The Scrimba Podcast

๐ŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Matheus Pessoa ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท! Matheus is a recently hired new developer who landed his first junior developer job after only about a year of learning to code. To make this story even more awesome, the CTO of the company he now works at reached out to him!   

In this episode, you'll hear how Matheus approached learning to code with ADHD, how he chose front-end development as a career that blends his different interests, and how he ultimately landed his first dev job. You'll learn what's important when applying for jobs at startups (hint: it's not necessarily your tech knowledge, especially if you're a junior), whether you can apply for a position involving something you haven't learned yet, and how not to get stuck if everybody on your team is super young.

๐Ÿ”— Connect with Matheus
โฐ Timestamps
  • How Matheus decided to learn to code after studying statistics while being interested in visual arts (01:42)
  • What projects did Matheus make to learn to code? (03:02)
  • How Matheus decided to focus on becoming a front-end developer (04:32)
  • How Matheus approached learning to code and navigated being self-taught while having ADHD (05:56)
  • What's the job market like in Brazil, and when did Matheus start applying? (08:23)
  • Community break! (09:35)
  • The real challenge is finding the right cultural fit (11:37)
  • Matheus found a job because the CTO of the company reached out to him! (12:06)
  • Interviewing in reverse (14:43)
  • What kind of technical skills were they looking for from a junior candidate? (15:47)
  • What made Matheus stand out (16:10)
  • What is more important: mission fit, tech, or communication skills?
  • Matheus got an offer letter only five days after the interview! (18:22)
  • What does a day of work look like for Matheus today? (20:08)
  • Matheus works in a very young team. Here's why that's awesome and how to do with its shortcomings (20:41)
  • Matheus's future career goals (21:55)
  • What Matheus wishes he had known when he was starting out: Be patient! (22:38)
  • Next week, Lane Wagner of Btalks about layoffs and what they mean for new developers (24:06)
๐Ÿงฐ Resources Mentioned
โญ๏ธ Leave a Review

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You can also Tweet Alex from Scrimba at @bookercodes and tell them what lessons you learned from the episode so they can thank you personally for tuning in ๐Ÿ™

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.

Matheus Pessoa (00:01):
The company I'm working right now is a startup and I got this job by using LinkedIn, the CTO approached me on LinkedIn actually.

Alex Booker (00:09):
They approached you. Hello and welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, we speak with successful devs about their advice on learning to code and how to get your first junior developer job. I'm Alex and today I'm joined by Matheus Pessoa from Brazil. After learning front-end web development on Scrimba, Matheus got his first junior web developer job in just over a year and is now working at a startup to revolutionize education in Brazil. He got the job because the CTO discovered him on LinkedIn and sent a personalized message. Of course, we'll be talking all about that to give you practical tips and we'll also be discussing the importance of demonstrating to a company while you're not only technically excellent, while you're not only a great culture fit or culture add, but also the importance of demonstrating that you are a good mission fit.

Matheus has teachers in the family and so there was a great synergy between him and this tech startup to talk about. You're going to love this episode with Matheus and we really appreciate you listening. Instead of interrupting the episode to ask you later, I wanted to quickly ask now, that if you do enjoy this episode, that you subscribe to The Scrimba Podcast and share the insights from Matheus with your friends on social media. The more listeners we get, the bigger and better guests we'll bring on in the future. So, thank you in advance. You're helping everybody when you share The Scrimba Podcast. With all that said, let's get into it. I wanted to kick things off by asking, did you always want to be a developer?

Matheus Pessoa (01:42):
Not at all. When I was really, really young, I wanted to be a paleontologist, work with dinosaurs.

