In this episode, we’re talking about tackling imposter syndrome and succeeding, with Allen Whearry, software engineer at Yelp. Allen talks about his strategy for teaching himself to code, conquering his self-doubt, and how after applying for job after job, he finally landed a position at Yelp.
[00:00:00] SY: Tickets are now available for our fourth annual Codeland Conference, taking place July 23rd and 24th in New York City. It’s the welcoming conference that brings together code, culture, and community, which promises to level up your software career. You’ll experience amazing talks and workshops led by an inspiring lineup of speakers. Tickets are currently on sale at codelandconf.com. See you in New York.
[00:00:32] 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 tackling imposter syndrome and succeeding with Allen Whearry, Software Engineer at Yelp.
[00:00:47] AW: Yeah. There were a lot of times where I would go to sleep at three, four, who knows, maybe five o’clock in the morning to then have to be up at the very latest 7:30 to be back at work at eight.
[00:01:01] SY: Allen talks about his strategy for teaching himself how to code, conquering his self-doubt, and how after applying for job after job, he finally landed a position at Yelp after this.
[00:01:20] Career Karma helps code newbies with free career coaching to help them learn to code and find a high-paying job in tech in less than a year. Download the Career Karma app to start your 21-day challenge and be one of the over 60,000 people who they’ve helped get started. Visit careerkarma.com/codenewbie.
[00:01:41] Heroku is a platform that enables developers to build, run, and operate applications entirely in the cloud. It streamlines development, allowing you to focus on your code, not your infrastructure. It also lets you use the most popular open source languages to build web apps.
[00:01:57] Learn how to code online with Educative’s text-based courses with in-browser embedded coding environments. With their newly launched Educative’s subscriptions, users can now get unlimited access to every course offered with a single fee. Get 10% off site-wide by going to educative.io/codenewbie.
[00:02:18] DigitalOcean offers the simplest, most developer friendly cloud platform. It’s optimized to make managing and scaling apps easy with an intuitive API, multiple storage options, integrated firewalls, load balancers, and more. Get started on DigitalOcean for free with the free $100 credit at DO.co/codenewbie.
[00:02:46] SY: Thank you so much for being here.
[00:02:47] AW: Hey, thank you so much for having me.
[00:02:49] SY: So tell me how you started your coding journey.
[00:02:52] AW: I actually started back in 2009. I was building websites essentially for small businesses, organizations, and as well, mainly for a company I was with throwing parties oddly enough. So I started building websites, but really didn’t think too much of it, didn’t really decide that I wanted to do that for sure mainly because I was a little bit scared that maybe I wasn’t good enough. So this was way back in 2009, right? So I stayed with psychology. That’s what I majored in at Morehouse College, decided to go into the, I guess, workforce in sales while still on the side playing around with some coding. But in 2014, that same year, is when I picked up my first, I guess, real object-oriented programming language, which was Ruby at the time.
[00:03:40] SY: Yeah.
[00:03:41] AW: And I knew in my heart at the time it was going to be Ruby. I looked at some jobs and decided, “Maybe I’m not ready for this.” You know that imposter syndrome just going in the back of my mind again, just saying, “Hey, maybe I’m not good enough for this,” because I did a little few things, but I didn’t do anything on my own. As I would read job descriptions, it’s like, “Oh, you need to know this with Ruby. You need to know this. You need to know this.” And. It’s like, “Ah!” This is like crushing because it’s like, “Oh, I want this so bad.” And I think part of it was the time thing. I wanted it to happen quick before it was actually time for it to happen. Of course, fast forward a little bit further, 2017, I picked up Python, and again, it’s like, “You know what? I’m going to do it.” And as soon as you start reading the job postings again, you’re just like, “Ah, this hurts.”
[00:04:36] SY: So ego check.
[00:05:53] SY: Good for you.
[00:05:54] AW: Yeah. So doing that, I decided, “You know what? Python is not going to be what I want to do.”
[00:06:00] SY: Why? What made you decide that?
[00:06:03] AW: Because I’ve always had the interest in mobile actually.
[00:06:06] SY: Okay.
