Kanika tolver

Kanika Tolver

Founder & Career Coach Career Rehab, LLC

Kanika Tolver is a highly decorated information technology Federal Government professional, rebel entrepreneur and Certified Professional Coach.

Description

Deciding to start over again and begin a new career path can be overwhelming and stressful. We chat with Kanika Tolver, founder of Career Rehab and senior project manager for the US Department of the Treasury, about some of the most important things to consider and some of the best resources to use to help you along with your career shift.

Show Notes

Transcript

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[00:00:29] (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 talking about career transformations with Kanika Tolver, Founder of Career Rehab and Senior Project Manager for the US Department of the Treasury. 

[00:00:47] KT: You want to get to a place where you’re revamping and enhancing the way you look at your career versus just saying, “I’m an employee. I go to work every day and this is all that I can do.” 

[00:00:58] SY: She’s been helping people with their career transformations for years, but once you decide you want a new career or you want to work in a different industry, what do you do? What’s the first step? And what are some things you want to make sure you don’t do? Kanika answers all these questions and more after this. 

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[00:04:00] So I want to start with the term Career Rehab. Why are we calling it that? Why the word rehab? It sounds a little dark, maybe a little dramatic. Tell me about that. Why are we calling it that? 

[00:04:10] KT: I like to call it Career Rehab because I feel like a lot of us have been through dark places within our career. Some of us had the need to either revamp, rebuild, or start over and make a career change. It’s kind of like the analogy of you get a house and you gut it out and you’re trying to resell it for the market. It’s kind of sometimes like us as professionals. We have to gut out our careers so we can actually have the career happiness that we deserve. 

[00:04:38] SY: So what are some reasons why we might be unhappy? I think that everyone listening can probably relate to some aspects of their job, their career that maybe they’re not very happy about, but what point are we talking about when we decide, “You know what, we need to gut the whole career and we need to rebuild”? What point are we talking about? 

[00:04:54] KT: Sometimes, it’s when we want more money, we need to level up our career, we need to get more skills. Sometimes, it may be that we’re in an industry that we no longer are happy in and we’re saying, “Hey, I want to move from being a teacher to maybe going into tech,” or maybe you’re in a toxic workplace and you love your industry that you’re in, but it’s time to reevaluate a better organization fit, a better company fit for you personally. 

[00:05:21] SY: So when we talk about these Career Rehab situations, what are we going from and what are we usually trying to turn into? 

[00:05:32] KT: You’re trying to go from being an employee that doesn’t really see themselves as a brand and you’re trying to go from being unhappy to being empowered. So if you’re someone that really wants to be a brand and want to learn how to brand market and sell yourself, you have to become empowered to feel like you have to enhance some skill sets, take some courses, maybe take some professional training, maybe even get some certifications. You want to get to a place where you’re revamping and enhancing the way you look at your career versus just saying, “I’m an employee. I go to work every day and this is all that I can do.” 

[00:06:12] SY: So when you talk about transforming your career, you mentioned if you want to see yourself as a brand and I’ve talked to so many people who hate that idea of being a brand because it sounds kind of icky, it sounds promotional. It sounds forced in a lot of ways where, frankly, most of us know what it’s like to be a person, to be an employee, but a brand feels just too much too far. Is that a requirement? If I want to change my career, if I want to transform my career, do I have to become a brand? 

[00:06:41] KT: No, I don’t think you necessarily have to become a brand and I think it’s misperceived that you are trying to just market yourself and it’s all about you. I think we sometimes use that word now because people are authors and speakers, and entrepreneurs, and they have taken the company branding mindset and they’re kind of shifting that into their personal brand. I think it’s just maybe so important for you to have a mindset that every day, when you go to work, you uniquely offer something to that organization and that is valuable, and that is important for you to know that you have a unique skill set, unique knowledge, and a unique understanding of how to properly do a great job at work every day. You should get some shine for that in some way, whether it’s just from your manager, your team members or whether you just feel confident in your ability to perform. 

