In this episode, we talk about where you can find quality live coding instruction online with Leon Noel, Managing Director of Engineering at Resilient Coders and creator and educator of 100Devs. Leon talks about coding to pay the bills, helping underprivileged communities get into tech, and then creating the live online education and community space he wanted to see in the world, 100Devs.
[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 where you can find quality live coding instruction online with Leon Noel, Managing Director of Engineering at Resilient Coders, and Creator and Educator of 100Devs.
[00:00:24] LN: There’s a window open right now that I want as many of my brothers and sisters to make it through as possible. And I don’t know how long that window is going to be open.
[00:00:34] SY: Leon talks about coding to pay the bills, helping underprivileged communities get into tech, and then creating the live online education and community space he wanted to see in the world, 100Devs, after this.
[00:00:58] SY: Thanks so much for being here.
[00:01:00] LN: Thank you. I always thought the intro was like a prerecording. Like hearing you say it live, it’s just like, “Whoa! That’s like a mind-blowing thing that happens.” So thank you so much for having me.
[00:01:09] SY: Absolutely. Super, super excited to have you on the show.
[00:01:12] LN: Oh, thank you.
[00:01:13] SY: So you are currently doing some really, really exciting things to help people from different backgrounds, different underprivileged communities get started on their coding journey, but tell us about your own coding journey. Where did it start for you?
[00:01:27] LN: I’m very blessed in a lot of certain ways. And I’m the product of Philly. And growing up in Philly, I always had access to amazing libraries that had really great computers that I could use. And even in middle school, I had a QBasic programming class. And then after my QBasic programming class where I was able to get like a sailboat to go from one side of the screen to the other, I thought I had magical powers. That engineering thing was kind of always rattling around in my brain. And I was also really blessed that in Philly we have magnet schools, which are like exam schools or schools that you test into. And I went to engineering and science where I had two years of C++ computer science class in high school 15 years ago. So I was very lucky to kind of have these early experiences with code, but I never thought to myself, “I should be an engineer,” or that I should go into coding as a profession. I was always really hyper-focused on doctor, lawyer, dentist, doctor, lawyer, dentist, doctor, lawyer, dentist. That was the only thing that I knew that had been a repeatable way to be successful and to get a leg up. And so I went to a university with that same idea, doctor, lawyer, dentist. I studied hard sciences, eventually fell into biological anthropology. But one summer, I ran out of money and I didn’t have money for food. And it was kind of getting a little serious, but I had always been tinkering, building, trying to build companies, ideas, businesses. I knew that I could build basic websites. And so I went on Craigslist and I said, “Hey, I will build you your website. I can get it done today.” And I posted it and somebody responded. They paid a deposit and I just remember skipping all the way to the grocery store, bought myself my pasta, my pasta sauce, and I was going to live off of that for the next month. That’s when everything kind of clicked. That one moment changed how I viewed code and my future. In that moment, I knew that I had a skill as fledgling as it was that could put food on the table that could provide for myself. And I think everything that followed in my life came to that one tipping point.
[00:03:40] SY: So after that moment happened for you, where you said, “Great, I got my pasta. I can afford to feed myself,” where you thinking, “Okay, that makes coding a career”? Or at that point, was it still kind of like fast cash, a way to kind of make a quick buck? Or did you kind of understand it to be something potentially deeper and more long term than that?
[00:04:03] LN: It was a little bit of freedom. It was this idea that I could pursue the things I wanted to pursue, and if it didn’t work out, I can do something else to put food on the table. And so for me, that grind of doctor, lawyer, dentist, that was able to fade away for a little bit. And for the first time, I was able to pursue the things that I was really excited to do. And from that point, I would start small businesses. I would start little ideas and I would run with them. Some would fizzle out. Some would blow out to be something a little bit bigger. Eventually, I dropped out of university. I went through Techstars. I raised a bunch of money and ran a company for a little while. And so for me, that moment, that idea that I could freelance, and I still freelance to this day, it was really that belief that kind of changed that idea that, well, I didn’t have to go this path that I thought was the path that I was going on. I had the freedom to explore other things, to do other things. And I knew in the back of my pocket, I had this skill set. And if I needed to, I could flip a switch and bring in that, like you said, fast cash.
