DAVE: Alright. Thanks for clearing it up. I don’t have any other questions, your honor.
JOE: Hey everybody.
CHUCK: AJ O’Neal.
AJ: Yo, yo, yo, coming at you live from this refreshing beverage.
CHUCK: Jamison Dance.
JAMISON: Hi friends.
CHUCK: Dave Smith.
CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. I just want to remind you to go check out DevChat.tv/Kickstarter to support the shows and my Rails videos. We also have a special guest this week. That’s Aimee Knight.
CHUCK: Do you want to introduce yourself really quickly, Aimee?
AIMEE: Sure. I have been programming for about two and a half years. I graduated from a boot camp about eight months ago. And I have been working at a company called Message Systems in Baltimore, Maryland.
CHUCK: I think Jamison’s head will explode if you don’t say something about figure skating.
JAMISON: You left out a part of it.
AIMEE: Okay. So, I did spend most of my life prior programming as a competitive figure skater. And then I also did a lot of coaching in college. So, that was really a passion for most of my life. And I say that this is now my new passion.
CHUCK: I can totally see that career transition, you know.
AIMEE: [Chuckles] Yeah
AIMEE: That’s definitely not a typical progression there.
JOE: So, what did you learn in figure skating that’s helped you as a programmer?
AIMEE: So, I think that it’s actually interesting to note because when I was playing around with programming, one of my old coworkers, we were just talking about the traits that he thinks are needed to be successful. And definitely one thing in skating that just drove, is driven home with me is the persistence. And I think with programming it’s probably very similar because you have a lot of failures. You really need to celebrate the victories. Those victories don’t necessarily always come easy. So, all the persistence from skating. [Chuckles]
DAVE: I thought you were going to say triple axles.
AIMEE: I also think, on a different note too, I think it’s a really good balance. I’m still really, really into being active and physically fit. So, it’s a really good balance, just using up your physical energy and then also using up your mental energy. So, I think they’re very opposite, and they really complement each other well.
JAMISON: Do you find that you’re a better developer when you’re physically active and physically exhausted? Or I guess exhausted is the wrong word.
JAMISON: When you use your physical energy is what you said.
AIMEE: Yes, definitely. I run every morning four and a half miles before I come to work.
JAMISON: Oh, wow.
AIMEE: And [chuckles] I can’t imagine not doing that. I think it’s a good way to start the day. And then there’s just always, there’s a ton of research about how it’s beneficial to your brain to exercise, so.
CHUCK: Man, I am a fatty.
AJ: I got a question. You’ve got a blog; it looks like, yeah?
AIMEE: Yes, I do. [Chuckles] As with a lot of things, I guess when you start working, it kind of falls behind a little bit. But I do. [Chuckles]
AJ: Okay. So, what are your thoughts on… tell me a little bit about that. Is writing something that you enjoy? What is it that influenced you to do… it looks like a microblog.
AJ: Maybe I’m just not seeing the full page. Oh, okay, sorry. I didn’t know how to get to the full page. It looked like it was just the first paragraph.
AJ: But now I see the full pages.
AIMEE: I think as I was starting out, I was in Georgia when I was first really learning to program. So, there’s not a huge community there. And that was just my way of experimenting with things. And I’ve tried to keep it up as I can. So, I do enjoy writing. And I enjoy the community aspect of the development community.
CHUCK: So, where were you at when you decided that you were interested in programming and what sparked that?
AIMEE: That’s kind of… it’s a very long story. I’ll try to keep it somewhat short. So, after college I stopped coaching and I was working at an advertising agency. And they, I worked with some developers there, just always noticed that they just couldn’t seem to get the work out the door because there was such a shortage. And then, just kept going on to these different marketing roles where I was playing around with ExpressionEngine sites or WordPress sites. And just, I did the project management role. And one day, just really got fed up with asking over and over and over again to make these simple changes, like update our address because the company had moved. And just decided to dig in and start trying to make these code changes myself. And then I’m not sure my employers ever actually knew this. [Chuckles] But I thought it was really fun to make changes to the site while no one was looking. So, I’d be 10:30, 11 o’clock at night, and I would mess around with some CSS or something like that.
And then after doing that for a couple of months is when I reached out to these developers I had worked with. And they really encouraged me to pursue it. I signed up for Treehouse and Code School and all that stuff. I went to a Rails Girls. I’ve been to RailsBridge. So, that’s really how I got started.
CHUCK: Very nice.
DAVE: So, you modified your employer’s website without permission.
DAVE: Is this what I’m hearing?
AIMEE: Well, technically I was in charge of it. So, it was okay.
AIMEE: [Laughs] It might not have been exactly what they were asking for at the time.
AIMEE: But I always reverted it back, so it was okay. [Chuckles]
DAVE: That’s good. I was just going to say…
CHUCK: The project manager approved it. It was fine.
JAMISON: Oh man, I never thought of the power that one person could have if they were the project manager and the developer.
JAMISON: Did you get in arguments with yourself ever about features?
AIMEE: No, no. [Chuckles] That’s good, though. Now that I’m on the other side, I have a lot more respect for the pushback I would get from the developers when I was, I was really the liaison between the account managers and the developers. So now, I see why they would push back.
CHUCK: Yeah. You figured out that the…
CHUCK: Project manager really was wrong.
AIMEE: [Laughs] Yeah. It’s definitely… it’s so hard to set dates, because I guess depending on where you work… I know where we are, we have dates that we shoot for but it’s really more about building quality software. So, I totally understand that pushback now.
CHUCK: So, I’m curious. What do you think you got out of a bootcamp that you either couldn’t have gotten on your own or by going through a more traditional education?
AIMEE: Okay, yeah. So first off, as far as, indirectly to answer your question, the bootcamp. One of my mentors really just put the bootcamp as I’m trading time for money. Because he really thought, “You could totally do this on your own. You’re not in a hurry. Do you really want to spend X amount of dollars to do this?” But I just love it and I didn’t want to wait. [Chuckles] As far as a traditional background versus the bootcamp, same thing there, probably the time. I’m not the most patient person in the world. So, the idea, doing something in my case for six months was much more appealing than four years. So, there’s that.