Alex Booker (01:50):

Matheus Pessoa (01:50):
Then I got really into arts, visual arts. But my family and friends and teachers weren't supportive at all. It's pretty hard to be an artist here in Brazil, and I felt kind of lost. In 2018, I think, I got into statistics in the graduation, and I felt completely out of place there. I just chose any course at all. I wasn't really thinking about it. All of a sudden, I was studying statistics and all of those numbers, and the artificial intelligence, but I felt out of place. That was not my place at all. Suddenly, 2020, pandemic and I dropped the college to take time, take a deep breath and start to really think what I wanted to do with my career. I thought of doing something related to design, so I stumbled with UI design, which is really close to front-end development. It didn't took much to find out about front-end development and I kind of fell in love because it is a really good intersection of arts and technology.

Alex Booker (02:56):
Yeah. Front-end development is both an arts and a science.

Matheus Pessoa (03:00):
Yes. And you have to be really, really creative to code.

Alex Booker (03:02):
What kind of apps did you build to learn to code?

Matheus Pessoa (03:04):
I did many, many projects. I did this super cool app, which is basically a delivery app, but the backend part is not working at all. But I try to find real life projects and Scrimba really helped me with this part. Because when you're studying by yourself, it's kind of hard to follow a path, a structured path. I did also a super cool project with a museum here in Belo Horizonte, it is called, I don't know how to translate the name, but it is Sertรฃo Mundo, which is Countryside, I think, Countryside World. I was working with the accessibility team to create a online exposition. So, we made this huge map of countryside of Brazil and it had some installations in each city, and you had to open it and make your own way in this map. It is really, really great.

Alex Booker (03:58):
Yeah. Maybe we can find that and link it in the show notes. By the way, how did something like that come about? Did you go knocking on their door and say, "Hey, I want to help. What can I do with my coding skills?" Or maybe you saw an ad or something.

Matheus Pessoa (04:10):
No, no, no. At that time, I was still in college, in statistics, and I got this undergraduate scholarship to walk with this museum. The museum is part of the college, it's an extension, and I got a scholarship there to work with the accessibility team. I was starting to study front-end development and I thought I could help to do this website.

Alex Booker (04:32):
What made you want to learn to code? It sounds like maybe you could have if you wanted to go deeper down the design route for example. I'm not sure how you were getting along with numbers and statistics and things like that, but I guess that was an option as well. What was your thought process around deciding to really commit to learning to code?

Matheus Pessoa (04:50):
Well, first of all, it was really a rational decision. I thought of the open jobs that we have here in Brazil on regards to design and coding. And coding is much, I mean, there's no comparison with jobs open. I thought I could use the things I had learned in statistics, which was coding with Python and, I mean, I've studied the algorithms and logic, so I didn't want to throw it away and start all over. I thought front-end development was a really mix of design and coding. Coding for me is a job that really helps me to get my financial independence. I want to travel, I want to get out of my parents' house. And I feel like coding is a really good area to do stuff like that, to emancipate, to get to know the world, to work for companies abroad. So, there's many, many options. And yes, I still can work with design as well. I think it is a really massive area. I'm really attracted to the possibilities.

Alex Booker (05:56):
It's a fantastic and fascinating point, because, I mean, obviously, you want to start your career based on something you hopefully enjoy, but then you zoom out a bit and look at, "Okay, what are the opportunities? What does the career progression look like? Does this job even pay what I need to live the life I want to live?" To be honest, I'm very, very interested to learn some more about the context around getting a job as a developer from Brazil. But I wanted to firstly ask how you learned to code and went about planning your studies. Was this something you had to do alongside your other studies, learning to code, or could you stick at it full-time?

Matheus Pessoa (06:31):
Yes. When I started studying, I could do this full-time, it was 2018 when I was studying statistics and you have to know how to code to basically do statistics today with Python and R. So, I had all my day to study, which was great.

Alex Booker (06:47):
It can be a blessing and a curse in a way, because, yes, you have all this free time, but then it is really up to you to figure out your schedule. So, when you're learning to code, you have all this time, but you also need to be very careful about how you use it. I mean, did you have a plan? And what kind of challenges did you face scheduling and planning your studies?

