In this episode, we’re talking about live coding with Jesse Weigel, senior software engineer at Dicks Sporting Goods, and YouTube live streamer for freeCodeCamp. Jesse talks about how he got into live streaming his work, the ways in which live streaming has helped him as a developer, and his advice for folks who want to start their own coding livestream.
[00:00:05] SY: 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 live coding with Jesse Weigel, Senior Software Engineer at Dick’s Sporting Goods and YouTube Live Streamer for freeCodeCamp.
[00:00:22] JW: I’ve done hundreds of hours of live coding and there are times when I still get nervous, like right before I’m about to hit play on the stream, I still get nervous.
[00:00:32] SY: Jesse talks about how he got into live streaming for his coding work, the ways in which live streaming have helped him as a developer, and his advice for folks who want to start their own coding live stream after this. Thank you so much for being here.
[00:00:50] JW: Oh, thanks for having me.
[00:00:51] SY: So how did you start your coding journey?
[00:00:54] JW: Well, I started maybe my junior, senior year of high school with a computer class where we spent most of the time learning about Microsoft Office, but a few weeks at the end of the class, learning HTML and CSS, I’d always been interested in computers and sci-fi stuff, but that was when I really created something with code for the first time. Then later on the next year in college, I took a C++ class. I was getting a business degree. It was lumped together in the business department. They didn’t really have a computer science program. They just had some programming courses in the business department. So that ended up being the only computer science type course that I took.
[00:01:45] SY: Okay.
[00:01:45] JW: But I liked it and it kind of kept me going. Even though I didn’t really do anything with it for a while after I graduated, it was still like some experience of learning how to code stuck with me.
[00:01:58] SY: So you got your business degree. So I’m wondering, what were your plans after college? Were you thinking of doing anything with that C++ course or were you thinking of going in a different direction?
[00:02:07] JW: The only thing I knew I really wanted was I knew I wanted to get married, so I actually got married before I graduated, at the end of my junior year of college. Everything else I thought I would just figure out. I don’t want to take up all the time with all my jobs, but I went from managing Burger King to waiting tables at a restaurant to teaching at a high school and then to freelancing.
[00:02:35] SY: What did you teach?
[00:02:36] JW: I actually taught Latin and religion at a Catholic high school in my hometown.
[00:02:42] SY: So when did you end up getting back to coding?
[00:04:39] SY: So what was it about coding that you liked? What drew you to it?
[00:04:44] JW: I mean, I guess from a practical standpoint, it was a way for me to spend time with my family and work from home and still be able to pay the bills. But personally, I love being able to create things and see the results right in front of me. It kind of went along with other hobbies, like I love to cook. And so like being able to create something that’s going to bring joy to other people is awesome. And I think in coding, you can do a similar thing and you may get out of almost out of nothing. Right? You write these things on the screen and you create and there’s almost nothing comparable to that in a sense that you could write it, you can move it around, you can scrap everything and start over, and there’s not much cost to it except your time.
[00:05:33] SY: Yeah. And for the record, I just want to say that if your answer had been, “I like it because it pays the bills,” and you stopped there, that would have been a perfectly fine reason too. You know?
[00:05:43] JW: Oh, yeah, for sure.
[00:05:43] SY: I feel like there’s so much pressure I think on us to love it and to be passionate about it, but I think it’s fine just to do it as a job if that’s how you feel. But I am glad that you’re able to find some personal joy and satisfaction in being able to code. That’s wonderful.
[00:05:57] JW: I feel very lucky that I am able to do something that I actually enjoy doing and get paid for it. I mean, I fully expected to just get a job and provide for my family and not necessarily be like in love with that job.
[00:06:14] SY: So you have to do a lot of learning on the job in order to move up, get that first coding job, then eventually have your own clients. So I’m wondering, can you walk us through how you learned and what that leveling up process look like?
[00:06:28] JW: I’m a big fan of YouTube videos, especially with little kids. I spent a lot of time holding a baby and watching YouTube videos and I would put them up on my main television. I remember in particular, one of my kids when they were a baby, just always wanted to be held and I would go on an elliptical exercise machine and I will be on that while I was watching coding tutorials.
