The Scrimba Podcast

Meet Chris McCoy πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ! He's a pastor who did odd jobs on the side. But he was always interested in coding! Somewhere between working retail and doing food delivery, he realized he needed something more stimulating. Nine months later, he landed not one but two job offers as a junior developer!

Show Notes

πŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Chris McCoy πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ! He's a pastor who did odd jobs on the side. But he was always interested in coding! Somewhere between working retail and doing food delivery, he realized he needed something more stimulating. Nine months later, he landed not one but two job offers as a junior developer!

Chris CRUSHED it on LinkedIn, even though he never liked social media: in this episode, he shares his approach to posting and being actively present on the platform. You can use it both to learn and to connect with people working in the industry, and that's exactly what Chris did. Spoiler alert: it doesn't have to be complicated.

You'll also learn more about internships: Chris landed one, which turned out to be pretty cool! What do companies look for in an intern? Should you become one,  and how? He also shares how he approached learning to code and found a balance between learning and work. Chris and Alex also discuss what you can learn from odd jobs.

Sadly, you won't learn the recipe for Chick-fil-A. But it does make an appearance in this episode :)

πŸ”— Connect with Chris
⏰ Timestamps
  • How Chris decided to become a developer (01:51)
  • Can you still learn something from odd jobs that have nothing to do with coding? (03:19)
  • How Chris chose to learn to code and found support in his community (04:35)
  • Balancing work, learning, and being a pastor: how Chris did it (06:28)
  • How Chris discovered Scrimba (09:16)
  • It's okay not to know everything about development (12:08)
  • Why you need real-world examples when learning a new skill (12:57)
  • Did Chris complete Scrimba's Career Path or get a job before he managed to? (14:14)
  • When and how did Chris start applying for jobs? (16:31)
  • How Chris created a LinkedIn profile and started crushing it (17:31)
  • How to be genuinely present on LinkedIn and use the platform to connect (18:33)
  • Chris's approach to writing LinkedIn posts (21:36)
  • How adding Scrimba to his education connected Chris to a recruiter (21:51)
  • Can an internship be... good? (24:41)
  • What does a company expect from an intern, and what did Chris do about it (27:05)
  • Working with other interns and the higher-ups (30:02)
  • How Chris compared to the other interns in his group (32:38)
  • How Chris's internship turned into a job (34:33)
  • In the end, Chris had not one but two job offers! How did he pick one? (36:17)
  • The hard work paid off (37:49)
🧰 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.

Chris McCoy (00:01):
I think I was at my daughter's gymnastic class, and I created a LinkedIn profile on my phone, and the first person I added was another of my brothers. He's a data scientist, and he messaged me immediately, "Hey, I think somebody is trying to pretend to be you. Is that really you on LinkedIn?" Because it was so odd that I would have a LinkedIn.

Alex Booker (00:18):
Hello and welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show I speak with successful developers about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior developer job. I'm Alex and today I'm joined by Chris McCoy who just got their first junior developer job recently.

Now, Chris has done all kinds of jobs in his 33 years, from retail to mowing grass, all the way to food delivery with apps like Instacart. While working these various odd end jobs, Chris also work part-time as a pastor, serving his local community, which is just incredible. I love the diversity of The Scrimba Podcast. When we started we could never have predicted talking to such a diverse group of individuals who learned to code and change their careers.

And this really was a big career change for Chris, because doing part-time work can really take a toll on your schedule and your family life. It's also very hard to find the autonomy, mastery and purpose that we all desire. Chris thought web development could be the gateway to earning more money and having more control over his schedule. And my goodness, he was right.

In this episode, you are going to learn from Chris, and how specifically he managed to leverage LinkedIn as a brand new LinkedIn user. Chris literally didn't need a LinkedIn account as a pastor or delivery driver, but once he made his account he managed to crack the code and get hundreds of likes, connect with recruiters and use those connections to secure a job. You are listening to these Scrimba Podcast. Let's get into it.

Chris McCoy (01:51):
I messed around with coding a little bit in high school. For three or four months I was trying to do stuff, and then I didn't touch it again until I was 33, so a little bit of a time gap there. Since I'm also a pastor, it's a part-time job, I've been doing other stuff along with it, and I've done everything, worked retail, I've mowed grass, lots of other things, some handyman work, but most recently I was doing food delivery in DoorDash and Uber Eats and Instacart, and that sort of thing, and I just got really tired of it, and I was like, "There has to be something that can engage my brain, something that can be a little better for me time-wise and pay-wise, and something that's a little more fun."