[00:06:07] AW: But I always thought it was so hard because I did try to pick up Objective-C sometime and I quit like instantly just because it looks so weird to me. It was something completely out of the realm of Python and Ruby at the time as far as the actual code structure. I just instantly said, “You know what? I have no idea what’s going on.” So I think I quit that within like a month or two into trying to learn Objective-C. And another part of that is I tried to learn iOS before learning Objective-C, fully understanding Objective-C before going into iOS. But 2018 comes around and I decided, “I’m going to drop Python. I’m not going to do web.” I said, “I’m going to learn Swift. I’m not going to, per se, learn iOS right now. I’m going to learn Swift. Build on the foundations of Swift, fully understand Swift, then go into iOS.” And I think that was the key for me being able to say, “Hey, I can do iOS because now I know the core language. Now I can learn the framework or the library, the SDK.”
[00:07:13] SY: Yeah. So it sounds like your journey is primarily self-taught. Is that right?
[00:07:19] AW: Yes, primarily self-taught, of course. I mentioned I went to school for psychology. I graduated with a psychology degree.
[00:07:25] SY: Right. I did too by the way.
[00:07:26] AW: Awesome.
[00:07:27] SY: Go psych majors. Yeah.
[00:07:28] AW: Oh yeah.
[00:07:29] SY: So why did you choose to teach yourself? Why not go to a bootcamp or go back to school and get a computer science degree? Why not those options?
[00:07:37] AW: Because school is expensive. Not going to lie. Bootcamps are expensive. Now, don’t get me wrong, I did end up taking a bootcamp at Big Nerd Ranch.
[00:07:47] SY: Oh, okay.
[00:07:48] AW: But it was just this past August. So it was already late in my coding journey. And the real reason why I took it is because I knew it would look good on my resume. It was only a seven-day course, but I knew it would look good on a resume because I was sending out resumes, of course. But I think a lot of tech recruiters are saying, “Oh, he has a psychology degree. He doesn’t really have I guess formal learning background,” right? Which is weird because I’ve been doing this for a year and some change when I first started to apply. I already have a full app on the App Store at this time, but still it’s like, “Ah, it may not have the formal skills,” right? But I decided to take it because I figured this might be a good thing to have on my resume and plus someone ended up covering the cost for me.
[00:08:45] SY: Oh, nice!
[00:08:46] AW: I was pretty excited about that.
[00:08:49] SY: So did it end up helping having that on your resume?
[00:08:51] AW: I think it did only because I guess people recognize the name. But when I got in the interview, they didn’t mention anything about it. So I would have a tech recruiter call and say, “Hey, you know, I saw your resume. Oh, and I see that you did a bootcamp at Big Nerd Ranch.” And I’d go on, “Oh, yes, it was great. I did learn some pretty cool things.” And then they’ll say, “Oh, okay, cool.” And then we go into the rest of the conversation. So it was really short. I think it just helped my resume stand out a little bit, but I had already had my one app on the app store. I already had a second app on TestFlight, which is Apple’s beta program. So it’s still a little weird, but I think it did help just a little bit.
[00:09:35] SY: What were the apps that you built?
[00:09:37] AW: So my first app, some people might say, “Why would you ever do this?” But you have to know a little bit about my background, I guess, in sales. So my first app is a plastic weight calculator. And when I said plastic, it’s more so sheet, rod, tube, plastic. So like plexiglass or nylon, many different.
[00:09:59] SY: Like a tube of plastic?
[00:10:01] AW: Yeah, tube of plastic, a very rigid tube.
[00:10:04] SY: Why would I have a tube of plastic?
[00:10:07] AW: Exactly. Why? Right? That’s why I said it. It goes into my background in sales. So my last job was in plastic distribution.
[00:10:16] SY: Ah!
[00:10:17] AW: It all comes together.
[00:10:19] SY: It all makes sense. Yeah.
[00:10:21] AW: My last job was in plastic distribution, and I know a lot of people ask, “Oh, plastic distribution, you do plastic bags and forks?” No.
[00:10:30] SY: Yeah, that’s what I would guess. Yeah.
[00:10:31] AW: I actually was selling sheet rod and tube of plastics to businesses.
[00:10:38] SY: So you built an app basically for the plastic distribution industry.
[00:10:42] AW: Essentially. Yeah.
[00:10:44] SY: Yeah. And so what exactly did this app do?