[00:06:57] SY: Wow!
[00:06:58] JW: It was kind of gross because like the baby and I both were like so sweaty because I was obviously, but I couldn’t stop or else they would wake up again.
[00:07:06] SY: Yeah.
[00:07:09] JW: So I did a lot of that. Any time that I could be watching a coding tutorial, I would. When I was holding babies, trying to get them to go to sleep, I would read documentation on my phone in one hand and I would hold them in the other hand. I did do freeCodeCamp.
[00:07:27] SY: Of course. Of course.
[00:07:28] JW: freeCodeCamp helped so much and some Codecademy. I did their free lessons as well and Udacity. Those are probably the big three kind of learning platforms that I was on, all like the free courses. Until a couple years in, I’d never actually even spent any money on a course. Not that I’m against that. It was just that finances were really tight most of the time.
[00:07:57] SY: Yeah.
[00:08:18] SY: Tell me a little bit about the emotional journey because you mentioned having a kid, having another kid, being on the treadmill, bouncing the baby while you’re looking at your documentation and your videos. Frankly, it sounds really stressful. What was your emotional journey like?
[00:08:34] JW: So when I look back on it, it seems kind of crazy that I did it because it ended up being freelance with three children. It was kind of crazy because I didn’t have a steady income month to month. I didn’t know a lot of times what I was doing. I would get clients. I would say, “Yes, I can do this,” knowing that I could, but I just had to learn it first. Right? So emotionally, I just always have this tension of feeling like I was always working, especially when I would have clients that were very demanding and I’ll get text messages and phone calls just all hours of the day. That was very stressful. Part of it was nice. I look back on it. I got to homeschool my kids through like their early grades, which was pretty awesome. So I liked that part of it. But part of it was very stressful. Dealing with billing of clients was super stressful for me. So I did have some clients who didn’t pay on time. Like I said, I have mixed feelings when I think back on what that was like of how wonderful it was that I had that flexibility to be there for my kids and be there for my family and just totally work around their schedule. But then at the same time, basically feeling like I was always working. So part of that I’m holding my kid, but at the same time, I’m on my phone learning about code. I was freelance. So like I was the boss, right? So I felt like I was always on the clock.
[00:10:11] SY: So tell me about the transition from your job as a freelancer, having clients to your job as a developer with a full-time front end developer job.
[00:10:21] JW: When I went in, I had no idea what to expect because I had always been kind of solo. So I never really knew what a real programmer did. So I always kind of felt like, “I don’t know if what I’m doing is the right way to do it.” I just do whatever I can to make things work and they worked, but I didn’t know if it was the right way. And I was kind of always plagued with that doubt of, “I’m not sure if this is the right way to do things.” When I came in, I guess kind of luckily, there were some easy wins early on. I was given a task to take an existing kind of portion of a website that was very, very outdated and make it look awesome. So I was kind of given a ton of freedom. So I was able to deliver on that. I was given kind of time to, without distraction, work on this for a couple of months. I learned a lot because I had so much time. That was kind of nice and it allowed me to focus more on what I was going to learn and the right way to do things, instead of just, “I need to get this done quick by this deadline.” So I was able to deliver something that was way beyond the expectations of anyone and where I was working. So that kind of gave me a lot of confidence right away and going into projects after that, since I had kind of already built up that confidence in the reputation at my workplace that I was someone who could deliver beyond expectations and deliver where kind of other people were saying, “No, you can’t really do that,” and I would say, “You know, my whole thing was, yes, we could do it.” No matter what the question is yes, I could do it.
[00:12:06] SY: That’ll get you in trouble.
[00:12:07] JW: It will. Yeah. Eventually, it became, yes, we can do this. It just depends on how much time you want me to spend on it.
[00:12:16] SY: Yeah.
[00:12:17] JW: But at first, it was just, yeah, I can do it. There’s always a way to do it.
[00:12:37] SY: So I want to switch gears and talk about live coding, which is something that you do. You are a YouTube live coding streamer for freeCodeCamp, which sounds terrifying. How did you get into live coding?
