The Scrimba Podcast

๐ŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Katrina Tucker ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ!
Katrina recently changed careers and got her first software engineering job. But here's the interesting part โ€“ she didn't start as a junior! No, Katrina was immediately offered a senior title.

In this episode, you'll discover the importance of never labeling yourself as a junior, especially when transitioning careers. Katrina dives into the significance of language and emphasizes how your domain knowledge can make a significant impact. Get ready to uncover Katrina's networking strategies (spoiler alert: you're probably overthinking yours) and gain insights into how she learned to code while juggling a full-time job and family responsibilities. Plus, find out the number one thing you should know about technical interviews and what you can do to work on your interviewing skills.

Join us as Katrina shares her inspiring journey, challenges conventional notions, and reveals valuable tips and tricks for career success. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by Katrina in this podcast are solely her own and do not represent the views or opinions of her employer.

๐Ÿ”— Connect with Katrina
โฐ Timestamps
  • Katrina learned to code at school, thanks to her father, but ended up majoring in international finance (02:19)
  • Katrina's career in finance and law (04:14)
  • After the stock market crashed, Katrina went on to work at IRS (05:04)
  • Suddenly, Katrina realized she was coding! (05:46)
  • Katrina's current job combines all of her skills (06:39)
  • Don't call yourself junior! (07:18)
  • What made Katrina transition into software engineering (08:10)
  • Why we should retire the term "breaking into tech" (08:50)
  • How Katrina joined #100Devs (10:28)
  • How to learn to code when you have a family and full-time job (11:50)
  • Community break! Your LinkedIn posts and tweets, with Jan The Producer (14:22)
  • How Katrina wanted to address her knowledge gap (16:40)
  • When did Katrina start to feel ready to apply for coding jobs? (18:52)
  • The most important thing to know about coding interviews (19:47)
  • How Katrina practiced her interview skills with Brilliant Black Minds (20:56)
  • Katrina's networking strategy (22:22)
  • What's the difference between networking and just talking to people? (24:10)
  • How Katrina found her first software role (26:56)
  • Find your unique angle and double down (31:44)
  • How Katrina prepared for her final interview round (32:58)
  • Why you should ask your prospective employer business questions (33:54)
  • Why your domain knowledge is important (37:04)
๐Ÿงฐ Resources Mentioned
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Creators & Guests

Alex Booker
Host of The Scrimba Podcast
Jan Gregory Arsenovic
Producer of the Scrimba Podcast

What is The Scrimba Podcast?

Learn from inspiring developers about how they found meaningful and fulfilling work that that also pays them well. On The Scrimba Podcast, you'll hear motivational advice and job-hunting strategies from developers who've been exactly where you are now. We talk to developers about their challenges, learnings, and switching industries in the hopes of inspiring YOU. This is the podcast that provides the inspiration, tools, and roadmaps to move from where you are to work that matters to you and uniquely fits your strengths and talents.

Katrina Tucker (00:00):
When he was asking me sort of those big picture system designed, business problem solving questions he saw I'm not a junior, I am a professional who has another skill.

Alex Booker (00:13):
Hello and welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. This is a weekly show where one week I interview a recently hired junior Dev, and then the next week an industry expert, like a hiring manager, recruiter or senior developer so that you can learn how to break into tech from both sides. I'm your host Alex Booker, and today I'm joined by Katrina Tucker, who just got her first software engineering job as a senior engineer. What? Yeah, that's right. Katrina has specialist knowledge of accounting, tax and the law. Basically, she worked with the IRS in America for a decade and she managed to translate those skills into a software engineering job at one of the big four accounting firms. That's really interesting, but I have to acknowledge as well, it's quite unique. I think it's a great strategy to use your industry experience to your advantage, but not everyone has that option.

Still Katrina's experience learning to code and navigating the brand new world of software development, I mean the anxieties and the challenges, they all sound very relatable. And to be honest, even though Katrina struggled with these things initially, I do believe she managed to overcome them more efficiently because of her many years of professional experience. This is a great interview about networking, how to absolutely carve out time to study without dropping the ball on your other obligations like family, relationship, health, your other job for example. Plus, we'll be talking about all the lessons Katrina learned from failing technical interviews that allowed her to succeed at the one that really mattered.

The idea here is that you can benefit from Katrina's experience, learn from her mistakes without having to make them, but also the things she did well, using her experience from another industry to navigate things like networking and interviewing with ease. We'll get into it in just a second, but first I wanted to quickly ask, but if you do enjoy the Scrimba Podcast and this episode in particular, give it a rating in your favorite podcast app or better yet, share it on social media. Word of mouth is the best way to support a podcast that you like. So thank you in advance. You are listening to the Scrimba Podcast. Let's get into it.

Katrina Tucker (02:19):
The first time I learned to code, I actually was about 12 and I was in junior high school. It was about seventh grade, and they were trying to put me in other type of classes that my dad thought I really didn't need, and he finally asked them, "Do you all have a coding class?" Because my dad used to work for IBM, and they said yes. And so I took Basic one and two, I'm dating myself a little bit here, but I took Basic one and two.

