The Scrimba Podcast

๐ŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Cassie Lewis ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ! Cassie has a fine arts degree, which turned out to be too fancy for the real world. After working in different fields, from photography to retail, she got interested in coding - and it turned out to be just the right fit with how her mind works! Cassie is fueled by curiosity, creativity, and challenges. And learning to code alongside a day job was certainly a challenge.

Two years into her learning path, Cassie realized she had hit a wall. In an attempt to get unstuck, she joined the Scrimba bootcamp. She also challenged herself to read more non-fiction and embarked on a path toward effective living. In this episode, Cassie explains effective living and how it can make you a more effective coder, too! You'll hear how Cassie defeated burnout, how she approached learning, and how she - only nine months after joining the bootcamp - landed her first dev job. This is a story about setting goals, establishing systems, frictionless networking (even if you don't live in a tech hub), and keeping your plans realistic. But also: this is also a story of creativity and exploration!

๐Ÿ”— Connect with Cassie
โฐ Timestamps
  • How Cassie went from a fine arts degree to retail to coding (01:24)
  • How Cassie chose her careers and roles and basically created her last retail position (03:35)
  • Cassie originally discovered coding through WordPress (05:11)
  • Is coding similar to making art? (05:47)
  • Learning to code was a gradual shift (06:53)
  • Why you should maintain some balance while learning to code (08:39)
  • How Cassie managed her self-confidence (10:03)
  • Community break with Jan the Producer (10:59)
  • Resources Cassie used to help with her mindset during her coding journey (13:39)
  • What is effective living (15:39)
  • What did Cassie do to put herself back on track when she slipped? (19:32)
  • Cassie's systems (21:13)
  • Identify the key pillars in your life (23:07)
  • How Cassie landed her first developer job (26:50)
  • You never know who can help you (28:07)
  • How's Cassie's new job going after three months? (34:15)
  • Getting paid to learn on the job (35:54)
๐Ÿงฐ Resources Mentioned
โญ๏ธ Leave a Review

If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a 5-star review here and tell us who you want to see on the next podcast.
You can also Tweet Alex from Scrimba at @bookercodes and tell them what lessons you learned from the episode so that he can thank you personally for tuning in ๐Ÿ™ Or tell Jan he's butchered your name here.

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.

Cassie Lewis (00:00):
I would never enter into these interviews or these situations like networking with people, trying to put up a front of who you think you should be. Now that's not to say you shouldn't develop professional skills, all the soft skills and everything, but someone out there is looking for you, not this other version of you, but you and what you can bring to the table.

Alex Booker (00:22):
That was Cassie Lewis, a community-taught developer who just landed her first role in tech. I wanted to talk with Cassie because she taught herself to code alongside her retail job and family obligations. This required her to be especially intentional with her time and efforts, and she's going to show us how we can do the same.

Inspired by books like Atomic Habits, Cassie deployed systems instead of setting goals to improve her chance of success. These systems involved dedicated time for coding and projects, of which Cassie has many on her portfolio, but also time for posting on LinkedIn and building her network, resulting in a two-pronged approach. There's a really nice bow to tie at the end of this episode when Cassie's intentional efforts networking helped her land a job.

Productivity systems, professional networking, effective living, and how to break into tech as a junior, you're going to learn all about it today. Cassie, welcome to the show.

Cassie Lewis (01:24):
It was not obvious I would become a developer, but very obvious I would do something creative. I definitely stumbled into it later in life. My background is in art and music. And some years back I was working with WordPress and I wanted to customize it, so I started learning HTML and CSS. And then I wasn't really feeling challenged enough in my work life or paid enough, and I decided I wanted to pursue something that was a good fit for the way that my mind works.

I never had this big aha moment, "I want to be this when I grow up." But I did have that moment where I was just like, "I just need to find something that is challenging, I can use creativity." And I'm very curious, curiosity and problem solving. What is the profession where I can do that?

Alex Booker (02:12):
What was your career path? Did you go to uni and get into a job right out of school?

Cassie Lewis (02:18):
I did go to university. I have a fine arts degree in photography.