[00:10:46] AW: So a problem as sales reps, we know that if you hang up the phone with a customer, that’s the chance for them to go to your competitor, right? And a very long process is finding the weight of material when you do not have like a sheet directly in front of you. So the process, a customer calls me, I say, “Oh, hey, what’s up?” They’ll say, “Oh, what’s the weight of this?” I’m like, “Ah, I have no idea. Honestly, let me call my manufacturer who makes the plastic.” I call the manufacturer. And who knows if the first person to pick up actually knows how much it weighs. They may have to go to their engineering department. So it can be a very long time before you get the weight of the material. So I decided, “You know what? A lot of information on plastic is actually readily available on Google in order to calculate the weight of it.” So you’re using the specific gravity of the plastic and then applying the volume. I shouldn’t be telling you the secrets of my app. I’m just throwing away money.
[00:11:51] SY: It’s too late. It’s been recorded. It’s going to be distributed. Everyone’s going to know.
[00:11:54] AW: Right. Everyone’s going to know. I’m going to see a bunch of plastic weight calculators on the App Store. Funny story, someone did take my idea because I actually put my apps open source on GitHub. So I don’t mind if anybody looks at it, then it’d be very easy to pick up. However, I did find that the average length of time was about five minutes to get the weight of material, and that’s a really long time, five minutes.
[00:12:20] SY: Yes, assuming you’re on a sales call, that’s forever.
[00:12:22] AW: Yeah. So I said, “You know what? I’m going to create this app.” And I did. I did.
[00:12:28] SY: Good for you. Did you end up using it?
[00:12:31] AW: I used it a lot and I was actually using it before I actually distributed it on the App Store, of course, just making sure that all the bugs that I was testing out were fine. Eventually, I did get some more people to test it who worked with me, and then finally I said, “You know what? I’m going to release it.” And I did it. It went over pretty well, especially with a lot of people in my company, posted on LinkedIn saying, “Hey, I released the app.” And a crazy thing kind of happened. I’m in the office and a customer walks in and I’ve seen him multiple times, but he’s not my customer, I guess, per se. He’s just a customer of my location and he’s like, “Oh, you’re Allen.” I’m like, “Yeah. I mean, of course I’m Allen. We’ve talked before, right?” He’s like, “You built the Weight App.” I was like, “Yeah. Yeah.”
[00:13:20] SY: Oh, cool!
[00:13:21] AW: He’s like, “Man, that stuff is the bomb.” It’s like, “Oh!”
[00:13:26] SY: Wow!
[00:13:27] AW: Oh, that is amazing.
[00:13:28] SY: That’s so exciting.
[00:13:29] AW: Thank you. Thank you. So that was just extra fuel to, of course, continue building, right? Continue learning, continue to build iOS because it actually created value for somebody other than myself.
[00:13:43] SY: Absolutely.
[00:13:44] AW: I just felt so happy about it.
[00:14:06] SY: Over nine million apps have been created and run on Heroku’s cloud service. It scales and grows with you from free apps to enterprise apps, supporting things at enterprise scale. It also manages over two million data stores and makes over 175 add-on services available. Also, you’re not walk-in to the service. So why not start building your apps today with Heroku?
[00:14:31] Career Karma is a free service started by bootcamp grads for bootcamp grads. Coaches are current coding bootcamp students who mentor people to help prepare and get accepted to bootcamps in just three weeks. We spoke to Kesha Lake who used Career Karma and is now an engineer at Stitch Fix.
[00:14:49] KL: I was really looking for a way to jumpstart my career, but not just getting me ready for the career itself, but to get me ready for bootcamp. I figured if I can do the 21-day challenge, then I can do the bootcamp.
[00:15:02] SY: So what was the challenge? What was it like?
[00:15:04] KL: The instructions were to speak to one person on your level and one person above your level every day and then post some sort of proof about it as a screenshot or a picture.
[00:15:14] SY: Did you know anything about coding before this?
[00:15:17] KL: I knew absolutely nothing about coding. So the 21-day challenge really set me up perfectly. I made friends, I started networking with people who would eventually make recommendations for me to get the job that I landed, but they also offered a lot of resources and support. You know, initially I was coding on my phone because I didn’t have a working laptop. Career Karma put me together with another one of their members who donated the first laptop and then I do get to upgrade to a Macbook so I’ve got another laptop from the Career Karma community.
[00:15:45] SY: So what kind of work do you do at Stitch Fix?
