Johnny Proano

Associate Software Engineer Hilton Grand Vacations

Johnny is a passionate Chicago Bulls fan, music enthusiast, Star Wars fan, and a proud father with a love for the creativity of coding. He is a dedicated Software Engineer blending university education and a coding bootcamp experience bringing leadership, innovation, and a commitment to making a difference through code: “Think it, code it, make a difference!"


Saron speaks with Johnny Proano, Associate Software Engineer at Hilton Grand Vacations. Initially drawn to code while building his personal DJ website, Johnny took the full leap with the support of his family. Johnny discusses his initial belief that a degree was necessary to become a software engineer and his decision to attend a coding bootcamp instead. He reflects on the differences between the bootcamp and college experience and shares his job search process after graduation.

Show Notes


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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 thoughts on degrees and bootcamps with Johnny Proano, Associate Software Engineer at Hilton Grand Vacations.

 [00:00:20] JP: When I got the call, I locked myself in my room, and as soon as they said, “We want to offer you the position of,” and they told me, it was incredible and I felt like all the things that I’ve been doing and all these things, this is the reassurance. It wasn’t just like a fluke and to hear those words come in, like, “You’re hired,” was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever felt.

 [00:00:41] SY: Johnny shares how he started his coding journey in pursuit of a CS degree, why he ended up changing lanes by enrolling in a bootcamp, and where his journey has taken him today after this.


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

 [00:01:01] JP: Thank you. This is amazing. I’m super excited.

 [00:01:03] SY: Awesome. So tell me about what it was like for you growing up. Was technology a big part of your childhood?

 [00:01:09] JP: You know what? I guess for me, I would say yes. My family, not so much. My parents are from Ecuador and they were really not technological savvy, but I always enjoy it.

 [00:01:18] SY: And what role did technology play for you personally?

 [00:01:21] JP: I mean, honestly, when you talk about technology, I mean, I’m talking about when I was a little kid growing up, I mean, technology to me was like any new like video game system, Nintendo or anything like that. Those are super cool things that was just coming out at that time. And that always kind of like made me wonder, like, “How does this work? How can I make this like happen?” [00:01:40] SY: So gaming was really the tech focus for you growing up.

 [00:01:43] JP: Yeah, that was a tech focus coming up. Yup.

 [00:01:46] SY: Did you ever take any coding classes or anything?

 [00:01:49] JP: This is going to be funny. So I’m also a DJ and I’ve been DJing since I can’t remember, I would say since I was like 13, 14 years old.

 [00:01:59] SY: Wow! That’s really young.

 [00:02:01] JP: Yeah, I know. I know. I picked it up from my cousin and it just intrigued me at that time. This is before any type of coding involvement. But when I was DJing, I would say at that time level of popularity, I needed to get my branding going and I needed a website. And I think that’s kind of where my first instances were of coding. I didn’t know kind of where to go. And one of my buddies at that time, he was going to school for computer science and he just volunteered. Heard me and just volunteered. He’s like, “Dude, I’ll do your website for you.” And I was like, “Are you sure?” I was like, “Sure. Cool!” Well, nothing came off of that conversation. Maybe just a couple of things, but there was no progress. And so I just went online and I found some no code drag-and-drop software stuff. It was very limited, but I’m talking about this was like back, I don’t remember the year anymore, and previously, everyone had MySpace. You kind of like dig a little bit of HTML here and there to kind of adjust some stuff. And I remembered that and I was like, “Well, how can I get involved in that?” And that was kind of like my thoughts on their first instance of what coding was and kind of going from there.

 [00:03:09] SY: Very cool. Okay. So really it was you wanting to have a website for yourself that led to you kind of first getting exposure to coding.

 [00:03:19] JP: Yeah.

 [00:03:20] SY: Very cool. Do you remember what the drag and drop software was that you used?

 [00:03:24] JP: The first one, I don’t remember, but the second one that I used right after that was called Sparkle for Apple.

 [00:03:29] SY: Oh, Sparkle. That sounds like fun.

 [00:03:32] JP: Yeah. It was, but it’s so weird because when you want something on a page and you drag and drop, it looks great, but then when it renders on the browser, it does not. Some of it doesn’t look as close as to it. If you want something centered, you would drag something like opposite from the center, like, I don’t know, on the other side to the left, and that was centering on a browser. And I would have to keep like pushing code up every time to check and it just wasn’t good.

 [00:04:03] SY: So tell me a little bit more about this DJ thing. Was that something that you intended on pursuing professionally? Was it just a hobby? What was that all about?