And then I think too, I started a second Bachelor’s degree. It was just in IT so it wasn’t computer science. But just two classes, and saw how behind everything was, because I was doing these classes on top of teaching myself through all these different resources. And you’d ask the teachers questions about the stuff I was doing on my own. And they just really didn’t have much of an idea about that. So, that was kind of disheartening. [Chuckles]
JAMISON: So, you’ve mentioned mentors a couple of times.
JAMISON: It sounds like you had mentors from before you did bootcamps. Do you want to talk a little bit about how you found them and how they’ve been helpful?
AIMEE: Yes. I have had a ton of mentors actually. And I’m extremely grateful for all of them. So, the first person, I was in Savannah and he did Rails. So, he was really the big proponent. Like I had said before, I was fooling around with PHP because I was doing a lot of WordPress. And I guess by mentor I mean, if I had questions he’d be available to ask questions and he really just guided me. I had no idea about Rails. So, he recommended that I go to this RailsBridge workshop. So, I actually from Savannah drove four hours down to Orlando to go do a RailsBridge workshop there.
AIMEE: [Laughs] Yes, I know.
JAMISON: That was dedication.
AIMEE: [Chuckles] That’s how hungry I was. I paid for a hotel, everything. And then at that event I was able to meet someone who, we’ve been in touch here and there. And then just at the bootcamp is where I met two of my other mentors. So, they match you with mentors there. And they’ve been extremely helpful. [Chuckles]
CHUCK: I guess the question I want to ask is if somebody’s in the position you were in, how do they identify somebody that can be a mentor for them?
AIMEE: You know for me, I was I guess fortunate enough that I didn’t really have to ask the question. Just by going to all these different events and just really expressing how excited I am to learn, people just would give me their email address and say, “Hey, if you ever have a question let me know.” And I guess just to grow that relationship I was always just respectful of these mentors’ time. I tried to help them out if there was any way I can. So, I guess that would be my advice, is just to, I guess express your energy and your passion for it.
JAMISON: So, you’ve been doing software for a few years now. So, you’re past the novice stage but it sounds like you still…
JAMISON: You mentioned still working with mentors. Is that a thing that you imagine you’ll continue to do? And would you recommend it for people beyond just barely getting started?
AIMEE: Ah, definitely. I don’t say, I wouldn’t say necessarily that I have formal mentors now. When I started at my job that was a really big concern of mine out of the bootcamp, is I wasn’t necessarily looking for a position based on money or anything like that. My number one priority in finding a position was somewhere where I would grow and learn and where mentorship would be. So, the take where I am now is really just everyone is here to help each other out and mentor where needed. So, I don’t really have a formal one here. But it’s just kind of everyone.
JOE: Mm. That’s cool.
JAMISON: That’s really cool. I’ve never really thought about…
JAMISON: I don’t know. There are people I know who I respect and are way smarter than me. Maybe I’ll just bug them.
AIMEE: I will say, there’s definitely people on the team who [chuckles] have a little more patience than others and who you can tell enjoy the mentorship, whereas others not so much. So, [chuckles] you learn. Like if we have a happy hour or something like that, it’s a good opportunity to talk through things that I might not get a chance to or just at lunch, things like that.
JAMISON: So, it sounds like your bootcamp was a little different from some other bootcamps because it was a not-for-profit one. Can you talk a little bit more about the experience of going to your bootcamp?
AIMEE: Yeah. Do you want me to talk a little bit, I probably won’t get into specifics, but about the process of how I picked the bootcamp as well?
JAMISON: Yeah, yeah, that’d be great.
AIMEE: [Chuckles] So, the process for picking the bootcamp, my husband was a really big proponent for this. I, after teaching myself for a year, a year and a half, I guess he got tired of me stomping into the other room saying, “I have questions and I don’t have anyone to ask,” and, “I need help.” So, he started researching all these different bootcamps. And I narrowed it down to a couple that I was interested in and went through the process with one.
I was saying in the email, I was set to go to one, drove for two days [chuckles] and got there. And just decided that it wasn’t going to be as challenging as what I was looking for. I think you have to be extremely selective and talk to the different students. And because many of these programs are for-profit, you want to check, are they just accepting anyone? Are they limiting their numbers? Do they have tests to get in? What is their process for accepting students? And then, what is their process when you graduate the bootcamp? Because I think that really speaks a lot to it.
So, the one that I went to, we were planning on staying in the south. And then my husband got relocated. So, in the middle of the program, and the policy there was if you commit to staying in Tennessee, that you only pay, I think, I’m not sure if they’ve changed it now, you only pay the thousand dollars and that’s it. So, I think that really speaks to the commitment that they have that they know that their curriculum is solid enough that they’re willing to foot the bill. Whereas others, it might just be money is the bottom line. So, that was a big decision. That was a big part of the decision in going there.
Another thing that I like about the one I went to is that it was six months. So, a lot of these programs are 10, 12 weeks. And even six months is limited to how much you can learn. But if you’re doing this 10, 12 weeks and you really are nonstop, you don’t have free time. So, I think spreading it out over six months is still an extremely hectic schedule but it’s just that much more that you can learn in that time. I don’t know how much you can really cram in your brain in 10 to 12 weeks.
DAVE: Yeah. So, you said you spent about a year, a year and a half just trying…
DAVE: To self-teach before you went to a bootcamp? And then at the bootcamp you spent six months. Is that what I’m hearing?
AIMEE: [Chuckles] Yeah, so [chuckles].
DAVE: No, I think that’s really great.
AIMEE: And I would definitely recommend that. I’m sure with a lot of other people that have been in bootcamps, I’ve talked to them, we get emails a lot from our blog, just people googling around about the schools. And it’s a very appealing thing now because developers are in demand. I think it’s an important distinction between junior and senior level developers who’s in demand. I guess it’s just, it’s really important that you do your time before the bootcamp. If you don’t, I just don’t know how much you’re going to get out of it. The more you put in before, the more you’re going to get out while you’re there. It just goes at a nonstop pace.
The program that I was in, within the first two weeks they actually split us into three groups. I don’t know that they’re going to do that from now on. But it just became apparent that there was a gap between the skillsets. So, they split us up. And I just, I wouldn’t have wanted to be in one of the other groups because you’re just not getting as pushed as hard I guess. From my figure skating background, I’m just really used to being pushed super hard. And that’s what I wanted out of the program. So, the more I could do going in, the better.
DAVE: So, when they split you up into three groups, did they come up with really pejorative names to make fun of the people who were [behind]?
DAVE: And was that effective?
