Jessi Shakarian - You aren't your tech stack: sharing your passion

Season 4, Episode 1 | October 5, 2021

In today's episode, Dan and Bekah talk to Jessi Shakarian about her journey into UX/UI and how that lead to the big energy she needed to find her place in tech.


Jessi Shakarian's profile photo
Jessi Shakarian

Jessi Shakarian got her start in tech as a developer, but also she loved everything that happened before it was time to build a website. She is currently a UX designer at DIA Design Guild in Los Angeles and a python developer interested in machine learning.

Show Notes:

We welcome Jessi Shakarian to the show today to talk about her journey into UX/UI!

Jessi talks about how passion can be your motivation, and how valuable it is to be able to share what you're excited about: you aren't your tech stack. Sometimes finding that passion can lead you to new and interesting places like Jessi's change in focus from web dev to design.


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Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello, and welcome to season four, episode one of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. We're so excited to be back here for season four. I am 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, we're here to share it with you. Here with me today is my cohost Dan.

Dan:

Um, yeah, this is going to be a great season. Uh, we have a bunch of really good guests lined up. They're all Virtual Coffee members. We're going to hear about entrepreneur entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship. That doesn't sound right. How do you say that word? Entrepreneurship,

Bekah:

Entre entrepreneurship

Dan:

entrepreneurship.

Bekah:

also say Reeses and that's not right either.

Dan:

Uh, we're going to hear about building businesses, machine learning, uh, accessibility, you know, civic tech, um, and, and just a lot of people's journeys and thoughts on, on all this stuff. And it's going to be a great season. Um, in general, if you'd like to learn more about Virtual Coffee, um, or if you'd like to, to support us via sponsorship, you can find out more, you can find out really everything you need to know on VirtualCoffee.io. Um, we have now. A lot of good resources about joining the Virtual Coffee about, um, you know, what we do there, and you can subscribe to our newsletter. You can subscribe to our podcast, you can get to our Twitter, um, all of that stuff on Virtual Coffee.io. Um, today we're starting off season four with Jessi Shakarian and, um, we had a really great conversation with her. Um, Jessi has had. A really interesting journey. Um, and she does, she does UX and UI design with, which is a user experience and user interface, um, design and development, and, um, is a really great conversation. She talks about how, um, she has, she has different passions. Directly, or at least originally weren't directly related to work, but how, if you're passionate about something and you mix it into your career path, that actually can be a really know, a really successful way to,

Bekah:

cool way to be able to bring energy to what you're doing for work, right? Like your work does not have to be your energy, but you can bring energy into your work. And I thought that was a really fun way to think about it because I haven't, I haven't heard it talked about in that way.

Dan:

Yeah, exactly. Um, she has a very unique story and, um, a unique perspective on, on her career. And I think on, in the dev world in general. So, um, it was just a really great conversation.

Bekah:

Yeah. And I think that the rest of our episodes will bring something for everyone. And we're very happy to be back for season four. So thanks for listening. 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 what is your favorite magical or mythological animal? We hope you enjoy this episode. Hi, I'm Bekah. I am a front end developer from a small town in Ohio. And my favorite magical or mythological animal is I can't remember anything. I would like to say unicorn, but I am not convinced that there's no such thing as unicorns. Um, so Pegasus is Pegasus a unicorn that flies. Cause I feel

Dan:

I don't think a Pegasus is a unicorn. I think it's just a horse that flies.

Bekah:

my favorite mythological animal is unicorn Pegasus. That's it.

Dan:

I'm sure there's a name for that somewhere. I'm sure somebody has written a name anyway. Hi, I'm Dan. I am a front end developer in Cleveland and, um, Hm. Yeah, I don't have a good answer for this. I did like, um, I like the Griffins. Is that, um, is that the one in Harry Potter with the it's like a bird with,

Bekah:

Gryffendor

Dan:

um,

Bekah:

isn't it is that who

Dan:

No, no, no. Like the birds, they it's like a lion, you know, body and a bird head and it has wings. I don't know. I think that's what it is. Uh, you know, they, they like rescue it, you know, it's like it like attacks somebody and all that stuff. Anyway. Um, I used to play Magic The Gathering back in the day and there was, uh, there was a whole, like, there's a bunch of them in there. You know, I had likea whole... I was like them. They're cool. So that's, that's gonna be one answer, assuming that I pick the right name Griffin. I think that, I think that's it.

Jessi:

Hi, I'm Jessi. I'm a UX designer in Los Angeles. And let's see. Hmm. I feel like I'm going to go with Pegasus just because pegasus was always my favorite. Like, I don't know. I don't know if you guys remember the, the Hercules movie, the Disney one and pegasus was just the best. I just loved him.

Dan:

I actually have not ever watched it. I tried watching it. With my kids, because I want to, you know, like, uh, and they were, Ben was not that interested in it at the time. So I'm going to give it a shot again. Cause I was enjoying it. You know, it's like one of those, you know, you got four or five-year-old and uh, it's like, we're here mess with whether they'll actually pay attention to something that, that is good. But I'm glad that you said that's good. Cause I'm not trying to swing back to that movie again. I have this whole list of movies that like, I want him to watch so that I can watch.

Bekah:

It's got a solid soundtrack. I remember watching it when I babysat in high school and I still remember a lot of the soundtrack.

