Michael pimentel

Michael Pimentel

Software Engineer ClearWave Software

Michael is a self taught software developer that is passionate about learning and teaching all things software.


Michael started his career as a glass blower, creating lighting for movies and tv shows. But after cutbacks at work, he decided it was time to look into other careers, and revisited his childhood love of computers. He shares how he taught himself to code, and the one-year job search that landed him the developer job he has today.

Show Notes


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[00:00:00] (Music) Welcome to the CodeNewbie podcast, where we talk to people on their coding journey in hopes of helping you on yours. I'm your host Saron and today we're going to hear from a new developer about his coding journey. (Music) Before he was a developer...  

[00:00:23] MP: I am Michael Pimentel. I am a software engineer at a company called Clear Wave Software. 

[00:00:27] SY: Michael used to be a glass blower, but after years of making custom lighting for movies and TV shows, he decided to look for a career that paid more and wasn't so labor intensive. He’d taken some college courses, but he didn't have a college degree. And going back to school wasn't really an option. But he'd always loved computers. 

[00:00:46] MP: I almost had like this obsessive fascination with computers. You know, I used to like just love pressing the buttons on computers and turning it on just because it just really excited me. 

[00:00:56] SY: Michael tells us how he got into coding, the ups and downs of learning and realizing that he hadn't quite learned enough and how two years later, he finally landed his first dev job. After this. 

[00:01:11] When I first learned to code, all I wanted was to be a developer. But then I actually learned to code and realized that you don't become a developer, you become a front-end developer or a rails developer or a full stack engineer or a back-end engineer or the million other job titles that involve coding. So how do you pick? And once you get that first job, how do you turn it into a career? You can use the Dice careers mobile app. This is the tool I wish I had when I first started. You pick the tech skills you either have or hope to have in the future, you type in your desired job title and Dice helps you find other job titles you might also be interested in and maybe didn't know about. But they take it a step further by telling you what skills these job titles require, how much they pay and, based on your profile, they tell you what skills you might want to learn so you can one day apply for those jobs. They simplify a lot of the chaos of job hunting, and it's totally free. So check out the Dice careers mobile app. Go to dice.com/codenewbie for more info. That's dice.com/codenewbie. 

[00:02:10] Flatiron School teaches you how to code from anywhere. They've got an awesome community of career-changers and a number of different options for you to pick from to become a software engineer. They've got full-time in-person courses, self-directed introductory courses and a remote online web developer program. They even have a free 75-hour online prep course where you can learn Javascript, Ruby and do some interview prep. Go to flatironschool.com/podcast to learn more. That's flatironschool.com/podcast. Link is in your show notes.  

[00:02:43] One of the best parts of being a coder is finally being able to bring your passions to life. You have the skills to design, to code, to create the thing you're excited about and share that passion with the world. And Hover can help you with the first step of sharing your passion with the world: getting your domain name. They've got a really beautiful and easy-to-use interface where you can find and register your new domain name in just a few steps. And to give you full control, they separate your domain name from your hosting so you're never stuck with one service. They keep your domain name safe while giving you the flexibility to use whatever hosting service is best for you. They also give you free WHOIS privacy, so your personal information is safe, too. To get started, go over to hover.com/newbie to save 10% off your first purchase. That's hover.com/newbie. (Music) Link is in the show notes.

[00:03:33] SY: So you have been in our community I feel like for a while. Your face is so familiar. Your—I know this is the first time we’re, you know, talking via audio, but I feel like I've been talking to you for like years now. 

[00:03:43] MP: Yeah, I guess I've been following you on Twitter ever since I started actually, and I mean I came across CodeNewbie from the beginning. 

[00:03:50] SY: Ok. So you are currently a working developer—congratulations on that, by the way. I know this is your first development job. So cool. 

[00:03:57] MP: Thank you. Thank you so much. 

[00:03:58] SY: What were you doing before that?

[00:04:00] MP: For about ten years, I was working as a glassblower at a company that made light bulbs for the film industry. 

[00:04:06] SY: That is so fas—I think that's so fascinating. I’ve never… I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a glassblower before. What is that like? 

[00:04:12] MP: It is extremely hot. (Laughter) It's a company that kind of like does things the old-fashioned way, you know, where they do everything by hand, and they use a lot of burners and torches. And it's done inside of a shop-like environment with no air conditioning.

[00:04:28] SY: Oh no. 

[00:04:28] MP: It gets pretty grueling over time. I think it's one of the things that starts off really cool, and if you see it and you're not the one doing it, it's really cool. (Laughter)

[00:04:36] SY: I had a feeling. 