AIMEE: You know, I think for us, so in hindsight I absolutely love my instructor for both portions. But he was pretty tough. And I think we all banded together. You’d think that it would be a very competitive environment where all these students would be competing against each other. But because the program was really rough, we all just banded together. So, I didn’t look down on the other people too much. But it definitely was hard I think for the other students, because you obviously want to be in that top tier group.
DAVE: I really appreciate your perspective. I think there is a large audience out there of people who think that, “Hey, I’ve never programmed in my life. It seems really cool. I’m going to go enroll in a bootcamp for 12 weeks.”
DAVE: “And then I’m going to be an amazing programmer.”
AIMEE: Yes, yes.
DAVE: And these things take time.
DAVE: And I love that you struggled and worked at it for so long before you said, “Okay, now I’m going to go get professional instruction.” And even then, it wasn’t just a 12-week thing, you know?
DAVE: It was a really big investment for you, in time.
AIMEE: Yeah. So, that probably just is my personality. A lot of it like I said all goes back to that skating stuff. I’m used to working hard for things. And I’m not used to things coming easy. And also, like I had said prior, there’s like this glamorization of these bootcamps. Like, it’s cool to be in tech now. And I’m going to make all this money and I’m going to be so in demand. And all that is great. But I think if that’s your number one focus, then you’re getting into the field for the wrong reasons.
DAVE: I totally agree.
AIMEE: So, same thing. When I started exploring this stuff on my own, I talked to someone who hires a bunch of developers. He has an agency. And I was just talking to him about what are the traits that he sees in these developers that are successful? And the one thing that he told me is that anyone he hires, this is something that they do for fun outside of their job. So, not to say that you have to do that, but I have found that all the great developers I meet, they all have side projects. And they’re just really passionate about it.
So, you guys probably saw too, at the bottom of my email I have a quote that I like because it’s totally true. I do this for fun. Whenever I get stumped on something, I remind myself, and a mentor is great, he reminds me all the time too, you had a career prior. You could go back to that other career if you wanted. But remember, you’re doing this because you love it and it’s fun. So, it’s a choice that I made to switch.
JAMISON: Can you talk a little bit about the process of finding employment after the bootcamp? I’ve talked with a few people about mentoring and helping people get into development. And the common theme I’ve heard is that you try and bootstrap them to a state where they can get their first job. AIMEE: Mmhmm.
JAMISON: And then they learn. That’s when they really start to learn.
JAMISON: But getting to the state where you can get your first job is hard. It’s kind of a chicken and an egg problem.
JAMISON: You need experience.
JAMISON: But you can’t get experience if you don’t have a job. So, how do you make that jump from not being employed as a developer to being employed for the first time?
AIMEE: [Chuckles] So, that’s a question I get a lot too, from a lot of different people. So, even before I went to the bootcamp I was looking for internships and things like that. There was someone in the town that I was in, in Georgia, who had, he did a lot of WordPress development and things like that. And he needed somebody to help tweak CSS on some of the themes. So, I started doing that, which is not software development. But it’s better than nothing. And I worked for not very much money. But I didn’t care. I was doing it for fun. Just to get that experience, just get comfortable with code.
As far as being in the bootcamp, so the one that I was at, they have hiring partners. They have a hiring day. I would say, I think there’s probably only two people from the cohort that I finished with that don’t have jobs. And one of the people isn’t pursuing anything. So, there’s really just one person who didn’t… I suspect there are reasons why they haven’t. But as far as finding the job, so I was in a different situation as well, because I found out that I was going to be relocating somewhere where the bootcamp wasn’t. So, all the networking that you would do in the program really didn’t matter for me.
AJ: You saw the light.
CHUCK: I was going to say, there’s no accounting for taste.
AJ: Now, you got to talk with Chuck a little bit more, Aimee, because he’s still stuck in those dark ages.
JOE: Oh. Great idea, let’s talk about that.
CHUCK: It’s funny though to me how much this boiled down to the people involved, right?
AIMEE: Yes. Yeah, yeah. [Chuckles] At the end of the day, when people ask me how I ended up where I am, I think the number one thing is I’m passionate about it. I seriously love what I’m doing, maybe to a fault at times. [Chuckles] So, the passion and that resonates with people. And I found that they want to help when they see how passionate you are because it’s exciting. And so, they want to help you find work.
And then in the bootcamp they definitely do interview prep. So, the thing that they really drive home with us is to try to be explicit about what you do know and what you don’t know. So, in our interviews, if there’s a question that I’m not sure of, as long as you’re honest about it, if you honestly feel this way, my response was usually, “I don’t know the answer to that but I am so excited to learn. So, if you give me a little bit I’m going to go back and figure it out and I’ll come back to you.” So, that’s the secret I give.
And someone gave me advice too. I think when you hire juniors you’re not hiring a junior to solve big problems. You’re hiring a junior knowing that there’s going to be training involved. And my boss has a good perspective I think on the situation. He’s big into sports as well, so he creates the analogy for a sports team that you don’t want your team full of seniors. You want to have some good incoming freshmen to balance out the team.
JOE: Yeah, because the seniors get old and…
CHUCK: Yeah, move on and make Pluralsight courses. Boring.
JOE: It’s like sports, once they hit about 35 they’re pretty much, time to [inaudible] to pasture.
DAVE: Washed up.
CHUCK: Stop talking about me.
AIMEE: In Sweden, that age is like 15, but…
AIMEE: Yes, yeah.
CHUCK: I turned 34 like, three months ago.
JAMISON: Well, you’ve got…
CHUCK: Or 35. Anyway…
JAMISON: I was going to say, you got eight more months to live, but…
CHUCK: No, I’m 35 now.
JAMISON: It’s too late now.
CHUCK: It’s too late, yeah. I could be president, now that I’m washed up. But…
JAMISON: So, I have a really vague question that might be hard to answer.
JAMISON: Going to ask it anyways. Is there anything that you wished that someone had told you or done for you when you were first starting the process, or earlier on in the process? It sounds like you’re pretty driven and you’ve just…
JAMISON: Done a lot to make it work yourself. But is there anything that could have made it easier along the way?
