The Scrimba Podcast

Meet Adam Broda 🇺🇸! Adam is a tech lead and career coach who helps career changers break into tech. He did the same - after a decade of working in aerospace engineering at Boeing, Adam now works at Amazon! Through his coaching business, Broda Coaching, Adam aids career transitioners in constructing personalized job search strategies.

In this episode, Adam unveils the four pillars of his framework: identifying your passions, skills, desired environment, and needed compensation. Alex and Adam also delve into the current state of the job market: have we moved beyond significant tech layoffs, are return-to-office policies contributing to attrition, and what implications do these factors have for software development jobs? Adam will also tech you about different phases of networking—short-term networking, advocacy networking, and engagement networking—detailing how to navigate each of them and which one is most effective.

🔗 Connect with Adam
⏰ Timestamps
  • How Adam transitioned into IT (and became a career coach) after a long career in the aerospace industry (01:30)
  • Adam's engineering background vs. his new roles (05:19)
  • The tech industry changes frequently (08:32)
  • How Broda Coaching came about (10:32)
  • Fail fast! (14:22)
  • The state of the tech job market (and should we be worried about layoffs (15:32)
  • Why is there fewer junior roles? (18:12)
  • Returning to the office forces attrition (19:41)
  • Does social media give you a good overview of what's happening in the job market? (20:59)
  • Before the pandemic, junior roles had a lower experience requirement (23:19)
  • Adam's job-hunting strategy (23:51)
  • Start with your why (25:14)
  • Passions, skills, environment, and compensation (27:13)
  • Is niching down limiting your opportunities? (28:02)
  • Adam's three-phase networking approach (32:17)
  • Demonstrate potential! (36:07)
  • Go where you're passionate (39:50)
🧰 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.

Adam Broda (00:00):
I used to go on these campus recruiting trips. I will never forget this, but it's one of the very few times we ever hired a freshman and this was a mechanical engineer, not a software person. Their resume was crap. It was absolutely terrible. And we told him .... I remember talking to this person. We don't usually hire freshmen and they don't really have a lot of experience. And he said, "You tell me about the number one problem that you have at work right now. I'm going to come back tomorrow morning and I'm going to show you a piece of software that I built that solves that problem."

Alex Booker (00:29):
That was Adam Broda, a tech leader and career coach. Adam used to work in aerospace engineering at Boeing before transitioning into tech and now works as a senior manager at Amazon. I wanted to talk with Adam because he's accrued more than 300,000 followers on LinkedIn with his thoughtful content on how to break into tech and lend your dream job. This is a really interesting conversation. Adam has had a very seasoned career and from his position as a career coach, he has a great vantage point to tell us more about the job market right now and crucially, what is separating successful candidates from those struggling. Just for fun, I got to ask Adam what he would hypothetically do if he was a junior developer breaking into tech right now. Adam, being full of actionable advice as he is, ended up unveiling a framework with four pillars that you're going to learn today. Adam, welcome to the Scrimba podcast.

Adam Broda (01:30):
I always had a technology itch. My parents were engineers, worked at technical companies. I grew up doing internships in the nuclear field. Or not in the nuclear field, but with nuclear maintenance tech firms. And so I always had the engineering bug. I went to school for mechanical engineering and did a master's in systems engineering and I've pretty much stayed close to engineering and tech. But I'd say the definition or maybe the offshoot of that has been pretty broad. I was a tooling engineer right out of college and worked on design software and a couple other platforms to build tools. I worked at Boeing for about eight years doing a number of different jobs. Most of it was around production systems. So I got to design huge robotics solutions to move airplane parts around. I did a lot of rapid prototyping. And the last job I had at Boeing was actually a material science job where I was 3D printing tools and airplane parts and space stuff and that was pretty cool.

And then, yeah, in 2019, the world decided to light its hair on fire. There was a global pandemic. Everybody's got a COVID story. I have one too. I was actually out on maternity leave when COVID hit with my first child. And working at an aerospace company in an R&D sector, it is an interesting thing when no one's traveling. The writing was on the wall, of like, "Whoa, my job could be very different by the time I come back." If no one's flying, no one's traveling, no one's buying airplanes, which means the company's likely to do some layoffs and they typically start in research and development, which is where my job was. And yeah, just reading some of those signs that I should probably start thinking about a plan B. That's actually the same time that I started Broda Coaching, my career coaching side business, and started looking for jobs in other places.

And I just sat down and said, "What do I want to do? What's the thing that would be exciting? What would I want to work on?" And made a short list of companies, went through a full transition strategy and ended up reconnecting with some people I had worked with at Boeing that were in tech, particularly Amazon. I ended up networking my way into a couple of different interview opportunities and landed in a startup in Amazon, which is a totally normal thing that happens all the time. Company runs all kinds of internal startups. Ended up in a group that was trying to build health and wellness programs for internal employees. And I was hired to build a technology organization inside that group.

