Jw profile

Jessica Wilkins

Software developer This Dot Labs

Jessica Wilkins is a classical musician turned software developer and technical writer. Prior to joining the tech industry, she spent her time running her own sheet music company (JDW Sheet Music) as well as performing and teaching in Los Angeles, CA.


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[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 how to transition from the arts to tech with Jessica Wilkins, Software Developer at This Dot Labs, Technical Writer at freeCodeCamp and former professional classical musician.

[00:00:24] JW: So that’s where the desire to learn how to code. I said, “Well, I have some free time. I might as well learn this stuff, build the website,” and then I go back to performing, but that didn’t quite happen as planned.

[00:00:36] SY: Jessica talks about transitioning careers from being a classical musician to a software developer, the project about shining a spotlight on black classical musicians and composers that ignited her love of coding, and how the journey of expertly learning an instrument and learning how to be a successful software developer are actually pretty similar after this.


[00:01:07] SY: Thank you so much for being here.

[00:01:09] JW: Thank you so much for having me.

[00:01:10] SY: So you very recently transitioned into tech. Can you tell us about what your career path looked like before this?

[00:01:18] JW: I was a classical musician and I was a professional oboe player, which is a type of woodwind instrument there.

[00:01:25] SY: I had an oboe when I was a kid.

[00:01:27] JW: Oh! Wow! Okay.

[00:01:29] SY: I didn’t know how to use it. I don’t know why we had one. Never took a class.

[00:01:32] JW: There are books just lying around there.

[00:01:34] SY: Just happened to have one in the house. I don’t know where it came from.

[00:01:37] JW: Well, that is random. Okay. That’s awesome. It’s funny because I started playing the oboe when I was 11 and I didn’t actually choose it. I was playing piano. Before that, I started when I was seven, just kind of playing for fun and whatnot. And then I tried trumpet when I was 10 in the fifth grade, because they had a fifth grade band, and we can only choose between like five instruments. It was clarinet, flute, trumpet, and percussion and saxophone. So I was like, “Okay, cool. I’ll just play trumpet.” But I was really, really, really bad at it and I hated it. I was like, “Okay, well, this sucks, but I love music and I want to be in a band with the rest of my friends next year for middle school. So what am I going to do?” And so my mom used to teach at the middle school that I went to and she talked to the band director and he’s like, “Well, I’ll talk to her and we can find an instrument.” So he talked to me and he’s like, “You know, you should really play the oboe.” And I don’t know what that is. So if you went and got one and you put it together for me and got a read. And I played one note on it and sounded probably pretty horrible. And he was like, “Great! You could be our new oboe player.” I was like, “Okay, cool.” But at the time I was 11, I was like, “Whatever.” So I just went with the flow with everything. Then I started to fall in love with it and decided when I was 15 to pursue this professionally and play at orchestras and operas. That’s when I started working towards going to music school.

[00:03:00] SY: So for people who may not be familiar with an oboe, it looks kind of like a clarinet on steroids, right? Like that’s the way it feels to me. Is that a fair description to you?

[00:03:11] JW: That is like the best description. Yes. It’s a very difficult instrument to learn because like a clarinet, it just has one read and then a mouthpiece similar to a saxophone, but an oboe has two reads tied together and that’s it. There’s no mouthpiece or anything. You have to get the air all the way through the instrument. So it’s really difficult to make it sound really nice when you’re first learning. But once you get it, then it’s like, “Oh, this sounds really cool, but it can be very finicky and unreliable. So it takes a lot of discipline and control to kind of get it the way that you want it to sound like. But yeah, it’s interesting how, I guess, I was tricked into playing the oboe there as an 11-year-old. But I guess I should thank my middle school band directors because it all worked out there.

[00:03:58] SY: So 2020 happened and for you, it seemed to have impacted your life in terms of your career and changing your career. Tell me a little bit more about that decision. What was maybe the moment, the thing, the trigger that made you go, “You know, I think it’s time for me to do something else”?