 [00:04:12] JP: It was just a hobby at first. My dad was a musician and I just think I was always involved in music in general, not necessarily playing instruments. Yeah, I got my first turntables with my first paycheck working at a grocery store and kind of went from there, but that was kind of the initial. My dad was involved in music and it was a hobby at first that later on became like a part of me. I was just competing on part of my persona.

 [00:04:37] SY: Did you have plans on being a big DJ, touring world stages, that kind of thing?

 [00:04:42] JP: That was the dream.

 [00:04:44] SY: That was the dream?

 [00:04:45] JP: That was the dream. That was the dream, I wanted to be a DJ. I wanted to be a producer and produce music. That’s kind of like the way, I guess, it goes. You become a DJ, then you get a little bit more involved with music and music theory and you go become a producer and you kind of go from there, make songs. And that was like my dream and my goal at that time. Currently, I work for a radio station as well, where my mixes get played. And that was kind of like my first involvement, like, oh my gosh, is it happening type of thing. It made me feel confident in what I was with DJing and music. And again, it grew a part of me, and yes, it was definitely something that became more than what I thought it would be.

 [00:05:26] SY: What happened to those dreams? What made you decide to not pursue them?

 [00:05:29] JP: You know what? There’s a lot of, I don’t want to say downside to it as well. As time went on, I got married and all that. I also had thoughts of what happens when I have a family and when I have kids, like how often am I going to have to go do a gig here and there? How often is that going to like keep me away from them? I’m a big family guy. And so to me, that’s very important. And I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to implement that into the way things are right now with my family and adjusting time and schedule. So it’s worked out great, thankfully. But obviously, I also want to keep a line there where if it’s too much, I don’t want to go. I’d rather go and coach my daughter’s soccer team and coach my daughter’s basketball team. And that to me, that’s fun. They have their lives ahead of them. I want to make sure that I get them where they need to go.

 [00:06:14] SY: Okay, so you’re doing DJing. You decided to do it more as a hobby than a profession. And up to that point, were you doing gigs and were you getting paid to do it? Had it become your profession at that point?

 [00:06:26] JP: Yeah, absolutely. I was having gigs. I was playing at different nightclubs, at different restaurants. I was flying. I was working at radio stations at a couple. So yeah, no, it was going great. And I think I started feeling some of that, like, “Oh man, I’m kind of overworking myself,” and I’m not seeing my fiancé at the time, and I also worked. It wasn’t like that was the only thing I did. I also worked. And so I just kind of had it there. It was a thought. And eventually when you start thinking about it and you start thinking about what you want to do, my decision was to kind of just hold back a little bit, but I will still DJ, but with like a strict line there.

 [00:07:03] SY: And what were you doing for your day job?

 [00:07:04] JP: I’ve been in sales. It’s funny, the same amount of time I’ve been DJing, I think.

 [00:07:08] SY: Really?

 [00:07:09] JP: Yeah. Man, my first job was a grocery store. My second one was Best Buy. I was there for such a long time. I think I was at that store for about 14 years.

 [00:07:18] SY: Oh my goodness! That’s a while.

 [00:07:20] JP: Yeah. I was there for 14 years. And sales was my second thing. That was one of my things. I loved it. I love talking to people. I was really good at it. I went up the chain, I became leadership. That’s just what I got really good at. I loved it for such a long time. It was great, but then there was like something that sparked in me later on where that’s where coding kind of got involved.

 [00:07:43] SY: Tell me more.

 [00:07:44] JP: I would work pretty much holidays. I would work 12-hour shifts. I would have to go long for our drives. That’s the bad part about it. But in sales in itself, like I said, I really like to talk to a lot of people. And my goal was to make somebody love this product. Right? But there was something about it towards like, I will say the last several years, I didn’t find myself satisfied with it or I didn’t find myself like I was making a difference. And I think my whole life, even in DJing, I always wanted to make a difference in whatever it is that I did. Whether it’s DJing, I impacted the floor, the dance floors and I did, and I loved it. I love the way that people reacted to when I threw a specific song or through a blend, their eyes lit up and they were just having fun. To me, that was great. And I love that feeling. And sales for me, I felt like I was missing some of that. And when I was trying to get my website going for the DJing stuff and when I did that whole HTML, like switch it up and take away the drag and drop and just kind of build my own stuff out of just learning other documentation or YouTube videos or just trying stuff out, to me, that was super cool. I found something in me that I was like, “Oh, I really want to do this.” Like, “I want to do this, but I don’t have time to do it.” And so that was kind of where I wanted to go at that point.

