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Shelley McHardy: Junior Dev life

Season 6, Episode 8 | October 5, 2022

In today's episode, Dan and Bekah talk to Shelley McHardy about navigating a career transition and the challenges of interviewing for your first developer role.


Shelley McHardy

Shelley is a former chemistry teacher turned front end developer at Rightpoint. A native San Franciscan, she is currently doing her best to stay cool in Atlanta, Georgia. When not crocheting, she and her wife love hiking the Georgia State Parks, geocaching, cooking, baking, and video games.

Show Notes:

This week Bekah and Dan sat down with Shelley McHardy, a former chemistry teacher turned front end developer at Rightpoint, and talked about the early career developer's journey. She gave insight into what her seven-month interview process looked like, forcing interviewers to interview you, the importance of finding "your people", and being picky in your job search.

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Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello and welcome to season six, episode eight of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. I'm Bekah, and this is a podcast that features members of the Virtual Coffee community. Virtual Coffee is an intimate group of developers at all stages of their coding journey, and they're here on this podcast sharing their stories and what they've learned, and we're here to share it with you. Here with me today is my co-host, Dan.

Dan:

Wuddup Bek? How's it going?

Bekah:

It is. It's going alright. How's it going with you?

Dan:

It's going great. We just finished recording with Shelley McHardy. Uh, she's a front end developer at Rightpoint, Shelley transitioned from being a, uh, high school chemistry teacher to her current role, um, a couple years ago, I think, around when Covid started, which is when a lot of, I think, transitions happened. And, um, so yeah, she shared with us her. Journey, you know, uh, learning about coding and doing some, uh, a bootcamp and Collab Lab. And then we talked a lot about the interview process as well.

Bekah:

Yeah, she had a lot of really great points about how to navigate that interview process and shared really candidly about how hard it could be, and I really appreciated that she was open with that. Cause I think that, you know, we talk about how great it is to get into tech and. We don't talk enough about how difficult it is and sharing these stories can really help to, um, empower other people as they go through that journey as.

Dan:

Yeah, I agree. Like hearing about these, these journeys and, and you, you start, um, we've talked to a few people who've had these sort of long and kind of hard interview processes, uh, and you start to hear some of the same, similar, you know, similar things happening across, across all of the interview process. And so it was, it was interesting to hear her thoughts about that. And we talked a little bit at the end about. About the, the, the state of this, the interview process in, in the tech world, you know, and, and maybe how, how we can try to improve it a little bit down the line.

Bekah:

Yeah. If you have any ideas for that, leave us a comment.

Dan:

leave us a comment on Twitter

Bekah:

Oh, Twitter would be a good place to. Or, or on the, the podcast episode

Dan:

Oh yeah.

Bekah:

they're listening.

Dan:

Oh, like a review.

Bekah:

Well, you can leave a review with a comment about

Dan:

Yeah, but to do a review,

Bekah:

Well, we also what, like reviews. We love reviews,

Dan:

definitely give us reviews

Bekah:

give us a review.

Dan:

af Yeah. In your review, tell us how to fix the interview process as well, Yep. We'll, we'll read those for sure.

Bekah:

And hit us up on Twitter, VirtualCoffeeIO

Dan:

Yeah. I'll also. Other places, I'm sure.

Bekah:

Lots of places we're, we're around.

Dan:

Listen to the end of the episode for all of the different places that we've listed that you can contact us at

Bekah:

But if you wanna hear the rest of this episode, you should definitely listen and we're gonna start this episode of the podcast like we start every other Virtual Coffee podcast episode, and how we start every Virtual Coffee. We introduce ourselves with our name, where we're from, what we do, and a random check-in question. So we help you enjoy this episode.

Dan:

That was a great segue.

Bekah:

It's my, my one and only talent,

Dan:

You do. You are very good at segues.

Bekah:

Today's random check-in question is, what was your least favorite food as a child? Do you still hate it or do you love it now? My name is Bekah. I am a technical community builder from a small town in Ohio, and I think that I liked a lot of food, but I did refuse to eat any red meat or. Pork other than bacon, Uh, for like from the time I was 11 until the time I was 21. Um, so I, I didn't hate it. I just didn't want to eat it. I do eat it now, but it is also not my favorite. I, I enjoy chicken in fish still a lot. So that's it. I'm boring.

Dan:

Uh, Alright, well, hi, I'm. I do web development in Cleveland, Ohio, and um, yeah, I don't know if I ever had like a least favorite food, but the one that popped into my mind, a food that I did not like, and now I like, uh, was green beans. Um, like I, and I think part of that was, I am pretty sure that growing up we weren't eating like fresh green beans, you know, they were, you know what I mean? They were like canned or whatever.

Bekah:

you eat green bean casserole, though? I love green bean casserole.

Dan:

I probably avoided it because I just didn't like green beans. You know what I mean? Like, there's just, there's just that thing. But, uh, now, like, especially like a, like crispy, like a, not crispy, but crunchy, I don't know, whatever, but fresh green beans, you know, Like not like, Especially if they're not overcooked. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. They got a little crunch to 'em. I'm big fan these days.