So I think I was employee number seven or eight. A bunch of people that I was hired with came from all over the place, all different backgrounds. Lawyers, athletic trainers. There's a fighter jet pilot that was one of my peers.

Alex Booker (04:15):

Adam Broda (04:15):
But we were all brought in as program managers, which if you know anything about tech, is the most taken advantage of job title I think that you could possibly have in the FANG world.

Alex Booker (04:24):
It's very general, isn't it?

Adam Broda (04:26):
It's extremely general. Any skillset can essentially fit into program management. But yeah, we were all hired as PMs and given charters, and my boss was a director and basically said, "This is the vision. Let's go figure out how to build it." So I ended up building out a product organization to create the software and the hardware that these program teams would need, so the program teams would go out and think of, "Okay, we need this wellness solution, we need this care solution, we need this thing." I changed my title from program management within I think the first year and a half over to product management. I basically just said, "Hey, this is what our team does." And told my leadership team that I was just going to skill shift several different people including myself over into product. Hired an engineering team, hired some applied folks. And yeah, that's the long and short of it, is we build hardware and software products for internal health, medical and wellness applications. And that is my journey into tech.

Alex Booker (05:19):
You studied mechanical engineering and then the work you described at Boeing all sounded very mechanical and hardware related. What's your experience and feelings towards the software side of things? Do you code by the way?

Adam Broda (05:32):
No, I don't code. I can code. I did some ... Let's just call it visual code. I don't know if anyone out there is familiar with LabVIEW, but I did a little bit of C++. I did a little bit of LabVIEW. There's some code languages that I'm familiar with. But most of my job is the non-technical side of product, and I manage and work with people that live in the technical space. So there really isn't a need for me to code. Most of my time is spent on the vision and the mission and overarching product goals, product strategy, product roadmaps. I'm managing a portfolio of somewhere between just depending on the year, five to 10 different applications. And I'm essentially in charge of making sure that those deliver on our goals, meet our KPIs. There's not a lot of scenarios where I need to do code.

I have two different engineering degrees. The first phase of my life, first phase of my career with making tools and all the material science and the 3D printing and production system stuff, was very mechanical heavy. When I was 27 or 28, I can't remember, but I did get a master's from USC in systems engineering and architecture. I did that so that I could work on larger and more complicated production systems. But ironically, that degree transferred very well to what I do today.

I use a lot of systems engineering principles and approaches and frameworks in the way that I do product development. In the way that we test, in the way that we release, and the way that we pretty much run the entire lifecycle of what a product is. It's a lot of systems. So some of it is applicable, some of it's not. But I'd also say that's the thing with product management. It hasn't been around for a super long time. So what I could tell you as a person that works in that space and as a career coach, is that how companies define that role varies pretty heavily. And there's different types of product managers. You can build internal tools, you can build things that go business to business. You can build things that go business to consumer. And those product frameworks change heavily depending on what it is you're building and who your customer is. My customers are forced to use the stuff that I build.

Alex Booker (07:30):
It's quite interesting because studying back then, would you have imagined doing what you're doing today?

Adam Broda (07:36):
Absolutely not. I don't think I knew what product management was when I was graduating school 15 years ago. I can say this. So I worked in Seattle for 10 years. And what drew me from Virginia ... Which is where I grew up and went to school and then moved out to Seattle to work for Boeing. But what drew me out there was the possibility of working on giant airplanes and big robots and I thought that would be super cool, and it was. Amazon and many other tech companies in Seattle were exploding in that five-year period that I was down there.

And there was always that side of me that was like, "Man, it would be really cool to go work for a high-end Fortune 50 tech company." And there were a lot of people that were in those manufacturing and technology teams in aerospace that were making that transition. I was not the first. I landed that job because I knew people that had already done it. So yeah, that question was always in my head. What would it look like to go work for a pure tech organization and work on technology, as opposed to manufacturing and production solutions?

Alex Booker (08:32):
It's quite cool hearing your experience after building a successful career over 15, 20 years. But those of us at the beginning of a journey, for example, learning to code, you can't see the future and there's maybe a temptation to have a really perfect detailed plan. But as we're learning from you, yes, it's rooted in principles and training and keeping an eye out for opportunities, but industries change, you change, your circumstances change. You never know what the future might hold.

Adam Broda (09:00):
The tech industry changes so frequently. So frequently and so rapidly. I think a lot of people get hung up on the qualifications component. I see this a lot when I do interviews and I experience this a lot when we talk through different talent, whether it's technical talent or non-technical talent. But people show up and they're like, "Do I need these certifications? Do I need to take these bootcamps? Do I need to go and learn these languages?"

And the short answer is you do, but you also don't. Really what you need is you need to figure out the best way for you to get into the company you want to be at. In 80% of the situations, that company is going to be happy to train you with exactly what they want, versus what you think they want. Again, like you said, I don't code. But if there was a scenario where I wanted to switch into a technical role, I could do that in less than two years, and it would not be difficult. And people on my team could go back and forth.

