Saron chats with Stefi Rosca, Frontend Engineer at Typeform. Stefi talks about their path to breaking into tech in their later twenties after having a fulfilling career in marketing. They also talk about the communities they joined to help motivate and encourage them along the way and how they leveled up in the tech space.
[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 leveling up with Stefi Rosca Front-End Engineer at Typeform.
[00:00:19] SR: So I was about to go into my 30s and I thought like, “Oh, it’s too late. I shouldn’t do this now. I already decided.” And when I was going to these meetups and I met people that have done this and were successful and were happy with their choice, it gave me the courage that there is a way to make it happen.
[00:00:36] SY: Stefi shares how she transitioned to code after working in marketing, why she tried multiple bootcamps, and how she leveled up from tech support to front-end developer after this.
[00:00:52] SY: Thank you so much for being here.
[00:00:53] SR: Thank you for having me.
[00:00:54] SY: So I heard that you have always liked logic and numbers and math from a young age. Where did that come from?
[00:01:00] SR: I don’t know, maybe from my mom. She was really good at math, but I really struggled on the creative part because there was no like scale of like you write this essay and it’s good because you hit all this point. And that got me always frustrated. While with math, you got to the end result, it was correct, all good. There was no other things required on top of it.
[00:01:26] SY: Yeah, that’s a good point.
[00:01:27] SR: It was more straight forward.
[00:01:28] SY: Yeah, I totally get that. And did you stay on that journey of liking numbers and math as you got older or what did you end up doing?
[00:01:35] SR: Yeah, I did. I loved it a lot. Like I studied economics. I loved the most the statistic classes or everything involved with math, the macro and micro economics. But then I went into marketing because it seemed like the fun thing to do, that it was more creative against all odds. I did enjoy it, but it was always like the logical side and the coding that I wanted to get back to.
[00:02:03] SY: Interesting. So marketing is something I would definitely think of as being more creative, very different from economics and very different from statistics. What made you interested in marketing?
[00:02:15] SR: During the university, it felt like the most exciting class because we were doing a lot of advertising as well, and I really liked advertising. I spent a lot of time watching ads. We had like a festival in Romania, where I’m from, where you could go and spend all night watching ads and I was fascinated by it. So I had the wrong impression about what marketing actually is.
[00:02:38] SY: And what did marketing actually end up being?
[00:02:40] SR: I ended up doing digital marketing and social media, and it was all about the numbers, trying to get campaigns viral and get leads in and it loves that thing that I thought it would be like that fun, creative, let’s play around and do things.
[00:02:58] SY: But I would think that if it is more numbers driven, that would be more comfortable, no?
[00:03:04] SR: It was. I thought so. It was like this with the paid part, but when you think about the algorithms behind social media, it wasn’t like this. You could create like the most amazing campaign or ad and it would not deliver. Like whatever you thought that could make something like a success might not be the case. And it became all about the numbers and fighting algorithms and it wasn’t what I thought it was at the beginning.
[00:03:32] SY: Got you. So how did you get from your experience in marketing to your interest in technology?
[00:03:39] SR: So when I was in college, because I like advertising, I created a blog where I would post videos from YouTube or ads, because I just wanted to share it with my friends and instead of sending each person something, I would just like create a post and share that post or whoever wanted to see those things could go on my blog. And I was super annoyed. It was WordPress and I was super annoyed with like how it looked and I wanted to do it like my own. So then I started to look into the HTML, the CSS. There were no blogs, like they’re now teaching you how to code or Stack Overflow. It was quite challenging, but I really enjoyed it. And after like a while, I got the job in a smaller company where I was working very close to the web team. Because they were like overwhelmed with things that they had, I built the landing pages myself with basic HTML and CSS.
[00:04:33] SY: Nice!
[00:04:34] SR: And it got more exciting. And I was like, “Oh, let me get back to this. Let me try to see if I can build my own website, learning the skills.” And at that time, I found in Barcelona, there are a lot of meetups, especially for minorities, where you can just go, meet people and code or talk about what it means to be a developer. And I thought like, “Well, that would be great,” because I moved to Barcelona. I didn’t know a lot of people. I would meet people. I would network. I would do something I’m interested in. There was no pressure. So I thought, “Why not?” [00:05:10] SY: So when you were building this landing page and learning how to code, how were you learning? How were you figuring out what to do?