[00:04:36] MP: It’s one of those things. So yeah. 

[00:04:40] SY: Ok. So sounds very labor-intensive, very physical. 

[00:04:43] MP: Yeah, definitely. It gets like that. When you do it probably for the first couple of years, it's really fun, interesting and it's cool to tell people what you're doing. But yeah, it quickly becomes very laborious and hard on your body. 

[00:04:55] SY: Ok, so I think it's really interesting that you manufactured custom light for cinematography. Why... why do they need custom light? Like what kind of stuff have you made that's very specific to that industry?

[00:05:06] MP: Yeah. So I think what's interesting about the company that I worked for there is it provided some of the larger lights that are supposed to replicate the color of the sun. And a lot of those were being taken over by LEDS, which are a lot smaller. And, you know, with technology growing today and the way it is, it's… a lot of those industries are switching to LEDs and more advanced cameras that don't need so much lighting. But there still are a lot of industries that still want that type of light that basically makes the color in film look more I guess natural and one of the few ways to make that product was by hand with a glassblower. But yeah, it kept us going for or myself for about 10 years. 

[00:05:49] SY: So have you made lights for any movies or shows that we may have heard of?

[00:05:54] MP: So a lot of the clients that they sold to was mainly Hollywood. So Titanic and all those movies... Paramount Studios, Universal. That was the one cool thing that you can tell someone when I did that was like, “yeah I made a light bulb that I was used to film on a set of whatever TV show, you know, or movie.” 

[00:06:14] SY: So you get some bragging rights. You brought the show to life by bringing it light. That’s...

[00:06:19] MP: Yeah. 

[00:06:19] SY: That’s how we’re going to tell that story. 

[00:06:20] MP: Sure, yeah. Absolutely . 

[00:06:21] SY: Awesome. Ok so at what point did you say, you know what, I think this glass blowing thing… it was good for a time, but I think it's time to move on. At what point did you decide that?

[00:06:31] MP: Probably around the time when I started to notice that the company started to cut our hours back. I think that was a big portion of it aside from the physical drain. The location of the company is in the Central Valley of California. And it gets pretty hot in the summer over here. It's like 110 degrees, and on top of that, you're working in a really hot environment. So we would try to wake up at 3am to try to beat the heat. So I guess that took a toll on me over time, and I was just like well this is physically exhausting and on top of it, the company seems like it's kind of going downhill. I wasn't making that much money there. I went from making $30,000 a year over a period of like six years and then towards the end I was bumped up to making almost $40,000 dollars a year. And at the time, I thought that was a lot of money. Someone that doesn't have a college education, you know, over time I saw like this isn’t going to be able to provide for myself my wife. It's isn't sustainable, and the company seems to be declining, so I need to find something else.  

[00:07:34] SY: So the something else that you ended up finding was coding. How did you find that?

[00:07:39] MP: There’s a really interesting story behind that actually. I was always interested in computers from, you know, from youth as a kid. My mom would bring home computers from people that she knew, and I almost had like this obsessive fascination with computers. You know, I used to like just love pressing the buttons on computers and turning it on just because it just really excited me. And then when I was around 11 years old, we were able to get a real computer that was more modern because all the other computers we had gotten were really, really old computers from like the 80s. We had a family member give us a computer, and it kind of broke. So we were trying to figure out how to fix it. So that's when I had the opportunity to learn how to fix it. We took it apart, stripped it. I had a neighbor that was able to show me how to do it, and I was able to build my own. And I was obsessed. I loved computers. But then over time, I kind of like thought there's not much more I can do with this computer just because I didn't know, you know. And I didn't have anyone to kind of show me like ok, well you can actually do a lot more with his computer. Years later, you know, I'm working at this company where I was, and was searching I need to figure out what I need to do. Going back to school is not a ideal choice for me or option because I don't really have enough money. A lot of our money is going towards putting my wife through school. So I was like, man if there’s an option for me to get a good job or a decent career with going to school for the minimal amount of time or at least by, hopefully you know, if there's anything out there I can do without having to go to school that be ideal. So I started doing more research with, you know, what can I do that would allow me to get a better paying job. So I fell into like ok computer sciences. I was like man, I love computers. I need to know what else I can do with this. And then I think it led to me learning that while you can write code in software and everything like that. And I was like oh well that's really interesting. And so I did more research, and I ended up falling under freeCodeCamp in I liked when you on their website, it tells you you can learn enough to get a job without having to go to school. And I was like no way. This is unbelievable that this is free and this is kind of, you know, this is hard to believe. So I started finding podcasts. I started hearing people's stories about how they taught themselves all these really encouraging stories. So I was like wow, ok. And I think I even found maybe an interview with Quincy Larson. And so yeah that validated that more, so I just dove into freeCodeCamp. And I was like wow, this is, you know, I fell in love with it just like you hear a lot of people because it's, it's really cool what you can do if you have the right skills. Yeah, I was like if you can get paid doing this, this is... this is like the dream job. I always hear these stories of people that learn to code, and they get jobs and they become professional software engineers and coders. But something that I see that they all have in common is that a lot of them have come from like a college background. And so something that kind of scared me was like ok I'm learning how to code. I can build basic things, but will I ever know enough to get a job? And the last time I’ve been in school was years. So I started to look at what I needed to know to pass those coding interviews. So I was kind of getting discouraged because I was like I don't have that college background. I'm not that great at math. So I just pressed through. I was like hey well maybe there's that chance that I can study really hard and maybe pass that interview. Yeah, I did a few interviews and a couple of them where I left very, very discouraged. 