And it's just because there's so many training opportunities that the company provides. There's so many things that you can do to learn exactly what a certain group needs or what a certain team needs. I worry a heck of a lot less about that than I might have if I was outside looking in. So a lot of times, when I'm coaching people that want to land an SDE role or want to get into technical product management, a lot of those conversations come back to what is the company? Why are those companies the ones you want to work at? And let's talk about how to get in. Even if the easiest way to get in isn't as an SDE, there might be a quicker path to get there by just getting your foot in the door. That happens all the time.

Alex Booker (10:30):
I'm going to challenge you directly-

Adam Broda (10:32):

Alex Booker (10:32):
On this a little bit later in the interview. But I think some important context for people listening is about Broda Coaching. I know you founded it around 2020 as you said. But at the time, you were navigating a very uncertain world. You were thinking about your next career move. What motivated you to become a career coach alongside that, even?

Adam Broda (10:52):
Having your first kid, having any kid, changes the way you think about what's important. It changes the way you think about how your time should be spent, changes your goals, changes your mentality. I remember sitting there holding my three four-week old child and thinking like, "Oh, man. The world is totally changing. This pandemic thing is changing things. I might not have a job. What do I do?" I started Broda coaching to some degree out of a safety net. It was like I do a lot of hiring at Boeing. I've hired for multiple teams. I've worked in different startups at Boeing. I've managed teams of 20, 30, 50. At the time I was an acting director ... and I think I had a hundred some people, I don't remember exactly how many I had. But I just sat there and I was like, "You know what? What do I do with the skillset that I have to potentially create a safety net if I lose my job or if I need a fallback plan?"

Alex Booker (11:39):
You wanted your own business essentially.

Adam Broda (11:42):
Yeah, that was the thought, is I'll start looking for another job if I can't get what I want out of Boeing. But I should also think about a side business. And 2020 was a year where lots and lots of people were talking about side businesses. So I did the same thing. I sat down, I wrote some stuff on a piece of paper. I said, "What do I want my life to look like in five years and how do I design career options that get me there?"

And obviously, tech was the leading one. But I thought if eventually I want to go do my own thing or I want to have my own company or I want to leave the corporate world, it'd be pretty great to have my own business. And what's a simple business that I could start with not a lot of capital and not a lot of time, that I could grow slowly over several years to eventually get to a place where I could consider walking away? And that is why career coaching was the right balance for me. Again, it took something that I love to do. I love the people management side of my job more than I do probably anything else. I like helping people.

Alex Booker (12:38):
More on the engineering side.

Adam Broda (12:40):
Strangely, it was always like that. I graduated college at 23 and I was a people manager at 25 at Boeing. I was terrible at it at first. I actually hated it. I wanted to quit. I learned a lot of things along the way. And I think the whole premise was like, "I'm going to take all these failures that I've had and roll them into some kind of a package to help people." And I actually didn't start solely as a career coach. I'm going to say the first four months of Broda Coaching was very interesting because I was actually doing three different types of coaching and I had clients in all three spaces.

Alex Booker (13:10):
Well, that said, it is Broda Coaching. Not Broda Career Coaching, I suppose.

Adam Broda (13:14):
That's right. That was intentional by the way. I approached my coaching side business just like I would prototyping a tool. My strategy was I'm going to fail fast. I'm going to figure out what I like doing. I'm going to figure out what I don't like doing very quickly, so that I can niche down and scale the right thing. And I learned very quickly that I'm not a life coach. I wasn't certified, so I didn't advertise it that way.

But I took on some clients that were looking for time management coaching or organizational coaching. There's some just conversations that evolved out of those clients where it didn't fit. And anyway, long story short is over about the first year, I iterated. I got into the technical coaching space. And the strategy was is I have an engineering background. I took my engineering background and I rolled it into a technical career at a tech company. I can imagine that there's a lot of people that would want to do something similar. So I'm going to come up with a career coaching platform where I teach them how to do that. And fast-forward to 2023, I'd say about half my clients are non-technical people looking to transition into tech, and the other half are technical people looking to change or transition into tech. So I get a pretty healthy balance.

Alex Booker (14:22):
I think there's some core principles there that apply to many endeavors in our careers, this idea of failing fast, for example. Another way to phrase that is learning fast to accelerate your learning, by trying and failing some things. You didn't quite describe it this way. But I can totally imagine that in your position, looking at how to navigate what was happening in the pandemic and how to change career, plus networking, plus having friends and colleagues and ex-colleagues in the industry, probably it was through being part of that that you saw this opportunity to help others in the same position. You might not have arrived there if you were just on Google searching, "What is a business idea I can do?" And by the same extension, if you're looking for a job as a developer, maybe there's an opportunity to connect your personal experience and network to what you find interesting and what opportunities are out there as well.