And so I've got a brother-in-law who is a React dev, and I reached out to him because I've always been interested in coding. My dad did some software development, so it's always something that always thought was cool but never really touched. So I reached out to my brother-in-law, and I was like, "Hey, what do you think about me trying this?" Because I think I saw a Google ad for one of those Google IT certificates. I reached out to him and I was like, "Is this a good thing?" He's like, "You should just learn to code instead of getting some sort of Google or Microsoft certificate." That's how it started.

Alex Booker (03:06):
You were, and presumably still are a pastor, serving your community, but to sustain yourself, you just did a variety of jobs, it sounds like. The thing that's quite remarkable is that those jobs had nothing to do with computers, let alone coding.

Chris McCoy (03:19):
Yeah, lots of different things to provide for your family and spend your time. I've been a pastor for eight years. I'm an associate pastor and I do the youth and young families ministries at our church. But then, since it's a part-time position, I've done lots of other stuff. You can always learn something new from any job that you're doing. For a while I worked at Chick-fil-A, and I was a manager there, and I just got to practice talking to people, because you talked to 30 or 40 people an hour coming through the drive through, and it's always great to be in a position where you can learn something and grow.

Alex Booker (03:50):
Please tell me you wrote down their recipe, because I'm missing Chick-fil-A in the UK.

Chris McCoy (03:55):
Yeah, maybe off the air I'll tell you the secret to making their chicken, but it was a cool place to work, it was fun.

Alex Booker (04:01):
I know exactly what you mean. There are some people who are perceived to have natural communication skills or be very empathetic, but for the mass majority of us, the way we get good at these things is just by being exposed to lots of different scenarios with lots of different people. It really helps you grow, and I sometimes think when you're doing jobs that aren't your vocation, you don't necessarily dislike them, but you also know they're not quite stimulating the way that you might like. That is often a period where you start to reflect on, what is it that you want to do? Was there a reason in particular you pursued coding?

Chris McCoy (04:35):
I think it was something that I didn't realize I could do. It always felt like you either instantly knew everything and could do it, and so, in high school, my friend loaned me, I think it was a C+, or maybe just C, it was the big book that walks you through things.

Alex Booker (04:53):
That's the other big book.

Chris McCoy (04:55):
Yeah, yeah, that's right. I made it three or four pages, and I was just like, "I didn't get it. It didn't make sense." He wanted to try to start a search engine company, and it was just too much. I didn't get it. I gave the book back and I never touched it after that because I thought I couldn't really do it, but I got to a point with delivering food where I was like, "Pretty much anything would be better than this. What else could I try? What would be fun?"

I thought about doing real estate, and I was like, "I don't think that would be a good fit." And then, as soon as I started talking to my brother-in-law, we started thinking about it and praying about it with my wife, and then it was three or four people that I talked to were like, "Oh yeah, I could totally see you doing that." And I was like, "Really?" And that's not usually the response I get when I come up with what I thought was a crazy idea of let's learn to code and program and get a job doing it.

Alex Booker (05:43):
What were the attributes they saw in you that they thought might make you a good coder?

Chris McCoy (05:48):
I tend to be analytical, and that's part of my brain that I really using. As soon as I started coding was when I really realized, "Hey, this is not just another job that I could do to fill in the gaps, but this is something that's really fun and that I want to keep learning." It uses a different part of your brain to sit down and solve problems and find what's broken, learn different ways and more efficient ways of doing things.

So I guess that, and then I tend to be pretty driven. I to try to achieve whatever my goal is. And so, all the people around me really believed in me that I could do it. Even at the times where I was like, "I don't know that I'm ever going to make it, but I'm just going to keep trying."

Alex Booker (06:28):
I reckon a lot of people can relate to your position of working a job that they want to change, and there are jobs delivery drivers and things that, which, to be honest, they have a fairly low barrier to entry, which means that you can hop around a little bit.

How did you think about learning to code then? Because this sounds fundamentally different in that it was something that you would have to spend an undetermined amount of time, it must have felt like, but probably 6, 9, 12 plus months practicing and learning in order to become hireable. How did you plan to balance that with providing for your family at the same time?

Chris McCoy (07:02):
I actually kept doing the delivery driving while I was learning, up until May of this year. As I was getting close to finishing Scrimba and starting to apply for jobs, I was able to take those months off and just focus on coding only. I would get up in the morning about 05:15, 05:30, and I would code for an hour and a half until my kids woke up, and then I'd get them ready for school, take them to school, and then I would go start delivering groceries or anything else and then do my church work. I would code pretty much a little bit of the mornings, and then sometimes in the evenings, depending on how things went.

