Getting that First Coding Job with James Q Quick
Lane: [00:00:00] The worst thing is when you apply to 20 or 30 places and you just get radio silence,
Like you don't get any feedback was my resume a problem?
James: I'll jump in there just because it, I can't leave it at that that networking piece, even from a very, very small interaction with someone. If you have a coffee chat with someone and then a week later you say, Hey, loved everything you said about the company and what you do.
There's a much higher chance that they're gonna tell a hiring manager, Hey, had a conversation with James. We should at least bring him in for an interview.
Lane: Rather than spamming 100 different positions with your application, you can actually do some legwork.
Like in the worst case, you at least get a human to tell you no
Lane: I'm here with James Q. Quick thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
James: Thank you so much for having me.
Lane: So I wanna hop right into your story. I wanna make this whole episode really just about how you got into tech and we can kinda reflect on some of the different decisions that you made and how [00:01:00] they affected your career. So why don't you take just a second and introduce yourselves for those of my audience of maybe not heard of you yet.
That was actually like, On a whim, like I didn't know what to study and I didn't know anything about it and I just chose it. So here I am now, like 10, 11, 12 years later. So it worked out. But I was applying for jobs in college. I applied at Microsoft, got turned down for a traditional software developer job, got turned down for a TAM role, which is technical account manager.
And then they said, Hey, like you did well enough. What do you think about this other job as a technical evangelist, which. Meant absolutely nothing to me. And especially at that time, that title meant nothing to most people, to be honest. And anyway, what I started my career doing that and what that became was [00:02:00] public speaking and workshops and teaching people and working with developers in the community.
And that's what I really fell in love with. So this was the ability to combine like a technical computer science background, a passion for building and learning, and then combining that with the ability to teach other people how to do it and use my social. Presence and appreciation for being around people to combine all of that stuff.
So that was how I got started, and it was really all on a accidental whim of having no idea what to study when I got to college originally.
Lane: Okay. Most people I've talked to, I, I've never heard this accidental kind
your way into tech before. Almost everyone I talked to has either had some hard pivot or
tech. Let's rewind a little bit. I wanna set the stage. So what year did you high school?
James: I graduated high school in 2009 and applied, got into college and they asked me what to study like that summer before going, [00:03:00] and I was like, I computer science, cuz I just don't know. But 2009 was when I graduated high school and then started college.
Lane: Okay, 2009. I, this is like crazy to me. So you show up at college, like computer science is such a weird field unless
have some sort of background in programming. Like it's not, it's not the major that people just randomly pick. Was
James: into, yeah.
Lane: was going through your head? Did did you know that programmers made good money?
Did you admire tech companies? What were you thinking?
James: Neither, neither. I'm like shaking my head as you, as you ask those questions. Neither of those were anything that I considered. And in high school I knew of a computer science class. We had AP computer science, and I was going to take that, not because I had an interest in it, not because I like, knew what it was to be interested in it, but because other friends were taking it my senior year of high school and I was a four year orchestra student.
And so those. Classes conflicted. So I stayed with my fourth year of orchestra instead of taking computer science. So that was [00:04:00] literally like I had heard of friends of mine, like programming their t i 89 calculators or whatever having no, and it was just magic to me. Like I didn't know anything about what they actually did.
And maybe I, like I had heard of that and then I knew of a computer science class, but that was literally it. And. I had applied to college specifically for the engineering school. I don't even remember if that was like a super intentional decision, but I had always been more of a math person. That was just what I was, that was my favorite subject, was math.
And so I was, I was looking at options inside of engineering. I, I didn't really wanna do a ton of physics. I, I, I didn't like chemistry at all. And so it really came down to Computer science, science sounded like it might be interesting, and it didn't immediately have something that I knew I didn't wanna do was really what it came down to.
So I, I really am truly one of those people who like, sure, this is the thing that I could potentially do. And again, 12, 13 years later, here I am. So obviously it's worked out, but I had no plan getting into this at all.
Lane: So I have [00:05:00] a lot of opinions about computer science degrees. I also have a CS degree. I think
of great things about going to college, and, and some not so great things.
Lane: I tend to think it's a better idea if you are like 18
Lane: I'm often asked, should I go back to school to get a CS degree?
Got a degree in music or English or something like this. And I think going back is often NOT the right choice. That's
really expensive Four years.
I think for a lot of 18 year olds, like who need to explore or I, especially if they have a scholarship and don't need to take on student loans, I think CS degrees can be great. I'm curious like what your take is on your whole like CS degree experience. Did you like it?
you learned a lot?
James: Yeah. So a couple of different perspectives. One on the like, it makes sense. At 18 to go to college and get a computer science degree. So there's, there's nothing about college that I would ever trade. That was, for many different reasons, the best time of my life. Like I, I had an absolute great balance [00:06:00] of learned a lot, had a lot of fun.
Sports were good on campus, like social activity, just everything. I met my wife there, like everything about college I absolutely loved. And that was always like the plan, like all of my friends were doing traditional, like they're going to college and, and I was in that boat, so that was never really.
Kind of a debate at that time. And I was super fortunate where I didn't come for much money and Vanderbilt matched a hundred percent of demonstrated need.