Alex Booker (02:47):
Like the programming languages.

Katrina Tucker (02:49):
Like the programming language, basic one and two. I think they were trying to put me sort of in what they call home EC classes and things like that and very sort of gendered classes. And my dad was like, "Yeah, she doesn't need that." And then when I went to high school, I took Pascal one, two, and three and I liked it, but for me at the time, it was more fun and it wasn't something I thought would make a career.

I remember when I went to college, I told my mom, I said, "Hey, I'm going to be an international finance major." And she goes, "Why?" And I was like, I had these big dreams of Wall Street, moving and shaking and things like that, and I was like, "Having a finance degree is always helpful", and she was, "True, but why don't you major in computer science?" And I was like, "I don't want my fun to end up being work." And she was like, "Okay." But moms know best. And what she knew is that eventually that those computers would be on everyone's desk. It wouldn't just be a hobby. It was like the future.

Alex Booker (03:47):
Sounds obvious in hindsight.

Katrina Tucker (03:49):
In hindsight, right? But at the time I grew up with the five and a quarter floppy disc and things like that. So at the time it was a lot of gaming programming, Oregon Trail, those things that you grew up with as a kid. I didn't think of it as sort of a way to transition into a career. I didn't think of it that way. I was thinking very traditionally, ironically more traditionally than my mom. So I did go to college and I did get my international finance degree, and after that I went to law school.

I did a lot of estate work and high net worth individuals, did a lot of estate planning, some family planning, things like that. But I liked learning the law, but I didn't practicing the law. It was a lot of paper pushing and it wasn't creative enough for me, I think. But then what happened is the economy went crazy. Everybody was losing a fourth of the 401k or a third of the 401k, and the stock market was tanking, and so we didn't have the same work. So I was working for a smaller sort of boutique firm and I was let go, and I was like, "Okay, I completely understand." People were not worried about doing financial planning when their finances were taking such a huge hit. They were just trying to recoup. And so I had worked for the IRS, the Internal Revenue Service in the government, which is sort of our taxation branch.

Alex Booker (05:04):
I'm sure that made you popular.

Katrina Tucker (05:05):
Yeah, super popular. I had worked there in undergrad part-time to help pay for books and things like that. And my mom was just like, "Why don't you just go back? You'll have health insurance" because we don't have universal health insurance. So she was like, "You'll have health insurance. You'll have a steady paycheck until you figure out what you want to do." And so I went back, I started on the phones, customer service, whatever I needed to do. But then once they realized I had a law degree, I ended up moving around a lot. I ended up doing a lot of training. I actually went to work as a management and program analyst for a while. What I didn't know, this was sort of segue into where I started coding, is that a lot, that time I had already been programming. I just saw it as doing my job.

What I didn't realize is that I had been doing a lot of COBOL database programming because that's the system that the government uses. And I didn't realize I had been doing so much of that until later on when I actually was trying to update my resume to get a programming job and someone from IT at my job at the time said, "Why don't you have any of your COBOL on here?" And I was like, "What are you talking about?" And then I went to YouTube University to see what they were talking about. I was like, wait, I do this. No wait, this is what I do. I had no idea. You just sort of do your job and you don't always think about it, particularly if it's not a programming job, it's more of a tax law analysis job.

Alex Booker (06:24):
Yeah, definitely. A lot of people use things like Google Sheets and Excel. Maybe in doing that, you start to get into the nitty-gritty of the formulas. It almost starts to look like programming at that point. I think what you're describing is a step beyond that. It sounds like genuine programming.

Katrina Tucker (06:39):
It was a step beyond it. You had command codes, you had certain functions, you had things you had to do, but in my mind, I was looking at it from a tax law sort of point. So, oh, I need to do this to the account. I need to do that to the account to make sure the interest is computed correctly. I didn't think of it as, oh, I need to run a function to make sure the interest is computed correctly and make sure it takes this off. I didn't think of it that way. I was thinking of it from a pure sort of tax procedural type way. And so once I made that connection, like I said much later, it helped me a lot. So this is sort of my third career. I did the legal thing and then I did the tax law and procedure work, and now I am a software engineer for a big four accounting firm.

Alex Booker (07:18):

Katrina Tucker (07:18):
It sort of brings all of my skills. I'm showing up as a whole person to my new job. I'm not a newbie, it's just another career pivot. I think what people do a lot of times is they brand themselves as super new when they shouldn't. If you've been working somewhere for 10 years, regardless of what it is, you're a professional and you picked up a new skill. What they do is brand themselves as very junior.

Alex Booker (07:41):
Junior is actually quite a bad word for it because you say junior, you think of a youngster, you think of someone fresh-faced. You're just new to coding, you're not new to the world, you're not new to professional environments necessarily.

Katrina Tucker (07:53):
I'm not even new to programming, I'm new to software programming. That's what I had to realize.

Alex Booker (07:57):
That's an interesting distinction.