It was definitely a challenge balancing family and work and trying to learn a new skill and get a new job, but really, I drive around and I just listen to podcasts and listen to The Scrimba Podcast, and anytime you start to feel like, "Hey, maybe this isn't going well, or it's taking me way longer than I thought." You start to realize... I think one of the biggest things was realizing it doesn't matter if I finish this the fastest, it doesn't matter if I finish this right away, and it doesn't matter if I get the job when I want to, as long as I don't stop doing it, I'll get there. It's not something that is impossible. You just have to keep trying.

Alex Booker (08:14):
Right on. The only way to guarantee you fail is to stop trying.

Chris McCoy (08:18):
Yeah, that was the message that came through loud and clear in a lot of the podcasts and The Scrimba Podcasts especially. That was encouraging to me, and just hearing all the other people that did it and succeeded that came from other crazy backgrounds, I was like, "Okay, maybe I haven't lost my mind."

Circling back to why I ended up choosing programming, it really stood out to me that this is the only professional field where you don't have to have a degree. A CS degree is awesome, but I've done a lot of schooling already. I've got a bachelor's and I've got a master's in the church side of things, and I was like, "I really don't want to go back to school for something." And so, programming, I can learn the skill, and if I can demonstrate I can do the thing, then that's all that some or most companies now really care about. It was a little bit of a time investment, but a pretty low barrier of entry as far as, I don't have to have a specific thing from a specific university, I can just learn the skill and do the job.

Alex Booker (09:16):
I think it's one of the most liberating things on the planet. Okay, you wouldn't let a dentist or a heart surgeon operate on you about very, very good qualifications, but a programmer can have a go at contributing to a code base, and if you get at it, you know can keep contributing. I think that's amazing. How did you come across Scrimba, by the way?

Chris McCoy (09:33):
I keep trying to remember how I found Scrimba. I started with some free resources, and I started with PHP, which was just maybe not the best idea, but it worked for teaching me some basic concepts. I did a little bit of Code Academy and then I'm transitioned to Free Code Camp. At that point I was just trying to wrap my head around what all these acronyms are, CSS and HTML, and trying to figure out what part they played, and I kept running into Scrimba, and it's got such a unique name that I was like, "Okay, this sounds weird."

I think I'd find it in forum posts, or people would mention in Stack Overflow things, or I don't know where I found it, but I eventually made it to the Scrimba website and I was like, "Oh man, this is exactly what I need." Because it takes all the work of, what do I need to learn? And just says, "Look, just follow this path and you'll know everything you need to know." And that took a huge weight off of me, to just be able to say, "Okay, I'm not going to go back to school per se, but if I go through this course and the frontend developer career path, then when I get to the end, I will have learned and studied the things I need to know. And so, then I could stop focusing on, "Well, should I learn PHP? Should I learn WordPress? Should I try to learn Java or some backend language?" And I could really just focus on, "All right, what's the next step?" That was really helpful to me.

Alex Booker (10:56):
Coming up on The Scrimba Podcast, how Chris used the interconnected power of LinkedIn to forge connections, which ultimately landed him a job.

Chris McCoy (11:05):
I did have a post that got... It was insane. It was, 20,000 or 30,000 people looked at it.

Alex Booker (11:12):
All that to come, and more, but real quick, Jan, the producer and I wanted to ask you a quick favor.

Jan Arsenovic (11:18):
This is the part of the show and I remind you that the best way to support a podcast you is word of mouth, so if you find this episode interesting or insightful and somebody who also has to hear it, please share it with them, be it on socials, on Discord or in person, and if you're feeling extra supportive of our work here, please consider leaving us a review on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. We release a new episode every Tuesday, so if you subscribe to us, you know you'll be getting a new insightful interview in your feed every week. And next week Alex is talking to Bob Ziroll. He's Scrimba's head of education, and believe it or not, this is going to be the first time we're having him on the podcast, so I'm looking forward to that. And now, back to the interview with Chris.

Alex Booker (12:08):
One of the most challenging things in today's world, our interconnected online world, is that we know just how many options there are out there, and we know that as individuals, we can only really pick one, maybe two, one or two paths, and it leads to analysis paralysis. So you think all these options are a great thing, but the thing that escapes a lot of people, I think, is that at first you think you can master everything. You just assume, "Oh if you're a developer, you know everything about developing." And then you compare yourself to those people, not realizing that even the most experienced developers at prestigious companies, at best, they only master a small sliver of development. And I think when you realize that, it can be quite a liberating feeling, because you can remove some of that pressure off your shoulders and just focus on hopefully having fun with it. Like in Scrimba, we try and do that with interactive projects, and podcasts, and live streams and all the rest of it.