So I actually, like every year, got like a thousand or or two grand back from grants that I had gotten. So I didn't pay anything to go to like one of the most expensive universities in the country.
And so from that perspective, again, like I certainly wouldn't trade an amazing experience and not have to pay anything for it. Like that's, that's like the ideal situation. So when I, when I think about like my computer science degree, there was all the basic classes. If people are familiar with degrees that you could probably think of like a CS 1 0 1 Intro to programming.
There was data structures and algorithms, which is one of those like really intimidating hot topics for people looking to break into. [00:07:00] Fact that they're scared of those type of whiteboarding interviews and, and they're actually like, not as common as a lot of people fear they are, which is really interesting.
I didn't learn anything about GitHub, which might blow your mind. I didn't know, like a bunch of more modern tools to be honest, and like those have become like more mainstream since 2009 or 13. But I just, I, I learned the fundamentals of literal computer science and not like how to go out and be a developer in the real world.
And I think that was a big mess. But the one additional caveat I'll add is like going into interviews in my senior year I was asked like, Relatively basic questions that I definitively should have known the answer to, explain these concepts of object-oriented programming. Again, something that's definitely [00:08:00] covered in computer science degree versus not as much in a bootcamp.
And I, I bombed I, I just, I couldn't explain basic questions about that. And so I look back at that and I treated college like it was cool, like I got good grades, but I didn't, I didn't use that as a reason to really learn what was going on. I used it as a reason to try to hack my way into. Getting the A or just like getting good grades.
And so looking back on it, like I didn't get out of it, what I could have and or should have had, I approached it in a different way. And I think there's some combination of that, of like the content just wasn't as modern or as applicable and a lot of ways as it could be. As it could have been. And I think that's the advantage that a lot of bootcamp grads have.
You're get, you're thrown into this whirlwind of six months or however long of a program. You're not gonna know all the things that you've been taught by any means, but the stuff that you're taught, like you can immediately go out on your side and like you can do a freelance project to build a website for someone.
It's not gonna be like that. Great. [00:09:00] It's not gonna be the best thing. It's not gonna look the best. It's not gonna have all these things, but you can go out and do that. And I had no ability to do that when I graduated. So I think to your point, going back to school after you've already been like either you have a degree or you never got one, but you're several years removed, I don't think that makes sense because of how accessible it is through bootcamps and as a content creator, like through other content, whether it's free or paid, you can learn eving that you need to to get a first job and a super successful career as a developer.
And I see that with communities that I'm in and having taught myself. I see that story play out over and over and over again, so I, I'm in the same boat as you. I wouldn't recommend people go back to school. I would say find resources and, and boot camps and communities that you can get involved in and leverage those to get to that first job much faster than you would doing a traditional four year degree.
Lane: Yeah. My observation has been that, like in the bootcamp scene, you learn ton of tools that are [00:10:00] really applicable to like modern programming, right? You'll learn how to use GitHub. You'll learn how to git push. I, yeah, I grad, I actually graduated from college basically not knowing what Git was,
James: yeah. No, I, I literally knew nothing. Yeah, it is.
Lane: to school in 2013, like Git was
thing. GitHub was there.
Lane: but my professors, they, they were great, but they didn't, they didn't teach us any of these modern tools. Like these, they're, they're
emacs editing text on the screen. But like, that's, that was kind of the end of the
Lane: And I wasn't using emax. Like I was just expected to find an editor I liked. I started a notepad i, I have this kind of if you're, if you're going the bootcamp or the self-taught route I think you need to err on the side of going a little deeper on fundamentals and theory because that's the
you'll, you'll tend to miss. And
then conversely if you are in a CS program, I think you need to err on the side of, of going out and
James: Practicality. Yeah.
your video on the Thunder client. I'm a huge Thunder client user[00:11:00]
In, in VS. Code. But like you need, you need both. I think there's a balance to be struck.
James: Absolutely. Yeah. And I, that's one of the biggest things I, I often recommend for people that go through boot camps, like you should spend some time doing data structures and algorithms for, for understanding the concepts, the fundamentals, all those things. But the, the additional caveat that I'll, I'll give to that is, Primarily people's main goal in going through a bootcamp is to get a job, right?
Like that's, that's why most people, some people are just curious, some people have time and that's, that's great, but like the vast majority of people are trying to transition to a career in tech and programming. And so when you finish with that, like you have so much more work to do, but all of that work should be hyper prioritized into what's gonna have the biggest benefit and biggest enabler to you getting that first job and then going beyond.
Sometimes data structure algorithms is not that, and I kind of wanna call this out cause I think tons of people graduate or from a, a [00:12:00] computer science degree or a bootcamp, and they fear these super technical interviews. And I've done the, I've done the Google interviews where you whiteboard on or you do challenges on a whiteboard for eight hours during the day.
And people fear that. But that's not, it's not the, it's not the stereo, it's not as stereotypical as people think. It's not as common as people think. So you can actually be really strategic. And do research into what types of interview processes different companies have. And you can, you can stick with the ones that just don't do whiteboarding.