Katrina Tucker (07:58):
Because if I'm doing database programming and all of these things that are sort of on the back-end for accounts at my old job, it's just a different way of doing it. I'm basically learning more modern languages because COBOL is very old.

Alex Booker (08:10):
Katrina, what made you want to transition into software engineering then?

Katrina Tucker (08:15):
I always tell people it was frustration, right? Remember I say I bounced around a lot in different sort of roles and I would be in meetings sometimes with people and I could often tell them why something wouldn't work, like an application they wanted to implement or something like that. And I could say, "Hey, it's not going to work because of X, Y, Z in a sort of very procedural type of way." But I didn't know what to tell them to do instead. So I realized I had basically a learning gap. I needed to learn how to not just be the person that says something doesn't work, but also be the person who can help them figure out how to make it work.

Alex Booker (08:49):
Oh, I like that.

Katrina Tucker (08:50):
And initially I sort of said, well, maybe I'll do data analysis, business analysis. I think I was trying to find a soft spot to transition because I don't use the word breaking into tech because breaking into something it feels, it's a subconscious way to say you don't belong there. So I've never use that term. I say transitioning or entering, right? You're just entering a place. Breaking in, the connotation is what it is, but the denotation is so, I mean denotation, excuse me, is what it is, but the connotation sort of makes it feel like you're trying to get somewhere that you're not wanted. You break into houses, you break into a place that is locked to you. So subconsciously, I just never used that term because I'm not breaking it anywhere, I belong. I avoid that word specifically. I think it gives people a subconscious way of telling themselves they have to do insurmountable things in order to enter.

And so when I decided to transition into tech, I looked at business analysis, I looked at data analysis because when you say tech, that's such a large thing. And a friend of mine said, "I think you would be a good software engineer." And I immediately said, "Aren't those the people who are coding in the basement in the dark?" I don't think that's true.

Alex Booker (09:53):
Oh, come on now, Katrina.

Katrina Tucker (09:55):
Again, I didn't realize what I was doing was already programming anyway, so I'm not thinking about this in the correct way. And so she was like, "No, it's not like that. It's a lot of what you already do. You'll just have additional skills. It's a lot of collaboration, it's a lot of problem solving, things like that." I listened, but I don't think I took it to heart. And so then I was on Twitter and I saw tweets about 100 DEVS. This new program is coming up, it's free, 30 weeks. We'll teach you the beginnings of being a full stack developer.

Alex Booker (10:26):
Roughly when did you see that tweet?

Katrina Tucker (10:28):
I saw that probably in January of 2022 because I had already started doing some learning on my own, freeCodeCamp, things on YouTube, things like that. But I realized I needed a little bit more formalized training because I was still working full-time. It's difficult to try to schedule things out for yourself when you have a full-time job and you have a family and you have all of those other obligations. And so it appealed to me because I was like, at least I can create some structure for myself, right? How I could go about learning things. So I thought, well, it's free, right? First, let's make sure it's free for real, right? People say free, but they don't really mean it.

Then you saw people who had done his other cohort who had gotten jobs like, "No, it's really free. That's serious." And I said, "Okay, it'll cost me nothing but time so I can see if it's something I really like." And I told myself, if you find out it's something you really like give yourself a good 12 to 18 months to really hit it hard so you can understand it and be ready for the job market. So I was there and about week six or so I think is when we first started JavaScript. We were going over functions and different things you could do, and I thought of what I should have said in a meeting before. So I was like, I could have told them to do this. And I went, okay, this is it, right? This is going to give me the additional skills I need to be able to solve some problems.

I had to talk to my family. I said, "Look, I'm going to not have as much free time, so let's come up with a schedule of things so it doesn't feel like I'm shirking my responsibilities at home and making sure that I'm present enough." They were very, very supportive. They were very like, "Yeah, go for it. We got you." And so I would do things like Wednesdays I always made sure I did dinner and night night with my son, and Saturdays were our date night. And I know some people are like, "You had to schedule that?" Yes, you have to schedule to that degree because if you don't, something is going to go by the wayside. And so I just sort of threw myself into the program. I had to make non-negotiables because I was still working. And so some people say, no matter what, I'm going to do code wars every day or no matter what, I'm going to network every day.

And for me, the non-negotiable was attending class. Even if I was exhausted and couldn't sort of code along, I would sit and listen because for me, I know that I needed to be there every time we had class because even if I missed homework and had to go back and do it, if I'd heard it before, it wasn't foreign to me. I learned by hearing a lot. And then when I went to go back and sort of catch up on the homework, oh yeah, I remember Leon said, "Blah, blah, blah." Shout out to Leon because I can't believe how much energy he puts into teaching us for free.

Alex Booker (13:07):
Amazing. There are definitely those moments where things slot into place and you're like, oh yeah, I'm learning right now. It's obvious because you didn't just a few minutes ago. That happens. But then there's a lot of time as well where you're just staring at the screen or reading the words, listening to the words, you're like, huh.