Shelley:

Hi, I'm Shelley. I am a front end developer in Atlanta, Georgia, and I'm gonna have to go with spinach. And again, just like your canned green beans stand. My mom used to do disgusting things to spinach, and it was not, not edible. Um, like, just, just awful. She told a story, I don't remember it anymore, but she, she still does vivid. That she, the dog would eat anything. And so she mixed up a bunch of cooked spinach with dog food and said, If the dog eats it, you guys have to eat it. And we said, Deal. The dog picked around the cook spinach and just ate all the kibble and we never had to eat cooks spinach again.

Dan:

Uh, That's hilarious.

Shelley:

which I love now. I mean, likes pane and stuff, if it's cooked well, not just smosh

Dan:

right.

Shelley:

So

Dan:

Yeah. It's like the spinach.

Bekah:

Somebody of Virtual Coffee, I think on Tuesday was talking about how they used to eat canned spinach with a little bit of salt on it. I was like, uh,

Shelley:

Oh, no.

Dan:

Yeah, that's, Yeah. No, no. That's the kind of thing that like the maybe previous generation or whatever was, you know, would eat, uh, or like, I just remember, um, Popeye, you know, cartoon and he, there was always a can and it just came out in like a mush, you know, like, and he would just like slrp it down and that's, that's what I think of when I think of, yeah, that.

Bekah:

that's how I used to eat it when I

Dan:

from back in the day.

Bekah:

My grandma used to say, she was like, If you eat this, can you'll be really strong. And I was like, Okay. Then like I wanna be strong

Shelley:

and my brother and I were like, I don't care. I'll be weak.

Bekah:

It's what I should have done. I was a little bit gullible, I think. Um, well, thanks for being here with us today, Shelley. We're really excited to have you on the podcast. Uh, we start every episode of the podcast. All right. I like my, I started watering and now I'm like crying. I'm not crying for any reason.

Shelley:

You're so happy that I'm here.

Bekah:

it. I was just so happy. Um, it is an involuntary physical response to how happy I am to hear your, uh, origin story. So go ahead and, and kick us off with how you got to this place in your career.

Shelley:

My orange origin story, now I have to decide if I'm the hero or the villain. Okay.

Bekah:

you can be both.

Shelley:

Now a good guy, always. Um, let's see. In my past life I was a high school chemistry teacher. Um, and even that was a. Unplanned event. Um, I actually wanted to be Indiana Jones a hundred percent. I was an anthropology.

Bekah:

Love that.

Shelley:

Yeah, uh, I wasn't gonna, The worst thing about anthropology, so I have to say that I'm really grateful that I discovered other paths because I can't stand hot and I can't stand beating down sun. So, you know, and every, every movie has prepared you to dig up dinosaurs, you know, in the desert, eat. So it's good that it didn't work out. Um, I took chemistry accidentally, um, because I had to take a lab science to transfer. Uh, the four year university I wanted to go to, I went, started at community college and so I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna take this bone head chemistry class. And for morons, I think it was called that. Um, and I completely loved it. Uh, and I don't know why I missed out in high school, but I did. And then I took another one and I realized that the teacher made all the difference and the environment of you can make mistakes. This is hard. That's okay. You're not dumb. Um, and I thrived and changed everything. So I became that teacher and I loved it. And I thought that I would grow old teaching chemistry, you know, and, uh, doing fireballs in my lab as an 80 year old woman. Um, but public education is not, uh, All it's cracked up to be. Um, and I do not wanna turn this into a conversation about that, so we'll just put that one aside. Um, I tried a lot of special programs, a lot of special things. I did some amazing stuff. I met incredible kids. Um, I loved it. I missed it every day, but it wasn't gonna grow old doing it. So, um, at co right at the beginning of Covid, about six or eight months in, I decided that. Or I should say my mental health and physical health decided that I wasn't gonna keep doing it. And so I took a leave of absence and thought, you know, I'm just gonna get better, gonna take a break and then figure out where to go back. And for fun, because I'm this kind of nerd, um, got an edX course, I think every Python for everybody or something, something, one of those little 10 hour courses. Not a, not a legit anything. It reminded my computer programming classes in college and I was like, I used to love this. Why have I like stepped away? I mean, did a lot of tech stuff in, in the classroom, but not programming. And, uh, I found boot camps. It completely changed the search algorithms on all social media, and that's all I saw. And I hadn't even known what they were. So I did some research and I found one at Georgia Tech that sounded amazing for my learning style. It was virtual, which was required. There was no way I was going into a classroom at that point. This was early 2021. And. I, uh, it was virtual, it was live classes with an instructor, and their whole thing was that they, um, broke out into breakout rooms so you could practice. So they teach for 10 or 15 minutes and ask questions, and then they send you in a group of three or four people. And it was just this cycle for three hours at a time, you know, three times a week. And it really worked for me as far as the way I learn and the way I work. Um, yeah, so I did that. Went to my first virtual. Last summer, heard about Virtual Coffee, found you all, new home, new family. Um, yeah, Took about a little over a year to get my first job,

Bekah:

What conference was that? If you don't mind

Shelley:

refactor tech.