[00:04:17] JW: I mean 2020, it just hit everybody like a ton of bricks. I mean, literally two weeks before the big shutdown, I was at Disneyland because I was one of the music instructors for one of the middle school groups that we were coaching and they were doing a session, educational session with Disney. And so it was Disney, it was packed and all this stuff, and people were like, “Oh, well, what about this COVID?” I was like, “I don’t know. That’s just going to pass.” I was so wrong way off base because two weeks later, we were shut down and all of that. And so for the first few months, I just focused on my sheet music company and was just running that full time. But it was hard because everybody around me, including myself, we just weren’t performing. And we went from a fully packed schedule to everything was canceled. And it was like, “Well, we don’t know when we’re going to be able to come back.” So the first few months were really tough. And then June hit and that’s where everything got really tough because there was a lot of relations, attentions because of George Floyd’s murder and there were a whole bunch of protests happening all across the country. So a lot of people started this conversation in their respective industries about the lack of diversity, at the time, I was in the music industry, but more particularly in the classical world, and there’s not a whole lot of black people in the classical world that are fairly represented. And so people were asking me about all these resources, about black composers and artists, as I just shared my resources that I had collected over the years. And I thought, “There really should just be a website that people could just go to and learn about this stuff.” It’s crazy that there’s all these mixed resources and incomplete resources. And so that’s where the desire to learn how to code. I said, “Well, I have some free time. I might as well learn this stuff, build the website, and then I can go back to performing.” But that didn’t quite happen as planned. Oh, I fell in love with learning how to code and I started coding through freeCodeCamp and I was like, “Well, maybe I could make a career change.” I really spent the first year of learning, going back and forth whether or not I was going to make the switch. And in early 2021, a few things happened where I was invited to come back to start performing under COVID restrictions. So it was kind of awkward because it was like, “Oh, we can come back for recording sessions, but you have to wear a mask and you have to be isolated in this area and we have to sterilize it.” I was like, “Well, this is not as much fun as it was before COVID.” And so I did a few of those gigs and then around, I think it was May or April, I had an offer, a big offer to join the Disney Music Prep Department and work as a copyist and eventually as an arranger and work my way up. So that was kind of a turning point where I was like, “Okay, I have this big offer with Disney.” Like, “Am I going to go take it or am I really going to go pursue software?” And then after a lot of self-reflection, I was like, “I don’t know if I want to jump all in into this anymore and I’m really interested in this career change.” So I did not take the offer and I decided to pursue software and then literally a couple of weeks later, Quincy had reached out to me from freeCodeCamp and was like, “Hey, you’re doing so well with your articles. We want you to be part of the staff as a technical writer.” I was like, “Oh, that sounds cool.” So that’s how the journey started.

[00:07:35] SY: So tell me what happened after you turned down the Disney offer and you said I’m going to investigate this transition into tech a little bit more seriously, a little bit more deeply. What were the next steps? What was the plan after that?

[00:07:50] JW: Yeah. So right after that, that’s where I really kicked it in high gear with my learning, because I think I was like a pretty good student, but it was still just a potential hobby where I was like, “I don’t know if I’m going to do this.” But once I turned down the Disney offer, I'm like, “Okay. Well, now we’re going to do this.”

[00:08:04] SY: Things got serious.

[00:08:06] JW: Yeah. Exactly. I'm like, “Okay. Yeah, let’s do this.” And I started to just really dig in and start creating some more ambitious projects to show off to potential employers and started studying the market a little bit better and started building up more of a network. And then Quincy had reached out about a technical writing job. I was like, “Oh, that’s cool. Let’s go do that.” So I was working there for a while and then I was building up a lot of connections with This Dot Labs and I was like, “Well, maybe I’ll apply there. They’re always hiring and all this stuff. So maybe I’ll give it a shot there.” And they hired me. I was so grateful. I’m so grateful that they were like, “Yeah, let’s take a shot on her and all this.” So my first day was on February 14th, 2020 there.

[00:08:50] SY: Nice!

[00:08:51] JW: After that saying no to Disney, it was like, “All right, let’s do this. We’re all in now.”

