The Scrimba Podcast

πŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Matt Ehrlich and Eric Winkelspecht πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§! They are the hosts of the Self-Taught Devs podcast. And, you guessed it, they are self-taught devs and career changers to boot. Matt was a park ranger, and Eric worked at an IT solutions company but didn't code. Today, they are a front-end developer and a full-stack developer, respectively, who met through LinkedIn and then decided to host a podcast!

In this episode, you will learn about their coding journeys, the resources they used, and why they decided to be self-taught. They talk about motivation and keeping yourself going, how to create structure, and what to do if you feel guilty when you take a break. If you're curious about what makes a successful self-taught dev, this episode is for you!

πŸ”— Connect with Matt and Eric

πŸ”— Timestamps

  • How Matt Ehrlich took up coding after being a park ranger for years (01:09)
  • A coding career gives you the opportunity for unlimited growth (02:44)
  • The Self-Taught Devs podcast tries to fill a gap in information (03:39)
  • Eric just landed his first full-time software development role! (06:19)
  • How Eric decided to learn to code (08:06)
  • How does it feel to change careers after more than a decade (08:43)
  • Eric's learning resources (10:10)
  • Community break with Jan the Producer (10:58)
  • Why Matt took the self-taught route (13:39)
  • Matt's learning resources (14:54)
  • Quitting your job to learn to code: pros and cons (16:11)
  • How long did Matt take to learn to code (17:45)
  • Can you learn discipline, and how can you stay motivated (19:12)
  • What can you do if you get stuck (27:26)
  • Should you be taking breaks from your job search? (29:55)
  • Listen to this if you get discouraged after getting a rejection letter (30:54)
  • What is productivity anxiety (33:03)
  • How did Matt and Eric meet and what makes them work as podcast co-hosts (36:15)
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Creators & Guests

Host
Alex Booker
Host of The Scrimba Podcast
Producer
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.

Matt Ehrlich (00:00):
There had been times where I would spend six, eight, 10 hours learning and I would say, "Okay. I'm done for the night," and go sit on my couch and watch a movie and feel so guilty. Wait, you're not working. You don't get to relax.

Eric Winkelspecht (00:13):
My girlfriend actually gave me a term for it and she called it productivity anxiety. You need to continue to do that thing no matter what. It's really hard to step back sometimes, but you got to focus on the way to do it.

Alex Booker (00:24):
Welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I interviewed recently hired and seasoned developers to get both perspectives on how best to learn to code and smoothly land your first role intact. Today, I'm joined by Matt Ehrlich and Eric Winkelspecht from the Self-Taught Dev podcast. As a fan of their show, I decided to reach out and compare notes on what makes a successful self-taught dev. Along the way, we're going to talk about the best way to structure your studies as well as Matt's and Eric's approach to financing their self-taught dev journey. Matt, welcome to the show. I'd love to learn where you are at and your self-taught dev journey. Then we'll loop in Eric in just a moment.

Matt Ehrlich (01:09):
My tech journey goes way back about 10 years ago. When I was in college, I was actually an electrical engineering major and we took a computer science course and I absolutely despised this course. I thought it was awful. We were learning C++. I had no idea what was going on and I swore I would never code again. 10 years later, I'm watching on TV, there's a company called Goodwill and they were sponsoring somebody to go through a bootcamp and it said full stack. And I was like, "Huh, full stack. What is that?" So I did a little Google search and I was like, "Huh, this seems really interesting."

(01:48):
It was perfect timing because I was looking to leave my career as a park ranger. So I just started learning and I was like, "Wow, this pretty much hits everything that I'm looking for." I get this creative side and I get to actually make things because I always love to make things with my hands, but now I get to make it on my computer. So I started learning for a little bit, took a course called Code Academy, and from there I was pretty much hooked. And so it was basically a 180 from my previous experience.

Alex Booker (02:17):
You're working as a park ranger. What does a park ranger do in the US?

Matt Ehrlich (02:21):
Oh, gosh. What doesn't a park ranger do?

Alex Booker (02:23):
Not code apparently.

Matt Ehrlich (02:24):
Right. Of course. So we have basically three different responsibilities, and it could be a combination of them. One might be maintenance and operations, one might be law enforcement, and then one might be programming, which is basically giving environmental education programs to the public. I did all three. That's basically what a park ranger does. What

Alex Booker (02:44):
Made you want to switch from doing that to development?