AIMEE: That’s a good question. So, I think before the call we were talking a little bit about the whole women in tech thing. And [chuckles] as much as I don’t like to bring it up, because I always thought although a figure skater, I was like a tomboy figure skater. I was really into in for the jumping and the sport aspect of it. I wasn’t really into the pretty dresses and stuff like that. So, I always thought I was this athletic tomboy. [Chuckles] But being in the developer space, I have really realized how girly I am, which has just been [chuckles] a bit of a wakeup call. I just never thought that, I guess to answer your question… I don’t like to be negative. I always try to keep it positive. But there definitely is a little bit in the community that I wish maybe I would have been prepared for. I’ve talked to other graduates from the bootcamp and just sometimes the jokes that go around and stuff like that, you’re just like, “Ugh.” You know? I wish somebody…
AIMEE: Would have maybe prepped me for this or [chuckles].
JOE: What do you mean?
AIMEE: It really just depends where you work. I’m sure that it’s different for different people. But it’s just been kind of a little sad here and there, talking to other people and hearing the jokes that go around and stuff like that. It’s kind of yuck. [Chuckles]
AJ: So, are you talking about the, what would you say, just piggish jokes?
AJ: Or things that are specific to coding?
AIMEE: Uh, no. Yeah, just piggish type stuff. So, I’ve been fortunate enough that I haven’t personally experienced anything towards me. But just stuff here and there, I’m just like, “Man.” I’ll come home sometimes and tell my husband. I’m like, “Man, if you worked with all dudes, would you talk like that?”
AIMEE: So, I just think it’s kind of, not used to having a lot of girls around. I guess, I’m trying to think if there’s any programming related things to turn away from that, since I don’t like to dwell on it too much, [chuckles] that I would have…
JAMISON: I think it’s really valuable [inaudible] though.
JAMISON: I mean, I can tell you’re uncomfortable talking about it.
JAMISON: But I’m glad you brought it up.
JAMISON: It does suck that it’s something you have to be prepped for instead of something that can change. I don’t know. It’s just sad to hear that. [Chuckles] But I don’t know what to do about it.
AIMEE: It’s getting better. I think it’s definitely getting better. Probably it would just take time. [Laughs] Yeah, there I go, trying to [chuckles] be positive about it all.
JAMISON: Sure. Let us swiftly change the subject though.
JAMISON: Any programming related things that you think would be, make it easier?
DAVE: Yeah, like what do you think about closures?
DAVE: So, wait a minute. You came out of a bootcamp and in your first interview they said, what do you like? And you said, closures, because…
DAVE: No bootcamp graduate I know… I ask them that same question in interview prep and I’m like, “What’s a closure?” And they’re like, “Dang it. I can’t remember.”
CHUCK: So, do you find that there are any barriers that you run into just being a newish person in programming? I think we get kind of far removed from that and we don’t remember.
AIMEE: Yeah, so I guess back to the technical question we were talking about, stuff that I could have better prepared for, one thing that I know personally that I could have better prepared for is being more patient with myself. I think that maybe somebody from a traditional background has had four years of being patient with themselves. [Chuckles] Whereas a lot of these people coming out of bootcamps like myself, this is a career change.
And I think the personality that it takes to go into a bootcamp is you’re extremely driven. So, a lot of people like myself, super driven. And it’s hard to start from the bottom and have to be patient and just ride out the process of learning, because there’s only so much you can force in your head at once. And it’s not really something that you can memorize. It’s a way of thinking. So, that’s what I would have wanted to prep myself mentally for, just the challenge of it and the patience it was going to take.
JAMISON: So, I want to ask a little bit about interviews, too. I feel like interviews are just generally terrible.
JAMISON: At identifying people who would be good at working. Did you look at the interview prep as a hoop you had to jump through? Or how did the bootcamp interview prep work? Did they spill the secret that interviews suck and everyone hates them?
JAMISON: And people just do them anyways, or…?
AIMEE: They definitely did a ton of interview prep. And I think what we learned is it’s just really going to be different for each company. So, a lot of companies it seemed like were moving towards a technical interview where they give you a project and you do it on your own and you come back to them with a week and show them what you did. The interview process that I had was all speaking and whiteboard, which was pretty terrifying. [Laughs]
JAMISON: Isn’t it the best?
JAMISON: Use your whiteboard editor that you always use.
CHUCK: The best form of torture.
JAMISON: And you know that thing Google that you use every day, all day for your job? Can’t use that.
AIMEE: I can remember walking into the room. It’s actually where I’m sitting right now for this call. [Chuckles] And the receptionist put four dry erase markers on the desk and my heart just sunk.
JAMISON: Oh no.
AIMEE: I survived. It was a three-hour process, too. I interviewed with…
CHUCK: Oh my gosh.
AIMEE: Five different people. [Laughs] No, six different people. It’s like a panel of two for every hour. [Chuckles] But anyways, back to the interview process for school and prepping for it. There was a guy who’s a mentor for the school who, I went out to lunch with another student, and he just grilled us. So, that was great. He definitely, he was pretty rough. But I’m glad that I had that, because he prepped me for it.
I think it really does just all go back to the networking aspect of it and being active on GitHub so that they can see the work that you’ve done prior. I think once you get to the actual interview process, it’s either, it’s kind of a done deal and it’s yours to lose, is the way I feel about it, especially if you’re on a second interview. And there’s really, there’s only so much prep you can do. The prep that I did was just, like I had said prior, to know what I know and know what I don’t know, or try to know what I don’t know. There’s only so much that you can get ready for.
CHUCK: So, I’m kind of curious. Jamison has been saying interviews are horrible. And I mostly agree. There’s only so much you can glean from the interview and most of it, you walk away, you either feel good about it or you don’t. And then you justify that with whatever happened in the interview.
CHUCK: Is there a better way? I’m asking in general. But I’d love your opinion, too.
SIRI: Checking on that. [Okay].
CHUCK: Thank you, Siri. Shut up.
DAVE: And the answer from Siri is…
JOE: Siri, what’s the better way?
AIMEE: I really want to hear everyone else’s answer to this question. But I can try to give my answer quick. I think…
JOE: You first.
AIMEE: [Chuckles] I think the process of giving the students a project to do on their own and come back and present that is really good, or talk through code that you’ve written. I think the in-person stuff is you could have a great developer who just doesn’t do well under pressure like that. So, that’s probably not the best format. And that’s really my thought. [Chuckles]
CHUCK: Yeah. I mostly agree. I think you need some in-person stuff because some people, no matter how good they are, you just don’t want to work with them anyway.