Now, depending if, if there's a company that you know you wanna work for and they do do those types of interviews, you absolutely have to be prepared for those. But the biggest piece of I advice I have for people is do your research into what types of interviews, at what types of companies that you're interested in, and hyper prioritize everything that you do to optimize for that interview and getting your foot in the door.
And then beyond that, yeah. I don't want to make it sound super easy, but you, you're kind of golden, right? Like after that you're getting hands on experience by getting paid and doing real world projects and then you can go from job to job and your background before that just matters [00:13:00] less and less at that point.
Lane: Yeah, the second job is 10 times easier to land
first one. The first one is, is so much harder. I love having people like you on so I can get more. So I can expose my listeners to more and different opinions about how they should be studying for interviews. Cuz I think, all of us have had different inroads into tech and we have different stories. For example, I was just talking to Melkey. He's a Twitch streamer.
Lane: Go and rust.
And his advice was basically that, at, at the larger tech companies, you'll tend to do more of these like data structures, algorithms, leet code type puzzle solving things. And the smaller
it's the projects that tend to help a little bit more.
in my experience, I, I think that is generally true. Another heuristic is, I think if you're interviewing for more. Front end roles or like full stack roles at small companies yeah, you'll tend to need less lead code and data
skills. But on the backend side, a lot of times you will [00:14:00] need that, especially if it's a,
backend position, maybe even like towards the data engineering position at a larger company. I, I'm curious if you've, if you have any other thoughts or, or if those are basically your observations as well.
James: I think I would, I would probably say something similar to that, but I, I almost don't want to be too prescriptive or give too much advice specifically around that because. That's gonna be super dependent upon the individual companies, and I think this is, this is where people miss is they miss the opportunity to take the interview process into their own hands.
And what I mean is like doing that research of knowing, here's 10 companies I wanna work for here. 50 different people I can reach out to that work at those companies to say, Hey would you be interested? Or would you be open to having a coffee chat? I see you work at X, Y, Z company, you do this job. I would love to work for that company.
I'd love to learn more about your experience, and you can ask them about their interview experience. And or reach out to HR people to do the same thing. And so if you do that now, you come in with so much more control over this process [00:15:00] because you know what to expect and you know what to prepare.
And so I like, I, I think everything you said, I agree with like those stereotypes, but that still is not, is not a hundred percent representative of what every individual person is going to see. And different companies can be different. Like I applied for my first software position at at Microsoft and never had anything.
Whiteboarding related at all. Not one thing that annoyed me was they asked me a question of what's the biggest, what's the largest amount of lines of code, like in a project that you've worked on? And I was like, I, I have no idea. That's not something I've looked at, and I still to this day,
Yeah. That, that's not what we do. We just build stuff. And I still to this day think that was one of the dumbest questions I've ever gotten. But I never had anything like whiteboarding, like I never had algorithms. I, I talked about projects that I had built. But I never had whiteboarding. So anyway, like I said, I, I think it all is like hyper dependent on the specific situations and companies and roles that people apply for, and they can go out and do that research so that they can get a much more [00:16:00] specific answer than I could ever give.
Lane: Yeah, I think that's really good. That's a really good perspective and I, I really liked what you mentioned about, finding specific companies that you're interested in working for and doing a little bit of legwork to figure
a, what the interview process is like, and just to kind of network with, with the people that might
the networking piece is so big. I'll jump in there just because it, I can't leave it at that, like the, that the preparing yourself or getting an idea of what to expect to interview as part of that, but that networking piece, even from a very, very small interaction with someone. If you have a coffee chat with someone and then a week later you say, Hey, loved everything you said about the company and what you do.
I just applied for this role. There's no guarantee, but there's a much higher chance that they're gonna tell a hiring manager, Hey, had a conversation with James. Don't know much about him, but he seemed really excited and competent and blah, blah, blah. We should at least bring him in for an interview.
That's the thing that people miss so much because people apply. To [00:17:00] hundreds of jobs, and this is such a common story and you never hear anything. So having just one person at least be able to say, I know of James, or I've talked to James or something, I don't have numbers, but like vastly increases the potential to get an interview and at that point it's all on how you do.
But getting to the interview is, is a significant challenge.
Lane: Yeah. The worst thing is when you apply to 20 or 30 places and you just get radio silence,
Like you don't get any feedback on was my inter, was my resume a problem? Am I not using the right mechanisms to get into the co? I think that qualitative work. So rather than spamming 100 different open appli positions with your application, you can actually do some legwork.
Like in the worst case, you at least get a human to tell you no, and you can prod them and, and figure out why. do you have any advice? In like specific advice this idea of a coffee chat. Let's say I'm, I, I found a company maybe in my local area [00:18:00] and I've looked, I've done some research on LinkedIn.
I've found out who the hiring manager is, maybe who some of the people on the team are, maybe the HR person. How would you actually approach that problem of getting someone to sit down with you for a few minutes?
James: Yeah, and, and sit down like this could also. Be virtual, especially nowadays, like much more common probably for it to be virtual over zoom than actually in person. But either way would, would be fantastic. I think most people assume,
a lot of people assume they're not good at several things, innately they're not, they're not good at, they're not a confident person, they're not good at networking, they're not extroverted.