[00:07:38] SY: Walk me through the steps of a career transformation. Let’s say I am unhappy with what I’m doing. I think I want to go into the tech industry for the first time. I know I have a lot to learn. I know this is a big step for me. What do I do next? What’s step one? 

[00:07:54] KT: Self-awareness, having some type of self-assessment is the first step. Identify is Career Rehab or career transformation a good fit for you right now? Are you ready? Do you feel comfortable with the idea of saying that there are some things that you just really need to improve on or you want better for your career? I think that is just some level of acceptance. Step two would be once you’ve agreed that you want to have a career transformation is to build a career blueprint or career roadmap as some people would say. I like to call it blueprint because I like the idea of rehabbing. It’s all about developing floor plans and blueprint for your career. Just the way you have a floor plan for a brand new house that you’re going to build or a condo that you’re going to go take a look at to purchase, you have to build those same types of, you know, I call them career dimensions. 

[00:08:47] How far do you want to go? How much money do you want to make as far as the value of your career? What are some of the career appliances that you would have in a house? What are some of the things that are going to be added to your career that’s going to make you feel like they’re valuable? 

[00:09:05] SY: Yeah, change your value. 

[00:09:07] KT: Yeah. So those are the first two steps of career transformation, is checking yourself into a Career Rehab, identifying if you’re ready for it, and then building out what you want your career to look like.

[00:09:18] SY: Okay. I really appreciate step one because that’s a step, honestly, I didn’t really think about, this idea that, sure, the rehab idea, the transformation idea sounds like it’s a good idea, but am I ready? How do I know if I’m ready? 

[00:09:31] KT: I think the first step to knowing whether you’re ready is to ask yourself, are you tired of your current situation? And are you ready to actually put in the work and be committed to understanding what career transformation takes? I think a lot of us as professionals always have this idea that we are unhappy in a certain situation, but we are always not committed to the work. 

[00:09:59] SY: And what kind of work are we talking about? We mentioned these blueprints, acknowledging that we need to get some appliances, we need to upgrade and increase our value, but when it comes to the type of time commitment, the work commitment that we can anticipate, what does that look like? 

[00:10:15] KT: I think it’s fair to say that we all are busy and we all have a lot of responsibilities. It’s good to give yourself realistic timeframes, right, because I know that nothing happens overnight with career transformations. I like to follow the 3-6-9, you know, three months, six months, nine months’ rule that you’re going to accomplish something in a very iterative way or very incremental way as we would say in software development. You’re going to accomplish things through certain level of releases or developing this career product roadmap for yourself. After three months, you may say, “Hey, I want to accomplish learning how to code,” or, “I want to accomplish studying for a new certification.” Then you have another goal that you may want to accomplish within the six- and nine-month period.

[00:11:12] SY: So once I have decided on these goals, what do I do next? What do I do with that floor plan that I have, the blueprint that I have? What do I do with it? 

[00:11:21] KT: You have to learn how to set up the foundation for this career brand, so that requires you to revamp your resume, update your resume, maybe even update your LinkedIn profile, but being always mindful of how to maximize your transferable skills that you already have acquired in your career today. How am I going to transfer them into the new direction that I’m trying to go into so I have to maybe be more clear and concise about rewording some things on how things are presented in my LinkedIn profile and brand so it can help me get that new opportunity and that new area that I just accomplished maybe a career goal of? 

[00:12:04] SY: Okay. So we have updated our resume or LinkedIn, we figured out what those transferable skills are. One thing that I think is really hard about the transferable skills is it’s hard for us to see those moments ourselves. It’s hard for us to look at the job we have teaching English, teaching high school English and to be able to identify what about that is transferable. How can we unlock some of that? How can we get ourselves to identify those things that we’re doing that are applicable in the tech industry? 