CHUCK: So, you got to figure that out, right?
JOE: You got to know how they smell. You got to know how they smell.
DAVE: [Chuckles] You have to smell them. [Laughs]
CHUCK: Well, you have to know how…
CHUCK: How they smell and how far away from you they’re going to sit.
JOE: Those two things are very important. But like small meetings in a little conference room, it doesn’t matter how far away they sit. It gets to you.
CHUCK: But I mean, the other issue there is that you run into problems where they have personality things, or they have certain ways of working with other people or dealing with other people. And so, if you have them in your office for a few hours, long enough for them to kind of let their hair down and just relax, you’ll start to figure out, “Okay, this guy’s kind of condescending.”
CHUCK: Or, “This guy is a cowboy coder.”
CHUCK: He’s paired with us for two hours and he commits garbage and then goes and cleans it up.
JOE: Yeah, one of the things you should always do is argue with them about something and then see how they are dealing with conflicts.
AIMEE: That’s a good idea.
CHUCK: Yeah. The other thing that came to mind when you were talking about some of your interview process was that when I was a hiring manager, I was hiring for tech support over the phone. I wasn’t hiring for programming. But I would push people to the point where their knowledge failed and then see what they did.
AIMEE: Yeah, yeah.
CHUCK: And the reason is because you don’t want that jerk going in and screwing something up for somebody. We were talking online backup. So, if you jacked up somebody’s backup, problems. So, just making sure that they weren’t going to go in and ignorantly do something dumb, even if they were really good at everything else.
DAVE: So, one of my very close friends who is a developer that I admire very much has developed a process for his interviewing as a candidate where he actually asks the employer if they will let him pair program with a member of their team for one afternoon. So far, he’s done it to two companies. And both of them had been like, “Whoa. What? [Chuckles] You want to work with us for an afternoon?” He’s like, “Yeah. I want to take a day off my job, my regular job, and come work with you.” And for him, it’s been really eye-opening because it’s like, now I know what it’s actually like to work with you. I can see your codebase. I know what it looks like. And I know how you work as a candidate.
But I think employers should start getting in that habit for their candidates as well. Like, if we’re going to get really serious about hiring quality people who will work with us on our team, it sure would be great to spend an afternoon with them if they’re willing to take the time. But you know, you still have the problem of, oh it’s an interview. So, people are going to be stressed out and nervous.
AJ: Make it more like dating, less like marriage.
DAVE: Oh yeah, because dating is also very stress-free.
JAMISON: Yeah, stress-free.
JAMISON: Relaxed. No communication problems.
DAVE: Right. Anyway, I love that strategy. And I try to replicate that in the interviews we do for candidates. I try to really put candidates at ease and tell them, “Hey, this is just as much about you seeing what I work, or how I work, as it is about us seeing how you work.” So, I try. And I know it’s not possible. But I try to put them at ease so that they know that I’m on trial just as much as they are. [Chuckles]
AIMEE: I really like that idea. I think I’ve heard that in the past. Maybe not so much for a junior, but a mid-level or a senior, is to ask to pair program so that you can see the codebase to make sure you’re not stepping into the danger zone. [Chuckles]
JOE: Yeah, for sure.
JAMISON: That was how we did interviews at my last job and I really liked it. There was an interview to see if they were nice. And then pair with the team for a day. And I think it worked pretty well. It still has some weaknesses but I liked it much better than other things I’ve done in the past.
DAVE: Jamison, did you find that candidates were willing to take a day off and come work with you?
JAMISON: They were, yeah. I was surprised. [Chuckles] We didn’t find anyone that we liked enough to ask to pair with the team that didn’t pair with the team. I think you might run the risk of losing some people that are just so in demand that they can’t spend the time. And I don’t know what you do in that case.
JOE: It’s a good way to filter out the tire-kickers, too.
JAMISON: What do you mean? I don’t even know what a tire-kicker is.
JOE: A tire-kicker is somebody that looks at a car and kicks the tires but doesn’t ever want to buy it.
JAMISON: Oh, so it’s people that aren’t actually looking to… [Inaudible]
JOE: Yeah, they aren’t really that serious.
JAMISON: Because they’re masochists and they like whiteboards or something?
JOE: Well, they could be fishing for a raise at their old job. Or they may not be…
JOE: Very serious about your particular company.
AJ: So, confession time.
AJ: I actually, the first…
JOE: [Laughs] I love that preface.
AJ: So, I was at BYU. And I was just feeling like school is not really for me, not in this kind of fashion. And so, I went and looked on craigslist of all places for programming jobs. I think I might have just been looking at different places in general. But I found a listing on craigslist for a company that was hiring a junior developer for Ruby. And Ruby is what I was learning at the time. And so, I called them up and I passed their little three-question phone interview. And so, they brought me in for a real interview.
And at the time I didn’t have any intention of leaving school. I was just testing the water to see, is it realistic for me to be able to get a job as a junior developer without having completed college? And so, I went through that interview process and got to the point where they’re like, “Well, we like you. [Chuckles] Let’s talk about when you could work for us.” And then I was like, “Well actually.” [Laughs] And I did feel kind of like a douchebag. But it was an important step in my own personal progress of finding out that this is something I could do on my own.
CHUCK: Sorry, I had to step away for a second. Are we talking about whether or not you should get a four-year degree?
DAVE: Nope. Not yet.
DAVE: Kind of.
AIMEE: Here goes the question.
JOE: Yes, let’s go with that question. Why [inaudible]…
DAVE: I think Aimee…
JOE: Why do four-year degrees suck? Go.
AIMEE: [Laughs] Well…
DAVE: I think Aimee already got one, basically. She just did it in two years.
JOE: That’s right.
AIMEE: [Chuckles] Well yeah. So, in my case I spent so much of my life skating that unfortunately college was like, “Oh, that’s just the next logical step.” And I had a lot of intentions…
AIMEE: Yeah, I had a lot of intentions on just coaching the rest of my life. I coached all through college. I worked a lot of hours through college. I didn’t go away to college. I lived at home and worked and did that sort of thing. And I had a scholarship which was great but it also, I had to keep a really high GPA. If I made a B, I lost my scholarship. So, it kind of discouraged me from taking harder classes because I thought, “Okay, it’s better to have a degree than no degree or death or things like that.” But probably after working a year, I quickly realized that that wasn’t really the greatest decision. [Chuckles] So, I tried to make the most of it with the jobs I had.