[00:08:57] SY: So fast forward, a little bit of time has passed. You’re now a technical writer at freeCodeCamp and you’re also a software developer at This Dot Labs. When you look back on that decision today, and I know to be fair, like not that much time has passed, but still, you’ve made some very significant progress in your career. Knowing what you know now, knowing where you are today, how do you feel about that decision? Do you have any regrets?

[00:09:22] JW: No, I think it was the right decision. I have no regrets there. I’m glad I took the time to kind of think about it. I talked with my mom about it, but it was the right decision because now my life, I mean, I have weekends, that’s kind of a crazy kind of stuff. Because before, I mean, I’ve been on gigs where one of the last gigs I did was performing for the National Football League for their awards ceremony that happens Thursday before the game. And I had to get there at 9:00 AM and then I left at 9:00 PM. So it’s a full 12-hour day and the show’s only two hours, but it was all the prep and rehearsals and all that stuff. And so that was my life was these long, crazy hours and now I have weekends again. Now I actually end at like four or five o’clock.

[00:10:09] SY: Wow!

[00:10:09] JW: And it’s just kind of crazy and I don’t have to leave my house. I just got to walk over to my office and work and I can go take a walk if I want to. I remember the first time I was talking to my manager when I think it was like the first or second week and I had to take some time off for something. And I said, “Well, I can make it up on a Saturday.” And he was like, “No, no, we don’t work Saturdays here.”

[00:10:29] SY: No, we don’t do that.

[00:10:31] JW: I was like, “No, it’s totally cool.” He’s like, “No, it’s not optional. We don’t do that. We’re not going to pay you to work on a Saturday.”

[00:10:39] SY: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I had a similar experience with one of my early tech jobs. I was working at a consultancy and they were strict about work-life balance, which I thought was a weird thing to be strict about. Six o’clock would be official office shutdown time. And I was struggling early in my career. I was eager. I wanted to work as hard as I could and prove myself and all that stuff. And I would stay until like 6:30 and people would get upset. They would get genuinely upset with me. And I’m like, “What is wrong? You don’t have to pay me for this.” Like I’m willing and they were just like, “No, we don’t do that here.” I was like, “Wow! Okay.”

[00:11:18] JW: Yeah, it’s the same…

[00:11:19] SY: And to be fair, that’s not true of all software companies, but I think that’s a really good place for somebody who wants to work at.


[00:11:42] SY: So I want to talk about what happened with Black Lives Matter and kind of how that moment prompted the interest in learning to code with the website and the resources that you said you wished existed. Tell me a little bit more about that. When you were going through that experience and people were asking for your perspective and your advice, and you said you wish there was a website that kind of had all these resources, what were you imagining in your mind? Is this like a listicle? Is it a newsletter? What did that resource look like to you?

[00:12:14] JW: In the beginning it was kind of overwhelming because I just kept getting emails from people, especially people I hadn’t even heard of from years about resources. And I was like, “Yeah, but I wish we had started this conversation earlier.” Because, I mean, as a black musician in the classical world, we’re very aware that we’re a minority. The League of American Orchestras did a study a few years ago and they studied black musicians, Latino, Asian, different minorities over, I think they studied a 10 to 12-year period and they found that black and Latino only represented about three percent of the orchestra rosters, and that’s black and Latino.

[00:12:56] SY: Together?

[00:12:56] JW: Yeah. Together. Exactly. So the black side, that’s probably way less. It’s probably closer to like one percent. And so we were all very aware of each other from the classical world. And so I was just like, “Wow! I wish we had this conversation years earlier, but I guess we’re having it now and hopefully we can continue to have it.” And so that’s what prompted me to create the website, which is called the Black Excellence Music Project. And so I created version one with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript about a few months into my learning and then I let it sit for a little bit. And I actually used it during a few presentations for Black History Month in February of 2021 and then I kind of revisited it and kind of listened to the community. And I was like, “Well, I want to add some more games. I want to kind of polish it up. I want to do a redesign, add some more profiles.” And then I decided to release version two, and I believe it was in August of 2021, built with React and Tailwind CSS. And that’s the current version that’s going to be continuing to expand. But the idea was always to have a website filled with hundreds of profiles and games that people can play and just have it be an educational website appropriate for everyone.