[00:12:40] KT: I really am a big fan of career journaling, like having a career journal. Sometimes, we just need to sit down and really brainstorm and think about everything that we’ve either accomplished, currently doing and the things that we want to do. I think those really help us get to a place where we can start to identify what’s transferable and what’s not transferable. Whether you want to sketch out your career in the form of a cartoon, whether you want to write it down in the form of text, I think that’s a good starting point, is to really just lay out everything in a very creative way that makes you feel comfortable about your current situation and where you’re trying to go. And I think doing a lot of research. I think it’s so important that we maximize doing research online. I like to study job descriptions. I like to see what opportunities… 

[00:13:30] SY: Yes, yes. Absolutely. 

[00:13:31] KT: This is like becoming a student of your career. A lot of us went to college and we became students of computer science degrees or computer information systems or computer technology backgrounds. I sit down and I take my journal and I say. “Wow! So if I go on Indeed or I go on LinkedIn or I go on Glassdoor and I want to be a product manager, that’s my personal goal in tech, is to stop being a project manager and become a product manager.” So I have to look at it, like, “Wow! Look at all the great things that I’m doing as a project manager managing the product backlog now, utilizing my scrum master certification, managing Sprints.” These are some same skill sets and some same things that I’m doing managing the daily scrum calls that I would probably possibly do as a product manager, but I’m looking at the product manager job description and I’m identifying what I don’t have is a skill set right now, and I’m also looking at what I do have and I’m building upon that foundation. You’re trying to figure out what do you need to know so you can get what you need under your belt to get that job?

[00:14:48] SY: Coming up next we hear more about Kanika’s background and how she got started helping others with their careers. We also talk about the emotional journey of transforming your career after this.

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[00:17:38] So we have our transferable skills, we’ve got our job descriptions, we went on LinkedIn, we went on Indeed, we went on Glassdoor, we have all the information that we need. Now what? 

[00:17:46] KT: Now it’s time to get to the part of marketing. We talked about building the brand. Now I know you said we don’t feel as comfortable putting ourselves out there, but it’s time to start applying to jobs. It’s time to start connecting with people that have the opportunity to possibly hire us like recruiters and industry leaders at the companies that we desire. It’s time to get online and figure out if I want to be a front-end web developer for a specific company, is marketing myself and connecting with the people that work at that company so I can possibly see if there’s a referral system or maybe it is a possibility that I can have a conversation or coffee talk with them about, “Hey, here’s my resume. Here’s my LinkedIn profile.” Do a little informal introduction of just building that relationship, but you’re indirectly marketing everything that you’ve been trying to accomplish with your career goals by reaching these certain standards for these languages, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, so I think that’s important that you kind of stretch yourself a little bit and get out there.

[00:19:02] SY: How do we initiate that? Because it can be scary talking to strangers and talking to people we don’t know who really have, from where you stand, no good reason to talk to you. How do you approach that? And how do you start those conversations?

[00:19:19] KT: It’s kind of weird in a way because you get LinkedIn requests from people that you really don’t know, but I’m always inclined to accept those connections because sometimes they’re people that are smarter than me in areas that I’m weak in. So I’m always willing to add them as a connection or to send a connection request myself. It’s getting personable in the beginning. It’s not about really talking about you from like a career aspect. It’s about developing a relationship. For instance, I didn’t know you when I first met you at the Blacks in Technology Conference, but we built a relationship there on a personal level just off of common things that we had in common being from the DMV. So I don’t want to like try to ask you about a job situation without building a personal relationship. That’s not a friendship. Not that you have to build a friendship with someone but you have to build that soft talk first. You know what I mean? 

[00:20:16] SY: I like that, soft talk, yeah. 

[00:20:18] KT: Without overly selling yourself like you’re like on a job interview. I think that’s not a great approach, but yeah. 

[00:20:24] SY: So establishing some type of connection, some type of rapport. Doesn’t have to be best friends. You don’t have to go to happy hour with them or anything like that, but something. You got to have something there and then once you have that, how do you transition into the ask? Because this is also a question just whenever you’re trying to get anything from anyone, whether it’s a job, a sale, whatever it is. It’s like yes, you’re very nice, but ultimately, I’m really here for this other reason. How do we transition from we’re having a good time, we’re getting to know each other, everything is very amicable to “Okay, but can you give me a job though?” How do we get to that part? 