Bekah:

Oh.

Shelley:

Yeah, so I don't know if you know it, it's a little local Atlanta one. Yeah. And um, it was virtual that year cuz everything was, um, in fact I'm not going this year cuz this year it's completely back in person. I'm kind of, I think virtual conferences were the best thing that came outta c Um, and there's still some hybrid ones, but now people are going back a hundred percent in person and I'm just not wired for that anymore. Or at least not yet. Wait for this new vaccine to. Show us how good it is,

Bekah:

Yeah. Do you think that if Covid hadn't hit you would still be teaching?

Shelley:

Ooh, that's a good question. Um, I would not still be teaching in the same place because I was definitely unhappy there with the way things were changing. Um, I think I am still teaching. That's the funny thing. Um, as soon as I got outta bootcamp, they reached out and said, Do you wanna be a ta? So I was a TA for my bootcamp, the following cohort, um, I've start, I've started volunteering for Virtual Coffee, for lunch and learn. Um, I've become the coordinator at Collab Lab for the career lab. The little two week, um, extension stuff they do. I will always be a teacher. That's just, that's how I'm wired. I think that's what I like about, um, software development and tech and how much, not, maybe not everywhere, but at least the places that I've gotten involved with, how much teaching is just sort of part of how it's done. Um, I doubt at this point I'd still be in a classroom teaching chemistry. Yeah. That's, that's, that's passed I think, unfortunately. Or maybe I'll go back to it. Who knows? Or maybe I'll go back and teach computer science. That could be fun.

Dan:

I like that. Yeah. Or you could, Yeah, maybe you could, uh, do, I don't know what, what you call it, but like I'm sure there's teaching positions that aren't, you know, like aren't the whole full time thing. Right. And like, cuz just come in and teach a class or something,

Shelley:

Ooh. Or summer coding programs for girls. Stuff like that would, that's definitely in my future without a doubt.

Dan:

yeah. That'd be awesome that I just really loved how you said that cuz the teaching, the teaching aspect of, of this like development. And you're right, like not everybody does it. Not everybody wants to do it and that's perfectly fine. But it is one of those things that um, when you find the right, like places in the right communities, you know, there, that that's almost always one of. Parts of our, of like the communities that feel good, at least to me, right, Is, is people like being willing to teach even, especially if it's not like a, a position or something, like an official thing, right? But just people sharing knowledge, you know? Uh, it's, it's cool. It's,

Shelley:

Yeah, it's a, it's an amazing thing. That's my two, my two big communities, Virtual Coffee and Collab Lab. It's just that it's constantly sharing information, asking questions, you know, pairing up on all sorts of things. It's amazing. Um, I don't think the rest of the world is like that. I don't know. Um, I'm sure people answer questions, but it's not, it's not part of it. It's not built in.

Dan:

Right. I, I, I mean, I think I agree with you. I mean, I don't have any experience with other careers, but like the, you know, my, my wife is, uh, she's had a few different jobs over the last however many years and, you know, she does, um, data science stuff and it's, it's like programming adjacent, you know, certainly, like she did her current job, uh, actually is on GitHub now. Like they are like sharing, sharing. Um, I don't know what it is. Sequel schemes maybe or something. I'm not sure what they're doing, you know, But, but it is that, but it's still, but there's not like that expectation and that, um, I don't know. It's still not the same, you know, It isn't like, just the way she talks about it and the way that, like, they're all like, work, you know? It's very different than a lot of software organizations. It's, it's, it's a weird thing. I, I think that a lot of other industries or whatever could, could learn a lot from, from.

Shelley:

Definitely there's some overlap with teaching and teachers. Um, there was a new trend. It was probably, it's probably called something different today, and 20 years ago it was called something different, but when I learned it, it was called PLCs, Professional Learning Communities. and it was a set of protocols and mindsets where you came together and shared your work, shared your blockers. I mean, it, it really has a lot of overlaps with, um, the way that the tech space and engineering talks about things now. Um, retrospectives, you know, all, all of those little parts, there's a lot of overlap with how teachers collaborated. Um,

Dan:

What was it called? What was

Shelley:

P Professional learning communities. I think you nodded back. I don't know if you,

Bekah:

I've definitely heard of that before.