And, and they use that almost as an excuse to, to, to not do a request for a coffee chat, for example. Oh, that, that's not naturally me. I'm not naturally social, et cetera. And, and for all of those different characteristics, confidence, outgoingness, being able to have a conversation, those are practiced skills that you can increase.
And, and that confidence is one that I, I preach a lot with people looking to get that first job cuz most people aren't able to talk confidently about [00:19:00] themselves then the things they've done. So then you won't be taken as seriously. If you can't sell yourself, nobody's gonna buy or it's gonna be harder.
So the other aspect of that is like being social is a, is a practice thing and being social is like a very broad term, but. What this translates to is most people are nervous to just reach out to someone that they don't know, and they're nervous to have that conversation. I'm, I'm super social. I love people.
I still am nervous to have conversations with people I've never met. It's awkward. But if you accept that and then you prepare and you, you write down questions to make sure that you have, if you blank out and you have something you can refer to,
you do a little bit of research on that person. Saw you went to so-and-so university, saw you, went through this program, saw you've been, you're a senior developer.
What was that transition like? Do the, do your research, have your notes, and just go based on that. But don't be afraid to send the request, cuz here's one side of this. Imagine if someone said, Hey, you're C, you're super cool. I'd love to hear more about you. That's flattering, right? Like most people enjoy sharing about their [00:20:00] experiences and talking about themselves.
Some people won't. And so you should just expect like X percentage of people will never respond. Totally fine. X number of people will respond and say, Hey, I just don't time. I don't have time for this. Totally fine. Maybe, probably more people than you expect would say Hey, I've got, I've got 15 minutes.
I'm, I'm down to do this. And so you do that preparation of, of research of the company and, and them, and what are the things you want to know about the company and the interview process, et cetera. Bring those to the table and just have those be prepared. And also just embrace that, like there probably will be some awkwardness, like I think this is one of something I'm very comfortable with is owning awkwardness in situations like at conferences for example, where like you see a group of people and you see one person on the outside and you're on the outside.
So you jump in and then you bring them in and you just handle the awkwardness. So you take it away from other people. Just expect that and understand that there's probably gonna happen and you can, you can make it through and it's gonna be okay.
Lane: I want to reemphasize a point you just made [00:21:00] that I think is really good. I'm sure you get this too, I, I get a lot of cold dms from people either on Twitter or LinkedIn that, that says something along the lines of can you help me get a job Can you help
out how to get a job? And 99% of the time, if the DM is, is literally just that
Lane: me find a job. Completely. I I'm obviously going to ignore it. It goes right in the trash.
I'm, I'm not. I don't have time to respond to this sort of thing. But almost every time, like probably more than 80% of the time I get a DM that actually is personalized to me.
personalized, like it just has my name on it, but personalized. Like clearly this person has done, like you said, some research on my past, right? They're like, I saw you worked at this company. I think that's super interesting. I'd love to hear about that. Um, so. Anything you can do upfront to show me, like you DMing me, right?
To show me that you have actually done your [00:22:00] share of the work rather than you're just DMing me and expecting me to do all the work. That goes so far in terms of like actually getting a response from people. just
enough to, reach out
that saves everyone time.
James: It's the, it's the equivalent too of like people reaching out for help from a program programming perspective, and they say it doesn't work. What's wrong? And it's like there's, there's a lot more that goes into this conversation for us to have it. And, and to your same point, like that's, that's an easy ignore, like there's, there's not much I can do with that.
And so the more, the more. You took the approach of tailored to them. A hundred percent true. Also, the more specific you can be, and this is something I've learned from a, just in my career. If I, if I send something out to a team and say, Hey, any feedback on this thing? You often don't hear much, but if you say Hey, any specific feedback on this specific segment of the demo, or Does this make sense from this specific perspective?
Or just narrowing the scope for people helps that a lot. [00:23:00] And so if, if you say,
Lane: should I say this
Lane: A very
James: Yeah, something like that. Like more specific feedback and combining like what you said and, and what I'm saying there, like tailoring it towards the person and also being specific of Hey, I see you have this background.
I see you've done X, Y, and Z at this company. I'm specifically interested in applying at this company. Before I do, I love to talk to someone else to learn more about the culture, to more, more about the tools that you use and the workflow that you go through, et cetera, to see if it's a good fit for me.
Those are pretty specific. Things that you're now giving them context as to what they can bring to the table and not have this like overwhelmingness of the balance of I, I want to help somebody. I don't know how to help the person because it's way too broad and they help narrow that scope.
So it's an easier conversation going forward.
Lane: I love that, especially the part, like you said about being specific, like
I've been studying X, Y, Z over the last three months and
James: Yeah, exactly.
Lane: Is that applicable to this job? If not,
Lane: what I'm working on? those kinds of questions will definitely get much better [00:24:00] responses.
James: I feel like we should do an ebook of like just putting together a common request, like common phrases like that that people can use in like coffee chat requests.
Lane: Yeah, that actually would,
Lane: based on how many bad cold dms I get, I imagine a lot of people would really appreciate
thing. Cool. Okay. So I wanna reverse now back to your story. So you graduated with a CS degree you'd mentioned you went and applied at Microsoft that wasn't successful.