[00:11:07] SY: Oh no. 

[00:11:08] MP: I think I had two interviews that had whiteboards, and we had a lot of algorithms on the whiteboard that I've seen and heard before, but I wasn't able to implement them you know, in person under the pressure.

[00:11:20] SY: Oh it's so different when it's live, when someone’s staring at you. It's a, you know, warm room. (Laughter) It gets really intense. Ok so before we get into your technical interview experience, I wanna get back to when you first discovered coding. It's really interesting because you had some experience with technology, with computers where you were, you know, taking apart these computers, doing all these things. Did you realize at any point while you were doing that or maybe even reflecting back on those really awesome days, did it ever occur to you that people get paid to do stuff like that? 

[00:11:55] MP: Yeah, let’s see... so I did that for, I don't know, from 11 ‘till maybe 15 years old. And I'd go around fixing family members’ computers, and then, you know, I'd hear like, “oh yeah you can get paid doing this type of thing.” And I think it about 2006 or so, I started to hear people saying “oh yeah people building computers and that type of thing, there's not much money in that.” You know what I mean? I've heard people getting paid, but I was like ok well ultimately, you probably have to get a degree in something related to that. My parents aren't college educated, and I’m not sure if this goes for everybody, but for me it's kind of like when your family is going through that route, it's hard for you to take that initiative because you're not—you don't know really where to begin, you know, to go to school even. I mean I’d taken community college courses, and even then, I just felt lost on how many classes to take and which ones to take. I didn't have that guidance, I guess. So it's just kind of feeling lost a lot of where you need to go. 

[00:12:52] SY: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. Ok so you did this Google search, this research, and you found out oh my goodness, this is pretty awesome. When you made the commitment to learn to code, what were your expectations? Were you hoping it would take a month? A few months? A couple years? Like what did you think it was going to be like before you got into it? 

[00:13:14] MP: The first day when I started freeCodeCamp, I probably spent about four or maybe six hours that one day because I was just like ok I love this. You know, a lot of it starts out with HTML and CSS. It's pretty basic and straightforward. So I probably went through those pretty quickly until I got to JavaScript. And that's when I hit a wall, and I was like ok I really need to take more time and understand what I'm doing so I can learn and understand it and understand what I'm doing, you know? So that's, that was on a weekend, by the way. I think that's, that's noteworthy. And then ok so after work on a weekday, it's a lot different. So I get off work around 13/2 o'clock going in at 4:00 a.m. sometimes 5:00. And then I get off work I'm exhausted. And that's when reality hits, and it's like ok so that educational high I had last Saturday and Sunday is not so much there anymore because I'm exhausted.

[00:14:09] SY: It's different on a Wednesday. 

[00:14:09] MP: Yes. Definitely. So I was like ok I'm going to try to put an hour today, you know, after work. And that was really good for me was telling myself I'm going to do a little bit of it, and then that little bit turns into like two hours because I'm trying to really solve or figure out some problem that it has me on. But yeah, I think when life is going on and everything, it's really difficult when life gets involved. It's like ok reality is... this is really hard to do. 

[00:14:36] SY: Absolutely. Yeah. It's important to keep in mind a few things. Number one, a lot of people who are going down this coding journey are in your position, right? They have actual jobs, and it's not just, you know, having a job, it's a lot times having a job that is very physically demanding, mentally exhausting and so we like to think that after 40, 50-hour work week, we have a couple hours everyday that we can do stuff. But that can be a very painful couple of hours. 