[00:05:07] SY: That is so, so fascinating. And yes, I think that, for me, when I think about the power of coding and getting into a career as a developer, freedom is definitely the word that comes to mind, whether that’s financial freedom, because it’s generally a pretty well-paid job. Or it’s being able to work remotely, being able to work different types of companies, different industries. You have the power to create your own thing and potentially make money from what you build. There’s just so many more options, it feels like, when you have the skill of coding compared to other professions out there. So at the point where you said to yourself, “Wow, this is a way I can get some of that freedom, get some of that flexibility in my life”? Where did you kind of go with that realization? I know you said you eventually ended up just dropping out of school, but I’m wondering kind of where that inspiration, that moment, where did that take you?
[00:05:58] LN: That moment led to one of the first ideas that I had, which was called, “List Full of Hope. It was a reverse Craigslist. And so the idea was you can post for the things that you needed and folks in your community could say, “You know what? I have that jacket,” or, “I do have that thing that you need.” I went to school in New Haven. So we launched New Haven. It went really well. And it was that kind of a really good time right before the holidays. And so I remember folks getting jackets before the winter started. I remember folks getting toys for their little ones before the holiday started. And it kind of blew up a little bit in New Haven and then New York and we tried a couple of other places. And so that was kind of the first idea that I had. I was like, “What can I do with these skills? What can I do to bring people together to do something that could get people that were excited to use it?” And so that was kind of the first big project that I did for sure.
[00:06:52] SY: And at what point did you end up deciding that you didn’t really need to be in school at all?
[00:06:57] LN: I was in my senior year and I was studying biological anthropology and I needed 300 men to spit in a tube and tell me about their sexual histories, like correlate their testosterone levels.
[00:07:10] SY: What?
[00:07:12] LN: Yeah.
[00:07:14] SY: Those like a homework assignment?
[00:07:16] LN: It was part of my thesis to graduate. Right?
[00:07:18] SY: Interesting.
[00:07:19] LN: And I was trying to look at BPA and plastic bottles and see if you drank a lot of plastic bottles, would it lower your testosterone levels? And so I was trying to get participants into this study and I needed like 300. And for whatever reason, people really weren’t willing to do all of that, spit in a tube, tell me about their histories for like a pack of gum and a Gatorade from some random person on the street. And so I said, “You know what? Well, what if I built a landing page?” I noticed that some folks have been posting studies like on Craigslist and getting some good traction. So I said, “What if I build a site where different professors or folks or researchers or scientists could come together and post all their studies?” And I did that and I snuck my study in it. And it took off. We had all the researchers from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, posting their studies on this site and people can make really good money going and doing these different studies and making some cash while they’re just kind of in university. And so that picked up. And a lot of people that I really respect were using it. We got picked up at a lot of different universities that were posting their studies on the site. And I was like, “Wait a minute, there’s something here. There’s something with this idea that maybe I could do something more.” And that landing page, that study turned into an idea called Social Sci where we built scientific serving tools for academics. So it went from just the studies to how you could build your study on a platform and then get participants from around the world to participate in those studies. And by the end of those first few months, we had hundreds of universities trying to post on the initial board. And eventually that turned into a larger company. We raised a bunch of money and we had, by the end, about 4,000 different universities that were using our software to power their academic research.
[00:09:16] SY: That’s so cool.
[00:09:17] LN: So that was like, “All right, the time is now. I’m going to leave Yale. I’m going to work on this project full time. And if things don’t work out, I can always go back or I could freelance.” And while I was running that company, I started to learn how to code more deeply and wanted to really understand what the engineers on my team were doing every day. And that led me to eventually also teaching while I was running that company, which kind of led to the next phase of kind of everything I’ve been up to.
[00:09:48] SY: Well, what ended up happening to that company?
[00:09:50] LN: Yeah. So we ran for a while. We had like a small kind of exit and then I wrapped it up. The funny thing is right now is that we still have research that’s being published from that platform. So it definitely petered out a little bit, but we still had a few kinds of articles that have come out in the last year, which is pretty neat to see.
[00:10:09] SY: So once that kind of startup phase, you’ve moved on from that and you’ve moved on to the next thing, what was your thinking? Were you thinking, “I can keep going building the next thing”?
[00:10:20] LN: From the very beginning, I really enjoyed tinkering, building. I always had an idea in my head. There was always something I wanted to bring to life that I wanted to try a building. And so Social Sci was like the first, really big version of that. And while that was happening, I was teaching at general assembly. While I was running Social Sci for about those five years and kind of at the point where we were wrapping up Social Sci, I started volunteering at a nonprofit called Resilient Coders. And Resilient Coders was at that time a training program for folks of color that were typically court involved. And we’re trying to figure out ways for technology to maybe be a career option for them. Right as I was kind of wrapping up the company and I was doing that teaching, the founder of Resilient Coders said, “Hey, we want to build a bootcamp where we can bring folks of color, get them the ability to learn how to code and hopefully improve their economic situation.” And I joined Resilient Coders, built out a bootcamp, and the rest is kind of what I’ve been working on for the past couple of years.
