowadays, I'm able to catch myself. If it happens, I'm just catching myself and then bring my energy back up. And I actually visualize a dial. Right. I, I think visualization mindset has been so important in my life. Um, shout out to Nick who taught me all of this as one of my coaches. Right. I visually see a dial like, okay, I'm being a little too energetic. Let me dial it down and I'll speak a little bit slower. And my dots, my periods of adopt on it. But if I feel like the interview is getting into a low I'll, turn it up a little bit and kind of play along kind of thing. And it's not an overnight thing. Right. You can learn these through practice. Um, which is, I don't know if you guys see, I always tell people like, if you're not, if you're in your early stage, um, or not, or you just haven't interviewed in a while, or you're bad or not as good as you want to be at interview. There's literally free interviews on LinkedIn, right? You do like one or two changes on your LinkedIn recruiters are just bombing you emails. And all you have to do is just reply back and say, sure, let's talk tomorrow. And boom, you have a free chance to have that experience that I was talking about at the bar, right. Where I can walk into this bar, not give an F about what person says to me, because it's just a random recruiter. Right. This person, isn't going to go out there and say, don't hire Kevin. Cause he didn't take this thing very seriously, which is what I did. I was going out on LinkedIn, just seeing, trying different tactics out, seeing which got good responses and just kind of seeing how many interviews could I get to the next round. Um, and those are your, those are your reps, right? That's free batting practice right there. Um, and I don't think people, if you're feeling like you're getting too nervous during interviews, Go on LinkedIn and actually respond back to those spammy recruiters that say, Hey, you want to talk? I have the senior role position, even though I have zero years of experience in my LinkedIn, I'm like, sure, let's talk just for fun. And that's the kind of, that's how you get your reps in, right? It was, it's a, it's not an overnight process. It's can be a monthly process and you'll get better incrementally. And by the time that dream job that I mentioned before does land right in front of you. You're ready to nail it.

Bekah:

I like that a lot. And I like this idea of like getting reps in. So as you're talking about this, I was thinking, so I like to. You know, lift heavy weights and work out. But I really, I like to jump high.

Kevin:

too. I'm working on mine. I'm trying to hit a 60 inch box jump by the end of the year.

Bekah:

Yes. That's exactly where I was going with this. Okay. So I'm short. So I always say like, I have to compensate for that in some way. And so I jump high and so I'm like trying to think of, I think I hit 50 inches.

Kevin:

Nice.

Bekah:

I think maybe my highest is 56, but

Kevin:

Congratulations. Yeah,

Bekah:

it was, it was, it was work and it was reps, right? Like you're growing in strength, but one of the things approaching that box, like, okay, I'm 61 and three quarters inches. And so that box is pretty high up on me. So when you're standing next to it, yeah. Wow. This is really high. I don't think I'm going to be able to do this. And I had heard on a podcast somewhere, somebody was like, just visualize yourself doing it first, because if you set your mind up that you're going to fail, you will fail. And I was not a big visualize as a person. I'm like, this is kind of garbage, but fine. I'm going to try it, right? Yeah. Close my eyes. Cause I can't do anything with my eyes open, close my eyes. I imagine myself jumping on the top of all of those boxes. And then I did, and I was like, okay, maybe there is something to this, but it is like, when you go in with that failure mindset, you're not going to be able to perform in the way that you want to. And so there was something about imagining what it looks like and what it feels like. There's gotta be some kind of like physiological reaction that happens when you do that.