[00:05:17] SR: I was looking up online things all the time. At that specific time, there wasn’t much information online from what I remember or I didn’t know how to search for it. I tried to do a course because a friend of mine said, “Start with the basics.” So I signed up with the course in C, which I don’t recommend.
[00:05:36] SY: Yeah. It’s very different. Yeah.
[00:05:39] SR: I dropped out of it like the second or third week because I didn’t understand anything. There were a lot of people who were just doing it to get the certification and they already knew everything. So the teacher was just like going quite fast. And it was the time that I was going to move to Barcelona. So I said, “There is no point in spending more time on this because I’m leaving and I will figure it out once I’m in Barcelona.” [00:06:04] SY: And did you ever use any other tools to learn how to code, bootcamp, going back to college, anything more formal like that?
[00:06:11] SR: Yeah, definitely. Once I came to Barcelona, I learned about freeCodeCamp, which I really loved. I can actually finished everything for web development on freeCodeCamp. I’m one of those people, when you start something, I want to see all the checks.
[00:06:27] SY: Yeah.
[00:06:27] SR: And then I stumbled across CS50, it’s on YouTube. It’s from Harvard and it was like an amazing course introductory to computer science. It was really challenging for me, although it’s like beginner level. And it was at this point that I realized, like… I did also other things like YouTube videos, Scrimba, a lot of resources that I’d found online and I was just trying to do like a little course or build a game or a website. And I went to a few workshops in Barcelona to build like a portfolio. And then I realized that I could do it maybe like trying on my own, but it will not happen as fast as joining a bootcamp. So at this point, I went around the city to check out the bootcamps, to see like the pricing and everything and to see how I could make it work.
[00:07:22] SY: And these were in-person bootcamps?
[00:07:23] SR: Yeah, it was 2019. I graduated actually February 2020, which was right before…
[00:07:30] SY: Wow! Oh my goodness! Right before.
[00:07:33] SR: Yeah. We had the graduation and then everything collapsed.
[00:07:37] SY: Shut down, yeah. What made you decide to do an in-person bootcamp versus the many virtual online options that are available?
[00:07:47] SR: Back then I wasn’t aware of any remote bootcamps. I thought everything was in person. And the other thing was that why I decided to do a bootcamp is the same thing that happened when I was trying to learn Spanish. I said, “I will learn it on my own. I have books. I can read. It’s very similar to Romanian because it’s also a Latin language,” but I realized that I would never actually sit down and study, maybe once in a while, and I wouldn’t understand. So I thought the same. So I signed up for a school. I went twice a week and it just happened. And it was the same principle. If I sign up and I go, I will actually like do it. And if I’m blocked, there will be people around me to help me and I will keep going.
[00:08:31] SY: And did it work out that way? Did you feel like you had people around you that could get you unstuck and help you keep going?
[00:08:37] SR: Yeah. I had that through the bootcamp, but also to Codebar, which is a community, like a nonprofit, helping minorities get into tech where I was going to their meetups. And through the bootcamp, the fun part was that if you didn’t understand something a hundred percent, you would move on to the next thing. You will learn it eventually.
[00:08:59] SY: And how did you find out about these communities?
[00:09:01] SR: I had a friend who was going to one of these and she told me, “Hey, maybe it’s something that could be good for you because you’re interested in coding. There’s a lot of people who go there who can help you. It’s a good networking opportunity as well.” And there is no requirement on my end. Like there is no pressure of like, “You have to go there if you want to become a developer.” You can just go there and just learn about the industry or what the job would look like.
[00:09:32] SY: And what did you get from that experience?
[00:09:34] SR: A lot of courage to pursue it. What I was lacking was people around me that were doing this. So I was about to go into my 30s and I thought like, “Oh, it’s too late, I shouldn’t do this now. I already decided. I’m senior in what I’m doing. Maybe it’s not a good time.” And when I was going to these meetups and I met people that have done this and were successful and were happy with their choice, it gave me the courage to actually pursue it and that you don’t have to have everything figured out. I don’t have to go to the university for four years, that there is a way to make it happen.