[00:11:34] SY: And so when you think about your own career, your own role as a coder, do you see yourself kind of having made that transition from coder-entrepreneur to kind of paying it forward, coder-teacher? Do you kind of feel like this is the future for you? Or do you feel like at some point maybe you’ll go back to building something of your own?
[00:11:58] LN: No. This is it. There’s a window open right now that I want as many of my brothers and sisters to make it through as possible. And I don’t know how long that window is going to be open. The interesting thing is that we started Resilient Coders in Boston. We’re now in Philly and Pittsburgh as well. But in Boston, we have the second largest tech economy outside of Silicon Valley. When you look in our communities of color, you saw double digit unemployment rates. So how do we exist in the second largest tech economy, but have double digit unemployment rates? And so for me, Resilient Coders was the idea to say, “You know what? There’s a gap in skills. If we can give folks from these communities the skills to participate in that economy, it can do amazing things.” And so over the past five years, we have built up a free, stipended bootcamp for folks of color that can take somebody from kind of never really having coded before to employed as a software engineer. And we’ve been really successful at it. Last year of our graduates, we had a hundred percent placement rate with an average starting salary of $92,000. And these are folks mainly that come from all different walks of life in Boston, some with degrees, most without degrees, that in that short period of time were able to participate in the economic system that may have alluded them up until that point.
[00:13:16] SY: You mentioned that we have this window of opportunity and I’m really interested as someone who’s been coding and been in this world for some time. I’m interested to hear your take on how the landscape has changed over time. When I learned to code for the first time, I think it was nine years ago, maybe, bootcamps were up and coming. They were all the rage. Everyone was really excited about them. There’s a lot of buzz, a lot of funding, a lot of investing went into bootcamps. And then I feel like over the years, there’s a lot of consolidation that happened, a lot of acquisitions, a lot of big names shut down entirely. Dev Bootcamp is one of the biggest and the first and they were bought and then eventually shut down by Kaplan. And now it sounds like you’re seeing a different opportunity, a second wave, maybe a second window. Where do you think this window comes from? And where does it lay in kind of the landscape and the story of bootcamps and kind of this institution that’s been created to give people a second chance at a better career, a second chance at getting skills and getting jobs that are more flexible, higher paying? How do you kind of see what’s happening now in the context of what’s been happening over the last 10 years?
[00:14:33] LN: I think bootcamps in the beginning overpromised and really under-delivered. And we’ve seen a lot of those bootcamps fade away because of that overpromising and under-delivering. But the opportunity is still there. If you’re willing to work hard and you have the privilege to put in the time and energy that it takes to become a software engineer, there is a means in a way of doing it. And I think the bootcamps at first were kind of the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. They might have known some of the secrets to get a job, but I think those secrets now are a little bit more public. They’re a little bit more accessible. I really believe that when it comes to getting your first job in tech, it has almost nothing to do with the coding. It has nothing to do with the raw skills. There are so many other things that I see that my students that are successful that they put into practice that enabled them to get that first job. And so I think if you have a coding bootcamp whose main value prop is the coding skills and not all the other work that it takes to get the job, that can be a problem. And I think a lot of students at first relied on those bootcamps to do the heavy lifting, to do the networking, to bring the opportunity to them. Whereas you can control that. You can bring those opportunities to yourself. You can do the networking and do the things that are going to make those doors open. And I think in the beginning, folks rely too heavily on the bootcamps opening those doors. And now there are processes to do that on your own.
[00:16:24] SY: Let’s dig into 100Devs. I feel like this is, I mean, I don’t know how you see it, but I feel like it’s a movement. It’s definitely a hashtag that’s kind of taken over my Twitter feed for sure. I see it turning all the time and I see a bunch of people use it and be a part of that community. What actually is it? What is 100Devs and how did it get started?