 [00:09:01] SY: Interesting. And what did your fiancée think of all this?

 [00:09:03] JP: It’s funny because I had told her a story during that time that really inspired me. It was a kid. His name was Michael Sayman. And he created an application he learned from YouTube videos, it’s a game called, I believe, 4 Snaps. And he did it more so because his parents were struggling with house payments and they were just in a bad situation. And he found himself coding this up. He distributed it out and it became very popular. Then he went on to join Facebook, I think Instagram and some other ones. It was just a like super inspiring story and I was like, “I want to do that.” And that’s the story that I told my wife because it just happened to come on and it dealt with coding and software development and all that stuff that I was just talking about. It was just like the right moment, I don’t know, that just happened. And when we discussed it, she was all for it. She’s like, “I’m for whatever you want to do and support you a hundred percent.” But she also got the idea of what I meant. Like I needed something kind of like that satisfaction of I’m helping people and I’m making a difference.

 [00:10:04] SY: So when people decide that they want to learn to code, there’s so many ways they can do that, right? There’s the self-taught route, there’s doing a bootcamp, there’s doing it in-person versus an online bootcamp, there’s going back to school and getting that four-year degree. What were you thinking about these different options and ways that you might find a path for yourself?

 [00:10:26] JP: I feel like I did all that stuff without knowing back then. I was trying to go different routes and the biggest thing that really stuck with me at that moment in time back then when I started to code was I need a degree.  I need to get it. You can’t be a software engineer without the degree. That was what I thought I knew. That was the thing. I already had a degree for liberal studies, which kind of helped me in my past sales experiences. And I spent time doing that. I already had my bachelor’s, so that was fine. I just thought that I had to go get another bachelor’s in that particular field. I had to go be in computer science or I had to get a software engineering degree. There was like no other choice. And I did hear about bootcamps and stuff. But that still kind of went back to the fact that like, “No, this is what I hear is best to do.” I just kind of stuck to that. But the problem that I had was since I already had a degree, the school loans only cover a certain amount and so they covered a good amount for my first degree. For the second degree, midway, I only needed a year. And midway, I got a letter that said, “We’re no longer going to start covering this and it’s going to be so and so X amount,” which was, I mean, a significant amount that was left that I would have to pay out of pocket. And I was just like, “Oh, I have no idea.” And so luckily, and I am super happy and blessed and grateful that I met somebody during my school years, I went to ASU.

 [00:11:58] SY: Is that Arizona State?

 [00:11:59] JP: Yes, Arizona State University. Yes. And I met someone there at a program called Global Tech Experience. I signed up, I was like, “You know what? I really want to be an engineer.” And this looks like a good start to go again and just get the certificate. And I went through that and it was great. I loved it. Again, that was kind of like another, like, “Oh, man, this is awesome.” And I felt that feeling like, “Wow, this is great.” And one of the instructors there, she was great. At the end of the whole session, she made herself available. And I thought of her right away as soon as I got this letter saying about the loan. And so I wanted to reach out, I set some time with her because she’s a software engineer as well. And so she gave me a good hour conversation, which I was so happy. And I asked, my biggest question was like, “Well, what am I going to do now? I don’t have the finances for this portion, but I need the degree to be a software engineer.” She’s like, “You don’t need it. You have a degree already, which is great.” She’s like, “It shows the commitment and your personality, your motivation.” She’s like, “As long as you keep doing it with the same motivation you have,” she’s like, “You don’t need it.” And this is where the bootcamp came in place. And she recommended Actualize Coding Bootcamp in Chicago. And I was like, “Are you sure?” She convinced me. I was like, “You know what? Okay. I have like really kind of no other choice because I can’t pay for school.” So I had what I had remaining, like the amount that I have left. And that same day, well, I guess you can say I quit school and I signed up for Actualize. I connected with them, got referred over and I did kind of have a scholarship in place where I wrote about why I wanted to be a software engineer, my experiences till then, at that point, and happily I got accepted. They gave me a great price and it was just a great thing for me at that time. So I went from university straight into the bootcamp, kind of went from there.

 [00:13:44] SY: So what was it that made you feel that you needed that degree? Because it sounds like it was news to you when you talked to that advisor and she told you actually you can do a bootcamp instead. So what did you read or who did you talk to that made you feel like the degree was the right choice for you?

