The Scrimba Podcast

πŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Jess Gilbert πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§!
Jess recently made a career change from being a primary school teacher to becoming a developer. In this episode, we delve into her journey and explore how she successfully transitioned in less than a year!

What was it like being a teacher? Are there any similarities between teaching and coding? How did Jess manage to secure a job offer before diving into her coding education? Jess and Alex also discuss Code First: Girls and why it's worth exploring if you belong to an underrepresented group in the tech industry.

Jess shares why Instagram is her social network of choice, which may surprise you since it's not commonly associated with developers. Plus, find out how she learned to code while working as a full-time school teacher and whether the tech industry lived up to her expectations.

πŸ”— Connect with Jess
⏰ Timestamps
  • Jess had never considered a career in tech and became a teacher (01:48)
  • What made Jess learn to code, and how she found Code First: Girls (03:01)
  • Why learning to code at her own pace was challenging for Jess, and why in the end, she shouldn't have been as worried (05:42)
  • Why teachers are sometimes reluctant to work on their personal development (09:03)
  • Community break! Your Tweets and LinkedIn posts, with Jan The Producer (10:20)
  • How does Code First: Girls work? (12:57)
  • How Jess landed a job offer even before learning to code? (14:43)
  • Why do companies invest in programs like Code First: Girls? (17:51)
  • What was it like to learn to code while having a full-time job? (20:10)
  • Why the support of a cohort was important to Jess? (21:17)
  • Was there variation in the ability level of the people in Jess's cohort, and why do soft skills matter? (22:58)
  • How do Jess's skills as a teacher transfer to coding? (24:17)
  • Is there a better work-life balance in coding? (25:55)
  • Quick-fire questions! Do teachers listen to lo-fi bears? (28:56)
  • How Jess found a community on Instagram as a developer (31:27)
  • Why are so many people transitioning from teaching? (33:38)
  • Learning to code is hard, but there are great resources out there, and you can pick the style of learning that works for you specifically (37:59)
  • How long did it take for Jess to switch careers? (40:12)
  • What was her first week on the new job like? (41:18)
  • Why the size of the codebase is a BIG difference between learning to code and working at a company (42:23
🧰 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.

Jess Gilbert (00:00):
I mean if you can afford to not work while you're learning to code, you're going to learn faster and you're going to have more time to dedicate to it. But as long as you're motivated and you're willing to give up for the short term, maybe some of your free time and things outside of work, then it is definitely doable.

Alex Booker (00:15):
Hello and welcome to Be Scrimba podcast. This is a weekly show where one week I interview a recently hired junior developer and then the next week an industry expert, like a hiring manager, recruiter or senior developer so that you can learn how to get into tech from both sides. I'm your host Alex Booker, and today I'm joined by Jess Gilbert, a primary school teacher turned developer from the UK. After working in the classroom for five years, Jess found herself at the brink of a burnout and therefore faced with a tough decision. Does she continue her passion for teaching and mentoring young students, often working evenings and weekends to prepare for lessons as parts of an inefficient school system that doesn't value teachers enough or does she prioritize her mental health, self-actualization, and overall happiness to find a new career, even if that means taking a pay cut initially.

Coding never really crossed Jess's mind, she told me. Understandably, she assumed it was really sciencey or mathematical. That is until she saw an advert for an inclusive coding bootcamp. There she trudged through the basics of html, CSS and JavaScript impressively, while also working full-time as a teacher. Today Jess is working a remote first junior developer job at Sky Betting and Gaming where she actually interviewed before learning to code. How is that possible? You'll have to continue listening right here on the Scrimba podcast to find out. Here's Jess.

Jess Gilbert (01:48):
I don't think I'd ever considered a career in tech or coding even remotely possible for me. That I guess started from school and continued throughout my college and university years all the way through until I began my career as a teacher. I kind of had no idea about the tech world. I didn't take any sciences or maths beyond high school level and then that really limited my choices when I went to apply for university. Any kind of computer science degree, even if I was considering I guess at that point, it wasn't really an option. So from there I went on to a degree in education with a master's in teaching.

And that's how I ended up kind of initially as a primary teacher which I worked for the last five years as it was kind of getting to the point I guess in that career that I was feeling quite burnt out. I was a bit disillusioned with the education system at that point. I don't know what it's like in the rest of the UK but certainly in Scotland it was a kind of stressful job and a kind of sad state of affairs.

Alex Booker (02:50):
Yeah, it's not great is it?

Jess Gilbert (02:52):
No, it's not. I'm kind of glad to be on the other side of it now in looking back but you do really feel for all the people that are still sticking it out as teachers.

Alex Booker (03:01):
What made you want to learn to code specifically?

Jess Gilbert (03:04):
At the point where I decided to leave teaching, I was kind of looking for jobs that I could go into with the skills that I already had. That proved really difficult. I was looking at kind of jobs in universities and colleges, other kind of branches of education I guess but not teaching directly. It was at that point that I saw an advert for the Code First Girls Data and SQL course. I thought if I did it might help with some of the more admin based roles that I'd been applying for at the university. I still at that point didn't believe that it would lead me to wanting to code but I did it anyway. I enjoyed it. That was an eight-week course, a kind of introduction.