[00:16:46] LN: When the pandemic hit, we saw things get real bad real quick. From 12% to 33% unemployment rates, it just got bad real quick. And I started to ask myself, “What could I do that can maybe help folks that were hurting, that were in need of something that could maybe help them in the next stage as they were going through this really, really rough time?” And so I thought I could teach and I thought maybe I could do it live. Maybe I could do it so that anybody that was interested can tune in and benefit from the same bootcamp instruction I’ve been doing in the classroom for a very long time. And so I created a Twitch account and I posted on the internet, in some places. And I thought I would just have a few folks. I was really expecting to be like me and eight people and it’d be really just us working through a curriculum together, like an in-classroom experience together. And that very first one I ran it kind of blew up a little bit. We had a couple hundred people that were watching every single class and we really built a phenomenal community to learn. We really wanted to make a safe, inviting community for anyone that wanted to learn how to code, especially as folks were going through this really rough time. And we did that first run. We had a lot of folks that were really successful that managed to get some amazing jobs. Then we decided, “You know what? We’re going to do it again.” And when we decided to do it again, we had so many folks that have been successful in the first run that it really took off. It really took off on Reddit. Now we have 3000 plus people that are live for every single class that are going through learning how to code together. It’s a community of folks that are coming together to help individuals learn how to code that changed their economic reality and hopefully get amazing jobs. And we called it 100Devs because the goal was to get a hundred folks jobs during the pandemic. And we blasted through it. We’re way over a hundred jobs now. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a really great community that spring up around this idea of learning how to code and doing it together.
[00:18:57] SY: Why do you think your approach, your curriculum, your strategy for this has caught on so much? I mean, there’s plenty of people doing Twitch streams, right? There’s plenty of people doing learn to code. Maybe not as comprehensive as what you’re doing. Maybe not as much of like a full program, but there’s still a lot of people you can learn to code from who do Twitch streams, who do YouTube live sessions. What do you think made what you’re doing so special? What made it so popular compared to other things that are out there?
[00:19:31] LN: Community. It’s always going to come back to community. I think there are so many folks that try to learn how to code that try to learn the code on their own and are not successful. David Malan out of Harvard, they do CS50.
[00:19:46] SY: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:19:46] LN: CS50 is one of the best courses ever made. I love that course to death and they posted their numbers for their very first cohort. And they had, it was out of like the hundred thousand people that actually engaged. So not just signed up. I think they had like 150,000 signups. Out of the 100,000 that engaged, they have like one percent that completed it.
[00:20:12] SY: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:20:13] LN: And so when you look at the online education market, you’re like, “Wait a minute, at 100,000 signups, only one percent completed it. But then they also released the numbers for their in-person cohort, and it was like 99% people that completed it.
[00:20:27] SY: Right.
[00:20:27] LN: So there’s something there about this like in-person versus this online. And why do so many people start tutorials? Why do they start learning to code, but then don’t make it to the end? And there are so many things that we can throw on that table for that, but I think it comes down to community time and time again. I think there’s something about learning to code together with a community of folks that want to see you be successful. And that’s what 100Devs is. We’re live twice a week. So you have that motivation to show up. We have a Discord community that’s 28,000 people strong where if you post a question, you’re going to get an answer to it. And so it’s a bootcamp done online with real expectations, real homework, real deliverables. You have to be in class at a certain time twice a week, but you have this amazing community behind you that wants you to be successful, that wants to see you succeed. And we spend a lot of time building ourselves up and doing things the right way, learning how to learn from the beginning so that folks that may not have had maybe let’s say academic success in the past or learning to code success in the past, some people internalize and think that that was them, that there’s something about them that makes it so that they can’t learn how to code. No, learning how to learn is a whole other skill set that you need if you want to be successful. So I think the reason why you’ve been successful so far is we have an amazing community. There is real commitment that’s required. And we really focus on making sure that folks can be successful, that they can learn how to learn and then build all the pieces they need to be successful in their getting a job. And we always like to joke that it’s not a coding bootcamp, it’s a getting a job bootcamp. And so I think that focus on getting a job and all the accessory skills that’s not just raw coding is what keeps people engaged.
[00:22:19] SY: Tell me a little bit more about the curriculum. What goes into that? What can I expect to get out of that 30 weeks?
[00:23:05] SY: So what do I walk away with to then get that next job?