Matheus Pessoa (07:04):
Well, every time I have to plan studies and stuff like that, it's really chaotic. I have ADHD, so it's really a challenge to do this all by myself. I could stay all day long here and forgot to eat, forget to go to the bathroom, you don't know where you are, you don't know what time is it. So, I had to look for support of my friends, of my colleagues in the college. So, study groups were really, really helpful for me. Yeah, that was one of the things that really interest me to study with you guys, Scrimba, because you have an amazing community and I could always ask for help or help others. Yeah, that's the way I did it. I usually schedule with a group, and we study together, and I try not to stay overnight doing this, because if I could, I'll do it, but the next day I will be completely trash.

Alex Booker (07:56):
I can imagine. By the way, I noticed in Discord you helping others. We really appreciate that. What courses did you follow, just out of interest? Did you stick at the career path or maybe pick and choose your modules?

Matheus Pessoa (08:06):
I did the career path. Front-end was completely new to me and JavaScript and all of that and React. So, I followed the career path, but when I got my job, they work with Angular and TypeScript. So, I found an introduction to TypeScript over there and I did this as well.

Alex Booker (08:23):
This is a perfect segue, I think, because we really want to learn more about how you got a job. Can you maybe tell us a little bit about what it's like living and coding and getting a developer job from Brazil?

Matheus Pessoa (08:35):
So, in Brazil, we've got a lot of jobs open. It's huge deficit of qualified professionals and there is a lot of room to grow. So, the process of my job application was something like this. In 2022, I think, I applied for a QA job while I was still studying. I was actually studying in two boot camps, Scrimba and one here in Brazil, and it was too much. So, I couldn't really figure out my schedule, my agenda, and I thought I could do it all, but, yeah, you can't. So, I decided to wait to finish one of them. And I applied to a junior front-end development job. Even though Scrimba teaches React, I applied for an Angular job and it didn't really matter much, because what I learned was the fundamentals, the framework is just a tool for doing front-end.

Alex Booker (09:30):
Yeah, a component is a component even if you declare a different way. Right?

Matheus Pessoa (09:34):

Jan Arsenovic (09:35):
Coming up on The Scrimba Podcast, what do startups actually want from juniors?

Matheus Pessoa (09:40):
There's a lot of trouble on the startup.

Alex Booker (09:41):
In this economy, yeah, that's about right. We will be right back with self-taught successful developer Matheus in just a second. But first, Jan, the producer, and I wanted to look at what people are saying about The Scrimba Podcast online and give some shout-outs.

Jan Arsenovic (09:56):
Hello and thank you for all the love you're giving to The Scrimba Podcast. AnotherDK_ from United States left us a five star review on Apple Podcasts saying, "This podcast is so great for people like me that are in the process of becoming a front-end developer. I really like the topics and the stories people share on their journey to getting that first job. The enthusiasm and charisma of the host also contributes to the episodes." In essence, it's a motivating podcast that keeps me going, thanks." Well, thank you for that great review.

Let's see what people on Twitter are saying. Anna Nettles tweeted, "Just found The Scrimba Podcast this morning as someone working hard to break into tech. This is the type of motivational advice, strategies and resources I need. #thescrimbapodcast." And Nilesh Kokare says, "I don't normally listen to podcasts out of habit, but I like listening to Scrimba's podcasts while running. They cheer me up and I learn a great deal." Thank you. This is awesome to hear.

If you're listening to this and you want to give us any type of feedback, you don't have to just phrase us. You can also tell us about something that you wish we had on the show, for example, you can tweet about it or you can leave us a rating or a review wherever you get your podcasts. Next week on the show we'll have Lane Wagner, a senior backend developer and the founder of Stay tuned until the end of the episode because I will play a clip, but for now we're back to the interview with Matheus.

Alex Booker (11:21):
It sounds like there's an abundance of jobs in Brazil then, which is super exciting. You described there being growth opportunities within them. Does that mean if you're a good developer it's quite easy to find a job in Brazil or was it still quite a challenge to find the right fit?