And following on from that, I got an email from Code First Girls offering their degree, and to be honest, I immediately discounted it because I'd seen previously how expensive coding camps can be and I was like, I can't afford to give up my full-time job. I can't afford to pay for the course. I just kind of ignored the email which probably wasn't the best idea. But your immediate reaction I guess is, well, that's not for me. I don't necessarily have the time to do that or the finances to do that. So it wasn't something that I was kind of immediately jumped on. It was only once I kind of looked into Code First Girls a bit more having done one of their introductory courses that I realized that the degree course that they offered, the 14-week one was free and it was also part-time so I could do it in the evenings whilst still teaching full-time which was tough.

Alex Booker (04:32):
Are the courses a little bit like what you might find on, I don't know, LinkedIn Learning or Udemy or something where you kind of watch videos at your own pace or are there sessions you engage with on Zoom or something every evening?

Jess Gilbert (04:46):
That's what I quite liked about the course because I felt like I needed that. If I was doing it alongside full-time work, I needed that kind of discipline. So the structure of the course was Monday to Thursday, two hours each evening and it was Zoom kind of lectures I guess. So we had two instructors and an assistant instructor who led the course each evening and it was interactive I guess in the sense that we would have maybe an input from one of the course instructors and then we might have some time either in groups or on our own to maybe work on something and we also had homework and small projects to hand in at the end of each week which was quite good I guess to summarize what we've learned each week. But it was very fast-paced and I did the full stack web development one so there was quite a lot covered in the 14 weeks. It did require a lot of self-study after the Zoom calls were finished each evening.

Alex Booker (05:42):
You've not only done a master's but your master's was in teaching and then you went on to work as a teacher. How did you find this experience learning to code online at your own pace?

Jess Gilbert (05:52):
Yeah, it was definitely challenging. I think it was very different to anything that I'd done before, especially when we got to the algorithms. That was something that initially I kind of struggled with. I guess I hadn't done anything like that throughout my degree. There wasn't any kind of science or maths aspect. But there was aspects of it that I really enjoyed like the more kind of front end development. And as part of the 14-week degree or bootcamp, we got to do a group project, so that was a React app that we were going to build for that. And I think that aspect of it gave maybe more of a realistic sense of the kind of job that we would be going into at the end of it which I thought was good as well to have that balance of the kind of theory and the small parts of the computer science I guess that would feature in computer science degrees but also given us the opportunity to practice the practical skills in a group setting as well.

Alex Booker (06:42):
Looking back at it, do you think you needed to be as worried as maybe you felt because I get it. If you haven't done any of this stuff before and you haven't seen people like you necessarily doing this stuff before, whether that's previous teachers and frankly it's a very male dominated industry as well, it can kind of reduce your confidence. So what do you think looking back? Do you need to know science and maths and computing to learn to code?

Jess Gilbert (07:10):
No, definitely not. I think my eyes have been kind of open to that I guess now that I'm in the industry. I think coming from a very female dominated industry in teaching, we didn't have any males in our kind of staff. A predominantly male dominated industry is very different but within the role that I'm working in now, I've been made to feel really welcome. I've been supported. I feel people in tech are much more willing to help and to share their knowledge and they're quite happy to have someone who's new to coding on board. As long as you're keen to learn and you show kind of curiosity and willingness to take on board advice, I've found that the tech industry is actually really... It can be such a welcoming, helpful place to learn.

Alex Booker (07:51):
Sometimes I forget this because I'm lucky to have started my career in tech and frankly one of the things that drew me to tech is that the learning was accessible. I could learn to code on YouTube for example. But often when I speak to people who've transitioned careers, they point out how community focused and collaborative software development is. But not only that, people don't really gatekeep and they're actually quite proactive about helping people who want to help themselves.

Jess Gilbert (08:18):
For sure. Yeah, that's something that I've noticed a huge difference. I mean in teaching, it can be quite a lonely job, I guess because it's just you're the only adult in the class for the majority of the day. It's not really a collaborative job. And at the end of the day, you do feel maybe the only chance you get to speak to your colleagues is maybe to moan about something or it's not always a positive interaction, maybe just to de-stress about the day or talk about something that's happened. In the tech community, there's much more opportunities for kind of collaboration and people are really willing to help if you reach out online. There's so many great communities on there where it feels much more acceptable as someone new coming into the industry to ask for help and no one kind of gatekeeps information which is always good when you're trying to learn something new.

Alex Booker (09:03):
I like what you say really because software's always evolving, so there's implicit assumption that we as developers always have to get better. But often developers are quite excited about new technologies, novel ideas. I have no insight as to what it's like as a teacher but especially it being such a demanding job, I can imagine it's a hard space to really think about personal development, professional development in the same way.

Jess Gilbert (09:27):
Yeah, for sure. Teachers can be really reluctant to change and kind resistant to change because it's often viewed that change is just an additional item added to the workload that already exists. It's that kind of feeling of, "Well, we're already not managing with the workload that we have at the moment. Why would we want anything to change or why would we want to spend any additional time on our own development because we already have so much to do." Whereas I feel like since moving into tech and having a job as a developer, I'm actually excited for the first time in my kind of professional career about learning new things and you feel like you actually want to spend time outside of work. At the moment, I'm still really learning. So I feel like I enjoy in the evening kind of still working on courses, still working on my own projects just to try and improve all the time because when you're in that kind of community, you feel more motivated to do that.