Where, where did you end up like breaking into your first job in tech?
James: So it actually, both of those things are true, or both of these things are true. I was not successful, but then I started my career at Microsoft so, Microsoft recruited on campus. I hit it off with one of the recruiters that was there. He set me up with the interview for the software developer role.
That's where I had the question of like, how many lines of code? And I was like, I don't know. And I think they like, I think they legitimately thought that was a bad look. And I still, again, to this day, that's one of the dumbest questions I think I've ever [00:25:00] been asked. But um, Microsoft and, and other companies as well, and they, internally they have three different responses.
A hard no. A hard yes. Like we wanna make you an offer. And then somewhere in between where it's like we, we like you as a candidate for Microsoft, but not for this role. And so honestly, I don't think, I think they thought I wasn't technical enough for the software developer role. So then the recruiter said, Hey, here's this other role.
Flew out to dc, had in-person interviews for that all day, got rejected from that. And then he came back and said the third one, which is the developer evangelist or technical evangelist, which is still at Microsoft. So I still started my career there. And it was one of those things where in my interviews I think I had talked about myself as a social person and my interest in learning mobile app development, which I did outside of class.
And that was particularly something from a technical evangelist perspective that they were looking for, that they were looking for people to talk about. And they needed a combination of like technical experience and social and teaching. And I didn't quite have like teaching experience, [00:26:00] but I had the social one enjoying being around people aspect.
So that was, that was where I started my career. And really interestingly, like I found myself very quickly within six months, like giving presentations and talks to rooms full of developers that had been writing code for as long as I'd been alive. These developers had been writing code for 15, 20 years and at this point I'm 22 years old.
So that was a really interesting, like get thrown into the fire. But it was also really useful because most people fear they have nothing to bring to the table to an experienced developer audience. But what what's important to know is you don't have to know more overall than your audience. You have to know more at that specific thing that you're presenting than your audience.
So I was able to talk about modern application development with Windows, where Windows developers just hadn't gotten to that point, even though they'd been doing Windows software for 10 years. So that was kind of a, a good eye opener for me. I think of like even at a young age, I still had something to provide.[00:27:00]
Assuming I find the right audience to, to talk to and to teach to.
Lane: I love that perspective, and I want to take it even a little bit further in the sense that in my experience, it's not even that you need to be more of an expert on that narrow band. It can be as simple as you have an interesting take or an interesting
or a very
Lane: with the technology.
Lane: That, maybe even people that have been using it for five or six years, like just never ran into that weird use case that you
Going down. that sounds stressful as hell. I cannot, like as a 22 year old at Microsoft. I remember when I gave my first like, brown bag presentation at lunch. This is a small tech company, like engineering team
and I was really, really stressed about it. I, I can't imagine giving, giving talks at Microsoft were you like. How, how was that what was going on in your head when you were doing that?
James: I think. I think more like the, probably the bigger part of the job [00:28:00] was building community, like being out at events, meeting universities and high schools where I could do workshops and things like that. And a lot of the stuff I did was like pretty beginner stuff. So even though I was talking about like mobile app development for Windows, it was very introductory again because the audience just didn't have that specific experience.
So I think I was able to combine topic and audience to take a lot of pressure off of myself. But at the same time, what that meant was I didn't have, like coming out of college and then my three years at Microsoft, I didn't have real world developer experience. Like I, I worked on demos and I gave presentations, but very like introductory stuff.
And I may be jumping ahead too far, but my next role was a software developer at FedEx back in Memphis. And there were several reasons why I moved in transition companies, but ended up doing software development at FedEx. And at that point in my career, I needed that like, Everyday hands-on real world software development experience, which I think now makes me an infinitely [00:29:00] better speaker, teacher, et cetera, because I have more actual developer experience to bring to the table.
But again, going back to those presentations, combination of like introductory topic and audience, I feel like there wasn't, there wasn't a ton of pressure, but it, you did get really, you had to get really comfortable with. Being challenged by someone and, and you have people that love to do that. Like unfortunately, like just for fun you have to be comfortable saying, I don't know.
And that's something that I think a lot of people cha or struggle with as well. Cuz in, in my mind when I interview other people, the biggest red flag for me is you explain something confidently to me and it's wrong or, and, or you like, yeah, there you go. And, or like you, you feel like you need to answer the questions, so you try to make something up.
A much better answer to me is I don't know, or I haven't experienced that yet because I, at this point in my career, I know that there's nothing I'm incapable of learning or understanding, right? Like I could do it, I just may or may not have the experience with it yet. So if, if I [00:30:00] don't know an acronym or like something that other people are like, how do you not know that?
Cuz I don't, I haven't needed it yet. Maybe I do now or maybe I still don't, but I just haven't had that experience yet. It's not that I'm incapable of learning what that thing is.
Lane: I wrote an article, oh man, it's probably been six or seven months ago now. On this topic where I think there's a like delicate in the sand, between being like overly confident and,
Lane: you need a certain amount of confidence in interviews and you also need
of humility, right?
There's this balance between confidence and, and, and humility. And I would argue that most junior developers that I've met Need to err on the side of confidence. I, I think there's more imposter syndrome out there than
Lane: braggers on the junior side. On the senior side. It
the other way around.