Alex Booker (02:22):
Ooh, nice. That sounds really fancy actually.

Cassie Lewis (02:24):
Yeah, it's a little bit too fancy actually for the real world because it's not really useful unless you stay in a university and teach the fine arts path in particular.

So I worked a combination of admin, retail and service jobs and just did art on the side. I had a portrait photography business. I also spent some time being a home educator. And then my most recent job was I was the bulk foods manager for a small organic grocery store, and that was part-time, and that was when I really decided to buckle down and study coding.

Alex Booker (03:00):
Yeah, that's a tough place to be working, especially around the holidays.

Cassie Lewis (03:04):
Yes, for sure. Holidays were always really tough. I was also an essential worker during the pandemic, also really tough, and I didn't want to do that anymore. I liked where I was and the people I was working with and the mission of providing the service for the community, but it was very hard on me. There was a lot of physical labor, a lot of stimulus all the time, so I had to do something else. I had been working on my feet for a long time and I had to do something else.

Alex Booker (03:35):
When you were trying a few different roles, you described quite a spread of different things there. What was your kind of philosophy towards choosing the next opportunity? Was it the case of finding something that gave you a purpose? For example, the job you're just describing for the community, that sounds very impactful, for example, or was it more of a case that you were trying to cultivate some kind of career change or maybe focus around salary?

Cassie Lewis (04:00):
My most recent position, the bulk foods manager, was both. I tend to lean towards small companies meaningful work. And I just started out as a cashier so I needed a part-time job, and then they offered me this position. And once I was in that, it really forced me to take a look at that and long-term where I wanted to be salary wise, because I didn't feel like there was much growth opportunity there.

Alex Booker (04:26):
Before you were describing an a-ha moment where you decided to pursue coding, what was that catalyst that made you want to pick up coding seriously enough that you can make a career out of it?

Cassie Lewis (04:36):
I was already studying it and really enjoying it, and this position, the grocery manager position, I actually built it from the ground up because it was a new place that it just opened. And I jokingly, not so jokingly, referred to it as working for a grocery startup because that's what it is basically.

Alex Booker (04:57):
Yeah, that sounds very intrapreneurial.

Cassie Lewis (05:00):
And it was kind of like in those moments of building that position and realizing how I wanted to use my skills that I would be more challenged by something else.

Alex Booker (05:10):
What led you to coding?

Cassie Lewis (05:11):
I was working with WordPress. I was doing a little bit of blogging and I wanted to customize it. I knew a bit about HTML from college and working with graphical user interfaces, but that was about the extent of it.

So I started taking classes through Lynda, which is now LinkedIn Learning, because my library had free access to those courses. And so between building this position and realizing, "Hey, I want to do something that really utilizes the way that my mind works," and really clicking with coding, at least the beginning of it, I was like, "Yeah, I want to do this."

Alex Booker (05:47):
I like the way you phrase it around finding something that is compatible with the way your mind works. That's exactly how I feel about coding. For example, in school I really struggled with abstract concepts like maths or physics and things like that because I'm much more of a creative and practical person I think. And there's something about the problem solving, which is more kinesthetic, you get to get your hands on it a little bit.

In a way that is really quite unique to coding. There aren't so many industries that involve creating where you get to see the feedback on your inputs so quickly. It happens instantly in a user interface or a terminal output, compared to other industries like mechanical engineering, say, where you've got such a high barrier to entry to do anything even a little bit cool because you need all the equipment and that stuff.

Cassie Lewis (06:35):
Right. And I have maintained throughout this journey that coding is not that different than making art. It really isn't. Your end product is different because you're producing software and applications and such, but I really feel the same processes going on as making a piece of art when I'm coding.

Alex Booker (06:53):
This switch to coding, it sounds like a very gradual but very intentional shift. Can you talk to that a little bit?

Cassie Lewis (07:01):
I spent two years as a self-taught developer, just bouncing around classes, but it was intentional, and then the pandemic slowed me down. Since I was an essential worker I didn't really have the time or the bandwidth that some people did that they were at home and be like, "Oh, I'm going to do this now that I have to be at home."

