The Scrimba Podcast

πŸŽ™ About the episode

Meet Shona Chan πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¬πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§! Shona was an anesthesiologist. Now, she's a developer. It all started when she wanted to write an app to solve a problem she had at work as a doctor. One thing led to another, and eventually, she took the plunge into coding, realizing that a career switch might not be such a bad idea.

This is a story of intrinsic motivation, amazing portfolio projects, and landing a job without even having to go through a tech interview. You'll discover how to identify your purpose, find out how to muster enough motivation to tackle difficult decisions, and learn why Shona saw her career change as a lateral move instead of a fresh start. Shona reveals what ten years in medicine taught her and how that relates to her new career If you listen to the end, you will get some fantastic ideas to integrate into your study plan or job-hunting strategy. Plus, you'll find out the ideal music for a cesarean section.

πŸ”— Connect with Shona

⏰ Timestamps

  • Shona never thought she would code for a living, although she did play Neopets (02:13)
  • How Shona started coding because she wanted to solve a real-world work problem she had as a doctor (02:58)
  • Shona's career in medicine (05:48)
  • Community Break with Jan the Producer (09:55)
  • Why Shona eventually wanted to switch careers, and did it feel weird after dedicating so many years to medicine? (11:47)
  • What skills Shona learned as a doctor helped her become a developer? (14:01)
  • Doctors on TV vs. programmers on TV (14:55)
  • Learning to code on YouTube, and when does it become not enough? (15:46)
  • How Shona enrolled into a bootcamp (18:26)
  • Why did Shona feel like she needed to give coding a go? (21:35)
  • Quick-fire questions: Lo-fi Disney and the perfect music for a C-section (23:02)
  • Shona's new role in a health tech startup (26:03)
  • When did Shona feel ready to apply for jobs? (Also, her portfolio projects are amazing. )(27:26)
  • Shona's cold email that brought her a job (31:05)
  • Shona got hired without a tech interview (32:55)
  • Why unique projects are never a waste of time (33:55)
  • Start networking earlier than you think! (35:28)
  • How Scrimba podcast helped Shona with her career change (36:12)
  • How to deal with sunk cost fallacy (38:53)

🧰 Resources Mentioned

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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.

Shona Chan (00:00):
Actually, the thing that helped me most about the sunk cost fallacy was that you have to consider the cost of not making a change as well. If that cost outweighs your sunk cost, then you should make the change.

Alex Booker (00:13):
Hello, and welcome to the Scrimba podcast. On this weekly show, I interview recently hired junior developers as well as senior developers and hiring managers to help you learn to code and get your first job in tech by learning from both sides. Today I'm joined by Shona Chan, a Cambridge educated anesthesiologist who decided to leave 10 years of medicine behind. She just got her first professional developer job as a health tech startup after learning to code on Scrimba. This is the story about how she did it while also raising two kids. Now, just like any episode of the Scrimba podcast of which there are over a hundred, this is an inspiring story with great firsthand proven advice. I know if you listen to the end, you will get a few ideas you can incorporate into your study plan or job hunting strategy. But if I was to call out one thing that is special about this episode, it's Shona's ability to hear and listen to her purpose and use the intrinsic motivation to do really hard things like learn to code or stop being a doctor.

(01:20):
On that note, I really appreciate how Shona describes her career change as a lateral move, not a fresh start. Honestly, I felt like coding was totally different from being a doctor, but she strongly feels like her experience learning things quickly, communicating, following processes, all those kind of things come with her. However, it must still have been a really hard decision to leave doctoring behind because it's kind of an identity, a prestigious job actually, and clearly it's something that takes an enormous amount of time and effort. I'm just thinking if Shona can make that kind of change, maybe she can also teach us how to make hard shifts that we know are the right thing to do in our guts and our hearts, but are harder to execute for various practical reasons. I'm really looking forward to bringing you this episode. I am your host, Alex Booker, and you are listening to the Scrimba podcast. Let's get into it.

Shona Chan (02:13):
It's definitely not something that I saw myself doing ever really. My only brush with coding was as a teenager playing this game called Neopets online. I think a few other guests have mentioned it before on this podcast.

Alex Booker (02:29):
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Shona Chan (02:29):
It gives away that I'm of a certain vintage. But anyway, I loved that game, and my friend and I would play it a lot, and we didn't really care about the pets, but we had a shop. And for me, it was all about making my shop look nice and you could customize it a bit with HTML. So I learned really basic stuff like how to insert an image, and my favorite thing was making texts scroll across the screen.

Alex Booker (02:55):
Like the marquee kind of tag, that sort of thing.