[00:12:52] JW: So when I was at this job, which it was at a university, I decided that I wanted to collaborate more with the computer science department. I wanted to help the computer science students start to build their resume before they graduated. And I thought it would be cool to get some of their ideas because like I knew my own gaps in my learning, not having a computer science degree. So I thought we could kind of help each other out and that maybe they would have a lot of knowledge that I didn’t and I would have more practical knowledge that they hadn’t yet acquired about just like getting things done and making live applications. So I decided to record myself doing some work and then put a link to it in the Facebook group for the Computer Science Club. And my boss thought that was a good idea. And he said, “Yeah, let’s do that.” I had always been developing everything I could open source on GitHub anyway. So that wasn’t really an issue. I did some live streams and I’d never live stream anything before. I just really didn’t know what I was doing. The first live streams were you couldn’t see the code, even the video quality was terrible, the font. I had too small. So it was pretty bad. So I went on the freeCodeCamp Forum and I made a post saying, “Here’s what I’m trying to do and I don’t know what I’m doing. If anyone has some time, please check out one of my live streams and I’d appreciate any advice that you have.” And I ended up getting a bunch of people watching and giving advice. But probably the most important view that I had was from Beau Carnes, who’s in charge of the YouTube channel for freeCodeCamp.
[00:14:44] SY: Oh, cool!
[00:14:45] JW: And had asked if I would be interested in doing some live coding on the freeCodeCamp channel. And I said, “Of course,” because my channel had maybe three subscribers at the time and the freeCodeCamp channel at the time had maybe somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 subscribers. It’s gone up significantly since then. We’re over a million now.
[00:15:09] SY: Wow!
[00:15:10] JW: This was maybe three years ago. So after I did that, Quincy, who’s the head of freeCodeCamp, also, he watched the stream and he said, “I really liked this.” And he said, “You can do this however many times a week you want.” So I started live coding for at least an hour a day, five days a week, Monday through Friday.
[00:15:33] SY: Wow! That is a lot of time. That is dedication.
[00:15:38] JW: Yeah. And what really helped was I live streamed my work. So it wasn’t prepared beforehand or rehearsed. It was whatever I had to work on that day, I would try to pick whatever I thought would be the most exciting and helpful for other people to see and I would live stream that portion of my work and they were real projects that I was working on. Thankfully, my boss was just super excited about it and saw this as a great opportunity for publicity for the university.
[00:16:15] SY: That’s true.
[00:16:16] JW: Which it really was for a tiny university in Ohio. The logo of the university was seen by people all over the world. So we definitely got some publicity and we also got a lot of people contributing code. So since it was open source, we had a nice community of developers from all over the world that would contribute code. I actually had a developer who I believe was 14 years old when he started watching the show from the Himalayas, was one of the top contributors on most of the projects, and he was so good. He’s probably the best coder I’ve ever worked with. He was so good. I would be in the middle of a live stream talking through a problem. I’ll say, “Here’s what I’m trying to do,” and I would look over to the live chat and there would be five or six messages in all caps saying, “Check my pull request.” And I would look. He would have already solved the problem and submitted a pull request.
[00:17:19] SY: That’s amazing.
[00:17:20] JW: Yeah. It was so amazing. He would often call me out on things I was doing wrong and I tell you, I kept in mind all the time how young he was because if it were an older person, I may not have taken it so well.
[00:17:38] SY: Yeah. I was going to say. That must have hurt your ego a little bit.
[00:17:41] JW: Yeah, it did. But I just imagined that he was young. He was very excited about what he was doing. He was very skilled. So I was fine with it. And to be honest, I leveled up so much doing the live streaming, like so much more than I ever thought. I mean, I never thought anybody would really watch it, just maybe a few computer science students. So like going from like maybe one or two people watching to now having hundreds of people watching live, all typing and contributing code and then my workday changed dramatically. It went from me coding most of the day on my own to me spending my mornings, reviewing pull requests and merging them and then spending my afternoons live coding. And that was like my daily work. We would regularly have maybe somewhere between like five and a dozen contributors to each one of the projects that I was working on. And I I’d like to think that it was a pretty fair exchange that I would give a shout out to everybody that contributed and reviewed their pull requests on air just to let people know what they had done. So I kind of helped these people who were volunteering their code build up their portfolios and get some exposure on the freeCodeCamp channel. And then in turn, they helped make my projects better. And I learned so much because I couldn’t merge something in that I didn’t understand.