So I had a couple moments of like, "Well, why didn't you do this earlier," but we all know that's not productive. So at the end of last year it was just like, it's go-time, it's just time to do this.

Alex Booker (07:36):
This comes up quite often on the podcast, I think it's on my mind more than anybody else's, but this idea that we often see three-month bootcamp success stories, six-month bootcamp success stories, or other types of rapid rises to learn to code and get a job.

I think they can serve to motivate, but if you're in a position where either you want to or need to take your time, those stories can be more harmful than good, I think. Were they in your peripheral at all and how did they make you feel?

Cassie Lewis (08:05):
They were definitely in my peripheral, but I had a sense from the beginning that that was not going to be my story. I had a sense that these were folks that they could sit and code for 12 hours a day and achieve that goal and that just wasn't going to be me. I had a job, I have a family, I have these life obligations that I have to tend to. And that's okay, that's awesome that they could do that in three or six months, but I knew that I wasn't going to be able to.

So yeah, like a little daunting, but yeah, if you can do it, cool.

Alex Booker (08:39):
It's funny because you look at these stories, but they're just one basically small parts of life, which is your job. I know it doesn't always feel like a small part of our lives, it makes up a big chunk of time, but there are other things, like our health and wellbeing, our relationships with our friends and families, experiencing life and all those kind of things.

I remember I'm quite fortunate in the sense that I knew I wanted to code from a teenage age and I really dedicated myself to the subject. And that meant I was maybe one of those young people with an impressive-sounding story because, as you say, I had the privilege of being able to sit at the computer, not worry about bills or providing, and living very frugally you could say to extend my runway. And that was my focus and that made sense.

And I felt good about that for a bit, but when I got a little bit older I realized that there were other areas in my life that were lagging while I focused on that, and I don't think everybody talks about that. It's a whole life, not just a job.

Cassie Lewis (09:42):
For sure. Even though I was trying to be exceptionally intentional, there were definitely things that fell by the wayside. I didn't love it, but I also had the wherewithal to sense that, "Hey, this is temporary." It's not like I'm going back to university for four years of study. It's going to be study until I can get a job, which hopefully is in four years.

Alex Booker (10:03):
And it's like a safer way of doing it in my opinion, because as soon as you quit your job or take on a financial commitment like an in-person intensive coding bootcamp or a university course for example, I think that puts a lot of pressure on a person to come out the other end and be financially successful in terms of earning a salary.

And one thing people realize quite quickly in their coding journey, and it can be a source of both motivation but also dread is this idea that there is no guarantee of success at the end. Sometimes you just have to go down the path for a while to see how you get on with it, and obviously you might just not have the most self-belief that this is something that can be done. Every coding journey is full of ups and downs and we're only human, so it's natural to doubt ourselves.

How did you think about it at the time? Did you have unwavering self-confidence or is it something you had to manage on a weekly basis?

Cassie Lewis (10:59):
Definitely had to manage self-confidence. We all talk about the imposter syndrome and all those kinds of things, and I think those things are very real. For me, maintaining the self-confidence to feel like I could do this and could come out with a job in the end was just filling my mind with the right information and the motivation.

Building a network of things and people that I wanted to see on LinkedIn of people who were doing the same thing I was. Listening to the Scrimba podcast, joining coffee talks, having chats with other people and being a part of the Scrimba community, even like the Town Hall or the weekly bootcamp sessions. All those things just contributed to lifting me up and feeling like, "Okay, I can do this. It's hard, but I can do this."

Jan Arsenovic (11:52):
Coming up, what is effective living and how can it help you code?

Cassie Lewis (11:56):
The goal is the result that you want, but you're focusing on the process.

Jan Arsenovic (12:00):
And what does it feel like to find a job that requires no experience?

Cassie Lewis (12:04):
The clouds parted and the light came down and ...

Jan Arsenovic (12:08):
But before that, let's take a look at social media.