Jan Arsenovic (10:20):
Coming up how Jess switched careers in less than a year,

Jess Gilbert (10:23):
I have deployed some code to our live site which is really exciting

Jan Arsenovic (10:28):
And what did that do to her work life balance?

Jess Gilbert (10:31):
You might have that light bulb moment sitting watching the TV at night and you maybe make a little note of it to go back to.

Jan Arsenovic (10:37):
But first, let's take a look at some of your social media posts about our podcast. Hi, I'm Jan, the producer, and every week I go through posts on Twitter or LinkedIn, sometimes Facebook, sometimes your views on iTunes, and I give some of you a shout-out.

On LinkedIn, Rachel Dooley shared the book, the Tech Resume Inside Out by Gergely Orosz who of course was our guest on the show and wrote, "I've heard about this book on the Scrimba podcast and I'm looking forward to reading it. As a career changer looking to break into tech, I can certainly use all the help I can get when it comes to writing a solid resume and cover letter. One of my favorite points that he makes in the podcast is when he says, 'A resume is a sales tool. The goal of your resume is to get that call from the recruiter.' While that might seem obvious. I think it's easy to forget about that when you're trying to have all the right metrics and verbiage in every section. Sometimes you need to take a step back and look at the big picture. Can't wait to read the book for more resume tips."

Rachel, please share more takeaways and for everybody interested, I'm linking the episode with Gergely in the show notes. And on Twitter, Anthony Nan Fido wrote this morning, I listened to the episode of the Scrimba podcast featuring Katrina Tucker. Here are my takeaways. The language you use affects how you think about your journey breaking into tech versus entering or transitioning into tech. Be intentional. The intention you put in affects how it'll be received and business is about solving problems. How can your skills, both tech and non-tech, help contribute to the solution? I'm really enjoying how this podcast interviews both newly transitioned devs and season devs. It's great to hear both perspectives about transitioning into the field. If you're looking to get into tech and haven't checked it out, I highly recommend it.

Anthony, thank you so much and if you've missed the episode with Katrina, I'm also going to link it in the show notes. If you would like a shout-out, just join the conversation and share your learnings. If you're on Twitter or on LinkedIn, and if your post contains the words Scrimba podcast, I will probably find it. And if you're feeling super supportive, you can also leave us a rating or a review in your podcast app of choice. I've already seen a new iTunes review I think that I'm going to feature next week. But for now we're back to the interview with Jess.

Alex Booker (12:57):
Maybe you can tell us a bit more about Code First Girls. How does it work?

Jess Gilbert (13:05):
So it's really interesting, I think, the way that they do it. Code First Girls are a charitable organizations so they provide education for women and non-binary people for free. The way that they're able to do this is that they secure sponsorship from companies, I guess, who are looking to improve diversity within their workforce. So I think they obviously receive payments from these companies to train women up to kind of fill positions within their companies. So when you apply for the degree, first you're asked to apply via two companies. So you get two choices, your first choice and your second, and you kind of submit an application to them. You do a video interview and then you have a company interview before you secure a place on the degree.

So I guess it's actually quite interesting in a sense because I know a lot of other self-taught developers do a bootcamp or they self-teach and then they go on to apply for jobs. Whereas with Code First Girls, it's a little bit different in the sense that you actually interview and secure the job with your company before you even start the bootcamp which is quite an interesting way to do it, I feel, because they're not basing it on any of your technical skills they're just basing it on I guess how motivated you are to learn and your soft skills which I guess are really important.

Alex Booker (14:18):
In your case it was Sky Betting and Gaming. So if I understood right before you even started the Code First Girls course, the full slack one, you had an opportunity to interview with Sky Betting and Gaming where they could assess you probably not on your coding skills since you're brand new, but probably the fact you'd done the data course at this point was in the plus column. But nevertheless, it was really more about your potential and determination to learn.

Jess Gilbert (14:43):
Yeah, I think so. I guess it's just that they were willing to take a chance on me based on my existing skills and motivations. So I found that the interview I did with them, it was definitely based more around soft skills and how my values aligned with their values and how good a fit you would be for the company. I think at Sky betting gaming, they have a huge focus on people and how everyone fits and works together. And I think for me it was I guess how I connected with the people that interviewed me and the skills that I brought from teaching.

I felt it was really nice that they were able to value that because I've had a lot of interviews in the past where I felt like the interviewers couldn't see past the fact that I was a primary teacher and they couldn't see how those skills could maybe transfer into their role. Whereas it was really encouraging to see that Sky Betting and Gaming could see that and were willing to kind of take a chance on me being able to get through the bootcamp and come to work for them eventually.

Alex Booker (15:38):
Once they gave you the sponsorship essentially, did you feel a certain degree of pressure to then live up to the expectation?

Jess Gilbert (15:45):
Maybe a slight bit of pressure, but I feel like that was a huge motivator for me because it kind of gave me a way out of the job that I was really unhappy with and also it gave me an opportunity to get into the industry that at that point was the industry that I was really keen to get into. So it was a huge motivation to feel like all the hard work and the effort and the exhaustion of working full time and doing the bootcamp at night that it was going to be worth it at the end which was a really nice feeling.