Katrina Tucker (13:23):

Alex Booker (13:24):
But on some level that stuff is seeping in. It might not have gone all the way, but it's there. So next time you come back to it, you're reinforcing that. I think that's important to remember because you can't always come to the computer fresh.

Katrina Tucker (13:36):
You can't. And so even if, like you said, if you don't understand it completely, you've heard the terms so it doesn't feel completely unfamiliar to you. So that was sort of my non-negotiable. Even when I was on vacation with my kid in Orlando, I would just listen to class. And most days I had enough energy, I had to learn to take a nap. I had to learn to not study a lot on the days of class. I would not study more than an hour that day because if I wanted to be attentive at my job and attentive at class, I couldn't spend all the extra time studying. So on those days I did light work and then on the other days when I did not have class, I could put more attention towards sort of coding and going through the material. But on class days I did very minimal outside work besides being in class and being intended.

Alex Booker (14:22):
Coming up how Katrina got her first job in software.

Katrina Tucker (14:25):
And at the end of it she told me, you have a great personality. When someone tells you you have a great personality, they're like, "But I don't want to date you." I was a little worried it was like that.

Alex Booker (14:33):
I'll be right back with Katrina in just a second. But first Jan, the producer and I wanted to read some of your comments from social media.

Jan Arsenovic (14:41):
Hello. I actually want to go back to a LinkedIn post I read last week where Vanessa was sharing a quote from Alex about expanding your luck surface area. The more you put yourself out there, you have a greater chance of being lucky. There was actually a pretty cool discussion in the comments where Steven Sheaves said, "I liken this to the idea of a net. You can cast a very wide net with huge holes and the fish get through, or you can cast a very tight-knit mesh, but small net and reduce your chance of encountering a fish to begin with, but increase the chances of catching it. It's all about optimizing the amount of opportunities you have while maintaining high quality in each and every interaction" To which Vanessa responded, "So changing your strategy is changing the size of the net." And Tyson Lin said, "I haven't visited this concept in a long time, but I used to call this luck engineering." Luck engineering, I love the sound of that.

Over on Twitter, Julia asked, "Where do you usually read or watch technology news?" And Abir Achman said, "I recommend Medium for tech articles and news and for podcast listeners, I specially recommend the Scrimba podcast." Thank you. And speaking of podcasts, if you're looking for more coding podcasts to listen to one of our listeners, Sohan Chatri recently published his list of podcast recommendations. He wrote, "I've been listening to the following tech podcasts and I highly recommend them for any junior Devs out there who are early in their career." So the Scrimba podcast is on this list, of course. The others are Code Newbie, Front and Happy Hour, freeCodeCamp and Develop Yourself. I hadn't heard about this one before, so there you go. Maybe this list contains a podcast that you are also yet to checkout. If you like our show and you'd like to get a shout-out on it, just share it or talk about it on social media and if you're feeling super supportive, you can also leave us a rating or a review in your podcast app of choice. And now we're back to the interview with Katrina.

Alex Booker (16:40):
How did you arrive? You mentioned freeCodeCamp and YouTube and 100 DEVS. freeCodeCamp is certainly pretty front-end orientated and I think 100 DEVS is as well if you got into JavaScript after just a month or so. What drew you to front-end in particular? Because it does feel a step removed from all the things you were looking at originally, like data analysis and stuff like that.

Katrina Tucker (17:02):
That was where my learning hole was, user experience and things like that was where I had the learning gap, right? It was the hole in my knowledge because I had been doing so much back-end because I had been doing sort of mainframe programming and things like that, that made more sense to me. So when we got to that got to node and things like that on the back-end, that made more sense to me than the front-end. My job was a lot of tax analysis work. So I think in the back-end. The problem was figuring out how to make that work for the user. That's sort of where my gap was.

Alex Booker (17:34):
You wanted to turn into an app basically.

Katrina Tucker (17:37):

Alex Booker (17:37):
You could think logically, you knew what an if statement was and that kind of stuff plus more, but how to take that knowledge from COBOL and mainframe stuff to building apps. That is the modern day and age, frankly. That's the gap 100 DEVS helped you solve.

Katrina Tucker (17:51):
Absolutely. And so we started from the front-end a lot and then as I learned over time that the front-end developer is a relatively new construct. I didn't realize that when I say new, I mean maybe 10 to 12 years.

Alex Booker (18:05):
For a long time it was web developer. It's much less common to call yourself a web developer now, whereas it's very common to call yourself a front-end developer or a back-end developer. The absolute distinction there is more recent, I agree.

Katrina Tucker (18:18):
And so when you run into people who programmed a long time ago, they're almost always back-end people. And so that made sense to me why when I was learning how to code initially, even from that junior high point on, that wasn't front-end based at all. None of that is really about the front-end. And so I needed to learn that part as well. And at the time with 100 DEVS, I didn't even know what it was initially. I just said, okay, well full stack development means I will learn the front-end, so let's just kind of go see. And I had been, like I said, I had been doing that with freeCodeCamp and as well as some YouTube things because that's sort of where my knowledge gap was.