[00:14:10] SY: So was the idea to educate people about these issues and how it affected the music industry, was it to support black musicians who were kind of already in the industry, who was kind of the target user? What were you hoping they would get out of this project?

[00:14:30] JW: The target user is really for those that wanted to learn more about black artists in the classical and jazz fields from the past and present there. And this site’s been used in a lot of presentations at universities and private schools. I gave talks at just making people aware that all of these great artists exist, and we’re not talking about them. We’re talking about Beethoven and Bach and Brahms, and those are all great too, but there are so many other great artists out there that we just haven’t talked about and they achieve wonderful things during their lifetime. So I have seen a shift. This conversation globally is just more people are starting to pay more attention and diversity is starting to become more at the forefront and not just forced because there’s sometimes where I feel like some organizations are like, “Oh, yeah. Okay. We’ll just program something just to make them happy.” But it becomes so transparent. And I love the fact that we’re getting to a point where people are not afraid to call out organizations that are not genuine and they’re just like, “Oh, yeah, we’ll just placate and just go program a black composer or whatever.” Yeah. So it’s nice that they’re being called out. And these organizations are like, “Oh, okay. I guess we can’t do that anymore.” Now people are kind of tired of that.

[00:15:41] SY: So one of the things that I find really interesting is over the decade that I’ve been in tech, one of the trends that’s become super, super popular is the rise of no-code tools, right? No code or super-low code tools and they’re really powerful and there’s so much more you can do today than you could even five years ago without actually needing to learn how to code and without actually needing to invest the time and effort to learn JavaScript or React or pick your preferred coding language. And so I’m wondering, when you decided to build this project, what made you decide to actually code it yourself versus using and leveraging some of these pretty robust tools that may have been able to get you there?

[00:16:28] JW: I think solely it was just time. I think if the pandemic hadn’t happened and if I was full swing with my career, I probably wouldn’t have learned how to code. I probably would’ve just picked one of those low-code or no-code tools and kept it moving or something like that. So I think it was purely time because I was working on my sheet music business, but I wasn’t performing anymore. So I was like, “Well, I have the time now to actually sit down and learn. And if I like it, then I’ll keep building this thing out. If not, then maybe I’ll find some other solution there.”

[00:16:58] SY: So was it kind of like almost an excuse to kind of dig into coding and kind of try your hand at it?

[00:17:05] JW: Yeah. It was something that I was just kind of curious about and I was like, “Well, if it doesn’t work out, then no harm, no foul.” I wasn’t going to spend a whole bunch of money trying to figure that out.

[00:17:16] SY: So tell me about that experience. Tell me about what it was like in those early days, going from a purely musical background to your first steps dipping your toe in coding. What was that experience like for you?

[00:17:31] JW: It was interesting because I think a lot of self-taught developers go through this where they decide, “Okay, I’m going to learn how to code.” And then the inevitable question is like, “Well, where do I start?” And so of course you Google and you type in like learn to code and you get all of these options, which is good and bad because you’re just overwhelmed. You’re like, “Well, I don’t really know what’s the right option or where to start or how to start,” and all of this crazy stuff. And so I started with edX. There was this course on HTML and CSS. And I was like, “Well, I heard that’s important.”

[00:18:05] SY: Heard those are sorts of things. Yeah.

[00:18:07] JW: Yeah. Those are some things maybe I should learn on building a website.

[00:18:10] SY: Right. Right.

[00:18:11] JW: So I was like, “Let’s start with that course.” And I really liked it, especially because they had a whole section on accessibility.

[00:18:16] SY: That’s cool.