Shona Chan (02:58):
Oh, yeah, deprecated now because I tried it the other day, but no. Back then that was my favorite thing to use, but that was about it. And then I didn't touch code again until... I mean, I'm in my thirties now, so after a long time. I stumbled into it because of work really. I came across a problem that I wanted to solve. I was working as a doctor at the time and working in the children's hospital as an anesthetist, and a lot of the job involves calculating drug doses for children who can be anything from a few kilograms to almost adult sized. And everything is based on weight and age pretty much in terms of the drug calculations. At the time, we were doing it manually either in our heads or maybe with a calculator, but it was very labor intensive and quite error prone as well.

Alex Booker (03:53):
A number you definitely want to get right I feel.

Shona Chan (03:57):
Exactly, and the margin for error is really small, and obviously the consequences are big. I was looking for a solution for that to automate that, a thing that you could just put in the weight and the age and it would spit out all the doses of common drugs that we would use. And also another half of that was to make it easier to access guidelines, the hospital's guidelines, in terms of protocols and how to treat certain diseases or just a lot of flow charts that would be difficult to access, they would previously have been maybe on the intranet, which is not always easy to get to because you might not always be near a hospital computer or they'd be emailed around in the form of a big email attachment. So it wasn't a great way of organizing things I felt.

(04:42):
So I decided to learn to code to try and build an app. Honestly, I didn't really think I would be able to do it. I knew nothing at that point, but I felt it was a good way of focusing my learning. I think I was interested to learn anyway, and this seemed like a good opportunity to motivate myself to do so. So that's how I stumbled into it. And, yeah, it was great learning on my own just from YouTube and building the app and then actually getting to use it was really great.

Alex Booker (05:12):
Instead of learning to code with the intention of getting a job necessarily or making a career change, you were really specifically trying to solve a problem that you had. I think the website is called No Matter How Small. I'm actually looking at it right now. It looks amazing, by the way.

Shona Chan (05:28):
Thank you. Yeah, I tried really hard to make it responsive because I knew that it would be most useful on mobile. You're obviously not near a computer all the time when you're in theater and trying to make up the drugs for cases and things like that. It'd be much more convenient having it on the phone. So, yeah, that was how I stumbled into coding, I guess.

Alex Booker (05:48):
I want to talk a little bit about your experience as a doctor because that's not only fascinating, but the transition from doctor to developer is also very interesting. How did you get into medicine and how did you approach your studies and things? What school did you go to, and how long did it take to learn to become a doctor?

Shona Chan (06:05):
I decided that I wanted to do medicine, I guess, at 17 when everyone who wants to go to university starts thinking about these things. My decision was based on liking science and enjoying working with people. To be honest, I think as a 17-year-old, I didn't have much insight into what it actually meant to be a doctor. Why would you? It's very difficult to know what's on the other end. But from what I understood, it would obviously require an interest in science and you would have to work with patients and other healthcare professionals. So I guess I went into it because of that, and then it was a long process becoming a doctor. It's six years of medical school in my case because the university I went to... I went to Cambridge, and you have to do an extra year in your third year. It's just an extra intercalated year, and at the end of six years, then you do two years of house officer ship, and then after that you can go into specialty training.

(07:10):
So I went into anesthetic training, and then it's about seven years after that until you become a consultant. But I've had two kids, so I'm actually still 18 months away from becoming a consultant. That's where I am in terms of my medical career or where I was before I went into coding.

Alex Booker (07:31):
That's amazing. So you went to school in the UK. Are you from the UK originally?

Shona Chan (07:35):
No, I grew up in Singapore. I actually spent the first 18 years of my life in Singapore. I moved to the UK for university, and that's where I met my husband, and so I stayed on after that. I've been all around the UK. The decision to apply to UK was heavily influenced by my dad. He spent quite a bit of time in the UK before he was 30 just in university, and then he worked here for a bit as well. He loved his time in the UK. When it came to the time to apply to university, he strongly encouraged me to consider the UK. I probably would've stayed in Singapore if not for his encouragement to go abroad and see something new, and I'm really glad that he encouraged me to do that.

Alex Booker (08:23):
Absolutely. If I understand well, administering anesthesia is a very rewarding specialty in terms of compensation and things. I heard that's one of the most well-paid doctors you can be. Is that true? And was the compensation part the reason that you pursued it or was it more just that you found it fascinating and it's what you wanted to do?