Matt Ehrlich (02:48):
I think I basically hit the pinnacle of my growth as a park ranger. I did the job for about five and a half years, and I realized I stopped learning and stopped growing. I decided can I do this for the next 20 to 25 years of my life? I just could not. I wanted to do something where there's basically unlimited growth and I could really build things and just continue learning.

Alex Booker (03:14):
Where are you at currently in your self-taught dev journey, Matt?

Matt Ehrlich (03:17):
I've actually had two positions so far as a developer. One was back in March of this year and the other one started in May and went through August, and that was a contract position as a front end developer. So right now I'm in between contracts, but I'm still learning and building projects and specifically building projects in public.

Alex Booker (03:39):
I vaguely know what a park ranger does from television and stuff, but I can totally imagine as well how that might be a career where you start to feel like you're at the upper limits compared to something like development where there's too much for one person to even learn, right? There's always something else to learn. There's always interesting verticals to work with, and there's always so many interesting career opportunities that you can pursue while still utilizing the same foundation and your programming knowledge.

Matt Ehrlich (04:06):
Yeah. I think when it comes to programming, the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know anything and that could be daunting or I don't know. It's exciting because I know that I will never max out in this type of career.

Alex Booker (04:20):
I think it's interesting because at the beginning of your development journey, you obviously know you don't know anything, and then you reach a point where you can build a website and you're like, "I know everything. I'm so close to achieving my goal." And then you go a little bit further and then you realize just how little you actually know, and that can be the fuel for imposter syndrome in some cases I think. But then once you cross a certain chasm a bit later, a few years later, perhaps you start to see that more as an opportunity than a frat and that sort of shift I think in mindset is interesting. There are so many kind of questions like that. I think a lot of new developers have, and I know that you're talking about these every week almost on the Self-Taught Dev podcast. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that for context.

Matt Ehrlich (05:06):
Originally in the beginning when I was going through my learning journey, I would watch the YouTube videos of people getting jobs in three months and just making a few projects and getting that job. And I'm saying to myself, "I don't see how this could happen at all. I'm not experiencing that at all. I'm so confused. This is so hard. I don't know what I'm doing." As I started talking about these experiences on LinkedIn, a lot of people would talk to me and send me messages like, "Hey, I am experiencing this too."

(05:36):
And I think there was just a lack, especially in my online community of that information being put out there. And I wanted to make a space where other people felt like it was okay to say, "I'm struggling or I am not understanding this." And it's not all about I just learned for a little bit and got a job. That's not necessarily the experience for everyone. So that really inspired me to start creating content and making videos and that is when I met Eric who also was making videos at that time, and we really connected on that.

Alex Booker (06:12):
This is a perfect segue because we're joined by your co-host, Eric. Eric, how are you doing?

Eric Winkelspecht (06:17):
Doing good, Alex. Thank you for having me

Alex Booker (06:19):
It's great to learn a bit about your origin, Matt. Maybe we can learn about yours next. Eric. Where are you at with your coding journey right now?

Eric Winkelspecht (06:26):
I just finished my first month as a full-time full stack software developer. My first full-time role.

Alex Booker (06:32):
Congratulations. That must be so exciting.

Eric Winkelspecht (06:34):
Thank you. It definitely doesn't feel like a job, which is incredible. I have fun doing what I'm doing every single day. It's really excellent to step into this and just have fun doing it and feel confident about all the decisions I was questioning throughout that whole process of making a career change.

Alex Booker (06:48):
Oh my goodness, yes, because it is strange. You see the progress every week at first, then every month as you progress and you know you're on the right track, but there's still a lot of self-doubts and you haven't yet proved to yourself you can do it. There's something so validating about someone else saying, "Yes, you're good enough and we'll pay you money to do this thing, that doesn't even feel like work."

Eric Winkelspecht (07:09):
Yeah. It's really hard when you're making that career change journey, especially the self-taught way because you got to make your own choices about how you spend your time and what you're going to work on and what you're going to do. How do you prove that you're capable to do the job full-time and get paid for it like you said. Without direction from an external source, you got to make those decisions and sometimes along the way just question it. Are you doing the right thing? Are you spending your time the right way? And you don't really know because sometimes you don't get that feedback up until the end when you actually accomplish your goal and you're like, "Oh, yeah. Okay, cool. I did this."

Alex Booker (07:40):
Yes, I think that's actually a big reason why I host The Scrimba Podcast and why you both host the podcast as well. We know how inspiring and reassuring it is to see people who have been on a similar path reach success. And on that topic, Eric, I was wondering if you could maybe rewind a little bit going back for the last, I think, year and a half or so that it took you to learn to code and get a job. Talk to us a little bit about your path and what it looked like from the beginning.