Matheus Pessoa (11:37):
It is still a challenge to find the right cultural fit. Yes, there's a lot of opportunities if you're a good developer. And there's also another thing, because a lot of abroad companies in the US, UK, and anywhere else in the world are looking for Brazilian developers, because it's cheaper for them. So, companies here in Brazil have this challenge to find a good developer that is not being kind of harassed by abroad companies.

Alex Booker (12:06):
So, tell us a little bit about this job you got as a front-end junior developer.

Matheus Pessoa (12:11):
The company I'm working right now is a startup, educational startup. I got this job by using LinkedIn. The CTO approached me on LinkedIn actually.

Alex Booker (12:21):
They approached you. Awesome.

Matheus Pessoa (12:22):

Alex Booker (12:23):
What do you think made them find your profile?

Matheus Pessoa (12:25):
I think my profile is pretty good. It has a lot of information and the right tags. I think this is really important. You got to structure your LinkedIn really, really well. I think you guys did some livestream helping people structure their-

Alex Booker (12:41):
We've got a few, Danny Thompson has been on our YouTube channel as well as a few seasoned recruiters and they show us actually on the livestream what they see as recruiters, because the interface we use as job searchers is very different. By seeing it from their perspective, you get to see a little bit how to optimize it. But you can't optimize something bad. You can't polish a tad, basically, you have to have a good full profile. Looking at yours, I think you tick a lot of the right boxes. It's no wonder you got discovered. What did the CTO write to you saying? Were they like, "Matheus, I like your profile so much, do you want a job? Click here." Or did they maybe want to have an interview or something?

Matheus Pessoa (13:18):
Let me open the message. I want to know exactly what they said. I think it was not this kind of pre-made message. It was really, really personal. All right, I found it, the CTO approached me and then he said, "That is a job opening, a front-end job opening to work in a startup." He wanted to just schedule a call to get to know me, because he thought my profile was exactly what they were looking for. I mean, I've never worked in a huge company, just startups, and I think they had this, "Okay, this guy's always been working on startups, we are a startup, so that's a match." I think the way they work, the workflow is different from a huge company. I got to be kind of generalist, I've worked with QA, with Cypress, I've got my feet on design as well in front-end. So, I think they found that really interesting for a startup to be able to work in different areas.

Alex Booker (14:22):
The way these things typically work is that the first call you have of a company, you're really just exploring if it's a good fit. Maybe they'll ask you a few questions about your experience and your interests, and you'll ask a bit more about what the role entails. If you want to go ahead then maybe they'll schedule a technical interview or something like that. Can you quickly run us through the interview process of this company and what the challenges were?

Matheus Pessoa (14:43):
It was actually a really cool interview, because it didn't felt like an interview at all. It felt like a chat, just like we're doing here. So, my first interview was actually in, not reverse, but first I talked to the CTO and then I talked to the HR.

Alex Booker (14:59):
Yeah, that does sound like it's in reverse, because normally you speak to a recruiter and then you speak to an executive at the end of the process.

Matheus Pessoa (15:07):
Yes, it was kind of interesting. But he said to me that the HR was really occupied with interviewing people and he wanted to get to know a few candidates as well. So, we did the technical part and the get-to-know part on the very first interview. He explained to me about the company, how they work, and that it is a very small team of developers and they're kind of revolutionizing education in Brazil. And that really touched me, because my family, we have a lot of teachers in my family and I thought that would be kind of cool to work with education and still get this part of family together again.

Alex Booker (15:47):
What kind of technical skills were they specifically looking for from a junior candidate? What do you think impressed them about the knowledge you had? Any skills in particular?

Matheus Pessoa (15:56):
Yes, some design skills, to be able to create design, and I think they were really impressed with Redux skills. They were expecting this for junior.

Alex Booker (16:07):
Oh, so you bought them something a little bit above and beyond. I mean-

Matheus Pessoa (16:09):
Yeah, yeah.