Shona Chan (08:43):
It wasn't part of the reason I chose it because it's not true in the UK. It doesn't matter what specialty you're in in the UK. All the consultants get paid the same pretty much. In the US, I think it's very different. I think anesthesiologists as they're called in America, are definitely maybe one of the higher earning specialties, but in the UK it's much more even across the specialties. I picked it because it's a nice blend of both medicine and surgery, and it's quite an interesting specialty. You learn a lot about physiology, how the body works and pharmacology, how drugs work, and I guess you're there for patients at a very anxious time in their lives. Having surgery is not-

Alex Booker (09:25):
Oh, yeah, scary.

Shona Chan (09:26):
... a small thing, is it? And it's nice to be able to be the one to reassure them that you're going to take good care of them when they're asleep and help alleviate that anxiety. That's a really nice part of it.

Alex Booker (09:36):
You're like, "Don't worry, I coded an app in JavaScript that's going to tell me exactly how much to use." What's that? Am I a professional developer? No, no. I learned on YouTube, but it's okay. Go to sleep now.

Shona Chan (09:47):
Exactly. Yes, that's exactly what I tell them. No, but it has been a really rewarding specialty.

Jan Arsenovic (09:55):
Coming up the perfect music for a C-section.

Shona Chan (10:00):
I have a dedicated cesarean section playlist.

Jan Arsenovic (10:02):
And the power of intrinsic motivation.

Shona Chan (10:05):
Enjoying my job is something that I really, really want.

Jan Arsenovic (10:08):
But first, let's take a look at socials. Hello, I'm Jan, the producer, and in every episode I highlight some of your social media posts about the podcast as well as your reviews from various podcasting platforms. Venicia de Laqua tweeted, "I've discovered the Scrimba podcast last year, and since then I can't stop recommending it to anyone interested in starting their career as a software engineer. It's great to see how different people face the same struggles differently." Thank you. On LinkedIn, Ashley Berry posted, "Scrimba, your podcast on the 5th of September was a great summary about LinkedIn features and tips that I plan on implementing such as including projects in the experience section." Glad to be of service, hope it helps. And on Apple podcasts, Nathan from Switzerland left us a review two months ago that says, "Fantastic resource. I just finished a coding bootcamp to transition from marketing to web development, and this podcast is an awesome source of information to continue my transition."

(11:07):
Well done. Thank you, Nathan, and keep us posted about your progress. You can always tweet at us and join the community, and if you would like to get a shout out on the show, the only thing you need to do is to post about us on social media or leave us a rating or review in your podcast app of choice. Word of mouth is the best way to support a podcast that you like, so if you're enjoying our show, share it with someone. You can also do it offline, but if you do it online and if your post contains the words Scrimba and podcast, we will find it, and we might read it on the show. And now we're back to the interview with Shona.

Alex Booker (11:47):
Well, this is it. It sounds like you were well on your way after doing so much school and training. You were very, very, very nearly at the end and working as a doctor already, and you've described very eloquently, I think, some of your motivation behind doing it, and yet here we are because you decided to make a total pivot and learn to code. As I'm sure people can expect listening today, you were recently hired as a professional developer, so can you talk to us a bit about why you wanted to switch career and learn to code?

Shona Chan (12:16):
I really enjoy the logical aspect of coding, and I think maybe that's something that I always thought was true, that you had to be quite logical to be able to problem solve and program something, but I think maybe the thing I didn't realize that I would love so much about it is the creative aspect of it. You're really building something, you're making something out of nothing, and that really appeals to me, and it's maybe something that I miss in medicine because in medicine you don't really make anything day to day. You're solving problems, but you're not creating anything from scratch. That's probably one of the things about coding that I find so rewarding, and I think many people would probably think, are you insane? You spent such a long time, so much invested into a medical career.

Alex Booker (13:10):
It might have crossed my mind.

Shona Chan (13:11):
Yeah, I think most, and to be honest, me too. It was a big thing that I had to get over for myself because you feel the sunk cost, right? You've spent such a long time and so much just effort into this degree and career, but I think I now see it more as a lateral move rather than wasting anything. I'm just building on what I already have learned and have gotten out of all the effort that I've put in. There are a lot of skills that you develop as a doctor or in medicine or whatever path you choose really that you can move over to your new career. I think if you see it that way, then you maybe see it as less of a waste and more of just this is what I've done for the past decade, and now I'm moving on to something else, and I can take everything that I've learned with me to make me be as good as I can be at this next thing.

Alex Booker (14:01):
Are there any things in particular that stand out to you as you learning as a doctor that are also relevant to your work as a developer?