[00:15:05] MP: Yes. 

[00:15:06] SY: You know, depending on how that, that day at work went. So, you know, kudos to you for pushing through and, you know, making time when you could. And, you know, in those moments, especially if you have a really rough week, if you're traveling for work, if something comes up at home for a million different reasons, it's really easy to also stop and to take a break or even just to quit. So for you as you're going through this learning journey, did you ever have those moments where you thought you know what maybe this just isn't for me? 

[00:15:35] MP: Yes. Oh, definitely. So many times. And I don't want to confuse, you know, people that are listening to think that yeah he did it. Every day, you know, for two years straight. To be honest, there was a time when I think I had struggled so much with… when I look back, it was something pretty straightforward and probably simple, but when someone isn't really versed in these programming concepts or even the syntax, it's really difficult stuff. You know, I think it was just like how to bind an EventListener to a button or something like that. (Laughter)

[00:16:07] SY: My goodness. 

[00:16:08] MP: Yeah. 

[00:16:09] SY: Those darned EventListeners. 

[00:16:10] MP: So I think it was something like that that I got stuck on, and I spent hours trying to figure it out and not knowing where to look to find the answer. And I think I was like ok I'll take a day off. And that day turned into I think a week. And then a week turned into two weeks of no coding at all. And I remember I would be doing something else like at home watching TV and thinking, ‘you know what? I should probably be coding right now.’ And then getting like this anxiety in the pit of my stomach thinking like you should be coding right now. If you want a new career, you should be. And then that anxiety would go away because I would try to do something else get my mind off of it to get it to get rid of that anxiety. (Laughter) Yeah, so that was like a, probably a bad habit of mine, you know, kind of putting it off because it caused stress when I couldn't solve a problem. And my way of dealing with it was doing something else. 

[00:17:02] SY: What did you do in those moments? Because clearly you came back, right? Even though you took the week, the couple of weeks off the distractions, like eventually you came back. What got you to come back?

[00:17:12] MP: At Light, the company I worked at before. One of the benefits of when I worked there was I can listen to my podcasts. So what I did at work is I listened to programming podcasts all day, literally all day. People would ask me, “what are you listening to?” I'm like, “oh, podcasts.” “Like what kind?” I'm like, “computer programming ones.” And they’re like, “oh that's weird,” you know? (Laughter) 

[00:17:35] SY: They just don't get it.

[00:17:35] MP: Yeah, definitely. So I'd listen to CodeNewbie podcast. Listening to other people's... their journeys and that they succeeded doing this was really, really encouraging.

[00:17:45] SY: Yeah.

[00:17:46] MP: I would be at work, and I'd be hearing—listening to like a CodeNewbie podcast and hearing someone talk about it. And it’d motivate me so much that I’d want to start coding while I was at work. It got to a point where I was like you know what? I need to listen to this right before I go home or maybe after work so that it would get me going, you know what I mean? 

[00:18:01] SY: Oh, interesting.

[00:18:03] MP: To want to start coding again, you know. And so a lot of those podcasts were probably a huge part of me staying motivated to succeed and keep learning and everything like that. 

[00:18:16] SY: That's so interesting. I love that it's not just listen to podcasts and hear stories, but the timing yeah seems... I never thought of that. That's such a great idea. Yeah. You know, when you… when you’re about to reach your weakest moment, that moment where you're like “oh maybe I'll just watch TV,” you catch yourself right before. You fill yourself with inspiration—maybe a little bit of guilt—and then, you know, you're much more likely to actually do the thing that you know is good for you. 

[00:18:39] MP: Yeah.

[00:18:39] SY: that's really cool. I like that. Ok, so you learned, you focused on your education… Were you learning part-time kind of in your spare time the whole time? Or is there a point where you left your job to just do learning? Or what did that look like? 

[00:18:55] MP: So I ended up meeting some people at some meetups, and I heard a couple stories of people. They had a job where they worked in like manufacturing, too. And they ended up quitting their job, too, and learning how to code full-time. So I was like man, maybe I should do that, too. But they were able to save up enough money to live on while (Music) being able to do that. And I was like man, that's almost impossible for me to do. 

[00:19:20] SY: Coming up next, we talk about the interview process Michael went through and how he finally landed a developer job through a meetup. After this.