Lane: but it, it's just like you said, it's like if, if you, if you know the answer, like you really should. Be confident in yourself and, and present it [00:31:00] well as, as, as best you can. And, and if you don't know, you really should be comfortable saying you don't know. Because again, even senior engineers with 10, 15 years experience.
I've been interviewing for a new role at boot dev recently. I'm, I'm interviewing people with more experience than me. Right. 15, 20 years.
James: That's funny.
Lane: me and I don't know, every once in a while that's
James: Yeah. Yep. Yeah, I, I love that you brought up like people early on applying for roles and, and which side of the humility and confidence they maybe lack or have too much of. And I, so for context, I've taught two rounds of a bootcamp called Launch Code. And this is, we start at like 150 people and we usually graduate like 50 or 60.
It's meant to be like a big numbers thing and then how many people make it through. And it's free curriculum for people. And it's a big involve and like, Engagement. Um, Anyway, so I've taught 300 plus students through bootcamps over the course of a few years, and consistently across the board, I always tell people, you need to be more confident.
And again, this is a practice [00:32:00] thing. You need to talk about yourself more confidently. Cuz I've almost never, in my experience of teaching bootcamp students found someone who sounds conceited. Like in this, in this transition period. They're, they're starting at zero, right?
Like they're starting and, and this is not something we encounter much as adults, right?
As kids, we learn new sports and we try to play the piano, and we do all these things as adults. We very rarely start from level zero. We're not used to, we're not used to doing that. We're not used to feeling like we're at the bottom of the barrel again. And almost, I can't think of a person in my teaching career that I thought, Hey, you need to tone it down.
Like you're gonna, you're, you're not gonna, you're, you're gonna turn people off by the way you talk about the things you've done and the things you've learned. Yeah, practicing that confidence and, and that really just comes down to practicing how you talk about yourself and the things you've done and, and nitpicking with, with words that you use.
The easy one that I talk about a lot is the word just, I just built this, I just learned how to do blah, blah, blah, and, and that diminishes what you've done, like very subtly. But it, [00:33:00] it, it shows me that you don't have a lot of respect for what you've done, and that's something. One more aside and then I'll, I'll kind of pause.
I run a Discord community called Learn, build, teach. And this has been like a philosophy of mine for several years of we spend lots of time learning as developers, we use what we learn to build stuff and then teach other people too. And it's a great way to continue to learn. And we have uh, we have an event on every Friday morning and it's called Wins of the Week.
And it is specifically geared towards people celebrating their own wins because most of us don't spend enough time. Reflecting on the good things that we've done, like most of us finish the week on a Friday and we reflect back and we're like, oh, I didn't do this. I didn't do that. I didn't get as far as I wanted to with this.
And, and we rarely ever flip that to just appreciate here's what I did do, and that's still a good thing. So that's what that time is specifically dedicated for is because most people, including myself most of the time, don't take the time to really appreciate. The things we've learned, [00:34:00] the things we've built, the things we've taught, other people going kind of full circle there.
We just don't take the time to do that. And I think that has, can have a significant influence on how you talk about yourself and how you show up specifically when it comes to interviews.
Lane: I think that's great. I, I think a lot of junior developers, don't know if this is like something overtly that a lot of of people think about or if it's maybe more of, of just something subtle going on in, in the back of their, their minds.
But um, when you interview at a company, You're, you're never really going to be hired out of like, sympathy
James: Oh, this is a great topic. Yes
Lane: like hiring managers and, and team members. Like they're just not in.
James: Doing you a favor,
Lane: to do you a favor, right? They
applicants. Why would they do one applicant a favor? If they did,
you could almost argue that would be unethical, right? Because
sympathetic towards one candidate, not the other 19. you really have to go into it with a [00:35:00] mindset of can I do for the company, right?
I the right fit? And you, like you said, you really need to sell the fact that you can provide a lot of value to this team because the people interviewing you. just want to know, are you going to make my life easier?
Are you going to pick up tickets and get them done, or am I gonna have to hold your hand and teach you every single step of the way? And it's, it's, it's, it's really just a mindset thing, right? Selling yourself and, and the value that you can provide, rather than as
James: Begging or
James: Yeah. I, so my, my wife has, has, recently, it's, it's two years ago now, gone through this transition where she. Had worked in hospitality all her life. Her mom has worked in hospitality all of her life. And my wife has always been very good at what she's done. Like always been recognized for that.
Like people look to her for like, how do we solve this problem? And they like always come to her. She's always done so good. But the reality is like hospitality is very limiting [00:36:00] and like how much money you make and how much vacation you get, like the culture and, and the benefits are drastically different than being in tech.
And so there's her last role before, which she's in now, which I'll, I'll talk about in a second. Her last role was something she felt like she wasn't qualified for, and her perspective throughout that role was like basically, I'm lucky to be here. And I like my, my biggest thing was like they didn't, they didn't hire you for that role because they felt bad for you.
They hired you because regardless of what you perceive as your lack of experience, you were the best candidate for that job. And like now that you have a year of experience, I don't care. That other people in a similar role have 10 more years experience than you do. Like you are better at your job than they are.