Shona Chan (14:10):
You definitely learn how to learn when you have to learn so much and for so long, so you know how you learn best and even what which hours of the day are best at learning it, stuff like that. Just little things that help you in your learning journey, I guess.

Alex Booker (14:26):
Yeah, you learn how you specifically learn, right?

Shona Chan (14:30):
Yes. I know I'm best in the morning, and from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM I'm basically useless at taking anything in. I definitely learn better with visual aids, so videos are great because I like seeing things. And then other skills, definitely communication, just working with people, problem solving, that's a big skill that being a doctor has helped me cultivate, and that's definitely helpful.

Alex Booker (14:55):
Is there anything, what you see on TV with, do you ever see that show House where every time someone comes into the hospital with a mystery medical problem and they have to problem solve and diagnose it? Is that kind of what you're describing?

Shona Chan (15:14):
It's definitely not as interesting every time. There's lots of things that you don't have to do any head scratching. I'm sure there are some specialties where the doctors are always solving maybe infectious diseases or something like that, always solving really complicated puzzles, but, no, it's not always like that. It's definitely not as glamorous as TV makes it up to be.

Alex Booker (15:33):
Now you're a professional coder as well. That's another category of television you can't watch anymore because coding and hacking and stuff on TV, it's all dramatized as well.

Shona Chan (15:41):
Oh, yeah. So I have to buy myself a hoodie, right? They all sit in a dark room.

Alex Booker (15:46):
Exactly. Mr. Robot style, I like it. I learned to code by watching YouTube videos originally, and I loved them because they were free, they were visual like you say. I also just found them interesting. To copy the code over and see the result, I found that really rewarding. But sometimes YouTube videos don't exactly make you a professional developer, and what I mean by that is that they're quite unstructured compared to say university or something like that or even the structure of a book with chapters or a full-blown course or whatever or a bootcamp. I'm curious how you got on with YouTube if it's something you stuck out for the whole duration of learning to code or if maybe you started using other resources to help give a framework to your learning.

Shona Chan (16:28):
Yeah, YouTube was great for the initial introduction to what is coding, what is JavaScript, that kind of thing. But then I think I agree that it's very unstructured. I then looked at Udemy and I did Colt Steel's, I think, web development bootcamp on Udemy, and that was really helpful. I think that was probably my main resource whenever I was building the app for work. And then I discovered Scrimba after that, and I really liked Scrimba because it allowed me to code along. You can pause a screen. That was just amazing because you can actually type the code into the video, which was definitely helpful for me. Those were my main resources from the self-teaching point of view.

(17:16):
I had my second child almost a year and a half ago, and then I didn't touch code for about six months after that, but I knew from building the web app and several other smaller projects that I was really interested in it, and I wanted to keep learning and even possibly consider a career transition. I wanted to get back up to speed quite quickly. After six months of not coding, I felt like I was really de-skilling quite a bit. I'd been doing self-paced learning an hour a day. I did a hundred days of code, the Twitter hashtag, which helped.

Alex Booker (17:55):
You completed all 100 days?

Shona Chan (17:57):
I did. I did a hundred days.

Alex Booker (17:58):
Amazing.

Shona Chan (17:59):
That was with Scrimba. I did Bob's React course on Scrimba for that, which was great, but I felt like I wasn't really learning as much as I needed to to get to a point where I could be applying for jobs. So that's when I decided to enroll in a bootcamp to get a bit more structure and to have people alongside me in person to hold me accountable and to learn with and to ask my questions to.

Alex Booker (18:26):
Which bootcamp did you enroll in?

Shona Chan (18:27):
I was in Singapore at the time, and there are a few that they do out there, but the one that I chose was Le Wagon Bootcamp. I think they're a French company, but they have branches internationally. I picked them because the reviews were good. It was a nine week course, which suited my time commitments, and it seemed like a good way to get back up to speed and learn a bit quicker. I did that for nine weeks, only made possible really because I was living with my parents in Singapore for the year, and they could look after the kids for me. Otherwise, there was no way I would've been able to do it here in the UK without family around to help with the childcare, so that was a really good experience for me. There was a lot of content squeezed into a short period of time, but I learned well in person with quite an interactive form of learning, and we got to do a final project at the end, which was also great.

(19:25):
We worked together in teams of four, and it wasn't just about the coding anymore, it was also learning things like how to use Git and GitHub and pull requests and working on different branches, things like that, which maybe it's a bit more difficult to learn that online by yourself.