Jessi:

It's really. Yeah. And there's a lot of like, it's, it's funny for adults too. Cause I recently rewatched it maybe a year ago and I was like, Oh, this movie's still hilarious. It's still, there's a reason why it's still at the top of my, one of my favorites, Disney movies.

Dan:

awesome. Um, okay. I looked it up. Uh, it's an Alicorn.

Bekah:

Yes, I looked it up too, or Uni peg or a Pegacorn.

Dan:

I also unipeg is really awful. Yeah. That's, that's a really bad one. Um, UniPegasus is a very unimaginative one. That's showing up here too.

Bekah:

Yeah,

Dan:

I think Alicorn is the right. I think that's, I like that I think

Bekah:

it needs its own name. Cause these are really Pegasus is like very good name. It sounds excellent. But all of these sound?

Dan:

Unipeg All right, Unipeg that's Bekah's favorite animal.

Bekah:

Yup.

Jessi:

You heard it here first, first?

Dan:

That's right.

Bekah:

Oh, Jessi. Thank you so much for being here with us today. Uh, we always love to get started with your origin story. So where have you been and how did you get to this point in your career?

Jessi:

Um, it's I have a very non-traditional path into, into tech, um, prior to. The pandemic. I was going back to school to be a medical lab tech and, and endemic cabin. And I moved home and I needed to start over. So I took a career assessment to see what else I could do. And, um, I got a 100% match with programming, which was super weird. And I was like, programming. Like, I don't know. Okay. Let's try it because I don't have anything else going on. So I started teaching myself how to code and, uh, by the end of 2020, I was freelancing. Um, I just, basically, it was like HTML, CSS and JavaScript and took some freelancing jobs and pretty quickly realized that I loved everything that happened before it was time to code. And So that's when I sort of switched gears into, into UX, but I still continue to use all my development stuff as well. Yeah, that's kind of how I ended up here.

Bekah:

So Prior to taking that assessment, what was your experience with tech and computers?

Jessi:

None. All I knew about tech is that people code like were coders and that was it.

Bekah:

that's awesome

Dan:

So, did your experience match your, you know, your, uh, your perspective, your pre coding perspective?

Jessi:

It totally blew it away, honestly, because I was like, oh my God, there's a whole world. And then I pretty soon realized that like, oh, every company is a tech company now. So that's really like a game changer and it's up to you, what you want to make of it. And I've never seen an industry like that before.

Bekah:

That is such a good point. I love that. And I also came from a very non-technical background. I was maybe the most technical English teacher. So I taught people about presentations in integrating technology, into the classroom and nothing to do with coding. And so it was a, there there's a real. I think different perspective almost if you don't have that background, because there's a lot of assumptions in what people say about technology. Even now that sometimes I have to ask, like, like, I would love to know, know what you are talking about, but I don't have that experience with that. And so there's a lot of different conversations, but good conversations. I think that happened as a result of that. Okay, so now you did this pivot into UX UI. I think it's a pivot, but maybe you don't. So I'll let you talk about that for a second. I think that when you first started coming to Virtual Coffee is when I started to hear you talk more about that. So what got you interested in that aspect of things and actually, could you define UX and UI first?

Jessi:

Uh, sure. So, so UX is like the organization of the site. So which pages go, where and where does the content go? That it makes sense. What's the research on like, who uses this website? The UI? is more like, where does the button go? How does, um, particular components work? Like there's still visual components in UX, but also like how those visual components actually work. For the user, I guess would probably be, um, a way to describe it actually like it's one of those things, the UX versus UI, like comes up all the time in like UX circles and it's, it's very like, it's very interesting. Um, so yeah, I actually started in Virtual Coffee around the holidays last year, and then now I'm still doing dev stuff and like, You know, this community is so great. And then I started falling out of love with like JavaScript pretty quickly. 'Cause I was like, I don't know about this stuff like programming, that that career assessment was wrong basically. And then spent quite a bit of time, basically kinda networked my way into an apprenticeship at a design agency, like local to me and. And then, so once I started kind of getting in the groove with that, I was like, man, like I should come back to Virtual Coffee. Cause it was really fun, but then it wasn't sure it was like, but there's so many devs and not too many like UX people. So would it still be okay. And that's what I kind of started, like messaging you bekah of like, can I come back you're like, duh. Yes.

Bekah:

That's not what I said for the record.

Jessi:

Okay. I put, I put an LA twist on that.

Dan:

That's really interesting though. And that like the separation between that is, is, like you said, it's like really blurry. And even between development, you know, I would say that, um, anybody who's developing is probably is like making some UX decisions. So UX is like user experience. Right. And, and making some decisions whether or not, you know, so depends on the project, I suppose, uh, what, how much is dictated right to the developer. Um, but even at the lowest level, you're, you're still affecting, you know, somebody's going to use the thing that you're making. Right. Um, and so when you're coding, you know, you have, uh, an idea of what the experience is going to be for the user and what the interface, right. So UI is user interface or what the interface is going to look like. And, um, last times when you're coding, then you get stuck into, okay, I know what I want this thing to do. You know, and it's like, then it, you know, it can be hard to actually get it to do it or whatever that is the part maybe that you I'm putting words in your mouth, but like that you didn't enjoy as much, but like actually laying out the experience for a user and like how things should happen and you know, what, what people should see, stuff like that is what you, uh, were more interested in. Is that right?