Chris McCoy (12:57):
Yeah, 100%. And I remember the first thing in the career path, or the first thing I did on Scrimba. Pierre is teaching it and it's so fun. This is something I've never learned before, and I think it was the people counter, and just to see... Because one of the questions when you start is, what am I really going to build with this? Am I going to be just building things that I don't know about, that don't interact with the real world? And so then, to do the people counter app, where he was counting people coming out of the subway, was just a, "Oh, okay, I understand now why I need to be able to increment things and why that's helpful." That was one of the things that was so fun for me, was getting to build all the projects and just see the different ways that this can be applied.

Because I'm not the most creative person, I'm not going to just go out and build something brand new. I to tinker with things, work on things that are already there, so to see all the different options for what you can really do with code... I've done a little bit of woodworking, and it just feels like having a really good tool. It's like, "I don't know exactly what I'm going to use this tool for, but look at all the stuff I can do with it." And then you see what other people are doing, you're like, "Oh hey, I can use my tool to do that." And that's what programming became, building out a tool set."

Alex Booker (14:14):
You completed the Scrimba frontend developer career path, right?

Chris McCoy (14:18):
Okay, I made it so close to completing it. This is hilarious. I made it all the way to the React section, and I was starting the React section when I got the interview for the company I'm working at. And when I got the interview, I'd listen to so many of The Scrimba Podcast about how to network on LinkedIn, the first thing I did was reach out to five or six people at the company to try to find out what stack they use and whatever else I can so I could prepare for the interview.

So in doing that I found out they used Vue, and so, I stopped doing React, I stopped doing the career path, and I just dove really hard into Vue for two or three days. And so, I still actually have not completed this Scrimba career path. It's on my list of I really want to make it through and get this certificate and hang it on the wall, but it's so funny to me that, really, I didn't even make it all the way through before I got a job, which I thought I'd finish it and I'd have to do seven or eight other things before I really could get a job. It's just a funny way that it's worked out.

Alex Booker (15:16):
Well, let me say first of all, at Scrimba, we feel as though most learners benefit from an amalgamation of resources. And so, if you had the good intel that this company uses Vue.js and that could help you in the interview process, I think it's awesome you went to study it in more depth. And yeah, hoping you get that certificate soon, because you definitely deserve it.

Chris McCoy (15:35):
One thing that maybe helped me out was, my brother-in-law, when I initially asked him, he basically said, "Yeah, it's something you can learn, you know can become a dev within a year." And he's such a great guy, he said, "I'll help you." And so, for that nine to 10 months that I was doing Scrimba, we were meeting weekly over Google Meet and just pair coding.

It started out, me asking him about silly stuff how to... The for loop and defining variables, and what's actually happening, but he did that with me the whole time, and so I did dive into React a lot with him before I made it to the React portion of Scrimba. I'm looking forward to going through and finishing it, because then, not only will I have a working knowledge of Vue, but then I can have a working knowledge of React. And the nice thing is, they build off each other. A lot of the things I learned in doing some of the React course on Scrimba, and then in working in it with my brother-in-law just immediately transferred over to Vue.

Alex Booker (16:31):
So how many months into learning to code were you when you first started applying for jobs, Chris? And did you think you had a realistic shot at success at that point?

Chris McCoy (16:41):
That's a fun question. I started, maybe six months in. I think it was January or February that I started applying, and I did not think I had a shot at all. And I really only started applying because that's the advice I heard pretty much everywhere, was, "You're never going to feel like you're ready, but go out there, apply and practice anyways." And so I applied, and I'd find a job that looked interesting to me, that was with a cool company, and I would apply, and most of the times I would not hear back. I did a lot of just firing out applications on LinkedIn. The easy apply was so nice. But it's funny actually, every interview I got was through connecting in some way with somebody on LinkedIn, as opposed to applying. The position that I ended up at was completely through LinkedIn. I didn't fill out an application, I think. I think I just talked to the recruiter.

Alex Booker (17:31):
By the way, as a pastor/odd jobs type of person, did you even have a LinkedIn profile before you started looking for a developer job?

Chris McCoy (17:39):
No I didn't. I created one... I think I was at my daughter's gymnastic class, and I was sitting, and I created a LinkedIn profile on my phone, and the first person I added was another of my brothers, he's a data scientist, and he messaged me immediately through text message, and he is like, "Hey, I think somebody is trying to pretend to be you. Is that really you on LinkedIn?" Because it was so odd that I would have a LinkedIn, because I had never... I'm not a huge social media guy, and I'd never used LinkedIn.