Alex Booker (18:52):
When then did you start to feel ready to apply for jobs as a software engineer and make this transition as you so eloquently described it before?

Katrina Tucker (19:01):
You never feel ready, right? So I got some advice from a friend who said, "You'll never feel ready. Just start and realize that with each interview, if you do well or if you do bad, you'll learn and you'll learn how to get better." And that was hard for me because I am the type of person who wants to put my best foot forward from the very beginning. I started sort of reaching out and sort of looking around. I had an interview with a really good company. I started formally training, I'll say it that way, because I had already started sort of doing it for, seven months in and I completely bombed that interview. I solved it, but I had to take the entire 45 minutes, which as a newbie, you don't realize that's bad, right? You're like, "Oh, I solved it." No, you did. But it was really three parts to that question. You didn't even get to the other two parts.

But it did teach me something, right? It taught me that it's not enough, especially for sort of the way to do coding interviews now, it's not enough to know how to get to the answer. You have to be able to get to a answer, the first part of the answer at least relatively quickly. So you need a baseline amount of knowledge so you can at least get the first part done within 15 to 20 minutes. And so I started saying, "Okay, well I need to learn more. I'm not ready."

Alex Booker (20:11):
You're saying that in a lot of technical interviews there's 60 minutes in the calendar, they start over question like, "Hey, can you implement this?" The objective to finish that in 60 minutes, it's probably to finish it in a third of the time because there's probably two or three follow-up questions coming to build on top of that. But yeah, why would you know that? And maybe a great interviewer lays out the context ahead of the meeting, but there's a very good chance you don't catch that. Is that what happened to you basically?

Katrina Tucker (20:35):
Yeah, that's the issue what happened. I think I finally came to the answer, but I took the entire time, but that's not the way most coding interviews are scheduled. So I realized I need to learn more to get better at it and get faster, and I needed to actually have some actual interview training. How do interviews mainly go? I didn't know that. There is this group rather called Brilliant Black Minds. It's sponsored by Karat, which is the interviewing company, and they have sort of mock interviews that you can do. You start at your easy level and move up and they give you real time feedback and written feedback. So what you need to work on.

Alex Booker (21:12):
These are Zoom calls where you pretend to do a real interview?

Katrina Tucker (21:15):
Absolutely, it is Zoom calls, it's called Brilliant Black Minds. It's a company that really advocates for adding more minority engineers. I don't know if you know I'm a Black woman. And so I was like, "Well, let me see what it's like." And I did some interviews and really not just learn how to code better, but how to get to the answers better. And so you sort of start recognizing patterns. They have study groups to help you with that kind of thing. So it was super helpful once I felt more comfortable to start interviewing and really pushing that and it helps you see sort of the gaps.

So you might need to learn syntax better, you know what to do, but if you have to look up the syntax all the time, it's going to slow you down. So you might need to start drilling yourself on arrow functions. Whatever it is that you feel like you're weak in, even if you know how to do it, if you have to look up certain things often it will slow you down. Now in actual work when you're at your job, that's not as key because yes, you may have times, but you're not trying to figure out three problems in 45 minutes necessarily. So it helped me sort of figure out where I was weak and do those things. And so I started sort of in earnest looking for positions around November.

Alex Booker (22:22):
What was your strategy to find opportunities?

Katrina Tucker (22:27):
I was on LinkedIn, I was on AngelList, which I think is now Wellsfound or something because Leo told us that too. He was like, "Sometimes LinkedIn has a lot of big companies, but you want to look for medium-sized companies." I looked for local companies. I live in Atlanta, which we have a very large tech scene. I did freelance work, so I would have references of my work and what it was like to work with me. I work with other engineers on projects so I could get used to doing that as well. So I just sort of tried to replicate different experiences, again because I'm a professional with a new skill, but you want to be able to show that you have been able to hone that new skill to a certain degree. So I did lots of things.

I don't believe in leaving any stone unturned, right? And this we'll get to networking, right? Because I started networking. I think class started in January of 2022. I started networking in February. I didn't even know anything yet, but I just started talking to people because there's so many types of engineers and I didn't know which one I wanted to be. Because it was a new field for me. I just said, "I'm going to talk to as many people as possible and learn about different things you could do." You'll hear people talk about Cloud engineering, okay, what is that? What is quality analysis? What is site reliability engineering? What is DevOps? I didn't know what any of these things meant.

Alex Booker (23:37):
Oh my gosh, there's an entire dictionary of technological terms. You'd never pick up a dictionary and just read it, would you? You learn words through conversation. That's how you learn terminology.

Katrina Tucker (23:47):
Right. So I just talked to people, I talked to people who had been through bootcamps. I talked to people who had traditional computer science degrees. I talked to a Slovenian developer who did quality. Now I talked to anybody I could find, just to learn about it. It wasn't about, oh, I'm trying to get a job from this person. It was more about, okay, this is a new field, a new industry, what is it like? What is it about? And so I just talked to as many people as I could.

