The Scrimba Podcast

🎙 About the episode

Meet Zuza Grońska 🇵🇱🇳🇱! Zuza is a recently hired new developer with a previous career in social media marketing in the music industry. She's also a Polish transplant who moved to the Netherlands during the pandemic. She craved a career change, and when it turned out that all of her work friends were from the software development team, she put two and two together and decided to learn to code. She landed her first dev job after only four months of intense studying! 

Zuza has ADHD, which can be a hindrance and a superpower. In this episode, she talks about the importance of spreading awareness of ADHD and neurodiversity in general. You'll also learn how she approached her portfolio projects, why you should think like a marketer, and how you can stand out in a world where every new developer has a unit converter in their portfolio. Zuza shares how she approached learning to code, what kept her going when she felt unmotivated, why she wanted to leave Poland, and why a career in social media marketing can be draining even though it sounds glamorous. 

🔗 Connect with Zuza

🔗 Timestamps

  • How Zuza started coding in the early 2000s, but never pursued coding (02:26)
  • How misogyny plaid a part in Zuza's career choices (04:21)
  • Zuza worked in social media marketing, until she realized it was time for a change (05:46)
  • How Zuza approached learning to code (spoiler alert: hyperfocus!) (07:30)
  • Community Break with Jan the Producer (08:54)
  • Following schedules, and good and bad sides of ADHD (11:35)
  • How Zuza kept herself motivated (14:25)
  • How Zuza approached her porfolio and went beyond the stretch goals with her porftolio projects (18:45)
  • How to think about your projects like a marketer (19:56)
  • How Zuza applied for a job, even though the job ad was in Dutch and she didn't speak it (24:39)
  • Why Zuza wanted to leave Poland (and eventually moved to the Netherlands) (29:24)
  • Zuza's new job (31:22)
  • Zuza's interview process (32:34)
  • Quick-fire questions! (33:26)
  • Zuza's tech interview (36:39)
  • Zuza became a CSS expert! (37:45)
  • Working with ADHD (40:17)
  • Zuza only got diagnosed with ADHD two years ago (44:10)
  • Why spreading ADHD awareness is important (45:12)

🧰 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.

Zuza Grońska (00:00):
My forgetfulness is definitely the worst thing about my ADHD. Thankfully, I got a habit, I suppose, of writing nice commit messages. So if I need to reference something, I just check my GitHub and there it is.

Alex Booker (00:17):
Hello and welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show I interviewed 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 Zuza, who took an intense approach to learning to code and landed her first dev job in a matter of months. Originally from Poland, Zuza worked as a social media marketer in the music industry. And even though that sounds really cool, Zuza decided the whole situation wasn't right for her. It turns out Poland is not the most progressive place for ambitious young women and social media marketing is a grind to say the least. You might not always personally care or even agree with the work, and with very number driven metrics, it can be quite a draining environment compared to the joy of solving useful problems with smart people using code.

So Zuza made a change to become a programmer, and this is the story about that change. We talk about moving from Poland to Holland, even though Zuza doesn't speak a lick of Dutch. Not only that, but she applied for a job listed in Dutch and she got it. We speak about Zuza's approach to creating a beautiful and interesting portfolio that made her stand out and her intense approach to studies. Zuza was diagnosed with ADHD in her 20s, and all of a sudden everything kind of made sense. It turns out many programmers have or exhibit traits of ADHD, and that's a double-edged sword.

Zuza in particular, experiences bouts of intense hyperfocus. That's one of the reasons she could code for 10, 12 hours a day. However, that can also mean neglecting her basic needs while she's consumed with interesting CSS problems, for example. If you've ever suspected yourself of being neurodivergent or just looking for productivity tips to stay focused, this is a great episode for you. It's a very inspiring, brave story, littered with actionable nuggets of advice. So without any further ado, you are listening to The Scrimba Podcast. I'm Alex Booker, let's get into it.

Zuza Grońska (02:26):
The idea of programming has always been something I've kind of flirted with, but never really committed to it. I like to say that my whole history with coding started when I was like 10 years old, I suppose. It was the early 2000s, so we just had Pascal, and so really bad HTML tables. And I had a blog about my dog that I wanted to have a custom theme for, you could say. So that's when I started learning HTML and more like stealing from other people's blogs.

Alex Booker (03:03):
This was a time before Instagram probably, so you had to make a website to share photos of your dog.

Zuza Grońska (03:09):
Way before, like 10 years before Instagram.

Alex Booker (03:12):
That's really cool.

Zuza Grońska (03:13):
That's when I started learning HTML. And I stuck to HTML, and then later CSS, when I needed them for either some hobby projects. Not really for school because they didn't really teach that stuff at school yet. I started school when I was seven, so the year 2000. We had the first IT classes when I was in sixth grade, I suppose.

Alex Booker (03:40):
Where did you go to school?

Zuza Grońska (03:41):
In Poland. And we literally just did Microsoft Word and MS Paint and nothing else. But, like I said, I had various blogs and other hobby fan sites, websites for either my favorite artists. So it was always somewhere there. And I did do some HTML and CSS in some jobs I had, but I really committed to having this as my career end of last year, so less than a year ago.