[00:21:02] KT: In common conversation, I think that people will… I’ve had sometimes when people have initiated asking me am I looking for any opportunities once they get to figure out what am I interested in or what do I do or what do I want to do? Sometimes, you just may have that charisma, that charm, where people will say, “Hey, if there’s anything that comes at my company, I’ll definitely let you know or definitely check it out?” Sometimes, you have to learn how to ask without asking and it’s kind of like finessing it a little bit because I never want to seem like I’m begging anyone or asking anyone because I feel that’s not always the best approach, is to look so desperate. Career desperation is not cool either because people are going to be like, “Oh, this person is crazy.”

[00:21:53] So I think it’s important for you to feel out the relationship and see when it’s a good time to ask. When it is time to ask, I think that you should already have done your research about where that person works at, identify opportunities that you’ve already found on that company’s career website, and being able to really see if they would be interested, but I think sometimes we rely too much on professionals and colleagues, and we really don’t tap into diversity inclusion managers and recruiters. I think those are the appropriate people for the ask. It’s their job to staff people. I just tell my clients that I think it’s important to create a very small email template that you can use throughout LinkedIn or even throughout connecting with recruiters when they email you as a way to put in that ask. 

[00:22:50] So if I wanted to work at a specific Fortune 500 company, and I know it’s very difficult for me to get into that company, for the most part, I’m going to be reaching out to those type of recruiters and diversity inclusion managers through LinkedIn. 

[00:23:05] SY: Okay. So we have made our ask, we’ve talked to the recruiter. They’ve said, “Yes, we’re going to move you into the first step. We’re going to move you into the applicant pipeline.” At that point, did we accomplish our goal or are there more steps that we need to worry about? 

[00:23:21] KT: The very last step is you have to seal the deal, right? You’re getting people to see. You’re getting the traction that you want. You’re connecting with professionals that are like-minded. You’re connecting with recruiters now and you are possibly getting ready to maybe get that job interview that may be coming up because you’ve pretty much started putting yourself out there at this point. I like job interviews as like the stage. It’s showtime. It’s showtime, baby. So you want to be able to learn how to sell yourself and when you sell yourself, you want to go in there with, I like to say three components of having a good job interview is being able to sell who you are as a person and this isn’t really about trying to be 100% authentic on the job interview, but this is really for people to get to know who you are because I think creating that personal emotional connection is kind of like while we go to certain stores. 

[00:24:22] We go to certain stores like Starbucks or people go to Chick-fil-A because there’s an emotional connection that happens doing that transaction. The same thing on a job interview. Then you want to sell your technical expertise and knowledge. That’s kind of like the little brand and product. You’re showing that you know what you say that’s on your resume. And then you want to always kind of hook it in, to really hook it, just bring it back to their mission, their strategic vision of how you can add value to that for the company.

[00:24:56] SY: What can we do to prepare for our big moment? Let’s say we have an interview in a week. What’s the checklist? What are the things that we should think about, we should consider? 

[00:25:04] KT: If you’re preparing for a job interview, I think it’s so important to bring those jaw-dropping questions to the interview that make you an applicant that they remember. I think sometimes people normally ask the same type of questions when they go on a job interview. So I like to do a deeper scrub of the company and go on Google and maybe go to page 234 to see if there’s something that came up or there’s a recent announcement that they made that I could be like, “Oh, I saw that you guys had been featured in such and such,” or, “I saw that you guys have just acquired this new product or service.” I like to bring in something to let them know that I’m not just a student of the About page, but I’m a student of the work that they do or they plan on doing. 

[00:25:50] SY I’ve noticed that student has come up a few times this conversation. It sounds like you’re doing a lot of studying. Is that fair to say?

[00:25:58] KT: I think it’s fair to say because I think we think that studying a certain area within our industry, it stops at a degree or certification. 

[00:26:06] SY: Right, yeah. 