[00:10:09] SY: Yeah, that’s really beautiful. That’s a really powerful thing to do, having that courage to pursue your goals and your ambitions, I think is a really great outcome. So you did this bootcamp and then you did Codebar to kind of supplement that and help you with some additional support, what did you do afterwards?
[00:10:28] SR: I wanted to go to New York. There is a place, a program called The Recurse Center. It’s a retreat where curious programmers recharge and grow. You basically go there with other programmers, different levels and different interest and you go there together and you work on what you are curious, to get better at coding. That’s the main goal. And there is no agenda. It’s completely free. You just go there and the events happen inside the community. So that was my plan because I wasn’t sure if I would like to do front end or back end. And I thought this would be a good opportunity. When I started my first job, I started working right away when I was still studying to support myself. And now I had some savings and I thought, “Let me figure out before what I would like to do more,” to like do a more informed decision with my first job in tech.
[00:11:26] SY: So you were working while you were in school. What kind of job did you have? Were you still in marketing?
[00:11:31] SR: No. First, it was similar jobs to support. Like it was pricing. In Romania, there are a lot of tech companies like Hewlett Packard, IBM. So I was working a bit in this kind of roles. I speak also German, so it helped me get the job and then I shifted towards marketing.
[00:11:49] SY: Got it. Got it. Okay, so you did the Recurse Center. What was that experience like? I’ve always wondered what it was like because I know that it’s more self-led, right? It’s not like an instructor where someone is telling you what to do every day. It’s kind of you experimenting and you leveling up through the community. Is that kind of how it works?
[00:12:09] SR: Yeah, it’s a unique experience. It’s amazing. I grew a lot being there. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen in person. It went remote and it was adapted like on the go because it was the first batch that was fully remote. And the thing is it’s self-driven. You go with the plan. I had the plan on things that I wanted to work on. At the same time, you have a lot of check-ins in the morning and people share what they work on, and then you might join someone else if you like their project, then there is a lot of pair programming happening. And based on your curiosity, people host like meetings. So let’s say somebody’s interested in algorithms, they start the algorithm study group. We had like tech talks, non-technical talks, like a lot of events. And it’s just the best thing about it is to allow yourself to explore and have fun because that’s when you learn and you grow more, in my opinion, rather than sticking to something that you have to do and being frustrated with it and not enjoying at the same time.
[00:13:17] SY: What were some of your goals for yourself during your time at the Recurse Center?
[00:13:22] SR: I wanted to get the basics right because the bootcamp was so fast. I wanted to go back and read up on React and do some little projects to actually make sure that I understand everything that I’ve learned, that it was not just something I did super fast and then I forget everything. To understand the logic behind some of the fundamentals, I wanted to also dig deeper into back end. At that time, I was really into back end. I wanted to be a back-end developer and I had the project and I worked on that project and I realized I don’t like it as project. I really like front end. So that was a good outcome of it. I did a lot of coding challenges because I thought I need this for interviews later on. And a lot of fair programming, coding reviews. It was amazing because it felt like a new experience, almost like working because people were reviewing my code. I was pairing with them. And it was like, this, you cannot get it in a bootcamp, or at least that’s what I believe, because there is no time to do all of this.
[00:14:31] SY: Absolutely. And it was a three-month program?
[00:14:33] SR: Yeah. Three months. Yeah.
[00:14:34] SY: So by the time you finished the program, how did you feel about your own abilities, your own skills? What kind of developer were you by the time the program was over?
[00:14:45] SR: I was stressed.
[00:14:46] SY: Oh no!
[00:14:47] SR: I thought like, “Oh, I need to learn so many more things.” I’m not prepared. It was also, let’s take into account the market in that period, like also right now, the market is very different. Like in 2019, while I was doing my bootcamp, I decided to do my resume and apply for some of the graduate positions, just to get the feeling of what interviews are like. And I thought it’s better to do it when you don’t have the pressure. Like, “I graduated, I need to get a job now.” And it was really nice. I got a lot of interviews, everything felt easy. Well, it was not the same thing in 2020. I went online. I saw a lot of people sharing that they got laid off. Suddenly, there were no graduate or junior positions. So I felt like I was more prepared than maybe other people graduating from bootcamps, but at the same time, I didn’t feel like I have all the necessary skills to jump into like a junior position yet.