Alex Booker (04:16):
What were you doing between school and last year, when you committed to learning to code?

Zuza Grońska (04:21):
Yeah, unfortunately, coming from Poland and also from the early 2000s, misogyny was a very big thing and I was always discouraged to pursue a career in any kind of technology really, due to my gender, and was both by my parents. And I especially remember this one guy who taught IT in middle school and he literally made fun of me for liking HTML, which was ridiculous.

Alex Booker (04:51):
Oh, that's ridiculous.

Zuza Grońska (04:52):
I was always pushed into studying English because I was good at English, so I got a degree in English as a foreign language. And didn't really do anything with that degree because I hate kids, so I didn't want to teach them, and translating was boring. So somehow I got into working in marketing in the music industry, and I worked in the music industry in marketing for a few years. During COVID, when basically the whole life music industry closed down, I was unfortunately let go, so I switched a bit and worked in video games for a year. Then moved to the Netherlands, got back into the music industry, into marketing, and then I decided I hate marketing and I don't ever want to do it again. That's how I made the decision to start coding professionally.

Alex Booker (05:46):
So what were you doing at companies like TicketSwap and Good Old Games? Was it all marketing-type stuff?

Zuza Grońska (05:52):
My, let's say specialty, was always social media, so I was running the Instagram accounts, making memes, stuff like that.

Alex Booker (06:02):
Yeah, it's a really tough gig, isn't it? Because often when it comes to memes and great content on social media, it's kind of authentic in a way. The inspiration strikes at different times. But I think when you do it commercially, you really have to be on it to write stuff and produce stuff every single day, and I'm sure it gets really tough and probably not all that fulfilling.

Zuza Grońska (06:22):
Yeah, it's really soul sucking in a way, because you know that you have KPIs and goals to meet and everything has to be proven by likes and profits and everything, so it stops being genuine. Especially when you have to promote stuff like a game or a music artist that you dislike. So I just kind of got really, really burnt out of all that.

Alex Booker (06:52):
So you were looking to make a change. How did you arrive at coding?

Zuza Grońska (06:56):
Well, in my last job, my whole friend group was basically the engineering team. And sometimes they would tell me about what they're doing and I was like, "Oh, that sounds so exciting." And they all started kind of pushing me in that direction and guess it worked. But actually, one of my friends really wanted me to go into backend, but I was like, "No." And I arrived in frontend, yes.

Alex Booker (07:21):
Obviously, you'd done some tinkering with code and stuff when you were younger, building various websites.

Zuza Grońska (07:26):
Yeah. I would say I had a very good foundation to start.

Alex Booker (07:30):
So how did you go about taking that foundation and building a professional skillset? Because sometimes it's hard to be a hobbyist, but then to write professional code and feel super ready to apply for jobs and things, that's a whole process. So how did you go about doing that?

Zuza Grońska (07:46):
Well, I never really felt ready for anything. I still don't feel ready, and I am battling a massive imposter syndrome. Why am I even hired? Five months ago, I didn't know what a paragraph is. I didn't know what a paragraph was, but I didn't know how to style it well. As for my study schedules and everything, I have the major advantage. That's kind of a double-edged sword in a way because I have ADHD. So when I decided I wanted to code, I got super, super excited about it. And just for four months straight, I hyper-focused on just coding. I left my job at the time and I was privileged enough and fortunate enough not to have to work for those months. So I would wake up in the morning, open my laptop, start coding, then maybe eat something at some point, code again and then go to bed. So I didn't have a plan because my whole day was just this.

Jan Arsenovic (08:54):
Coming up, how Zuza applied for a job in Dutch, even though she didn't speak it.

Zuza Grońska (08:58):
I can say good morning in Dutch. Maybe it'll be fine.

Jan Arsenovic (09:01):
How to think about your portfolio as if you were a marketer.

Zuza Grońska (09:05):
Who wants another unit converter?

Jan Arsenovic (09:07):
And more about studying with ADHD. But first, hello, I'm Jan, I'm the producer of this show, and this is the segment where I read some of your social media posts about the podcast as well as some of your reviews from your favorite podcast apps. Andras Ladino Tweeted, "Just finished listening to the latest Scrimba Podcast and it was amazing. Lou Hovie provides such a great insight on how intrinsic motivation, attitude, and determination are key to make it in today's tech job market. Definitely give it a listen." Thank you.

Scroll Tweeted, "The last time I listened to The Scrimba Podcast was when Angie Jones was given tips on how to research on what the industry or recruiters are looking for. Now, I've listened to all the episodes I couldn't catch up, and trust me, they are insightful. Scrimba is the best." Welcome back. That's like four months worth of podcasts. And Tweets like this are the reason we keep making the show during the summer.