I remember getting emails from it in college from friends and professors adding stuff on LinkedIn. I was never really interested and I didn't really know anything about it. And so, no, I completely started a LinkedIn about halfway through Scrimba, and that was totally from hearing from the podcast, "Hey this is one of the few things that you really need to get a job." And so, Scrimba and LinkedIn, you can do anything if you have those two things.

Alex Booker (18:33):
The thing that's really impressive is that you really know how to use LinkedIn now. So if people check out your profile, admittedly it might have changed a bit by the time you hear the episode, who knows? But there's nothing too crazy about your profile. You don't have that much work experience or details listed. 100% of the appeal of your LinkedIn profile comes from your posts. You write almost like you're blogging or thinking out loud, yet it's very engaging and actually people really engage with your posts. I think at one point you just didn't overthink it. You were like, "Hey, just applied for my first developer job, hope it goes well." And you got 500 likes or something, people just showing the support. And I know that gave your profile some reach as well, which probably helped when it came to search results and recruiters and whoever checking out your profile.

You also have 500 connections, and it's hard for me to dissect all of your comments and interactions, but it sounds you were taking full advantage of the fact that you could message people and comment on their posts. What I'm getting at is that you know hear advice about LinkedIn, and it's often, "Okay, make sure you've got a good headshot and make sure you've got your desired job title in the headline. Not the job you necessarily have, but the one you want, because that's how recruiters find you."

That's a great starting point, but actually, I think what you've proved is the most impactful thing is to genuinely be present on the platform and strive to form connections with people. And it's not something that comes easy to many people at all. Putting yourself out there in the first instance, but also finding your tone of voice on social media, it takes many people months if not years. Some people never get there. But I want to hear from you, how is that experience for you, putting yourself out there a bit more? Am I sort of on the right path of my assumption that these are the things that really helped accelerate your process?

Chris McCoy (20:17):
Yeah, so I used LinkedIn as a way to make connections, and I just connected aggressively with anybody I could find that worked in software.

Alex Booker (20:27):
You have more connections than me, by the way.

Chris McCoy (20:28):
Oh, that's hilarious. I started out just like, "I need to know somebody to connect with them." And then I realized, I can click the connect button on anyone. And so I started with a few. I would just search software developer, or I'd connect with one person and then I would just add 30 or 40 of their connections. Every once in a while I'd sit down and just send out a ton of connection requests, and the purpose wasn't... I didn't even know it kept track until I was at 400, but one, I wanted to fill up my feed with software stuff so when I'm on there, I'm learning, but then I also wanted the opportunity to see what other people are talking about and then take part in it.

And it definitely was outside my comfort zone. Posting, it's always felt weird to me to just post stuff. I know a lot of people love it, but I sent a lot of messages too, and I made some good friends and connected with them, and that was really helpful. The best part of LinkedIn was just how you can be connected to anybody else, and I feel like everybody in software is just really willing to share and to talk and to help people who are genuinely trying to learn, either technical things, or just trying to get into the field. Everybody I talked to was super helpful.

Alex Booker (21:36):
That's incredible to hear. And how did you feel about the soft tone of voice part?

Chris McCoy (21:39):
I just stream of consciousnessed it. Just whatever I was thinking about and wanting to share, I would just write it up real quick and hit posts before I could think about it too much.

Alex Booker (21:50):
What's the worst that could happen?

Chris McCoy (21:51):
Yeah, the worst that happened is nobody sees it, and that's fine. I remember I did have a post that got... It was insane. It was 20,000 or 30,000 engagement, people looked at it, and I was like, "This is crazy. This can be really helpful for me looking for a job." You mentioned my profile. I don't tinkering with things like that because I feel you can never get it right, and so, from my perspective, I just did the bare minimum of whatever I heard on The Scrimba Podcast, was you have to have this on your profile, like setting your header or your title to the job you want. And it was actually something that I heard on Scrimba that got me the job, and it was that you need to have all of your education. And so I had my bachelor's degree and my other church stuff on there, but I didn't put Scrimba on until very late.

It was the beginning of May and I was listening to The Scrimba Podcast, I had no job interviews. I'd done one or two, maybe. They didn't pan out. And the podcast said you really need to have all of your education and all of the things you can fill out filled out. And so, I was like, "Okay, fine, I'll add it." I went into my profile, I was like, "I'm not going to tinker too long, I just want to add it real quick." And I just added Scrimba frontend career path, plan completion, May 2022.

And so, what I didn't realize was that LinkedIn takes your information and then sometimes it'll just send it out to people. And so, all of a sudden I got 40 or 50 messages. I was almost done, so I was waiting to finish the career path by the end of May, and so I would get all these messages, "Congrats on finishing Scrimba." And I was like, "What is going on?" Turns out that LinkedIn sent out a, "Hey, it's May 2022, Chris says he's going to graduate in May, let's spam all of his connections that he's done." And so, I would respond to people, I'm like, "Thanks so much. I'm almost finished. I'm working on it."