 [00:13:59] JP: I think it was just the time that we were in, in terms of computer science. Now there’s different degrees for different things. There’s full stack engineering. There’s software engineering. There’s computer science. There’s a whole bunch of stuff. But back then, I felt that it was just like you needed a degree if you want to succeed in whatever life. And it comes from parents as well and it comes from friends. You can’t do that without having a degree. It’s just a combination of things. And I think that’s why I had this thought in my head because I was like, “How can I teach myself some of these things? This is so hard. This is going to be hard. I don’t know.” And so that was my process. Like you get a degree, you must learn all of it.

 [00:14:37] SY: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I’m curious when you went from that environment to the bootcamp, what was the biggest difference for you? What was that experience like making that transition?

 [00:14:48] JP: I’m sure you know because I think you went to a bootcamp as well.

 [00:14:51] SY: I did. Yeah.

 [00:14:51] JP: Yeah. And it’s complete like change and it’s so different. The first part of it, it was great because before you start, and keep in mind, I had just left school and bootcamp was starting within like a couple months. And so they gave me like three to five weeks, these are the things you need to know. And it was a process that I have to kind of just go through some like online course beforehand pre-work for HTML, CSS and JavaScript to kind of get ahead, I guess, in a sense. But then once I got in the class, that’s when things was a little different at that point. Because I felt like I did a lot more hands-on work projects learning than I did the time at school. There was so much and I was like, “Man, I didn’t hear about this.” Like, “Wow, what’s this?” And it was just so much more, like, information that I was able to acquire. But it was helpful. I mean, I felt like I was already working, if that makes sense. Like I just had fun doing it. It felt like I was actually like doing stuff. Like I was at work or something. I don’t know. It felt pretty cool as opposed to like, “Oh man, I have to finish this homework,” and, “What am I going to get on this?” Like, “Oh my gosh.” I’m like I’m stressing. And the atmosphere was just completely different. You’re encouraged, like, “Hey, if you fail, spend time, fix it, walk away, come back.” It was amazing and I loved it. It was definitely different. I did have more commitment because I had a job and because the timeframes that was available, I would have to be in evening classes and one weekend day. And it was just kind of like a jump. I quit school. I went to the bootcamp. I took advice and just started doing it and figured three, four months, let’s just hope for the best. That’s kind of where I went.

 [00:16:33] SY: Yeah. That makes sense. Tell me about the pace. I know that when I was planning on going to a bootcamp and I was looking into it, the analogy that people made very frequently was it was like drinking from a fire hose and it was very intense. It was just this continual nonstop onslaught of information that you had to somehow digest and keep going. Did it feel like that for you? What was the pacing like when you compare the college degree to the bootcamp?

 [00:17:02] JP: Compared to the college degree, yes, the analogy works perfectly. It does feel that sense like, “Oh man, you have a lot of information download and there’s a lot of stuff happening.” But then at the same time, you think about what you’re doing. You’re going to this bootcamp for software engineering. You’re going to learn a new language, maybe a couple languages, maybe a framework, and I felt that the pace that I had was great. They had planned times, and funny because I’m friends with my instructor now, and she’s great. She’s a mentor now. And I asked her for everything, but she had a nice structure like, “The first couple of weeks, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to make sure that everyone’s on point with the pre-work and making sure that that’s understandable.” Everyone had time alone with the instructor. It was, I think, six of us in my cohort. So six or seven of us. So it wasn’t like 20 people and we just can’t get our comment in there. I liked that it was like one-on-one. I can have a conversation and I had some peers to talk to if I needed to. So the pace was great in that sense. After the two, three weeks, we started getting more in depth. And at that time, it was Ruby. We were learning the backend first. There was a lot of backend work, Ruby and SQL and some other stuff. And that was kind of the big thing was going through that. Then I believe sometime around month number two or three is when we started getting instances of like the frontend and then how to tie them in. The last portion of the bootcamp was, “Let’s think about what the project’s going to be that you’re going to present for graduation,” and kind of putting it all together and give us a good amount of time to talk through, walk through, plan, and if you have any questions, kind of run through that stuff. So I liked it. I liked the pace a lot. I liked the fact that it was only six or seven of us in the cohort, which allowed us to talk more with each other. Now we continue talking after the cohort’s over.


 [00:19:05] SY: What did it feel like to enter the job market after the bootcamp was over? Did you feel like you were ready for that transition? You were ready for that first full-time gig or what headspace were you in?

