The Scrimba Podcast

Meet Amy Posten ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ! Amy was a veterinary technician for fifteen years before she decided to switch careers. First, she discovered freeCodeCamp while on maternity leave. Later, she joined a premium bootcamp but didn't feel quite ready to apply for coding jobs afterward, so she turned to Scrimba to polish her skills. Nowadays, she's a front-end engineer and instructor.

In this episode, you'll learn how to figure out what kind of job you want and what was a small change in her job-hunting approach that brought Amy immediate results. You'll discover what are the gaps in knowledge one might have after a bootcamp, and how you can make learning to code less lonely. Finally, Amy and Alex discuss generative AI tools and how you can use them in your job hunt.

๐Ÿ”— Connect with Amy
โฐ Timestamps
  • How Amy became a Veterinary Technician (01:32)
  • Maternity leave on freeCodeCamp, and a career change brought up by the pandemic (04:38)
  • Why Amy likes JavaScript, HTML, and CSS (06:59)
  • Why Amy decided to join a bootcamp (08:56)
  • The importance of getting to connect with people (11:16)
  • Social media break with Jan the Producer (12:43)
  • How to make learning to code less lonely (14:12)
  • Joining a bootcamp is like drinking from a fire hose (16:27)
  • Amy discovered Scrimba through her bootcamp! (18:31)
  • After the bootcamp, Amy also joined the Scrimba bootcamp (19:37)
  • Why Amy decided to start from scratch on Scrimba (21:35)
  • How Amy found her north star and became a teacher (24:48)
  • Amy changed her approach to job applications and got immediate results! (28:26)
  • Amy's reach-out strategy and how she got a job interview at the company she currently works at (31:52)
  • How to figure out what kind of job you want (35:11)
  • Amy's job interview (36:04)
  • How to use AI tools in your job hunt (40:22)
๐Ÿงฐ Resources Mentioned
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Creators & Guests

Alex Booker
Host of The Scrimba Podcast
Jan Gregory Arsenovic
Producer of the Scrimba Podcast

What is The Scrimba Podcast?

Learn from inspiring developers about how they found meaningful and fulfilling work that that also pays them well. On The Scrimba Podcast, you'll hear motivational advice and job-hunting strategies from developers who've been exactly where you are now. We talk to developers about their challenges, learnings, and switching industries in the hopes of inspiring YOU. This is the podcast that provides the inspiration, tools, and roadmaps to move from where you are to work that matters to you and uniquely fits your strengths and talents.

Amy Posten (00:00):
It was like night and day. Before, I would send out 50 plus applications in a week. I would be lucky if I got one email back to set something up to I started applying and I heard back from around 30% of all those jobs that I had applied for. I was floored.

Jingle (00:16):

Alex Booker (00:17):
That was Amy Posten, a veterinary technician who learned to code, landed her first role in tech, and six months later was just promoted already. I wanted to speak with Amy about her experience leaving 10 years of veterinary experience behind and how to stay motivated while you learn to code. It can be a lonely endeavor, but Amy found company and support by participating in a developer community, and in time became a respected and well-recognized member earning her some new opportunities.

Around this time, Amy participated in a premium coding bootcamp but didn't quite feel ready to apply for coding jobs and turned to Scrimba to polish her skills. Let's learn where the gaps were after the bootcamp so you can improve your self-directed study planning. You're going to really enjoy this conversation with Amy. She's so transparent and forthcoming about her experience. I certainly found it refreshing and relatable. Not only that, but Amy shares some tips that will bring you closer to your goal. For example, how to use ChatGPT to practice technical interviewing.

I'm your host, Alex Booker, and you are listening to the Scrimba Podcast. Amy, welcome to the show.

Amy Posten (01:32):
I'm going to age myself a little, but in the mid to late '90s when the internet first started to become a thing, I played around a little bit, like a lot of people did with Neopets. I had some really embarrassing anime related GeoCities websites, so I thought a little bit about getting into...

I guess then it wasn't even called web development. I guess I just thought about graphic design or something like that.

Alex Booker (01:56):
What did you end up doing professionally?

Amy Posten (01:57):
When I was a senior in high school, I had initially planned to go to a four-year college. But my father passed away and I had to help take care of my family, so I started working in the veterinary field as a kennel tech, so I worked in kennels. I cleaned cages and did all of the busy work around the veterinary hospital.

Eventually, I decided that I wanted to stick with that path. Through a combination of vocational on-the-job training, I became a veterinary technician. I think in the UK they're vet nurses. And so I did that for about 15 years until I decided to change careers.

Alex Booker (02:32):
Was there something that drew you to the kennel duties at the time?

Amy Posten (02:36):
Yeah, I'd always really enjoyed animals. I love animals and taking care of animals, and so I was just looking for a job that I wouldn't dislike doing. Because I had done some fast food type jobs in high school, and it wasn't fun.

I had the opportunity to work at the veterinary hospital, and I started from the ground level cleaning the kennels and eventually was to work my way up. I was actually working in corporate veterinary medicine when I left the field.

Alex Booker (03:03):
15 years. That's a long time to work one career, I feel like.

Amy Posten (03:07):
Yeah no, it was crazy. It's a thing now I feel like, especially with our generation where people can have two separate career paths in their lives. A lot of times our parents, they had one career path that they were stuck in from the time that they finished schooling until they retired. But we have a lot more options now.