Alex Booker (16:10):
... I wouldn't expect any junior dev... To be honest, you don't have to know about things like TypeScript or Redux for that matter. You don't really have to know about any adjacent libraries, you don't have to be learning all the newest, trendy tech. You just need strong fundamentals. That's the table stakes. But if you can bring a little something extra to the table, that could be really interesting to them. What do you think it said about you as a candidate that you'd learned about Redux at this junior level?

Matheus Pessoa (16:35):
That's a great question. I think they were impressed with not my knowledge, but my interest. I was looking for things beyond the expected. I was applying this knowledge to my personal projects and I think, yeah, that's a good one, projects, if you are looking for a job, you got to have a GitHub full of things, full of projects.

Alex Booker (16:57):
It's interesting, because when you interview at a company, you're not just being interviewed on your technical ability. Another big part is your sort of values and how you communicate and collaborate, what you're like working with other people. That's also really important. But what it sounds like is that one thing that really helped you and meant that it was a great fit is that you had this mission alignment as well, because clearly you could convince them by telling stories about your family being teachers and so on, that this is a mission that's personal to you. I'm just wondering, take those three things like technology, communication skills and mission fits, what percentage would you assign to their importance?

Matheus Pessoa (17:37):
I think the mission was pretty, pretty high, because they are a startup and they are just starting and they were looking for people to grow with them. So, I think they were really looking for people that wouldn't be like, "I get this job, then another opportunity came up knocking on my door and I'm going to leave this job to get the other one." So, I think they were really looking for an alignment on mission and values. I think it's the highest one. Then coding and communication, half and half.

Alex Booker (18:08):
Brilliant. That makes a lot of sense. And I like your point that for a starter, especially, they want someone who buys into the mission and who isn't going to leave at the first line of trouble necessarily.

Matheus Pessoa (18:20):
There's a lot of trouble on a startup.

Alex Booker (18:22):
In this economy, yeah, that's about right. Oh, wicked. So, you had a few interview phases with technical questions and with HR. Tell us a little bit about how they wrapped up the interview process and how were you feeling at the time?

Matheus Pessoa (18:34):
Right after the interview, I felt great. It was kind of cathartic. I was sure it was a great interview. We scheduled to be 30 minutes, half an hour, and we stayed there for one hour, one hour and a half just talking to each other.

Alex Booker (18:50):
I'll just jump in and say, because it's such a big takeaway, that's the best sign in any interview when you go over time. I feel like every interviewer schedules like 45 minutes, but they normally have an hour. They just need that escape hatch if the conversation isn't going well. But if they can keep going for a bit longer, it means they're really enjoying talking to you, I think, and vice versa.

Matheus Pessoa (19:07):
Yeah, I felt amazing. The next day the HR just emailed me. I think there was a kind of bureaucracy, because the CTO was already asking me my personal information. So, it was just to get to know the team, the HR team, some of the cultural values of the company, how they pay. It was about five days. Yeah, five days. I got an email with the... How do you say it is not propost, I forgot how to say it. Not a contract, but-

Alex Booker (19:39):
An offer letter.

Matheus Pessoa (19:40):
Yes. Yeah, that's it. After five days, just five days.

Alex Booker (19:42):
I like how words like cathartic, but then you struggle with the word offer letter.

Matheus Pessoa (19:48):
Yes. That's how my brain works. Cathartic is much more... It's a cool word.

Alex Booker (19:52):
Nice one. Very cool. Yeah, I guess, you're pretty thrilled to get the offer and you started soon after.

Matheus Pessoa (19:58):
I literally thought to jump in, I was super happy. It was really, really fast. I started about just one year and I got this full-time job. That is amazing.

Alex Booker (20:08):
That is amazing. And the quick turnaround there shows that they were super excited about working with you as well. Now you're on the job, what does a typical day as a software developer look like for you?

Matheus Pessoa (20:19):
I wake up around 7:00 AM and start working 8:00 AM. We use Discord for communication. So, I get into Discord, the team is already there. We start talking and just like we were in an office, it's really cool. People really young, about my age, I am 23. I think the oldest person in my team is 26.