 [00:19:17] JP: Well, while the bootcamp was happening, I also wanted to kind of get ahead. I was hearing a lot of stuff because I would listen to CodeNewbie, I would listen to Scrimba. I did a few things on the side. I would go on YouTube and try to just pick up what I learned from the bootcamp and just see how it’s implemented in different type of projects and maybe do my own. But you hear a lot of these things about, “Oh, it’s so hard to get into the job market.” Especially at that time, it was like layoffs happening. And I was like, “Oh, great.” I’m just starting. And so you get a little bit discouragement in there, but CodeNewbie, Scrimba, you guys are doing a great job of just like making us feel motivated and just not giving up. And I think that’s what kind of kept me going and feeling comfortable. I was like, “There’s other people out there that’s also where I’m at and I just got to apply some of those things that I’m learning from the podcast and just kind of do it my way.” Just keep motivated like that. And so yeah, I did complete some like self-learning, self-teaching on the side while I was doing the bootcamp, just so I can kind of get ahead of that. The cool thing about the bootcamp is that towards the end, part of the graduation is you have to have a living, breathing resume already with all your new stuff. I had my resume that was full of sales. So sitting there for a day, trying to figure out how to translate sales into software development, they helped me out and that was great. They had, I think, it was like once a week someone came in and they were just talking more about, “All right, this is like a job hunt.” That was there one day and they would talk about LinkedIn. They would talk about resources and where you can go apply or just anything that dealt with helping us getting a job. And so that was very helpful. So all those things I felt put me in a position that was a great place to kind of be in once you leave the bootcamp.

 [00:21:01] SY: Absolutely. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So when you compare the two experiences, the bootcamp that you finished and the degree that you started, were you happy with your decision to do the bootcamp? You kind of gone through both some degree, did you feel like that was the right decision for you?

 [00:21:18] JP: Oh, yeah. Man, I would not change it. It was great. I loved every piece of it. I mean, if I think about it from right now and what I do currently at work, everything that I do at work, I did in the bootcamp. And it was just amazing. I felt like I was super prepared for it. I think that was like my biggest stamp, like, “Okay, approved. You did a great choice. That was a great move.” And kudos to my wife for pushing me and saying, “Just do it. Just do it.” [00:21:46] SY: Tell me what it was like to get that first job. How did you go from graduation to getting your first role?

 [00:21:53] JP: So I did apply a ton of places. Like right before graduation, I think like three weeks before or two weeks before, I was already applying. That was kind of what I got, some advice, was just to keep applying, even if you haven’t graduated, if you don’t get the certificate, just do it. You’ve already been implementing some of the work and you can show some projects that you have. And so I started applying. I mean, I’m talking 40 applications a week at that time. I would get some quick emails like, “Sorry, sorry.” Nothing came about of it. I did get some interviews, which were great. When I got my first interview, to me, that was like, “Oh my gosh! Now what am I going to do?” [00:22:29] SY: Must have been exciting.

 [00:22:31] JP: It was exciting. I was super excited. But then I was like, “Is it going to be like a whiteboard type thing? What’s it going to be?”

 [00:22:37] SY: Yeah. Yeah.

 [00:22:39] JP: And so I was trying to prep myself for all that, but essentially it is what it is. You go in there and I think I learned that from somebody that told me that it is what it is. Just go in there. And the worst I can tell you is no. If it’s a whiteboard, you’ve experienced it and now you’re ready for the next one. That’s kind of what I was getting. And so I was like, “All right.” But you’re really not like all right until you actually do it. So I went through a couple of those. And while I was doing the application and doing those interviews, I heard from the podcast, like, “Hey, one of the greatest things you should do is just like network.” And I know you talk about networking as well. And so anywhere that I would be, whether it’s like a family party or I don’t know, I met somebody on the bus or something, I don’t know, whatever the case may be, I always talked about what I was doing. I’m like, “Oh, I’m looking to be a software engineer.” It was just a conversation starter. In some instances, I did get a few that were like, “Oh, hey, I work at so-and-so company that’s also looking.” And so I will send application in. Nothing came out of those. But the weirdest thing was I went to a school dance for my daughter. It was father-daughter dance. There’s other parents there as well. So I didn’t even think about anything. But naturally, somebody asked me like, “Hey, so I remember that you were looking to do school for engineering.” And I kind of told them the story a little bit and where I was at the bootcamp and I had some projects already. So I was just kind of excited to show them. They were excited to see it. So I was like, “Why not?” And as I was showing them, somebody behind me just kind of like tapped my shoulder, another parent and was like, “Oh, what are you looking at there?” And I was like, “Oh, I’m looking to transition into software engineering and this is kind of where I’m working on,” blah, blah, blah. And the only thing that came about was like, “Oh, that’s great,” and all of that, if something comes up, and we exchange numbers. Time passed, forgot about it. I already did interviews. I think I did four or five interviews of which nothing came about. I was at a park one day and I got a text message like, “Hey, do you know Angular?” And I was dealing at the time with like React, Ruby, and I just got out of the bootcamp and so those are the languages. I’ve never touched TypeScript or Angular at that point in time. And so I was like, “No, no, I haven’t experienced TypeScript or Angular,” but I didn’t want it to end there. I was like, “But I can show you what I have. We can talk about it.” And they were like, “Okay, let’s talk about it.” And so the interview was set for Thursday and that was like my sixth month now. I had a wedding to go to at that time and I was like freaking out because I’m like, “How am I going to like study this? And I still have to go to this wedding.” I’m standing like, “Oh my gosh!” Stressing.