Shelley:

Yeah. Um, I'm sure they call it something different now, cuz that's kind of how the education industry works is, you know, put a new label on it every 10 years. I guess a lot of industries were like that. Yeah. Rebrand it. Call it something new. It's everybody's favorite thing. Um, it was really funny when I first started teaching, that's what veterans would teach, tell. Of like, Yeah, we've seen it all. There's nothing new. And I was gung-ho and like, No, no, this is new. I love this. This is brand new. You've never seen anything like it before. And then I turned into that person of like, Yeah, yeah, we've seen it all before But yeah, that's the greatest thing about my new job is the first time it started out as a training thing where everybody comes in and they train for not everybody, but this one program I started called Jumpstart. It was eight weeks of training. It just got you used to a lot of different things and then you got assigned to a team, so now you're thrown in, you're the new one. Um, and the first time I paired with someone or shadowed someone, I was kind of terrified cause I'm like, they're gonna think I know stuff and I don't know anything Um, and it was beautiful. He was talking about what was going on. He asked like, Have you seen this before? Are you familiar with this? I mean, it was just, and. Just a developer, he's, he's not a teacher. He wasn't taught how to deliver new content, how to make things feel risk free. You know, he doesn't have the pedagogy that a teacher has. He was just a natural and it was amazing. And then I paired with somebody else and it was kind of the same thing. Everybody I've worked with on my team, I'm very lucky, has sort of been that way. It's like learning is part of their, Whole culture and it's real. It's not just, uh, you know, we say we do this and then you're left on your own. Um, so I

Bekah:

love that. I think that's so important to have that culture, that it, that everybody is on the same page rather than, I think some places say like we have a learning culture and then they force people to, to teach when they don't want to, or they're like, In addition to all of these other tasks that totally fill your day, you also have to teach now and we're not going to support you in knowing how to really do that effectively. And then you see so many negative situations that come out of that, you know, people feeling, um, not confident with their own skills, thinking that, you know, I'm not ready for this job or this career, or whatever. But really it's an issue with the culture that's not supporting.

Shelley:

Mm-hmm. and it's not authentic. Yeah. Go.

Bekah:

Yeah, sorry. Um, I just wanted to backtrack to Collab Lab because you mentioned it and I think they're doing great stuff. And for our listeners who aren't familiar with Collab Lab, can you just give kind of an overview of what it is and what you did at where, where were you in your journey from bootcamp to First job working with collab?

Shelley:

mm-hmm. Oh, I'd love to tell the world about Collab Lab. Um, so it is. It's an in between, it's post boot camp, but it's not really an apprenticeship or an internship. The program was built by Andrew and Stacy and probably a couple other people I'm forgetting, um, a few years ago because they realized that boot camps were the thing that's, this is, they grew huge. That's where a lot of new engineers were coming from. We don't wanna talk hours about boot camps, but they've got a lot of positives. You learn a lot of stuff. You're exposed to a lot of stuff. You build some skills, but they don't teach you how to work as an engineer. And I guess you could probably say that about undergraduate programs too. You don't learn how to work on a team, you don't, you know, learn how to deal with that kind of stuff. So Collab Lab's goal is to give you a more real world experience. Getting a full story of a project that you're supposed to build, um, a team of developers. So it's a group of four developers and the tickets are all already done for you. Um, and the acceptance criteria, and you kind of have to figure it out. So it's not all perfect, at least sanitized, like, like your homework assignments and bootcamp, and you have a little bit of freedom to, you know, make mistakes and go your own path. You're, you. It's not dictated exactly what techniques you're supposed to use. It's react, it's fire base. The rest is up to you. Do whatever you want, whatever packages you think you're gonna need, whatever path you're gonna take. Um, and you build, It was a shopping app, I think it still is. Um, and you have mentors assigned. So you get three mentors, which is an amazing ratio. Like professional support to newbies. So it's four developers and three mentors, and we did it in week long sprints. So you decide your tickets. We worked in pairs. It's all about pair programming. Um, and so we paired up and we changed partners each week and we went through our ticket and we're supposed to spend about four or five hours a week. Um, and then, We'd have a retro at the end of each week. Oh, we also have an office hours. I forgot about office hours. So you have a chance to, to meet with your mentor and just talk about problems or whatever. And it's all communication over Slack. I mean, the support is unreal. I know I'm kind of like just bouncing all over the place instead of just presenting. But I get filled with a lot of emotion when I think about this program and I can't stay on track. So then at the end of the week we have the retro, um, you demo the little piece that you built. Um, and then um, we also had some, I think there were a couple little workshop type things on stuff. Like we had one workshop on accessibility cuz that's not covered well in, um, boot camp. They basically try and fill all these little holes and to give you some real experience and confide. Um, and so that's an eight week program, and they do four cohorts a year. And then at the end of the eight weeks, um, you've got a project, you've got an amazing project to put on your, um, portfolio that's not like everybody else's, you know, Pomodoro timer and sh I was gonna say shopping list to-do list. That's it. The infamous to-do list that everybody's built. Um, so you have a, you know, more unique fun project and a lot more to talk. Then the last two weeks, if you're interested, is career lab. And that's the part that I've gotten involved with because that changed everything for me. Um, you spend a week doing similar type things. You have some tasks, you meet with a couple of men, volunteer mentors, um, to update your LinkedIn is the first week and the second week is interviewing, which nothing they do in bootcamp prepares you for interview. So, um, you get to watch mock interviews. You get a bunch of practice interview questions. They pair you up with another collaby, that's what we're called, um, so that you can sort of practice your answers. And then you do two practice interviews, a behavioral and a tech interview. There's even a tech project that you build and then go into the interview to present what you did. So it's much more realistic, um, and. Tech interviews were, were my, my killer thing. I had several of them before and after and during Collab Lab, and that's where I tanked. Um, my brain would shut down. I could, could not, um, I couldn't code anymore. It's like I knew nothing like, and, and it was just awful experience. And so I kept doing it. Everyone told me that's what it was gonna be like and I kept pushing through. Um, but I never got better at them. There were a couple of good ones because the interviewers treated it like para programming, but mostly it was some dude sitting back in dead silence watching me burn and I just don't respond well to that. So when we went through career lab, um, they kind of showed us how to. Tell our story how to lead the interview a little bit, to say the things we wanted to say, um, where to take chances, you know, stuff like that. Um, and I had an interview about three or four weeks after I think the career lab with my current employer. And I just, I channeled the whole thing. I'm just like, I'm going to do this, this way. And it was phenomenal. It was like magic. Um, I, I, I felt great. I did fantastic. Every question he asked, I understood and could answer. I felt, I felt really, really good. And I had a couple other good interviews too, so I ended up getting two offers. Um, yeah. And so I got to choose. That was the craziest thing after a year of, you know, fingernail biting. I got two offers in a week and got to pick the one that I liked, The.