Alex Booker (16:12):
Yeah, you were less nervous and more excited it sounds like. It really fueled you to put the hard work in knowing that there's something waiting for you at the ever end. I totally hear that by the way, because I think honestly in today's modern age, there are plenty of coding resources out there, whether it's Code First Girls, Scrimba, could be traditional things like a bootcamp or uni as well. That's not really the issue. The issue is actually utilizing those resources, showing up consistently and staying motivated for a significant period of time, at least three months, but typically it's going to be 6, 9, 12 months, something like that. You just can't quit. That's the only way you're going to fail is if you quit. But obviously real life gets in the way. Maybe you're balancing another job while learning to code for example, and you just don't have the conviction to go all in. But having the job waiting for you at the end, that must be incredibly motivating.

Jess Gilbert (17:05):
I feel lucky in a sense because I know how difficult it is for a lot of developers coming out the other end of bootcamps and being self-taught and having to interview for lots of jobs and kind of develop a portfolio. And I guess I was lucky in that sense that there wasn't so much of the pressure for me to do that because they kind of based us coming on to work in the job on our group project that we did and also the kind of assessments that we completed throughout the course. So there wasn't that pressure at the end when you finished the course to then go and prepare for interviews and go and practice kind of tech assessments and all that kind of stuff. So I really, really liked the way that I was able to get into the tech industry. But I appreciate it's not always that straightforward for everyone.

Alex Booker (17:51):
I wonder if you can speculate why companies invest in these kind of programs. They're obviously making an upfront investment in a candidate. I think when you're later in your career and you're at the senior level or something, maybe you get paid a lot of salary after you succeed at a job interview but you're also generating a lot of value because you're bringing a wealth of experience and you can hit the ground running. I suppose as a junior developer and for someone listening, we know that we should be bringing value to the table and that's why we're paid a salary. But at the same time, when you're newer, there is that expectation that you're going to spend some time learning.

Maybe if you've been practicing for a year and then you do an interview and you do this more conventional path that you described, you'll be a little bit more ready to contribute. But if you're really quite fresh coming out of a sort of three month program, there's probably going to be a bit longer for you to ramp up and contribute. So I'm wondering if you can speculate how you think a company investing in a sponsorship like this see out.

Jess Gilbert (18:50):
So I guess for a lot of the companies invested it's more of a long term benefit. In the long term obviously they're able to diversify their workforce and also bring in new ideas and things to the team. I guess I'm quite lucky in the sense that with Sky Betting and Gaming, they were really willing to allow me to continue to learn while I'm employed with them as a junior. So my time is kind of split between working with the team and also continuing my own development which is amazing. I really enjoy having the time to do that and not kind of feeling guilty that you're not a hundred percent contributing every single day to the team and it takes off the pressure a bit of feeling like you need to be up to scratch and at the same levels as the rest of your teammates because it's not the case. Roughly about two days out of the week at the moment, I kind of spend on doing a course on Udemy at the moment, a React course.

Alex Booker (19:40):
No, Jess come to Scrimba.

Jess Gilbert (19:42):
I know.

Alex Booker (19:44):
Bob's React course is the most highly acclaimed React course out there. You should check it out. But I'm so sorry, I just couldn't keep that to myself.

Jess Gilbert (19:51):
I will switch. I actually started it before I discovered Scrimba to my defense. So I'll definitely check it out because I'm kind of bored with the one on Udemy to be honest. I've diversified in just trying to work on my own projects at the moment. But yeah, I will definitely check out the Scrimba one.

Alex Booker (20:10):
By the way, how did you find that experience learning to code while also working your full-time job? I know a lot of people wonder if it can be done or if you should quit and focus full-time on learning.

Jess Gilbert (20:18):
It was exhausting to be honest but because I had that motivator of the job at the end, it kept me going. I'd say for the 14 weeks I had no social life outside of work or weekends because I felt like I was having to play catch up in the evenings and then at the weekend as well. The other girls in my group mostly didn't work full-time so I felt like when it came to doing the group project, they were having a lot of time during the day while I was at work to kind of work on things and then we would have our meetings in the evening before the course and it always felt like I was kind of playing catch up. I'd feel a bit stressed seeing all the messages come in while I was sitting in a classroom.

I mean, if you can afford to not work while you're learning to code, you're going to learn faster and you're going to have more time to dedicate to it. But I think as long as you're motivated and you're willing to give up for the short term maybe some of your free time and things outside of work, then it is definitely doable. But it can be tiring.

Alex Booker (21:17):
You think you could have done it without the supports of Code First Girls and your cohorts?

Jess Gilbert (21:22):
I think I would struggle if I was... Hats off to the people that can learn just by themselves following self-directed coding bootcamps and coding resources. But I think I would've struggled to do that whilst working full-time because I guess you've not got the same pressure of actually logging on to do it for two hours every night. So yeah, I think having the community and having to show up for that call every single night really helped, I guess, you not to give up and to have those people to reach out to when you were struggling. And having that kind of slack community of being able to post questions and kind of reach out to others, I think really helped me get to the finish line.