Alex Booker (03:27):
I think it's also the case that just because of the internet, we see those options, right? When you grew up in a previous generation in a small town and everybody did what their parents did and so forth and so on, it just was the world they knew.

But then you come on the internet and you see, oh, it's possible to make a change. Oh, I could do this job that I'd never really imagined before if I just changed towns for example, or worked remotely more recently.

Amy Posten (03:50):
Right, exactly. Learning is so much easier now. It makes the transition between careers so much easier.

Yeah, it did. It was a long, good career, but I was ready to start a family and ready to do something new, so that was when I jumped into coding.

Alex Booker (04:05):
How did you arrive at that decision? Because sometimes we sense that something needs to change, but actioning that is not as easy as it sounds.

Amy Posten (04:13):
I had my daughter in 2019, and I was looking for something to do while caring for an infant. Because caring for an infant is very labor-intensive, but there's also a lot of sitting. You sit and you feed a baby and you sit and you hold a baby while they sleep, and I was like, "I can't just sit here. I have to do something."

My husband works in tech and he actually suggested, "Well, why don't you try learning to code?"

Alex Booker (04:36):
Is he a programmer as well?

Amy Posten (04:38):
Yeah, yeah. He works at a big tech company. That's why we live out in the Bay Area. He suggested that I start learning to code, and I played around on my maternity leave a little bit with freeCodeCamp. I went back to work after that.

And then of course it was 2019. All of a sudden 2020 hits, the pandemic. COVID was pretty stressful. Like with a lot of the service-related fields, it got hit pretty hard in the veterinary industry. I found myself working 50 to 60 hour weeks. I would leave for work at 5:30 in the morning and my daughter would be asleep, and then I would get home from work sometimes at 7:00 or 8:00 PM and she would be asleep again. And so I didn't see her and I was thinking it wasn't sustainable anymore for me and was thinking about what I could do.

I thought, "Well, I liked when I was on my maternity leave I really liked what I did through freeCodeCamp. That was a lot of fun." I thought, "But I don't know if I can really do that. I'm old." I mean I was less old then, but I was like, "I'm almost 35, I have a child. Maybe this isn't the space for me." But it was just an itch that I really needed to scratch, so I started playing around and doing more little projects on my own.

Alex Booker (05:51):
How are you doing this alongside the intense hours at work?

Amy Posten (05:54):
Just being awake and taking care of my daughter in the middle of the night while she was an infant, I needed something to do. And then just on the weekends, I really knew that I wanted to try and find something else. It was hard when you've dedicated so much of your life to one career to figure out, well, where can I go from here? What transferable skills do I have? Do I want to go back to college? Is that something that I want?

But I really liked coding. I really liked the projects that I'm doing. I had a lot of encouragement, like I said, from my husband who already worked in tech. I decided that I was going to spend a few months and see if I liked it and if I wanted to really do it. And then after three months, I decided that I would quit my job and then really go for it.

Alex Booker (06:36):
That's awesome. Totally different to the way you learned in your previous career.

Amy Posten (06:40):
Exactly. Especially at first before I decided to enroll in a bootcamp, it was really not very structured and I'm used to working with a lot of structure. That was an issue at first because you don't really know what direction to go in, what to learn. There's so many different platforms, that sort of a thing.

Alex Booker (06:57):
Amy, how about you take us through your learning journey a little bit?

Amy Posten (06:59):
I had started with freeCodeCamp on my maternity leave, so that's where I went back to at first.

But I found that I liked a little bit more video-based learning as I was going through that, so I then found a website called Treehouse where I spent a lot of my time right before I decided to go to a bootcamp. Doing Treehouse, that was when I really fell in love. I was like, "This is amazing. I love JavaScript. I love doing HTML and CSS. I really want to do this."

Alex Booker (07:25):
What did you love about it?

Amy Posten (07:26):
I liked the problem solving aspect. I know that it seems like maybe veterinary medicine and coding are two different things, but I liked that they both have a very logical approach to problem solving.

If you have a patient that you're caring for and the patient is ill, you go through in your mind a checklist of tasks on how you're going to take care of your patient, figure out what's going on and what's wrong. I liked that coding followed that same logic. That was what really drew me to it. I got the same satisfaction that I did out of completing a patient care task or figuring out what was going on with my patient as I did when I was coding.

Alex Booker (08:01):
Was there a creative component to it?

Amy Posten (08:03):
Yeah. Especially with front-end, I liked the visual aspect of the front-end code. I liked being able to see and get that immediate feedback. That's a lot with patient care and with taking care of animals, you get that feedback from the animals immediately. Whereas if you go into back-end coding, it's not always apparent what's going on.

But I felt with front end when I solved a problem or I debugged something, that feedback and your success is immediately visualized right on the screen. I enjoyed that.

Alex Booker (08:32):
Super gratifying, and really can accelerate your learning as well when you see the kind of output of what you just input quite quickly.

Amy Posten (08:39):
Yeah, exactly. That instant gratification gives you that rush, and I liked that a lot. I liked that I could see that I was learning something and it wasn't just like I was memorizing something from a book and just absorbing it. It was like I learned something and then I solved it, and then it was on the screen.

Alex Booker (08:56):
Where did you go from Treehouse?