[00:19:09] SY: Right. Right. Yeah. Well, it’s interesting because you, by becoming a live coder, you also became a pretty big open source maintainer.
[00:19:19] JW: Yeah.
[00:19:19] SY: You know? Those two kind of… I really wanted that, but that’s what happened.
[00:19:24] JW: Yeah. I had no experience beforehand in terms of like I used Git and GitHub, but never like actually having to review pull requests or merge anything. I’d worked on my own. So I just never really had to worry about that. It just grew into something way beyond what I ever expected. It grew into a nice community. We ended up talking about way more than just code. We talked a lot about mental health issues and we would kind of look out for each other. We would cheer each other on when we were going through difficulties or when some people in the community had like job interviews coming up or when they had gotten fired from a job and were looking for work. We’re supporting each other through a lot of stuff, and so it became more than just about the code.
[00:20:19] SY: But weren’t you nervous? Because even as you’re retelling this, you sound very, I don’t know, happy, carefree. You are kind of like, “Ah, you know, I’m live coding and they got to see it.” And I’m just thinking this still sounds so terrifying. Aren’t you nervous showing all your code like that?
[00:20:33] JW: At first, I was very nervous. So I guess I sound not nervous now because…
[00:20:37] SY: Okay. Good. That is a normal reaction.
[00:20:38] JW: Yeah. I mean, I’ve done hundreds of hours of live coding and there are times when I still get nervous, like right before I’m about to hit play on the stream, I still get nervous. So I don’t think the nervous has ever like completely goes away. But now I just know like it’s no big deal. I’m nervous for a couple seconds and then I’ll be fine. But at first, I am paid for a GitHub subscription because I wanted to get the private repos so nobody could see my code.
[00:21:07] SY: Yup. Me too. Me too.
[00:21:09] JW: Yeah. I mean, it’s awesome. Now I don’t think you have to pay for it anymore. I think it’s part of their free plan, but before you had to pay for it. So I went from that to just being afraid. Again, I still have that mentality that like, “I’m getting things done, but I still don’t know if this was the right way to do it,” because I’ve never worked with anybody else. So I thought if anybody saw it, they would call me out on like, “You have no idea what you’re doing.” And I thought that was still a possibility when I started live coding. I think it all happened so fast that maybe it helped because I didn’t have that much time to think about it. My audience didn’t grow naturally. I went from one or two viewers to one or two hundred viewers from literally one day to the next. There wasn’t really a lot of time to like consider it or think about it. It was just like, “This opportunity is here. It’s an amazing opportunity. I’m doing it.”
[00:22:02] SY: What made you think it was an amazing opportunity? What were your expectations?
[00:22:06] JW: Honestly, freeCodeCamp helped me to learn how to code. So I just thought the idea of being a part of freeCodeCamp in some way was amazing and then being able to immediately get this big audience on YouTube was pretty amazing. I mean, there are people that worked very hard and put out great content and it takes them years to get even a few thousand subscribers. And here I was, after a few days of live coding, being given an audience of 50,000 plus subscribers, to me this is amazing. I have to at least try this. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that I think that helped me kind of get over any nervousness that I had.
[00:22:57] SY: What were people saying?
[00:22:58] JW: Oh, I had expected people to say, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” And instead, what they were saying is like, “This is great. I love that you’re showing all your mistakes.” My big thing at first was I don’t think I’m a great coder, but I think that I can mess up live and try to work through it, and there’s value in that.
[00:23:19] SY: That’s big.
[00:23:20] JW: Because I really did think that there were other people on YouTube that were doing these amazing coding tutorials and that I was not on their level in terms of knowledge and in terms of just production ability of being able to edit video and do things like that. So part of the reason why I did the live part was I had no idea how to edit video and I thought people might give me a little break if I was going live.
[00:23:45] SY: That’s amazing.
[00:23:47] JW: Yeah. Right? Like they’d say, “Wow, the quality of this is terrible. But hey, he’s just winging it.”
[00:23:56] SY: Have you ever had a bad live coding session?