Bekah:

That's really awesome and we were chatting a little bit before we started recording about the difference between, um, interviewing and preparing for a job in tech versus other careers and how it is so different. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Shelley:

Sure. Um, the biggest difference is how many rounds of interviews. I think because I've had a lot of teaching interview. Before I was a teacher, I had all kinds of weird jobs all over the place, um, in different industries. And it was typically one interview, possibly a second. But I feel like I've been, every job I've gotten, I think was one interview. You know, they, they saw your resume, they chatted with you on the phone for a few. You sat fast to face to face for half an hour. An hour, and maybe you didn't get the offer right then, you know, maybe they slept on it, but you didn't get called in again and again and again. You don't have to perform. Hmm, perform, That's the right word. You don't have to perform live. And it's funny cuz I'm a teacher, I'm used to performing live, that's what I do. But in something I'm an expert in, you. Give me, give me an interview for a teaching job today. I'm gonna, I haven't done it in two years, but I guarantee I'll knock everyone else out of the water. But I'm a newbie. I'm a beginner. I'm a novice. I love it. I love it when something works. I think JavaScript is loads of fun. Um, but I don't know it like that. So you ask me something live and I choke. So many rounds of that is, is traumatizing. I don't know any other word for it. Like the first couple rounds are fine and the behavioral interviews, I always did fine. Um, but as soon as it started getting technical, it's like I don't know this well enough to be tested. And it's a test, really a test.

Bekah:

that's a good point. I think there was one role I interviewed for where I went through six interviews, and then didn't get the job. I was like, Oh, wow, that, that was really, really intense. Um, but, but you're right. I've never had that. else? I think tops. I've had three interviews for something and the last was probably more of a compensation interview. You know, talking through that kind of stuff. But the process is, and it seems pretty standard that you just continually go through these rounds and it does get really intense and stressful. And I remember somebody on Twitter early in my career. Calling it soul crushing. And I thought, well, it can't be that bad. And, and then what I had to do, I was like, Oh yeah, yeah, it is, It is that bad, like It's really exhausting and it's, especially, I, you know, mentioning that you had different kinds of interviews, like where some people would just sit back and like, Stare at you. And you know how, I don't know how they expect people to perform in that situation when you're already nervous. I think that you should be doing your best to support the person on the other side of the screen so you can see how they perform at their best. You know, because you're, you're not going to be in that situation most days where it's awful and somebody is really putting the pressure on.

Shelley:

Someone described it to me as hazing and that clicked. So, and, and there are, it, it, I had both experiences. There were definitely people who were interviewing so that I could show my best. Um, definitely. And then we would just reach a point where I'd, you know, maxed out my knowledge and. Me personally didn't handle that well. Um, and some people told me that that's part of it too. Like how do you respond when you don't know what to do? And even then, it's so artificial because it's like, if I don't know what to do, I'm gonna send you a message, call you, whatever, and go, Hey, I can't figure this out. But you don't feel comfortable doing that with a complete stranger when a job is on the line. So yeah, I definitely have likened it, tots and all sorts of traumatic stuff when I finally signed the contract and it was official and done and I wasn't gonna start for about five weeks. That's another thing that's really different in tech too, that you might not start for weeks and weeks because they just have their onboarding schedule or whatever. Um, I collapsed. I just stopped. Anything. And I gave myself permission to, I was like, this was the craziest ride ever. Um, and it's funny, everyone's like, Oh, it's a full-time job to get a job. It's maybe not full-time, but the stress and the psychic energy involved, uh, is exhausting as working 40 or 60 hours a week. There's no, no doubt about it. And there's a lot of when it rains at pores. I had one week where I was juggling. I think five or six applications all in different places. Like one was make the perfect, you know, cover letter all the way to this is the final tech interview and you're gonna present something that you've built over the course of a week. Like just, it was nuts. Um, so yeah, that is kind of like a full time job.