Adam Broda (15:10):
No, that's a great point. Everything comes back to people and relationships for me. There were a lot of people in a similar position to me trying to do the same thing in 2020. And as I was thinking about how do I take my skillset and my experience enrolled into a side business, that's exactly what happened. That opportunity just presented itself. It's, "Look, like these people need help. I have figured this out. What if I try to figure out a way to help them? "

Alex Booker (15:32):
It's been a few years now. Have you seen a increase in people looking for help with this kind of stuff in the last 12, 18 months or so? You'll be no stranger to the fact that there have been layoffs in the last couple of years and the industry in general. I'm talking about software engineering in particular here, but it does apply to tech in general I think. It is a bit tumultuous.

Adam Broda (15:52):
Good question. The software developer market is always strong comparatively. And maybe some people think that's a good thing. Maybe some people think that's a bad thing because it's competitive.

Alex Booker (16:02):
Depends if you're a software engineer.

Adam Broda (16:03):
Yeah. Even through the lowest points of the pandemic where there were a lot of layoffs, there was still a higher demand for SDEs than there was for virtually any other technical designated job. And what I'll say is yeah, the last 18 months have been really interesting. It's been a cooling off. A lot of Fortune 500 firms, especially in the tech space, they either had to grow. Amazon is a fantastic example of a company that had to grow because everything was shut down in COVID. People couldn't leave, no one could go to stores. So they had to use the platform and therefore the company had to grow with the demand. Not everybody had to do that, but a lot of companies did, whether it was the right call or the wrong call. But yeah, there's been three, four, five rounds of layoffs in some cases at many different tech firms.

From my perspective, a lot of the roles being laid off are not SDE roles. A lot of the positions being laid off are non-technical roles like recruiters, finance and program managers. The companies that I see at a high level, again, the Googles and Metas and Spotifys, and they're cutting programs that haven't performed. They're cutting entire product divisions, entire program divisions. And a lot of the SDE talent that's baked into those, they're being given the chance to move. Some layoffs are still occurring. It's not across the board. But at least from what I see, it's not a lot of SDEs being cut. It has become much harder to find a job, in my opinion, because what's really happening is the companies are shrinking. They're reducing products, they're reducing the number of things that they do. They're keeping a healthy percentage of the SDEs and they're not re-posting roles.

So yes, some SDEs are flooding into the market. And really, the main problem isn't that there's more people in the market. The main problem is that the companies aren't opening up new externally posted wrecks. They're still coming up with new ideas, they're still trying new things, there's still new things happening. But they're just refunding SDEs that already worked at the company into those positions. So I'd say that's been the biggest thing for me over the past 18 months. The reduction of developer roles, especially at the junior level, has taken a pretty significant hit in my opinion.

Alex Booker (18:12):
Why is that? Why are junior roles getting hit?

Adam Broda (18:13):
I think in times where things get a little tumultuous, companies are less willing to take the hit on a new hire, where they have to spend somewhere between two and six months doing the onboarding, teaching the people what languages they use or what tools and platforms they use. Or even just the agile approach that they use. There is some sort of tech debt associated when we build a roadmap with onboarding a new person or training a new person. Some companies simply aren't willing to pay that or some teams aren't simply willing to pay that. The other thing that I would say is that in this world where the company has the power and is making this plan to cut people and reduce teams and reduce products, they usually keep the people that are really experienced and really great. The higher performers find a way to hang on. And a lot of times, those higher performers are people in those mid to upper level positions.

So again, it's not a hundred percent across the board like that. There's still a healthy percentage of lower level developer roles that are posted. But it's smaller in my opinion than the mid-levels. The pandemic changed that perspective just a little bit. Although I will say in the past four to six months, things are starting to come back to normal. We're starting to see more companies post. The recs are reopening. Some firms are even starting new divisions and new things and they're re-shifting strategy, and it's getting better. But the low point in my opinion was probably end of 2022, beginning of 2023, where it was the roughest and then-

Alex Booker (19:40):
That was rough. Yeah.

Adam Broda (19:41):
Even now, companies are going through co-location and return to office plans, which in my opinion, there's some strategy behind that to force attrition. Yes, they want people to work together. But that's also another mechanism to get people to leave. So there's still some turmoil in the hiring market. But there's always been somebody looking for a developer. But even when the big companies were cutting, there was an unprecedented number of startups happening. There was tons of small to micros size companies expanding and booming.

Alex Booker (20:11):
It was about survival. There are still some changes happening, but it's not quite as urgent maybe. It's a bit more strategic. Just last week, I think Twilio and Spotify, maybe a couple of other companies around the same day, I wonder if they coordinate behind closed doors to [inaudible 00:20:28] on the same day to negate the impact of the press potentially. But then on the plus side, I read your newsletter for example, and I saw you share some interesting resources like Jobscan's Who's Hiring list. have a who's still hiring in tech list. It was also kind of a generally assuring stats that I saw on your newsletter, which is that the unemployment rate in the US was 3.4% in January this year, which was a 50-year low. I did a bit of research and that's now 3.7%. So a little bit higher, but roughly the same.