And last but definitely not least, here's a review from Apple Podcasts left by somebody from the United States around two months ago. It says, "Scrimba number one. While I have felt lonely navigating the self-taught route, Scrimba is like a good friend or mentor that is always there for me. Their podcasts are extremely helpful and have made me feel like becoming a developer is achievable through research, hard work, and consistency. I really appreciate hearing others' stories because it makes me feel less alone and more supported. Thank you, Scrimba team." Well, thank you for these kind words and I hope your coding journey has been smooth sailing.

If you would like to support the show and get a shout-out, like these folks just did, either post about it on Twitter or LinkedIn or leave us a rating or review in your podcast app of choice. You can find the show wherever you get your podcasts. And if that place supports ratings or reviews, we would really appreciate if you left this one or the other or both. And if you're posting about us on social media, as long as your post contains the words Scrimba Podcast, we will find it. Word of mouth is the best way to support a podcast that you like, and the more people hears about this podcast, the bigger and better guests we will be able to get on the show. Thank you in advance. And now we're back to the interview with Zuza.

Alex Booker (11:35):
There are certain students who thrive on a study schedule. Maybe they make a timetable or something and they're like, "9:00 AM until 10:00 AM, watch Scrimba. 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM, delete code, break." Then the next thing, projects, more Scrimba, whatever. But I feel sometimes if you are the kind of person where you struggle to focus on something, but then when you find that focus it's contagious, you don't want to leave that zone, so you just keep going deeper and deeper. It kind of throws the whole schedule out the window because you're not really totally in control of when you're going to focus and it's not super predictable when you're going to get that focus. So it sounds like for you, you just had to capitalize on those opportunities and go as deep as you can.

Zuza Grońska (12:16):
Yes. I am completely unable to follow any kinds of schedules. I did block off study blocks in my Google calendar, but those were useful mostly to remind me that I need to take a break. I would use the Pomodoro timers, 25 minutes coding, then five minutes break, and then I would notice them like three hours in.

Alex Booker (12:37):
Wait, like the 25 minutes ended three hours ago?

Zuza Grońska (12:39):

Alex Booker (12:40):
Oh, wow.

Zuza Grońska (12:41):
Yeah, so schedule is completely useless. I can't use schedules, I can't form habits, I just go at it.

Alex Booker (12:47):
That sounds actually kind of tough in a way. I know that hyper focus can be a very powerful thing, but so much of what people expect is to be more like that person who follows the specific schedule and stuff. But if you feel like that really isn't compatible with how you think, that must've been quite tough actually.

Zuza Grońska (13:03):
Yeah, it has its pros and cons, I guess. It's nice that I'm able to focus and study for 12 hours straight, but it's not great that I haven't eaten or washed my hands in 12 hours. When I was in that zone, I was able to completely just shut everything out and learn for 12 hours straight and make serious progress. At the end of my study, so just when I was finishing the frontend career path, which by the way, I still haven't finished. But yeah, when I got to all the React stuff and APIs, that's when I started noticing that it's getting really hard and I was losing focus. And I found myself not understanding as much as I did in the previous modules because, I don't know, I found I everything before the API modules to be honestly a breeze. I didn't struggle with almost anything. And then suddenly it was a very big difference in complexity. And yeah, I had some really tough moments in those modules where I was just crying at my laptop and considering quitting everything. But I guess I pulled through.

Alex Booker (14:25):
Learning to code is such a long process. Well, it's good that you did it in a few months, but they were very, very intense few months. I think when you look at the number of hours it takes, it takes hundreds of hours to learn to code. And along the way you get all kinds of challenges. And at the beginning it's sort of exciting, it might be easier just due to the nature of the basic topics. You had a little bit of experience with HTML and CSS. You had a hook to hang some of the concepts on, which I think is really great. But then, yeah, I think inevitably, towards the middle there's kind of a trough of sorrow, I think you could call it, where you start to doubt yourself. But then you've come so far already, it's almost easier as to keep going forward than it is to go back to the beginning when you are wishing to be where you are, with the skill level you have right then and there. How do you stay motivated at moments like that when you're feeling low?

Zuza Grońska (15:12):
I had a very good support system. And my boyfriend, who was kind of grounding me in those moments, that, "Yes, now we are feeling hopeless, this particular thing is not possible to understand right now. But if you take a break and just go back to it, you'll figure it out, just like you figured it out all the stuff in the past." Yeah, that stuff happens. It gets complicated and hard to understand, but in all those instances, I always pulled through and figured it out, so why would this be any different?

Alex Booker (15:51):
I think that's really good advice. And that's the imposter syndrome thing as well. I think the definition of imposter syndrome is feeling doubts despite external evidence of the contrary. And it's like even though you do sort of have a proven record, you've overcome similar challenges and you can logically say, "Yes, I could do this again if I stick at it for long enough." There is that little panic we have sometimes where we don't feel capable.

Zuza Grońska (16:15):
A very helpful thing for me also was I had The Scrimba bootcamp access, where I could get the code reviews. And if the imposter syndrome hits me very, very hard, I would just look back at those reviews that I got and just listen to the feedback like, "Yeah, you did this so well. I really love how you figured out this problem." And it's always been kind of uplifting to hear that other people think that my work, my projects were good. When you're doing it on your own, you don't really have a point of reference if you're doing it correctly. Even if you get a code review from some other student, there is The Scrimba Discord channel where you can get code reviews from other students or review their code. And, all due respect to them, but they're equally experienced as I am or even less. So having someone on a higher level look at your code makes a world of difference.