[00:24:00] JW: Yeah, there were times when I would attempt to do so. Usually, when I would do a stream, there would be some goal that I wanted to accomplish that I could potentially accomplish in like an hour or so and there were plenty of streams when I just didn’t accomplish anything. There were some streams where I would say, “Here, we’re going to build this thing,” and I couldn’t even get the program to run at all. Like it would be some type of configuration error and I would spend the entire stream just going through bug after bug, like error message after error message and nothing would work like at all. In terms of the goal, it was a total disaster. In terms of learning, I would say it was actually pretty valuable because that really happens sometimes. My goal was to be as authentic as possible in terms of what my day-to-day work is like. Whereas I think most people might edit a lot of those types of mistakes out. Since there was no editing, that stayed in and I at least hope that some developers would see that. Of course, they would see that, “Wow, this guy didn’t accomplish anything that he set out to do.” But then they might also say like, “You know what? The same thing happened to me and I thought I was a terrible developer, but I guess this is just normal.”
[00:25:25] SY: Coming up next, Jesse talks about how he goes about maintaining a positive community on his live stream and who some of his favorite live streamers are after this.
[00:25:46] SY: So you said that you learned so much by doing the live coding and you grew so much as a developer. In what ways did you grow?
[00:25:54] JW: My knowledge of code definitely increased, for sure, but my communication skills increased a lot, like being able to articulate what I was thinking while I was coding, which ended up being very important for job interviews unexpectedly, but it was very important. At least I think being pretty decent at keeping the community positive. We had very few times. I think probably in the entire three years that I’ve been doing this, less than 10 times have I ever had to ban anyone from the live streams, which considering how crazy the internet is sometimes, especially like YouTube comments sections. That’s pretty amazing. The streams have been overwhelmingly positive. So like me being able to stay calm when things potentially could get very heated, that helped. I don’t think that that was something that I built up over time of being able to stay calm when I’m being criticized or when things don’t go right in my code or when two people are arguing in the chat. I don’t think I get a lot of feedback saying, “I’m a great coder,” right? I guess I’ve done, but the feedback is more like, “You stay so calm, even when people are crazy.”
[00:27:20] SY: That’s an amazing quality.
[00:27:21] JW: Looking back, like in hindsight, I could see like stuff that prepared me for that. Certainly teaching high school students prepared me for that because I’ve never heard anything worse than being a high school teacher. Right? That’s like the worst. In the eyes of the high school student, literally like they want to be anywhere else except in that classroom. Right? You’re almost like keeping them in prison there. So they don’t like that. I guess the work that I had at restaurants and things of having to smile when the customer is being mean and things like that I guess probably prepared me. I just receive so much negativity every day and had to keep going that the stuff that I get on the live stream just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.
[00:28:10] SY: So I love that you have such a tough skin. I definitely do not have a tough skin. I’m very sensitive. I think that is wonderful, especially for live coding, but I’m wondering, has there ever been a situation, maybe a piece of feedback or a comment where you genuinely had your feelings hurt?
[00:28:26] JW: There have been times when I’ve received some feedback. So what I try to keep in mind, and it’s not always easy to remember immediately, but most feedback that you might get, there’s a lot to learn from it. So sometimes it’s exaggerated, but there’s usually some bit of truth. So I did get a lot of feedback saying that I don’t code enough and I talk too much. It was put in a lot of different ways, but the root of a lot of the feedback was that. I would always take that and think, “You know what? That’s true. Sometimes I do talk too much.” So I did things in my stream to try to make sure that I wouldn’t talk quite so much and I would spend more time coding. And sometimes I would discuss the feedback with people in the stream and say like, “Is this something that you all feel like I should work on?” And sometimes the feedback, most of the people in the stream would say, “No, don’t worry about it. We like it the way you’re doing it.” And other times they would say, “Yeah, it’s true.” Looking at the feedback, especially the negative feedback as maybe an opportunity to make my live stream better. I think it helps to take it like that. And I will say like I’ve been pretty lucky because I see some of the comments that other people get, especially like women. Like my wife is a coder as well and I see the stuff that people send her and comments. So I realized I’m a white American man. So I probably have it the easiest online of anybody. So I realized like I have a lot of that going for me. Some of the criticism or the negativity that other people get would be so extreme that I don’t know that I’d be able to handle it in the same way. In the stream, I do draw the line. Any racist type of talk is an immediate ban and it doesn’t even get addressed. I don’t even make a comment about it to even draw attention to it. I just ban it. In any type of abuse, like personal abuse, like name calling and stuff was just an immediate ban. There’s a limit to like the negativity that I will accept. And to be quite honest, I’m willing to accept a lot more for myself than I am for like the other people in my stream.