Eric Winkelspecht (08:06):
I was working for a company. I had a well-established career. I was there for 10, almost 11 years. The company is like IT solutions company is what they go by. Basically, we worked with governments or schools or businesses of all sizes. Whatever technologies they needed, like hardware, software, we would procure, deploy, all that stuff started at their entry level inside sales position. After two or three years, moved to a manager position, then senior manager, then moved to the warehouse organization to help lead technical projects and build a training team, then moved to the Apple team briefly and then decided wasn't going to continue that career anymore.

Alex Booker (08:43):
After you've been a company for that long and climbed in the ranks, I'll say it, I think it takes courage to switch and try something new. What was the impetus that made you decide to teach yourself to code?

Eric Winkelspecht (08:55):
It was scary. It was a very challenging decision. I look back over the 10 years and I was proud about a lot of the things that I accomplished and there was a lot about the jobs that I had that I loved. I loved being a mentor to folks, but I grew in this structure that was provided to me by the company and I hit a certain point where I didn't feel like I was growing or learning anymore as much as I wanted to.

(09:16):
I wasn't super interested in the actual problems we were solving, so I took a hard look and thought to myself growing within a company to me felt like growth, but as if I was a passive participant in making those kinds of choices as far as how I can move and what I was doing with my life. I wanted to be an active participant and make a change that I really felt I believed in and wanted to pursue something radically different.

Alex Booker (09:41):
Sounds like you were growing, but you couldn't choose in what direction you were growing and therefore it might not have been perfectly aligned with what you felt was important.

Eric Winkelspecht (09:49):
Yeah, I mean there were opportunities, but when I became interested in different things, trying to make a career change within the company was a little more difficult going into a coding direction or a technical direction. I just decided I made the opportunity for myself. I knew I could afford to leave that career and fund myself for at least a little while and just decided to dive in and do what I could do.

Alex Booker (10:10):
When it comes to teaching yourself to code, there's a lot of paths put in front of you. What path did you take? Was it the kind of YouTube route, the reading books route? Maybe you're a bootcamp type of person?

Eric Winkelspecht (10:21):
No, I mean I reviewed a bootcamp. I interviewed with a bootcamp and I was at the stage where they were like, "Give us your money and you can pick a start date." But I wasn't excited about the financial aspect of that. But I had their curriculum in front of me and I looked on online resources and found a couple of Udemy courses and in the beginning thought, "Oh, I'll take this Udemy course and I'll be good to go and I'll be job ready." Not the case.

(10:45):
But that was kind of the starting point. And then after that it just evolved much more into working on projects and building more complex things and learning by experience and finding ways to grow by doing.

Jan Arsenovic (10:58):
Coming up, how to keep yourself motivated.

Eric Winkelspecht (11:00):
You don't go through an interview process and get rejection and be like, "Cool onto the next one. Hooray."

Jan Arsenovic (11:06):
But first, let's take a look at your social media posts about the show on LinkedIn. Morteza Jafarpour shared, "Not one, not two, but three episodes of The Scrimba Podcast and wrote, "Tech layoffs are still happening and ChatGPT can code. How to stay ahead of the curve as a new developer with Lane Wagner. This is a title of an interesting episode from The Scrimba Podcast, which I recently started to listen to. And here's some other episodes you might find interesting. It's about who you know, an introvert's guide to networking and becoming amazing at LinkedIn with Stephanie Chiu, an interview with a self-taught iOS software engineer and career coach. She's also a chemical engineer who thought she would never code until she met people who actually worked in tech. And Quincy Larson, why learning to code as an adult might be easier than you think. An interview with a founder of freeCodeCamp who learned to code when he was 31. And a lot more, which you can discover in apps like Castbox."

(12:03):
Thank you Morteza, and yes, you can find the show wherever you get your podcasts. Also, on LinkedIn, Acro.t wrote, "Just listened to The Scrimba Podcast with Shona Chan and she said, "Something that really resonates with me, a lot of people always think about the sunk cost in order to decide whether to switch careers into tech or not. But on the other hand, they don't take into consideration what the sunk costs are if they don't take that step. Yesterday, I saw a documentary about failure and the anxiety around it. The study says that most people regret the things they didn't do even more than the mistakes they made or the failure they experienced when trying to accomplish something. Ask yourself, when you imagine you're about 80 or 90 years old, would you regret not doing the things that could have brought you joy in your life?"