Alex Booker (19:45):
I think so too. I think that's such a valuable experience to have. And to your point about the bootcamp, I feel like maybe it gives you a certain structure, especially if you have kids as well. Self teaching, I'm sure it was possible for you. It sounds like you really understand how you learn, and you knew all these resources like YouTube and Scrimba, and I don't like to say it out loud, but Udemy, I guess. But you felt like you would benefit from both the in-person aspect of it and the structure that it gives you.

Shona Chan (20:13):
Definitely. With my kids at home, I was really only able to do an hour or maximum two hours a day while my baby napped, but I think you definitely compound your learning. Well, for me anyway, I compound my learning a lot faster if I do at least maybe three or four hours a day.

Alex Booker (20:32):
You mind if I ask because a bootcamp can be quite expensive? Did you feel confident about the return on investment going into it or did you feel like you were taking a chance based on your best knowledge at the time?

Shona Chan (20:43):
It was definitely taking a chance in some regard. I will say that I was lucky in that the Singapore government was very helpful, and they give out grants for citizens who are trying to upskill, especially in tech.

Alex Booker (20:55):
So you could come to the UK and work as a developer?

Shona Chan (20:58):
Well, they kind of hope that you'll stay, but not everyone does, I guess.

Alex Booker (21:02):
I'm just teasing.

Shona Chan (21:04):
They are very helpful in that sense, so I was really lucky in that I got a subsidy. I know that it's not possible for everyone to do a bootcamp because it can be very pricey. But, yes, I guess it was just the best guess at the time. I think by then I knew that it was something that I couldn't not pursue because I would always wonder what if I didn't investigate it a bit more as a potential career? So I think I just made peace with that, and if it didn't work out, then that's fine, but I just had to take the chance.

Alex Booker (21:35):
Why was it so important for you to give it a go?

Shona Chan (21:38):
Job satisfaction is huge to me, and I think especially after I had my kids, I feel like I need to have really good reason to be away from them, and enjoying my job is something that I really, really want. Don't get me wrong, medicine has been a great career, but I think there are also things about it that maybe frustrate me a little bit. Tech is not really adopted very quickly in the NHS for various reasons. I think I was getting a little bit frustrated because of that. The fact that I went ahead and learned how to code to build a solution to a problem at work was probably a reflection of that frustration, and I felt like it was something that I should look further into because I really found this kind of joy in building and coding that maybe I hadn't felt in a while.

Alex Booker (22:32):
I think it's courageous actually to make that shift because even though it sounds like you had a great perspective and you saw it as a lateral move, it is still daunting, I think, to start something from scratch like that.

Shona Chan (22:43):
Thank you for saying that because it is daunting. I haven't started my new job yet, so I am still nervous, excited nervous, but still a little bit nervous like, "Oh, no, what if I'm not any good at this? Have I made a silly move?" But I think I know that it's something I want to try.

Alex Booker (23:02):
Well, I'm really curious to learn a bit more about the role and the specific opportunity, but how about we choose now as a good moment to do a round of quickfire questions.

Shona Chan (23:10):
Okay.

Alex Booker (23:14):
Okay. So what is one learning resource that has been the most impactful on your journey learning to code so far?

Shona Chan (23:21):
I'm not just saying this because I'm on the podcast, but Scrimba has been huge for me.

Alex Booker (23:25):
What about your favorite technology to use at the moment?

Shona Chan (23:27):
Probably JavaScript is my favorite language.

Alex Booker (23:30):
Nice. And is there a programming language or technology you've got your eye on to learn next?

Shona Chan (23:36):
I want to get better at React and React Native in particular. My new job is actually going to be on the mobile development team, so I need to learn React Native.

Alex Booker (23:45):
Yeah, I think you'll get plenty of opportunity to do that. That's really cool. What music do you like to code to?

Shona Chan (23:51):
All kinds, but if I'm really trying to focus, then I try and listen to something without lyrics, so lo-fi or sometimes even classical music.

Alex Booker (24:00):
Did you listen to lo-fi as a doctor or did you only discover it when you started boot camps and coding and stuff?

Shona Chan (24:05):
Oh, definitely only when I started coding.

Alex Booker (24:08):
Yeah, I keep hearing that. It seems like a secret shared genre that people haven't heard of. That's wild.

Shona Chan (24:15):
Yes. I've now introduced it to my husband. He's not in tech. He's medical as well, but we play to our kids now as well. There's lo-fi Disney.

Alex Booker (24:24):
Oh, that sounds class.

Shona Chan (24:25):
Yeah, it's actually pretty good, so check it out.

Alex Booker (24:27):
By the way, Shona, is there someone you look up to or follow in the tech community, maybe you subscribe to them on YouTube or follow them on Twitter or something that we should know about and maybe check out after the show?