Kevin:

Yeah. Uh, what is it mind over matter kind of thing, right? Like that's a saying for a real reason, right? Like if you truly don't believe that you're going to do the best, then you're definitely not going to be right. But you're not going to be even at 50%, I'd argue. Right? Like, or unless you just have all that reps and experiences, which is, you don't have to visualize, you have what I call confidence through competence. Right? You, you have the confidence through the fact that you've done it so many times. But we, we could rant on, I always do my correlation between exercise as well with, with like right, with like how Java is. I either do it with like dating life or whatever, uh, exercise or business, all this stuff correlates together. Right? Like that's why mindset is module zero. Like this will apply to not just your job hunt. This will apply to your landing on a 58 for 60, 56, 8 jump. Right. Um, and on that note, they actually actually do teach that right. When you're doing a boxer, like actually stand on the box, get used to that feeling of how high you are, kind of thing. Don't jump off of it. Cause that's just going to recipe for damaging over time, but actually stand up on top of it and feel how high you are off the ground. So that when you do do the jump you get, you're not shocked when you get there and you can finish, it don't fall backwards. Like you actually sit and then stand up kind of thing. We can, we gotta do this. Bekah. We gotta meet and just do box jumps over and over and over.

Bekah:

that's right. That's right. I keep saying so Magnolia JS this year was online. Last year was online, but Kayla Sween organize it this year and she has she's certified in like us powerlifting. She's got a certification and I'm like next year when this is in a physical location. Yeah, I'm going to come and we are going to, we're going to lift heavy things together. So Kevin, you need to you're in the general area. You're closer than I am in

Kevin:

I'll make it somehow. Yeah. Yeah. That's true. I am close with.

Bekah:

we'll find a way

Kevin:

If you're going there, Bekah, I have no excuse. Yeah.

Bekah:

Okay. So you said that you were doing coaching. You've kind of like always been doing this coaching thing. And so at some point it became more. Something that you really embraced and decided to take on and share with other people. And I feel like that could be a really scary decision to make. Was it just something that just came naturally? Or did you think that well, you know, I've, I've been doing this, I might as well do it in a more formalized way and then just.

Kevin:

yeah. Reflecting back on it and feeling the emotions. Right. It's anytime I do anything new, it's always a little bit of scary, right? Like I'm not someone who is very risk adverse. Let me say it that way. Um, I, I tend to stop and think about it for 10 hours before even picking up a pen and kind of that kind of thing. Um, it's not good, but I'm on it. But part of me is always been a little entrepreneurial. Like I said, like I always knew I was going to do something on my own. Um, I got to go and just say, it's probably just because of the surroundings, the people I was around, seeing people who are much more brilliant than me, much smarter, like this is how they create their own happiness and wealth, right? Like I'll, I'll say it. I love money. So they create their own wealth and their own happiness and their own freedom and, you know, creating their own business. Um, so coaching definitely came in through rice surroundings. My mentors, I am a. Results in product of a bunch of mentoring and books and experiences and conferences and all of these workshops, right? I've, I've spent a lot on, you know, investing in myself, which has given me the ability to say, you know what? I've seen all these other people do it. A lot of my idols, people I respect in the community are doing it this way. Um, I'm going to try it myself and it again, it's it was scary, but when you really break it down, it's, it's, it's. The steps are simple, right? To start your own website, get your own first few clients. And all of that, like, you know, create a structure, create a program it's simple. Right? We could write it right now in like one or two minutes. The execution is always the scary part. Right. Things. Getting a job can be simple. The steps doing it are not easy sometimes though. Right. So, uh, Going through the step of, you know, deciding I'm going to create my own, you know, I was already consulting doing my own, like little private, you know, website consulting. So coaching wasn't too far off. Um, but there was a little bit of. Uh, yeah, look, let me say it this way. I still get imposter syndrome to this day, right? Can I go out there and start my own coaching program? Right? Like, can I messaged this person and convinced this person I'm good enough? Right. Like it still happens to me. I think I call it your associate path if you don't get a little bit of it. So I think you have to have a little bit of it because it's, and that's the good thing, right? I know I'm going in the right direction. Let me say it that right. I know in the ceilings coming, it's something I should be. Um, or I should try to challenge myself as kind of thing. Um, and that's just the whole mindset behind it right now. You're reframing imposter syndrome. I'm getting it. This is okay. I should be getting this and now I should continue on kind of thing. And that's what, getting your reps and feels like.

Bekah:

Yeah. Yeah. It's a lot of pursuing what scares you,

Kevin:

Yeah.