[00:23:10] LN: Every single person that graduates at 100Devs, they will have a couple of key things that help them in their job search process. One, they will have been networking from day one. They will have hundreds of folks that are now in their Rolodex to, I’m dating myself a little bit there, in their Rolodex to reach out to and to say, “Hey, I’m on the job market. Do you know of anything?” Each of our individuals that graduate should have gotten a paid client or have volunteered or have contributed to free software. All of our graduates also do a hundred-hour’s project where they have a project that they’ve built from beginning to end, that’s completely their own, that’s not just a generic tutorial, that’s something that’s a full stack web application. And then the last thing is that they’ve invested really heavily in crafting their story and having a reason why someone should hire them over any of the other candidates that are applying. And that comes through in their portfolios, that comes through in their LinkedIn, that comes through in their resume. And we spend a lot of classes polishing that stuff. So by the time you’re ready to go into it, we call it the hunt, you have all these things that are going to help you be successful. And also we spend a lot of time on data structures, algorithms, like getting interview prep at the end as well.
[00:24:27] SY: And tell me about the career part of the program. You mentioned that people are expected to freelance or at least volunteer to kind of start networking, to take steps towards that part of things and not just skill development. So outside of the live coding instruction, where does that part of the curriculum come in?
[00:24:47] LN: You’re expected to be in class twice a week. Each class is three hours. We have office hours every Sunday. So a lot of folks, that’s kind of their in-classroom time. And then the expectation is that you’re putting like 10 to 20 hours outside of classroom time into all of these things. A lot of it is homework and reading and tutorials that get you ready to learn some of the deeper stuff in class, but the bulk of it is networking, meeting folks, building that Rolodex, working on your projects, doing all the things that are going to help you pass that sniff test in the end. So we do structure it like a traditional bootcamp. Each week, there are expectations. When you’re going through 100Devs, your expectation is three network connections in two coffee chats, right? That’s the goal every week. So there are real expectations. There are real deliverables. The thing that just makes us different is that it’s completely free. I’m never going to put any of my content behind a paywall. That’s a commitment I made to the community very early on. And so I think because of that, we have so many people that give freely to support each other and to build up. So yes, it can be a lot. And there’s a lot of little things that are due. That’s the beauty of a bootcamp. You’re there to push. For this one brief period in your life, you’re going to do everything you can to get through that window. And for a lot of folks, it can be something that can change their life, but it’s not easy. I’ll be the first person to say 100Devs is not easy. Not everyone makes it. It is a long trough of sorrow that you have to trudge through. It’s just a little bit easier when you have some friends.
[00:26:18] SY: Right. Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. Tell me a little bit about the reality of the timeline. When you talk about applying to a hundred jobs versus networking your way into a hundred jobs, that’s a whole different level of effort, of time, of patients. What are some things that we might be able to do? It sounds like freelancing might be one of them, but what else might people consider to kind of speed that up a little bit?
[00:26:43] LN: So there’s a couple big things that I think everyone is trying to get that first job should probably consider. One, networking is always the biggest thing. Half of the students that I’ve helped have gotten their jobs without technical interviews.
[00:26:57] SY: Wow!
[00:26:58] LN: So about half do not have like super serious technical interviews and like no white boarding challenges. They might have been asked some technical questions. They might’ve had to walk through a project. They’re not being LeetCode questions or those types of styles. So once you know that, and this is from students all across the country now around the world that are kind of getting this experience, once you know that, all right, networking becomes the number one thing, right? Who can open doors for me so that I can get into as many good positions? After networking, there’s a couple big things that I’ve seen be successful. One is freelancing where you’ve built a small, simple project for someone that can then be your reference, that can be someone that can say, “Actually this person does know how to code. They built this thing for me.” And that turns your theoretical experience into like real experience. And when you are talking to a hiring manager or a recruiter, you’re no longer talking about theoretical things you build, but things you’ve done for real people, for real money, for real clients. So it doesn’t have to be something big. It can just be a website for the barber you go to or the pizza restaurant that you go to all the time. Right? It can be something where you just get that ball rolling. So networking, freelancing, having a project that’s solely your own, something that you’ve built from the beginning to the end that is not a tutorial. You can walk them through all the bits and bobs, you understand it deeply, and it is not something that anybody else would have on their portfolio. So if you’ve done your networking, you’ve done your freelancing and freelancing, some folks don’t have the privilege of being able to freelance, right? So there are other things that you can do like volunteering, but still treating it as a very serious process. And once you’re done volunteering, they become the best references that you’ve ever had. You can contribute to free software, which is another piece there. And then the last thing is just really framing yourself and your experience as a professional. I really don’t like when folks put junior on their profiles. I really don’t like when folks put the little games they built during their bootcamp into their profiles. You can always take the junior role, but it’s hard to go from the junior to the regular senior role. Right? So if you have all this stuff on your profile that makes you seem like a beginner, that this is the first time you’ve ever coded, so many folks are going to dismiss you solely on that. Whereas if you just kept it professional, you had your hundred-dollars project. You had your client. You presented as though you are a software engineer, that you are a developer and this is what your profession, that helps open so many more doors that you can get in there and show them what you can really do.