(12:54):
Okay, this sounds a bit scary, but I think it's a good thing to do from time to time. If you would like to get a shout-out on the show, just post about it on Twitter or on LinkedIn. You can also leave us a rating or review in your podcast app of choice. So for example, if you're listening to us on Apple Podcasts, you can rate us, but you can also write us a review. Many other apps give you this possibility. I think on Spotify you can only rate us, which is boring, but okay. And remember, word of mouth is the best way to support a podcast that you like. So if you're enjoying the show, share it with someone. And now we're back to the interview with Matt and Eric from the Self-Taught Devs podcast.

Alex Booker (13:39):
What about you, Matt? What made you decide to go over self-taught routes instead of going down the bootcamp or back to school, for example?

Matt Ehrlich (13:46):
So I had gotten my college degree and I just didn't like the structure of structured learning, especially when I went through an actual physical location for college. I just felt like a lot of my time was spent being talked at and I wouldn't really be able to take in all the information. And then I would just have to go home and do all of the work by myself anyway. So I was like, "Well, I could just cut out a lot of this time by just starting with doing all of the work."

(14:14):
So that's why I didn't want to go through school. As far as a bootcamp goes, I had the money but I did not want to spend that money. It can be a really large financial commitment and I also know that I'm very self-motivated once I have my mind on something. I'm going to continue to learn and really grow and I don't need an extra push in order to do that. So I was considering all of the options, but honestly, self-taught really seemed like the best route for me, especially after doing my research for a few months. I took a lot of that upfront time and really decided what I wanted to do.

Alex Booker (14:54):
What resources did you use? And it's okay if you didn't use Scrimba by the way.

Matt Ehrlich (14:58):
So I actually did use Scrimba at one point. I started with Code Academy because they had their free HTML and CSS course. After doing my research, I realized everyone starts out at HTML/CSS and JavaScript. Once I got to the JavaScript portion of Code Academy, I realized that this was a lot harder than I thought it would be and I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't like the format at which Code Academy would teach more technical curriculum.

(15:28):
So I moved around a little bit. I went through Scrimba for some time and then when I realized that I wanted to learn a lot more, I went through Udemy as well. So I took a course by Dr. Angela Yu, I think it was her complete web development course.

Alex Booker (15:46):
She's a fantastic teacher.

Matt Ehrlich (15:47):
It was a very good course. I mean, I didn't even feel like she was my instructor. I felt like we were friends and we were talking to each other there. So the way she taught really connected with how I like to learn. It was a little bit of information, go build something. A little bit of information and just repeating. I learned through constantly having lots of repetition and that course was really good for that.

Alex Booker (16:11):
Here's a question to you both then as self-taught developers who made a career change, what do you think about leaving your job to focus on learning to code full-time versus other strategies which include part-time learning? For example, maybe you do it alongside your full-time job or you switch to a part-time role that affords you time to focus on coding when you're not working. What did you do and how did you waive a decision?

Eric Winkelspecht (16:36):
It's a very big decision to make and it's not something that I think either of us would recommend anybody do lightly. There are times where I look back and I questioned the decision. I mean, I gave myself a lot of time by leaving my career. I was comfortable with my finances to be able to give myself that time. I took the learning journey as a full-time position. I treated it almost like a job. I would get up in the morning, start right away, finish by the end of the 5:00 or 6:00 PM or whatever every day.

(17:06):
But thankfully I was able to get a position when I did because I was getting to the end portion of my finances where I was like, "This is do or die time." And if you go get another job or whatever. So you can do that, but sometimes that's just easier said than done. I don't think the added pressure of having financial stress behind you the whole time is going to be very helpful in a learning journey when you're trying to learn such complicated material. So understand if you're going to do it, understand what your timelines are and be very strict with yourself as far as have a cushion for if you need to get a different job to help continue to support the career change, know when you need to do that and do it.

Alex Booker (17:45):
Matt, how long did you think it would take you to make the shift and how long did it actually take you?

Matt Ehrlich (17:52):
Oh, I thought it would take me about six months and it took me 10 months until I got my first role, so a little bit longer. I actually prepared financially for a year. I thought it would take six months, but I prepared for a year just in case. I quit my full-time job back in August of 2022, and I basically knew that in order for me to really give it everything and learn, I would have to only focus on learning code. That really went into my decision, and I figured that if I had even a part-time job, it still wouldn't allow me to learn as much as I wanted to. So considering learning, going the full-time route really was the best option for me.