I'm just getting at the point really that we do log into LinkedIn. We see on a day last week where a bunch of companies have done layoffs, loads of people posting. And it's actually a bit of a gut-wrenching feeling. It's not nice, and if you don't have a job or you're in the job market, it can't be an encouraging thing. But I do like your points really, that there is a different view on that as well. It's not all gloom and doom. There is another way to look at things that isn't so concentrated on a social media feed, for example.

Adam Broda (21:25):
Social media, it's not a good barometer of what's actually happening, in my opinion. What happens in the tech space isn't a great mirror of what happens everywhere else in the non-technical markets. Again, like finance and trading and all these other things. Social media, again, it typically shows you what you want to see. Not necessarily what is real because it wants you to engage. It wants you to click and read and spend time. So oftentimes, LinkedIn is putting the viral stuff in front of you that it thinks you're more likely to engage with. And if that's the story about, "I was laid off and now I'm going to do a thing", so be it.

Alex Booker (22:01):
Can I just pick on a word? You said, "It thinks." But actually, algorithms don't think. They do what they're told. If someone gets laid off, you react with a heart to show a bit of compassion maybe. And that's then a signal to the algorithm about engagement and then it shows it to more people. So it's not hard to imagine why this type of content proliferates in our feed.

Adam Broda (22:20):
And to your point, LinkedIn is a business. They want you to spend time on that platform engaging with content that they think is the most likely to get you and keep you there. Sometimes what you see on LinkedIn and the stories that are getting traction are there's a bit of a hype wave. You need to be aware of that. As a coach, the people that I get that come in with SDE skills are usually the ones that I place the fastest, are usually the ones that we have the most success with. Just because I know those companies are out there. There's always somebody looking for a good developer.

Alex Booker (22:46):
Does that include junior type of SDEs?

Adam Broda (22:49):
It does. If we're speaking about law of averages, as the world was recovering from the pandemic, a lot of the junior level, entry level developers that I was helping place ... Or just working with in general. I don't charge a healthy percentage of the people that I work with. I just help. We were finding roles in smaller companies. Not necessarily in the FANG space. The FANG space is really where they started to tighten up and levels and years of experiences started going up. Now, we're seeing an L4 posting of you need three to five years, whereas that wasn't like that before.

Alex Booker (23:19):
It was a lower experience requirement before, was it?

Adam Broda (23:22):
But they're doing that because they know they can get it. They're doing that because there's not as many roles being posted and they can be way more selective. And sometimes what happens in the Fortune 100 world is not what is happening in the Fortune 10,000 world.

Alex Booker (23:35):
What you're describing are broadly less opportunities. However, there are still many opportunities out there for juniors who know where to look for them. I don't want to present a naive point of view here. I think it would be nice if we could say, "Oh, yeah, they're on this jobs website you haven't heard of. Go here and you'll find one."

Adam Broda (23:51):

Alex Booker (23:51):
I wish there was a tactic like that. But I think a lot of your message and a lot of what you can help people with today is actually on that broader strategy part that might be encompassing of a few different tactics. I wonder. If you were to imagine yourself as having recently learned to code ... Let's just say your coding skills are good enough objectively to get a job, but you're struggling to get interviews. Like you're applying, you're sending your resume out, you're maybe reaching out to people. But you're not hearing back. How would you, as a new developer, get your foot in the door to get these interviews? What would your strategy look like, Adam?

Adam Broda (24:24):
In my opinion, everything starts with what you want, as goofy as that sounds. A lot of people will show up and it's this dire scenario where I have to have a job in three weeks or something like that. Even in those scenarios, I still think you should have a target. So we typically work with people to identify what's the lifestyle you want to be living, how do we design a career around that? And then where do we go in terms of companies, roles, levels, to make that career happen? Even in a world where you're about to be deported and you need a job in a few weeks, I still think doing a quick version of that is really helpful just because you need a North Star, you need to know where it's all headed. I hate to see when people are so desperate for any job that they take anything and it ends up biting them in the butt later. But all that is to say is that'd be step one. I'd sit down and I'd say-

Alex Booker (25:14):
Start with your why.

Adam Broda (25:14):
Start with the why. Why do I want to do this job and what's important to me? And a lot of times, that just comes back into four factors. What are the things I'm passionate about and motivated by? What kind of environment do I want to work in terms of big company, small company, in a lab? There's a lot of things that fit into the environmental space. But define the rough parameters of where you want to work and who you want to work with. Number three would be compensation. What's the high? What's the medium? What's the minimum? What do I have to be making at a minimum to live? You need to know that information. And then the fourth one is skill sets. What am I really good at? What is the value proposition that I bring to the table with the right skill sets? And then who are the companies that are looking to hire for that skill?

So if you define those four things, you have a pretty good idea of what success looks like. And then step two is essentially going out and researching companies that fit those criteria. And I try ... Usually if it was me, I try to find somewhere between 20 to 30 companies that potentially fit that. Again, start with the big list and then work that list down into maybe three to five. That's where I would be using sites like Blind or Glassdoor or Indeed some of the big ones. I'd also be on sites like Fishbowl and Ladders and of course, LinkedIn. Just talking to people. That's a lot of how my strategy works, is find people in the interesting roles that you'd want to do and go talk to them.