[00:26:07] KT: And I’m thinking like, “Wow!” In this industry, I’ve been in this industry for 15 years since 2005. I graduated from college and I feel like I’m constantly having to keep up. It’s like I can’t learn more if I don’t learn more and if I’m just getting by, by being mediocre and not constantly learning more about what’s going on within the field of computer technology, then I’m probably going to become obsolete and my skills will become obsolete in some ways, right? So that’s why I use the word student a lot.

[00:26:52] (Music) And now it’s time for Tales from the Command Line brought to you by Red Hat. Since we’ve been talking all about career transformations, we’ve brought Joe Brockmeier, Editorial Director at Red Hat Blogs, and a man who’s had a ton of different fascinating careers. Thanks for being on the show. 

[00:27:09] JB: Thanks very much for having me and I appreciate the time.

[00:27:12] SY: So Red Hat is a pretty big organization. Is there just one blog for everyone, for every team or how does that work? 

[00:27:18] JB: There are a couple of different blogs at Red Hat. There’s the main blog which used to be the corporate blog, but we have been incorporating different product blogs into the main blog in the last year. That’s one of the reasons I came on board in this role was to help consolidate. We used to have, for example, separate blogs for a lot of different products and that was not really sustainable long term for a number of reasons. 

[00:27:42] SY: It sounds a little messy. 

[00:27:43] JB: It was a little hectic. 

[00:27:44] SY: So what I find interesting about your role and about you is that you’ve been through several career transformations along the way. One of your early jobs was actually being an on-air personality and then you were editor-in-chief at Linux, and you’ve been an open source advocate and you’ve done a bunch of different things related to community and editorial. Walk me through that. How did you get to your current role? 

[00:28:07] JB: So I originally studied journalism in English and back in the ‘90s, I really wanted to go into radio and when I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be Dr. Johnny Fever. He was your typical classic rock morning DJ, your hippie, ex-hippie, not very responsible, super knowledgeable about rock and roll kind of guy. What I didn’t realize as a kid that if you go back and you watch WKRP, Johnny Fever was always broke. So I decided to deploy my journalism and English skills towards tech and to look into writing about technology. I had some good and some better managers and editors that really influenced. I worked with Linux magazine early on and got to work with a guy named Bob McMillan who now writes for the Wall Street Journal, for example. He was a very good editor and was really good at pointing out where a piece was strong, where it wasn’t so strong, what he wanted and needed from somebody to put into a print magazine.

[00:29:11] SY: How have you managed your career? When you think about going from one job to the next, it sounds like the jobs generally are in the editorial world, but it sounds like they’re still significantly different from one to another. How did you navigate your career? 

[00:29:26] JB: Mainly, I just tried to keep an eye on in any job, is this something that I want to be doing in five years? Is this something that I still can be doing in five years? Is this something that I’m learning new skills and improving or is it something that maybe I’m enjoying and I’m getting paid well, but I’m not growing? Is this a dead end? When I was freelancing, for example, the signs were very clear that as a writer in the tech industry, being a freelance writer, there would always be work, but there was a lot of treading water in terms of having to do more material faster for about the same money every year. That’s a bit of a problem if you don’t want to essentially have a shrinking paycheck. Am I enjoying what I’m doing and does this lead to somewhere that I want to go?

[00:30:18] SY: So what are you working on now? What are your current or future goals either with your career or with the blog? 

[00:30:24] JB: Currently, what I’m working on is sort of like a phase two. I’ve spent the last year really building a foundation and consolidating the different properties and building a framework to try to manage all the different teams, the work coming from those teams in a sane fashion. Step two is really going to be more of an okay, sort of, tamed, you know, the chaos a little bit. Now, it’s a question of actually being forward-looking and being more like actually having ambitious goals about content and editorial strategy. So for the next at least year, probably beyond that, I’m still really looking at things that I want to do in this role and things where there’s a lot of room for improvement and impact what I’m doing now. 