Jessi:

I guess it was more like, um, okay, so. So, like I had a freelance project where I worked like end to end. And so I, I, I, in my twenties I wrote a lot. So I, I spent, I spent upselled a little bit and was like, oh, we can write some copies, you know, do some content strategy work. And so we started from beginning to end and, um, it was more like, oh, like, how do I, I don't understand a website, right? Or an app or whatever. And how do, how do i cat-- almost categorize and it gets very like nerdy, right? Like, you know, what is the hierarchy? Like? What's the most important thing. What's less of a priority. Um, and things like that. And that helps me sort of understand the whole picture. And that's when I was like, oh, this is really interesting. And so I thought that I was like, yeah, okay. Like UX all in. And then I was like, but. Yeah. right. Like you talked about like, it's like, it's like an onion and the layers of like, okay, there's UX, but then you go deeper than that and the UX needs to be coded, but then the visual design needs to play a part just as important. And is the, is the context, correct? Like in your, in your content strategy, like there's so many components that I feel like I never left coding in some ways, because I'm always still thinking about it. How does, how do you implement a design change on a, on a coding level, right? Can you implement that, you know, legacy code and all sorts of things, you know, if you don't have the source code than what you know. And so the skills I learned as a coder still helped me in my work today because. I'm now have a more holistic approach to design. Like if I, I can see if, if, if a client said, oh, I really like this on a website, but I can tell like, oh, is that JavaScript? Or, oh, I think that might be React. And so research that, you know, and so it still provides so much, so much value and the skills that I learned, the analytical skills problem-solving skills and on a coding level, like I've never. anything quite like that before, if that makes sense, like, it's been invaluable.

Dan:

Yeah, that's awesome. I can see how that, uh, the experience would be really helpful. Maybe even crucial to somebody who's going to be, um, making high level UX decisions, you know, uh, for, especially for websites and stuff, because like you said, there's, there's so many things that go into all of those decisions, you know, and if you only have one piece of the puzzle in your mind, Well, you'll be limited, I suppose. Uh, you know, about the decisions you can make and things like that. I think that's really cool. Um, can you talk, you said you, you got an apprenticeship, um, with a studio and could you talk a little bit about that experience? Um, now I'm asking more like from not coding or not the like UX, like what you're actually doing, but like how the, how did the apprenticeship like thing work? Because I haven't talked to very many people. Who've actually gone through a formal apprenticeship and I'm very interested. about that, just kind of talk about.

Jessi:

Yeah. So are you, um, there's a local, I have a local UX group and, um, so one of the people who run that UX group, um, they have a design agency. And so, um, I sort of networked my way into that local group of, of, I was looking for a UX job and there was a recruiter and he was like, oh, Hey, you live in our area. You should join our group. And I was like, oh cool. I had no idea. There was a us group here. And so, you know, as I was hanging out on that group, you know, it was like on discord. And I was looking up, you know, on LinkedIn trying to find some stuff about like, who does these different parts of UX? And I ended up seeing one of the people in our group, but I was like, oh my God, Hey, that's that's her. And so I messaged her and was like, Hey, you know, I, I saw that you do some UX stuff. Like that's really interesting. And so she was like, Hey, you know, I, I, I run the design agency and we have this apprenticeship program. Um, and so why don't you fill out an application? Um, then I got in and, um, yeah, so I did about six months of apprenticeship where we worked on different projects. So some were personal projects. For anybody who doesn't know, like I'm now obsessed with chess because of Queen's Gambit. And so that was one project. And then I had some other things like the information architecture conference, which I worked on, um, last year and now I'm back on this year. And so I learned, uh, I gained a lot of skills by being an apprentice and working on these projects and, and sort of getting like a, a hand, like a more real world experience about how to do UX. Sort of brought in like my coding experience because my boss is not a coder, so she'd be like, oh, so wait, what do you think about ghost? You know, and I, I want to move all my stuff to ghost see that. So then we talk about that and then, you know, so, so yeah, and then my apprenticeship was six months. So this was January when I started. And then by June I was done like officially, like, you know, promoted to a UX designer. And then by July, uh, we got a contract. That was just a good fit for me. So, um, I started that and that was more about like incorporating some machine learning aspects and I had already been learning Python. Um, and so, yeah, that's basically been, been my, my journey, of my apprenticeship. And now I have two about to be two practices of my own as, as they are starting. Um, there are journeys into UX, so that's true.

Dan:

that's very cool. Yeah. Um,

Bekah:

that was kind of what you needed because it sounds like before, when you were doing web dev kind of stuff, it was, it wasn't a good fit. And then that changed seems like it was what you needed to kind of, you know, get you excited about what you were doing.

Jessi:

Yeah. You know, that's the funny thing is the chess stuff is what brought me back to coding because like they, the. Chess engines and like the bots and things they're, they're very good at particular things, but there's a lot of like usability things that I really have a problem with. And so I was like, okay, I'm going to learn to code again, specifically to deal with this. And I need to use Python and, you know, some understand some components of machine learning to do that. And so that was. I was really nervous about it, but, um, it ended up being really fun. And partly because I already had the experience of Java, so maybe jumped ship. Wasn't my bag, like my best choice of their first language, but it helps so much learning Python because I already had the, like those fundamental skills. And so. That was really great because I was like, oh, this coding is really fun. So it became like another piece. Right. And then I'm like, okay, so we got the UX stuff. We were doing coding somewhere, coding stuff, like, okay, cool. So I can kind of sit with this and this feels good. Right. It's just, it's just about like, what's the language that's going to click with you. And that is something that I did not understand when I first started. Cause I, I really did did not like JavaScript. It was, it was just stress me out so much. But I'll turn it around back in Python. I'm like, oh, cool. It was awesome. Should have chosen Python first.