[00:29:37] SY: Let’s dig into networking a little bit. You said networking is the biggest thing, which I a hundred percent agree with. But how do you begin that process? If you’re someone who’s completely new to the tech world, you’re coming from nursing, for example, something totally unrelated and you’re trying to start building that network, what are some things you can do?
[00:29:57] LN: There are a couple places that you can get started. The idea with networking that I try to bring to my students is the idea that you’re just trying to make strangers into friends.
[00:30:07] SY: I love that. Yeah.
[00:30:09] LN: There’s nothing more to it than that. So I think a lot of folks go into this idea that they have to like show up to a meetup or they have to go to a conference and they have to know all this engineering stuff. No, go talk to them about Pokemon. Go talk to them about the T-shirt they have on. Make friends. That’s what networking is. Right?
[00:30:25] SY: Yes.
[00:30:26] LN: And so right now is the best time ever to network because everything is still kind of virtual. We’re slowly starting to go back in person, but you can start off with local meetups. You can start off with communities and it all kind of comes down to your comfort level. Some folks, networking is a very anxiety inducing process. So start with something that you’re comfortable with. Find a community online. You can talk to people. Find a Slack, a Discord, or anything where you can interact with people and start to make those friendships. I really like the meetups. For me, personally, I like to go to meetups where there’s some sort of technical topic, but in between that technical topic, you’re just getting to know folks. You’re saying, “Oh, nice to meet you. And how long you’ve been an engineer? What do you work on?” And those initial connections, if you feel like there is some sort of good vibe where you feel like you would like to get to know them further, you reach out and you ask for a coffee chat. Coffee chats used to be where you go in person, you would sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk longer about their experience. And it’s just getting people to talk about themselves. So how long have you been an engineer? What have you been working on? What have you been doing? And you kind of just ask those kinds of leading questions, let them talk about themselves, and you get to know some folks in the area. And then once you’ve met one person or had a coffee chat with one person, always ask them, “Hey, is there somebody else that I should talk to?” And you’ll slowly see that snowball start to happen, but just start. If you can’t do it by yourself, grab a buddy. You can have somebody that can help you carry the conversation, but it’s just about making friends and putting in that time. You’re way better off grinding networking than you are probably grinding some of these other things that folks focus too heavily on when it comes time to get that first job.
[00:32:07] SY: Where do you think people waste their time? What’s something that people maybe overvalue and really should maybe not spend too much time working on or thinking about?
[00:32:17] LN: So everything is about like opening a door, right? So you could write coding challenges, and that’s going to maybe open some doors for you. But I think folks overinvest in the raw learning process. They put all their time and energy. And for a lot of folks, they don’t have the privilege of a lot of times. They might only have an hour a day or something like that. And they think at the end of the day, it’s just the skills that matter. If they just complete that tutorial, they just build that product, they’ll get the job. And almost universally, I’ve seen with my students that’s not the case. It’s way more impactful if you have somebody opening doors for you and then you have the raw skills, you have these other things that can come into place as well.
[00:33:09] SY: Coming up next, Leon talks about what people can expect attending his 100Devs lessons after this.
[00:33:26] SY: Are you the only instructor running 100Devs or how does that work?
[00:33:31] LN: So right now, I’m the main teacher at 100Devs. We have an amazing community of folks though. There’s no way I could do it by myself. We have an amazing community of moderators. We have amazing community of mentors that show up day in and day out to answer people’s questions. You’re going to Discord, it’s just the most amazing thing. I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams a community like we have where you can see all the questions get answered in real time. And then we also have what we call our Stream Team. We have been really successful on Twitch. And so we have other folks that stream that are part of the 100Devs community. So you can get other perspectives that are not mine. Some days you’re 20 weeks in, you’re not going to like my face. That’s okay. Go and hang out with our other folks that are either learning how to code together with other folks or maybe a little bit further along and you can get different perspectives and different ways of approaching problems. And that’s the most beautiful thing is that anytime you go on our Discord, there’s somebody in a voice channel explaining a concept to someone that didn’t get it when I taught it. And so yes, I am the only teacher right now, but there are so many other folks that are participating in that educational process that makes 100Devs what it is.