Alex Booker (17:24):
The career path is what you get when you subscribe to Scrimba. That's the path that most people take, it's what you get when you subscribe to Scrimba. It'll cost something like the price of a gym membership in your country. But then there's also an upgraded package, I guess called the bootcamp package, where you get access to the Discord community, exclusive solo projects in the frontend career path. These might stand out on your portfolio because not everybody has access to them, for example. But then what you are describing, which sounds like it was really impactful, is the code reviews. Where after you complete a solo project, you can share the Scrimba link in the Discord community and then a dedicated code reviewer will record a Scrim on top of your code and give you feedback about the design or how clean the code is, how efficient the code is. And yeah, if you've done something well, hopefully they'll call it out and say, "Yeah, you did a good job," as well.

Zuza Grońska (18:12):
When you're doing it on your own, you don't really have a point of reference if you're doing it correctly. Even if you get a code review from some other student, there is The Scrimba Discord channel where you can get code reviews from other students or review their code. And, all due respect to them, but they're equally experienced as I am or even less. So having someone on a higher level look at your code makes a world of a difference.

Alex Booker (18:45):
That's really fantastic to hear. And that's exactly the idea. It's hard when you're a beginner because you don't know what you don't know. If you're on your way to being a good developer, you'll appreciate that there are many ways to approach every problem, and there are pros and cons to each approach. So maybe you'll have this niggle in your head that says, "Ah, could this be more efficient? Could I make it more terse?" But someone more experienced can take one look at it and be like, "Yep, that's what you got to do." Really glad to hear that was impactful. I noticed as well by the way, Zuza, your portfolio is gorgeous. So nice to look at, so engaging. And it's full of projects as well. Can you talk to me a little bit about the projects? Did you start each one from scratch or did you base any of them on work you did at Scrimba?

Zuza Grońska (19:24):
It's honestly, that portfolio needs an update. I don't know, maybe it's just my low self-esteem, but for me it now looks ugly.

Alex Booker (19:32):
I can really sense the imposter syndrome shining through today.

Zuza Grońska (19:35):
No, I'm kidding. But I think all of those projects, except the landing page and the portfolio itself, come from Scrimba. And there are some variation of the frontend career path projects. Oh, I think actually the quote generator is a bootcamp exclusive.

Alex Booker (19:56):
Talk to me a little bit about this variation on the projects. Because I remember when you announced your new job, and by the way, for people listening, we're going to get all into the specific opportunity and how Zuza was successful there in just a few minutes. But I remember when you announced this to the community, we were also happy to see it. And you wrote to the community that your advice would be to go beyond the stretch goals when it comes to these solo projects. And I'm sure if you're building your own thing, it's also important to go beyond your initial goals, to give it a little twist. What did you mean specifically by that, and why was it the piece of advice you chose to share? What made it so important?

Zuza Grońska (20:33):
Yeah, I think it's my experience in marketing. It's my marketing mindsets shining through. But every time I would check out the solo project, the requirements, the stretch goals, the Figma design, I would just absorb it and think, "Oh, I could do it, maybe not better, but different. I could make it more mine. I could give it more character. Because who wants another unit converter?" Every entry level developer has that project on their portfolio, and I'm sure that hiring managers are just sick of looking at them. So I just wanted to make myself stand out. And I would tweak everything from the color palette to the idea behind the project itself. I remember I was making a restaurant menu, and I think the design from Scrimba, it's like a burger joint, and I was super into Star Wars at the time. So I made it a menu of the Tatooine cantina from Star Wars. And it's just those little things that make you stand out from hundreds, if not thousands, other applicants.

Alex Booker (21:51):
Absolutely. Like taking the bones and the shape from a tutorial, or Scrimba in this case, but then adding a little twist, whether that's a new feature or a new design. It could even be a remix of the idea. So maybe it's a password generator or maybe you take it one step further and make it a password manager with a password generator. I don't know. But to sort of just build on the different ideas to create something unique.

Zuza Grońska (22:13):
Yeah, that's the idea.

Alex Booker (22:14):
Is that come easy to you, this creativity, or do you have any tips as to how to improve upon existing ideas?

Zuza Grońska (22:21):
Yeah, again, I have a background in marketing, so that's been my job for years. So I would say I'm pretty good at it.

Alex Booker (22:28):
Whoa, Zuza, you just admitted you were good at something. Are you okay?

Zuza Grońska (22:32):
I have my moments. At the time that I was learning intensely, it was also when ChatGPT became a huge thing, so I would often consult it for ideas. Like I would tell it, "Yeah, I have a project for a restaurant menu that uses," this, this and this JavaScript method. "Give me variations of this idea with," I don't know, "A theme of pop culture." And I would just use that sometimes.

Alex Booker (22:59):
That's a really good idea.

Zuza Grońska (23:00):
Yeah. Sometimes it would just be completely useless, but most of the time it's served as a big source of inspiration.