One of the people that reached out had the hiring banner, and so I clicked through, I saw the positions they were hiring for, I applied, but then I followed up and I messaged her, and I said, "Hey, thanks for messaging me. I applied for this position. I really don't think that maybe I'm a great fit, but will you take a look at my application?" Because it was looking for one or two years of experience as a full stack dev, but the company looked really cool, and you know can never hurt yourself by applying. And she said, "Yeah great, I'll take a look." And that's how we got started talking. And she got back to me and was like, "You're not a fit for that position, but we're planning to do an internship in a couple weeks or so, so I'll get back to you." And I thought, I'm not ever going to hear back from her. That was a nice way to say we don't want to hire you.

And then, all of a sudden, two weeks later I get a message saying, "Hey, when can we schedule a phone call?" I was like, "Okay, cool. She wants to call and connect and just talk some more." And she called and started talking about this internship, and I was like, "This really sounds perfect and sounds a great fit."

Alex Booker (24:41):
What was your first impression when she mentioned an internship? Because often the connotation with internships is that maybe they're university students or people at the very beginning of their career, maybe that's in their early twenties, for example. Is it something you'd anticipated coming across as your first developer opportunity, and how did it make you feel once that opportunity was in front of you?

Chris McCoy (25:00):
I really loved it. I loved the idea of getting to start out. It wasn't a lengthy thing. It was a one month internship. Internships usually you think of college, but it didn't really bother me. I'm not huge on having to have the right title or anything like that, I just wanted the opportunity to get my foot in the door, because you hear that once you get your foot in the door, everything's smooth sailing from there, you get the opportunity to learn, you now have professional experience, because the only experience I had, was I did a little freelancing. It was not anything big, it was actually working with Webflow and WordPress, and so it wasn't even related to what I was learning, but the ability to put that on and say I'm pursuing this professionally, and put it on your resume, was really helpful.

And so, when she told me about the internship, I thought it sounded perfect. It was a paid internship. The goal was that they want to hire people and they want to give people who either are coming out of boot camps or self taught, they wanted to give them a shot to get in through the industry, and it would be something where I would get to pair up with devs who've been doing this for a long time and learn from them and do some real coding on a real code base. It seemed the perfect opportunity.

Alex Booker (26:07):
Is it fair to say that this internship was effectively a one month paid trial? I assume maybe there were a few interns in this cohort, and maybe a few of you got hired at the end of the month.

Chris McCoy (26:18):
100%, and they were upfront about that too, that they want to hire people who were just coming out, but an internship is a little bit lower barrier of entry. There were five of us, four out of five of us got full-time offers after the internship.

Alex Booker (26:31):
Oh, I feel really bad for the one person that didn't make it.

Chris McCoy (26:35):
I do too, he was great. So they did an internship, and the goal was they wanted to bring more people on, and they're growing their team. And it was really crazy, because I got in really early. I didn't ever officially apply, but I had that screening call with the recruiter, and she was super nice, and everything sounded really good, and then I start seeing her posts on LinkedIn about how many people are applying once she made it public, and they were over 700 people that applied for the internship.

Alex Booker (27:04):

Chris McCoy (27:05):
Yeah, 700. And when I heard that I was like, "That was a great call, but there's no chance I'm hearing back from her." And then I got a message that they wanted to set up an interview, and I went in, and that was when some advice from Scrimba really came in.

So a couple times I'd heard that people got interviews with a stack that they weren't familiar with and just spent the few days before the interview really trying to learn it, and that's what happened to me. They work in Vue and AWS, and I wasn't going to learn AWS in the few days, so I really paused everything and went really hard at learning Vue.

The internship, the whole goal was that you had to show them that you could learn, that you could write code that worked, and they didn't have to go behind you and rewrite. That's not a lofty goal, it's are you willing to learn and can you progress over this month?

And so, I was like, "You know what, I'll just show them I can do that now." So I learned Vue, I watched some videos, and then really, the best way I like learning, is I just did the initial create a basic Vue app, following the official tutorial, and then I broke as many things as I could in the code and tried to fix it, and messed around with it enough to where I started to understand, "Okay, here's how we're rendering things, and here's where I can stick methods."

And so, then I built a project in two days. It was a really basic project, where basically you could make a schedule and add things to different hours, which was challenging from a technical standpoint when you've never worked in Vue, but I was able to do it. I remember I took my laptop to the park and just sat there and hammered it out, and you look up things, and you get bugs and then you work on it. And so I got that done the night before the interview, and then the interview was really just talking and chatting about history, background and what you've been learning, and then showing them projects.