[00:18:16] JW: I was like, “Oh, okay.” And at the time, I didn’t realize how important that really was and not all courses touched on that. And so then I was like, “Well, let’s keep learning.” And so then I learned about Udemy. And I was like, “Oh, that sounds cool. And these like 10 to 12-dollar courses, I was like, “Well, I have 10 to 12 dollars,” and started learning there. And so I started doing a couple of Udemy courses and really started enjoying it and kind of started building out the app there. But then I wanted something with a little bit more structure because I was just kind of bouncing around to random stuff. And so with some more Googling, I found freeCodeCamp and I was like, “Oh, okay, what’s going on here?” And I like the fact that you can build projects. And I was like, “Oh, yeah, that’s probably the next big step that I need to do is build some projects and it will probably help me build what I want to and I could join the forum and join the community there.” So that was kind of the early days. And there were a lot of times where, especially learning JavaScript for the first time and learning React and all that stuff where I’m like, “Okay, this is getting serious now. It’s a little overwhelming here. I don’t know if I’m doing this right.” But I think this is where my music background kicked in because there’s plenty of times when you’re learning an instrument and you have to prepare a piece where things just aren’t going well, but the show must go on. You have to learn that piece. And so I still had that mindset of, “Well, I’m just going to keep trying and keep learning and figure it out there.

[00:19:37] SY: Right. Right. How long did it take you to actually build up enough skills and knowledge to launch the project?

[00:19:45] JW: So I started about in September of 2020, and I released it in the middle of January of 2021.

[00:19:51] SY: Oh, not bad.

[00:19:51] JW: So I guess about four months.

[00:19:53] SY: That’s really good. Yeah.

[00:19:55] JW: It was kind of crazy because there were all these issues, when I first deployed it. So one of my developer friends helped me kind of debug some of those issues. So that was my first experience of like, “Oh, deployment stuff. This is fun.” It finally came together and there were 20 artists’ profiles and there were quizzes that you could take and a couple others, small games that I had added. And I was like, “This is great.” I even created a YouTube channel and started adding my own stuff there. I was like, “This is cool.” So it was great to see the final project because it was just an idea for so long and it was just being built and to finally see it deployed somewhere and I could send the link to people was kind of cool.

[00:20:38] SY: So what was the response to the Black Excellence Project that you launched?

[00:20:43] JW: Yeah. The response was really positive and people were sharing it and I wasn’t sure how people were going to respond because it’s my first one I ever coded by myself. I was like, “Oh, I hate this thing,” but people really did enjoy it and they were asking me like, “Oh, can you speak to my class about this and all this stuff?” And I just reached out to my music community and they were like, “Oh, I’m going to pin this and share it with my students and all this.” And I was like, “Oh, this is so cool.” And then when I came out with version two, there’s like, “Oh, that’s even better.” So it’s great because it’s one of these projects that I’m just going to keep adding to it as my skills grow. I have all these crazy ideas that I want to put into the project, and it’s one of those projects that is just going to evolve over time there.

[00:21:25] SY: So I know you touched on this briefly, but I’d love to unpack this a little bit more. When you think about your experience, your journey, learning how to play an instrument, and you think about the journey of learning how to code and launch an app, how do those two compare? Do they feel similar in any kind of way or were they two different unique experiences?

[00:21:54] JW: There are a lot of similarities between learning how to code and launching your first app and then learning an instrument and getting prepared for a performance. Because initially, you feel like you have all this time when you learn about a performance and you’re like, “Oh, it’s just two, three, four weeks away,” and I’ve got plenty of time to practice all this stuff. But then life gets in the way. Maybe you get sick for one of those weeks or something. And then the week before you’re like, “Oh my gosh! Okay, we still have to do this, this, this, this, and this.” And then the day of, it’s like, “Well, here it is. It’s got to happen.” We can’t move back the performance. The show must go on.

[00:22:35] SY: Tell me a little bit more about the process of building that site and the kinds of challenges you had, especially as a new developer, learning not just how to build a product, but how to code and how to design. And yeah, there are so many different things that go into launching an app besides literally the code. Right? So tell me a little bit more about the process of bringing that to life and the challenges you experienced.