[00:15:52] SY: What was it like to be someone on the job market in that economy and in that climate? What was it like to know that you were going to be looking for your first full-time job soon, seeing the layoffs happen and the downturn happening? What was that like?
[00:16:10] SR: It was very, very tough. I remember applying to a lot of jobs, not getting any answers, sometimes even like doing projects and not getting any response or feedback to it. But I thought like, “Oh, this is great. I’m practicing. I’m putting this in my portfolio.” And it was great at the same time because I was able to find some mentors because everything was remote. Spain was mostly shut down. You couldn’t leave your house. It was very strict. A lot of people were inside and they didn’t have things to do sometimes. It was very easy to find people to, like, do some pairing, to ask for a code review. So it really helped me level up more and be better prepared for the job.
[00:16:57] SY: How did you deal with just emotional stress of not having as many opportunities as you’d like to see? How did you deal with that emotionally?
[00:17:05] SR: That’s a very good question. It’s actually one thing that I really loved about the Recurse Center. We had a meeting that is called the “Feelings Check-in”.
[00:17:16] SY: Oh, I love that.
[00:17:16] SR: It’s like a support group where you go and you share how you feel. There is no judgment. You just share your own feelings without trying to generalize. Everybody’s listening to everyone. There is like we do a round and at the end, whoever is open, we give them advice or feedback or people share like, “I’ve been through this too,” and just getting these things off my chest, sharing, seeing how others people felt because it wasn’t just the job search. It was everything changing at the time, the news, everything. It was not an easy period, I think, for nobody. So having that space that was safe, where you could like share, also like you could share not only things like struggles, you can also share like your excitement. It was all feelings welcome. I think that got me through this hard period because I was suddenly locked into my house with all these new people who had the same interest as me trying to get better at programming, excited about it. So that helped a lot.
[00:18:17] SY: And was this feelings day once a week or how did that work?
[00:18:20] SR: Yeah, we had it once a week.
[00:18:21] SY: Nice, very cool, very cool.
[00:18:34] SY: So you finished the Recurse Center, where’d you go next?
[00:18:37] SR: I got a job as a technical support role. It wasn’t what I wanted and I wanted to be more of a developer, but I wanted to like get into the market, get back to working, have an income. I was nervous about my savings going down and seeing the pandemic and not knowing. Before, when I decided to go to the Recurse Center, my plan was to do an internship somewhere, maybe go to a different country and explore more. But because the condition changed so much, I wasn’t sure when I would find a job and it became like an urgent matter for me, psychologically speaking.
[00:19:22] SY: Tell me a little bit more about the thinking behind taking a tech support job, because I know that a lot of people face that decision today, where they say, “I can’t quite find the developer job that I’m hoping to get, that I’ve been working towards,” but there’s a related job, but it’s not exactly the same thing. Tell me a little bit more about what it felt to make that decision.
[00:19:44] SR: It was not an easy decision because I knew that it was not what I want to do long term. At the same time, I thought like I could learn a lot of things, maybe I could move within the company because it was a bigger company, not a small company. And I knew from the interviews that I had, that we would create maybe a widget to help ourselves at work to do things faster. There was an element where I thought I could code more. So I thought it could help me. It did. If I look at it back now, I learned a lot of things about browsers, like cookies, advertising, things that helped me in my job and helped me with the other interviews, but it was hard because once you have on your resume, something like technical support, you might be targeted for technical support roles rather than engineering roles.
[00:20:46] SY: And I think that’s the fear, right? Is once I have that on my resume, that’s the path that I’m stuck with. And that’s the only types of jobs I have access to or jobs that are now within technical support, even though that’s not what I wanted to do in the first place. But you managed to avoid that because now you are a front-end engineer at Typeform. How did you manage to avoid getting stuck in the tech support world?
[00:21:13] SR: I reached a point where I was feeling that I’m spending a lot of time in this job. I’m not able to move and also I didn’t have the energy or the time to like focus on improving my coding skills. So at that time, I was super lucky because there was a competition to get the mock interview with Cassidy, Cassidy Williams from Scrimba.