Eric Winkelspecht (18:34):
The thing about it though, to consider always is it's on you to maintain a schedule of learning regardless of if you go full-time or part-time or whatever your schedule allows. The whole thing about learning to code is you have to continue and be consistent with what you're doing a little bit every day, even if it's just an hour or a half hour or whatever time you can allot for that learning. You have to stick with it.

(18:57):
So quitting your job, some people are just going to not be able to adhere to a schedule, which is why not everybody goes self-taught. Some people go to school or to a bootcamp and they need that structure provided to them. So it's a whole lot of stuff to consider and a lot of discipline you have to follow.

Alex Booker (19:12):
Do you think it's a personality thing or can you learn that discipline? I'm a self-taught dev, by the way. I didn't go to uni. And for a few years I wasn't sure what I was missing out on. I thought I actually wasn't missing out on anything. I was like the only reason to go to university is to get a piece of paper that proves you can do the job, but then there's no guarantee of a job anyway. Plus you're in debt. So I was really assured that I'd done the right thing by not going to university, but then I realized what you're paying for a lot of the time are things like the frameworks, the assessments, the routine, maybe the mentorship that might come alongside that or having peer to peer support.

(19:48):
Sometimes coding alongside peers is a good way to benchmark yourself as well. Are you the one struggling the most than maybe you need to work a bit harder? I remember when I was teaching myself to code, I had no idea where I was, and so in a way that made me push a bit harder because I just assumed I was really bad at it. So I think that's what you pay for sometimes when you go to uni and a bootcamp. Are there ways you can substitute those elements to also stay productive while learning to code full-time?

Matt Ehrlich (20:16):
I think part of it is putting yourself out there and talking to other people. When you're going through college, you have everything set up for you, so you have your syllabus, you're told exactly what you're going to learn. You have the instructor there who you could ask lots of questions. You can replicate that, but it will take some work on your part. And the way I chose to do that was through LinkedIn. So I started talking about my experiences learning and some of the things that I was building and a lot more experienced developers started reaching out to me.

(20:50):
We would have conversations and through that I would be able to ask lots of questions. So it was sort of a similar experience, but you have to reproduce that for yourself. A lot of networking and really just being able to talk to other people. I think it is very important to have that skill if you are going the self-taught route. You can still do those things too, if you're going through a bootcamp or a university for coding. You can reach out and be public on LinkedIn or something and network with folks and meet other people. But if you're going the self-taught route, you have to do those things.

(21:25):
Because if you're just self-taught and you're just in an isolation chamber doing this stuff, like you said yourself, Alex, how do you compare where you're at in your learning journey? How do you know what kind of things to focus on? How do you get mentorship? How do you get feedback? So you need to be comfortable with putting yourself in those situations.

Alex Booker (21:40):
How did you stay motivated and disciplined without a boss telling you what to do or the promise of a salary at the end of it?

Eric Winkelspecht (21:50):
That is a tough question. I don't think either Matt or I rely on motivation a lot in this journey. Motivation is fleeting. I felt a sense of motivation upfront and at various places throughout the journey, but a lot of times it was just like especially when the job search was really the big focus, it was just a grind with constant rejection. There's no motivation when you're in the job search and you're just hearing negative rejections all the time. And then, again, it's just that consistency factor.

(22:19):
How do you find the discipline in yourself to continue forward and do the things you think at the moment you should be doing? Right? The big thing for me wasn't so much trying to stay motivated along the way, but I was doing things that I thought were number one worth my time, but number two, I enjoyed doing. I spent time building a much larger project that I could actually show off and say, "This is something I have available for people to actually sign up for, pay money for, if they want to show that I'm capable of building a full stack application." That stuff was just fun to work on while doing job applications like crazy. So you have to find the things you enjoy to keep going with it.

Alex Booker (22:58):
I don't want to get hung up on semantics at all, but finding intrinsic enjoyment in something is a motivator to do it and maybe the most powerful one actually. If you're the type of person who gets into coding because you've heard it's a good career where you can work remote and get paid a big salary work at a prestigious company, impress your ex-colleagues or family, these are all external motivators. Maybe they burn quite strong and bright at the beginning, but they don't burn very long compared to this intrinsic motivation you're describing, which is more of a gentle candle, but it burns for a long time, long enough for you to find success in the end, I think.

Matt Ehrlich (23:33):
And for me, ever since I typed something onto my keyboard and I saw it appear on my screen, I was hooked and I just wanted more and more of that. I didn't really rely on motivation maybe a little bit, but as I got more and more into the learning journey and things really started to get hard, it just becomes you pushing yourself, especially if you set those expectations of like, "I really want to learn this."