Hi, I'm Jan the producer, and in every episode I go through your Twitter or LinkedIn posts about the show. "We really enjoyed your Spotify rap during December." I've already read some of your tweets and LinkedIn posts on the show, but overall it was great seeing the Scrimba Podcast in your top tens or seeing how much you'll listen to us in 2023. Johanna listened to us for 2,937 minutes. Ashwarya listened to us for 1,007 minutes. Abuku and I really hope I'm saying it right, listened to us for 585 minutes, and tweeted, "The Scrimba Podcast, I enjoyed every one of the 2,110 minutes I spent with you in 2023. Thank you."

No, thank you, and a big thanks to everybody for listening to us in 2024. If you like our show, the best way to support us is to tell somebody about it. Now you can do it in person or you can share it on social media. And as long as your social media posts contain the words "Scrimba" and "podcast," we will find them and you will get a shout-out right here on the show. If you're feeling super supportive, you can also leave us a rating or review in your podcast app of choice, and yes, I also read those in this segment. But for now, let's go back to the interview with Cassie.

Alex Booker (13:39):
Our brains are so smart, but so stupid. Sometimes I think in the sense that we can become developers and solve hard problems, but then we second-guess ourselves all the time. And it's a very natural thing I think to absorb a vibe that surrounds you. It's that idea that you are the sum of the people you listen to and hang out with the most.

And if you're on LinkedIn and you're constantly coming across news about layoffs and things like that, there's not much you can do with that information, it's probably just a source for dread. But then if you follow up lifting people who are sharing success stories or actionable advice, it gives you a little bit of psychological safety, I think, and that can help you then latch on and focus on the thing you need to, which is learning to code.

Cassie Lewis (14:26):
For sure. That was pretty much what it was all about. Environment, community, building systems, things like that.

Alex Booker (14:33):
Did you ever read any interesting books on your journey towards learning to code and getting a job?

Cassie Lewis (14:38):
I did, but none of them involved coding. I challenged myself to read more nonfiction last year and I challenged myself in other areas too, while I was exploring this coding journey or doing this coding journey, and it all adds up to the same thing. If I am challenging myself to read more nonfiction just because I want to delve into that information and it helps me develop my focus, that's going to make me a better coder.

So my favorite books that I read this past year were probably Atomic Habits, I think everyone's pretty familiar with that, Creativity, Inc., it's like the Pixar story, and Greg McKeown's Essentialism, those were probably my three favorites from last year. And those Atomic habits and Essentialism are about effective living, and like I said, contributing to this greater whole. How effective can you be in all facets of your life is just going to make you a better coder.

Alex Booker (15:39):
I've read both those books actually, Essentialism and Atomic Habits, and the diagrams in Essentialism burned on my brain. It so simply illustrates this idea of focus and not spreading yourself too thin by pursuing ... I think one diagram illustrates a circle with an objective in the middle, and then it has 10 lines coming out of the circle, illustrating 10 different things you could be doing and you're fragmenting your effort this way, but you're not getting anywhere. Compared to if you just focus on one thing, you then combine the length of those 10 lines into one focused direction where the line goes the distance and you actually achieve what you want. Even the cover of the book I think has a rather striking diagram like that.

I like this perspective around we're not just reading coding books, but reading general books around. Did you describe it as effective living?

Cassie Lewis (16:36):

Alex Booker (16:37):
What does that mean to you?

Cassie Lewis (16:38):
I'm a person who's highly driven. I tend towards overachieving, but that in my life has also led me to learning about burnout the hard way, that really deeply affects the rest of my life. And the term "effective living" helped me work through the concept of perfectionism, which is really important because you don't really achieve anything that way, trying to have every single little thing around you or the project you're working on.

Obviously the code has to work and we need syntax and things like that, but just nitpicking over and over to make something perfect, you don't get anywhere that way. But being effective, just the word "effective," calls up the process over the results. I think if you focus on the process, you will have those results that you want and it allows room for challenges, you can challenge yourself, but also grace and self-care.

Alex Booker (17:35):
It touches on what we've been discussing previously a little bit. If I'm learning to code or I have a tenacious goal or something that I wish to overachieve at, you could say, I will get a bit consumed by it and really dedicate myself to it. And that in a way is a good trait, this ability to commit yourself to something.