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[00:21:24] SY: So how long did you learn on the side and learn on nights and weekends before you decided “you know what? I think I'm ready to go find my job.” 

[00:21:33] MP: I followed a few tutorials that had me building some basic CRUD applications, I guess. And then after I felt confident enough to build them on my own without following a tutorial, I think that was probably where I thought I probably know enough to at least start interviewing somewhere, and if I can pass an interview, I guess they'll see me fit enough to build, to perform, you know. I'm at a job, I guess if that makes sense. 

[00:22:04] SY: Yeah. 

[00:22:04] MP: So I think a big part of it was not really knowing if I knew enough. I started to go to meetups—freeCodeCamp meetups because they have this thing where you can go on Facebook and meet people in your area that are also doing freeCodeCamp. So that led to me finding this meetup—I actually started to do hackathons. And so I went to a hackathon there with a couple other people that went to my meetup, and that's where I met more people that were professional developers. And I started to, you know, ask them out to coffee and like “hey, I'll buy you coffee if you don’t mind like me picking your brain. And I have a lot of questions, you know. How you got into this? What I need to do?” That type of stuff. So I did a lot of reaching out actually to try to get answers because I didn't know. And it's like I think someone needs to know what were my skill set to be able to tell me if I'm ready. That type of thing.

[00:22:56] SY: Yeah. 

[00:22:56] MP: So I think that was also a significant part. 

[00:22:59] SY: I love that so much. I love this idea that you did not wait until you felt job ready. You waited until you felt like you could do something on your own, and then you let the companies tell you if you're job ready… 

[00:23:13] MP: Yeah. 

[00:23:14] MP: ...which is something that I always encourage people to do. I don't know if they actually listen, but that's what I encourage them to do is at the end the day, especially if you're a newbie as a beginner, you don't know if you’re job ready. It would be weird if you did because you've never had a job, you know? Like that's the point. So it is definitely in your best interest to let someone else tell you, “actually, you need a little bit more time” than to wait until you feel like you're in a good place because chances are you're probably not going to feel that way for a lot longer than you need to wait to get that first job. 

[00:23:46] MP: Yes. Yes definitely. That's probably one part that I had left out, and I just remembered it right now. It’s something that I got advice that I had gotten from some professional developers, and a lot of them had told me the same thing, and it was that they've asked me like what have you built? Have you tried building something for somebody, like for a client? That led me to be like “oh no I haven't. Maybe I should do that.” Because if you can build something and demonstrate it, that's a good sign to show people like you know what you're doing or you know how to do that. So I went out on Craigslist, and I posted an ad saying I can build you a website or an app for a reasonable price. I would like to meet with someone local and work with you in person.

[00:24:27] SY: Yeah . 

[00:24:27] MP: And that's when I got my first client, actually. 

[00:24:31] SY: Wow. 

[00:24:31] MP: And it was a little too soon. (Laughter) 

[00:24:34] SY: You live and you learn. That's ok. 

[00:24:35] MP: Yeah, definitely, because I think it was only about eight months into me learning that I pick up a client. 

[00:24:41] SY: Wow. A Paid client.

[00:24:41] MP: Yeah, a paid client. It was an architect that wanted an application for building inspections. So... 

[00:24:50] SY: Wow. That sounds intense. 

[00:24:52] MP: It does. And it was. So I was like, you know what? I guess the best way of learning is to just dive in. So I was like “you know what? How about this. I'll start building it for you for no charge. And if you like what you see, then you can pay me what you feel fit.”  Probably a bad idea for anybody who's really freelancing. (Laughter) But I was so unsure of my skills. I didn't know if I was capable of building it. I was like reaching out everybody. I was like all these people that knew what they're doing to get their advice and everything like that. So I went off, and I tried to build it. And he had someone build a mobile app of whatever he wanted. And he basically wanted a web app for that same application. So I had something to go off of basically. So I just had to replicate that for a web app. I hit a wall pretty early on. I didn't even know what stack to use because I was mostly doing front-end, and I needed a database. I needed to know what stack I needed to use… all that stuff. I ended up building that application to raw functionality. It worked—it didn't look very pretty—but it interacted with Firebase, which we ended up using as a back-ended service. I showed him, but he ended up wanting all these other functions that I couldn't build because I didn't know how. But he was happy enough to give me some money for it. 

[00:26:15] SY: Nice. 

[00:26:15] MP: And then I ended up passing off the rest of the application to a friend. 

[00:26:19] SY: Oh neat. 

[00:26:20] MP: And they finished it. And he was happy. And he actually to this day, still refers people to me. 