[00:21:39] SY: Yeah.
[00:21:40] SR: And I got the mock interview. So I was like four days before just going through React and documents and trying to prepare. I knew I wasn’t ready, but I wouldn’t let such an opportunity go. And I think after those four days felt like a bootcamp, like intense learning.
[00:22:00] SY: Yeah.
[00:22:02] SR: And she was so nice, so supportive, giving me advice. I felt very good in that interview, even though I know that I haven’t done so well. She made me feel good. And it was that point that I said, “Okay, I’m going to focus on this a hundred percent.” I took my project. I had this like Ski With Me app that would help skiers and snowboarders find each other to go skiing together. And I took my project back from GitHub where all the projects are there, like not touched. And I started to focus on that. I found people that were interested to pair with me on that. And I just gave it my all. I took some more courses online that they work. Mostly it was Scrimba at this time because they launched like a front-end path and they were going very in depth on things. When you’re in a bootcamp, everything goes super fast. While if you do something self-paced, there is more time to put you all the materials.
[00:23:04] SY: Absolutely. And so you basically took your off-hours, your time after work, and you put that to good use and you really use that to level up and learn and get better at your craft. How long did you do that for? How much time had passed?
[00:23:20] SR: It was mid-December. So I left the job. I went home to save some money and I stayed until… I had my deadline until March. I had some income from a side gig. I gave myself until March and I managed to get the job. I think the 8th of March or 14th of March, I was back with the job. What I did is I shared a lot on my journey. So I was coding, I was facing challenges. I would tweet about it. I would make like a blog post. I was talking to people about it. I was very, very active on my journey and trying to let people know, like, “Hey, I’m looking for a job. I’ve done this and this and this.” “Hey, do you know any junior positions?” I contacted companies that I knew that had graduate positions that I’ve been in contact with to ask them if they reopened the positions. I tried to ask for internship. I did everything I could do to find something.
[00:24:21] SY: So you actually quit your job in order to focus back on learning to code and learning front end. Is that right?
[00:24:27] SR: Yeah.
[00:24:28] SY: Wow! What went into that decision? Because I know that you said that before you had that job, you were worried about dwindling savings and you really wanted to get back in the workforce and start making some money. What went into the decision of deciding to quit your job and just focus back on learning how to code?
[00:24:48] SR: I was very unhappy during that job. The company I was working for is from the advertisement industry around Black Friday, there was like a lot of work. I felt like exhausted. It was not something I enjoyed. And I was just living to spend my weekends and go travel, like get the money and enjoy on the weekend, just to recharge, to be able to go at it for another week. And I didn’t feel like that was good for me. And I thought like, “Okay, I’m not happy.” I’m lucky enough to have people around me who were like, “You shouldn’t do this. If you’re not feeling good, better take some time off.” I remember I have a really good friend. She’s an elderly woman that I met here. And she said, “You will find something, just take a few months off. You will be fine. Trust me.” And coming from her, she’s like older, I was lucky to be granted a few months’ rent free, if I would have any problems, I was like, “Okay, I’m just going to go home and I’m going to figure it out.” [00:25:56] SY: And you gave yourself, you said, December to March. That’s not that much time. It’s a couple months. What was going to happen if you did not find the job by March?
[00:26:05] SR: I don’t know.
[00:26:07] SY: Okay.
[00:26:07] SR: I really don’t know. I don’t know how, but it works. I did the same when I decided that I want to move to Barcelona. I said I have until June. And I found a job before May and I moved and I thought, like, “If I don’t find it, I quit my job and I move to Barcelona while being here because it would be easier.” It was before remote was like more popular. I think it helped me knowing that I have a deadline and I’m working towards something. At the same time, it gave me a lot of guilt of like when I was taking a day off, which is something I struggled with. I ski and I have a friend who invited me to go skiing with her and I thought like, “Oh, I’m going skiing. I shouldn’t be spending money. I should be studying and working hard.” Like, “This is not what you do when you don’t have a job,” which is not good because I believe now that that actually helped me, disconnecting, being with my friend, enjoying, having fun, doing something that I really like, and just being away from my computer.