[00:15:47] KL: So I work on automation projects that help plan of ease the burden of our warehouse workers. So I kind of do a lot of telling machines what to do, which is exciting. It’s mostly back end work.
[00:15:56] SY: That’s fancy.
[00:15:57] KL: Yeah, it is. It’s kind of sexy and I’m really excited about it. I really leaned more towards back end development as opposed to front end doing bootcamp. So to find a job that would let me focus on that is kind of a dream come true.
[00:17:24] SY: Visit careerkarma.com/codenewbie to get started. So I want to get back to your journey of self-teaching. So you said that you were mostly self-taught. You did a seven-day bootcamp. How did you guide yourself through the learning? Because there’s just so much to learn, so many different choices, so many resources. How did you pick? What was the path you created for yourself?
[00:16:38] AW: I kind of took the school approach saying, “Okay, I do need some type of structure,” right? Not school approach, meaning I went to school, but how formal education has a structure. I said, “Okay, there’s a lot of schools that teach iOS development. There’s a lot of bootcamps that teach iOS development. I am guaranteed that at least 50% of them have a syllabus.” So I would continuously look at those, just any college, any bootcamp, especially bootcamps because they’re definitely telling you, “Okay, this is what we’re going to learn. This is what we’re going to learn. In this week, this is what we’re going to learn.”
[00:17:13] SY: And you found those just by Googling for that?
[00:17:15] AW: Yeah. Just Googling.
[00:17:16] SY: Okay. So you just have them up?
[00:17:18] AW: Oh, yeah. A lot of them do have…
[00:17:19] SY: Up on the web. Okay.
[00:17:20] AW: Up on the web. Somebody might have to enter like your email address and then they send you it, but either way you can get that information for free.
[00:17:28] SY: Wow!
[00:17:29] AW: Yeah. I looked at a lot of them. I saw a lot of common themes of not only the syllabus for school, but a syllabus for a bootcamp. And then of course, not to mention I was watching videos online, YouTube, I believe that Stanford has an iOS free class that you can learn from. And so I took that, and yeah, just that route.
[00:17:53] SY: Wow. What was the hardest part about that journey? Did you have to deal with any hurdles or bumps along the way?
[00:18:00] AW: The hardest part is actually the staying motivated part because I had a full-time career and it wasn’t like I was doing bad at sales, like I was doing pretty well. I was nominated to be the Inaugural Leadership Program of my company. I was one of four that was selected out of about 400 sales reps to be a part of this leadership program. So I was doing well in my career and to then go from eight to five at work to then go from 5:30, account for 30 minutes for traveling home from 5:30 to about 8:30 to be with my family. Sometimes 9, maybe 10 to then after that having to code. That was hard because there were a lot of times…
[00:18:52] SY: Yeah, that’s intense.
[00:18:53] AW: Yeah. There were a lot of times where I would go to sleep at night three, four, who knows, maybe five o’clock in the morning to then have to be up at the very latest 7:30 to be back at work at 8.
[00:19:06] SY: Wow.
[00:19:08] AW: Yeah. So it’s like sometimes you sit back and it’s like, “Is it really worth it?” There’s a lot of times, I don’t know if I can continue this process of learning iOS development building. I don’t know how much longer I can do it, right? It drains on your body a little bit. So the hardest part was staying motivated through that process, but I think what got me through was, of course, my family, family and friends, saying, “Oh, you know, you can do it.” Not to mention I was able to build a sort of additional family with my social medias, and they’re all saying, “You got this. You can do it.” That portion of it on top of just knowing that or reminding myself more so that it is worth it. It’s going to pay out. It’s going to be worth it in the long run. You’re going to be able to do so much more for your family because of course a lot of people know that in tech there’s quite a bit of salary jump, per se, in tech. The money portion is going to be there, so you’re going to be able to do some extra things with your family and just trusting the process, continuing to trust the process. My process is going to work. I don’t know when it’s going to work, but it’s going to work. After 19 months of doing that, it worked.
[00:20:37] SY: Yeah. Good for you.
[00:20:38] AW: I got the offer from Yelp.
[00:20:41] SY: What were your most useful tools and resources? Any favorites that you have?