Bekah:

When I always. Try and encourage people to take time off in between jobs and starting their new job. And a lot of it's for that reason because it's, it's important to get kind of healthy habits set up, especially if you're working from home. Um, finding that space to be able to navigate in between your job. and your home life can be really challenging, but because that interviewing stress can be so intense, uh, it, it's good to breathe before you jump right in. And it sounds like you had a pretty good onboarding experience with your eight week jumpstart.

Shelley:

Jump start. Yep.

Bekah:

That sounds really great, rather than, than just being thrown into All right. Here's some work. Now do it you

Shelley:

figure it.

Bekah:

equally stressful because you don't know how to communicate or what the process for things is. And it sounds like Jumpstart helped to establish good paths of communication.

Shelley:

Yeah, it's a, it's an amazing program and it is a program. It's something that right point, that's my company, uh, developed like three or four years ago. So they've had, you know, about eight cohorts at this point. Um, and they've found that it's just, A really good way to bring in new engineers, you know, junior level that don't know anything. So we're all either bootcamp grads or recent grads, or were a couple of computer science grads too. Um, most of us had jobs in other industries, so that part of the skill set we had, um, we just hadn't worked, you know, on an engineering team. Agile development and all of that, and sprints. So we got to learn that and shadow people all over the company, um, and work through training stuff and also had assignments and, you know, we were cohort, it was a really great way to do it. Um, and so it felt kind of like school, but on the job. Um, and then when we got put on a team, we're still consider. Um, you know, novices. So I've been doing new training cuz you know, there's things that my team uses that other teams don't use. I've been learning about Optimizly, um, and will probably be the, the person on the team that knows the most in a couple of months because I got that, that task of learn optimizly so that we can start using it on our, uh, project. Um, so that's been fun and. Just, it's been great, actually. You've caught me at a really, really good week. I have to brag for a minute. I haven't, I haven't shared this in, uh, tech spaces yet. Um, today's Thursday, so on Tuesday, I, uh, put in my first PR as a professional engineer and it has, it's only gotten reviewed and approved once. It's not merged yet, so that's what I'm waiting for the merge before I make the official announcement. But, So excited because it was something that I wrote all by myself. They wanted, and it, they, that's, that's part of it too. This is part of the learning thing. They don't just throw you at the code base and say, Figure it out. Um, the first task I was given was there's something that they do manually every time that's tedious copying and pasting of translations. Cuz we're a global company, so every time. Launch a site. It's the same site for a different country or language. Um, everything has to be translated, Every single button, every single everything description has to have a new translation. And we're not gonna build a whole new site for it. So they just do this manually. They send a CSV to a translation team, they get the 800 translations, and then somebody copies and paste them into a file. And so they're like, We need to automate. Shelley do it. I'm just like, are you kidding? I don't know the code base. I don't know anything. You want me to do this? Okay, cool. So I built a cli, um, and I'm so proud of it and it works and I might be demoing it this morning. Yeah. So, and, and it's not that big a deal anyone else would look at. It would be like, Oh, that's cute.

Bekah:

No, that's a big deal.

Shelley:

it's mine,

Bekah:

Then I have a big impact I think, on the processes there and making people's lives easier. So I think that's really, really important.

Shelley:

Yeah. Other people will use it maybe once a month for the next six months and then it'll go away. But that's okay.

Bekah:

Yeah. Um, so, okay. So you've been through this whole process and I think that you've shared a lot of really great information and I appreciate you sharing your story. Um, so what advice would you give to somebody who is maybe towards the end of their bootcamp and thinking about what the next step should.

Shelley:

It's, it's, I think it's really an individual thing. So I think the best advice I could give is asking yourself what exactly you want and what's important to you. Um, because where you're at in life's gonna make a difference. I've had this conversation actually with someone at the Collab Lab of, you know, what next? If you are young and you don't have kids or responsibilities, you know, you're in a very different place in your career no matter what field you're in. But definitely in tech, you know, you could sign up with one of those two year contract programs where they train you and hire you out and you make crap money, but get great experience, but you have to live someplace weird or you don't get a good enough salary, um, and you're stuck for two years. I'm not at that place in my. I got a little paranoid towards the end of this journey. It took seven months after bootcamp to get my job. Um, so somewhere around the five or six month mark was like, um, maybe I am gonna sign up. Maybe, maybe that is what I'm gonna do. Um, but something in me all along said, You need to find the place that fits you. And being assigned a contract for a client wasn't. Achieve that. Even if I didn't care about the money, even if I didn't care about the flexibility, I wasn't gonna get to pick where I went. And I realized that was critically important. And honestly, the, the interview process taught me that too. I met some amazing people and I met some horrible people. Like, Okay, yeah, you made me cry and I don't wanna work for you. You know, like, thank you for that. He took a half an hour after the crying to go, Okay, wait. Thanks for that. I don't wanna work for you. Um, so for me, So if a person is like me, interviewing the company, finding that spot, really doing your research of who they say they are. And then once you get into the interview process, if they're gonna force you to do five interviews, force them to do five interviews. Ask them the questions, really dig into who they are and what they're about. Um, because for me that was what was I decided was most important. I needed to find a place where the people. Felt right. You know, the product would be nice too. You know, I ended up in eCommerce. That's not a thing I ever would've predicted at all. I'm all about education and nonprofit and, you know, whatever. And I love these people. I mean, they're, they're amazing and they're, it's, it just so happens that commerce is their thing. So now commerce is my thing until the next thing comes around. Um, but. also finding people, I guess that's it too. This is, could be really isolating. It's amazing that we can do this all virtually. Um, but that also means that you're all by yourself. So you have to find communities, you have to find other people that are in the same boat as you. That's why Collab Lab was so good. Cause it's filled with people. That are looking for their first role or just found their first role, or are there to support people finding their first role. Like that's the entire focus. Um, and in a really loving, supportive, fun way, not a, you know, commercial way. The way the, the career services in boot camp are where they're just, we're gonna get you a job, so apply to 800 things, but honestly, that works for some people too. You. The numbers game of applying to every single thing and hoping something sticks. Um, I got turned off of that really, really quick, so I just got really picky and hoo, I had my schedule. I gotta find one or two things, three things a week that really mean something and apply to them. Um, oh. And cover letters. Cover letters, cover letters, cover letters. I don't care what anyone says, they make a.

Bekah:

I love cover

Shelley:

and if they don't make a difference, then you don't need to work there.

Dan:

That, that, that advice about, um, getting picky about things. You know, you're not the first person on the podcast to have that advice. And I think it's, it makes a lot of sense to me. You know, I, you can get. Like numbers, game approach, you know, can make some sort of logic sense. You know, I mean, like, I can understand the logic behind it, but the, everyone that we've talked to that has gone through like a, a long and especially like a hard journey like that, um, I think comes out on the other side. Like they finally, like some people, like were throwing out thousands of interviews and then eventually started getting picky, you know? And, and some people started that way to start. But it seems like the people that are happy with their roles, you know, after the awful journey of the interview process, you know, the people that have found, like the people that, the companies that they liked, um, have all been, they've all said this similar things of, you know, find, find companies. Either the people or the, the product or whatever are meaningful and do the research and all that stuff and, and yeah. Yeah. Narrow your scope. Um, I think that's great. I mean, I think that's great.

Shelley:

I mean, it's, it's tough. It's big risk because, you know, it's really expensive to be unemploy. and if God forbid, you're actually working a job while trying to find a job, I, I couldn't even imagine that. I was very, very, very lucky that, you know, my wife had health insurance and I had savings so I could work a part-time TA job and do just fine for seven months. Um, and I know not everyone can do that. Um, and it might take more than seven months. I think I also got really lucky. Um, But yeah, I'm really, I'm really, really glad that I was picky, that I kept telling myself that's, that's what I needed to do. And there was always a little voice going, You're being stupid. Just get a job. You know, this is, this is, this is not real. Um, you're not gonna be able to find the right job this way. And then it works. So, not very scientific, but I'm gonna say yes, do it that.

Dan:

Yeah.

Bekah:

I think, you know, that that point that you made about having support behind you is really important, um, especially to new folks who are coming into tech because I think that there's often these promises that tech is this goldmine and you're gonna find a great job and a great career and, and it will. You know, help you with your life situation. So we see so many career changers, and then they're doing this thing where they do have seven months and they can't find a job. And so they're, I think it's really important that we talk openly about, like, it's hard, first of all, um, you're going to have to go through this really rigorous interview process, and then after that you might not get a job. So you need to plan on taking, I would say at least six. To look for a job. Um, and then also I think that it can really impact relationships with the people who are close to you. You know, because they're supporting you as you're going through this situation. And I've seen relationships break up because the partner says, Oh yeah, I am totally supportive and I am here for you. But without really understanding how stressful this situation can be, and hey, I'm really sorry, but I'm gonna have to put. Four more hours tonight because I've gotta get this take home test done so I can go to this job interview. And I know, you know, uh, my husband Jesse was a career transitioner before I was into tech. And at the time I didn't understand it. You know, he was like going to work and then coming home I'm like, Oh, I've gotta do free code camp and all this stuff. I. Dude, I've been with the kids all day, like And then once I came into tech, it, it all made a lot more sense. Like, Oh, now I understand this, but I wasn't prepared for that in terms of like being a supportive partner and knowing where that would get us as a family and like, this is a investment, but it's, it's gonna be hard.