[00:31:12] SY: You mentioned kind of taming the chaos overall. What are some other specific things you’d like to improve? 

[00:31:19] JB: Always traffic, obviously, running the blog, there’s always room for growth. So there are things that we publish that I think should get better traffic than they have. There have also been things that as usual, when you publish something and it gets runaway traffic that you’re like, “Why that?” Helping people better understand the kind of content that performs well, how to better tell their story, really a lot of refinement. It’s really more like we’re doing the thing. Now, let’s get better at the thing. 

[00:31:50] SY: What is one piece of advice you have for folks who might want to break into the career you have now? 

[00:31:56] JB: The most important thing is to learn to write and edit well if you want to be doing what I’m doing now, but also it really helps to be a subject matter expert in the area that you want to be in, whether that’s tech, whether that’s medical writing or any other industry, any other field, you need to be at least somewhat of an expert in that field to be able to do this kind of work. 

[00:32:23] SY: And now back to the interview. I want to learn a little bit more about you. How did you get to be the Career Rehab coach? How did you get to learn so much about how to transform your career? 

[00:32:36] KT: And it’s not so dark, is it, after you’ve listened to me? 

[00:32:38] SY: It is not so dark after all. 

[00:32:40] KT: It sounds pretty bright. 

[00:32:43] SY: It’s bright and hopeful, and beautiful, yes. 

[00:32:46] KT: I stumbled in this because couple of years ago, I started to just help people with writing resumes. I used to hustle resumes, to be honest with you, and I would just do it for a couple hundred dollars a resume, but then a question started coming from the professionals about hard career decision-making questions and because I was very successful in my tech career and was making six figures in my 20s, I was kind of like ahead of the curve a little bit from people that were coming to me that were either my age or older. So I started to just do one-on-one career coaching sessions, and then I started to feel like, wow, these people are getting jobs at Microsoft, at Oracle, at Bank of America and government agencies, and they were coming back saying, “Everything you said in the job interview, prep session work, everything you said in our 90-minute session, it worked. I got a job.” 

[00:33:43] SY: Nice! 

[00:33:44] KT: And I was like, “Wow! Maybe I’m a career coach.” 

[00:33:48] SY: Might as well make it official. 

[00:33:50] KT: Yeah, so that’s kind of how it happened. I really didn’t ask for this, but I am so happy that it’s turned into this because I know what it feels like to be alone in your career and you don’t really have anyone to turn to when you have certain decisions to make for your career. I never had a career coach myself. 

[00:34:08] SY: So tell me a little bit about what you do in your day job. You are a technologist yourself. You’re not just coaching people. You actually do the job yourself. Tell me more about that. 

[00:34:17] KT: I work in a digital service team for a federal agency where I help with building digital products for the public. So public websites that are built in Drupal, I lead development teams doing that. I also work with leading development teams or serving as a project manager for moving things into the AWS Cloud, Amazon Cloud environment. I work with a lot of different technologies, but my niche is in scrum master/product manager/project manager because I’m good at communicating and talking to coders, but I don’t think that I’m a great coder myself. 

[00:34:58] SY: That’s all right. It sounds like you’re good at a lot of other things. 

[00:35:00] KT: Yeah, but I can read JavaScript. I can read HTML, CSS. I really know how to use WordPress, Adobe Experience Manager and Drupal. All those CMS’s, I know how to use those.

[00:35:13] SY: We talked a lot about the things you should do and how to get started and walk through all the different steps involved in that. What are some things that you shouldn’t do? What are some mess-up, some common mistakes that people make when they’re trying to transform their careers? 

[00:35:27] KT: Job search strategy is one of the common mistakes. People tap out on finding the jobs that they really want because they’re not writing down at least 10 to 15 job titles that may exist under that category.

[00:35:41] SY: Oh good point. Yeah, yeah. 