 [00:25:10] SY: It’s a lot.

 [00:25:10] JP: I went on Monday. I came back. Monday morning, I sat down and I did Angular. I went through some like YouTube videos and just watched a whole bunch of stuff on Angular. On Tuesday, I watched a course on Scrimba for TypeScript and then some other YouTube content. And then on Wednesday, I was like, “All right, I’m just going to try to put this all together. I have the docs here. I have all these tutorials that I went through. Let me just put something together.” Since at that time now, I looked up kind of where this person worked at. I was like, “Oh, let me try to make something that resembles what the company is all about.” And it was a Hilton. And I was like, “You know what? I’m going to make like a hotel booking website using Angular and TypeScript and then implement anything else that I’ve already learned.” And so I just did that on Wednesday. I don’t want to say I finished it. I got through enough what I could to make it look decent and presentable. And I was just hoping that I was able to present this because, again, this was just something that I just taking from advice actually from CodeNewbie, I forgot the person, but they created a project based on what the company was about and just to do it and just see if you can present it. And so I did that. And when it came time for the interview, I asked and it became a code review instead. And I was able to walk through my project. I was able to walk through what I did, what I learned. And the biggest question to all that was, “How long did it take you to do all this?” Because again, I told them I don’t know Angular and I don’t know TypeScript. And so I told them it was like between Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and I would say eight to nine hours. And I think that was like the biggest question that they needed reassurance with, with me was how long it took and the answer that I provided and I was able to do it. And yes, I did struggle. I’m not going to say that I didn’t. I struggled on it. There were new concepts. It’s a framework. Some of the stuff from React, I kind of remembered and tried to apply as best as I could. But yeah, I was able to create something that I think was worth showing and happily it did give me a chance at the job.

 [00:27:13] SY: When you told them that it took about eight to nine hours, what impression do you think that left with them about you and what you’re capable of?

 [00:27:22] JP: It was weird because when they asked, it got quiet and they were waiting like anxiously for my response. And so I was like, “Oh my gosh!” I felt a little nervous, but I just tried to put it together in my head. And I was like, “Well, this is kind of what it was. It was eight, nine hours.” And they took that like, “Hmm.” That was what I got was like a, “Hmm.” And I was like, “Well, it sounded like a good hmm.” So I took it positively. Like, “Okay, that sounded pretty good.” Unless like somebody does this in three hours, I don’t know. But the point was at least I tried is what I thought. I’m just going to try. And if it happens, great. If it doesn’t, now I have Angular and TypeScript that I can now go back and learn some more about.

 [00:28:03] SY: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, to me, it sounds really impressive. It sounds impressive that you went from I don’t know this at all to here’s something that I took the initiative to learn and build and create and then now present to you. So I think that shows a lot of self-initiative, that takes a lot of courage. It shows that you’re really proactive and that you’re not afraid to learn new technologies and new tools and you’re ready to dive in and get the job done. I think that says a lot about you.

 [00:28:29] JP: I appreciate that. I think a lot of it also came from those other interviews when you go through and how you feel afterwards, you’re going to get discouraged. It’s kind of like, “What else can I do to make this a step further?” And I felt like I’m not just applying online. I’m actually talking to somebody now. And so how can I take it a step further? And to me, I remember in sales, if you’re trying to sell a product, you got to show it. You got to show the product and you got to show the accessories and you got to show how you put it together to make it look how it looks. In this particular case, I’m talking about like a TV, like the screen quality or the picture quality. What did I do to make this happen? And so putting all that stuff together, listening to the podcast advice, I was like, “I’m just going to do this and hopefully kind of shoot my shot. Let’s see what happens.” [00:29:16] SY: Absolutely shoot your shot. Absolutely. Yeah. All right. So that interview went well. How did that job feel? How did it feel to finally be employed and to be the developer that you’ve been working so hard to work towards?