And so, the two projects I showed them, one was the color picker API project that is in Scrimba career path. That was on my resume as one of my projects that I really liked, because it was the first thing I ever did with an API. And then the other was this Vue project that I built, and I just walked them through, and I'm sure that I made mistakes in my technical explanation of what I did, but it was good enough to show, and I let them know I've never worked in Vue, and so this is two days of me learning it, but I had something to show, and I think that really helped my chances.

Alex Booker (29:34):
If their aim is to find someone keen and with some base level of skill, but also the ability and desire to keep learning, it's almost as if you proved that you can learn before the internship even started, essentially de-risking yourself, and I think clearly making you one of the most attractive candidates.

Chris McCoy (29:51):
That was the goal, was like, "Let's give them the easiest time hiring me, let's not leave them any questions of whether I'd be a good fit and can learn this stuff." And so, I just figured, "Let's learn it ahead of time."

Alex Booker (30:02):
I'm curious, what was your perspective of the other interns in your cohort? Because you presumably all came from different backgrounds and maybe had different strengths, and maybe some knew Vue, some didn't, et cetera. What kind of tasks do they make you work on, and how did you all jive together as interns?

Chris McCoy (30:18):
The internship was really great. We worked the entire time on a refactor project. The company that I'm working for does a lot of software for quick service restaurants, like fast food restaurants, for the backend that the owner/operators use to track everything. And so, they've got a new project they're working on that's a workforce app, where you can clock in and clock out, it tracks all of your HR stuff, you've got your schedule and all of that. And so, this was an app that they built a couple years ago, but they're planning to move it to a new backend, and so there was a lot of frontend refactoring. And so, their thought process was, what better way to learn than to read other people's code and to fix things that are broken, and really move statefulness from the children components all the way up to the parent components, so when we do the new backend, it's a lot less to have to go through, because we use VueX, we use Vuetify and we had VueX map getters and map actions in every single component.

And so, when we changed the backend to have to go through and change every component, it's just too much. So we worked the entire time on a refactor, and we were... Basically they said, "Here's the direction we want you to go." And then let us have some freedom to figure out how to get there. So they split us into two teams. I was with two other interns, and we were just on a call every day for the full seven or eight hours that we worked that day, and we just worked together. We would figure out what we needed to be working on. They'd give us files and say, "Start here and refactor this." And then it was just this slow process of, we'd try something, we'd make a pull request, sometimes to the wrong branch, and then we'd fix it.

Whenever it got to the manager, he would give us some great feedback of, "Really, we want to do it this way. Have you thought about doing it this way?" And then we'd iterate over it a couple of times, and then that pull request would get merged into our intern branch, where we had all of our work. And then, that branch has now been merged into production now and it's being used in a real restaurant. That was pretty empowering as an intern, to get to write code that immediately, within a month, is being used.

Alex Booker (32:33):
How did you compare to the other two interns in your group? What was their background and education, for example?

Chris McCoy (32:38):
Both of the other interns I worked with were really great. They both come from a bootcamp, so they had more backends and more robust straight JavaScript than I did, but I was the only one that had worked in Vue, and I'd only worked in it for two days. So the first, maybe, week was just the wild west of figuring out what Vue is, and it was made even more difficult, because I didn't even know Vuetify was a thing, and I had no idea about VueX when we started, so a lot of it was us helping each other and working together, and we really filled in each other's gaps well, which was really nice, being able to work with others to pair program, work on the same files to start, and then... Because I think the first, maybe three or four days, we just screen shared. One person would code and we would talk through it, and then we'd swap and somebody else would code.

I definitely was able to keep up technical-wise, and then I love working with people, I love working in a group, that's part of what I love about being a pastor, is the people that you get to work with and care for. It was really a lot of fun.

Alex Booker (33:43):
It just sounds incredibly exciting, and I can just imagine you all huddling over the tasks and helping each other out. You're painting such an inspiring picture, because I know some people listening will be wanting to be there soon enough.

Chris McCoy (33:56):
When we had our first PR that got approved, none of them got approved without a couple of iterations, but once we got the first pool request approved, it was such a celebration, it was so fun. You're absolutely right that it's really a different thing. When you're building your own projects, you know whether you're going to post them and people will see them. And so, going from that to now working on code that 90 other people are working on and it's going to be used in a real environment, it's definitely a different feel. And then, when you actually do it, it gets approved and merged, it's such a great feeling.