And so from a negotiating perspective, like I don't care that they've been doing it for longer, you deserve more money and all these things than those people cuz you are that good at that job, regardless of how many years youve officially done it. So anyway, fast forward a little bit and she transitioned into doing [00:37:00] events and sponsorships for aero, which I'm actually wearing their shirt today.
I used to work for Aero. I no longer do. She still works there. Lots of my good friends are still there, like on her team that she works with, and overnight going to all zero. She tripled her salary. She gets unlimited vacation. We just had a baby. I don't think we've talked about this on the podcast. So she has six months of maternity leave, which is absolutely unheard of for anything in hospitality, especially.
She gets stock ops, like she gets all these I mean everything about her career from a benefits perspective, from an appreciation perspective, from all these things just drastically changed overnight. That that was what I felt like she deserved the whole time that she just didn't quite see or know existed or, or maybe didn't have the confidence to be able to advocate for it, but she deserved it, right?
That whole time being in a different industry, that's what she deserved. And then just overnight, like finding the right opportunity at the right company. Her life and my life now, like she's, a big reason why I can be independent is cuz she has health insurance that's really good . And so it's, it's had a [00:38:00] significant impact on both of us, but it.
One. One other thing I talk about also that aligns with that is like different companies will value you differently. Again, that was like across industries and companies, but within an industry, like different companies value you differently. I you could be the same person, the same skillset, the same experience.
You go to a different company and you could double your salary, right? Because they look at that value differently. They appreciate that value differently.
Lane: Yeah, different companies do different things, right? Your experience with some weird, esoteric piece of technology might mean nothing to company A, but yeah, company B, pay out the nose because they can't
find like you. I also wanna circle back on that, that story from your wife.
Cause I think that's, I think that's so applicable.
It's not your job when you're applying at a company to filter yourself out in no way is that your responsibility, right? are there to show up and, and, and basically just explain to the hiring manager as best you can, what you can provide and why [00:39:00] you'd be a good fit.
And if they don't think you'll be a good fit, like they'll let you know.
Lane: You shouldn't be. It, it it really in any way going out of your way to point out why you might not be a good fit.
right? They, they will filter
James: yeah. And that's what like a lot of people early on are scared to apply for roles that they don't feel like they meet all their requirements. And this is a common, common thing as well, is like almost no one at any level for a given role meets all the, all the quote unquote requirements like in the job description.
So typical advice that I hear people give is if you meet 50% of those requirements go ahead and apply. Cuz the, the candidate that meets all of those check boxes, most likely just doesn't really exist. And the reality is There's very little that you could put on, on a we want experience with X, Y, and Z that I couldn't learn, right?
Like I'm, I've, I've been through enough in my career, I've learned enough in my career. I have enough experience in my career. I can learn whatever you want me to. And someone may come in and know that thing like already and be able to [00:40:00] contribute faster, but I know I can learn it. So if I can bring these other skill sets to the table and I don't check one or two of these check boxes, I know I can eventually, like I know I'll get there.
So that's one of the things that. I hear myself included, but the community talk a lot is apply for things before you feel like you're ready and uh, specifically apply. If you meet 50% of those items that are listed as requirements on a, a job description.
Lane: I couldn't agree more. Again, this is really top of mind because I'm, I'm going through the hiring process right now with a pool of candidates at, but Dev and actually we've, we've whittled down that pool now to one guy who we're like moving to the final stages of the interview process our stack go on the back end and view on the front end, and he's never done view. We
people in the pool that have done view before.
Lane: It just kind of didn't end up being the deciding factor. Yeah. I'm, I'm I'm with you there. If you
could do the job, feel free to apply. If anything you should be less concerned about oh no, I'm applying for a job.
I, I don't qualify for [00:41:00] what they're gonna think I'm dumb. What you really should be concerned about is I'm gonna waste my time applying. And that's what you wanna optimize for
trying to apply for positions that are as applicable as they can be.
James: Yep. And I going back to like lack of view experience, I don't know this candidate, we haven't talked secretly behind the scenes about this, but I can bet I. That candidate has experience with some other framework. And so the more, the more you progress into your career, you realize like these parallels between different things that are out there.
And I like, I really like this example, so I'll do a non-technical example first. Like if you, if you look at cars like, I don't know, I don't, I'm not a big car person, but I pay attention to makes and models and year. And if you look at like when a different, when Honda and Toyota both come out with new SUVs in 2025, those SUVs are gonna look oddly similar to each other.
Then you would think considering they're two totally different companies, like there's just these waves of things where they have these parallels and the body styles change almost like the exact same over the years. So you [00:42:00] can see these parallels and it's the same thing from a technical perspective.
So if you're able to, to have confidence to come into a conversation, if you were to interview me and I've never really used view, I could immediately draw parallels to things that I do have experience with, like view. I would go and do the research. So don't take this as an actual interview answer, but like View three came out with like composability or like this new A P I, which kind of mimics.
Functional components and hooks and react, right? So I can talk about my experience of being able to write composable code and bringing in hooks that I can reuse across components, have that experience and react having never done it in view, and I can give you what I think would be a confident answer for you to know that I have the ability to come in and learn view to get the job done.