Alex Booker (26:34):
For example, for me, I really like the option to work with people in person. I'm in London. So I might look at companies in the areas I want to work in as a byproduct to achieve my why or what I want, which is to collaborate in person, as well as hybrid. But I like the in-person bit a lot as well. And then maybe another way to interpret what you're saying is I could go on my phone, I could go on my desktop, I can go on my browser history. And I can look at all my favorite products and apps that I use all the time, and maybe I'd really like to work on those products because they really mean something to me, and that could be one of the 30 companies in that initial list, before we start to mix in things like the roles and the salary opportunities and things like that.

Adam Broda (27:13):
Yeah, the order for me typically goes passions, skills, environment and comp. I'm going to define the high level things that get me excited. What do I want to work on? What problems do I want to solve? At that point, it goes to a skills question. What am I good at? What do I bring to the table? What kind of things do I want to be doing? And then again, on and on down the list. But like you said, the companies have to check those boxes one at a time in order for them to make the long list and then ultimately, the short list. So yeah, step two is get my target list in order and I typically like to focus on three to five companies at a time. That's really where I would start the process of designing a LinkedIn profile and designing, let's call it a resume, that I could use to apply or interact with those companies. And then four is not apply. Four is get out there and start building relationships.

Alex Booker (28:02):
Adam, I want to voice you a common concern around niching down in this way. Which is that when you niche down too much, people think it limits their opportunity, which feels really uncomfortable, because you want as much opportunity as possible, it feels like.

Adam Broda (28:18):
Yeah, I deal with that sentiment frequently in the coaching space. In my opinion, the quality over quantity approach always wins. When you're focusing on a small number of companies and all of your interactions and your networking work and your engagement work and everything you're doing, everything from building a portfolio to building examples of code that you've done or whatever it is that you want to do, if everything's targeted on that small audience, you stand a much better likelihood of actually penetrating, of actually generating those conversations and having the right value to offer up.

The second thing that I'll say is it's not like you wouldn't entertain engagement from someone else if it was serious. If I focused on let's just say three medium-sized tech companies and I was working really hard to meet people and get referrals and recommendations and build relationships at those firms, if company X showed up that wasn't on my list, but they met my criteria and they were interested in me, it's not like I would throw them out the window. I try to keep that in perspective when I'm coaching people. Some folks have a target of 15 companies, not three to five. There's some people that I work with because they can or their skillsets are applied more easily at a broader level. They might have 20 companies in the list. That stuff happens all the time. It doesn't necessarily change my strategy that I think smaller is easier. Because now, I don't have to build relationships at 20 firms. I can build relationships at three.

A lot of times, the biggest game changer in someone's ability to find a job is having that one advocate relationship on the inside of a firm. There's a huge statistical difference in going to a big company and finding someone that can click and incentivize referral button for you. Versus having one person on the inside of the company that knows you really well, can speak for your work, and is emailing hiring managers and recruiters with your stuff with written recommendations. That's such a big difference in the likelihood of your ability to get a phone screen or an interview. And that's really where I would say the magic happens, is when you have someone at that level that's proactively pushing your application or proactively pushing your resume or pushing your name. That's when we see stuff really start to move very, very fast. As opposed to you reaching out to a stranger that you've maybe interacted with twice on LinkedIn and saying, "Hey, please refer me to this job with 400 other people that are also being referred."

Alex Booker (30:46):
It's a little bit like dating and finding your partner, for example. If you go onto dating apps and you're starting cold of everybody, it's such a long process. But if it's like a friend of a friend or you're in the same group and you have these mutual interests or something, it tends to go a bit better. And the reason why it's relevant is because what I'm describing is human nature and relationships, and actually companies and teams are just groups of people. So a lot of the time, it just comes down to things which sound like human nature. We don't want to take a risk on the unknown necessarily. We like what people we like like basically. That's why we're so easily influenced about what we buy and what we watch. All these kinds of things. It's human, but it does apply once you hone in on it very well to finding opportunities in tech, I think. And to be clear, it's very honest. It's good to acknowledge these things. You're not gamifying anything. It's just being aware of this I think matters.

Adam Broda (31:39):
I would say you're spot on. Like you called out earlier with the algorithm, the ATS systems do what people design them to do. All the hiring decisions are people at the end of the day. It's not some computer or robot in the sky. It's people. Maybe that will change, maybe that will be gamified in the future. I think there's AI platforms now that you can log into that will apply for hundreds of jobs while you sleep. And that is changing some of the conversation, but it's still not changing the fact that a person is making the decision to hire. You still have to market yourself to a human. You have to convince a human. The better you can do that at every step of the process, I think the more prepared you're going to be to succeed.