[00:26:27] SY: Neat. That’s awesome. So you got a job and you created a job for your friend. 

[00:26:33] MP: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I ended up passing up a lot of clients actually because of this first client and he—his referrals, basically. 

[00:26:39] SY: Ok. So you did that first job and you realize maybe he did go study a little bit more. 

[00:26:46] MP: Yes. 

[00:26:46] SY: Yeah.

[00:26:47] MP: I learned so much just building that little part that I built because I knew I had a client that needed an application and potential money on the line. So yeah. 

[00:27:00] SY: It's real. 

[00:27:00] MP: Oh yeah. It was real, and I think I probably learned as much as I did that eight months in like weeks because I tried to learn everything I needed to learn to try to build it out. Yeah, I definitely like started a fire and forced me to learn as much as I could. 

[00:27:18] SY: Yeah. OK. So after that, what did you do? Did you take that opportunity to say ok now I know what my learning holes, my knowledge holes are, and I'm going to go fill them? Did you say, “man, I hate everything to do with Firebase. Never touching it again.” You know, how do you respond to that?

[00:27:38] MP: Oh man, I think there was probably a lot of mixed feelings. A lot of it was probably feeling this is a lot more difficult than I really thought it was. So there's a whole new world of programming called back-end and databases (Laughter) that I didn’t really touch and know about. And not everything is as nice as Firebase, where it’s kind of done for you, you know? Yeah so I think I got probably really discouraged for a while. But at the same time, I met more people that were like “I've been there. You get better. It just takes time.” So I think talking to people that have gone through the same things was motivation for me to keep going, keep learning. And I guess if that wouldn't have happened to me, I wouldn't have realized ok early on I need to learn how to write a server, write a database. I need to learn these things to build a full-fledged application. I think it was probably pivotal in me probably broadening my education in programming that I needed to not just learn front-end but also back-end.

[00:28:41] SY: Yeah, I remember having a similar experience with the first job I had at a boot camp and kind of realizing like okay I can technically make stuff. I could technically put stuff together, but there's a whole world of best practices and decision-making that was a whole other thing, right? It's one thing if you have all the time in the world to put something together and know that eventually it'll work. But when you are on a deadline, you have to make fast decisions. You have to consider different constraints. It's different than just making something work. Yeah. 

[00:29:13] MP: Yeah. 

[00:29:13] SY: Ok, so you mentioned some of these technical interviews. So it sounds like you decided the freelance thing was probably not the thing you wanted to do, and you went out and interviewed for a “regular job.” Is that fair?

[00:29:26] MP: Yes.  

[00:29:26] SY: Yeah. Tell me about that. 

[00:29:27] MP: So what had happened is I started applying at different companies that were probably local and companies that were in the Bay Area. I'm about an hour from the Silicon Valley, and I didn't get any responses after probably hundreds of applications.

[00:29:42] SY: Oh wow. 

[00:29:43] MP: That’s when I, I was kind of getting really discouraged and thinking I probably need to go back to school, blah, blah, blah, etc. You know, type of stuff. But I started to reach out to people, and I ended up making a connection from one of the people that I’d met at the hackathon. Basically, I met with him, and we talked for a while. I showed him what I built, and then he goes, “you know what, I think you do know enough to be able to get a job as a developer.” And so he goes, “you know, I know so-and-so at this company that is hiring right now. I can give them a call and get you an interview there, you know?” And I was like, “that would be awesome, you know?” (Laughter) So he set up the interview. I actually thought when he had set up the interview that it was kind of like “oh well you just gotta meet them, and if they like you, they'll hire you” type of thing. You know what I mean? Because that's the way they kind of made it sound. It didn't really go that way. He basically forwarded me to his engineering staff, which led to a coding whiteboard interview, and I wasn't prepared for that at all. 

[00:30:42] SY: Oh man. 

[00:30:42] MP: I was like uh-oh. I heard about these. (Laughter) Yeah. It’ll be a learning experience, you know, regardless. So I went in there. I had like bought “Cracking the Coding Interview,” and went through that book. And I was like yep, I am going to fail, you know? So I went to the interview, and yeah it was a whiteboard interview. And I started off pretty basic with Javascript stuff. As soon as we got into like I think a bubble sort algorithm, I failed. I just… first of all, I just knew what a bubble sort was… just, I just heard about it. That’s all I knew. You know, at the time I didn't know anything more than that. I think I failed it really terribly, you know. So that one went really bad, and I got really discouraged after that interview. But they had called me back and said, “yeah, you were a great culture fit... blah, blah, blah. Come back in, you know, six to eight months after you feel like you, you're more prepared.”