Bekah:

I think that investment that comes from when you're solving a problem, that you care about goes a really long way. And to allow me to become interested in what you're working on. I mean, for sure you could do projects that you're not interested in the con in the content or, or what you're working with, but I find like, it gets really exciting when you're like, I love this thing and I know I can make it better, right?

Jessi:

And it also becomes like, I know I can make it better, but also no one else is going to make it better. At least in the way that, you know, you will. So then it'd be kind of becomes like, I kind of have to do this. And that's what it felt like. I was like, okay, these chess engines have some usability components that I really, really don't like. And they're clearly made by programmers, like for. Um, chess players who play a lot and I'm a beginner. So this isn't really like beginner oriented. And that was my sort of initial quandary, right. Of like, okay, I have to, how do I fix this? Okay. I got to start, go back and learn Python. Okay. But Yeah, that, that really helps, like knowing you have something passionate about that you'd want to spend a hundred hours or whatever, working on it. Like it makes a big difference. When I started, I didn't know. Cause I was just kind of feeling around in the dirt going okay. Where do I start? A web dev. Okay. Let's start there. Okay.

Dan:

Yeah, I think, I think the. You know, there, there's, there's a bunch of different pieces obviously to, to learning, uh, especially when you're learning on your own like this and, you know, finding a language that you're comfortable in is part of it, for sure. But I imagine... what I've experienced myself and notice through other people, as, you know, having a project that you care about, like you're like you guys were just saying, um, goes such a long way, right? Because, because then it doesn't matter if like, it doesn't matter as much if the syntax is weird in whatever language you're using or whatever, because if you, you, you, you know, if you're excited about the project, then it's just like smooth everything out so much. But for me, at least, um, it seems like maybe for you to, um, the, the, like, I dunno, just the being in there, you know, like who cares, how many hours you're doing on it. You know what I mean? Like that sort of feeling when you get in that groove, it's really cool. It's very exciting.

Jessi:

Yeah, no, it is. And there's something really kind of fun about like, okay. So everybody, like in, in the UX world pretty much knows me as like the chess lady. And so there's something really fun about like how people know me that way. And I'm like, okay, so personal branding check done. Right. But also that it becomes like, well, if people get hooked on. You can't, you can't fake passion. Right. And that's, that's a driving force because things need to get done. And if you're passionate about it, then it will go a long way and everybody will notice it. And the other people who are I've found her, like, I don't know anything about chess, but like, it's really cool watching this journey. Right. And that just becomes really, really fun. And I'm like, oh, okay. So it's motivating, right? I'm not, I'm not, um, I'm not being boring or whatever, you know what I mean? Like, like, I guess it's social media, you know, if you don't want to follow somebody, you don't have to, but at the same time who, who it brings to you who gravitates to you? That also becomes really interesting because it's people I probably never would have thought to talk to or anything like that. If that makes sense.

Dan:

Absolutely. And it's, it's one of those things too, where since it's very clearly a, an organic thing for you, you know, um, everybody can tell that, you know, you can, everybody can tell you're, you're passionate as well, but it's. You mentioned personal branding and that's always, you know, uh, can be a weird place to be, but like the, um, I think leaning into something you're passionate about, like, this is it's, it's always a smart move, you know? And it's, I don't know, I kinda lost my point. I was going to say something about, um, He, you can tell when somebody wants to like, wants to make a personal brand, but they don't have a thing like that, you know, and therefore forcing it or whatever. Um, yeah. Right. And, um, I don't know. It's, it's, it's cool. And, and I think this is good advice for some, for other people, you know, it's finding something like that and, and finding ways to use it, to learn more or to spread your, you know, spread your networking or all of that stuff, all the stuff that you've been doing. It's very cool. And like chess has. Well, it just got, I don't know, popular, not popular is not the right word, but like, it just got some press, chess just got some press right. With the, uh, Queens gambit, you know, so I was like, people are kind of like More back into it again, you know, um, which is, which is always interesting to see too. Um, so I dunno. It's, it's very cool.

Jessi:

Yeah. And I will say that I remember talking to a hiring manager who said that he, they hired some developers who made a website about sandwiches. You know what I mean? Like okay. Like, That dude just loved sandwiches, but it worked because it showed on his, you know, on his portfolio. And so it's like, that's why I loved it. Like, like before I started playing chess, I thought it was boring. And you had to be like really smart to understand it. And I was just like, oh, I'm not that intelligent to do it. But really it's just about knowing what you're yeah like, what your passion is, but like, how do you use that for your strengths and your weaknesses? to show others, to show hiring managers, what you can do. It's just, it's just a vessel, right? It's and it should be the thing that you really love.