Shelley:

Yeah, my wife said something. It was a couple weeks after, um, I got the job before I started and, uh, you know, one of those heartfelt moments and she. You're incredibly strong. And I'm like, What are you talking about I'm just like, I cry so much, you know, or whatever. And she's like, The last seven months you worked so hard and it was so uncomfortable and so painful, and so traumatic, and so emotional and, and just, you know, all of these things. And she goes, Besides the fact, Shocked everything and learned this new thing. Like you put it all out there. Um, and I was like, Oh gosh, you're right. I guess I am. Um, yeah, I don't think anyone can get just how hard it is. And I'm sure lots of career transitions are tough. Um, but yeah, this, this particular one comes with a huge amount of hype and fanfare and the slog is not something. You know, you're necessarily prepared for and the rejection. Oh goodness. I've never been rejected for so many things.

Bekah:

it's worse than high school.

Shelley:

Yeah. Like, I mean, I, I get it, I get it. Totally. You know, you're gonna, I'm not the perfect fit. I don't have a problem with that. But there's something about that third or fourth interview and you're like, Oh, I've gotta have it now. No, that's, that's still the beginning of the process. Um, because there were a lot of times where I made to the third or fourth step, and. Didn't go further, so

Bekah:

Yeah, I was invited to apply for two positions a while back, and I didn't get either of those positions and they also had really long interview processes, and I was talking to, um, a, a, um, partner who owns a consultancy afterwards and just saying, This was really tough. He was like, Yeah, it's really, it's really mind blowing that you didn't get either of those. Yeah, it's like They're like, Well, it came down between you and one other person. I'm like, Well, that's great. Like,

Shelley:

Oh yeah, I got one of those, actually, it was really, I got the form letter email that said it came down to one other person and he actually, the put a PS at the end. I could read between the lines he wanted me with somebody else or whatever, wanted the other person. So it was really clear and said something like, If you ever need mentorship, reach out. I mean, and again, it was that reminder of, of um, just how good parts of this industry and community are like that mentorships built in. Not always, not always perfectly, but that, that was like a, a totally normal thing for him to offer. And from my perspective coming in, that's so generous that this is a person you interviewed, you, you spent an hour and a half with them, you know, and you're offering to have coffee, meet up with them and help 'em in their career. Like that's just crazy, but also wonderful.

Dan:

Yeah. Yeah, it's, it that, um, so thinking about it from the other side, like I, I, well, I haven't hired a lot of people, but again, my wife has gone through the hiring process of, of fair number of times over the last year or two, and. She's had those same struggles, like she really loves a person and you know, somebody else, whatever. And, and it's, it's hard on them. Like, it's hard on everybody. Like the whole process is just hard, you know? Like, and that doesn't, I don't think, probably make it easier to feel like to, to accept the rejections, you know? But it's just like this whole process is just a nightmare, you know, like, I don't know what we could do to fix it, but like, it is, it's so hard. It's so like emotionally fraught, you know? I don't. I don't know. I don't really have a a suggestion to fix it, but it,

Bekah:

I feel like part of this, like what we're doing right now is, uh, making a way to fix it, right? Having open conversations about these things, talking about the problems, talking about our experiences to help other people through the situation is, is a start to making an improvement with how the industry does things.

Dan:

at least prepare people for it. you know.

Shelley:

Well, and acknowledge the people that do it better, The interviewers that do it better, they need to get that feedback too. Um, so that more, more do that. Yeah.

Dan:

Yeah. Like the, the dude that, the dude that would sit and watch you and glare at you right, when you're doing your interview. Like, it's such a, it's such a, I mean, it's bad just like as a person, you know? I mean, it's obviously just like not a nice thing to do, but it's also like it's a bad advertisement for their, for their employer, you know? And. Uh, I don't know. And that is like, that actually is a problem in tech is that lots of people in the hiring process are not, they're not like HR people. They're not like people that are doing hiring at smaller, at smaller places and can, and tech is like a lot of small shops, right? And so you just have developers like just get told, Hey, run this interview. You know what I mean? With no training, you know, or anything like that probably. And, uh, that's a problem too. I don't know. There's problems everywhere.

Shelley:

Yeah, but let's start fixing 'em.

Dan:

All right,

Bekah:

All right, Shelley, thank you for spending time with us today. Do you have any last bits of wisdom or any wins you wanna share before we go?

Shelley:

Oh, just that I think I'm about to go do a demo. So that's my, my, uh, my win that I'll, I've done a lot of demos, but they've all been, you know, mock demos. This will be the first time I share something that I've built, so I'm really excited about that.

Dan:

awesome.

Shelley:

and uh, yeah, I think Virtual Coffee's probably responsible for a lot of it. That's how I found, um, uh, Collab Lab, cuz Ayu um, talked about it. I'm like, What is this thing you're talking about? And I think it was like the day before the deadline for the cohort that I signed up for. Yeah. So it all comes around. That's my advice. Meet people, talk to people. Come to Virtual Coffee

Bekah:

Yeah. All right. Thanks so Shelley.

Shelley:

Thank you.

Dan:

Thanks, Shelley.

Shelley:

Bye.

Dan:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel. 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 the newsletter, check out any of our other resources on our website VirtualCoffee.io. If you're interested in sponsoring virtual coffee you can find out more information on our website at VirtualCoffee.io/sponsorship. 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.