[00:35:43] KT: If I keep putting in web developer and I don’t really get down to the understanding that a web development, there are different types of job titles for someone. They could be a front-end web developer. There could be the full stack. There could be a Drupal developer, WordPress developer. If I don’t really narrow down and develop maybe 10 to 15 job titles, then I’m going to max out on keep using just web developer. The best thing you do is Google and say what are other job titles for job title X or what are other job titles that fall under web development or database administration or cloud computing or IT project manager? Because a lot of companies call the same job different things. Another mistake a lot of people make is they don’t do their research about identifying the low, medium, and high salary for the city and state that they actually live in. 

[00:36:41] SY: Oh interesting. 

[00:36:43] KT: If I live in San Diego and I am a front-end web developer, I may get paid X. If I live in Washington DC, the salary could be very different. People take what they get, what they’re offered and they don’t do their research and say, “Let me just make sure that I am getting for my experience. I’m getting the salary that is a good fit for where I’m at in my career.”

[00:37:08] SY: Where do you get that type of salary information? 

[00:37:10] KT: So glassdoor.com is my favorite. Other people use PayScale and some other ones, but I actually write for glassdoor.com. You can also read up the reviews on a company on Glassdoor. 

[00:37:22] SY: That’s true. 

[00:37:23] KT: The great thing is Glassdoor, it’s like I’m about to go and travel and I use TripAdvisor when I go on travel for a nice hotel. Glassdoor is like the trip advisory of jobs. It’ll tell you the net worth of the company, how many employees, are people happy, are people unhappy at that job. So I think another mistake is that people don’t do the research on seeing if the company fit is a good fit for them as an individual.

[00:37:51] SY: That is a good point. That’s so hard to assess as well, one, because well, there’s not a lot of honest reviews out there and hopefully Glassdoor can help with that but also because well, how do you know if you’re going to be a good fit without actually working there? There’s only so much you can get, I think, from a review. How can you tell? Are there signs maybe during the interview process? How do you know? 

[00:38:13] KT: The thing that I did when I left my federal government tech job to go into private sector, so I used to be a govie in 2014. I left to go work at Deloitte. I didn’t know that Deloitte wasn’t going to be a good fit, but what I should have done was I should have connected with different people at the company from LinkedIn and maybe asked some common questions about the company, and just see what the consensus was. But at the same time, I think you don’t want it always 100% take what another person’s experience is and think that it’s going to be your experience. I think you have to try it for yourself because it’s not really about what everyone else says. You’re going to have to eventually taste the Kool-Aid for yourself and see if you really like it or not.

[00:39:02] It could be sour or it could be real sweet or could be just in the middle. So I think your individual career expectations is an individual decision, just like I have expectations when I was looking for a man who I was going to marry. Those individual decisions that you’re looking when you’re dating jobs, because I like to say that it’s important that you date jobs until you find the job that you’re going to marry. I have this little thing I call speed dating. I think it’s important for you to date different jobs until you find a good fit. 

[00:39:31] SY: What does speed dating look like when you are transforming your career? Does that mean just each interview you treat it like a date or where do you get to do that? 

[00:39:39] KT: I think the job interviews like the first date, it’s kind of like the relationship starts after you accept your job offer. I think if you stay at a job for 12 months to 24 months and you learned something very valuable and you can get more money somewhere else then that’s considered as speed dating whereas the mindset of our parents was like, “Oh, you should stay at a job for like 5, 6, 10, 15 years.” I don’t think in the tech industry that that mindset is really true. I think that it’s a big possibility that you can actually stay at a job for a short period of time and gain a lot of experience fast. 

[00:40:16] SY: For a lot of folks who have decided to change their careers, who are about to start that transformation process, I think there’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of nervousness involved in that so what advice do you have for folks on how to deal with the emotional rollercoaster of transforming your career? 

[00:40:34] KT: You can focus on the fear too much that you won’t put anything into action. There will be career setbacks. That’s one thing I do want to stress, is that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula process. There will be career setbacks. It’s so important for you to get in a place where you feel you deserve more and you want more, and you commit to doing it and channel that fear with a little bit more positive energy by maybe connecting with other people that are already doing what you’re trying to do and let them be your support system.