[00:27:17] SY: So how did you divide up your time? How did you decide how much time to spend job searching versus learning, versus building? How did you kind of allocate your time and resources?
[00:27:29] SR: I, in a way, pretended that I was still working because I didn’t want my parents to be worried or anything. And at the end of the day, I would wake up in the morning and work until late in the evening. And I was doing the majority of my time, especially December and beginning of January, because there’s the holiday season in Europe and there is not much recruitment happening around that time. I decided to focus on the project that I was building and updating my portfolio and trying to like clean up my resume. I had different versions of it and trying to look at some networking opportunities. Because when you reach out to someone, it’s easier maybe to get an interview.
[00:28:22] SY: And then what was the opportunity that you ended up getting in March?
[00:28:26] SRW: I got an opportunity in a consultancy agency. It was really nice. I worked in the marketing department, which helped me because I have the marketing skills and the tech skills. So that put me like forward and I really, really liked it because it was like… this time it was like coding. The team was super nice. We had various projects and challenges because we were working with the marketing CMS tool that I didn’t know. And it’s something that you cannot really prepare for unless you work with it. It’s not like a framework or something that you would have in your day-to-day. And it came with a lot of challenges and I would pair all the time with my colleague and we were both pretty new at it, but that way it made it even better. And whenever we had a challenge or a blocker, we went to some of the more experienced engineers that they were working as consultants with clients.
[00:29:28] SY: And so that was a full-time position?
[00:29:30] SR: Yeah, full time.
[00:29:31] SY: Wonderful. And so when you got that position, when you compared it to what it was like during your technical support days, how did it compare? Was it everything you hoped it would be?
[00:29:42] SR: Yeah, it was not everything I hoped, but it was very, very different. It was very close to what I was looking for.
[00:29:51] SY: Where did it fall short?
[00:29:52] SR: There was a lot of landing page building, updating the website, and a lot of the more challenging parts were already done. So we were styling it pretty nice and trying to add some features, but we didn’t have like testing or, I don’t know. There was no React there. It was more like basic, I would say, but not basic, but less of what I envisioned.
[00:30:27] SY: Coming up next, Stefi talks about why she treats her learning like it’s a full-time job, full of pull requests and everything after this.
[00:30:42] SY: When you think about that first full-time job that you got as a developer and you think about the way you spent the last couple of months preparing for that full-time job, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
[00:30:54] SR: Yeah. I think I’ve done some things very late, like for example, and this, a friend of mine shared with me when creating a project or working on my own projects to try to look at it as if I’m working in a company to actually create a pull request, approve it myself, write the pull request description, create a board with the tasks that I have on this, and then it would be easier. When you have a pull request, you can share it with people and say, “Hey, can you look at this pull request?” It’s a different ask than being like, “Hey, can you help me? I need help.” And not mentioning what it is because people don’t know what time investment is needed. But if you send them a pull request, they see what it is, they might see improvements or what you’re lacking. And they might send you a message. They might think like, “Oh, this is fast. I can explain it in 10, 15 minutes.” I think I would have looked at it like how to work more as in the job. Because when I joined, I didn’t know so well, like how this part worked.
[00:32:03] SY: So there’s a little bit of a learning curve for you.
[00:32:05] SR: Yeah.
[00:32:07] SY: Got you. So how did you go from that first full-time job where it felt maybe a little too simple, you were hoping for things a little more complicated to your current job at Typeform?
[00:32:19] SR: I had a few jobs in between. There was an opening for a graduate position as well for a junior position in a Spanish company. My Spanish was, I never worked in Spanish. I spoke some Spanish, but my friends speak English or mostly international. So I had a colleague who I worked together with in this company. And I reached out to him to ask him if he would be willing to give me a recommendation. And he was willing to do so, but then I never heard back. I remember I saw it and it was in progress. And then I saw it was a job that I applied via LinkedIn. And then I saw that the job was renewed and I was like, “Why are you renewing it? I’m here in the pipeline.” Maybe it sounds a bit like, I don’t know, confident, but I thought like, “Hey, I could be this person.” So then I tried to find someone in the company and luckily I found a recruiter that had their email address and said, like, “If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.” And I looked at my resume and I thought this resume is not showing what I can do. So I just like rewrote it again. I don’t even remember what I changed, but I just changed a few things and emailed. And I said, like, “I applied, I was recommended by this person. I’ve never heard back. I think it might be because my resume doesn’t like highlight my skills and what I could contribute to and I would like to attach a better version in my portfolio.” And it worked.