But what almost always happened, I would like to say that I'm better at effective living these days because I do relate to what you're saying, but what used to happen a lot is that it would become so consuming and I felt so productive about it, eventually I would start to hit the boundaries of burnout, you could say. I could press on the edges of burnout. And that would often lead to me being much less productive as I fail to look after my body and go on a walk or exercise vigorously, or if I neglect my diet for instance and I don't nourish properly, or if I eat bad food in a rush.

And then what tends to happen is I'm still at the desk, I'm still at the computer, putting in the hours, but they're not clean hours. I'm either not really taking in the information, if I'm learning something, or I'm actually not being too deliberate or intentional about my direction. One thing with coding is that you're never done learning, and there's always something, fairly low-hanging fruits to pick on and chew on if you like, like a new technology or a little bit of syntax or something.

Playing with those things, while it's fun, it could be seen as a distraction from the intended result, which might be to create a great application or make a career change. I tend to not be as focused in those moments if I haven't been intentional about the way that I'm living, not just the way I'm coding.

Cassie Lewis (19:12):
For sure. I feel like it's way, way easy with everything that we have available to us technology wise and otherwise, to just go off on a tangent. And it might feel good short term, but is it really adding any value to what you need to be doing and how you need to be growing as a person?

Alex Booker (19:32):
Did you ever catch yourself slipping in that regard and have to put yourself back on track?

Cassie Lewis (19:36):
Oh, yeah. I actually had a moment at the end of 2022, right before I joined the Scrimba Bootcamp, where I was almost to the point where I couldn't do it anymore. I was dreading opening my laptop. I felt like I wasn't understanding anything. I wasn't able to make anything work. And then I was like, "I need more than what I can give myself as a self-taught developer right now," especially with having to juggle those other two facets, the family and my part-time job.

So that's what led me to join the Scrimba Bootcamp. I needed someone to hand me the structure, I wanted guidance from mentors, and I had played around a little bit with the Learn JavaScript class that Pierre does. Because I was really struggling with JavaScript, I'm like, "I've had these classes. I don't understand how it works with HTML and CSS," and I was having those "should" moments. Like, I've been doing this for two years, I should understand this and I don't."

And making this decision to join Scrimba and doubling down on the systems I was working within. Like how many hours a week am I going to devote to this? What's my plan, what's my monthly plan, what's my weekly plan, really catapulted me out of that burnout into the next phase, and then nine months later I had a job.

Alex Booker (20:54):
That's remarkable. Congratulations.

Cassie Lewis (20:56):
Yeah, thank you. It felt remarkable, but was definitely still not easy, but I felt like what I had learned from that low point, I was like, "Oh, I'm not going to go there again, so how do we move through this? How can I challenge myself to be better than that the next time?"

Alex Booker (21:13):
I like the "should moments." I've not heard that one before, but there's a lot of them when you're learning to code, and I like this idea of systems as well. I think that's a concept that comes up in Atomic Habits. What is your view on systems? How do you use them in your life and on your journey to code and get a job that have helped you be successful?

Cassie Lewis (21:32):
I make monthly and weekly plans, and I handwrite them in a notebook. I will even handwrite code snippets. It just kind of connects everything for me in my brain. I know it sounds very old school to take handwritten notes, but I really, really enjoy it.

Alex Booker (21:49):
Yeah, I've seen people bring it up on neurodiversity and psychology podcasts and learning podcasts. It comes up more often these days as a way to, exactly as you put it, connect with the information, better retain it, and for some people it just works better. I totally respect that.

Cassie Lewis (22:08):
Yeah, it totally works for me. For example, when I am transitioning into doing it a little bit differently for my job, but when I was in the bootcamp, I would list, for example, for the week what I was going to work on in the minimum hours I wanted to put in. And I would literally make a little checkbox that I could tick off when I was done with that day. I would have a section for the courses I was working on, and then I would have a section for networking and job search, and then I would have a section for LinkedIn, and then a section for effective living.