(23:59):
And you really have to keep up with it every day. I think consistency might be a little bit better than motivation, especially if you get into the habit of, "Okay, I'm going to wake up at this time, I'm going to sit at my desk at this time and I'm just going to give this much amount of time towards learning for the day." As Eric mentioned, working on projects that you enjoy I think also helps.

(24:24):
The first project that I worked on, it had to do with Star Wars and basically I think it was just HTML and CSS.I made a grid of Star Wars characters and a description of them. And then I made another project on video games. I also made another project based on national parks and I was a park ranger. So making things that you enjoy making and also that you can relate to also helps.

Alex Booker (24:48):
Is that the map plotting thing you've been sharing on LinkedIn recently?

Matt Ehrlich (24:51):
No. So actually in between programming jobs, I got a job in park operations and I realized that there was an issue with especially newer employees. There's no defined way to get from park to park in the quickest amount of time while wasting the least amount of gas and money. You could be going from one park and then go all the way across town to the other one and then again going all the way across town. So I wanted to make an application that basically it helped with routing and you could feed the application a list of points, and it would tell you how to get to each one in the quickest way possible while wasting the least amount of gas and time.

Alex Booker (25:33):
I want to be careful not to go and see much of a digression, but I love that because it's number one related to your past career. And it sounds like you're solving a genuine problem as well. They're always the best kind of projects to build compared to another, to-do list app, for example. When you're scratching your own itch, I think that's a great way to actually make the project continue to feel interesting long enough for you to complete it and demo something at the end.

Matt Ehrlich (25:56):
Yeah, it's really interesting. Every time I've looked for a problem to solve, I have never had a really good idea. But when I took time and just said, "All right, I'm just going to go through my regular day-to-day life, and I guess particularly with this job, the problem just popped up in my head." The problems chose me and I was like, "I need to solve this."

Alex Booker (26:17):
Just keeping an open eye for them. I think it's the cool thing when you learn to code. All of a sudden you have this toolbox, so you start looking around for different things to build when you're using the computer or doing something with tech. That's really cool. The reason I didn't want to let myself despite this being interesting go on a digression, is because you said something really interesting, Matt, that I didn't want to let go. I was talking about intrinsic motivation and how coding can and should be done and that will keep you going, but you reminded me of something very important, which is that coding as a hobby is not really the same thing as coding to get a job or coding professionally, there is a lot more discipline involved because you can't just wake up every day and do what you feel like, but you'll make some progress that way, but it's probably not going to be the most direct path to success.

(27:00):
You might learn technologies that aren't as exciting or shiny and glamorous as the new things, but they're necessary. Like relational databases for example is probably not the most exciting thing compared to a new front-end framework, but it's the kind of thing that every company uses. So having some appreciation for that would be really productive potentially. And at the same time, sometimes you do start learning a technology very, very, very exciting for the first few weeks because you're just picking all this low hanging fruits.

(27:26):
But then you cross a point where it's a little bit harder to work with. The advanced features take a bit more grit and consistency to learn. And that isn't even to speak of the challenges when you start to apply for jobs and navigate the job market because now this really is a discipline you need to be applying consistently, honing your approach and all these things. My question then, a bit generally is what would you do when things got tough in your journey?

(27:51):
For example, what did you remind yourself of or are there any tactics like taking a break for example, that you would draw on to come back fresh for next time and continue making progress?

Matt Ehrlich (28:00):
I would say taking breaks is so important especially when I'm stuck on a problem and one hour goes by, two hour goes by, six hours go by and I cannot solve this one problem. There's so many times where I would just say, "All right, I'm done for the day. I would go to sleep, I would wake up the next day." And then as soon as I got to the desk, an idea hit me and I was able to figure that thing out. So really I think it's important to know yourself and know your limits. I could have easily just kept going, maybe stayed up all night and gotten nowhere, but I knew I would need to take a break.

(28:35):
So frequent breaks, getting exercise is very important for me too. Getting sunlight, going outside. It could be very easy to maybe stay at your desk all day and forget about that there's an outside going on out there. Just doing those things, those daily maintenance things. Having a good diet also helped me as well. And all those put together really helped me get through the tough times or me get through problem solving when it was really hard.

Eric Winkelspecht (29:03):
It's a super interesting thing to think about, and it was a lot of times along this journey where things are going to get really, really hard. I would always look back. In those moments, it's always hard to think clearly and give yourself that you need to get through it, so I had to say the same thing to myself over and over again. It's just like I've done hard things before, I'm going to continue to do hard things. Maybe this thing right now is really hard and it seems insurmountable, but I know I'm going to find my way through it and I'm going to continue to go.