Shona Chan (24:37):
There's probably no one that you don't already know about, but I really love Kevin Powell's CSS stuff on YouTube. I think it's amazing, and his podcast episode is really good as well on Scrimba.

Alex Booker (24:49):
And one last quick fire question for you. Do you prefer tea or coffee?

Shona Chan (24:53):
Coffee.

Alex Booker (24:53):
Oh, yeah, me too. I think turning coffee into code is a common pastime for our Scrimba podcast guests. By the way, I was also curious when you said about coding to music, I wondered if when you're a doctor, if you would play music in the surgery or while you were studying and stuff like that?

Shona Chan (25:10):
Yeah, I do. I love playing music in theater. If the surgeon doesn't have their own preference, then sometimes I ask if I can play my own music especially if the patients are not under a general anesthetic. So my favorite place to play, it's actually in the maternity unit when ladies are having their cesarean sections. I have a dedicated cesarean section playlist for all the moms to be, and it's very calming. I try and time it with the delivery of the baby. You know the Lion King, Circle of Life?

Alex Booker (25:44):
Oh, my God, they must be so lucky to have you in the room. That sounds like one hell of an experience.

Shona Chan (25:50):
Having your child pulled out. Nants ingonyama, that bit basically. What else could you want?

Alex Booker (26:03):
All right, so one thing I noticed about your new role, and hopefully you can tell us a bit about it, but one thing that really stood out to me is that I think as a job at a health tech startup or a health tech company, so there's clearly some alignment there with your previous career. What's the company all about, and what will you be doing there?

Shona Chan (26:19):
The company that I'm going to work for, they basically help make healthcare professionals' lives easier by making it easier to access medical information through their platform. So the medical information can range from anything to like I did for the app that I built, local guidelines, national guidelines. They also have medical calculators on their platform. It's also now a platform for teams to communicate with each other. The roster can be hosted on it as well, I believe. It's just a one-stop shop to help streamline all these processes that can take quite a long time if you're using conventional methods, which are usually the hospital intranet.

Alex Booker (27:03):
Sounds like the tech you wanted to have while you were working in the hospital.

Shona Chan (27:08):
Exactly, yes. So there's huge alignment, and so I'm really excited to work for them because I feel like there's very much an alignment in our missions. And as a doctor, I can totally empathize with the user because that was me. I faced all the frustrations that users face in their day-to-day job.

Alex Booker (27:26):
That's very, very cool and it's a good little bit of context to have. Let's rewind just a moment and talk a little bit about how you found the opportunity. It's a classic thing when you're learning to code. It's not exactly obvious when you should stop studying full-time and start thinking about how to present your skills and apply for jobs. I guess in uni when you graduate is your sign when you're teaching yourself or even doing a bootcamp to some extent. I guess graduating the bootcamp could be a good sign as well. Yeah, you kind of need to take that plunge at some point. So maybe talk to me a little bit about when you felt ready to apply for jobs and what your strategy looked like.

Shona Chan (28:03):
I started applying about two weeks after I finished the bootcamp because I felt that I had the most momentum at that stage and everything was still really fresh in my mind. I'd done that final project, which I was proud of, and I felt that which going forward, that project and the web app that I built for work, those are my main projects that I felt happy enough to showcase.

Alex Booker (28:27):
This final bootcamp project, was it Sound States?

Shona Chan (28:29):
Yeah, that's the one.

Alex Booker (28:31):
I wish we had more time to go in depth about it, but what I'll say during the interview is that we'll be linking the project page in your portfolio in the description. If you're listening, just go in there with no expectation. I won't tell you much about it except I think you're really going to like what you find. It's a super cool project, and I think what I'm hearing from you, Shona is that once you pulled that off, you were feeling confident to start applying for jobs. How did you go about finding those jobs?

Shona Chan (28:56):
I mainly tried LinkedIn. This whole job hunting thing was obviously very new to me, and you're just kind of pushed along. I had to revamp my CV because it was like 10 pages long and full of stuff that no one in tech would really care about.

Alex Booker (29:09):
Do doctors use LinkedIn in general or was that new to you as well?

Shona Chan (29:13):
No, it was completely new. I didn't have a LinkedIn account, so I gave myself a week to just do that stuff, LinkedIn, get some kind of portfolio site together and also to change my CV. And once I'd done that, then I started applying on LinkedIn. I just searched for jobs in the UK and cold applied to those. I did a lot of LinkedIn Easy Apply initially, but that was extremely low yield, so gave up on that after a while. Then I think I applied to about 50 jobs probably, and I interviewed with two companies other than the one that I eventually got hired at. I started applying in April, and I got an offer in August, so what's that, four months? But it was pretty demoralizing at points to be honest because a lot of them don't get back to you, and the interviews can be quite long processes.