Alex Booker (32:17):
People can find some really good resources about that by the way, on your website and your LinkedIn profile. Was there a step four in that process after networking, Adam?

Adam Broda (32:25):
We do networking in a couple different ways. We've been teaching probably a three-phase networking approach now for two years that's worked pretty well for us. And you can think about it in terms of time investment. So the smallest time investment is what we would call short term networking. That's where you go out and you meet people and you ask for referrals and recommendations like I was describing. These would be people that you don't know, strangers on LinkedIn. The next phase, which requires more time, is what we call the advocacy phase. So you're building those core relationships. You have a person now that can push your information. That takes a little bit longer to get to that point. And you might even be leveraging people that you know from other stuff like alumni connections. The last phase, it's a little bit of a twist, but this is our engagement networking. And that's where you go out and you comment on the right people's posts, you start creating your own content.

You start instructing people and leading people and teaching people. And when you can draw the right crowd back to your profile or back to whatever platform or webpage or homepage that you want them to see, that can be an extremely effective strategy. We've probably had more success with that in the past 24 months than we've probably had with any other form of networking. And that would just be hey, if you know how to code and you can show up five other people how to do something and get some visibility on that, it's amazing how quickly recruiters will show up and be like, "Oh, hey, we already know that you know something because teaching people about it."

Alex Booker (33:42):
It's that human nature thing, again. It's a little bit of a social proof. The recruiter potentially doesn't know how to evaluate your specific coding skills. But if they see five other developers care, that's like a bit of a proxy.

Adam Broda (33:55):
Yep. It's a strategy that's actually worked quite well with the junior level developers as well. Figuring out strategies for them to teach other people what they know, or create a website or a platform where they can share about their experiences or the kind of things that they do. Those are fantastic because they're a double-edged sword. You can draw people to your expertise. But when the time comes for your interview, you can also point people to that stuff too. I've built all this stuff. I've trained all these people, I've done all these problem solving exercises. It acts as a portfolio as well.

Alex Booker (34:23):
I'll add one more thing to that, which is that it's a rehearsal for an interview. If you get comfortable talking out loud about code in a screencast for example, that's going to help you during an interview. And to some extent, that's my favorite thing about coding and technology in general. And understandably, I wouldn't want surgery from a doctor without a degree, but to be a doctor, you need to show a degree. But to be a developer, instead of showing the qualification, you can show them the work and open source, YouTube screencasts, conference talks, even LinkedIn posts. This is a great opportunity other industries don't have and therefore, we should capitalize on, I think.

Adam Broda (34:58):
That is a fantastic call out. And I'll say that that's one of the best things about being in software. A lot of the non-technical positions can't necessarily do that or do it in the same way.

Alex Booker (35:08):
I can't go to Boeing and say, "Hey, look at this airplane I built."

Adam Broda (35:12):
Right, that's a great example. But you could be a software engineer that's totally self-taught that has no degrees or experiences, no certifications. But if you can produce the evidence of expertise in whatever way you choose to do so, that is an extremely powerful conversation starter. It is an extremely powerful lever to pull in an interview of, "I trained myself, I learned all this stuff regardless of how I got the information. Here's what I can do." And it's a very easy way to show that off and present that and prove the fact that you can create value. And at the end of the day, man, I've sat in a lot of interviews and I can say value is the red tape cutter. Not everyone will tell you that. But if you can produce ROI, that is the thing that will cut down the barriers and kick the doors open. Focus on that. If you can't figure out how to get into the top school and go get a degree in three years, let's build a portfolio that just shows how awesome you're capable of being.

Alex Booker (36:07):
Hell yeah. And if you're a new developer, maybe you're not going to blow away with your coding skills necessarily. You just need to demonstrate enough potential. But you can still demonstrate things like your creativity, for example, or even your ability to take an idea and put it into production. That step of doing is quite significant, compared to someone who's been coding for years but never finished anything.

Adam Broda (36:26):
Yeah. I'll tell a very quick story because I know we're over time. But this is back in my Boeing days. I used to go on these campus recruiting trips for these high potential internship programs. We would send a team of three or four managers and some HR folks to different universities. I did this at Virginia Tech, I did this at USC, both schools that I have education from. And we recruit on campus for high potential students to take these internships. And I will never forget this, but it's one of the very few times we ever hired a freshman. And this was a mechanical engineer, not a software person. They stood in line, handed us their resume. Their resume was crap. It was absolutely terrible. And we told them ... I remember talking to this person. We don't usually hire freshmen and they don't really have a lot of experience.

And he said, "You tell me about the number one problem that you have at work right now. Just tell me about that. Let's make that about our conversation." And I said, "Okay. I have this issue with scheduling people and getting tools to go back and forth." And I described it to him. And he said, "I'm going to come back to tomorrow morning. I know this is a two-day thing. And I'm going to show you a piece of software that I built that solves that problem." And I said, "Okay, I'll see you here." And he showed up.