[00:20:46] AW: I do have some favorites, more so favorite people, I guess, where you have a gentleman named Sean Allen. He has a YouTube channel. Sean Allen Dev, I believe, is the name of the YouTube channel. We have another gentleman. His Twitter handle is twostraws, Paul Hudson. He has some really great resources. Of course, Ray Wenderlich has some really great resources for iOS. So yeah, I would say those are probably my favorites and then the want to learn, I think, was that helped me just say, “I’m going to learn as much as I can. So let me just find stuff to learn.” Yeah.
[00:21:24] SY: Yeah. Okay. So you did all that grinding, 19 months of work, you learned Ruby, you learned Python, you learned iOS, and you talked about how you looked at these different job descriptions and you felt intimidated, overwhelmed. When did you finally start feeling like a developer?
[00:21:42] AW: I don’t know when that was for me. I think maybe it was when I built my first app, like actually built it where I said, “Okay. I’m a developer and this is cool.”
[00:21:53] SY: That’s right.
[00:21:53] AW: Right.
[00:21:54] SY: You’re talking about the iOS app?
[00:21:55] AW: Yeah, the iOS app, my first iOS app. I think that’s when it was just like, “I am an iOS developer and this is awesome and I can do this.”
[00:22:05] SY: Yeah.
[00:22:06] AW: Yeah. I don’t think you’re a developer when you get like your first job or your first contract. I think you’re a developer when you develop. Developers do. We don’t just talk.
[00:22:19] SY: Amen. So you talked about imposter syndrome and how you felt like you just weren’t good enough. Why was that the case? Why did you feel like you weren’t good enough? Because clearly you’re building things. You’re making things. You’re producing. Your resume is getting a little bit fuller, a little bit longer. So why didn’t you think you were good enough?
[00:22:39] AW: I think it was the lack of the formal education that was getting to me. Yes, I have the formal education, that’s psychology, but not in tech, like at all. So I think that was part of it. It’s like, “Oh, everybody’s getting jobs when they have CS degrees and master’s degrees, PhDs, and something in tech, and I have absolutely none of that,” right? So I think that’s what scared me the most. I think there’s also a fear that what if you do make it? I guess, as weird as that sounds, there’s like the fear of what if you do make it, what do you do? What’s next if you do make it?
[00:23:19] SY: And how did you answer that?
[00:23:21] AW: I still haven’t.
[00:23:22] SY: Okay.
[00:23:23] AW: But it’s more so just keep grinding, keep working at it. I don’t think anybody’s going to fault you for trying, so just keep trying, keep doing, and that’s where I’m at now even having the job. Even having the job, I still have the imposter syndrome that they’re going to say, “Ah, maybe, maybe.”
[00:23:43] SY: Never mind.
[00:23:44] AW: Yeah. Exactly.
[00:23:47] SY: Just kidding.
[00:23:47] AW: Let’s get somebody new in here.
[00:23:49] SY: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:23:50] AW: But no. I don’t think imposter syndrome ever goes away, but it does get a lot smaller.
[00:23:55] SY: So you talked about how staying motivated was really tough, especially, oh my goodness, when it’s so draining on you, not just your mind, but your physical body, that must be so difficult. How did you keep yourself motivated through all that?
[00:24:08] AW: Definitely the family was a big part. Them just saying, “You can do it,” was a huge portion. Then of course, they say, “Oh, if you want to be something, you have to surround yourself with a specific type of people,” right? Well, that was hard for me, considering my family, none of them are in tech. My friends, I think all but one is in tech, one or two, but they’re different types of tech. Like I mentioned earlier, I had to create a family of tech and that’s where I went the social media route.
[00:24:44] SY: You made a community. You made a community for yourself. Good job.
[00:24:47] AW: Exactly.
[00:24:47] SY: Yeah.
[00:24:48] AW: On top of that, I had to know what my why was, right? I think everybody should understand, “Why do they want to do something? Is it the money? Is it the fame? Is it the glory? Is it personal reasons?” Whatever that reason is, you have to know it and you have to truly believe it. And so for me, of course, I know there’s good money involved. So of course it’s like, “Okay, this extra money, I have two children, I want to be able to do everything for them, right? So let’s get this extra money,” right?
[00:25:21] SY: Yeah. That’s right.