[00:30:46] SY: So I’m wondering for folks who are listening who might be interested in doing their own live coding, what are some things that they should know?
[00:30:53] JW: From a technical side, it’s very easy to get started. The main places where people do it is either YouTube or Twitch. You don’t need a lot of equipment. I started out with just the webcam on my iMac and the default microphone that’s built in. I used a free open source software called OBS.
[00:31:14] SY: Oh, yeah, OBS is great.
[00:31:16] JW: Yeah. So OBS and to learn how to set it up, a lot of video game streamers use it. So I just watched some YouTube videos for video game streamers tutorials for how to set it up and I set it up and it took me a couple of tries to get it right, but it worked. And then from a nontechnical standpoint, I would say don’t be afraid to stream. What you do is going to be unique because it’s you. It doesn’t matter what you’re working with or anything like that. Your perspective and the way you think about problems is going to be unique. There will be value in that. I would say just try to talk as much as you can about what you’re thinking because that’s going to be the most valuable thing that you bring to it is your personal thought process. I, at first, didn’t want to show my face on the screen, but then I read an article about the value of showing your face and how much is conveyed through nonverbal communication, like through facial expressions. And I thought it’d be really important since a large portion of my audience were from outside of the United States, I thought it’s likely that their first language is not English and maybe they would benefit from my facial expressions.
[00:32:35] SY: Oh, interesting.
[00:32:37] JW: That’s why I decided to show my face. I kind of felt like I’d be making the stream more about me and less about the code if I showed my face. Right? And I also felt a little bit embarrassed. So like, they’re going to be looking at my face the whole time. Like what do I even do with my face when I code? I don’t know, but I think it does make a difference. And I will say this though, like if you are in a different position, right? So like, as a man, it’s definitely different than like a woman deciding to show their face because there may be a lot of comments, a lot more comments about their appearance. Like I’ve gotten very few comments about my appearance and usually like I take it very well because I don’t get that many people telling me I’m good looking. So when it does happen, I’m not offended. Right? But like my wife on the other hand gets proposals from people all the time through DMs.
[00:33:25] SY: That is intense.
[00:33:28] JW: Yeah. It’s intense.
[00:33:30] SY: Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten… You know what? Once I did have a five-year-old proposed to me when I was a camp observer. Besides that, I’ve only had one other proposal. I’ve never gotten a long distance DM proposal. That is very fascinating.
[00:33:43] JW: Yeah. Yeah. There’s been some times in proposals. Sometimes the message is like, “Will you be my coder, girlfriend?” And things like that.
[00:33:52] SY: How does she take that? Is it amusing or does she find it sexist? Because I feel like on the one hand it can be kind of funny, but on the other hand, it can be infuriating. I am wondering how she looks at it.
[00:34:05] JW: She takes it pretty well. She doesn’t get super upset about it. She just doesn’t respond. She just kind of blocks that person. I’ve heard of some worse things happening to people like men sending inappropriate pictures to people unsolicited. That is pretty extreme. And I would be upset about that, but just a message about, “Will you be my coder wife or something like that?” For my wife, I think it’s just on the level of like an annoyance.
[00:34:33] SY: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I get that.
[00:34:36] JW: Anyway, I would just say like, depending on what your situation is, like who you are, you may or may not want to show your face on your stream and that’s fine.
[00:34:45] SY: So do you have any favorite live coding streamers?
[00:35:15] SY: Yeah.
[00:35:16] JW: She was one of the people who I got a lot of inspiration from when I first started streaming. She wrote a long article with all her advice about streaming that really helped me to get started and she had been knowing it already for a long time before I started. She was probably the first person that I knew of that was live coding.