And I don't know how much time he worked on it, but he had built this makeshift application in C# that essentially, yeah, did exactly what I had described. It solved my scheduling problem. And we brought him into a room and we gave him an interview and he got a job as a freshman. He met the minimum qualifications, he had a resume, he did the thing. But ultimately, it was what he was capable of doing and how he presented that skillset that attracted us to him and created that opportunity. But yeah, it doesn't have to be super complicated.

Alex Booker (38:05):
But what'd you think about him putting all his eggs in one basket almost?

Adam Broda (38:09):
That kid wanted to work at our company so badly that he was willing to do-

Alex Booker (38:14):
Yeah, you guys take a bet on that.

Adam Broda (38:15):
To do a lot. And that was very evident through the few days that we were there. We sat down as a team, we did evaluations. We talked and asked questions. But ultimately, what came down to it was like if there were a few people that we wanted to just take a chance on, why not that guy? Obviously, he loves the things that we build and wants to be a part of this. And his interview is non-traditional. He stuck all his eggs in one basket, and that's okay as a freshman. I can understand that. But a lot of it was the passion and the motivation and the creativity that he put forward. It's like, "Yeah, maybe that is the type of person that we want to give an opportunity to." And yeah, sometimes that's what seals the deal.

Alex Booker (38:48):
I did present the count of you of the risk putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. But the upside is enormous there. I can only imagine that from an employer's perspective, if someone has that much passion and enthusiasm and they want the opportunity very badly and you can see and they can demonstrate their hunger actually, plus they have enough technical competency, they can realize that potential, it can't be one without the other. But if you have both and one can make up for the effort as well, by the way, that sounds like a great person to work with because they're going to ... You're building airplanes it sounds like. Therefore, they'll be on a great trajectory up into the right I think, if they had that profile.

Adam Broda (39:25):
Yeah, you've got to balance the risk with the reward. But when the time comes, you've got to shoot your shot. You're always going to have the opportunity to sit back and ask the question of what if. And yeah, maybe it's not a perfect scenario. Maybe you're not a hundred percent qualified. Maybe you're not a hundred percent of everything they're asking for. But I still think there's opportunities where you can shoot the shot even without having that. And you never know what will happen. Worst they can say is no. It doesn't really change you.

Alex Booker (39:50):
But there's such a core message here that I think is easy, to not have known about before listening to this episode. It's just this idea that when we talk about career advice, it's often tips or tactics or steps, and we hear people's stories and they present it in a step-by-step fashion because they can with the benefit of retrospect. But so much of finding success in your career is about your ability to iterate towards something trying and failing, applying those learnings. But also what you're describing now is trusting your gut a little bit. You get this opportunity of a company, you're in front of them. You feel like it's right, you feel like it's within your reach. And then you have the courage to go for it and spend a bit more time on the take home task or to build something that demonstrates your capabilities.

I would guess that pays off 50% of the time. That would be my guess, if you trust your gut and you get to that point. And the 50% it doesn't, whatever, that's just the numbers you play. But it is this idea there isn't a perfect path. And just like you have your own career actually, you couldn't have predicted where you are all these years later. Not me for that matter. I didn't envision myself hosting a podcast, by the way. But yeah, this iterative approach I think is so important and it requires you to have your head in the game a little bit. You can't just formulate a plan on day one and stick to it and follow it. Maybe broad strokes strategy wise. But in terms of the day to day and the week to week, you need to be keeping your head in the game and looking at the opportunities, adapting. I think that's a great message to take away from this episode actually.

Adam Broda (41:17):
Yeah, I hope everyone walks away with some perspective of that, that there's never really been a point where I've put a ton of value in a 10-year career map. I don't really think about my career in that way. It's go where I'm passionate, go where I'm motivated to be, go where I can solve the right problems, and apply the skills. And ultimately, maximize the value that I bring to the table. That's what careers are. It's what do you want out of them. I think the perspectives on career have changed so much in the past five, 10 years, especially through COVID, that there really isn't a one size fits all that maybe my generations or my parents' generations thought existed. It's whatever you want it to be. And if you want to change jobs 15 times, if you want to move from industry to industry, you can do it. It just comes down to where can you create value and how will you be compensated for that. And as long as those things line up with what you want, you can make it happen.

Alex Booker (42:06):
Adam Broda, thank you so much for joining me.

Adam Broda (42:09):
Yeah, no problem. It was great talking. I enjoy these types of conversations. Some maybe a bit more theoretical, some a bit more tactical. But it was good mix and yeah, happy to chat.

Jan Arsenovic (42:20):
That was the Scrimba podcast, episode 145. If you made it this far, please subscribe. You can find the show wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you want to make sure we keep making these, the best thing you can do is tell somebody about our show. You can do it in person or online. And if you do it on Twitter or LinkedIn, and your posts contain the words Scrimba and podcast, we will find them and we will read them right here on the show. The show is hosted by Alex Booker. I'm Jan, the producer. You can find our Twitter handles in the show notes as well as all the ways you can connect with Adam. Keep coding and we'll see you next time.