Alex Booker (23:10):
I'll just quickly add before we move on as well, that it doesn't have to be unique. It doesn't have to be the only version on the planet. It just has to be different from the origin, if that makes sense. So if it's a tutorial or a solo project, for example, it shouldn't look exactly the same as the template, because that will be a bit samey and unoriginal. You're not likely to have a unique story to tell about that project during the interview. With a career path solo project, you're not given the code necessarily, so there is some room to make the code unique and creative. But I really agree with you, Zuza, it would be even better if the app was somehow creative as well.

It could be that you go and Dribbble and you look at other apps that do the same thing. Or you go on CodePen and you do a search, and you go on GitHub and you do a search. And you can copy and mix and match a few different ideas from different places. It's true what they say, "There's no original idea under the sun."

Zuza, I know you were writing social media copy and stuff, me too. Sometimes I see a viral LinkedIn post and I'm like, "Oh, okay, I see the format here. I see why it's been successful." And I'll just adapt it for what I'm focused on, which is helping people learn to code. And it's totally valid. That's how artists create beautiful artwork as well, they mix and match ideas. Over time, yeah, they find their own style, but it's not a prerequisite and it's not something you have to worry about at this stage of your career, while you're building a portfolio.

Zuza Grońska (24:31):
Exactly. It's like that running joke that every line of code you code this already, so I'm going on Stack Overflow.

Alex Booker (24:39):
Okay. Let's shift gears a little bit and talk about how you got your first opportunity in tech. Maybe you can start by telling us a little bit about your strategy. For example, when did you feel ready to apply for roles? And when you figured it was time, how did you actually go about doing it? Were you a kind of LinkedIn person applying to everything? Maybe you make and match different job websites? Or maybe you did networking or something?

Zuza Grońska (25:02):
Again, I didn't really have a solid strategy. I was still doing the career path, so I wasn't really pressed to find a job because I didn't feel ready, especially that I haven't finished the career path yet. But I got into this habit that in the mornings I would just browse LinkedIn and search for frontend roles in my area. I was already living in the Netherlands at the time. I live just outside of Amsterdam.

Alex Booker (25:33):
So you made the move from Poland to Amsterdam, or the outskirts of Amsterdam, while you were working in marketing already?

Zuza Grońska (25:40):
Yeah. And my last marketing job was in Amsterdam, so I was already based here. But I digress. Yeah, I was just looking through job ads every day just to kind of get a feel of what employers are looking for, what frameworks, what other requirements, years of experience obviously, how many stages is the interview process, and obviously the salaries. And from time to time I would see something particularly interesting, whether it was a company I was familiar with or the benefits sounded real great, or in case of my current company, it was five minutes from my house, so I was like, "Why not? I might as well send my CV." What was the worst that can happen? They will reject me. So I did. And I think the following day I received a LinkedIn message from the CEO himself, who's also the lead developer. He said that he saw my application and would love to invite me for an intro call.

Alex Booker (26:49):
I'm going to hit pause on the story there for just one second. Because something that occurred to me is that you are from Poland, you studied English and clearly speak tremendous English. But presumably, if you'd just moved from Poland to Holland, you might not have been fluent in Dutch or professional Dutch. How would you describe your Dutch language proficiency when you started this role and how did that play into your decision to apply for the job?

Zuza Grońska (27:17):
The thing about the Netherlands is that out of all the European countries, it has the highest level of English speakers as a second language. Literally, 90 year olds speak English even. So on a day-to-day basis, I can communicate in English anywhere and it's not an issue. When it comes to jobs, it's a bit more tricky. In Amsterdam and the surrounding areas, there are a lot of international companies full of experts, especially in IT, because the Netherlands has a drought of developers and there are a lot of, lot of opportunities for non-Dutch speakers. But my company, it was sort of in the middle of it. Because it is a Dutch company started by Dutch people, where everyone except me and one other person are Dutch and communicate in Dutch. And my Dutch is currently at an A2, B1 level, which is shameful and I feel bad and I'm trying to learn.

Alex Booker (28:23):
It's better than my Dutch.

Zuza Grońska (28:24):
Probably, but you don't live here.

Alex Booker (28:25):
Fair enough.

Zuza Grońska (28:27):
The job ad itself was in Dutch as well. But again, my approach to this was like, "Why not? I can say good morning in Dutch, maybe it'll be fine."

Alex Booker (28:36):
Yeah, but you didn't rule yourself out. You took a chance and then they could say what they want to say, whether that's, "Yes, we'd like to talk to you," or, "Actually, we need someone who's fluent in Dutch for this role." I like that a lot.

Zuza Grońska (28:47):
I just felt I have nothing to lose, so I went for it. And the whole interview process was in English. And now at work we do communicate mostly in English, although many of my Dutch colleagues, when they speak by themselves, they speak only in Dutch. And when we are in a group setting, whether it's in the office or via Slack, it's like 50/50. But my Dutch is good enough to understand most of them when they speak. And when they type, I can just throw it in Google Translate and I'm good. So it's not really a big obstacle.