Alex Booker (21:58):
Self-motivating is really hard. It doesn't matter how determined you are, especially when you're learning to code over a long period of time and balancing other parts of your life because you're a whole person, not just someone learning to code. It's really easy to kind of fade away a little bit, your intensity fades away. I guess the really nice thing about having a cohort or a bootcamp or a coding buddy, accountability buddy, even a deadline, some kind of extrinsic motivator to kind of light a fire under your bum and sort of keep you on track, it won't last forever. If you feel like the pressure for months and months and months and months on end, I think that's a recipe for burnout probably. But it can be an incredibly effective way to stay on track in the short and medium term I think.

Jess Gilbert (22:42):
That's the thing. If you're doing a group project or you have that kind of group online that you reach out to, seeing them working towards the same goal can really help you stay on track to reach your goal as well. But I think I would've struggled with the self-motivation if I hadn't had the Code First Girls' community for sure.

Alex Booker (22:58):
Was there much variation in the ability level of people in the same group?

Jess Gilbert (23:06):
Yeah, I think it was noticeable at times. And I guess a lot of people who did the course were maybe also straight out of university and maybe hadn't worked in a professional setting before. So I think a lot of the differences you noticed were more so in soft skills, I guess, and being able to communicate with your group, being able to answer out during the calls. Maybe that was where it was more noticeable rather than the technical abilities. It can always be awkward on a Zoom call when the instructor, everyone's got their cameras off, you don't know who's engaging and they're kind of looking for feedback on something they've said or looking for an answer.

I think at that point it can kind of become obvious maybe people who haven't experienced that before can find it more challenging to answer out and to engage. Whereas I feel for me because most of my day was kind of speaking in front of people or speaking to groups or speaking to peers, I always felt like I had to fill the awkward silences. So I was always that person that even if I didn't know the answer, which most of the time I didn't, I would just try and answer out just for the sake of trying to keep the awkwardness and to try and keep, I guess, engaged with the instructors so it didn't just feel like they were speaking to no one.

Alex Booker (24:17):
That's a really interesting example of something that transferred from your experience teaching to the coding world. Can you think of any other skills or experiences that are helping you as a developer?

Jess Gilbert (24:28):
I think definitely communication, not being afraid to reach out and ask for help. I'm quite confident if I need help, obviously I'll try to work out myself first, but I think I won't kind of sit and worry about, oh, who should I ask? Am I going to look silly or I don't have a clue if I ask this? I think being able to communicate with people and kind of build that rapport with people in your team, it makes it much easier because a lot of the time you are going to need help with stuff as a junior and you are going to need people to pair up with you and you are going to need people to kind of guide you to the answer. So I think being able to ask for help and knowing the questions that you need to ask for help, I think being able to word things in a way that makes sense or similarities in terms of what I had to do in teaching is what I'm now having to do to kind of explain problems and coding to get help.

Alex Booker (25:14):
And dealing with pressure and stress as well, I guess, plus responsibility. I mean you're ultimately accountable for all of your students, just like you might be accountable for a project at work.

Jess Gilbert (25:26):
I definitely find this job a lot less pressure and a lot more kind of calming I guess. But I don't know if that's just I'm lucky that the company I work for are really good and everyone's really nice and helpful and there's not that kind of doom of pressure and deadlines, at least for me at the moment anyway. But just being able to chat to people and get help and not being afraid to ask for help but also showing that you're willing to learn I found are kind of key to getting anywhere in this world.

Alex Booker (25:55):
I think you're right that the expectation and the pressure and the deadlines and stuff is a bit less at the beginning. But the whole reason you made this shift is to create a better work-life harmony. So I can imagine no matter what happens in the future, you're going to set the right boundaries and work hard to protect that balance, I feel.

Jess Gilbert (26:16):
Yeah, for sure. I think having come from a job where there's no work-life balance, I'm so grateful that in this job there really is a work-life balance. And at four or five o'clock, whenever you finish, you can shut the laptop. I mean, obviously if you've been struggling with a bug or something, you might have that kind of light bulb moment sitting watching the TV at night and you maybe make a little note of it to go back to.

Alex Booker (26:38):
Has that happened to you since you joined?

Jess Gilbert (26:40):
It has, yeah, maybe once or twice. But I'm not sitting till nine, 10 o'clock at night writing out code or feeling the pressure. If I don't have this done for tomorrow, I'm going to be standing in front of a group of kids with nothing to say. It's not the same pressure. It has pressures in itself of, I guess, I still feel a bit of an imposter in the industry at times. I feel like I should be better and there's that kind of stress. But in terms of work-life balance, I feel the industry itself, especially with Sky Betting and Gaming they do a lot of kind of incentives to improve your work-life balance and to take time away and make sure you take time for yourself. So I've really appreciated that.

Alex Booker (27:20):
Yeah, I think a lot of tech companies are quite forward-thinking about this for one reason or another. Often honestly, it comes down to an empathy. Your engineering manager might have been a developer before and they probably wouldn't have liked to work in that environment. So when they can influence the culture, that's what they can advocate for. And it is no secret that tech is a great industry to work in, largely due to the fact that there is a greater demand for developers and software than there is currently developers to fulfill those roles. Now, there is some turbulence in the job market and the economy but it doesn't give you the whole picture.