[00:22:59] JW: I think one of the key things I learned was to kind of know where my inherent strengths were and not feel bad about just not being as good in certain areas and maybe finding another tool to help me out. And so the main thing was design. I spent so much time worrying about design and I am not a designer at all. So I'm very creative in other ways, but I am not a designer. And so I spent so much time trying to figure out the best design and I tried to create my own design for the first version. But there were a lot of just basic UI/UX issues with it. And a lot of things I hadn’t considered is a good learning experience. But in hindsight, I should have just used a library or something or a framework to just kind of help me out like Tailwind or something like that. And that’s what this version two has is Tailwind to make my life a lot easier. And there are so many templates you can choose from. There are so many other designs to help you out. And so it’s okay to not be great at everything. And so just kind of focus on the core things there. And then there are some other areas where it’s like, “You know, I’m going to try my best, but it’s okay if I’m not great at it and I’m not going to worry about it.” Because I worry so much about just designing everything. It was kind of a mess there.

[00:24:24] SY: Coming up next, Jessica talks about what her biggest piece of advice is for anyone who is transitioning careers from one in the arts to one in tech after this.


[00:24:44] SY: Tell me a little bit more about what your learning process was like. You mentioned the edX course. You mentioned freeCodeCamp. It sounds like you basically kind of did this self-taught. You kind of did this on your own at your own pace. How did you structure your time? How did you set goals and how did you know when you were ready to finally apply for a job?

[00:25:07] JW: Early on, I had one goal, which was to build the website, build the Black Excellence Music Project. And so I was like, “Okay, I need to learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript and I need to learn enough to go build this thing and I need to learn a little bit about Git because I’ve got to put this up somewhere and all this stuff.” And so that was my main focus. So I really relied heavily on freeCodeCamp’s responsive web design course and their JavaScript course. And then I was also intrigued a little bit because I heard people talking a lot about CS50. And so I did a little bit of CS50 course, but never ended up finishing it there. But I did enjoy the classes I did do. And after I finished the project, I was like, “Well, I really want to dive a little bit deeper. So let’s explore React.” And I was really confused at first by React. I'm like, “I don’t know why everybody likes this thing.” I was just like, “I don’t get it.” And now I actually love it. But in the beginning, I was just like, “I don’t get this at all. I don’t get what the hype is.” And a lot of it was because I just still didn’t understand the fundamentals behind it. So I started just kind of hitting the books a little bit harder there, sticking with freeCodeCamp, but also just building my own little side projects for better understanding and then kind of flirted with backend and node and express for a little bit. A guy reached out to me on the freeCodeCamp forum for some small contracts. I was like, “Well, that sounds cool. Let’s go do some of that.” And so I did a little bit of that for about a year, just kind of a small part-time schedule there, just learning to work with a real world application and just playing around with different JavaScript libraries and stuff like that. And so then I got to a point where I was like, “Well, I think it’s time to at least try to start applying and just see what happens.” I don’t think you’ll ever really be a hundred percent ready, but it’s like, “All right. I know the fundamentals. I’ve built some stuff. I want to at least try and see what happens and adjust from there.” So that’s when I started really looking at jobs and I really started to look at This Dot Labs because I was like, “They’re so cool. I love their Women in Tech Mentoring and I love their JavaScript Marathon stuff.” And I was like, “I really want to work there.” And so I applied and I was like, “Well, let’s hope for the best there.”

[00:27:19] SY: As you do your job as a software developer today, is there anything about your musical background, your artistic background that you’ve carried with you into this new position? Or does it feel like that was a past part of your life and this is kind of a new thing?