Bekah:

I think it's such great advice too, because we hear a lot of people say like, you have to be excited about tech. Uh, and I think that you can be excited about tech, but you can be excited about something else, and use tech to showcase that thing. And I think that that can be a really great approach because you're right. Like when you're excited about something and other people get excited around you, I don't know. It just creates this like amazing energy. And I just love that feeling of a really enjoyed this. And now. Full Bekah comes out like in those situations where I can be excited and passionate about something, we all talk about it together. And this like very unique way that doesn't happen when you're kind of feeling out the industry or the conversation or the group. You can kind of let that go a little bit and just be excited and allow everyone to be excited. In the conversation with you. And that just feels great. It feels productive, but it feels deep and deeper than things that I think we normally feel when we stick to things that, that, you know, maybe we don't really get excited about, or we feel like, well, we should be excited about this. So this is what we should talk about. You know, talk about what you want to talk about. And that's how you find that like really fun space.

Jessi:

Yeah, Yeah. I think I totally agree. Right? That's not about chasing the trends because the trends come and go. And to me, it was, it was the realization that like tech is so big. And so if you make it what you want, then you create the space that you wish you want to see. And other people will be pretty happy if, you know, there's always at least one person who was like, oh, Hey, you, you have just carved out the space of like building your own, like Magic, The Gathering database or cool. You know what, I didn't like that this other database doesn't have X, Y, and Z. Right. So it just. It's it's it's so framed. Right? You don't have to fit into any particular component. Like yeah. You could chase chase the cloud book for awhile. Like that's, that's a very superficial, um, and there's, it's definitely not about like, that's like the tech definitely comes second rather than first. Right? It's about making the thing that you want to see, and that, that could be the software. Which is great, but it could also be something else that everybody, any other, any like non-tech people can use too.

Dan:

Yeah, I love that. And like, even just further on this point, like, if you are super into something you don't have to, and you were kind of saying this too, but you don't have to make like the business decisions, you know, like it doesn't have to be some successful product that you're going to sell or something, you know, uh, necessarily right. The like sandwich website, probably isn't making a ton of money, but, but you know, the guy was into it and like had some fun and you know, was able to learn some stuff and probably helped him get a job and all that stuff, you know, it's it's, I don't know. It's cool. I, I do feel that sometimes people lean too hard on. What am I getting out of this? Or, or what am I like, what can I turn this into? Like you said, like the cloud or any, any of the profit or any of that stuff, you know? And when it's, when it's something you are just, when you, when it's something you just care about, like that it's, um, I don't know. The learning just comes naturally. I feel like the benefits come, come out of, out of that space.

Jessi:

Think, oh, sorry.

Dan:

No, I was done.

Jessi:

Um, I was actually just kind of thinking about how, like, you know, and there's a lot of people coming out of bootcamps and hiring managers start to see the same projects over and over. Right. So it's always like the todo app and, uh, astrology app and the, you know, tic-tac-toe like, so. How do you stand out. Right. And you have to be honest with yourself. Like what's something that I want to put in the timeline and, and, you know, be able to talk about with every hire, every interview, you know, and it should be something that shows that, that excitement, like it's great to have made a tic-tac-toe app or a, to do app, but at the same time, like what's a problem that we want to solve. That's going to help you stand out, especially for. When you're just trying to get your foot in the door. Right. And you have to, to really be memorable, but you have to just be yourself and you have to show that, you know, and that's, that can be hard for people.

Bekah:

I think that's such great advice in, I think that. That's that's something that you just really have to recognize and work on. Like it's okay to be different than other people. And I think even traditional schooling really pushes towards the sanitisation of who you are. Right. And like, well, what are your achievements? Right. And so for a lot of us, it's just ingrained in our mindset that the achievements are who we are. But that's not, it it's about, you know, the things that we enjoy, the things that we are passionate about and being able to share those things. And, you know, sometimes it requires vulnerability and sometimes it can be scary because you know, other people are out there and they're like, I, I built this great thing. And then, and then you play that comparison game. Like, well, I did, I as my thing as good as that, but I think that you're always winning if you are working towards something that you enjoy doing or that you're passionate about, and it doesn't have to be tech related. I was talking with a couple of members in the coworking room yesterday. W what, what, how would we like new members to introduce themselves? Right? Like what, when they introduced themselves in the welcome channel, what should we ask them? And what everybody said was what's something outside of tech that you enjoy, right. Those are the fun connections that you make. And I think it was Kirk. And he was like, well, you know, I saw somebody said they like fishing and then somebody else responded about the fishing. And now they're talking like all of this cool and fun stuff. And you know, if somebody came in, actually I could probably tell you all of the people who said, I like weightlifting, like, yes, me too. Right. But if, if you asked me to name all of the front end developers, I couldn't definitely couldn't do that. You know?

Jessi:

Yeah. Yeah, no. 'Cause we're people, right. We have multifaceted, you know, interests and, and that's what makes us unique. And so why shouldn't we show that this is how I am different, right. But for, for good, not in like a, not in a bad way or anything like that. You know? being different is good.

Bekah:

Right. And I think that if you find companies too, Enjoy that, or if they mentioned that, and that's a good indication, like, look, this person is interested in more than just my tech stack. They're interested in the person in front of them and that's a really good place to start.

Jessi:

Absolutely.

Dan:

I was man. I had something to say before and now it's totally gone. It was about, yeah, it was a total different topic. So if we, uh, I didn't want to, that's why, you know, it was

Bekah:

Go for it.

Dan:

all right. What I was going to ask was, oh, kind of going back to circling all the way back to sort of toward the beginning of the conversation, but w we were talking about, um, you're working and what you're doing now, and so are you, you're on your own freelance now?