[00:33:57] SY: Oh, wow! That’s great.
[00:33:59] SR: I got the response.
[00:34:01] SY: What did they say?
[00:34:02] SR: They said, “Oh, yeah, true, your experience is very good. We’d be interested to interview you.”
[00:34:08] SY: And did that turn into a job, or what happened next?
[00:34:11] SR: Into two jobs, actually. They had the graduate position and a junior position. And the junior position, when they told me I had the interview, but I was told like, “We already in the final process with a few candidates. Don’t worry. We’re going to hire continuously. So it might take some time and we will reach out to you.” But then the recruiter that I spoke to left that company, I emailed and I got like one of those emails that you get back, like this email address doesn’t exist.
[00:34:42] SY: Oh, no!
[00:34:44] SR: But I figured my way and I applied for a graduate position and then they contact me for another junior position. I was very upfront, like, “Hey, I’m being interviewed for both.” They were like, “Don’t worry.” I went through both processes and I was accepted for both.
[00:35:02] SY: Wow!
[00:35:02] SR: And then I had to decide because there were like different business sides and different things you would work on.
[00:35:10] SY: So how did you end up picking between those two jobs?
[00:35:12] SR: I liked more the junior position, not because it was junior or graduate, but it was like a product role. I liked their product. It was a real estate website. And I would be working on a product for external customers rather the other position was tooling for us inside the company. And I thought that is also great, but I think there will be more challenging just doing something customer facing. And it will be more into what I wanted to go after trying and seeing what consultancy would be like. This was something that excited me.
[00:35:52] SY: And how did that job turn out?
[00:35:53] SR: It was really good. I learned so many things. It was tough, let’s say, because it was a job in Spanish. The graduate position was in English. And I said, “Okay, I don’t recommend it to anyone thinking like, ‘Oh, get a junior job,’ also in a language that you’re not a hundred percent comfortable with.” [00:36:13] SY: Right. That’s tough. Yeah.
[00:36:15] SR: And at points, I didn’t feel like I could defend my ideas that well or speak every time in the meetings because in the beginning I was shy. I was shy also because I was a junior, because I’m shy and all these things and having an extra thing that maybe I will make a mistake with the language. In the beginning, it was a bit more difficult.
[00:36:41] SY: Well, you’re not a junior anymore. You’re a full on front-end developer. What do you think helped you get out of that junior role the most? What contributed to you moving up in your experience? Is it just a virtue of time and just time spent coding or do you feel like there are deliberate things you did that helped you get out of a junior role?
[00:37:03] SR: I think it’s specific things that I did. I think time also helps, but if you use the time doing the same small things or simple tasks, it’s hard to grow. So I was lucky in this job that I had a mentor, that he was always challenging me and he knew when to pair with me and help me see something and when to push me to try to figure it out. And he pushed me to always try to figure out the solution. And if I reach out to him, he gave me this advice. I clearly remember it. He said like, “Before coming and asking, it would be great if you share all the things that you’ve done before because then I know. If I suggest this and you say like, ‘Oh, no, I tried this, it doesn’t work,’ it will help me get the clear picture.” And then it was also like a rubber duck programming for me. And I noticed it a lot of times because you start writing like, “I did this, I tried this and I tried this,” and then you realize, “Wait, I could do also this,” and it’s like talking out loud, but like in the writing, it made me focus more. And it really helped me like try to think of all the possible ways to solve the tasks and also trying to take the tasks that are more challenging. In the beginning, I was playing it safe. I was like, “Let’s get first the easy things and make sure that I do it right. Let’s not break anything.” Decide, “Well, no, let me just leave it to somebody who’s more experienced maybe.” And then I started to like take the more challenging things and another good friend of mine said like if you don’t understand something, write it down and try to look at it after, try to see how you can do it again, how it works, make sure you understand how the things in the code work, because then you will spend some time in the beginning, but once you actually understand and the things click, you will be way faster and don’t be afraid to ask questions or look at other people’s PRs, even if you’re like, “I didn’t know if to approve something or not,” because I wasn’t sure sometimes. And just ask if you don’t know what that specific thing was, I just asked, and it made a big difference.