Alex Booker (20:41):
Was it interesting to you that the team's mean age is quite young? Because on one hand, that sounds like a lot of fun to be honest, and maybe it's a young, really enthusiastic crowd. Everyone is open-minded, they don't have strong opinions formed over decades. And I can also imagine there's quite a flat... I can see lots of great reasons to do it, don't get me wrong. But then I suppose if you're looking for growth opportunities, there is of course benefit to learning from people who have been doing this for a decade or more.

Matheus Pessoa (21:07):

Alex Booker (21:08):
Was that something that came to mind at all when evaluating this offer?

Matheus Pessoa (21:11):
Absolutely. You said just right. We've got a lack of seniors in our team, so we are basically on our own just researching together. It feels like I am in college with my friends, and we are trying to figure out the best way to do something. It is kind of hard, but I think we learn a lot by doing this, researching skills and speaking other languages really help, there's much more content in English than there is in Portuguese. I think the lack of seniors in our team is a problem sometimes, but we try to solve this problem by hiring some consultant, some senior from other company to help us when the challenge is super big and we don't know what to do at all.

Alex Booker (21:55):
Kind of a related question, but what are your career goals then in the future?

Matheus Pessoa (22:00):
I'm really into front-end development and I want to be a great front-end development. Of course, I want to work abroad. I really want to live in another country. I've always been here in Brazil in Belo Horizonte. So yeah, that's my biggest goal for now.

Alex Booker (22:15):
That's one of the best things about coding, man, it can take you all around the world. It's such a versatile and in-demand job. There's loads of opportunities.

Matheus Pessoa (22:23):
A recently found out that there's a way to work as a front-end development on the gaming industry, and that got me excited, and really into gaming and interfaces and art. So, I think that's a great area to work with.

Alex Booker (22:38):
Yeah, man, there's so many adjacent fields, isn't there? Yeah, there's coding, but you can code in the sports industry or the fashion industry or the game industry. You can code for social impact, you can code for enterprises. I just love that kind of versatility and I'm so happy you voluntarily got your foot in the door, Matheus, just to finish up really, I was hoping I could get the advice that you wish you had when you were a learner developer and starting out. For anybody listening today, what advice can you offer them?

Matheus Pessoa (23:06):
I think the word I'm looking for is patience. I wanted to do everything at once, study and study more and get a job. Things take time. And if you study, if you do projects, if you connect with the community, things are going to happen. So, just be patient and do your thing. Just because it is taking time. It doesn't mean it's not happening.

Alex Booker (23:30):
Matheus, thank you so much for joining me on The Scrimba Podcast. It's been a pleasure.

Matheus Pessoa (23:34):
Thank you for inviting me. It's been a really, really pleasure to be here. It's the first time I do something like this and I was pretty nervous, but yeah, it was really good talking to you.

Alex Booker (23:44):
That's it for this episode of The Scrimba Podcast. Check out the show notes for all the resources mentioned, but also for the ways to connect with Matheus as well as some other resources about how to make your LinkedIn profile awesome. What do tech layoffs mean for new developers is one of the topics we will cover next week when we're talking to Lane Wagner.

Lane Wagner (24:06):
There's so much going on, I think whenever something like this happens where there's a big round of layoffs, or even more recently with AI, fear kind of kicks in first. What's happening to developer jobs, especially junior developer jobs? I think the first thing to do whenever something like this happens, because it's happened a lot in the past, layoffs are not a new thing to tech, it's to just pause and try to figure out from a high level what's going on and try to think about the long-term ramifications. Companies do layoffs all the time, but especially when you're starting your career, the most important question is what's the long-term outlook for this kind of set of skills that I'm learning at the moment?

Jan Arsenovic (24:45):
Lane Wagner is a senior backend developer who founded and he'll be on the show next Tuesday. If you made it this far, please consider subscribing to the podcast. You can find it wherever you get your podcasts, and if you're tweeting about it, make sure to mention Alex. You will find his Twitter handle also in the show notes. I've been Jan, the producer, and we'll see you next week.