Amy Posten (08:58):
I had spoken with a couple of friends who did traditional full stack bootcamps. It was 2019, so it was before all of these big tech layoffs started and they had done the bootcamps and got jobs pretty quickly.

Alex Booker (09:11):
It sounded promising, right?

Amy Posten (09:12):
Yeah. Yeah, it sounded promising and I didn't expect to just do the bootcamp and be handed a job, but they were both pretty successful and got jobs within three to six months. I thought, "This sounds good. I think I can dedicate my time to this." I discussed it with my family and I had a lot of support, so that was why I decided to do the full stack bootcamp. I wanted to be able to work with other people a little and be a member of a team because I missed that just learning by myself.

Alex Booker (09:40):
Yeah, it can be quite isolating at times.

Amy Posten (09:41):
Exactly, and I hadn't really found a sense of community at that point during my coding journey.

Alex Booker (09:48):
Can we talk about that a little bit? Because I think that is one of the best things about being in a company and having a job, you're just like you're not alone, right? You're sharing the problems with people, you have support. But obviously when you're teaching yourself to code and you're...

Well, you did have your husband, which is obviously great, but at the same time you had to do the work and you had these unique circumstances as well. How did you not feel super lonely? Sounds like a daft question, but I do think it can get a little bit lonely.

Amy Posten (10:13):
I feel like that was a big reason I decided to do the bootcamp. Even working through COVID because I was in a service-oriented profession and I was considered an essential worker, I was still going to work and seeing people in person. I really missed having interaction with people when I was learning to code. I loved the learning and I loved coding, but it was lonely.

My office was in the dark basement of our house, so I would be in the dark basement coding all day. I was looking for community, definitely.

Alex Booker (10:45):
Is that, do you think, part of your personality, that you like to be around people and collaborate with people?

Amy Posten (10:51):
Oh yeah, absolutely. I like sharing with people. I like learning together with other people. I felt like that was one of the things that I liked about working in my previous field was it was a big collaborative effort.

Really, that was something that I really missed when I was learning by myself.

Alex Booker (11:06):
Yeah, sharing in the successes and getting feedback and little spontaneous social things as well I really value. It sounds like hopefully you got some of this at the bootcamp when you made that transition.

Amy Posten (11:16):
Honestly, I learned a ton from the bootcamp. But I think that what I got the most out of it was just getting to connect with other people.

Alex Booker (11:24):
Yeah, I know. I know.

People, I've learned this over the years and it's so fascinating to me that when you do university or do a bootcamp and people rate what they got from the experience, it's very rarely the material or the education. It's usually more so the framework, the social aspect, and possibly even the professional networking.

Amy Posten (11:42):
Yeah, it was nice getting to meet people. It was nice having that shared experience where we were all learning something brand new and working really hard. It was pulling long 18-hour days where we were just coding

Alex Booker (11:56):
Really? By the way, was this a physical in-person bootcamp in your area or online?

Amy Posten (12:01):
I started in 2021, so this was during the pandemic.

Alex Booker (12:05):
Social distancing, everything online?

Amy Posten (12:07):
Yeah, social distancing. It was online, but we were on camera. We had lecture during the day, but then between lectures we would all just hang out in a breakout room type of space and work on our homework and projects at the same time simultaneously. Sometimes working together, but sometimes working on different things.

In spite of the pandemic and everything going on, it was really nice to have those connections with other people who were going through the same thing. I feel like that virtual learning didn't really affect the community at all. Because initially the bootcamp was to be an in-person thing, but the pandemic obviously changed that.

Jan Arsenovic (12:43):
Coming up, you're looking for a job? Here's how to use ChatGPT for it without getting caught.

Amy Posten (12:49):
Nine times out of 10, I'm going to know.

Jan Arsenovic (12:52):
Hello. I'm Jan, the producer. In every episode I go through your LinkedIn and Twitter posts mentioning the Scrimba podcast and highlight the coolest ones.

Emmanuel Julius shared what Dev Agrawal said about the sentiments around React server components. You have to learn something not because it's there, but because you want to use it to accomplish a specific task. That episode contains a lot of nuggets of wisdom like this. If you've missed it, I'll link to it in the show notes.

Lenny tweeted at Ian Douglas and wrote, "Thanks for the great insights about tech hiring on the Scrimba podcast. It was awesome." Fun fact, Ian Douglas was the first repeat guest on the Scrimba Podcast. Both episodes were really great, and I'll link to both of them in the show notes. The first one was about hiring and the other one was about tips for developers at a new job.

If you're enjoying our show and you want to support us and make sure we get to make more of it, the best thing you could do is to tell somebody about it, be it on socials, on Discord, or maybe in person. But if you do it online, if you do it on Twitter or LinkedIn, and if your posts contain the words Scrimba and podcast, we will find them. You'll get a shout-out right here on the show.

But for now, let's go back to the interview with Amy.

Alex Booker (14:12):
Do you think there are ways to bridge the gap between this kind of image you painted of being a bit lonely and coding in the base camp and bridging the gap from there to this more social environment where people have a shared problem, and even just company, while they code and work on projects and things?

Amy Posten (14:27):
Like I said in my bootcamp, when we would just hang out in the breakout rooms between classes, it was really nice. Sometimes we would all just have our mics muted and be listening to music and working on our projects. But if any of us got stuck on something or even just got lonely and wanted somebody to talk to, we could unmute and chat a little bit about that.