Alex Booker (29:24):
By the way, I kind of forgot to ask, what made you want to move to the Netherlands? I mean, I got an idea based on what you said about the sexism and stuff like that in Poland, but this was when you were younger, you said. I would've hoped things had changed a little bit by the time you were ready to kickstart your career and all those things.

Zuza Grońska (29:39):
It actually got way worse.

Alex Booker (29:41):
Oh, you're kidding?

Zuza Grońska (29:42):
I've always wanted to leave that place, especially, A, because I'm a woman, and two, because I'm a queer person. So at some point I was just like a hundred percent convinced this is not a safe place for me. I don't want to be thrown in jail or even worse. So I always wanted to leave, but I've always pictured myself emigrating to an English-speaking country, I suppose. I had my eye on Ireland for a long time. But then during COVID, I met my current boyfriend online because we were gaming together, like the nerds we are. But yeah, we were a long distance for over a year, and then I decided that, "Okay, that's enough. Let's move." And I moved.

Alex Booker (30:27):
I love that, because oftentimes we make these plans and maybe they're rooted in some ideals, but then we get an opportunity to follow a path and it turns out to work out really well. And of course, now you're living and working in Amsterdam, you sound really happy and you've got a good thing going on. So even though Ireland could have been nice, it's cool that you still were flexible enough to adapt and take a path that led you where you're at today.

Zuza Grońska (30:50):
Yeah, it's been really stressful at times, because moving across the continent is a huge thing and a huge change in both personal and career life, and a huge risk. But in the end, it worked out very well, so I'm happy.

Alex Booker (31:08):
Do people in Poland get freedom of movement to go and work in Amsterdam, or do you have to jump through some hoops in terms of visas and things?

Zuza Grońska (31:15):
Yeah, Poland is still in the European Union, although we'll see for how long.

Alex Booker (31:22):
It's good to know though. That's pretty cool you made the most of that opportunity. So yeah, thank you, that was kind of my digression. I was really curious about the move and how that all played out. But you were telling me about the company and the process to apply. What does the company do exactly, and what was the role you applied for?

Zuza Grońska (31:36):
The company specializes in e-commerce. So it's a very small team, basically, this is literally just the development team and the two owners. We develop and maintain stores for our clients. For example, if you have a shoe store and you want a website, then we will make it for you and maintain it.

Alex Booker (31:59):
Like a kind of Shopify situation?

Zuza Grońska (32:01):
Kind of, yeah. It's not exactly Shopify, it's an open source platform called Shopware, that we work on. In the team we have two front-end developers, so me and a colleague. One developer who's more into backend stuff, and one senior who does everything and make sure we don't mess up. And of course, our big boss, the CEO, who is also a developer, but he drifted more to the business side of things. He also codes when there's a need for it.

Alex Booker (32:34):
So the interview process itself, it must've been great that you got there and it was in English rather than Dutch. What do you think they wanted to see from you during that interview, as someone who hadn't worked as a professional developer before?

Zuza Grońska (32:47):
Well, the intro call was literally just like a vibe check. We would just tell each other our expectations and talk about me, about myself, and yeah, my journey so far. And him, about the company, what they do. It was just half an hour. And after that I had a little technical quiz and then another in-office interview also with the other owner. Less than a vibe check, but also nothing really technical. Just about experience and how I see my career progressing further, et cetera.

Alex Booker (33:26):
I'd love to learn a bit more about what specifically those technical interviews entailed, so that people listening can maybe get an idea about what the expectation was. But what do you say we do a round of quick fire questions first to break up the interview a little bit?

Zuza Grońska (33:39):
Sure, go ahead.

Alex Booker (33:43):
What is the one learning resource that has been the most impactful for you as you learn to Code?

Zuza Grońska (33:48):
MD and Docs?

Alex Booker (33:50):
Yeah. Yeah, a hundred percent. They're so handy in a sense.

Zuza Grońska (33:53):
They have everything.

Alex Booker (33:54):
What is your favorite technology to use at the moment?

Zuza Grońska (33:57):
I'm not sure if it qualifies as technology, but in my job, this was the first time I started using Sass, and now I'm absolutely addicted to it. And I don't want to write normal, vanilla CSS ever again in my life.

Alex Booker (34:11):
Yeah, Sass will do that to you. What is a technology that you'd like to learn next?

Zuza Grońska (34:17):
Well, when I was following The Scrimba career path, still, I started learning React. And for example, my portfolio was still React. But now at my job we use Vue. But eventually, I do want to build in my knowledge in React, because I never did the advanced module of the course. And while I'm at it, I also currently am not very good at Vue. So probably those two.

Alex Booker (34:42):
What kind of music do you code to or maybe you prefer to code in silence?

Zuza Grońska (34:46):
We have a very good radio station at work that I always put on when I take control of the speaker, which is called Kink.

KINK Jingle (34:55):
Kink, no alternative.

Zuza Grońska (34:57):
It's plays like early mid-2000s in the pop punk and stuff like that, which is my huge vibe.