Alex Booker (34:33):
All right, so you were doing the internship, and it sounds things were going swimmingly, but I just can't imagine you could shake the feeling for things might come to an end. You didn't know the outcome necessarily, even though there might have been indicators. At the end of the month, you were surely left wondering, will I be selected to move on? How did the events transpire? How did you eventually offered the full-time position? Because that's super exciting, obviously

Chris McCoy (34:58):
It was very harrowing knowing that at the end of the month, you're either going to get the job or not, because they were very upfront. They want to hire us but we got a show we can do it. And if they hire us, we're starting the first day of the next month, so at least we had a timeline of saying, we'll know by this date. It's not we're going to get ghosted and we're not going to get left wondering.

Alex Booker (35:19):
That's a very green flag. That was great.

Chris McCoy (35:21):
It was really nice. What really happened was, three out of four of the weeks, we're learning and coding, and then that last week they assigned us a whole list of tasks and said, "Divvy these up, do your best work, and we'll decide and use these to really see how far you've come."

That was probably the most stressful part of the internship, which task do I pick, and can I really do this? Because there was some CSS stuff, like let's make things responsive so that it works on mobile, but then there was also some bigger refactoring projects.

I just tried to pick a good spread of things and work really hard on and it turned out that I did okay. Two days before the internship ended, we had a call with the manager one on one, and then they let us know that they're going to extend an offer. I'd also been interviewing, two months before this I'd applied at another place, and then they got back to me halfway through the internship, and so I interviewed also for that.

Alex Booker (36:17):
Was that Home Depot?

Chris McCoy (36:18):
Yeah, it was. The guy that I did the freelance work for, worked for Home Depot and was a referral for me. It all lined up so that the last week of the internship, I ended up getting two offers and being able to really decide where I wanted to work, and I chose to stay where I was, where I'd done the internship, because one, I really loved the team I was working on, they were really, really great to bring me on as an intern and give me that shot, and so it was something where I want to stay, I know the culture, I know the work I'm going to be doing, and it's such a great fit, and it's such a fun place to work.

Alex Booker (36:53):
Did your manager give you an easy time in the video call? Because I know you must have been anxious, jumping on the call to hear the results. The previous guest named Stevie was telling me about how the manager did a drum roll.

Stevie (37:05):
It was a weird experience. He did a drum roll for telling me how much they were going to offer me in terms of salary and benefits.

Alex Booker (37:13):
What you said about there being four or five interns, I had images of X Factor or America's Got Talent, or something, where they bring you out one by one and say, "Unfortunately you will not be going forward." Or something.

Chris McCoy (37:23):
Yeah, there was no dramatic pauses or anything and no drama. I don't know if it was the manager that told us, it might have been the recruiter that said they were going to extend the offer, but when we found out that, one on one with the manager, was great, and it was just going over things that went well, areas where I can spend some more time improving, and then just an opportunity to ask questions, because at that point I was still considering what I wanted to do, which offer I wanted to accept.

Alex Booker (37:49):
And so, within nine months you went from not really knowing anything about coding and doubting yourself a little bit along the way, as many of us on this path do, to get not just one but two offers. How did that feel?

Chris McCoy (38:00):
Oh man, it was such a blessing to see it all come together and just to realize that the hard work paid off. It's something I really can do, even if there are days where you bang your head against the keyboard and you spend your whole day looking for a capital L that's really supposed to be a lowercase L, that's ruining the entire thing you're building.

But at the end of the day, to really see what you get to do and what you get to contribute, and just how fun it is to solve problems, it's my favorite thing about it, is just finding the things that are broken and fixing them. It's been such a great fit and I really am so grateful for Scrimba and for all that you guys do on the podcast. It made me feel I wasn't going through it alone. To hear the story of so many people that went through this and from nowhere, with nothing, no CS degrees or anything, learned and then got a job, was just incredible and encouraging. And then I'm just so grateful to now be on this side of it and to get to spend my time doing something I love.

Alex Booker (39:02):
And we are grateful to you for paying it forward. Chris McCoy, thank you so much for joining me on The Scrimba Podcast.

Chris McCoy (39:08):
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Jan Arsenovic (39:10):
That was Chris McCoy, and you've heard what he said. If you need some inspiration or motivation on your coding journey, feel free to dive into the archives of The Scrimba Podcast. We have interviewed so many new developers from various different backgrounds, as well as a lot of industry experts, and all of them shared some valuable advice that you can use to learn to code and land your first junior developer job. And who knows, maybe one day we will interview you. The podcast is hosted by Alex Booker. You can find his Twitter handle in the show notes, and I'm your producer Jan Arsenovic. We will see you next week.