That was one of the great things Scrimba has in the Discord server audio chats where you can hop in and just audio chat with someone and hang out if someone shows up in the room. That's such a great option to just have that hangout space, and I think it really cuts down on the isolation that you can feel.

Alex Booker (15:02):
Yeah, it's funny because in the Scrimba Discord community, we have this it's called a power hour. A few times a day a bot opens up this... It's more of a screen sharing channel than a voice channel, actually less for communication, more for body doubling is the word for it, where you and the person next to you or on the screen share with you are working on a problem. You're doing it together. You have a time block and all this stuff.

That was something I coded. I coded that little Discord bot.

Amy Posten (15:28):
Oh, you made that? That's awesome.

Alex Booker (15:31):
Because of all the reasons you said, it is super productive to have that focus time alongside other people. I wondered at times, could you get this kind of social experience without doing a bootcamp?

I think the advantage of a bootcamp basically is that if other people are doing it full time as well, you are the priority. Everybody's priority is the same, and so you're going to show up consistently. I do think that's cool. But you can recreate a similar vibe, you could say, with the social aspect and the support aspect in an online community like the Scrimba Discord community.

Well, we should talk about that. Because I know you've played a big role in the Discord community and with the Scrimba bootcamp as well, and I want to hear a bit more about your transition from being at the bootcamp to being someone who's very much online in the community. But maybe you can finish the story I suppose, and tell us what came after the bootcamp, exactly.

Amy Posten (16:19):
I was in the bootcamp. I really enjoyed the experience. Like I said, it taught me a lot about how to learn a lot of things very, very quickly.

There's an analogy that I've heard people use really frequently about a coding bootcamp. It's like you're drinking from a fire hose. You have the fire hose, and it's shooting this water at you in a very large volume of water at extremely high pressure. It's sometimes knocking you over and you're getting wet, but you're not really getting to drink very much water.

Alex Booker (16:44):
Is that a good or a bad thing in your opinion?

Amy Posten (16:46):
It really helped me to figure out how to manage the way that I learned a lot of information very quickly. I learned enough to become proficient in the programming languages that we knew. I knew enough to get by, but I didn't necessarily become highly skilled at any of them, right? It gave me an idea of what I liked, what I wanted to learn more about, but it was just kind of I had general knowledge. We learned JavaScript and React and Ruby on Rails at that time, and I knew a little bit about all of them.

Alex Booker (17:18):
If I can make an observation, it's that when you start coding you don't really know what you don't know. You don't have a good sense of the landscape, like front end versus back end, Java versus JavaScript, what sort of related technologies you should be learning, whether that's a tool like TypeScript or a database like Postgres or something.

I think maybe the benefit of that fire hose approach is that even though you're not going to get the opportunity to go very deep into any of those things. You learn what's out there, almost like scanning the chapter list of a book. And then when you want to go deeper into something based on the problem you're trying to solve, could be that you're building a project, could be that you're optimizing your skill gap for a job description, well, at least now you've got a sense of where you are and hopefully a bit of an idea about where to go deeper.

However, knowing where to go in order to get that extra information and how to go about that isn't always obvious. How did you approach it?

Amy Posten (18:08):
During the bootcamp, I fell in love with JavaScript. I really liked JavaScript. It's going to sound really nerdy, but I liked everything about it. I liked the way that it worked. I liked that you could use it on the front end or the back end. I liked the way it looks. I find it very visually appealing too, just the way that the code looks, and I knew that I wanted to work with JavaScript coming out of bootcamp.

I didn't really feel very drawn to the back end. Like I said, I liked that almost instant visual cue that you got, that you've solved a problem because you could see it. I knew that I wanted to invest more time learning front end. That's what led me to Scrimba.

It's funny. In the bootcamp, the main resource that they gave us outside of the class materials for learning React was Bob's React course-

Alex Booker (18:57):
Oh, you're kidding?

Amy Posten (18:57):
.... on Scrimba. This is in my bootcamp in 2021. They were like, "Okay, so these videos that we've prepared for you, they're very good. But what you should really do is you should go to this website and learn from this man," this man being Bob. That was how I got my initial exposure to Scrimba was learning React from Bob.

I remembered that, and I really enjoyed it. I thought that the platform was really cool, so that was why I decided to go back to Scrimba. Started picking up a few more things about the front end and really polishing those skills because I knew I did not feel ready to apply for a job.

Alex Booker (19:32):
How long was the bootcamp, by the way?

Amy Posten (19:34):
It was 16 weeks, so almost four months.

Alex Booker (19:37):
If I'm not mistaken, you did the Scrimba bootcamp as well?

Amy Posten (19:40):
Yeah, so I had, like a lot of people, a million monthly subscriptions to every coding service available, right? I have Udemy, Coursera, I had Codeacademy Pro.

Alex Booker (19:52):
Oh, you were treating them like Pokemon cards, trying to catch them all.

Amy Posten (19:55):
Yeah, and I didn't really know where to focus. But I found that I really enjoyed Scrimba, and I read about the Scrimba bootcamp. I saw that at that time, Guil Hernandez, he was in charge of it. I had been familiar with his coursework at his previous-

Alex Booker (20:09):
From Treehouse job.