Jessi:

Um, so I'm doing, uh, wrapping up a, uh, contract project for our agency, but, um, Yeah, so generally I'm, I'm pretty much freelancing otherwise.

Dan:

Yeah, this is what made me, this is how it got here. It was was, we were talking about. That's being yourself and, you know, companies hiring you and stuff like that. And I've been, I've been independent, you know, for my entire career. So it's like, one of the benefits of, of that is, um, for me, is being able to be myself a lot more, you know? And I was wondering if that, if that like, had enter in your, your thought process about, um, instead of, you know, like doing contract work and stuff like that, as opposed to trying to get hired or excuse me,um maybe, you're trying to get hired. I'm not, I'm not sure, but like, if you've decided to stay on the contracting route, you know, um, whether any of that sort of thought went into your went into your decision making process.

Jessi:

Yeah, it did. I mean, um, I mean, I'm interested in, in contract work. I, I'm still kind of, I think I'll be almost a full year of contracting or general freelancing. So, um, this has been a really different experiences from going from like, pre-tech like just having like a regular stable job. Um, and I think some part of it is like the freedom of contract work and I can pick and choose what jobs um, I'm excited about. And that that's really freeing, even though it's more. Puts you more in free fall if a job ends too early or they don't pick you up for the next round and things like that. But I do find it more rewarding to be able to pick what I want to work on. Um, and that, that I think is also a part of it of just accepting that this is who I am. And I kind of have a bit of an entrepreneurial bug in like, kind of just have to accept that because, you know, I don't know how, how much like. Full-time like, uh, you know, regular stable job would fit my, my, uh, like personality, I guess. Um, and that, that becomes really fun when people are like, oh, Hey, you know, I have this thing. And I think he'd be really perfect to like, work on this. And then it's like, yeah. Okay. Like you thought I would be a good fit, you know, instead of having to me having to. you know, argue for why I think I would be a good fit in a company elsewhere. Um, you know, so that, that really becomes really energizing because I'm now accepting myself for my strengths and weaknesses career-wise um, then that was something I always felt like I had to find a stable job and just do the nine to five kind of grind, but also just accepting that, like, maybe that's not the right fit for me because it's, it's quite taxing and, you know, things like that. So. It's much more fun to be working in like quote-unquote sprinting times of contract work, if you break contract work, but, you know, we, I like to dig deep, so that works really well for me. Um, and so, yeah, that's, I think it's really exciting to be like, you know what, this is much better for me. It's not necessarily the status quo and it's not quite as, um, you know, what's the word I'm looking for... Like it's not as. It's not in the norm. You know what I

Dan:

I was going to say normal.

Jessi:

it's not the norm, but it's, it's okay to accept that that's not just not gonna work as well. That might change. And that's the thing, right. I might say right now, this isn't it. But six months from now, I might be like, uh, you know what, I'm tired of writing all those proposals and then getting rejected or not hearing from them for three months or whatever, you know, I just want to clock in, clock out. Or a year from now, five years from now, whatever. So that's also okay too. And then maybe one day you want to come back to freelancing

Bekah:

That's a good that's such mindset.

Jessi:

It's always about like, having things open. Right. And just seeing where things go. That's always kind of been the thing with tech for me is like, okay, I'll just see what happens. 100% massive programming, I guess I'll try it. What's the worst that can happen. Right. I don't like it.

Dan:

I love that. I love the, I love the way you said all of that. Um, it, it lines up a lot with the way that I fell too. Um, and I just, I just appreciated that the, um, uh, man, my brain is fried today. The, uh, yeah, the, the freedom and the like the, the ability to be more individual I think is, is one of those things. I've suggested freelancing to people before. And they've like laughed at me or scoffed at me or whatever, not laughed at me, but you know, like laughed at the idea. And, um, it's nice to hear, to hear somebody like you that has been successful and enjoys it. And, you know, has the like, sort of open-mindedness about it as well. You know, it's, it seems like a healthy, a healthy mindset about the whole thing, um, too.

Bekah:

I, um, I, as soon as they, when I was in bootcamp before I was. Um, maybe like in my last three months, so it took me about a year. I went to this talk with a founder of an organization and I said, you know, I think I would really like to freelance. I'm a mom. I like the flexible schedule and, you know, to, to not be working 40 hours a week. And his response to me was don't sell yourself short and I'm like, Hmm. I don't know that that's accurate. Like, I don't think I'm selling myself short. I didn't say that. I thought that I couldn't do the work. I said, this is what I'm looking for. And there were so many people who said you won't be able to find a job coming out of bootcamp as it as a freelancer and I did. You know, very quickly. And so it is, I mean, a lot of it's about putting yourself out there, but it's been for me a great experience. And Jessi one of the things that you said about, I'm trying to think of the exact words, but I can't, I can't right now, something about, you know, I think you would be great for this position. Right? And so I've interviewed for full-time work and I've interviewed, or had conversations for contract work. And like one of the things I like about contract. So far, most of them have started because of conversations. It's not been this huge interview process where I feel like I need to prove myself, like you were saying of do, do you think that I'm good enough No, like there's already an established understanding and it's come through networking that like, this would be a good fit. Now let's continue this conversation. Right. And that's been. Huge. And, and one of the reasons why I continue to prefer that work because the anxiety that comes with not only the interview process, but all of the. All the stuff that doesn't make sense to me, I get like super frustrated, like, why are we even doing this? Like, there's not a point in, in doing this portion of the interview or doing this portion of the application. And that inefficiency just for me, sends off like these red flags in my brain where my brain is like, Nope, not going to do this. You know? And so it was nice to just be able to work together with people who are focused on. I'm doing that, like working together and enjoying each other presence, you know?