Alex Booker (24:10):
What's the difference then? Because you said you were networking, but just sounds like you were talking to people. What's the difference?

Katrina Tucker (24:16):
There is no difference. People make it a difference.

Alex Booker (24:17):

Katrina Tucker (24:18):
I think people make networking sort of a means to an end, sort of like I'm going to go try to get a discount on something I need to buy, right? And networking is just getting to know people. It's getting to know people in your industry. It's creating sort of a network for yourself if you have questions about things. It's been so often that I was like, "Okay, I don't have any idea what this is. I need help with X, Y, Z." And I would just reach out to somebody. The weirdest thing was I was having the hardest time figuring out arrow loops and I was just like, this is not complicated. I just had a mental block about it.

Alex Booker (24:52):
Like arrow functions?

Katrina Tucker (24:53):
Yeah, arrow functions and the loops and the particularly increment operators. For some reason, until I heard that phrase, the i plus plus kept throwing me off. I was like, I plus what does that mean? What is that?

Alex Booker (25:04):
Yeah, why plus plus instead of just plus, right? It's not-

Katrina Tucker (25:06):
Exactly. So long story short, I asked someone about it, they kind of explained it to me and I got it, but then I was on YouTube and Mashi has these, so many courses. When I'm having trouble, I tend to go into a bigger course and look at the chapters and find the thing I'm looking for. And so I was like, all right, let's see what he says about loops just in general, right? Let's just see what he says about loops. And as he's going through it, he was like, "An i plus plus, which is your increment operator." And remember I told you sometimes when I hear things they click more so than see them. And once he said that I went, oh, it completely made sense. But sometimes you have to just go seek help. You can't just stare at the screen forever. You can waste a lot of time doing that one.

But networking or as I say, just talking and meeting people, you know could do that. I know a lot of people will say, "But I'm introverted. How do I go about doing it?" There's so many passive ways to do it now. This is better than back in the day when you had to physically go everywhere and sort of knock on doors and meet people with your business card. Now you could just interact with someone's content or if they say something on Twitter, you agree would say "Yeah." Or ask a question. There's so many ways to interact with people that doesn't require a lot of social capital or a lot of social energy. I would do that sometimes. Yeah. Just to see if I understood what someone's talking about.

And so then if I said, "Hey, do you have 15 to 20 minutes to talk? I want to just ask you about your journey." I wasn't a stranger. Because people pay attention to who likes their information. They pay attention to who responds to them when they ask questions, they pay attention to all of that. So that's how you can passively build a rapport so that it doesn't seem so scary when you want to ask for one-on-one time, 15 to 20 minutes, just to learn about people's journey and find out about what they do. A lot of times I'm just trying to find out what they do and how they went about it. Similar to this kind of podcast, right?

Alex Booker (26:56):
I really like that approach where you think about it more meeting new people instead of networking. It's so much more approachable. Another tip I like to share sometimes is to think about it collaborating. It doesn't hurt to have a nice pitch, but you don't need it. You can think of it as collaboration. For example, someone in your peer group, you can collaborate on a project. Someone might ask for feedback on Twitter. They might be a lot more experienced than you. This is your opportunity to contribute, give to get that kind of thing. It's obvious you value networking from the learning point of view and it really accelerated your learning. What about in terms of finding your first role?

Katrina Tucker (27:29):
Yeah, I have a wonderful mentor who helped me with that. One of my mentors, Michael Brown, he's a senior engineer at Microsoft. He would work with me weekly. That helped me accelerate my learning as well. But then when it came time to look for a job, because I had talked to so many people, it was sort of like, "Hey, I'm officially sort of looking. If you see anything you think might be a good fit, let me know." And they'd be like, "Sure, okay." And that would be all I would say. It wasn't, "I saw this job." And for some people who I'm closer to, people that I talk to more often, I would say that, "Hey, I see this position. Do you know anything about it?" And that's literally all, I'm not saying refer me, I'm not saying any of that initially, I'm just like, "Do you know anything about it?" And sometimes they would say, "I can find out who the hiring manager is and let you know."

And then I can take it from there. "Or I'll let the hiring manager know that your resume is coming in or, and you should do this before you apply. Make sure you do this before you apply." Or sometimes I would see a job at a place and I didn't know anyone, but at this point I knew a lot of people and I would say, "Hey, do you know anyone who works at Oracle?" And then at that point, because you have a relationship with them, they vouch for you. They may know someone.

Alex Booker (28:36):
How did you get the role you're currently working in?"

Katrina Tucker (28:39):
It was a virtual conference, it was called Girls Who Code. Things are moving more towards in person now, but last year still there was a lot of things that were virtual. What I tend to do when I know I'm going to a virtual conference and I know they're going to have certain companies, they have sort of these expo booths or whatever where you can talk and answer questions, I look at the companies that are going to be there a couple of days ahead of time. I look them up and see which ones I want to make sure I talk to. So KPMG, which is where I work, was one of those companies and I looked them up and I was like, oh, okay, well yeah, it's finances, accounting, okay great. And then I saw something that said tax technology. And I was like, that's it, right?