(29:34):
Take those breaks, move away from the problem, come back to it later with a fresh mind, break that problem down into smaller pieces as much as you possibly can, but do whatever you can in that moment to try to reframe your perspective because that negativity factor is going to creep up on you and take over if you let it when things get really hard, but you'll get through it. You've gotten through those hard things before. You're going to continue to get through hard things. You'll get through this too.

Alex Booker (29:55):
Would you both apply that same advice on taking a step back to the job search as well as individual coding problems?

Eric Winkelspecht (30:04):
I'd say so. It's definitely a lot harder when it comes to the job search. There's so much advice out there about what you should be doing and what you should focus on, and I think everything that you're going to hear has merit. Everything is going to feel bad in the moment when you do it because nothing's going to feel like it's working until it finally works. But you have to break down whatever your action items are. You spend your time doing the things that you think are going to gain you the most ground when it comes to the job search, and yeah, you're going to have to send that applications. You're going to have to improve your resume. You're going to have to make connections and talk to actual people and try to network as much as you possibly can.

(30:38):
But it's all about not just trying to achieve the goal of get the job, but breaking that thing down into smaller components, things that are more easily achievable that you can say like, "I'm going to do this today. I'm going to take this action this week," and set those goals for yourself instead.

Alex Booker (30:54):
I think, Eric, from my research, I think in about a year and a half, you had conversations with I think nine companies and then that manifested as one job offer at the end. Did you ever feel quite discouraged after talking to companies and maybe not getting the resolution you were hoping for, and how did you deal with that feeling?

Eric Winkelspecht (31:15):
I definitely felt discouraged when you get that final rejection. After going through several rounds of interviews with these companies and doing projects and doing live coding, definitely would feel discouraged. The first one or two times I did live coding interviews where it was just like, "I thought I was prepared," was not prepared. But it was just like everything else along the way. Everything was an opportunity to learn from what I was doing. Everything was an opportunity to improve and do better the next time. I just had to remind myself that even though this opportunity wasn't the one that came to fruition for me, it wasn't going to be the last time I had the chance to prove that I could do the job. And as long as I kept doing the things that I was doing, I'd be successful.

(31:53):
It was progress, right? Every interview was an interview that I got that I didn't have before. So as long as I knew I could do it that one time, I knew I could do it again. I was trying to remind myself of those things as much as possible.

Alex Booker (32:05):
Did you bounce back just like that?

Eric Winkelspecht (32:08):
Absolutely not. It's not that quick. But it takes a little bit of time. You feel bad for a couple days where it's definitely one of those things where sometimes you just have to let yourself feel those feelings. You're going to feel bad. You don't go through an interview process and get rejection and be like, "Cool onto the next one. Hooray." Absolutely not. No one is going to feel that way. No. You have to let yourself just be in that moment for a little bit and be like, "Well, this sucks and we tried really hard and this one didn't work out. What are we going to do now? What are our options? Do we give up or do we continue after this thing that we know we really want to do?"

Alex Booker (32:39):
I really appreciate you expanding on that. I think I have an empathy having been in that and I know you both do as well because you created this podcast in response to the ways you were feeling and the problems you were experiencing on a self-taught journey. I just know sometimes when you're in that position, I think you said something like, "It's not always so clear when you're in that moment." That's the sort of emotional part where you hear all this great advice. It does make sense. It's motivating.

(33:03):
Very actionable when you get out of that space. But there is an emotional side to that that I think is worth acknowledging as well because doing something disciplined and hard with no guarantee of success, that's a tough thing to do. When I'm on a deadline or I'm trying to do something really hard, I just hypothetically say, "I've quit my job to learn to code and my savings are dwindling and I feel this pressure."

(33:23):
I get this procrastination, anxiety where I struggle to relax while I'm also meant to be making progress on this goal I'm just wondering if that sounds familiar to you at all and what you might say in response.

Matt Ehrlich (33:35):
Oh, absolutely. There have been times where I would spend six, eight, 10 hours learning and I would say, "Okay. I'm done for the night and go sit on my couch and watch a movie and feel so guilty." Wait, you're not working. You're not making money here. You don't get to relax.

(33:52):
I did a lot of that when I first started. It's hard to kind of tell yourself to basically take a break and give yourself time to recover. I think for me, especially since I quit my job to learn full time, it's just hard to figure out your routine. What honestly helped me the most was getting exercise, going outside, getting fresh air and getting sunlight and making sure my diet was okay. And that sort of helped me mentally and physically because I knew if I'm not doing okay mentally and physically, the rest is just going to not be as good as I wanted to be.