[00:35:40] SY: And we’ll have links to those people on the show notes.
[00:35:48] SY: So now, at the end of every episode, we ask our guests to fill in the blanks of some very important questions. Jesse, are you ready to fill in the blanks?
[00:35:56] JW: I will do my best.
[00:35:57] SY: Number one, worst advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:36:01] JW: There was a time when I was considering quitting my freelancing and getting a job as like a warehouse worker at a Walmart distribution center and a few people were kind of telling me that I should do this because it would come with benefits and it’d be a steady job. I ended up going through the entire process and getting an offer and then turning it down and it turned out to be bad advice in hindsight to take the job because shortly thereafter, I got a full time programming job.
[00:36:35] SY: Oh, wow!
[00:36:35] JW: So yeah. At the time, it seemed like very like responsible advice, right? Like, “Hey, you have three kids. You need to get insurance.” But in hindsight, my life would be so different. I wouldn’t be talking to you now most likely. And I almost took the advice. It was very tough decision to turn that job down and kind of hope that I got something else.
[00:37:03] SY: Number two, best advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:37:07] JW: At one point, my dad told me maybe I was in high school at the time. This was pretty early on. He said that knowing where to find the answer is better than knowing the answer or something along those lines. And I thought that was great advice. And it was odd advice because being in school, like you have to memorize the answers for the tests, and this was like before the internet was big. Now I think it’s way more obvious to people. You could just Google anything. But at the time, I remember him saying that and I remember thinking like, “That’s great.” I was really into books and stuff and I was kind of nerdy and I read encyclopedias. So like I was into it. I just wanted to know as much as I could, but I thought about that advice and that ended up being great advice, especially now as a programmer is realizing that as long as I know how to quickly find an answer to something, that is just as good as knowing the answer, because I don’t have to spend time memorizing. I can quickly find answers and like use the tools available to me to find the answers and find like the exact right answers that I need to get the job done.
[00:38:21] SY: Number three, my first coding project was about?
[00:38:24] JW: Okay. So my first coding project was a very basic website. This was back in the day when you used to use tables for layout.
[00:38:34] SY: Yeah.
[00:38:35] JW: And we had to make websites just about whatever we were into. And at the time, I was very into The Matrix and I was into a video game called StarCraft. I made two websites that kind of shared a theme that was a completely black background with neon texts and one website had The Matrix neon green text, and the other website had like a neon light blue text. That was my first project. And I thought it was so cool and my first websites I had ever made. I was doing it all in notepad on a PC, couple of images, a little bit of text. But that was the first coding I ever did. I’m going to side step the debate about whether HTML and CSS is coding or not. For the sake of argument, let’s just say it is, but that was the first thing I ever did.
[00:39:36] SY: Number four, one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is?
[00:39:42] JW: I wish I knew that you don’t have to know everything. I spent so much time trying to learn a little bit about a lot of things. It’s apparent to me now that there is just way too much to learn. You can’t know everything. Even if you specialize in the front end, there’s so much to the front end that you couldn’t know everything. You have to pick, right? So you can’t be an expert in every front end framework, likewise with the backend. There are so many different ways to accomplish things in programming that you’re not going to be able to know all of them. What is that better is just to be content with saying, “This is what I either enjoy doing or what I am doing for my job right now.” Hopefully, that’s the same thing, but it’s not always. Just say, “I’m going to focus on being as good as I can at this, either this particular language, this framework, whatever it is.” And I’ve found that that’s helped me move forward in my career a lot better. When I look at the first half of my career versus the second half, in the second half, I was okay specializing and I’ve increased in my skills and like the level of job that I have in terms of like salary, benefits so much more after deciding to specialize. But I was so afraid to specialize at first and I just wanted to learn everything. I wish someone had said like, “No, it’s okay. It’s okay. You don’t need to know everything.”
[00:41:15] SY: Well, thank you so much for joining us, Jesse.
[00:41:17] JW: Thanks so much for having me.
[00:41:25] SY: This show was produced and mixed by Levi Sharpe. You can reach out to us on Twitter at CodeNewbies or send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.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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