And then when I met my husband we talked about me going back to school. Because we’re in a place where I could and I just really wanted more fulfillment in life. Skating was my passion all my life. And I was looking for something else. So, I thought, “Oh, I really enjoy exercise. I’m going to do physical therapy.” So, I started that for about a year, quickly realized I really enjoyed the science aspect of it but did not like the patient care aspect of it. [Laughs] And that’s when I spent a year, a year and a half of soul searching a little bit. And fell back into programming.
So, that four-year degree really didn’t do a whole lot. But still, just because I think that’s… college is a step before career. So, what do I do after I decide to start programming again is I look at colleges and started back on that track. And then the college I was at, I took two courses. The first course was DHTML. [Chuckles] And this was 2012. So…
AIMEE: Not that…
JAMISON: That was the name of a joke conference put on.
AIMEE: [Laughs] Yeah.
JAMISON: And [inaudible] the year 2000.
AJ: That is…
DAVE: Did you also take a course called Notepad?
AIMEE: I think that it was the recommended editor.
AIMEE: Anyway, so… and like I had said earlier, I was really discouraged because here I’m like this super energetic student who was driving four hours to go to RailsBridge and asking my teachers these questions. And they’re just like, “Well, I don’t know. Here’s a link to research.” I’m like…
AIMEE: You think I don’t know how to google stuff myself?
AJ: And not only that, but it’s a link to some 1980s website.
AIMEE: Yes, yes, yes. So…
CHUCK: Written in DHTML.
AIMEE: [Chuckles] So, that’s…
AJ: Written in COBOL on Cogs.
AIMEE: [Chuckles] And that’s not to say that some degrees… degrees are different than others. The program that I was at, the Rails portion is led by someone named Eliza Brock. And she…
CHUCK: Oh, she’s awesome.
AIMEE: Yeah. She recommended, if I was still interested in doing the CS degree to look at different schools that are accredited. Not all computer science programs are accredited. And because I’m so driven and I also just want to be the best that I can be, I really wanted to do the bootcamp and the computer science degree. But just the more people I talk to in the industry have discouraged me from doing it by just saying it’s not necessary, that I can learn it on my own. So, at this time I’m not pursuing the CS degree. But yeah, that initial four-year degree, not really worth anything except the piece of paper and saying that you have a degree.
AJ: So, counterpoint. Now Jamison, you actually learned stuff in school, didn’t you?
JAMISON: I learned some stuff. But I was not a self-started, I guess is a nice way to put it. [Chuckles] In high school my goal was to not go to high school.
DAVE: Nailed it.
JAMISON: Yeah, I did it. I did real good. I didn’t…
AJ: So, you were on the right track at the start.
JAMISON: Yeah. But the goal was instead of going to high school I would sit at home and do nothing.
JAMISON: And I also nailed that.
AJ: No. [Chuckles]
JAMISON: So, school for me was…
DAVE: Nailed it.
JAMISON: Yeah, was kind of a kick in the butt that, “Hey, your brain is important. And it’s important to do things that provide value to you.” Because if I didn’t go to school, I would be working at McDonalds right now, and I want Dave to say, “Nailed it.”
JOE: Didn’t nail it.
JAMISON: Oh no.
DAVE: Failed it.
JAMISON: Failed it, yeah.
JOE: A little bit.
JAMISON: Failed that.
JAMISON: So for me, it was just like, it’s nice to be educated and to know stuff. [Chuckles] And you can actually do cool things in life if you have access to skills.
DAVE: So Jamison, did you go to a four-year college?
JAMISON: I did, yeah. Well, it took me more than four years. But it was [inaudible]
CHUCK: [Laughs] That’s my story, too.
DAVE: It’s just a label. Don’t worry.
JAMISON: Yeah, four-year college is like an optimistic way of putting it.
JOE: You got a six-year undergrad.
DAVE: I’ll offer another counterpoint. So, when I was 18 I went to college. And I did do computer science, although I didn’t start computer science until my second year of college. And I absolutely loved it. It was mind-expanding. I loved my general education classes, my non-computer science classes. I loved my computer science classes. And it was wonderful. But anybody who I talk to who has been already working in their profession that’s not programming and is looking at getting into programming, I don’t recommend to any of them to go get a four-year degree in computer science to begin.
But if you’re an 18-year-old that’s looking at options, I think I still am pretty well-convinced that a four-year degree in computer science if you want to be a programmer is really a great way to go. I almost don’t care what your degree is in, because as Aimee has showed us, you can self-teach and go to quick bootcamps to learn. But I think college is just an awesome experience. One thing I didn’t even mention but is also really valuable is the social experience you get while you’re there. The friendships and the relationships I made while I was in college, we’re all in this fiery furnace of affliction together.
DAVE: Those bonds are still strong and really meaningful and valuable to me now. But I know I couldn’t relive that today. So, if I wanted to go back and become an accountant, oh, well maybe that’s not a good example.
DAVE: But I don’t think I could go to a four-year school again at my age and have the same experience now that I had when I was young.
JAMISON: That’s [inaudible].
CHUCK: I want to chime in on this, too.
JAMISON: Oh, go ahead, Chuck.
CHUCK: I have a four-year degree. My degree is in computer engineering, not computer science, which means that I took computer science classes and I took electrical engineering classes. And when I went to school I had done electronics in high school. So, I thought electrical engineering, that’s fun, that’s cool. And I didn’t really figure out what I wanted to do. I worked in IT while I was in college, finished my degree in computer engineering just because the computer science classes were fun. But some of the computer science classes looked kind of dumb so I kind of straddled the fence. I graduated. I got a job doing tech support. And I thought that’s where I was going to go. Wound up in management, thought that was the thing.
And then… So, I’d done serious programming for college. But it wasn’t until I had been out in the workforce for about a year and a half that I picked up a programming project for my work, because they wouldn’t pay for the software we needed. So, we started building it in Ruby on Rails. That’s when I figured out, “Oh, this is really fun. And this is really where I want to be.” So, I had the technical background but I didn’t actually go there for a career until then. But I still learned a lot in college.