[00:25:22] AW: And then on the other side, “Okay, what is it just for me? Can I show my creativity? Can I build something that’s meaningful?” I want to provide value to everybody I can. And so for example, at Yelp, I’m building an app that people use, right? That’s providing value. So that was a part of my why to provide as much value as I can and I felt with programming and developing that was going to be it for me and just understand that it does take time. It’s going to take time. If it was allotted that it was going to take me 19 months, what if I didn’t start when I started? What if I started a year later? It was still going to take me 19 months. So just understand that it’s going to take time as bad as you may want it, like I knew that I wanted it to happen in seven months, like I’ve seen medium articles saying, “Oh, development in seven months. Oh developer in six months from doing who knows what. Developer in one year.” I wanted that. I wanted that story, right? But you have to trust the process. It’s going to take time. Everybody’s journey is completely different. Someone who was doing it in seven months, they might have been doing eight hours a day of just developing or 16 hours a day where I only had the portion after my children went to sleep until I was tired enough to go to sleep. So everybody's journey is different. It could be a different company. It can be a different time zone, different city. Some cities want developers much more rapidly than other cities, right? Just understand that it’s going to take time. Everybody’s story is different. Just write your own story.
[00:27:17] SY: Coming up next, Allen talks about his work at Yelp and the biggest piece of advice he would give to anyone who’s starting their own coding journey after this.
[00:27:42] With DigitalOcean’s cloud infrastructure, you’ll be able to build faster and scale easier from predictable pricing to flexible configurations, to world-class customer support. You’ll get access to all the infrastructure services you need to grow. Plus, DigitalOcean’s community provides over 2,000 tutorials to help you stay up to date with the latest open source software, languages and frameworks. Get started on DigitalOcean for free with a free $100 credit at DO.co/codenewbie. That’s DO.co/codenewbie.
[00:28:17] If there’s one thing that comes up over and over again in our podcast, it’s that everyone has a different way of learning. We had our producer, Levi Sharpe, try out Educative to level up his Python skills. And he really took to the service’s text-based courses with in-browser embedded coding environments. And Levi, what did you take?
[00:28:37] LS: I took learn Python from scratch, so I’ve been learning Python a little bit. So I was a little bit familiar, but I found that these courses, they’re laid out in a really intuitive way. There’s like these sections that lead seamlessly one into the other. The Python 1 goes from data types and variables to conditional statements, functions, loops, and then each section has a quiz to make sure that you’re not just blasting through and like the information is going in one ear and not the other.
[00:29:09] SY: I love the quizzes.
[00:29:10] LS: Yeah. It really called me out on my BS because I was like, “Yeah, yeah, I get it. I get it, I get it.” And then I took the quiz and they were like, “You don’t get it.” And I was like, “Ah!”
[00:29:20] SY: You got me.
[00:29:21] LS: You got me. And then throughout all of these different sort of sections, you can code within the service itself. So you don’t need like an external coding thing. I should know what that’s called. Do you know what that’s called?
[00:29:37] SY: I’m not going to tell you. I’m not going to give you an IDE.
[00:29:39] LS: Yes, that’s what it says, an IDE. Did you know I’m a producer for a coding podcast?
[00:29:45] SY: A technical podcast.
[00:29:47] LS: Yeah.
[00:29:47] SY: Two actually, two technical podcasts.
[00:29:49] LS: That’s true.
[00:29:50] SY: Get 10% off site wide by going to educative.io/codenewbie. So you just started a new job as a software engineer at Yelp. Congratulations.
[00:30:07] AW: Thank you. Thank you.
[00:30:08] SY: Tell me how you got that position.
[00:30:10] AW: A hundred percent luck. I don’t know. Of course I have a pretty decent resume, I like to think, right? But yeah, my interview process was pretty wild. I get an email saying, “Oh, hey, we looked at your resume. We want to have you take this coding challenge and…”
[00:30:30] SY: Meaning you applied first?
[00:30:31] AW: Yes, I did apply.
[00:30:32] SY: Okay. So you applied through just the regular application portal?
[00:30:35] AW: Yes.
[00:30:36] SY: Wow. Good for you.
[00:30:38] AW: Yeah. No, it’s still shocking. Even a month and some change later, it’s still shocking that I’m actually here. Yeah. I applied online. I don’t remember exactly how long it took them to get back to me, but I just remember opening the email and they’re like, “Oh, hey, yeah, I want you to take this coding challenge.” But even still, it was like, “Oh man, I don’t know if I’m going to do well on this coding challenge,” because at the time I was putting off data structures and algorithms for a very, very long time.