And then I would just work through the list throughout the week. And it was also very important to make it not too, I don't want to say involved, but not too rigorous, as something that I could actually achieve. And then if I could achieve more than that, then that's great, but it was like the minimum that I expected of myself and thought that I could accomplish that week. And then that helped me work through the bootcamp, the tutorials, the projects.

Alex Booker (23:07):
It sounds then at one point you sat down and you identified the key pillars in your life. For example, you mentioned the learning to code, but also things like LinkedIn. And then instead of just setting a goal, for example, get a job as a developer, that's kind of broad, you could break that down into more manageable inputs, you could say. For example, working on a particular project or studying a certain module or participating in the bootcamp at some capacity. Am I understanding that right?

Cassie Lewis (23:34):
Yeah. And I do that with everything, even coding, just break it down into its manageable pieces, because it's just so much easier that way. At least for me and the way my mind works, just to focus on a small piece rather than the daunting overall task of making a career change and changing into being a developer. What can I do right now, or even what can I do in this five minutes that's going to get me closer?

And I think Atomic Habits is the one where he talks about 1% better every day or 1% closer, how can you do that.

Alex Booker (24:10):
The other example from Atomic Habits that's burned on my brain is this idea that a goal is different from a system, in that, if you imagine a sports game, like football for instance, every team has the same goal, which is to win the game or score the most goals. So therefore, if every team and every player has the same goal, that can't be what differentiates the winners from the losers.

We, as developers, as people learning new skills, we put a lot of time and effort into coming up with goals. They could be smart goals, really well-thought-out, but that example shows that it might not be the right thing to invest time in, compared to a plan or a system. In the case of football, your goal might be to win the game, but your system is what your team does at practice each day or how you play the match. And this is so important I think to realize, because everybody needs a different system, it has to be tailored to you and how your brain works.

I like that you use a physical medium to write these things down, by the way, but the most important thing is to break it down and come up with an actual plan. And I like to orientate the plan around inputs because you can't always control the outputs, especially when you're learning something hard like a coding topic. You could say that you're going to learn this subject in three days or you're going to complete the side project in 10 days, but you don't yet really know enough to make an accurate estimate, but you can absolutely control your inputs.

You can spend one hour per day focused, studying. You can spend two hours per day focused, working on a side project. When you focus on LinkedIn, for instance, you can commit to post twice a week, and that's your proxy to establishing an effective network that might pay off in terms of your career goals a few months down the line. Focusing on these inputs I think is a great way to go.

Cassie Lewis (25:53):
Exactly, and it goes back to what I said before in regard to effective living. The goal is the result that you want, but you're focusing on the process over the result. If you don't have that process, if you don't have that effort, you're not going to get there. You don't just wake up one day and like, "Oh, I'm a developer now." It's like, how are you going to get there?

Alex Booker (26:13):
Yeah, no, exactly, 100%. And then once you get there, the best example I can give is running, because I've often had goals around running, which is I want to run this far, at this speed. And then I accomplish that and then I'm just like, "Now what?"

Goals are like reach-it-and-be-done type of objectives, but to have a successful career or an effective life, we don't really want it to be done actually. We want to find a certain flow in things and continue to evolve and live harmoniously. So I think this whole thread that we've been picking up in this conversation about effective living, it's super pertinent, so I'm really glad you brought it up.

Cassie Lewis (26:48):
It's actually a favorite topic of mine.

Alex Booker (26:50):
Let's shift gears a little bit and talk about the job that you ended up getting. Can you tell us a bit more about how you got your first role in tech? What was your plan, and did things go to plan or was there something that popped up as unexpected thing?

Cassie Lewis (27:05):
My plan originally was to get my portfolio and resume up to speed, and then when I began the React portion of the bootcamp, then I would start looking for jobs. I didn't intend to land on anything for a while, based on other people's experiences, but I thought if I started then I could at least get an idea of how interviews go, does my resume and my portfolio need refining.

How it actually went, and full disclosure, I feel incredibly, incredibly lucky in my situation in that I kind of skipped the line. Because I know even my classmates or contemporaries had to search a long time to get a job. And this particular position was sent to me by a local connection that I made. He was aware of what I was doing and he works in software, and he said, "I think you would be good for this." And I looked at the posting and I was like, "How is this even real?" It was like one of the only ones I've seen that said zero to two years experience.