[00:41:13] SY: Now at the end of every episode, we ask our guests to fill in the blanks of three very important questions. Kanika, are you ready to fill in the blanks? 

[00:41:21] KT: Yes. 

[00:41:22] SY: Number one, worst advice I’ve ever received is? 

[00:41:26] KT: Worst advice I’ve ever received was when I left my federal government job the first time that I was ruining my career and my life. 

[00:41:32] SY: Oh, wow! Oh my goodness. How did you respond to that? 

[00:41:35] KT: Well, I felt scared but I looked at this person and I said, “Wow! This person has only had one job their whole career. How could they give me advice?” 

[00:41:43] SY: That is a good point. What do they know? 

[00:41:47] KT: Yeah, what do they know? I looked at this lady and I think she meant well, maybe thinks that having a good government job was like secure route and whatever, but I’m thinking to myself after my career, after leaving the government, I soared. I went and skyrocketed and so many great things happened because I had a global perspective instead of a government perspective. 

[00:42:09] SY: Number two, my first coding project was about? 

[00:42:12] KT: Creating my first real website, it was back in 2004, back in college when I was just learning HTML and a little bit of JavaScript.

[00:42:23] SY: What did you make? What was your first website about? 

[00:42:25] KT: My first website was basically just me creating a website online about me and my likes and dislikes, and I put different images. 

[00:42:35] SY: Your portfolio? 

[00:42:36] KT: Yeah, my portfolio, but my first professional coding was when I was a SaaS developer for the federal government, but that was me programming in SaaS for the Consumer Price Index. 

[00:42:47] SY: Number three, one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is? 

[00:42:51] KT: Just different technology terms that you learn in school. I wish I knew how to correlate that with development inside of the work life. 

[00:43:00] SY: Like being able to apply it? 

[00:43:01] KT: Yeah, to be able to apply it because I think you learn so much about how to create functions and how to return values and things like that when you’re learning in object-oriented programming because I was taking C++ and Java in college, but I think there is a lot of theory in those programming books, but I think there’s not always a way to make you feel like you’re a logical thinker. I felt more intimidated with the idea of what these things meant than to actually walk it through and walk it through the code and process it, and why is it doing this? And why is it not doing this? 

[00:43:36] SY: Did anything ever help you with that, help you make that connection, that application and feel more like a logical thinker? 

[00:43:43] KT: Sudoku. 

[00:43:44] SY: Yes, Sudoku helps. 

[00:43:48] KT: I think that was the best process. I think commenting helps, putting comments throughout your code helps, breaking down the requirements is something that college really didn’t do. My college didn’t do a great job of saying, “This program is supposed to do this,” and how to take those functional requirements and bring it into developing the code. Just bring it down like, “Okay, this program is supposed to do X.” I used to use a lot of Deitel programming books. I don’t even know if they even use those anymore, but I don’t know if that’s something that helps. What helps you? 

[00:44:24] SY: Just practice. 

[00:44:25] KT: Just practice? 

[00:44:25] SY: Just practicing, yeah, just doing it over and over again, doing a lot of example problems, doing a lot of projects. I personally am a big fan of doing the useless to do app, just taking a project that I know how it works, I know how it should feel, I know how the features should be and then taking that and trying to recreate it with a new principle in mind, trying to recreate it with best practices. That’s usually what helps me the most. All right, well, that’s all I got for you, Kanika. Thank you so much. 

[00:44:51] KT: Thank you so much for having me on this show and everyone, please enjoy your career transformation journey. Embrace it, love it, and execute.

[00:45:06] SY: This episode was edited and mixed by Levi Sharpe. You can reach out to us on Twitter at CodeNewbies or send me an email, hello@codenewbie.org. Join us for our weekly Twitter chats. We’ve got our Wednesday chats at 9 P.M. Eastern Time and our weekly coding check-in every Sunday at 2 P.M. Eastern Time. For more info on the podcast, check out www.codenewbie.org/podcast. Thanks for listening. See you next week.

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