[00:34:41] SY: So tell me about how you personally are managing all of this, because you’re doing this in addition to Resilient Coders, right? This is not officially a Resilient Coders’ project. How are you managing to kind of handle all of that?
[00:34:56] LN: I have a wonderful supportive wife. That’s also doing their PhD. So we have this agreement where if they’re working hard, I’m working hard, and I have an amazing moderator community. There’s no way that this happens without community. I stream 300 plus hours last year. So we were just live for at least 300 hours, plus all the other stuff that it takes to make 100Devs go, but the real answer is that, yeah, it’s a lot of hard work. I have two jobs right now. But I really do believe that right now this is something that could help a lot of folks that are kind of coming out of this talent of the pandemic, hopefully. And it’s something that I experienced really early on with my freelancing that unlocked that ability for me and I want that for as many people as humanly possible to, at the end of the day, know that you have a skill that no one can take away from you, that’s going to put money in your pocket, food on your table, and that can be a high growth, happy career. Try it out.
[00:35:58] SY: So I’m wondering, in the time that you’ve been running 100Devs, what have you learned?
[00:36:04] LN: Yeah. If you expect to teach, you should expect to learn, right?
[00:36:08] SY: Yup.
[00:36:10] LN: I think very few people have tried to do what we’ve done, like a full bootcamp live online, completely in the open, completely for free, thousands of people at one time. Right? That really hasn’t honestly been done. So for me, it was learning how to build community because I really do think that’s the difference maker at the end of the day. It’s how do we get folks going in the same direction together so we can carry the boats and logs and get everyone there at the same time. So that’s been an exercise for me and learning, “All right, how do we motivate and encourage folks to go through this process that is so grueling, that can be so hard and difficult that you’re going through this trough of sorrow for months and months and months with like this end goal in mind?” But how do we do it so that it’s sustainable? How do we do it so that folks don’t burn out? How can we do it in a way where folks will support it and taking care of as they go through that process? And it’s different for every single person. Right? Each person has different things that are going to help them learn, it’s going to help them be successful. And when you’re just doing it with a cohort of say 20 individuals, you can figure out those needs for each person. But when you’re doing it with thousands, there are so many different things that can come up. And so for 100Devs, we’ve just been blessed to have so many members of the community that have stepped up to be helpful, whether it’s in a different language or to review material in a different way or has been taking time out of their day to review other things. That’s been the thing that I’ve seen. And so for me, one, I learned the value of community. And then two, I learned a lot about what it really takes to get that first job.
[00:37:48] SY: What can people expect from one of your streams? If someone wants to attend for the first time and goes on your Twitch stream for one of the three hour sessions, what happens during those three hours?
[00:38:01] LN: I would like to have fun. I think learning to code is a very stuffy process. So we start off with like very hype music. I am doing my like hype up for myself and for everyone to give me three hours of their time. We always do review. If you listen to this and you only ever take away two things, please walk away with these two things, active recall and spaced repetition. If you don’t know what active recall is and you don’t know what spaced repetition is, learning to code is going to be way more difficult and if you knew how to do those two things. And so active recall is this idea that after you move through material, you recall the things that you just learned. And there are a lot of studies that show that you can get away with like doing a quarter of the work, like instead of rereading a chapter four times and instead of read it once to yourself and then actively recall the things that you just learned, you will do better when you need to use that information later on and you will actually learn more efficiently. So our students all start off with learning how to learn. They do Dr. Barbara Oakley’s amazing course on Coursera, learning how to learn, but then we really put into practice this idea that you have to do active recall and that you have to do something called spaced repetition. Every single person will forget the things that they learn. There’s only one really proven way to not forget stuff. That is to flatten your forgetting curve using a tool like Anki, which is flashcards with an algorithm behind it. It’ll show it to you when you need to see it and it won’t show it to you when you don’t need to see it. So if you can do active recall and spaced repetition, you’re actually going to learn the things that you’re trying to learn. So when you come to stream, we spend the first hour reviewing. We get our spaced repetition in. We get our active recall in from the reading and we spend that first hour really making sure that folks get those like very key, fundamental things on how to learn baked into actual class. The last two hours, we’re learning a topic and then getting our hands on the keyboard. Learning a topic, then getting our hands on the keyboard. So you’re going to be learning something and then typing out like challenges based on the thing that you just learned. And then we end with array, which is where we go hang out with some other streamer for a little while.