Alex Booker (28:15):
It's like the holy grail. You hear it going, "Aah."

Cassie Lewis (28:19):
Yeah, it was like the clouds parted and the light came down. And they were looking for someone who just had the basics, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Now, if they had more than that, great. I had never seen this.

So I applied, luckily I was in the final stages of getting my resume and my portfolio reviewed by a lot of chats and networking I was doing on ADPList. I had four interviews and I was hired, and I started in September.

Alex Booker (28:53):
This connection you had in the town, can you talk a bit more about how you met them?

Cassie Lewis (28:57):
Our kids go to school together. And I forget where we were, we just started talking about, "What do you do? What do you do?" And he told me he was in software and I told him what I was doing. And honestly, most of my networking was totally online. I don't live in a large city or anything that has tech meetups and stuff like that, so I didn't expect it to come from ...

But never underestimate any connection you can make in the tech world. Don't underestimate any connection that you can make. It doesn't have to be transactional or anything. It's actually been a really pleasurable experience to meet all these people. And then I could leverage that network if I needed to, but it just came from that work of networking and talking to people. If I had not put myself out there with whatever person I meet just to make that connection, I would not have that job.

Alex Booker (29:56):
Well, I have two jobs on this show. The first one is to press the record button, which I've done so far, and the second is to use my seat as the host, having spoken to hundreds of guests, to draw connections between what could be a good tip to someone listening. And as you're talking about meeting someone via the school and really having an authentic conversation with them, bringing your whole self to the conversation, just talking about something you're passionate about or some challenges you're having and that playing out in some way, well, it reminded me of Johnny Proano, who I spoke to a few months ago.

He's based in Florida, I believe, and was telling me a story about how at his daughter's dance he was showing somebody like an app he built, just because he was excited about it. And alongside all his LinkedIn and social media networking, that was the connection that led to him getting his first job actually. So the fact that this has happened twice in just a few months, it suggests to me that it's a good tactic. You never know who can help you basically.

Cassie Lewis (30:58):
Absolutely correct. I think authenticity plays a big part as well. Because I think that helped me land my job, my authenticity and who I was. There's somebody out there that's looking for you, who you are and what you can bring to the table. I would never enter into these interviews or these situations like networking with people, trying to put up a front of who you think you should be.

Now that's not to say you shouldn't develop professional skills like all the soft skills and everything. But someone out there is looking for you, not this other version of you, but you and what you can bring to the table.

Alex Booker (31:38):
I suppose on the topic of effective living, it's up to you what your intended result is and how you want to lead your life, but for me personally, and it sounds a little bit for you as well, if I can be so bold, I don't really want to pretend to be someone else in a professional context. There's a certain professional etiquette and behavior that I will bring to the environment, but I personally am okay bringing my whole self to the job.

That doesn't mean that I go to work and start telling people intimate details about my life or anything like that, that's not what that means. It's just about being genuine, I think, and daring to care, you could say, and showing an interest in people and empathizing with them, and they'll do the same for you.

I want to just ... I have to do this, it's kind of my thing, but every time someone says that they were lucky or that they feel privileged compared to others, I think that's very valid, I don't mean to say that it isn't. But every time I hear that, I kind of instinctively know it is not true in a way, because it was this one person that, yeah, I admit is a crazy coincidence. They were local to you as well, even though you're not in a tech hub, that is a coincidence. But they were one of probably tens and tens of people you've crossed paths with in your journey, whether it was through the mentoring website or a community or Discord or LinkedIn.

And it's this idea of a luck surface area. The more opportunities you create for yourself, or in other words, the more you put yourself out there, the greater your likelihood of something falling into place is, and sure when that happens, it's going to seem like a great coincidence, but I never want someone to underestimate that because you create your own luck, in my opinion. Luck is what happens when hard work meets opportunity.