Jessi:

Yeah, no, I absolutely agree. I think that the interesting thing about, um, like the contract job I'm on right now has been the, the internal team they've asked, how can we help you? And it's just like, Wow. That's the first time I think I've ever heard that, but that doesn't mean that doesn't mean that people don't do it, but in terms of like, I've, you know, done freelance work with other freelancers, and then we just kind of worked together, but to have the, to have an internal team be like, Hey, we want to help you because you're helping us. And, and that was really cool and really welcoming rather than. I guess the stress of being like the new person to the team and being like, oh my God, I have to catch up and do all this stuff. But no, I worked, I was completely separately from the internal team and I just do my thing and they just do their thing and we would come together when we need to, and we help each other, but then we still work separately. So that's the freedom, right? It's like, you know, I might not know everything. What they've done or like what they're working on as I continue to work. But at the same time, like there's a, it's like a different kind of camaraderie, I guess, even though it's short term.

Dan:

Yeah, that's really cool that that's, that's always an interesting interface as well as the freelance, especially with, with, um, Uh, a company that has developers, you know, um, so lots of times if you freelance, freelance, just to somebody who needs something, but doesn't have any capability, you know? Um, and then other times it's like you're doing now, you're helping out a team that has developers, you know, and th that's, uh, in my experience has been an interesting. Sort of thing to see how it, how it all works, you know? Um, so I mean, it sounds like you're in a really good spot, a really good position. Um, as far as communication and contracting and stuff, uh, with your current contract, um, that's really cool. Have you had any other, I mean, you don't need to say any like any bad experiences, but like has like, has that been the norm I suppose is my question, um, you know, with when you're, when you're dealing with other teams, um, or has it been any other interesting situations that have come up? Um,

Jessi:

Um, no, I mean, mostly this is actually my first, like really big, like, uh, Um, you know, enterprise tech company. So, um, everything I've done prior has been like really small, like small-time clients and, or like, uh, subcontracting work for other freelancers and just my freelance network, um, and things like that. So that's why I was like, oh, this is really cool. We get to come in, we get to help people out. Um, and then. If they want to keep working with us. That's great. If not, then that's okay. There's always other stuff to do. Um, and that was just kinda, kind of nice to see that you can get like a peek into a team and see, do I like them? Do I not like them? Do I like this company? Is that something I want to keep working on? Is that a company that I might want to go from contractor to, to being pulled in house? Like you have options and that's, that's really exciting. It's not just like, oh, I interviewed at this place, you know, five times and they finally, you know, want to do it, but the pay isn't as good. And I don't know what I'm about to walk into. You know what I mean? Like you already know at least a little bit.

Dan:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's a great point too. And that occurred like something that you just said, I was going to say, made me have a thought, which is a really ridiculous sentence, um, is, uh, contracting, you know, affords a company's flexibility to, right. So when you're hiring a contractor, I mean, contracts differ the setup, you know, lots of times it's there for a fixed date or whatever, either a fixed project or a fixed date, you know, but, but either way, it's like, uh, You get freedom of both sides, right? Cause you get the, the, the company does like, doesn't have to make a permanent decision. You know, if you're hiring somebody full-time the, the expectation would not be for just six months. You know what I mean? And so, uh, like, I dunno, I think that's another benefit that people maybe overlooked sometimes, um, is the benefit to the company. So you can try somebody out like that. Um, you know, you can think about hiring them or you can just, um, Keep them contracting, um, things like that. It's a cool way to have new people join your team or up, up with your team, uh, in certain situations, you know, uh, without having to set aside the budget for a whole new, you know, an entire employee, you know, it's cool.

Jessi:

You also get the chance to try some new stuff and like different industries. And that's always really cool. Cause you're like, oh. This one, I, I got some, you know, some experience like I, I, so I talked about a little bit how I worked. I was trying to go into medicine before pandemic, and this is like a medical company. So now I get to try putting my knowledge in a different way that I never ever would have thought about. And I'm like, do I like it? Do I not? You know, do I still think that this would be a good way to use the skills? Like the, like the non-traditional skills I already have in a more like traditional tech way. Um, you know, like that's, That's really cool. And I, I try to tell people like, oh, you guys should take, uh, like other devs who are just studying, like take freelancing work. And they're like, oh, no, like it's a scary to put yourself out there. And how do I figure out how much to charge or how do I do this? Honestly like your communication skills that you work on your project, like project management skills, um, those are all really good things to have. And when you do decide to like, try to go for an interview, you already have that skills and you can say, oh, I worked on this client with, you know, we did this, that and the other, and here's the limitations they had and things of that that's really valuable, especially if you're coming out of a bootcamp or something like it gives you experience that other graduates might not have.

Bekah:

Yeah, absolutely. I think you kind of what you've been talking about there, this idea of like getting energy and being excited to try different things is awesome. And I also love that, but there's maybe a fine line between. Trying new things and spreading yourself thin, especially when you're looking at lots of different potential projects, they do have any good tips or advice on like how to not do that.