I made sure my resume was all spiffy and everything and I went to the conference and one of the people there, they had some recruiters there, but they also had someone who was a director, a hiring person. And I asked her some questions about the roles, what it was like, things like that. And then I saw so you could send private messages that I just totally, "Hey, I'm a software developer. My background is in tax law and finance. I think I would be a great fit. Do you mind if I send you my resume?" She said, "Sure." So I sent the resume. I think that was a Thursday. That Monday morning, I thanked her for just sent a follow-up email, "Thank you so much for answering my questions. I really appreciate you taking a look at my resume. Hopefully we could be in contact." That's it. No high pressure, just a hey, remember me kind of thing.

And she emailed me back and said she had given it to the lead recruiter and someone should be getting in contact with me. I think it was the next day, and the recruiter, said, "Hey, I got your resume from this person. Let's set up a time to talk and figure out the interview process and things like that." And I went through that process. It was a couple of interviews. They weren't super coding, heavy whiteboard interviews. It was more so explain your projects, explain your logic, did you run into an issue? How did you solve it? Things like that. That was sort of the first interview. And the final interview was much more high level system design type things because it was with the principal, they understand the code because they've done it, but they tend to want to know how you think on a sort of broader level. And so that's what that second interview was about.

And that first interview where we did go over coding and things like that, I was sick. When I say I was absolutely sick, I had enough energy to do that interview and that was it. And I told my partner, I said, "I didn't hurl." I was like, "I didn't hurl, so I'm good."

Alex Booker (31:00):
Sick means something else in England, like we say sick when something's really great.

Katrina Tucker (31:04):
No, I was ill. Yeah, we say sick like that too, bro. I mean I was ill. I had all kinds of problems and I had been in bed most of that week. I saved all of my energy for that interview, that first interview.

Alex Booker (31:16):
Why wasn't rescheduling an option?

Katrina Tucker (31:18):
I don't know. Something told me don't do that because the way the market had shifted because I had to make a shift as well. When I first started interviewing, I was just sort of interviewing for open roles I saw, but as the layoffs and all of those things started happening, I was like, you have to find a better way. And so I went all in on things that I had domain knowledge in. So if it was a tax company, a finance company, a legal company.

Alex Booker (31:44):
Yeah, this is a really great tactic I think, or strategy even whereby you combine some of your previous experience with your newfound technical experience to position yourself very strongly for a role. You have a much better chance of success when you do that if there's an option available to you. Often these strategies kind of emerge through trial and error, by the way. So it's very normal that once you realized that there was an angle here, you doubled down.

Katrina Tucker (32:06):
That's what I did. And so I got that first interview, I didn't know how I went. Like I said, I was extremely ill and so I told my partner, "Everything stayed inside, I was good." And at the end of it she told me, "You have a great personality." So I knew I had faked it a little bit well enough, but I was also concerned that it was sort of those, when someone tells you have a great personality, they're like, "But I don't want to date you." I was a little worried it was like that.

Alex Booker (32:30):
Oh yeah, I've got a good face for podcasts.

Katrina Tucker (32:32):
Yeah, that kind of thing, right? I was sort of concerned it was like that. And then I had a friend who told me they talked to engineers all the time and a lot of people aren't necessarily personable. They may be introverted, and so that probably was a genuine compliment. I said, "Okay." Maybe a couple of days later he said, "Hey, they're moving you on to the next round." And he said, "And it's the final round." I was like, "Oh, okay."

Alex Booker (32:53):
Had you been to the final round of a coding interview before this?

Katrina Tucker (32:55):

Alex Booker (32:56):
Whoa. So the pressure was really on.

Katrina Tucker (32:58):
Luckily what they do when they set up the meeting, you can see who you're interviewing with. So final interviews are generally some technical, but it's more about fit. And so I looked up information about the company. I looked up information about the person I was interviewing. He had some interviews himself with some Microsoft people and things like that. I watched those interviews because even if I don't know that person, if you've heard their voice before, they don't feel as much like a stranger when you talk to them the next time.

So if I know who a person I'm interviewing, I look to see if there's something online where they're talking or speaking or something like that, and you could sort of pick up a sense of a person. And so I did that, but I also did it because I wanted to ask him questions. I wanted to ask him business related questions about why they were hiring someone for that role and what they were looking for, what sort of business needs they had that they thought that developer could help them with.

Alex Booker (33:54):
Why did you want to ask them the business questions?

Katrina Tucker (33:57):
Two things, you want to be curious about what the job is going to entail and not just from a programming perspective because programming is just a means to an end to solve a business problem and a business problem 9 times out of 10 is sort of a people problem. And so you want to be able to make that connection. If they say they're looking for someone where our business need is someone super technical because we don't have anybody who knows how to code on the back-end or whatever it may be, then that's a different role versus what he said to me is, "I need full stack people because I need people to be able to see the bigger picture." That's a very different role, even though it could be the same title. When he said that, I was like, "Okay." Then it was sort of like, let's chat kind of thing. And that let me know what he was looking for and I could let him know the ways that I could help them and what made me unique in that endeavor.