Alex Booker (35:06):
So like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, Blink-182, that kind of vibe?

Zuza Grońska (35:11):
Yeah. Which is very upbeat and gives me lots of energy.

Alex Booker (35:15):
Is there anyone you look up to or follow in the tech community we can check out maybe?

Zuza Grońska (35:20):
So since I started learning to code, one of the people I really stuck with and I still watch him regularly, was Kevin Powell on YouTube.

Alex Booker (35:29):
I had a feeling you might say that.

Zuza Grońska (35:31):
I absolutely owe my entirety of CSS knowledge to this man. And I'm so grateful because now CSS has become sort of like my specialty at work. If someone has a CSS problem, they come to me first. Even Markteina, our senior dev, the other day he didn't know how to do something in CSS grid, like how to position a button, and he asked me. And I felt like super humbled like, "Why are you asking me?" But I guess that means I'm good at CSS. And thank you, Kevin.

Alex Booker (36:07):
Kevin Powell. What a legend. I'm going to see if I can share this episode with him when it goes live. I'm sure he'd be so happy to hear about the impact he's had.

Zuza Grońska (36:14):

Alex Booker (36:15):
But yeah, that's all for the quickfire questions. Thank you so much for being a good sport about it. Hopefully, they weren't too grueling. Speaking of grueling questions, I was going to ask you a bit more about in that kind of technical interview, do you remember, maybe not a specific questions, but did you get a vibe as to what kind of skills they were most interested in and what they wanted to see from you from a technical perspective?

Zuza Grońska (36:39):
Honestly, it was surprisingly, maybe not easy, but very foundational, because they checked my knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. But really going into it when it comes to accessibility, responsiveness. I think there was even a question about Less, when it comes to CSS, which I've never had any experience with, so that I kind of screwed up, I think. But it really gave me the impression and started out to be correct that I will have to have a very good knowledge of the foundations.

Alex Booker (37:21):
Was it mostly focused on CSS-type stuff or was there some JavaScript questions in there also?

Zuza Grońska (37:28):
I think it was pretty equal between the three, so HTML, CSS and JavaScript. From what I recall, I had to write a bit more like a whole function, like FizzBuzz or whatever, in JavaScript. And the rest were just like A, B, C, D questions.

Alex Booker (37:45):
How do you feel about the fact that people are coming to you for help with CSS? Was that a thing that you tried to specialize in or did it just kind of happen?

Zuza Grońska (37:54):
Weird. I mean, I guess it kind of happened, but I always kind of knew about myself that CSS is something I enjoy a lot out of all the coding serves, so HTML, JavaScript to React, all the other frameworks, whatever, CSS was always something I was the best at. And I kind of naturally drift to it and made it kind of my thing.

Alex Booker (38:24):
Yeah. I mean, it sounds like it happened quite organically, which is cool. But it makes me think that as a kind of strategy, it could be quite interesting as well to be a little bit specialized in something like that. There's this idea in marketing called a T-shaped marketer, and I'll probably struggle to explain it succinctly on a podcast, it's kind of the thing you have to look at. But if you imagine the letter T, you have a long line in the middle, and then you have the T at the top, the line across the top. And the idea is to have a foundation in one or two things, that's the long line down the middle. And then across the top you have a sort of base knowledge of things that most marketers share. And if you apply that to coding, the idea is that you do need a base knowledge, you need a coding foundation, but you can stand out a little bit by building expertise in a specific area, which means going deeper into that subject.

So maybe you have this base knowledge of basic JavaScript, the base knowledge of React and what a frontend library is and why it's important. Maybe you've got a base knowledge in CSS for that matter, but then you build depth in one of those things. So maybe you become really tuned in with a specific framework or a specific language. It could be something like Sass. And I've always heard, and it's really cool this is happening to you, Zuza, if at work people are coming to you to ask you questions about stuff, then you're doing a really good job. That's a really good judge of how well you're doing in the role, I feel like.

Zuza Grońska (39:47):
Yeah. I hope that's correct. All the imposter syndrome things aside, I must admit that CSS is something I'm really good at. And I would highly suggest to anyone learning to code that they find this one thing that they really enjoy doing and that comes easy to them, and focus on that. Obviously, learning all the other stuff as well, but if you're not perfect at it, that's fine.

Alex Booker (40:13):
Yeah. You're a CSS aficionado.

Zuza Grońska (40:15):
Yeah, my LinkedIn title.

Alex Booker (40:17):
Yeah, exactly. Awesome. Very, very cool. And I'm glad to hear things are going well at the role. How are you getting on with ADHD and the job, by the way? Because if there's one thing I understand about our conversation today and just ADHD in general, I think people with ADHD are remarkably competent. And even though they might approach something in a different way, it doesn't diminish the quality of the outcome.