A lot of companies who are trying to source developers, they have to be attractive for developers to work at. So essentially what we're describing are perks of the job in a way. I do think that the pressure can creep up and the stress and things like that but ultimately it's kind of a bit of a mindset. It's a bit of the boundaries you set as well, whereas other industries, other workspaces, I think teaching and another example is doctors and medicine in the UK as well are under resourced, underappreciated. There's no amount of mindset or boundary setting that's going to really help you there is there?

Jess Gilbert (28:27):
Sadly not. And I think, I guess coming from one of those industries, that's maybe why I'm a bit more strict with kind of setting boundaries. Not that I need to be. I guess just having that mindset of striving to achieve a better work-life balance helps you always kind of having that in mind when you come to do your job and giving your best in the hours that you're working but also taking time to recharge because ultimately you need to do that in order to perform well at work. You need to have that time for yourself and I think it's great that tech companies recognize that.

Alex Booker (28:56):
All right, Jess, so I'm curious to learn a bit more about the specific work you're doing and how it's going, but what do you say we do a round of quick fire questions first so our audience can get to know you a little bit better?

Jess Gilbert (29:07):
Yeah, sure, that sounds good.

Alex Booker (29:12):
What is one learning resource that has been the most impactful for you?

Jess Gilbert (29:16):
When I started off coding, I really loved Programming with Mosh or Web Dev Simplified, both on YouTube. They kind of gave me the foundations. But also when I was looking for more specific resources, they were also great to kind of help me understand more complex problems and CDs and things which were great.

Alex Booker (29:35):
What is your favorite technology to use at the moment?

Jess Gilbert (29:42):
At the moment I'm using React and I would probably say that once I kind of fully get to grips with it, it's probably my favorite. I can see why so many people like it and why so many people say it's easy to use. I mean, I'm not quite at that point yet myself but I can definitely see why people say that.

Alex Booker (29:55):
Do you have your eyes on any other technologies that look interesting to learn next?

Jess Gilbert (29:59):
Yes, I'd like to learn more about GraphQL. I've seen how people can kind of use it to communicate with the backend at my work and it looks pretty cool. I also recently did one of the introduction to AWS courses and I want to continue to develop my knowledge of the cloud infrastructure and maybe set the certification at some point in the near future.

Alex Booker (30:18):
What music do you go to?

Jess Gilbert (30:20):
Anything without lyrics, so kind of lo-fi beats or anything that's not too distracting.

Alex Booker (30:26):
Did you ever listen to lo-fi beats when you're a teacher?

Jess Gilbert (30:31):
I didn't. No, but I think when you hear everyone kind of raving about it in the tech industry, you feel like you need to listen to lo-fi beats.

Alex Booker (30:37):
Yeah, exactly. I feel like it's such a tech thing somehow. I hadn't realized till I started asking these questions. Is there anyone you look up to or follow up in the tech community we should know about? You already mentioned Programming with Mosh and Web Dev Simplified. Awesome YouTubers. Is there anybody else on LinkedIn, Twitter, something like that you follow?

Jess Gilbert (30:57):
I've got an Instagram account myself. It's called Teacher to Coder and I follow a lot of great kind of female programmers on there. My favorite would probably be a girl called Catherine Gilligan. Her Instagram handle is Sensation. She also came from a non-tech background. I think she was a baker before. So she shares a lot of useful content online.

Alex Booker (31:16):
I'm going to follow you on Instagram, Jess, but I've got a feeling I'm going to be trying to book podcast guests left, right, and center as I realize all these fascinating and interesting people and stories.

Jess Gilbert (31:26):
Yeah, it's pretty cool.

Alex Booker (31:27):
Well that's it for the quick fire questions. Thank you so much. Since you mentioned Instagram, I'm kind of curious, what do you like about Instagram as a developer? We kind of levitate to Twitter or LinkedIn or GitHub or Stack Overflow. I mean calling Stack Overflow a social platform is a bit of a stretch but you probably see what I mean.

Jess Gilbert (31:44):
I guess what kind of initially drew me to Instagram was initially following the Code First Girls' Instagram page and they have a kind of group of women ambassadors so they kind of promote the courses and explain what it was like. And I initially started following them when I was doing the course, kind of hoping for some advice on doing the course and the application process and things like that. And then what kind of inspired me to start my own Instagram was I'd actually been a member on a Facebook group when I was teaching and it was called Life After Teaching. So it was about people who had left the education industry and gone to get new jobs.

So there's literally people who go and do so many different things from joining the police, going to become ministers, retraining as developers, going to work in airlines, so many different jobs. So people tend to share I guess their motivational stories of how they left teaching and what they've gone on to do. And when I finally left in January this year, because I'd been a member for a while, I kind of shared my journey and what I'd done and I couldn't believe, I think there was 600 people or something off the page that messaged me and commented. And yeah, it was crazy.

Alex Booker (32:57):

Jess Gilbert (32:58):
Yeah, it's mad. So the post just took off and so many people messaged me asking for advice. This is how many desperate teachers there are looking for a way out. So I decided to make the Instagram page Teacher to Coder and I thought it was a bit easier rather than sending the same kind of advice to so many different people by message. I was going to try and make posts that were useful on there and share content based on what they were all asking me. But yeah, for about a week, it was just constant messages from other teachers, people looking to get out and interested in learning to code or interest in getting into the tech industry. It was crazy.