Lane: Yeah, the[00:43:00] so many times in tech, There, there is like a fundamental concept like you as an engineer really need to understand and gr in order to be effective. And then it just so happens that that concept can be implemented in 10 different
James: Every other. Yeah.
Lane: the syntax in programming is really the least of our problems. Why reactivity is important and how it makes. More productive. I would like, I would argue, is more important to me when I'm interviewing a candidate. If they can explain to me why we use React in the first place.
That's more important to me than them knowing about some weird hook that I've never heard of. That, they did a course and, and it went super deep on all these kinda random API surface area of, of [00:44:00] React. That's not what I'm necessarily looking for. I'm looking for like conceptual knowledge because once you have that, everything else follows pretty quickly.
James: Yep. A hundred percent. And, and that's where, that's where, that's where you can build your confidence, right? Like if you, if you don't strategically approach that perceived gap. Going into an interview. If you put me on the spot, and I haven't done any prep work for this to, to tackle this conversation, you say, Hey, what's your experience with view?
I don't have, I don't have a good answer and like just an answer of, I've never used view, not so good of an answer. But if I know that, that, I know that view is something that's written on there. And I do my research and I draw those parallels between React and view, and I read a couple of articles that kind of compare them and I watch a YouTube video to compare them just to get some high level parallels and understand that it's a front end framework.
I now have confidence coming into that because I've done my research. It doesn't change me as a person. I'm just more prepared because I know that that question is, is coming and I can, [00:45:00] it's almost if you have something that you're self-conscious about, if you like laugh about it outwardly first.
Then somebody else making fun of it for you, has no effect. You know what I mean? Because you've already, you've already addressed it. And so I feel like you have the ability to just address all those things before going into an interview. And, and by the time you get the question or have to respond to something relevant to it, you're not, you're not making stuff up.
You're not on the fly. Like all the things ideally that you talk about should be things that you've talked about before or at least rehearsed whether or not out loud, like in your head. Like that's, that's where the research and the preparation comes in. Because as a speaker, like I go on a stage and, and you may think I'm the most confident person in the world, but the reality is I, I prepared for this, right?
Like this is, this is stuff that I talk about every single day. This is stuff I show up and I could talk about in my sleep or like just waking up outta sleep, right? But if you put me on the spot to talk about something, I don't, I don't know. I'm, I'm not gonna be that same confident person because I don't know that thing.
So this is where just like taking control of your preparation [00:46:00] leads to a much more effective. Interview process and how you show up during those interviews.
Lane: That's a really good tactic and I wanna reiterate it and, and also a apply it a little bit or tailor it, towards my students and the listeners of this podcast on the backend side. I'll repeat it and then you can make sure that I
it properly, but you're in an interview. For a backend development position. And the question is basically how much experience do you have with python's flask framework, right? So you get hit with this question and the answer is you haven't really done anything with flask. But if you just say, oh, I haven't really done anything with flask that is a bad answer in that question or, or to that question. It's correct. It's truthful, but it's bad. You can still be truthful and have a good answer, which is something like, oh, flask. I'm familiar with flask like I've watched, like I've watched all these YouTube videos on Flask. I've done a ton of stuff in Go, and I like building rest APIs using the Go Standard Library. I'm very familiar with the syntax. [00:47:00] Based on what I understand of flask, it's very similar, right? I would maybe structure an endpoint like this in Go and, and, and I can do the same thing in flask, but you want to relate the experience that you do have the thing that you've heard of. And that's why I think it's just, before you go into an interview, you should know what technologies they use so that you can do some surface level.
Research, but you don't need to go build that whole flask API before you go to go to the interview. You can just, if you understand the underlying fundamentals, the underlying concepts, you can give an answer that kind of shows off the experience that you do have and, and try to relate it as best you can.
James: Absolutely. A hundred percent.
James: That's exactly, exactly
Lane: glad we
James: what I would do to approach that. Yeah.
Lane: Because I've, I've been the hiring position when someone has just been like, yeah, no, I don't, I don't know. And it's
James: And then what do you do with that conversation after that?
Lane: yeah. Like it's just awkward silence and you just
I guess I'll look down on my clipboard. Clipboard and put a big no on that question.
Lane: The, the more you can twist the [00:48:00] conversation to keep, shining spotlights on the things you are good at the better it's gonna be for you. This has been so much fun, James. I really appreciate you taking the time. I, I think there's been a lot of great career insights you've been able to share. Where can people find you online, find more of your content? You mentioned learn, build, teach. Yeah, plug, plug. Your your online persona.
James: Yeah. So Learn Bill Teach is the Discord community that I run. You can find a link to it. At Learn build teach.com. And then I am James Q. Quick on most things. So I spend a lot of, lot of time on Twitter YouTube is is the biggest like content generator piece that I have. Also do TikTok. I've taken a few weeks off.
I haven't done a TikTok in several weeks because of Baby. But Twitter, TikTok YouTube are the three big ones for me. So James Q Quick and then personal website is James Q. Quick as well, or.com as well.
Lane: Sweet. I'll link all of those down in the show notes. Thanks again, James. Great having you on, man.[00:49:00]
James: Thank you.