Alex Booker (30:11):
If it's a multiple stage interview process and you get to the end and you don't get the offer, that can be super tiring.

Shona Chan (30:11):
Yeah, it is. For the company that eventually hired me, it wasn't a job posting or anything. I actually reached out to them because after having a few unsuccessful interviews and not really getting that many responses from the cold applications, I decided to change strategy a bit and leverage my medical network and knowledge, I guess. And so I reached out to a company that I knew of in Belfast, and they weren't hiring at the time, but I think because of my background and my projects, they were willing to chat to me. One thing led to another, and they ended up offering me a job, which was amazing. I was really relieved and really excited.

Alex Booker (31:01):
What did you write in that cold approach?

Shona Chan (31:05):
I just messaged their CEO and just said, "This is my background, and this is a project that I've done. I'd really love to chat to you. I know you guys aren't hiring." But I genuinely at that point just wanted to hear about his story because he was also a doctor, and he became an engineer. He built a very similar thing for his department when he was working as a doctor, but then he took it big and scaled it and is now an entrepreneur. But I was just really curious to hear about his story because there aren't that many doctor turned engineers that I know of anyway.

(31:39):
I felt like it was nice to find someone who was on the same page, I guess. He was very nice and replied and said, "Yes, let's have a chat." And then during that chat said that we're not hiring, but we'd be happy to find out more about you and possibly make a space for you, which was music to my ears. I was like, "Wow, I would love to work for your company because you guys have done such a great job with making doctor's lives easier."

Alex Booker (32:09):
That's how you do it right there. There are many ways to get a job in tech, but I feel like when you have that relationship to the problem that the company's trying to solve, you can empathize with it in some way. You actually would be a user of the product or maybe you just think it's incredibly cool. It might not be specifically to do with a past career or hobby or something. You just see it and you're like, wow, you genuinely care about it. I think a lot of the time companies would like to work with someone who genuinely cares about the product and its success even if they might not be the most experienced engineer. So, yeah, it's not a huge leap I don't feel like for them to want to explore an opportunity to get you on board. I bet they love the idea of a doctor who switched to engineering. I bet that's just perfect.

Shona Chan (32:53):
It's a good fit both ways.

Alex Booker (32:55):
Did you do a technical interview, and if so, how did that go?

Shona Chan (32:59):
I did, not for this job, but for the interviews that I told you about.

Alex Booker (33:03):
Wait a second, Shona, this new company, they hired you about a technical interview.

Shona Chan (33:10):
They looked at my GitHub, and they looked at my projects, and maybe that's why I got a job. No, I'm just kidding.

Alex Booker (33:16):
No, no, no, no, no, no. We're not going down that path for one second. I think the point I'm getting at really is that oftentimes in a technical interview, they're trying to assess your technical ability, but it's also quite a contrived environment. You're working on a super isolated problem and you have the added pressure of it being an interview, but to then look at the code you've published, and it's really obvious it's your code, they can make a judgment based on your skill level and things like that. I wondered, because I know that you put a lot of effort into your portfolio, which is really beautiful by the way, and your projects, which you feature on the portfolio, they're quite polished, including the dosing application and your bootcamp final project, which I teased a little bit earlier. People can check it out.

(33:55):
I'm just wondering, do you think that that was the right investment to spend time building unique projects that honestly they feel kind of production ready, they're not half finished or something, those apps actually look like they're useful and could be used by someone today?

Shona Chan (34:10):
Yeah. I'm happy that I did it the way I did it because I think building stuff that I felt would be useful was a big motivating factor in finishing them. Bootcamp, I guess, we had to finish it obviously for the demo day. I really loved making that one because it revolves around music, and I really love listening to music, and so that was really fun to build. And then the one I built for work was really just very practical, but I tried to make it look nice and be user-friendly and stuff like that. So that really helped focus my learning. I think when you're learning on your own, you can really be a bit overwhelmed by the amount of stuff there is to learn, but if you have a purpose in mind, then it helped me to just focus my efforts a bit more.

Alex Booker (34:58):
We're almost out of time, unfortunately. I've been having a great time learning about your story, and I know that this episode is full of value for people listening along. I just wanted to ask in closing really, if there was any sort of advice that you could share that you wish you had at the beginning of your journey, this crazy journey from doctor to developer, teaching yourself to code, going on LinkedIn for the first time, having to prove your skills in this new industry. Is there anything, if you were to go back to the beginning, you would tell yourself?