And yeah, as Dave said, I went when I was 18. I graduated when I was 26. I did take two years off for a church mission. But for the experience and figuring out what you want to do and having some time where you don’t have to be serious and support a husband or wife and kids if you have them, that was fun. And that was nice and it was a good experience. But I’m with Dave on this. If you’ve got a degree in something else and you want to just pick this up, then yeah, I would go at it a different way.
I also want to point out that when I was working at the university in IT, I worked a lot with the programmers. And I would say about half of the programmers in the different various groups that I worked in had law degrees. So, there really is no wrong background for this if you’re interested in it.
JAMISON: I think the things I learned in school that are helpful to my career were all incidental and not learned directly as part of the curriculum. The things that I learned in the curriculum are cool if you are interested in the science of computer science, which I am. I think it’s fascinating. But…
JOE: You don’t use [inaudible] on a regular basis at your job?
JAMISON: Well, I do now since I saw Dave’s [inaudible] talk.
JAMISON: He just gave a talk about [inaudible].
DAVE: Nailed it.
JAMISON: Nailed it. [Chuckles]
AJ: I just remember you being really interested in machine learning. And didn’t you start some sort of papers discussion group for a while?
JAMISON: Yeah. Yeah, that lasted a couple of months.
AJ: Well, you’ve always…
JAMISON: But guess how many times I’ve used that at work? Zero. There are careers where you need it. And…
AJ: But it was enjoyable, right? It added to the art of programming.
JAMISON: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
AJ: Which I think is a big part of what we’ve been talking about, is more the art. It’s fun. It’s what I love. Not just, I need it for this at work.
JOE: Yeah, but there’s a lot of other aspects to the art of programming that aren’t covered. Like, data structures and algorithms is just one little tiny piece. Test-driven development and agile and…
JOE: [Inaudible], that’s not curriculum at most universities.
DAVE: Yeah, that’s a good point.
JAMISON: Yeah. [Inaudible]
DAVE: [You can] self-teach anyway.
CHUCK: I was going to say, Jamison started a group on it. So, if that’s what cranks your engine, go look it up on the internet.
JAMISON: So, I guess my point is that it wasn’t directly useful for work but it was useful for just intellectual stimulation in general.
JOE: Right. I had an interesting experience where I spent three or four months studying data structures and algorithms to prepare for an interview at Google. And it was very useful in my interview for Google. And I’ve essentially not really used it before or since. I didn’t really know data structures and algorithms particularly well beforehand. And since then, I haven’t particularly used it much. You know, occasionally in a rare case, but the classics of computers science don’t always have applications to when you’re just working at a small company building a small website that isn’t going to have… you’re not building a framework for millions of people to use.
CHUCK: Awesome. Well…
JAMISON: Just got to invent that time machine.
CHUCK: Well, I’m getting prodded in the chatroom. It looks like we’re about out of time. So, let’s put a semicolon on this part of the podcast and get to picks.
DAVE: Semicolons are optional, Chuck.
CHUCK: They’re automatically inserted, actually.
DAVE: Nailed it.
CHUCK: So Jamison, do you want to start us off with picks?
JAMISON: I have many picks. One pick is an article about cockroaches with backpacks.
JAMISON: Which is fascinating. It was on some NPR blog. Apparently researchers have been controlling cockroaches with electrodes for decades now. They put electrodes in part of their nervous system. They administer electricity and it makes the cockroach move left or right. Someone hooked up a video…
AJ: Hashtag NSA.
JAMISON: Yeah, no, it gets better. Someone hooked up a videogame controller to it. So, they’re controlling this cockroach with a PlayStation controller.
JOE: Oh my.
JAMISON: Then they glue backpacks onto the cockroaches so they can attach sensors to them, or cargo to deliver payloads. Just imagine this army of remote-controlled cockroaches moving through a disaster site with cameras. Or…
DAVE: Or bring me my yellow Lego piece that I [inaudible]…
JAMISON: Exactly, yeah, yeah. Maybe a [inaudible] that you…
JOE: Is this something that Amazon’s pioneering to get your packages to you?
JAMISON: I think it’s going to be the new over the top startup perk. Like, we’ll deliver lunch to you…
CHUCK: That’s a different kind of drone.
JAMISON: With cockroaches or something like that.
JOE: Yeah, yeah.
AJ: Oh my goodness. I’ll be so glad when those foosball billboards go away.
JAMISON: [Laughs] Yeah. So, that’s one of my picks. It just made me sit and think and giggle like a little child.
JAMISON: My other pick is a book called ‘Event Driven’. It’s a book on organizing conferences. Now that I say this, I may have picked this recently. So, I’m going to go onto the next ones. It’s really good.
The next pick is a blogpost called ‘The Hiring Post’ by some guy that’s famous on Hacker News. I don’t know exactly what he does except write a lot of long comments that get a lot of upvotes. But he sounds pretty smart. And his post goes into detail on this hiring process that is pretty different from ones that I’ve experienced or implemented. It’s focused a lot more around the coding test that Aimee mentioned a little bit, or coding projects, but doing them in a repeatable and quantifiable way. So, you take the fuzziness and human gut feeling that’s subject to a lot of bias out of the equation.
And then my last pick is a blogpost on argument cultures and how developers sometimes argue for the sake of arguing, or value argument over much as a way to make decisions. And it looks at some of the downsides of that, because we take for granted that it’s valuable to expose ideas to criticism. So, we take the upsides for granted but I haven’t ever really thought about the things that you lose by that culture.
JOE: Is that that blogpost where they tell the story about how, imagine wrestling with a pig. And after a while you begin to realize that the pig enjoys it.
JAMISON: The pig enjoys it, yeah.
JOE: And that’s what it’s like to argue with a developer?
JAMISON: It quotes that. I don’t think it invented that story.
JAMISON: But yeah, it’s really good. That’s all.
CHUCK: Alright Dave, what are your picks?
DAVE: I have two picks for you today. The first one is an Ajax library called Axios which I may have also picked before, like Jamison might have double picked.
JAMISON: It’s just the two thumbs up…
DAVE: It’s St. Patrick’s Day today.
JAMISON: Instead of the one thumbs up.
DAVE: Yeah. Right. So, double pick. Anyway, so it’s Axios written by my friend Matt Zabriskie. And we put it into production a few weeks ago on one of our applications at work and we like it. It’s pretty cool.
The other one is a book recently made into a movie called ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand. This book really opened my mind to, I don’t know. I’ll just have to leave it at that. It opened my mind. And I highly recommend it.