It could also be the case that you were speaking to this person at the school but you weren't practiced in explaining what you're working on, or perhaps you were not really thinking that you were having anything interesting to share. I'm sure somebody could feel like that potentially. And it might have been that you were just too early in your journey, so when the opportunity crossed your desk, even though it's a zero to two year experience, that is a competitive role, there would've been other candidates. There's a reason that you got that role. It's because you've been preparing so well over the course of a few years very intentionally to take that opportunity.

So I just wanted to speak my mind on that topic because I think it's important to acknowledge the connection between the inputs, effort, and hard work and what happened here, and not only appreciate it. I think it's good to appreciate it and recognize there is an element of good fortune there you could say, but I do think it's very much connected to the input there.

Cassie Lewis (34:09):
You're absolutely right.

Alex Booker (34:11):
How is the role going, by the way? You've been there for a few months now, I think.

Cassie Lewis (34:15):
I've been there for three months now. I was hired with the full intention that I would be learning as I worked. My manager was willing to take me on as a learner. I got a take-home project. They knew that I hadn't really gotten into React yet, so the take-home project was building a React component to gauge how quickly I could pick it up.

And so it's known that I am learning as I'm working, I am contributing as much as I can. And I'm not the first person that has gone off in this particular fashion, and I hope more companies will take on this trend. I think Jimmy was one, who's one of my bootcamp classmates and was also on the podcast.

Alex Booker (35:04):
You're in the same cohort as Jimmy, that's amazing. We'll link his episode in the show notes.

Cassie Lewis (35:08):
I don't really remember, but he might've been farther along than me when I joined, I don't quite remember. But we were in the group for a period of time.

Alex Booker (35:16):
Jimmy's episode is called Cooking Up a Career Change because he was previously a chef. We'll link that in the show notes for people to check out as well.

Cassie Lewis (35:23):
And then a couple other people I know that are hired in that capacity through LinkedIn. So it's a really good setup if the company's willing to do that. My manager's willing to do that, and he's really, really awesome about it.

So the first month was a lot of onboarding, learning how to work in a production code base, getting to know my teammates, how to work in sprints, learning about the company, learning how to work remotely. That was at least the first couple of weeks.

Alex Booker (35:54):
How does it feel to get paid to learn on the job so explicitly? That sounds like a pretty perfect situation to me.

Cassie Lewis (36:01):
It's totally amazing. But at the same time, I am fully trying to add value wherever I can, in whatever capacity I can.

Alex Booker (36:12):
Can you talk a bit more to that? I've never been in this situation, and yet I have spoken about it on the podcast quite a lot with others. This idea that when you get an entry level position and you're still taking your time and hitting the ground running, obviously you're not going to be working on the most critical features or solving this heroic bug, like a senior dev with 10 years of experience might. Granted you're not being paid the same either, and if you are, more power to you, by the way, but often you're not.

It does create this feeling sometimes of maybe not contributing enough or taking more than you give, that can feel a certain way. What is your perspective on it now you're in this environment as a true entry-level junior?

Cassie Lewis (36:56):
It can feel that way, in kind of in the same way that you're learning to code and you're like, "Oh, I'm not sure I can do this." But I think it's important to build a rapport with the people that you're working with, especially your managers. We have a one-on-one session every other week where I would get feedback, and I get feedback pretty much every time I do a ticket. And we have the full expectation that we're going to get constructive feedback in a positive way.

So I think if you build, like I said, this rapport, this communication, it's like a safeguard from that, where you can check in and be like, "Hey, am I performing to your expectations? What feedback do you have for me that I could do better?"

Alex Booker (37:46):
I like that a lot. Cassie, thank you so much for joining me on the Scrimba Podcast. It's been a pleasure.

Cassie Lewis (37:51):
Yeah, it's been a total pleasure, Alex. Thank you for having me on.

Jan Arsenovic (37:55):
That was the Scrimba Podcast, episode 144. If you made it this far, please subscribe. You can find the show wherever you listen to podcasts. Check out the show notes for the ways to connect with Cassie, as well as all the resources mentioned in this episode. The show is hosted by Alex Booker. I've been Jan, the producer. Keep coding, and we'll see you next time.