Bekah:

which is hard, especially if you don't have a good support system or community around it. Um, so I, I'm kind of taking this and a little bit of a different direction, but you've got all this experience working with a lot of different people. You've talked about taking interviews and trying different things out. So if, if you looked at tech right now and you saw what the interview process looked like, and you could totally reset. And from here on out, everybody would just follow Kevin's way. What does Kevin's way of interviewing look like?

Kevin:

On the interviewee side, like if I'm trying to get a job.

Dan:

No from the interviewer, like if you're.

Kevin:

Okay.

Dan:

The, the process of, you know, the tech, the tech interview process is like feels kind of messed up to a lot of people. I think. So, you know, you probably have unique perspective having seen both your own and, uh, you know, your mentees, um, you know, going through the process. So what, what can we do to fix it?

Kevin:

This is an interesting question. When think about it and ideas are going to flow to me as I'm talking, I have some ideas, so, um, With the idea of remote being very, very important nowadays. I think everyone's got to kind of learn a little bit better, be better on camera, right? Sadly, Zoom's kind of the way I don't love it to love or hate. I love working remote, but at the same time, I think I don't want to fully embrace a world where we always have to stare at a camera. Um, but as an interviewer, I want to make sure that person's comfortable. Communicating on camera as well. Right? So to be able to convey ideas in this challenging times of how well can you work remotely kind of thing. Um, I like the idea of structured interviews. As in, if we had a thousand applicants, every single thousand, these applicants would be asked the exact same questions. Um, because I think the idea and shout out to Test Double, right? They did this during my interview. Um, one of the comms that did this to me was Test Double. They, you get to talk, you know, as much as you want and you have very structured rubric of what you've, what, like what we're looking for kind of thing. Right? Because otherwise, if you have. Um, what was it? King of the hill. They had two football fans, right. Talking, right. Like if they hit it off talking about football, ideally like that person isn't might not be the best fit, but because they kicked off so well, like that person got the check mark kind of thing, and that's very subjective. So I think we kind of have to have these metrics, like very standardized questions where everyone gets asked. Um, other ideas, let's see, um, you know, we're seeing this big movement of almost anonymous applications of like, you don't see the age of race, the gender of anything kind of thing. Um, that is something I think phase one needs to have. I think there's almost this screen that doesn't show does this person look like me? Does this person have the same background as me? Um, in order to pass the test kind of thing. Um, I think that's super important as part of phase one of

Bekah:

to pause for one second there. I know, like I put you on the spot with this question, but I want to push back a little bit. Um, so I like one of the things that, that I think about. I don't have my mind made up about this. Right? Like I think that it's very interesting to have this idea of like blind resume reviews, but at the same time, there comes a certain privilege with what gets put on a resume. You know, so for people who haven't had the same privileges who have not had the same advantages of people that are growing up with, you know, parents who have connections or who have money than somebody who has worked really hard to get where they are. W maybe may, and maybe there's a different way to address this on a resume that I'm just totally missing, but I could see their resumes being, not at the top of the pile, just because they haven't had the same opportunities. And I don't really, you know, I don't mean to put you on the spot here, but I just wonder if there's ways to capture that in. To allow you to move forward and processes that, that haven't done a really good job of taking that into consideration.

Kevin:

And here's the response I could get out with that, right? It's not just resumes in stage one, by the way, I'm going to make that clear. Right. Um, there are not even a cover letter, but just certain questions that they can tell can this burden, does this person have good written communication as well? One interview I did last year. I think school is 15 individual questions. It was a great company, 15 individual questions, like, you know, typing out almost a paragraph. Each I got through that interview based on just those written things. Right? Like, cause again, kind of revisiting back on the idea of, of remote work. Like, can you communicate well through written? Like, can you convey your idea of how this code works through just slack messages kind of thing. Um, so on top of the resume, And I'm actually not a fan of resumes. Let me say it that way. Like I don't put, I think people put way too much weight on a resume. It is very true. Recruiters really do only spend five to 10 seconds looking at them. I've asked this amongst dozens of people and it is very true. Um, so with digital, if you're like just lacking that experience, um, or not putting it in the right spot, that's eye appealing. Right? It's a big thing that I always do all too. Um, it does suck that unfortunately you're gonna have to. Put out, thrown out kind of thing. Um, ideally people would use that in tandem with certain questions that can kind of, again, going back to the replay, this person touched on this idea, this person mentioned his or her experience in this world. Right. And that kind of ticks them off to the next phase kind of thing. Um, it's a very tough question. Cause I I've asked, I've been thinking about this a lot before and it works for some organizations where they do have the resources. Let's just say a hundred applicants, if not thousands of applicants and can kind of do it, unfortunately kind of world, we live in where it's super busy. Right. We have to have these certain it's the same way I feel about standardized tests, right? Like people, you have to take the sat or act kind of thing, but what, is there a better way to do it that doesn't, that can scale. Sadly. I don't think there's too many good solutions out there that would scale, but that's kind of the world we live in. I'm not embracing it. I'm not saying I, I kind of say screw that and don't get your job through the application process anyway. But, um, giving, like you have to get the application process, uh, Yeah, well, ideally it's not just your resume. It's your answering some certain questions. Then you move on to some sort of 20 minutes. Let's get to know you kind of co phone call kind of thing. And again, depending on the rule, like, is communication vital, like in an agency where you're consulting with your clients? Well, can you pass these markers or is it okay that you're just working with your team of eight people developers and you're good enough to work with just these eight kind of thing. Those are kind of things that I would kind of look for. Really drawn out nuts. Pretty vague answer. I'm giving so far.

Bekah:

Well, he has a a hard I'm like, Hey, redo all the interview process right here. Right now in five minutes. Go.

Kevin:

I will say I will share one that has worked pretty well with me. Um, again, I'm just experimenting. Let's see what works. If I, I throw in a video application, so I would actually record a. I'm using a tool called Loom, just record a two minute video and I see you nod your head. Like I love Loom. I use it all the time. They just lower down the free tier though. So I've got to go bump it up, but, um, I actually would record a Loom video and let it link whatever. And I would send it to people on the application. Like, Hey, by the way, like, if you want to see my video application, I record a one or two minute video explaining why like that, that little extra effort. Got me so many more results, like so many more like, Hey, loved your video. Like let's talk kind of thing. Let's set up an interview. Um, and this was back when I didn't have as much experience. Right. So I would just use Loom link it to like thekevintruong.com slash, company name, have that redirect to the Loom video. And while you're standing out one on the 99th percentile, like, no one's doing that. So you really sticking out kind of thing. And I'm not saying that's part of my ideal world because you gotta respect your time. So that's the videos take a long time.

Bekah:

I just, there was, um, there was a thread on Twitter, uh, and I'll link it in the show notes, but the Dustin McCaffrey was talking about working on Upwork and that's what he was doing. He was sending Looms to people and he had little experience, but he set his price to a hundred dollars an hour, but it was enough that I think he said the first job, he made $85 an hour, but he was pretty new and that's, uh, A pretty good hourly wage. And it all came because there was this personalized, I think it was personalized, but this loom message and it was something that differentiated him and built instant credibility with the people who were viewing it, which is, you know, I think like taking risks and chances like that. And kind of what you're talking about can be the thing that separates you from everyone. Yeah.

Kevin:

That's really fantastic. Thanks for sharing that. Because again, it kind of proves it's not just, it works for me. It works for Upwork, which you're going at globally, competing against people. So to get a gig through that is fantastic.

Dan:

Well, we're kind of getting close to the end, I think, of our time. Um, so I'd love to the, I mean, the thing that stuck out to me most is the visualization step. You know, that you were talking about that idea. You have any other sort of general, large idea chunks of advice for people? Um, starting out the, you know, starting out the interview, I guess in the interview process, you know, in any way.