Amy Posten (20:10):
... and the content that he had created at Treehouse, right. I thought, "Oh. Well, if this guy is running the Scrimba bootcamp, that might be something that I wanted to look into." The pricing is very reasonable.

Alex Booker (20:21):
Well, to be fair, Amy, you just enrolled in a 16-week bootcamp, so I'm sure the Scrimba bootcamp seemed like a steal by comparison.

Amy Posten (20:28):
It's true, but I found that if I canceled almost all of my other subscriptions, that price was actually more, at that time you paid for the Scrimba bootcamp monthly, than the monthly price of the Scrimba bootcamp.

Alex Booker (20:40):
Right. Except in addition to the material, you were getting the community and the teacher to guide you along.

I always feel a bit careful not to make the Scrimba podcast about Scrimba, but in this case it does sound like it was a really good fit for you.

Amy Posten (20:53):
Oh, yeah. No, it was absolutely the right move. Like I said, I wanted a little bit more guidance and I wanted the community. I just was like, "Oh, I'll just cancel these 12 subscriptions that I have."

Alex Booker (21:02):
How did the Scrimba bootcamp experience compare to the 16-week bootcamp? Because I'm really curious, obviously it was the same course if you were watching Bob at the bootcamp and then watching Scrimba modules via Guil's bootcamp here at Scrimba.

But then you also hopefully had the weekly sessions and the code reviews and the private channel where... You know I said about how it's everybody's priority when you're doing a cohort like a 16 week bootcamp? I suppose it's similar and a lot of people are investing a bit more to have access to that community. How did those compare?

Amy Posten (21:35):
There were differences and similarities because obviously everyone was working at their own pace through the front-end career path curriculum. I decided, even though I had coding knowledge, I started from the very beginning with the Scrimba bootcamp. I thought, "Okay, I'm just going to go back-

Alex Booker (21:51):
Oh, interesting.

Amy Posten (21:52):
... and start from step one."

Alex Booker (21:53):
Was that beneficial to you?

Amy Posten (21:54):
Oh, yeah since it was more of a deep dive in front end. At my bootcamp, we spent two days learning HTML, right?

Alex Booker (22:03):
I don't think you can use the word learning.

Amy Posten (22:05):
Right? A website that's just like a million divs just all thrown together, and that was what we knew how to create. We didn't know anything about accessibility and using semantically correct HTML elements, anything like that. We just threw everything together with a bunch of divs and that's what you did.

I found starting from scratch with the front-end career path, I filled in a lot of the knowledge gaps that I had. I did get a lot from it starting over. Not everyone who chooses to go that route starts over, but I found that it really helped me-

Alex Booker (22:39):
I can relate to that a little bit-

Amy Posten (22:39):
... to fill in the gaps.

Alex Booker (22:41):
Sometimes you do learn a concept well enough, but you can't fully grasp how it works.

I especially think this is true for programming languages. You use expressions and statements all the time in your JavaScript. But if you learn through in quite an expedited way, you might not really understand how expressions work and the impact of parentheses on the expression and where it starts and where it stops and what gets returned.

It sounds like a little bit unnecessary to go into that detail, but I find when you learn that next time you're learning a JavaScript feature like arrow functions or something, you recognize the structure of an arrow function based on the structure of the tokens and the code. There's an expression. It can work that way. If you're debugging something, you have that hook to hang on.

Yeah, I do think there's a lot of benefit in sometimes going to those fundamentals because it makes you feel super comfortable. Even though it feels like you're slowing down, you speed up over time, I find.

Amy Posten (23:36):
I felt that I knew how to produce a lot of things and make things happen on a page or in an app, but I didn't know why they worked the way that they worked.

I wanted to know why. I get in a coding bootcamp they don't have time to explain all those nuances to you because you're just trying to learn as much as you can as quickly as possible. But I think going back and starting from the beginning really helped me grasp why certain things needed to be done the way that they were done, as opposed to just saying, "This is how it's done, and do it this way and it'll produce a result." But you have no idea why.

Alex Booker (24:14):
I love that about coding. At some point you're like, "Oh, why does it work?" Why is the div censored? You're like, "Oh, okay, flexbox works this way," and okay, but... You keep asking why until you don't ask why anymore, you're not like, oh, why does the web browser work this way? Why does the programming language get turned into zeroes and ones?

It is just amusing to me, but we're so curious until we're not because at some point it just becomes too much to understand. Finding that fine line between understanding everything to really prop up your ability versus what becomes academic at some point, it's interesting.

We spoke about your learning path, but I happen to know that you got a bit more into the teaching side of things at some point. Talk to me a little bit about that transition and why you were motivated to help other students.

Amy Posten (25:00):
Yeah, we talked a lot about community, and I've always enjoyed giving back and sharing what I learned. When I really like doing something, I get really, really excited about it and I want to tell everyone about it. And so I was drawn a little bit to teaching in that way.

But also in my role previously when I was a veterinary technician, I worked in training and curriculum development for other veterinary technicians for a long time, so I had some teaching and training experience through my previous career. And so when I was basically done with the Scrimba front-end career path and I'm looking for a job, and I'm applying and applying and applying and not really getting anywhere. I sent out hundreds and hundreds of job applications. In our weekly check-ins or just in the Discord channels, I was like, "I don't know why I'm not getting anything back. What am I doing wrong?"