Alex Booker (33:38):
Why are communities for ex-teachers flourishing?

Jess Gilbert (33:41):
I guess it's just down to the state of education in the UK. I think they said they get... I don't know the exact number. I'd need to go back and check. But crazy amounts of requests of teachers looking to join that page every day. And it's sad. I mean it's really heartbreaking to read some of the posts from people who are really desperate to get out. But it's also uplifting I guess to see the posts from people that have got out. And it's really interesting to see the different kind of careers that they've gone into. And I think when they see a success story of someone who has left teaching, especially to go into the tech industry, because I feel like that's maybe an industry that's not really that familiar for a lot of teachers, it's not something that they would've ever come across in their studies.

If they studied education, I think for them to see that is kind of shocking I guess because well you must have a background in tech. Well you must be really into computers. Well you must have some previous experience. And I think when I explained that actually I didn't have any of those things, they're quite shocked and it also gives them the hope, I guess, that that opportunity could be out there for them too. But recently someone reached out to me to say that they just joined one of the most recent Code First Girls introductory courses. And I think they said when they did the introduction, those courses tend to have, I think about, I don't know, between 50 to a hundred people. But the majority of people on one of the recent cohorts were all teachers who'd either seen my posts on the page or had read the BBC article and were kind of inspired to join one of the courses and get started.

Alex Booker (35:14):
Such a big impact you've had by sharing your story. I'm really happy you're here doing the same on the Scrimba podcast. I know there's a lot to take away already. Do you have any advice for a teacher who might be looking to learn to code?

Jess Gilbert (35:27):
Just don't be scared to take the first step. I get a lot of messages from people saying I'm worried that I can't do it. I'm worried that I'll find it too hard. And I guess my advice is you won't know until you try. I mean, coding certainly isn't for everyone and there's just some people it doesn't click with and some people who just maybe don't enjoy that type of job, being at a desk all day. And that's fine. But I think if you think it's something that you might be interested in or even if you think it might be a role that can give you a better work life balance, then there's no harm in going for it. And there's so many amazing resources out there.

I was kind of thrown into the tech industry before I had a chance to actually research what was out there because I had the opportunity with the Code First Girls degree before I'd really even decided that that was what I wanted to do. So I feel like for me, I didn't have the chance to look into all these amazing resources. It was kind of afterwards that I've done that, in reverse I guess. But for someone looking to learn and for a teacher looking to learn, it's always worth having a go. And even in the evening, try it for a couple hours every week and see if you enjoy it and then look to sign up for some of the free courses, I guess, and go from there.

Alex Booker (36:35):
I think there's a lot of good reasons people become a teacher. Unfortunately, there's less and less reasons to stay a teacher. One of the reasons I guess is if you like teaching you also learning and sharing information. And I think the wonderful thing about coding is that you're always learning. You only get title junior developer when you're new but every developer is always learning forever. There's just so much to learn. Things are evolving. I think that really gels well with a lot of people who care about education. My grandparents were teachers, funnily enough. And I think that helped me enjoy coding. And one of our teachers at Scrimba Tom Chance, he was actually an English teacher before learning to code and then becoming a teacher on Scrimba teaching others about developments. So there's definitely something there.

Jess Gilbert (37:21):
I always feel like when I get a bit more experience and I kind of develop my own skills, I love to be able to give back in some way, whether that's being a tutor on a bootcamp or I guess just mentoring another junior and being able to use the skills that I had as a teacher to I guess help someone else get into the industry.

Alex Booker (37:41):
You already are.

Jess Gilbert (37:42):
Yeah, I guess I am. Yeah, I guess at the moment the knowledge that I can share in terms of technical knowledge is kind of limited. But I can still share knowledge on how to get started and where to begin, I guess, which is still useful.

Alex Booker (37:59):
And I think honestly learning to code is hard. It's always going to be a challenge. But you certainly don't want bad teachers to make it harder. And because of the way that learning to code online works where people spread courses because of word of mouth, they leave thumbs up on YouTube and stuff, it kind of creates this kind of natural selection process I feel where the standard for education and coding is very high at the moment and there's a lot of great teachers available maybe with different styles and pedagogies as well. Let's not forget that every student learns a little bit differently.

For example, at Scrimba we're very, very keen on getting students hands-on because as another of our teachers, Bob Ziroll sometimes says, "If you want to get really good at tennis, you wouldn't expect to improve by watching Roger Federer play on television. You actually need to get your hands on the racket." And yet with so much of YouTube and even books sometimes, they're rooted in a theory which is nice to read. It's interesting but you just don't really retain that information. You only really sort of form the pathways in your brain to apply this knowledge when you retrieve stuff and you challenge yourself, whether that's testing or writing a code or solving a coding challenge. And so making that part of the experience from the beginning is really what Scrimba is all about because we have this interactive editor.

And that's just an example of a pedagogy. Other people maybe they want to do testing. They want to do actual tests, for example, and they'll pursue certificates. Maybe that works better for them. But yeah, that's just the brilliant thing. There's something for everybody.