[00:31:34] SY: Yeah. 

[00:31:34] MP: So I was like ok, well that's some good news, I guess. But I went back, and I started studying more of that stuff. You know, algorithms and data structures and stuff like that, which I felt were really, really difficult to learn because it's somewhat related to web development and stuff like that, but I think—it was just… I didn't see the connection too much, you know especially when you start getting into... 

[00:31:58] SY: I was gonna say… You’re being very generous... 

[00:32:03] MP: Yeah. 

[00:32:03] SY: ...because I see no connection and I don’t know why anybody has to learn that stuff for, you know, a lot of the web development, especially if we’re talking about front-end jobs. 

[00:32:10] MP: Yeah. 

[00:32:11] SY: Unfortunately, that's the system. 

[00:32:13] MP: Yeah, I got discouraged when I was learning all that stuff. I think the best way for me to learn this is where can I apply it? And it was hard for me to find places where I'd apply it in stuff that I've done because yeah, like you were saying, it doesn't feel like too much of that really connects until you start really solving lower level and larger problems, I guess maybe it would more apply, I guess. So yeah. So I went back and started studying a little bit more and was able to implement a bubble sort in Javascript or Java, which was really, really difficult coming from Javascript at first. But then I started to feel like it was pretty similar. So I got a little bit better at that. Just started doing more algorithms just over and over, writing them down at work. I'd be on my breaks writing them down in notebooks just trying to understand what I'm doing. Lot of them were just sorting… some data structures that are just really common ones, link lists and all that type of stuff—just enough where I can actually try to explain it to someone, you know? I... at least verbally. I think my second interview I had gotten from applying to somewhere locally. It was at a solar panel company, and I thought, “I can't imagine them wanting to do algorithms or a whiteboard interview because they built software for internal stuff. And it's not even a software company.” First thing was a whiteboard interview. I actually passed that one surprisingly. 

[00:33:36] SY: Oh, great. 

[00:33:37] MP: That one I got a little bit more encouraged just what they offered me. It was less than where I was currently making. I think the hourly rate was just as much you would make working at like fast food. That's basically what it was.

[00:33:50] SY: Oh Wow. 

[00:33:51] MP: Yeah. Surprisingly, in California, too. 

[00:33:53] SY: Then I'm glad that you did not take that, and you ended up where you are now. So tell me the success story. Tell me about how you ended up at your current position.

[00:34:02] MP: Yes. Ok so this one is a miracle, and I feel eternally grateful for the person that got me the job actually. So that person that I had initially mentioned earlier about the meet ups and everything like that, they had started a, this little office in this area where I live for programmers. And they basically hold meetups every week, and I ended up taking over the Modesto freeCodeCamp meetup. And then we were able to have the meetups at that location. We had this big, large space where we can have meetups. And it grew to about 330 or so people. With all those people coming in, it kind of got more attention to a lot of people that are involved of like wanting to bring technology out to the Central Valley of California because a lot of it is in the Silicon Valley, but not so much the Central Valley because it's mostly farmland. And so they ended up getting sponsors for a couple of tech agencies that hire developers and stuff like that. 

[00:35:06] SY: Neat. 

[00:35:06] MP: And through that—there was a lot of professional developers that had come. And one of the guys actually was coming to the meetup was telling me about how his company was looking to hire a developer. I asked them out to coffee, and I told them about what I've been doing and my journey, where I work now—all that stuff. And basically over a time span of about, I don't know, maybe eight months, he eventually brought me onto the company that he works for. I didn't even have to do a interview there. 

[00:35:39] SY: That’s nice. 

[00:35:39] MP: So yeah, he basically got me an interview with his company, and they hired me. And this was about a little over a month ago. 

[00:35:47] SY: Wow. 

[00:35:47] MP: Yeah, it's like a miracle. I mean…

[00:35:49] SY: That’s exciting. 

[00:35:50] MP: It wasn't anything that I did, you know, other than just befriending someone and talking to them and trying to get advice initially. And I wasn't even trying to get a job. I just wanted to get advice from him, you know, because I saw that he was really competent, and he was really good at what he did. You know, it wasn't my skills initially that had got me the job. It was, you know, someone that really wanted to help me out that showed me that and really helped me succeed in that area. 