I was just like, what is it? They call it the spray and pray application strategy where I was just applying for everything. I had a conversation with a few people in the bootcamp. What is it that you actually want to do? At first, that answer was kind of, "Well, I want to have a job." I want to work. It was Guil brought it up. He said, "You really like contributing in the community."

I think it's still in the Scrimba bootcamp for the code reviewers. I made a video for the students on how to submit their projects for a code review. I think it's still in there, and I just made that because so many people were asking questions and I was like, "Well, this is needed." Guil said, "Have you ever thought about maybe teaching?" My initial response was, "Well, no, I hadn't really thought about teaching. I'm not a JavaScript expert. I don't have a computer science degree. Why would anyone want to learn from me?"

What I figured out was you don't need to be an expert to teach. You just need to be excited about what you're teaching and excited to share what you're learning and willing to learn with your students. That pushed me to start looking for roles where I would teach coding. That was where I started to get hits and I would get callbacks because I had the previous teaching experience and training experience from my last career, and I had enthusiasm for wanting to share what I had learned. It didn't necessarily matter that I wasn't an expert, which was nice.

Alex Booker (27:27):
You were helping out to Scrimba by teaching students as well, I guess. Which meant that you had essentially a bit of a track record as well specific to coding, which probably would've helped.

Amy Posten (27:36):
Yeah, I got involved with doing code reviews for the Scrimba bootcamp. I've occasionally led little breakout sessions that we had in the breakout rooms with live coding, and I really liked all of that. It was nice to be able to share that experience when I was applying for jobs because it was like I wasn't going in cold having never really taught other people to code before.

I think that that helps, and I think the fact that I was enthusiastic and excited about teaching people because not everyone wants to teach people, right? There's nothing wrong with that, but I feel like to be good at teaching you have to be excited about teaching and learning.

Alex Booker (28:12):
Well, yeah. I mean, if I distilled your tactic here is to instead of going the same path as everyone else, find a way to marry that coding experience with something that's a bit more unique or specialized or niche, you could say. In your case, it was teaching.

What did it feel like going from applying a lot and not hearing back to then... I wonder if it was a night and day type of thing where you change tact. Or if it crept up on you a little bit, like, oh, you're starting to get more callbacks, more interest, that kind of thing. When did you get a sense that this new strategy was working out for you?

Amy Posten (28:45):
It was almost immediate. When I started tailoring my resume and my cover letters and looking for more specific roles, it was like night and day. Before, I would send out 50 plus applications in a week. I would be lucky if I got one email back to set something up to I started applying and being more intentional and specific, and I heard back from around 30% of all those jobs that I had applied for the teaching or teaching-adjacent type jobs.

I was floored that that's what happened. It was completely unexpected, at least for me because I had just been applying so much. And then going and just applying for 20 jobs and being more intentional about applying for those jobs and then hearing back from six different places, it was crazy.

I know that that's not how it happens for everyone, but it was very shocking.

Alex Booker (29:37):
My mind's going a few places with this.

The first thing I think about a lot is tech startups. Scrimba is a startup. I work at Scrimba. I'm really passionate about tech startups, and there's this idea in tech startups called product market fit, which is like, okay, you've built the application, you've done some marketing, but you don't exactly have that critical traction. That means that you're really sure that your business is solving a real problem for people. They say you have a product market fit when it feels like your customer's pulling the product from you. They're asking for features. They're asking to make new accounts or pay more money or whatever, and maybe that's reflected in the revenue and stuff.

I love having language like that to describe a key milestone in a startup. I'm drawing a parallel, I think, between that and what we could call employee company fit or something like that. Just this idea of in a startup, you'll keep iterating, you'll keep trying new things. It'll feel like you're talking into a void for the longest time, and then you'll see a glimmer of light from that black hole. You're like, "Oh, okay." Maybe it doesn't manifest into anything, but you keep trying.

And then the reason I'm drawing this parallel, I think, is because it's weird how it happens in a matter of weeks or even sometimes overnight. The graphs just go up into the right and you reach this. But you could have quit the day before, the week before, the month before when you saw nothing happening, but you kept on pushing, and then you found that traction. There's just something there about the perseverance of it, but also this idea of finding your fit as a candidate.

Sadly, I don't think the most efficient way to find your fit as a candidate is to just go super broad. Be intentional. You can still play the numbers a little bit, but being intentional about what is it that I've done in the past that could be relevant to a role today. Or what am I uniquely enthusiastic about where I can demonstrate that potential to an employer?

It might also take another creative form, which is the avenue through which you apply, right? Maybe if everyone else is applying on LinkedIn, I'm going to think of something a bit more original than reaching out to the recruiter. But maybe you like open source, so the way you get the attention is by finding the open source version of the company you are inspired to work at as product, like an SDK. You can create some GitHub issues and earn some good faith.

Maybe you see what I'm the lines in which along I thinking.

Amy Posten (31:52):
Yeah, the company that I ended up working for and I work for now, if it was... If you have LinkedIn Premium, you can see who posted the role. I would always apply through the company website number one.

Alex Booker (32:02):
As opposed to LinkedIn?

Amy Posten (32:04):
Yeah, as opposed to LinkedIn just because I heard that that can be more effective.