 [00:29:29] JP: Oh man, when I got the call, I locked myself in my room. I saw the number and I answered and it was a Hilton and the conversation went well. They asked me how I did and I felt it went well. And so I kind of gave him my feedback as well. The first lines that said it was like, “Well, I heard it went well too and we want to offer you the position of,” and they told me it was incredible. It’s probably cheesy. I’m a father, I’m a husband and I took a chance to leave school and drop out to do that. I don’t say drop out, but leave that portion and just take a chance. I was doing sales and I took a chance at it. And so I feel like all those feelings just kind of came in at one shot. As soon as I heard that line, “You’re hired,” it got very emotional. I just felt relieved. I felt like, “Oh man, all these things that I’ve been doing and all these things, this is the reassurance.” It wasn’t just like a fluke. It’s just a lot of hard work that came in and to hear those words come in, like, “You’re hired,” was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever felt.

 [00:30:36] SY: Oh, that’s so beautiful.

 [00:30:37] JP: Besides what I said I do to my wife.

 [00:30:39] SY: Yeah. There you go. And what did your wife think? It sounds like she was such a big supporter of you and so inspirational, so motivational. How did you break the news to her?

 [00:30:51] JP: Yeah. She was on the other side of the door.

 [00:30:54] SY: Okay.

 [00:30:56] JP: She was on the other side of the door. So I came out. It was a great feeling. We hugged each other and it was just like, “It’s all your hard work,” and we just talked about where we were and throughout this whole time, we made a huge move from Chicago to Florida. And so we had all these things like it was happening to us. And this was just like another piece of it. So I started in Chicago and now I’m in Florida. And through all, I was attending bootcamp and all the school stuff was happening and my daughters are in a new school. It was just a whole bunch of stuff. And so all that to me was just like, “This was worth it. This was worth it. And now we’re in a great place and it was amazing.” [00:31:35] SY: So let’s do a recap of the journey for you. To get to that place, to get to that first job, how long did it take you of learning how to code and then how long did it take you of interviewing and searching for a job before you got that call?

 [00:31:49] JP: I would say that right before COVID started, 2019, I started my first instance of coding. That’s when I heard the first interview from Michael Sayman and his story. And that’s when I picked up the first HTML code and just start working with it. So from there until now, I’ve been full force in different atmospheres, like I mentioned school, bootcamps, documentation, online content, whatever I could find.

 [00:32:20] SY: Yeah. A couple of years of plugging away, of learning, of leveling up. And then how long did it take you when you were actively searching for a job before you got that one?

 [00:32:29] JP: So I finished the bootcamp at the end of January, beginning of February, I got hired in May.

 [00:32:39] SY: Okay, not bad, not bad. It’s like four or five months.

 [00:32:41] JP: Yeah, four or five months.

 [00:32:42] SY: It seems like wonderful. Coming up next, Johnny talks about his experience breaking into the industry amidst uncertain times such as the pandemic and widespread layoffs after this.


 [00:33:10] SY: So I know that for a lot of people listening who are trying to make that transition of their own, it’s a tough time. It’s a tough time with all these layoffs. I know a lot of people are worried about AI taking their jobs and it feels like the tech market has kind of shrunk as far as early career developers go, as far as that first job goes. And you were able to successfully make that transition learning throughout the pandemic and then officially breaking into tech this year. And so I’m wondering, how did you navigate it? How did you navigate the uncertainty of a global pandemic, the uncertainty of the markets, the uncertainty of the layoffs? How did you deal with all of that?

 [00:33:53] JP: I mean, for me, it’s a strong backbone and for me, my family, my kids and my wife, they were always supportive, like super supportive with anything I did. Time management, just a little push or a kick in the butt, like, “Hey, get back to it. Don’t worry about it. This will happen for you type of thing.” Communities too. I was involved with several communities, CodeNewbie, Scrimba, school communities, bootcamp communities. I mean, I did talk to many people that were involved like in layoffs and different things in dealing with and then COVID, like you said. For me, the COVID timeframe, since everyone was at home, I took a little bit more of a chance of learning more things during that time because that was kind of the only thing you could do besides watching television or something. I’m not sure. But that was a few of the things that I just juggled around, time management, just keeping myself motivated and just try getting involved as much as you can in the world of software engineering. That was the thing. Even if you’re just like coding for like, I don’t know, 10 minutes, at least you have that repetitive session a day that’s going to keep on going and not letting it behind.