[00:31:07] SY: Why? You weren’t interested?
[00:31:08] AW: Not that I wasn’t interested, I was scared of them. They just seemed like something that was so high up on a pedestal of difficulty that I was just like, “Oh, I don’t know if I will ever be able to get there or be able to reach that,” but I decided, “You know what? Bump that. I want to learn. I’m going to try my best.” But still, when I get that coding challenge, it’s still early in my data structures and algorithms study. I took the coding challenge and I did not finish the challenge.
[00:31:38] SY: Really?
[00:31:39] AW: Yeah, I did not finish the challenge, but I do know that if maybe two to five more minutes, I would have had the answer, and my hope is that they knew that.
[00:31:50] SY: Wait. Was it a take-home or was it live?
[00:31:52] AW: No. it was an online coding challenge.
[00:31:57] SY: Oh, that’s intense.
[00:31:58] AW: Yeah. I don’t remember how long it was, but I knew I was down to getting close to the answer. Next thing I know it’s like shuts off. I’m like, “Wait, what just happened?” I was not paying attention to the time at all, but I submitted it just knowing in my heart like I don’t think they’re going to offer me the next step, but they did. I was shocked. And again, another test and I guess from there is history. I went through all the interview process and came out on top.
[00:32:34] SY: Okay. That does not sound like luck to me. That sounds like you did the work. You put in the time. You applied like hundreds, thousands maybe of people also applied. You were good enough. You got selected. You did well on the process and then you got a job. That is not like luck. That sounds like work.
[00:32:57] AW: I think the luck comes from them actually opening my resume and seeing it and saying, “Hey!”
[00:33:01] SY: But that is their job. I’m not going to let you get away with this. That’s not luck. Their whole job is reading resumes. Their whole job is reading resumes. No, you earned that. That was great.
[00:33:11] AW: Because I’ve applied to so many, right? So many jobs. So I couldn’t even give a number how many. And some jobs, there’s just no response at all.
[00:33:18] SY: Oh yeah.
[00:33:19] AW: So I do think there’s a little bit of luck in there. I really do. But after that, yeah, after you get that first initial, now it’s game time. You really have to show everything that you’ve learned.
[00:33:33] SY: So looking back on your journey, knowing everything you know now, if you could have afforded a time bootcamp or maybe even a computer science degree, would you have done it or do you feel like the self-taught short bootcamp was the right strategy for you?
[00:33:51] AW: I regret nothing about my path because I think it gave me other experiences, especially my sales experience in conversing with people. I don’t know. I feel like maybe I would not have had that same ability or skill set if I took the computer science route for school. And also, like I said, I have children spending the money on one of those longer bootcamps, right? That’s going to take me out of a job. So I am very happy with the path that I’ve taken, even though it was a struggle. I’m extremely happy with the path that I take because it got me to the result that I wanted.
[00:34:34] SY: So what would you recommend for folks listening, for folks who are at that crossroads and they’re trying to figure out, “You know, what is the best path for me moving forward?” Would you recommend the self-taught route?
[00:34:45] AW: I do.
[00:34:47] SY: Interesting. Yeah.
[00:34:48] AW: Let me get my words correct here. I would do it if you are in another job, not in tech, you want to go and tech and time and money are some type of hindrance, right? Not everybody can just drop everything, pay for school. Not everybody can just drop everything, pay for a bootcamp. If you do have the means, then go for it. Absolutely go for it. But if not, I would suggest self-taught.
[00:35:21] SY: So what kind of stuff are you working on at Yelp?
[00:35:24] AW: We have two apps. One’s our business app and the other is our consumer app and the consumer app is pretty much the app that everybody sees. The business app is, of course, you have a business and you’re advertising on Yelp, that’s another app. So most people won’t see that app. But if you’re a business, that’s the app for you. So I’m working on both of those, iOS development, and I am realizing that I know or I feel like I know Swift and iOS. However, when I see some things that they’ve written or like my mentor has written and it’s just like, “Oh, this is genius. How did you think of this?” Right? It’s just absolutely amazing. But yeah, I’m working on both apps. And I’m pretty sure that’s all I can give you.
[00:36:12] SY: Okay, cool. Are you able to say what kind of features you’re working on? Things like that?
[00:36:16] AW: Conversation screens.