Eric Winkelspecht (34:30):
This is one we talk about a lot on self-taught devs. I felt the same exact thing. You can't relax. Sometimes your brain just keeps going where you're like, "What am I doing? I'm not working. I need to continue on this thing because every second I spend on this thing is going to get me closer somehow." Maybe I didn't understand it in the time. My girlfriend actually gave me a term for it, and she called it productivity anxiety, which we say a lot now. It's like productivity, anxiety. It's just you feel like you need to continue to do that thing no matter what else is happening in your life. It's really hard to step back sometimes, but you got to focus on the way to do it.

Alex Booker (35:01):
When I was learning to code, I was 18, 19 and I didn't really have any structure in my life, so I was actually coding quite late into the night until three, 4:00 AM. I'd wake up late, all these things. After doing that for many months, even though it was productive, I started to feel a bit out of the loop with society a little bit like I would need a dentist's appointment, but I wasn't going to be up in time or maybe there was a social thing happening, but it didn't fit with the coding schedule.

(35:27):
Long story short, it did catch up with me eventually. So your advice to focus on your health, I think, and just maintaining some degree of a life outside of coding, even though it's not strictly 100% the thing that's causing an output in your coding journey right now, it does give you the fuel to actually be really productive in the long term.

(35:46):
You have to sometimes take a rest and a break, I think, to make sure you're fresh and coming at something. I'm sure we've all been in a position where our eyes are tired, we're watching a course, things aren't really going in. We're not so motivated to take notes. We look at our notes for the next day. They just aren't making any sense at all.

(36:03):
Sometimes you do have to know yourself and tune into that. I think it's a really good point. It's awesome that you both talk about this and share your experiences on your own podcast. By the way, where did you both meet? What's the origin story there?

Eric Winkelspecht (36:15):
We met through LinkedIn? Matt was the learn out loud, the build out loud stuff. He was putting out some video content and I remember seeing one of his posts, he talked about when following tutorial videos, it's not what you see when you code. People go through and they just code a thing and there's no problems along the way and bam, they're done. And he's like, "That's not realistic." And I was like, "Man, that's a really interesting perspective." I could do this.

(36:40):
So I started doing some coding videos and just trying to live code stuff. I remember we got in touch and we just talked a little bit. We're both like, "Man, we really dig what you're doing with your video content." Dig what you're all about. And since we were both doing the YouTube stuff, we decided let's do a collaboration. Let's just chat. Let's just do a chat and record it and see what happens, put it up on our channels, whatever.

(37:03):
We just had a conversation and it was just really genuine and nice, and we connected in a lot of things. We had a lot of shared experiences, and after we wrapped up, we were just like, "We should just do this every week and start a podcast together because why not?" It's just been going weekly ever since.

Alex Booker (37:17):
How is Eric as a co-host, Matt?

Matt Ehrlich (37:19):
I think we really just understand each other and I think there's a flow to making content and podcasting. I think we really are pretty good at guiding the conversation along. So Eric has been really great. And actually one of our first interactions with each other through video was I was building a react application and I was stuck for two days and I'm like, "This is just driving me crazy." So I asked Eric, I was like, "Hey, man, can you help me with this?" I think he solved my problem in about five minutes and I was like, "Okay." So we really just had really good conversations.

Alex Booker (37:59):
I've been listening to the podcast for a while, actually. I think you're doing a fantastic job. I listened to the episode on ChatGPT, your thoughts on how to utilize it as a developer and your perspective on whether or not we need to be worried if it will take our job or something. The conclusion I agree with is that it won't. And another conversation I found really inspiring and insightful was your conversation on financing a self-taught dev journey.

(38:24):
We've definitely touched on a few of those themes here today, but if any of them are resonating with you listening, definitely check out that episode. And in general, you should check out the Self-Taught Dev podcast. We'll link it in the show notes. Matt and Eric, thank you so much for joining me. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Eric Winkelspecht (38:38):
Thank you, Alex.

Matt Ehrlich (38:39):
Thank you, Alex. It was a pleasure to be here.

Jan Arsenovic (38:42):
That was The Scrimba Podcast. Check out Matt and Eric's show. I'm going to link it in the show notes. If you made it this far, please subscribe, that way you're not going to miss our upcoming episodes. The podcast is hosted by Alex Booker and I'm Jan, the producer. You can find both of our Twitter handles in the show notes. Keep coding and see you next time.