 [00:34:56] SY: Absolutely. Yup. Makes sense. What advice do you have for folks who are very nervous about their coding journey today? People who are hearing about, I mean, just this week of this recording, Spotify laid off, I can’t remember what percentage it was, but it was a significant percentage of people lost their jobs. It’s the latest big tech companies out of many tech companies who’ve laid people off, Salesforce happened recently as well. And so I’m wondering, when people are hearing about these layoffs and worried about, “How am I going to get hired? How am I going to get that first job?” What advice do you have for them, especially going into the New Year where hopefully things will look up in approaching their job search and breaking into tech?

 [00:35:37] JP: I mean, I think it’s as simple as it is just to keep motivated, even if when things are down and you think that’s not going to happen. All you need is one person to kind of give you that chance. All you need is just that one person. And for me, that’s what I got. I got one person that said yes and there was a dozen that said no. And don’t let that discourage you. Just keep at it. There’s going to be that one person and it’s just a matter of time.

 [00:35:59] SY: I love that. Yeah, that’s such a great reminder. It’s okay to get dozens of noes, right? It’s okay to get tons of rejections, it’s okay to be ghosted, because you don’t need all of them. You don’t need most of them, you just need one. You just need that one yes, and it might take a little bit of time, but what you need is not for the whole industry to hire you, you just need to get that one person to hire you. So that’s important to keep in mind. Wonderful. Now at the end of our episode, we ask our guest to fill in the blanks of some very important questions. Johnny, are you ready to fill in the blanks?

 [00:36:36] JP: Let’s do this.

 [00:36:36] SY: Number one, worst advice I’ve ever received is?

 [00:36:40] JP: You need math classes in order to move forward.

 [00:36:43] SY: Oh, tell me about that.

 [00:36:45] JP: When I was in the school trying to get the degree, I mean, there was just so much. I mean, in the computer science degree, there was just Calculus 1, Calculus 2, algorithms, and it was just a whole bunch of stuff. And I was like, “How am I going to get through this? I have no idea.” And I’ve never really been good at math. I mean, when I say math, I meant like calculus math. And so it’s like, “You need the math classes.” That was the advice that I got. And I was like, “Well, then I don’t know if I can do this.” And that was just something that stressed me out even more than it should have.

 [00:37:14] SY: Absolutely. I understand that. Number two, best advice I’ve ever received is?

 [00:37:19] JP: Don’t wait. Just do it. That was from my wife. Because otherwise what happens is like in this sense and talking about like coding, if you’re waiting and just pushing things to the side, it’s just going to be longer and longer. It’s how long it’s going to take. So just put that effort and just do it.

 [00:37:36] SY: I love that. Number three, my first coding project was about?

 [00:37:40] JP: Ooh, my first coding project was, I did a Mad Libs. It was very simple. It was during my global tech experience. And basically, I mean, everyone’s done Mad Libs, right? You provide verbs, adjectives, and it just returns a funny story.

 [00:37:53] SY: Very cool. What did you write it in?

 [00:37:54] JP: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

 [00:37:56] SY: Nice. Number four, one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is?

 [00:38:01] JP: I think everyone knows what this time is. You do not need a degree.

 [00:38:05] SY: Yup. Do you regret having attempted a degree? Did it end up coming in handy at all?

 [00:38:13] JP: My first degree did. I’m happy. I wanted to have a bachelor’s degree or a bachelor’s in general. And so I was happy that I did it. And it did help me out in my sales positions, especially going into leadership and stuff like that. But you don’t need a degree specifically in computer science to do so. You can take bootcamp. You can teach yourself to code as long as you put in that work and you build those projects, not just going to YouTube and just clicking the next video and the next video. Implement some of the stuff that you’re learning and that’ll get you forward.

 [00:38:44] SY: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Johnny, for all of your stories. Congrats on breaking in on making that transition. Thank you so much for being on the show.

 [00:38:52] JP: Thank you for having me.

 [00:39:00] SY: Want to be in the CodeNewbie Podcast? Know someone who I should interview next? Reach out on Twitter at CodeNewbies or send me an email, For more info on the podcast, check out And if you like the show, make sure to follow us and leave a review on your preferred platform so we can keep making the pod. Thanks for listening. See you next week.


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