[00:36:19] SY: Okay.
[00:36:19] AW: So if you’re talking to a business, I am helping with that process, making it better, making it look better, et cetera.
[00:36:28] SY: Yeah. Okay. Cool. So how has getting a job at Yelp and working at Yelp? I think it’s been a few months now. How has that affected your imposter syndrome, if at all?
[00:36:40] AW: It’s definitely decreased by a lot. It’s almost like night and day because you get that relief like, “Oh I finally made it.” It’s just a little part left that saying, “Oh man, what if my manager’s like he doesn’t know what he’s doing? It’s time for him to go,” right? I’m afraid of that portion. And the thing that’s keeping me is continuously saying, “Oh, I am here. I’ve made it here for a reason. They saw that I knew what I was doing. I have my apps on the App Store,” and that is now in the job that’s keeping my imposter syndrome at bay.
[00:37:20] SY: So if you had one piece of advice to give to people who are listening and figuring out their coding journey, what would it be? Just get started, create and develop something. When you’re learning, I guess, we get hooked into tutorial loops. We’ll try to do every tutorial, read every book, but we never build anything on our own. And my suggestion is to build stuff, build anything, just put something together, especially if you’re applying for a job, put something together because they’re going to recognize that you have that self-starter motivation going for you. On top of that, while you’re building stuff on your own, you’re going to learn so much more, not just code-wise, but you’ll start to get into actual architecture of your code. How do I make my code look cleaner? There’s other things, other, I guess, intangibles or outside of actual language that you’re going to learn when you start building your own things.
[00:38:30] SY: Now at the end of every episode, we ask our guests to fill in the blanks of some very important questions. Allen, are you ready to fill in the blanks?
[00:38:37] AW: Yeah, let’s go. Let’s run it.
[00:38:40] SY: Number one, worst advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:38:44] AW: Oh, worst advice I’ve ever received was you should think about technical sales.
[00:38:48] SY: Oh, interesting. Tell me about that.
[00:38:51] AW: The reason why that’s the worst advice is because I knew that I wanted to be a developer and to sort of have a recruiter tell you, “Oh, maybe you should look into tech sales,” was kind of heartbreaking, right? It’s like, “Ugh! Why?” But of course they see sales on my resume and no fault to them. It’s just hearing it is still like the worst advice ever for me. Don’t tell me that. I’m going for developer.
[00:39:25] SY: Yup. Absolutely. Number two, best advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:39:30] AW: This is going to sound so cliché, but my parents always said it and it’s so cliché, but it’s you can do whatever you want to do. It is so cliché, but it rings so true. It always has. It might take a while to find what you may want to do, like it took me a while, but you can literally do anything that you want to do. It may not be the direct path that you wanted, but if you keep your goal on it, you might find another way to get to the end goal. So yeah, you can do whatever you want to do.
[00:40:07] SY: Number three, my first coding project was about?
[00:40:11] AW: So my first coding project goes back to when I was learning Ruby, and it was the first project that I did on my own. So not following a tutorial or anything. It was the first project that I did on my own and it was a Powerball and Mega Millions Lottery generator. So yeah, I’ll put the numbers, like just a random set of numbers or I guess pseudo random set of numbers for you to choose from and go play the lottery, hopefully. I just knew when I was building this and I was going to win the lottery and all of those programming time was going to manifest itself into a bunch of money. Well, that did not happen. I think I spent maybe $30 and probably made back $1.
[00:40:58] SY: Oh, no. Number four, one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is?
[00:41:05] AW: Just understand that it’s going to take time. I would say that’s a big part of why it took me so long because I wanted it to happen so fast and I was pressuring myself. I guess it frees up yourself and it frees up some stress that you might be inadvertently putting you on yourself.
[00:41:22] SY: And now that you’re here, how does it feel?
[00:41:25] AW: Oh man, it feels so good. I go into work every day just happy. When Sunday comes, people are dreading Monday, like I love Monday. I can leave my family and go to work. No, I’m joking. No. It’s really cool. I get to go into work. I guess now I’m realizing what I was meant to do. I’m like visibly smiling right now just talking about it.
[00:41:57] SY: I can hear it. I can hear it. Well, thank you again for joining us, Allen.
[00:42:02] AW: Thank you.
[00:42:09] 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, email@example.com. 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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