Jess Gilbert (39:26):
Yeah, I wish I'd known about Scrimba when I was kind of at the beginning of my journey. And I'm definitely going to check it out now because a lot of the resources that you find, you're kind of following along and you think you're doing a really great job building this project and only when you get to the end you realize that you've not really taken in how to actually do it. You've just built it alongside a color by numbers almost.

Alex Booker (39:49):
That's the perfect comparison from a previous primary school teacher. I love-

Jess Gilbert (39:52):
So yeah, I think until you actually get hands on and start building your own projects... And I feel like I've been guilty of avoiding that at times because it feels like overwhelming to start something from scratch and not have the building blocks. But yeah, you definitely need to dive head first at points and just get stuck in with actually building things to improve if you want to improve quickly.

Alex Booker (40:12):
So how long ago did you start at Sky?

Jess Gilbert (40:15):
So I started at Sky in January this year, mid-January. I finished the Code First Girls degree in November. So I had just a couple of months. I finished teaching when they stopped for the Christmas holidays and then I had the break and started the start of January. So that was nice.

Alex Booker (40:32):
And when did you start learning to code?

Jess Gilbert (40:34):
I would say I started learning to code probably about a year before. So around the January last year, I think I started the eight-week data and SQL course in February last year. So I'd done a little bit of YouTube tutorials before I started that, the introductory course. And then I started the degree in August till November. So between the SQL course and starting the degree at that point was kind of when I realized I guess that I wasn't really interested in data and I didn't really want to go down that route. So between finishing the data and SQL course and starting the degree in August, I was more kind of focusing my self-study on kind of web development, JavaScript, html, CSS, those kind of things.

Alex Booker (41:18):
Okay. So that's about, yeah, 10, 11 months all total. That's really impressive. And now you've been at Sky for what? If you started January and it's just turned literally 1st of June yesterday... How was your first week? What was it getting your first job in development? Was it what you expected?

Jess Gilbert (41:32):
It was quite scary, to be honest. I think I found most challenging is that my office isn't based in Leeds and I'm in Glasgow so my colleagues all live kind of local to Leeds like Manchester, not too far a commute to the office. So I think that was what kind of worried me was that I was going to be cut off I guess or a bit isolated with working almost fully remote. But I think once you get into the swing of things and you realize that even people that do go into the office use Slack and Zoom as the kind of main form of communication. It helps kind of put my mind at ease a bit. But I think the setup of the laptop and when you realize that all the software you download, all the kind of set up keys that you need to put in, it was a bit overwhelming. But I think having that support of I was kind of buddied up with another girl on my team and having that support and someone you could go to for questions was good.

Alex Booker (42:23):
And how have things been going since you got started? I mean, it must be such a big milestone if you've happened to experience it yet where some of your code is running on the actual infrastructure app, website, whatever it happens to be you're working on.

Jess Gilbert (42:36):
Yeah. So I have deployed some code to our live site which is really exciting. Only small changes at the moment but I finally did my first kind of full release from test to staging to live with no kind of help at that point. So that was a kind of big milestone for me that I remembered is quite a long and complicated process. So I was quite glad to finally be able to tick that one off my list. But it's definitely slow progress I feel. For me, the biggest kind of learning curve I guess is going from working on small projects with a small code base to all of a sudden being in this absolutely huge complex code base. I think most of my time at the moment is spent trying to navigate around it and trying to find and learn the best ways to find a component or to find where to edit the CSS for this. I guess it takes a while to learn all the tips and tricks on how to navigate quickly around.

Alex Booker (43:33):
That's what real programming is. You read a lot more than you write. It's something that's hard to appreciate when you're learning because everything is so basically contrived or short. Often these code bases when you join a company are many years, if not a decade old at some points where many people have put their hands to it. And yeah, you've got to read all that code to make even a small change.

Jess Gilbert (43:55):
I think that's the biggest thing for me is just trying to find my way around at the moment. But it's been good. I've got to work on some smaller tickets and also I guess just pairing up with other developers in the team to kind of watch what they do and the kind of steps that they would take has been really useful as well. And also I guess having time to still learn has been great.

Alex Booker (44:15):
That's really cool and I really appreciate it. Really appreciate you coming on the show, Jess, to tell us a bit more about your journey from primary school teacher to developer. It's been a pleasure getting to know you and learning your advice and experience.

Jess Gilbert (44:27):
Yeah, thank you for having me on. It's been really fun chatting to you and learning about Scrimba as well.

Jan Arsenovic (44:32):
That was the Scrimba podcast, episode 121. If you made it this far, please subscribe. And if this is the first episode of the Scrimba podcast you've ever listened to, this basically means there's 120 great episodes for you in our backlog. This is a weekly show where one week we talked to a recently hired new developer and the other week we talked to an industry expert so you get to learn from both sides. Check out the show notes for the resources mentioned in this episode and the ways you can connect with Jess. You'll also find Alex's Twitter handle there if you want to tweet at him directly. If you'd like a shout-out on the show, you can also join the conversation on Twitter. As I said, as long as you write a tweet containing the word Scrimba and podcast, we'll see it. I've been Jan, the producer and we'll be back with you next week.