[00:27:38] JW: I guess more so the habits that I learned, and so mainly with practicing. There are times where I just didn’t want to practice at all when I was at school. But yeah, I had to because I had an upcoming concert and all this stuff. And so there are times where I’m like, “I don’t really want to work on this, but I have to.” I have the tickets assigned to me. I’ve got to figure it out. I can’t just be like, “No, I’m not going to work on this, I'm going to drop this ticket and go do something else.” Yeah. So that type of perseverance that you have to have as a developer where things just straight up aren’t working and you’re like, “I don’t really understand why none of this is working. It was working fine yesterday. And now, all of a sudden, there are all these bugs and I don’t get it.” Actually, I just finished a couple of weeks ago a new feature for the site, and there’s definitely a period where I was like, “Everything I’m trying is failing. I don’t understand why this is happening.” But I knew it was going to work out in the end. And so I was like, “Let’s just try something else. Well, maybe this is the period where we explore why it doesn’t work. Maybe we’re supposed to do that.” So just try to have a positive spin on it because I knew it was just going to eventually work itself out there.

[00:28:47] SY: Tell me a little bit more about what you do currently at This Dot Labs.

[00:28:52] JW: So I am part of the apprentice program. So it’s their program for junior developers, those that are just getting into the industry there and they throw you in on projects there, right from the very beginning, and you get paired with seniors and you have mentoring and whatnot. But yeah, they just throw you in the deep end. Like, “All right, here we go.”

[00:29:11] SY: Right.

[00:29:13] JW: They started off with some smaller tickets and whatever then you just kind of start ramping up there, but it’s great because you really get to find yourself and figure it out what you want to do and what areas you want to work in because they have so much diversity within the types of internal projects and client projects that they have going on where you’re just like, “Oh, I really like this aspect of web development,” or, “I really like this area,” and that kind of gives you a good head start on playing around with different things and deciding, “Okay, I’m going to spend more time in this area.” And I love the mentorship part of it where you just have time with senior developers and architects and you can just bring any question to them and they’ll do pair programming sessions where we talk about careers and stuff like that. So it’s an incredible program there.

[00:29:58] SY: So is the role of a developer what you thought and expected it to be?

[00:30:04] JW: Yeah. I think I always understood, because I think people are surprised that you’re not coding eight hours a day. But I was like, “Yeah, it’s more so of like a business. So you’re probably going to be in meetings and stuff.” I wasn’t too surprised by that, because at the end of the day, it’s still a business where there’s still going to be a lot of conversation. And then when you’re working on personal projects, yeah, it’s going to be all coding all the time and all that stuff and you’re doing hackathons or whatnot. But when you’re in a business, you can’t just throw together a solution and push a domain and push it to production and be like, “All right, cool.” There’s so much back and forth. We’ve got to talk about things. Sometimes you just don’t know the answer. For some of these client projects where it’s like, “I’m not sure what the answer is.” Or, “Can we correspond with some of the other developers on this project and get some of these answers there?” Especially like with reviews too, they’re pushing you, especially as a junior developer to say, “Okay, well, this word, but is it a good solution?” And I think when you’re first learning, you’re like, “Yeah, it looks good to me. It works. So I’ll take it. But then they’re like, “No, but let’s really talk about, like, is this good and how we can improve it?” A good company is going to stretch you and really think about possibly refactoring and why and best practices and all of that stuff.

[00:31:21] SY: So what is your biggest piece of advice for people who may have a background in the arts or in something creative, not related to technology, not related to coding who’s maybe considering and playing with the idea of transitioning into tech and trying to figure out if it’s right for them? What advice would you have for those folks?

[00:31:41] JW: Don’t listen to your preconceived notions or your doubts about what a developer is. And I think I definitely had an idea before I started learning how to code, like who the developer is, and I didn’t fit that mold in my opinion. But once I started learning more about who was in this industry, there were actually quite a few musicians in this industry, a few from the classical world. And I was like, “Oh, developers come in all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and there’s a place for me here.” So sometimes we just have these preconceived notions of like, “Oh, unless I haven’t been programming since I was nine and went to school and built a computer in my garage and stuff like that.” Not everybody does that and it’s fine. And I mean, if that’s your story, that’s cool too. But if that’s not your story, if you’re like, “Well, I’m in my 30s and I want to learn how to code and I’m not sure,” just give it a try and start off with some free resources there. freeCodeCamp is great and they have a supportive community. And you want to make sure not to code by yourself. That’s really important. You have to be surrounded by a community, and you’re going to find some people from artistic backgrounds and you can kind of relate to, you guys can bond over that journey and grow together there.