Kevin:

Yeah. Um, on the idea of a visualization and in mindset, that stuff is just, again, module zero for me. It's the stuff that's going to differentiate you more than most people, right? Like you can't just get hit once knocked down and he called it quits kind of thing. Um, another trick of that I've learned through someone else during if you're feeling this anxiety during, um, during interviews or before an interview, right? Imagine being hugged by your most favorite person in the world, right. That Wharf that just kind of comes over you again, it gets really Louie kind of like this weird world that people like that. So BS, once you try it, right, it's the whole. Um, you know, power pose or like just standing out of your arms over your head and giant grinning smile. Right. You can't help but feel great. Right. So before I would go into interviews, I would go in hype myself, up in the bathroom, doing these little traits before this podcast, I was going to getting sure I wasn't like a hot mess, which I'm sure I am, but, um, let's see. Other, other tricks or general advice. The big concept I love to teach is that job getting a job interview or getting your tech job can be a lot of fun. There's a wrong way to do it, which is what I see. Maybe 67% of people doing it. They play it as a numbers game, which is like, I have to apply to 20 jobs by the end of the week. I'm like, that's so silly, right? Like how about you applies to just three jobs and give it your best effort on each of those three, because you're going to get a lot further than just doing. Blanketed application process, which I see a lot of people do. They don't, you know, they use the same resume. They use the same cover letter. They kind of just copy and paste things, which is fine. You've got to do that eventually, but I always tell people if given one week and you had the option between spending five hours applying to 10 jobs or five hours applying to two jobs, I'd always pick the two jobs. And that may not sound like a lot. It does. It is a lot of time for some people. You know, apply for the job, find networks around to find connections, go on LinkedIn message people say, Hey, I just applied for this job. Like, let me know like what your thoughts are kind of thing. And just having those fun conversations. And that's what I mean by getting the job interview can be fun. Right? I've done it before. I've enjoyed the process. I've enjoyed meeting random people. I've enjoyed just walking out, not caring if I got the job or not. And that's the great mentality when you're not tied to the idea of. Man, this is my last hope. If I don't get this job, I don't know what I'm going to do. Right. Like remove all of that. Just say, you know what it wasn't meant to be. Let's move on to the next adventure adventure experience. Right. Because I'm sure you'll too can, can, can attest to this is that all these little experiences have built you up to who you are too. And those were necessary, right? There was a lot of graded experiences, a lot of not so great ones, but they made you who you are today and embracing that it's kind of very stoic stoicism kind of like approach to it. You've got to go through the, through those challenges in order to come out and by framing it as a fun challenge, framing it as, oh, well, let's see what happens. Right. You can make it a lot of fun. It doesn't have to be a dreadful process. You can really get a lot out of it and, and see, not yourself just grow in your tech career, but also just personal development wise. Um, you'd be a lot happier, not getting eight rejection letters, only getting two, but then like, Hey, how can I learn and improve on those two verses got another one hit delete and just kind of move on, right. Stop, reflect on it. What can we do improve that process? Um, so I think that's probably my next biggest point, right. The way you're applying for jobs can be really fun and enjoyable so you can choose the painful way, or you can choose a way that you're going to grow guaranteed. I guarantee if you follow certain steps, you will become a better person on the end. You may not get a job, but you will be ready for the next one. I guarantee it.

Bekah:

I love that. I love that idea of it's personal growth. Right. That's excellent. So thank you so much, Kevin, for sharing all of this with us, there's so many great things that, that practical tips and advice and things that people can go through. So, um, we really appreciate you sharing this with us here today.

Kevin:

And I thank y'all too. Thank you so much for having me really appreciate it. I had a good time.

Dan:

Thanks, Kevin.

Bekah:

Bye.

Kevin:

right. Bye-bye.

Bekah:

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 VirtualCoffeeIO, or you can email us at podcast@virtualcoffee.io. You can find the show notes, plus you can sign up for our newsletter to find out what Virtual Coffee's been up to on our website at virtualcoffee.io.

Dan:

Please subscribe to our podcast and be sure to leave us a review. Thanks for listening. And we'll see you next week.


The Virtual Coffee Podcast is produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel and edited by Dan Ott.