Alex Booker (34:46):
It's a great idea.

Katrina Tucker (34:46):
There's nothing worse I think than accepting the offer and getting there and having no idea what you're really supposed to be doing. You already got to be confused enough by the technical aspects, but not knowing sort of what they're looking for. I always ask people, "What does a successful engineer look like in your company?" Things like that. You want to know.

Alex Booker (35:02):
You should ask as well for the sake of verifying they have a well-defined role and a clear definition of success because if you ask that question and they don't really have a good answer for you, that could be a sign that even though this opportunity might be in reach, maybe in six months you have to change again because they don't have their ducks in a row so to speak. But this company, it sounds like they did.

Katrina Tucker (35:23):
He knew. He knew. They're a big company. And so the benefits of big companies is that they have a lot of processes in place. And so a lot of times when you have questions, they have answers. One of the ways that is solidified for me that this was the company is they're very responsive. So if I ask the recruiter something in particular, I don't think it ever took more than a day and a half for a response, that's a good sign to me. Or if it was taking longer than he thought, he would contact me first and say, "Hey, it's still doing X, Y, Z. Sorry about the delay, but they're still doing it. I checked on it."

Alex Booker (35:52):
Yeah, communicative. I like that. How long did it take them to let you know about the outcome of the interview?

Katrina Tucker (35:58):
The next morning.

Alex Booker (35:59):
Next morning. Nice. How did that feel?

Katrina Tucker (36:02):
It was good. I was, look it was funny. I was getting ready to drive to my actual job at the time and I saw I had a missed call from the recruiter at like 8:45 in the morning and I was like, "What is going on?" So he said to me, "It definitely it went really well. They definitely want to bring you on." Because I worked for the government and they have some government contracts, I had to pass some additional ethics things. And so they just wanted to make sure I wasn't going to have sort of conflict of interest, make sure it was okay for me to go and work for them after leaving the government. I wasn't really worried about it because what I would be doing for them and what I was doing at the government didn't really overlap.

They still have to do their due diligence and so that took about another week or so. But like I said, he was very communicative about, "Yeah, they're still taking a look at it. They're still doing this information. If they need anything else, I'll let you know." And then I think, yeah, it took about a week, a little bit more than a week and we had talked about, did a little negotiating with salary and things like that. And then I got sort of the written offer and it was what we had discussed. And so I signed it and a couple of weeks later I started.

Alex Booker (37:01):
Amazing. Congratulations Katrina. I'm so happy for you.

Katrina Tucker (37:03):

Alex Booker (37:04):
So glad that worked out in the end. And I think it is just a wonderful example of persevering and iterating through trial and error to a strategy that's going to work for you and your situation. I noticed as well, I mean only during our interview to be honest, but it says on LinkedIn you're working there as a senior engineer. Yeah, it's your first software engineering role. Now I can guess about why that might be, but could you maybe tell us a bit about that?

Katrina Tucker (37:28):
It's the domain knowledge. Part of what happened with that final interview with the principal is that when he was asking me sort of those big picture system designed, business problem solving questions, he saw essentially what, which was I said at the beginning of this podcast was I'm not a junior, I am a professional who has another skill. And so because of that domain knowledge and too, I think sometimes when people have certain salary bands where this is the max they can pay someone at this position, this is the max, they may have to move around, but for me they did offer me that sort of senior role. Now senior engineers came very [inaudible 00:38:08]. At this company, senior engineer is what in a traditional tech company would sort of be upper mid-level, it's not the same, but because it is sort of an accounting, consulting, finance tax place, they offered me what is a senior role there.

Alex Booker (38:21):
Amazing. Absolutely incredible. Super inspiring. And Katrina, thank you so much for coming on to share your story. Lots of great actionable advice and frankly there's a lot more we could discuss, right? I think it's super fascinating that you onboarded remotely, you did this transition after working a long career. I love your attentiveness to language as well, right? Avoiding words like junior and breaking into tech when necessary. I'm sure that's very carefully considered. And yeah, I think people can learn from your serious approach to learning to code as well. You know need something sustainable, right? And so have your daily minimum for you that was attending class, but also communicating some with your family and carving out time specifically. Just one of the many insights today.

Katrina Tucker (39:00):
Right, you have to be intentional.

Alex Booker (39:02):
Katrina, thank you so much again.

Katrina Tucker (39:04):
Thank you so much, Alex. I appreciate it.

Jan Arsenovic (39:07):
That was the Scrimba Podcast, episode 119. If you made it this far, subscribe. We are a weekly show and there's a new episode every Tuesday. Make sure to check out the show notes and join the conversation on social media. As long as your post contains the words Scrimba Podcast, we will find it and you might get a shout-out. The show is hosted by Alex Booker. His Twitter handle is also in the show notes. I'm Jan, the producer, and we'll be back with you next week. See you.