[00:32:54] SY: Now at the end of every episode, we ask our guests to fill in the blanks of some very important questions. Jessica, are you ready to fill in the blanks?

[00:33:01] JW: Sure. Let’s do it.

[00:33:03] SY: Number one, worst advice I’ve ever received is?

[00:33:06] JW: It has to be learn to code in three months. I believe that one.

[00:33:12] SY: Okay.

[00:33:12] JW: Yeah.

[00:33:13] SY: Who told you that? Was it all of marketing for every coding program ever?

[00:33:19] JW: Yeah, pretty much all of marketing, a little bit of Twitter, YouTube. I remember the first time I saw that. I was like, “Wait, isn’t this stuff’s supposed to be hard?” I think one of the things is like so many people listen to that and then they look and they’re like, “Oh, I’m three months in and I don’t feel ready.” Just work on your own timeline. It’s totally fine. Just work at whatever speed is best for you there.

[00:33:45] SY: Yeah. And I think that the timeline is so different and has so much more variation if you’re doing it solo, right? If you’re doing a bootcamp or a program that is actually done in a couple of months, then at least you can what you’re going to know in a couple months. It may not be enough, but you have some structure around that. But if you’re doing it totally alone, there are so many things that can throw that timeline off, right? It could be your personal motivation, your own energy level, your own burnout. If you have a family to take care of, you never know how that’s going to impact things. There’s so much more so. So I think that especially when you're doing it solo and you’re trying to do it self-taught, three months is completely, I mean, three months is already short anyway, but I think it’s even more unrealistic when you’re doing it outside of an official program. So yeah, I agree with that. Number two, best advice I’ve ever received is?

[00:34:47] JW: Yeah. It’s probably going to be what my teacher taught me in college, which was just do it. And he used to always say that phrase and get a kick out of it. He would just steal it from the Nike phrase, but his whole thing was like, “Just go for it. Stop over-analyzing it. Just try it. Just go for it.” And I think people talk themselves out of just trying things and they plan out how it’s going to fail and how it’s not going to work out. And they have the whole narrative written before they even tried it. And so if you’re contemplating learning how to code it, just give it a try. Maybe it isn’t for you. Maybe you’re like, “You know what? I don’t really like this.” That’s okay. But at least you tried it. It’s not a waste. It’s an experience. There’s plenty of things that I’ve tried where I’m glad I tried it and learned it wasn’t for me, but don’t try to over analyze it and try to write the whole narrative before you even get started. Just dive in, get started, take it one day at a time, one step at a time there.

[00:35:39] SY: Number three, my first coding project was about?

[00:35:42] JW: Well, it was actually the Black Excellence Music Project.

[00:35:46] SY: Yeah, that’s a big one too.

[00:35:48] JW: Yeah.

[00:35:49] SY: That’s a big one for a first one.

[00:35:51] JW: Yeah.

[00:35:52] SY: Number four, one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is?

[00:35:58] JW: Don’t believe everything you see on Twitter. Twitter is awesome, but can you can’t believe everything you believe on Twitter because sometimes people are just posting where they are at their best and all these achievements and then you get into this comparison game and you start getting into imposter syndrome and you’re like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Let’s just slow down here. We don’t know the full story here. And so we don’t need to be comparing ourselves to so-and-so on Twitter. That’s great for them, but I’m just going to do my own path there.” So Twitter is a great place to be on for tags for a lot of reasons, but you don’t want to just live or die by Twitter or any other social media platform for that matter. Just kind of take everything with a grain of salt there.

[00:36:42] SY: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you again so much, Jessica, for joining us.

[00:36:47] JW: Yeah, this was awesome. Thank you so much for having me.

[00:36:55] SY: This show is produced and mixed by Levi Sharpe. You can reach out to us on Twitter at CodeNewbies or send me an email, hello@codenewbie.org. For more info on the podcast, check out www.codenewbie.org/podcast. Thanks for listening. See you next week.

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