[00:39:30] SY: Absolutely. And how did you get your most recent role at Typeform?
[00:39:35] SR: I wanted to work at Typeform for a very long time, actually, because Typeform was hosting Codebar and I had friends at Typeform and I think my friends, because of Codebar, became also friends, mentors and everything related to coding. Suddenly I had friends that were all developers and I could like reach out to them also with questions. And I really liked the company. I liked the product. I wanted to go back to working in English because it was challenging, let’s say. It got better, but I feel more comfortable in English. And the opportunity was there. And I said, “Why not? Let me take a new challenge.” [00:40:22] SY: Absolutely. Yep. That makes ton of sense. And considering that it’s a company that you wanted to work at for a long time, did it meet your expectations? How do you feel about it now that you’re there?
[00:40:33] SR: Yeah. It’s, it’s amazing. It’s better than I thought. I’ve been many times to their office, like right now it’s completely remote. Back in the day, there was an office. And there was like a bar reception. They always had like a barista making coffee, like right when you entered. It was amazing. They had like a big, big terrace where they always had lunch together and I did visit a few times for meetups or to see my friend because my office was close to his, so we had lunch, and I met people and everything and I was a bit worried like how it would be like to join remote and how is the company now because it would be different. But they have some values that they really speak to me and I really felt it, like what they were saying really felt that way. And in my first weeks, I was already doing things and shipping to production. The onboarding was very good, very fast. The theme was amazing. We’re all remote and some people are in Barcelona, some are outside. And I don’t know, it was one of the best experiences.
[00:41:41] SY: Oh, that’s wonderful. I’m so happy to hear that. That’s great. So now at the end of every episode, we ask our guests to fill in the blanks of some very important questions. Stefi, are you ready to fill in the blanks?
[00:41:59] SR: Yeah, sure.
[00:42:00] SY: Number one, worst advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:42:03] SR: Oh, this is a difficult one. Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s more like when people tell you what to do or if we think of how to get the job because whatever works for a person might not work for you. So it’s like advice that you get from people that don’t have the same situation as you or the same background, like advice that it’s very like, “Do this because I did that. “But it’s not my best answer because I really don’t know. I just discard bad advice and I just don’t listen to it. I say thank you because I know people like… it’s not easy to...
[00:42:48] SY: They mean well. Yeah.
[00:42:49] SR: Yeah. Yeah. It’s not something, and there’s no point to like try to explain. It’s just like take what you can from it, even if it’s not the best and move on.
[00:42:59] SY: Absolutely. Number two, best advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:43:04] SR: To take the most challenging tasks.
[00:43:09] SY: Interesting.
[00:43:10] SR: To not be afraid. When we work in Scrum and there is like a task on the board and you’re like, “I have no clue how to do this,” and then you see like three tasks that you’re like, “Oh, this is easy. I already know how to do it. It will be fun.” Ignore those. Take the most challenging ones. This is how I grew and this is a great way to learn and level up, and also what other people avoid. So challenging or what other people avoid, raise your hand and take the challenge.
[00:43:46] SY: Yeah. I like that. That’s a good one. Number three, my first coding project was about?
[00:43:52] SR: My blog. It was my travel blog that I started to build. So it was a website.
[00:44:01] SY: Very cool. Number four, one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is?
[00:44:07] SR: That it’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to like be blocked and get frustrated. Go out for a walk. Everything will be good afterwards. Just take a break and ask for help or sleep on it. It will work out. Just have faith in it.
[00:44:28] SY: I like that. That’s a good one. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us on the show, Stefi.
[00:44:33] SR: Thank you so much for having me. It was really nice chatting about my experience.
[00:44:40] SY: You can reach out to us on Twitter at CodeNewbies or send me an email, email@example.com. For more info on the podcast, check out www.codenewbie.org/podcast. Thanks for listening. See you next week.
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