And then number two, every single time that I saw a job posted where you could see the recruiter or the person involved who posted it, I would send them a message. That wasn't always effective. I'm not someone who's good at social media or particularly comfortable with it, but I just had to wrap my head around the fact that the worst thing that could happen with me messaging one of these people who posted a job was them not responding to me, which I had sent out hundreds of job applications before and no one responded to me. I might as well just put myself out there and message someone and see if I can hear back.

That was how I got an interview with the company that I work for now. I applied through their website, and I also reached out to the person who posted the job on LinkedIn. Just sent them basically a summary. It was a shorter version of my cover letter and a LinkedIn message, and within a day I got a message back on LinkedIn that said, "Hey, email this person to set up your first interview."

Alex Booker (33:04):
What would you say in those messages?

Amy Posten (33:05):
I talked about a little bit. The company that I work for now is bootcamp, and we also do upskill programs for people who are unemployed and underemployed. A lot of different teaching people about tech in the community, and I shared my journey a little bit, just a little bit of a blurb about how I changed careers. How I had taught previously in my career and was excited to transfer those skills.

Alex Booker (33:34):
You really tailored it?

Amy Posten (33:35):
Yeah, yeah. I felt like I could be a good fit for their company, and that resonated with them.

Alex Booker (33:40):
And their response?

Amy Posten (33:41):
The response was it was pretty short. It was, "Oh, you seem like you might be a good fit. Here, reach out to my director of operations and set up an interview." That was basically it.

Alex Booker (33:49):
Nice. Yeah, perfect. No more no less than what you needed.

Amy Posten (33:52):

Alex Booker (33:53):
No, I really like that. I appreciate the level of detail because I think for many of us trying to reach out to people, especially for the first time, it's not always easy to know what to say.

But if I could distill what you said and reflect it back, it's like try and match up what they're looking for with what you have to offer the best you can. Make it as brief as you can as well. Make it as short as possible, but not shorter is what I would say. You could have pasted your cover letter, but you took a moment to adapt it for the medium, which was a LinkedIn DM, so that's good advice.

Amy Posten (34:24):
Yeah, and I think it was easier once I started applying for fewer jobs when I was being more intentional that I could spend more time on a job application, whereas opposed to applying to 50 plus jobs a week...

Alex Booker (34:39):
It's exhausting.

Amy Posten (34:39):
Yeah, you don't really have time to write a nice cover letter or really research-

Alex Booker (34:45):
We are putting the flag in the ground right now: like quality over quantity every time. That has to be the way.

Amy Posten (34:51):
It's not to say if you see a job on LinkedIn that is easy apply, go ahead and click the easy apply button obviously because it's one click. But I feel like where I really found success was going out of my way and looking for those jobs that I really could match with and being more intentional with those applications.

Alex Booker (35:11):
Maybe that's also the work you have to do to figure out what you want to do as well, I think. Because when you go and look at jobs through that lens, you're going to see some jobs that you're like, "Oh, I could see myself working here." Sometimes you get very excited. You're like, "Oh, I really hope I hear back from them."

When you get that feeling, you're on the right track I think because you know found something that's resonating.

Amy Posten (35:30):
The career coach at the bootcamp that I work in now, I heard her tell a student the other day, "Just go and search job descriptions. Think about what your ideal is in a company, and then just do a Google search for a job description that matches what you want."

That might help you to figure out what sort of jobs to apply for because not everyone has that moment where they know clearly what path they want to take in tech. But that can definitely be helpful is to think about the ideal job description for what you want to do kind of go from there.

Alex Booker (36:04):
How did you prepare for the job interview?

Amy Posten (36:07):
I did a bit of LeetCoding, like everyone. Not a whole lot.

Alex Booker (36:10):
Was it useful?

Amy Posten (36:12):
No, it wasn't really. I just felt it was one of those things that you feel like you have to do. For this, it was actually a really good interview process. I had like a screening, more behavioral interview with the person who was the director of operations for the company, and then I had two coding interviews with some other instructors.

I found that the coursework that I did through my bootcamp and through Scrimba was enough to prepare me for those coding interviews. I had a very relatively simple, straightforward data structures and algorithms type problem in my first coding interview. And then the second part of that interview was just debugging a React app and explaining why... I had to open up the developer tools in the console and they said, "Okay, well given these errors, how would you fix this app?" That was super easy. It was nice to have a conversation about that. I felt like because I had done that deeper dive in front end, I could say, "Well, okay, this error is coming up for this reason," and then they were impressed by that.

The second interview was for the first part of it, they just asked me how I would explain a concept to a student.

Alex Booker (37:21):
What was the concept?

Amy Posten (37:22):
In React, every element has to have a unique key, and that's a common error that comes up. It won't break your code if every element doesn't have that unique key, but it's not best practices, right?

That error came up in the console and they asked me about that, right? Why does every element need to have a unique key in React?

Alex Booker (37:40):
Why does every element need to have a unique key in React?

Amy Posten (37:43):
It's so that the virtual dom knows what element that you're accessing. I felt like that was a good and a fair problem to ask about. It wasn't them asking some kind of obscure binary tree, reverse a link list.