Zuza Grońska (40:43):
So it's helpful in a way that I'm still able to keep that hyper focus. And if I'm stuck on something, I will not get really discouraged or anything until I figure it out. But the downsides to it might be, for one, that I don't really remember sometimes to ask people for help if I'm stuck, I'm just trying to figure it out by myself. And second thing is that I kind of tune out. And, for example, when there's a lunch break and everyone stands up, I don't notice it, and then I finally do it, I'm like, "It's lunch. I have to take a break. I can't now, I'm focused. I have to keep going." And even at the end of the day, I'm sitting there from 9 to 5, and 5 hits, everyone starts backing up and I'm like, "No, just five more lines of code and I'll go."

Alex Booker (41:42):
To be honest, I understand the challenge of those things, but in terms of productivity, it sounds like they don't affect your ability to be super productive. But are there ways in which you feel like you have to compensate somehow? So for example, maybe there's a standup every day that interrupts your flow, or there are meetings that break up the day. I also notice sometimes with certain personality types, but also conditions, that you can get really focused on something but then be a bit forgetful about certain details or keeping people informed, like in communicating what you're working on and stuff. I'm just wondering if that's something you've had to face yet.

Zuza Grońska (42:14):
Yeah, my forgetfulness is definitely the worst thing about my ADHD. And I'm medicated, so it's less bad than it used to be, but it's still a huge thing. Thankfully, I got into the habit, I suppose, of writing nice commit messages. So if I need to reference something, I just check my GitHub and there it is. But I am guilty of often writing some code and someone asks me, "Did you do that?" And I'm like, "I don't know. Why does it have a height of a hundred percent and not auto?" And I'm like, "I have no idea. You can probably delete that." So yeah, I didn't break anything yet, so I guess it's working out. And I would say that maybe, maybe it's not entirely correct, but I feel like this is a field that's kind of neurodivergent friendly, and a lot of neurodivergent people naturally gravitate towards it. So I don't really feel out of place. Definitely less than I did when I still worked in marketing, so that's nice.

Alex Booker (43:30):
Sounds like you're exactly what you're meant to be. That's awesome. There's a whole Reddit community called, I'm just Googling it to get it right, I think it's ADHD_Programmers.

Zuza Grońska (43:39):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm on it.

Alex Booker (43:40):
Oh, you're one of the members. Yeah, there's a lot, there's maybe 50,000 people in there. I really appreciate you being sort of transparent and talking about it. I'm curious to ask about it for a few different reasons. I mean, number one, maybe there's someone listening who also has ADHD or they suspect they have ADHD or are otherwise neurodivergent. As you say, programming does attract a lot of people who are neurodivergent. But not everybody is diagnosed necessarily, or they only exhibit some traits and it might not be affecting their life in the same way.

Zuza Grońska (44:10):
I personally only got diagnosed less than two years ago.

Alex Booker (44:13):
Only two years ago? If you were born in '93, you must have been well into your 20s by then.

Zuza Grońska (44:19):
Yeah. I had several wrong diagnoses over the years, and it's been a real struggle. Because ADHD especially, underdiagnosed in women, so all the psychiatrists over there were like, "Yeah, you have depression." "No, you are bipolar." "Wait, no, you have BPD." And it was like new psychiatrist, new diagnosis. But I'm finally settled on the ADHD. And medication is working and it's all good. So I guess this is finally correct this time.

Alex Booker (44:54):
Wow, that sounded like a really tough experience, but I'm glad you got to the bottom of it. Yeah, that's the other reason I think it's so great to talk about, it's because, yeah, if there is so many neurodivergent people in programming, even if you're not, it's really important to hear from your perspective, you see? So I really appreciate that.

Zuza Grońska (45:12):
Yeah, spreading awareness about this is super important, because I personally found out that this could be a thing from a Reddit post. In that Reddit post I read that ADHD might exhibit differently in women, because I only associated ADHD with little boys running around and screaming. I was like, "That can't be me."

Alex Booker (45:32):
Yeah, exactly.

Zuza Grońska (45:33):
And the symptoms are completely different and people are just generally not aware of that.

Alex Booker (45:38):
Absolutely. ADHD gets this reputation that is something that kids have. And there are two types of ADHD I think as well. There's an impulsive and hyperactive type, that's a little bit more like what you see with kids.

Zuza Grońska (45:53):
Yeah, hyperactive and inattentive. Yeah.

Alex Booker (45:54):
And I think there's a combined type as well. But I'm not an expert at this, it's just something that I think has been increasing in awareness over the years. So again, it's really nice to get your perspective. Thank you so much.

Zuza Grońska (46:02):
Of course. My pleasure.

Alex Booker (46:03):
And Zuza, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast as well. It's been an absolute pleasure to learn more about your story breaking into tech.

Zuza Grońska (46:11):
Thank you again for having me. It's a little bit wild that I have this job and I being invited to podcasts to talk about it. So it really feels great.

Jan Arsenovic (46:23):
This was a Scrimba Podcast. Check out the show notes for the ways to connect with Zuza and the resources mentioned in this episode. If you made it this far, please subscribe. We are a weekly show, and that means there's going to be a new episode in your feed every Tuesday. The show is hosted by Alex Booker. And I'm Jan, I'm the producer. You can find both of our Twitter handles in the show notes as well. If you liked this episode, share it with someone on socials or in person. And we will be back with you next week.