Jessi:

I'm still learning how to do that. I, I am very much of the opinion of like, try everything. Cause then you'll find out what you likes and what you don't like. But at the same time, like when you over commit, that's really hard to remember, like, so I've been trying to like write this down, like, okay. I, I over committed by doing this, this and this. And I need to learn how to say no, but at the same time, you're learning how to say no in a way that helps give you depth in other places. So it's not that you're rejecting everything. It's like, you're, you're saying, okay, I really want to focus on these things. And I really want to, you know, take this freelancing job that will help maybe A, like, give me some better networking skills and B, you know, I can put this on my portfolio about this prod, this work project or something. Um, and this will, this will go farther than to say yes. And agree to the short term thing that maybe is more stress or, um, things like that.

Bekah:

I really love that. Especially this idea of writing down what you've done to get what I've done to get myself in this situation. Right. I feel like there's something that can allow me to analyze, okay, this is not the right decision for you right now. It's okay to put it off because you know, depth over breadth a lot of the times. And that can be really, really hard when it's right in front of you. And you think I might not have this opportunity again, but you know, like making it a deliberate part of your decision-making process is huge.

Jessi:

Yeah, And that's part of it for me was just kind of, um, understanding that like, okay, like when I first started in tech, right, it was good to like try everything because you know, this, this go to this webinar and go to this networking meeting and go to, um, you know, whatever. And then at a certain point I realized. I'm kind of already in tech and now I need to stop going to everything. Right. And then it became like, okay, but I don't have to accept everything that comes to me. I can say no. And I can, because then it would just sort of became like the serotonin boost of like, yes, I will sign up for this webinar. Yes, I will do this. Okay. I'll take that contract job. Right. But at a certain point, like I have to be honest about how much time I. And that was like really weird. It was like, oh right. I have like a finite amount of time and boundaries and you know, don't want to burn out. So, um, I should really like try to ignore the serotonin boost of saying yes to things and start focusing on the like longer term, um, thing, which is very difficult for me because it's really impulsive to be like, yes, I'll do that. Yes, I'll do that. You know? And so now I'm like, long-term what is, long-term I have to think about that now.

Bekah:

Yeah, I feel that.

Dan:

Yeah, for our listeners Bekah and I are both emphatically nodding was just talking. Um, it's. Yeah. It, and I'm, I'm glad you talked about that, Jesse, because it's. It can be hard. And that, that actually can be one of the hidden dangers of, um, being independent, you know, is, is that, uh, when you make your own decisions, you get to freedom, but then you get the, I suppose the danger of that too, you know? So it seems like, uh, it seems like you're doing a good job of kind of balancing everything though.

Jessi:

Thank you. I try my best. Right. And it's it's how you, how you avoid burnout? Cause burnout is prevalent everywhere, so like, like in tech, right. But you know, we talk about like, oh, you are a person, you have a life. Um, you know, life goes on and you are not your tech stack or your, you know, your job, your title. But especially hard when you freelance, right? Because you're like, oh, cool. So work hours start to blend together. And you know Yeah. Deadlines are deadlines and yeah. So I am, that's hard for me. That's just about where I am right now.

Dan:

Yeah. Yeah. Agreed.

Bekah:

Yeah, I think it's a, it's definitely a real challenge for all of us who are working through that. Especially like when we are doing things that we enjoy doing, it's really hard to stop doing something that you like doing. Uh, but there is something to be said for having boundaries for things. And like you said, you are not your tech stack. And I think that that's such a good point to me. Um, we're at about time now, but is there any bit of advice whether you'd give to the listeners or even to your past self to say like, okay, this is, this is how you bring the big energy or, or find that thing that will get you excited about moving forward.

Jessi:

I think it's mostly about being honest with yourself. If, if you, you know, like, okay, maybe this to-do app that everybody else has done is not really like making me excited then you should do what excites you? Like if you have a side project where, you know, like that sandwich guy, like maybe you're making the database of all the sandwiches in every culture and that's what makes you excited. You should do that. And then talk about how excited you are about sandwiches. Because the only way to know, like, who else is also thinking you want to say it, which is, you know, we're just fine with this analogy now. So even if that's it like, just, just be honest, you know, like, okay. So when I started with my chess stuff, I was like, I don't know how far this is going to take me, but I'm really interested in it. And I just needed somewhere to talk about it. And so I would just talk about it online and I would blog about it because I am a writer at heart and I can't not write about things. So that's just, it just needed an outlet. I just didn't expect that it would do all these other things that, that have happened since. And so, um, yeah, there'll be afraid to be yourself because there's only one of you and, you know, that's becomes like this really, really great thing, and it's not worth trying to fit into the mold of, of every other person. You know, if you're a bootcamp grad, don't be just another boot camp grad. You know, be yourself who also happens to be a bootcamp grad.

Bekah:

Yeah, I love that. Thank you so much. And thank you for being here with us. We'll drop all of your links and things in the show notes. So listeners can find you. Thanks again, Jesse for being here today.

Jessi:

Thank you for having me,

Dan:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel, and was edited by Andy Bonjour at GoodDay Communications. If you have questions or comments, you can hit us up on Twitter at VirtualCoffeeIO or email us at podcast@virtualcoffee.io. You can find the show notes, sign up for our newsletter, check out any of our other resources on our website at virtualcoffee.io. And of course join us for our Virtual Coffee Chats every Tuesday at 9:00 am Eastern and Thursday at 12:00 pm Eastern 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 Andy Bonjour at GoodDay Communications.