[00:36:14] SY: Wow. So first of all, I want to push back against something you said where you said it's not nothing that I did. It's this guy who I wanted advice from, but I think that it's all the work before it that led to that, right? 

[00:36:25] MP: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. 

[00:36:27] SY: Yeah, you did freeCodeCamp, you took the initiative to take over the meetup, you grew the meetup. You know, you did so many things that laid the foundation. And I'm wondering when you—so from the moment that you first started looking for a job—that first freelance project—to the one you had now... how much time had passed, about a year? 

[00:36:45] MP: Probably about a year or so.

[00:36:46] SY: Probably about a year. Yeah. And I think it's so amazing like how patient you were and how you kept chugging away. And unfortunately, for, you know, a lot of us, it really is who you know that gets you that first job, right? 

[00:36:58] MP: Yes. Yes, definitely. 

[00:37:00] SY: Oftentimes, unfortunately, it's not just, you know, blindly submitting applications, but you know, if you know someone—even if it's someone you just met. If you, if you can, you know, make a friend, make a pal, make an associate even, that can be the thing that you need. So kudos to you for getting that done. 

[00:37:15] MP: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you very much. I think that is a significant part. Trying to, you know, network with people and reach out to them. I think a lot of people can, you know, do well just by adding that to their, their learning journey. And if their goal is to get a job eventually, just maybe join meetups. Make connections out there, you know? Ask questions because lots of times a lot of companies that I've come to, they usually hire people that are recommended to them or that type of thing, you know?

[00:37:43] SY: So how is the job going now? 

[00:37:44] MP: Oh, it's great. It's a dream come true, honestly. I think about two or three months ago before I got the job, I thought either I'm never going to get a job or I need to maybe figure out something else to do because I don't think I'm going to be able to get hired doing this. Yeah, the job has been great. It's an extreme blessing that I think about daily. And even though when I wake up and I go I feel like it's not even my job. Like it's just, it's just hard to believe. It's great. I mean I get to do what I love. 

[00:38:15] SY: Well I'm super, super happy for you. I’m really excited for all the awesome coding stuff you're gonna build, and I hope you keep us posted on your journey and how things are going for you.

[00:38:23] MP: Yes. Absolutely. Definitely . 

[00:38:25] SY: Cool. So now let's do some fill-in-the-blanks. So you ready? 

[00:38:28] MP: Yes I am. 

[00:38:29] SY: Number one: worst advice I've ever received is... 

[00:38:32] MP: Probably the worst advice I have ever heard was work harder or you're not working hard enough. 

[00:38:39] SY: Oh. Tell me about that. 

[00:39:40] MP: I think why is because I had—and I think applying to the journey along the way I guess where I am now—asking advice to like if I should go back to school or should I stay at the company I was at before. And people would tell me, “well you need to work harder. You can, you can stay where you are, you just need to work harder, and you'll, you'll succeed there.” The better way to probably phrase it would be work smarter rather than harder. If I knew what I needed to put all my efforts toward, then I would probably have done it a lot sooner and been a lot happier. 

[00:39:20] SY: Yeah. Absolutely. Number two: my first coding project was about... 

[00:39:24] MP: You know, I think it was that application for that client. That was my first real project. Yeah, for the building inspections. 

[00:39:31] SY: Very cool. Number three: one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is... 

[00:39:36] MP: I think I would’ve wish I had known more about having to learn probably back-end and databases. I think it would’ve probably helped me overall in programming because I think starting off with front-end, it's, it's really rewarding, I guess, to start off doing because you can see all the results of what you're actually writing, but it would’ve been nice to have known more about back-end and databases and where that data gets stored so you can build a full stack application (Music) where you can do a whole lot more. I think it probably would have helped me, yeah, in the long run. 

[00:40:14] SY: Yeah. Absolutely. Well thank you so much, Michael, for spending some time with us and telling us about your story. Do you want to say goodbye? 

[00:40:21] MP: Yeah. Thank you very much for all your time, and I hope to just follow up later on. 

[00:40:27] SY: And that's the end of the episode. Let me know what you think. Tweet me @CodeNewbies or send me an email hello@codenewbie.org. If you're in D.C. or Philly, check out our local CodeNewbie meetup groups. We've got community coding sessions and awesome events each month. So if you're looking for real-life human coding interaction, look us up on meetup.com. For more info on the podcast, check out www.codenewbie.org/podcast. And join us for our weekly Twitter chat—we've got our Wednesday chats at 9PM EST and our weekly coding check-in every Sunday at 2 PM EST. Thanks for listening. See you next week.

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