Shona Chan (35:28):
Maybe I would've spoken to people in my network a little earlier, so I think I would've not been so focused on just applying for jobs on a job application platform. Maybe I would've started those conversations a little earlier because eventually I suppose that's the way in which I eventually got a successful job offer, but perhaps maybe start the conversations with people that you know a bit earlier, and it can be anyone. It could just be friends, family. It doesn't necessarily have to be someone in tech, but someone might know someone, and I know a lot of people who have gotten a job this way through a first degree connection kind of thing. So, yeah, that would be my advice to myself if I had to do it again.

Alex Booker (36:12):
When you wrote in Discord about your new job, you mentioned the Scrimba podcast and that you listened to a couple of episodes, this is the very end of the interview, I can indulge a little bit, I suppose, and just ask out of curiosity if there was any sort of advice in particular that you found helpful or managed to apply.

Shona Chan (36:30):
There's loads of good nuggets of advice from the Scrimba podcast. The LinkedIn stuff really helped me because as a doctor, you just don't have LinkedIn, and Stephanie's episode about LinkedIn was really helpful for me.

Alex Booker (36:45):
Stephanie Chu, I think, right?

Shona Chan (36:47):
Yes, that's right. Stephanie Chu. All the guests, they all have amazing stories of success, and I think a big factor in my eventually getting a job was listening to people's success stories a lot because I think if you want to do something and succeed at something that's maybe a bit challenging, it really helps to just basically psyche yourself and just listen to other people's success stories and make yourself believe that you can do it too.

Alex Booker (37:13):
Yeah, yeah, a hundred percent. That's why we're here.

Shona Chan (37:17):
Yeah, so it was incredibly helpful for me just hearing everyone's different backgrounds, and it's so diverse that the guests that are on the podcast I think is the real gem. So great job Alex and Jan.

Alex Booker (37:29):
Thank you. We've done 132 episodes that are live right now or something like that, and across that time there have been three doctors who became developers, and you're the third, by the way. The first doctor turned developer was Jefferson Tang. I interviewed him in 2022 back in April, and I also more recently spoke with Vanessa who was just a really inspiring character who was a doctor and switched to coding, and now, of course, you've got another fantastic interview under our belt today with another doctor turned developer. I was just wondering, did you hear those specific episodes by chance, and did it give you some more confidence that you could make the transition as well?

Shona Chan (38:09):
I must confess, I didn't listen to Vanessa's one. I think I missed hers, but I did listen to Jefferson, and, yes, it was nice to know that there were fellow medics out there who have made the transition and haven't let the sunk cost problem get in the way. So, yeah, it's nice to know that there are similar folk out there.

Alex Booker (38:30):
Super inspiring, and I really appreciate you reiterating that point about the sunken cost thing because of all the kind of industries I can think of and all the careers you can take, one of the industries or careers that takes the most training and time is becoming a doctor. So basically no matter what you've been doing in the past for however long, you can still make the shift to coding if it's something you really want to do.

Shona Chan (38:53):
Actually, the thing that helped me most about the sunk cost fallacy was that you have to consider the cost of not making a change as well. If that cost outweighs your sunk cost, then you should make a change.

Alex Booker (39:05):
Oh, that hits hard. That's a great point.

Shona Chan (39:09):
That really helped me get my head rounded, and I was like, "Yes, I see the cost if I don't make this change so I'm going to do it."

Alex Booker (39:16):
Shona, I appreciate that so much, and I appreciate you coming on the podcast as well. Thanks so much.

Shona Chan (39:21):
Thank you for having me.

Jan Arsenovic (39:24):
That was the Scrimba podcast episode 134. If you made it this far, subscribe. We are a weekly show, which means there's going to be a new episode coming your way next Tuesday. If you're just discovering the show, there is more than 130 great episodes for you in our backlog. Make sure to check out the show notes for all the resources from this episode and the ways to connect with Shona. Don't forget to check out her portfolio projects because they're really cool. The show is hosted by Alex Booker, and I'm Jan Arsenovic, the producer. You can find both of our Twitter handles in the show notes as well, and we'll be back next week.

Alex Booker (40:03):
It's so bad because when you said about playing music in the maternity ward, I started thinking of Salt and Pepper, where he is like, "Ah, push it."

Shona Chan (40:14):
That's so good. Yeah, I should add that one to the playlist.

Alex Booker (40:18):
No, no, no, no, no. I don't think they would like that very much actually.

Shona Chan (40:19):
No, probably not.