CHUCK: What was in there?
DAVE: Well, my mind opened and all the crap fell out. So, I can’t remember. But basically, it’s a book about a World War II prisoner of war who was captured by the Japanese military. And he’s an American soldier, actually an airman. And what he endured both leading up to his capture and while he was captured, and how he coped with it. And it was really inspiring and also really heavy. So, just as a word of warning, it is pretty intense. But it’s something that I think changed me a little bit. So anyway, I can recommend that if you want to be changed. So, those are my picks.
CHUCK: Awesome. AJ, what are your picks?
AJ: Sometimes when it’s early in the morning like 10 o’clock and your brain’s not quite on yet because you just woke up, you need a little something to kick-start your day before you’re ready to fully focus. And for that, I use Good Mythical Morning. Good Mythical Morning is a product by Rhett and Link that is guaranteed to invigorate the mind, soul, and body. And I recommend that you take at least two before starting your day as well.
In addition to that, I recently watched a Majora’s Mask live action little 15-minute video. It’s a, what do you call those things? I forget the name of the subculture group. But anyway, if you’re into Zelda, it’s kind of a cool video that explains the background of how Skull Kid got the mask in the first place, which is neat and fun.
No actual noteworthy picks today, sorry.
AJ: Still bad on that.
CHUCK: Joe, what are your picks?
JOE: [Laughs] I should pick AJ. I should just pick AJ’s picks.
JOE: My first pick is going to be the venue that ng-vegas is being held at. I’ve been organizing ng-vegas for a while now. And one of the things that I love about it is just how awesome a venue it is because it’s not a stupid Vegas casino. It’s this resort on Lake Las Vegas with a private beach and paddleboards and kayaks and two swimming pools and a slide. And it’s just a really awesome place to go on vacation. I went and stayed there for a little while with my family on the way down to California once. And so, I’ve been there a couple of times. It’s The Westin at Lake Las Vegas. So, it’s just a super place to go if you’ll go to Vegas. If you don’t want to be on The Strip in some seedy casino and have horrible things handed to you as you walk up and down The Strip, you want to go someplace warm and fun, it’s an awesome place. And it was the first time I’ve ever been paddleboarding. And that was super awesome. So, that’ll be my first pick, is The Westin at Lake Las Vegas.
My second pick, this last weekend I went for three days to SaltCON which is a board gaming convention. I spent 15, 16 hours a day playing board games with friends and my wife. And it was awesome. And we played this game called Alchemists. That’s plural, not Alchemist, singular. They’re two totally different board games. But it was an awesome game because if you’ve played games where you have alchemy in them, it has similar concepts to mixing things to make potions. But it’s a little bit like Clue. You’re trying to figure out what things are and you have these positive and negative charges and different colors. And you have to figure out… so, it’s like Clue mixed with, I don’t know, something a little fantasy. And it just really appealed to the scientific part of my brain. And it was also super fun and just a great game. So, that’ll be my second pick.
And finally my third pick is going to be a presentation skills trainer named Valerie Kittel. She helps people give better talks. That’s her job, is she’s a consultant that will help you. If you’re giving a talk, she will help you give a better talk and do better at your presentations. Everything from the content and the pacing and your enunciation to where you stand on the stage and how you should move and how you should move your arms and your facial expressions. And how you should get on the stage and get off the stage and all that. She was absolutely awesome. I used her for a keynote that I gave last year. And I used her again when my daughter spoke at ng-conf. And she’s just absolutely fantastic. And it took me forever to try to find somebody to help with that. So, I was really pleased when I did find her and that she was so effective. So, that’ll be my third and final pick.
CHUCK: Awesome. I’m going to go ahead and throw out a couple of picks. The first one is, I’ve gotten hooked on these books by Ursula K. Le Guin. The first one is, it’s called ‘The Wizard of Earthsea’. The second one’s ‘The Tombs of Atuan’. I think I probably picked both of those on the show before. I’m reading the third book. It’s called ‘The Farthest Shore’ and it is awesome. Really enjoying that.
And then I read another book called ‘Traction’. I don’t know if I picked this on the show before either. But it’s a book about just gaining speed and momentum as you start a business. I know that some people listening to this call are into that. So, I’ll go ahead and pick that.
And finally we do a freelancers’ Q & A if you’re looking at going freelance for The Freelancers’ Show every month. The next one is going to be the day that this one is released. No, I take it back. It’s the day before this one is released. So, never mind about that. But if you want to be emailed about when they are, then you can go to FreelancersAnswers.com and check it out.
And finally my last pick is Drip. You can find it at GetDrip.com. It’s an email campaign management system. And it is awesome. It’s put together by Rob Walling who put together HitTail.com. And I can’t really explain how awesome it is. It’s like MailChimp except it actually works and is cool.
JAMISON: [Chuckles] That’s more of a sick burn on MailChimp.
AIMEE: So, the first one I have, I listen to a bunch of different podcasts, Ruby Rogues included. So, I think that this one has been picked on Ruby Rogues but I wanted to share it on this one in case there’s not an overlap. But it’s from Brandon Hays. It’s ‘Letter to an aspiring developer’. I read it probably two weeks before I graduated from the bootcamp. And there are tons of these different articles floating around. But this one just had above all of the others I read probably the best advice I thought. So, that is my first one.
The second one, I want to share what we’ve been working on at work. [Chuckles] Because I am proud of what I’ve been doing here and proud of what our team’s been doing. But like I said before, I work at a company called Message Systems. And we have been working on moving our project into the cloud. So, it’s called SparkPost. So, you can go to SparkPost.com. I’ll give a link. So, that’s my second pick.
And then the third pick I can’t go without, I have the figure skating background, without picking exercise and physical activity. Hopefully that is not taken too harshly.
AIMEE: It’s maybe not the most favorite thing in the programming community. But I love it. And I think even if it’s ping pong, any sort of physical activity’s good. [Chuckles] So, that is it.
CHUCK: Alright. Well, thanks for coming, Aimee. It was fun to talk. It was definitely an interesting discussion to have. And best of luck in your career.
AIMEE: Thank you. I really appreciate it, guys. I had a great time.
JAMISON: Yeah, thank you so much. This was fascinating.
JOE: Yeah, it was awesome.
CHUCK: Alright. Well, let’s wrap this up and we’ll catch you all next week.
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[End of podcast