Alex Booker (37:58):
Which is always what you hear, isn't it? You hear all these LeetCoding stories, all these whiteboard interviews, but I think it's both a slightly different time. I remember watching YouTube videos of whiteboard interviews released by Google 10 years ago, and obviously they still do to some extent. But the industry has changed a little bit in feedback from candidates. They want the interviews to be a bit more realistic of what they might be doing on a day-to-day basis.

The industry has changed a lot. The segmentation of the industry, I should say. If you're a back-end distributed systems engineer or you're a back-end developer at Google and some fan company where they put an emphasis, this diagram culture, then yeah, sure. You still might. If you're working at a startup or you're working at a company that's teaching coding and stuff, probably you're going to be looking at quite a different interview process to the LeetCode whiteboard type of stuff you might've seen before.

Amy Posten (38:50):
It's funny that you said that because my husband, he's a researcher at a FAANG company, and I was talking to him about... I remember when he was interviewing, he had eight interviews over the course of six months when he was interviewing where he was before.

Alex Booker (39:03):
It's wild, isn't it? Yeah.

Amy Posten (39:04):
I remember it taking so long. To me, it was such a stressful and miserable process because he'd have one interview and he would do well, and we would think, "Oh, this is when the job offer is going to come." And then they were like, "Oh, no. Well, actually, in four weeks you need to have an interview with this person," right?

But I was talking to him and I was like, "A lot of these roles that I'm interviewing for have these Leet-style coding interviews and whiteboarding, and I just feel like that's not ever going to be something that I'm doing on a day-to-day basis." He said, "Well yeah, you're not going to be doing anything theoretical. You're going to be building web apps."

I feel like at least for the roles that I was looking for, being asked to do things that were more practical was more appropriate. Being able to do some basic data structures and algorithms and problem solving is great because it just shows how you think through things. But like I said, what am I going to do with a binary tree on a daily basis?

Alex Booker (40:00):
I know. It doesn't make sense for the environment, I could say.

Did AI and generative AI tools play a role at all in your coding and job interviewing journey?

Amy Posten (40:10):
Those were pretty new when I was interviewing and going through that process. I used Grammarly a lot.

Alex Booker (40:16):
Yeah. Funny, I used to use Grammarly, but now I just ask ChatGPT to review my writing. It's was so bad for Grammarly as a business.

Amy Posten (40:22):
ChatGPT didn't come out until I was already at my job. I definitely use it now to automate some of my tasks and to just answer general questions for me on a daily basis. I've done some little coding projects with it, and obviously it's something that my students make use of.

Alex Booker (40:41):
Can it help with the interviewing as whole, do you think? Practicing interviewing, for example?

Amy Posten (40:46):
Oh yeah, absolutely.

Before I got promoted at my current job, I was playing around with the idea of looking for jobs again, and I was using ChatGPT to prepare me for interviews, where I would just feed it like a job description. I would go to the company webpage, and I would feed it a little bit of information that I copy pasted off the company webpage.

I would say, "You are a technical recruiter for this company. Here's all the information for the company. Give me some interview questions," right? That's definitely helpful. I think it's great, and I think that it could definitely, at this point, it would've been so helpful with cover letters. Because when I was applying, I would spend an hour writing and tailoring each cover letter for a specific company. But I feel like with ChatGPT, you could cut down on that time by using it to write a general cover letter for you and then going back and tailoring it yourself.

Alex Booker (41:36):
Yeah, that tailoring part.

Amy Posten (41:37):
I don't like the idea of completely leaning on AI. I feel like that takes away the personal touch, and that's what I tell my students.

Alex Booker (41:47):
These days I can't be a hundred percent sure, but I can sniff when something was generated by ChatGPT and I don't like it.

Amy Posten (41:53):
Oh, yeah. I tell my students, nine times out of 10, I'm going to know if you're using ChatGPT for this. Because I see them in class every day, and I see the way that they speak and the way that they write, and even the way that they write code on the fly because everyone has their own style.

But then if you use ChatGPT for something, ChatGPT has its own style, right? It has its very AI style that's very copy and paste. At least at this point, there's a very clear distinction between when someone is doing something themselves and injecting their own personality and style in and what ChatGPT will produce.

Alex Booker (42:30):
To your point about tailoring, oftentimes I will use AI to help me do the first part of the thinking, which is like, oh, what are the points I want to say? What are the points that I haven't considered? Sometimes it'll generate something that I just forgot about and I'm like, "Oh, okay." If it's done a good enough pass, I'll start editing that text. But I'll always edit it quite heavily, and frankly start from scratch a lot of the time.

Yeah. By the way, congrats on the promotion. That's awesome to hear.

Amy Posten (42:53):
Oh, thank you.

Alex Booker (42:54):
Yeah. Amy, thank you so much for taking the time to come on and tell us more about your story. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Amy Posten (42:58):
No, this has been great. The Scrimba Podcast was one of my favorite resources and something that really motivated me during my job hunt, so I appreciate it. I'm really excited that I got to participate.

Alex Booker (43:10):
It's awesome to have you. Amy, thank you so much.

Amy Posten (43:12):
Thank you.

Jan Arsenovic (43:15):
That was the Scrimba Podcast episode 150. If you made it this far, please subscribe. You can find us wherever you listen to podcasts. If you're feeling super supportive, you can also leave us a rating or review in your podcast app of choice.

The show is hosted by Alex Booker. I've been Jan, the producer. Keep coding and we'll see you next week.