[00:40:08] SY: I’m wondering how it feels to be you in these streams. I’ve done only a handful of streams myself, and I remember finding it fun, but extremely exhausting. I planned on doing like a short little to-do-list app kind of thing. And it took so many more hours than I thought it was going to because I have to explain everything and I was really tired at the end of it. But I also remember feeling kind of nervous that I was going to hit above. I didn’t know how to solve or someone would ask a question that I didn’t have an answer to. So I’m wondering, when you are building something, when you’re teaching something that’s gotten frankly so big, I’m wondering how do you feel about it? What’s going through your mind?
[00:40:50] LN: Streaming is not something I would do if it wasn’t to help folks get through that window. So for me, it’s a beautiful experience. I hate every second of it until I go live. I hated every single thing about it until I clicked that button and go live. And then once I see the community, my mood just instantly changes. I would never want to be in front of these many people. I would never want to be on camera. I would never want to feel like every mistake I’m doing is affecting thousands of people. I still have like really bad imposter syndrome. I end every stream going like, “Oh, somebody’s going to figure out that I don’t know what I’m doing, that the code I wrote wasn’t right.” For me, the funny thing you asked me, like, “What did I learn?” I feel like I’ve learned to deal with those things in a very public way, but have a community that’s come together around it. So I hate every second until I hit live. When I go live and I see everyone in chat, everyone’s excited. Everyone’s ready to do work together. We have a saying that we’re baddies. We write bad code because we’re not there to be coding greats. We’re there to get a job. Right? And so for me, I think the community is what really pulls me through it. And I don’t know how to explain it. As soon as I click live, it’s perfect. I love every second of it, but I’ve tried doing other stuff. I stream like video games and I hate it. I’ve never do it.
[00:42:18] SY: Well, it makes sense. I mean, you have like a purpose. You have like a mission that you’re on. So I totally get that the love for the community and the passion on why you do it would kind of surpass maybe the tiresomeness of having to be on for three hours live. So that makes a lot of sense to me. I get that. So for people who are listening, who want to get involved with 100Devs, how can they get involved? Is it too late to jump in halfway through? Do you kind of need to be there since the beginning? Or how does that work?
[00:42:48] LN: Yeah. So there’s kind of like two paths for 100Devs. You can do it live, which is where you’re joining us for class every Tuesday and Thursday, and then maybe office hours on Sunday, which are optional. And then we have folks that kind of just go through it at their own pace on YouTube, but still get all the help from the community. Right? And so I think there’s something really special about doing a bootcamp live with a group of people that are all going through the same trials and tribulations at the same time. So I really encourage people to do it live. And so if you want to join us now, it’s not too late. You can. And this is for whenever you’re listening to this, you can go to leonnoel.com/100devs. Join the community. And we have something called the Catchup Crew, which are folks that are trying to catch up to get to the point where you’re meeting up live. And so you would probably just take the time to move through the material with that smaller subset of the community until you were caught up in being live and then join us live and have a lot of fun.
[00:43:47] SY: And for people who might be listening, who already know how to code, already have a job, but want to support, want to help out, is there a way for them to do that?
[00:43:57] LN: So folks that want to support 100Devs, you’re more than welcome to join our community. You can join our Discord community. There are plenty of opportunities for you to help with things like coding questions, interview prep. There are lots of ways that we could always use your support. We really like to live up to these very famous words of an Australian activist and Aboriginal activist, Lilla Watson. And the words that they shared were, “If you’ve come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, let us work together.” I think that’s something that’s really important to 100Devs where we came together because folks were going through the pandemic. We came together with the idea of helping a hundred folks during the pandemic get jobs. And so if you’re realizing that you would want to support that mission, that you would support folks that are going through that stage of life, we’re always willing to accept you with open arms and there are lots of work to be done.
[00:45:00] SY: Now at the end of every episode, we ask our guests to fill in the blanks with some very important questions. Are you ready to fill in the blanks?
[00:45:06] LN: Sure.
[00:45:07] SY: Number one, worst advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:45:11] LN: Hassle mindset.
[00:45:12] SY: Whoa, interesting! Tell me more.
[00:45:16] LN: When it comes to education, learning to code is a marathon, not a sprint. You honestly can’t thug it out. You need systems. You need processes. And so I think most folks could do well with doing three really key things, learning how to manage their frustration, being consistent, and then learning how to take care of themselves and that taking care of yourself is super important. Learning to code is a cumulative career. It’s not something that you can grind out just for a few weeks and expect to stick for the long-term.
[00:45:48] SY: Number two, best advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:45:51] LN: Don’t go into your days like an accident. Have a plan.
[00:45:54] SY: Interesting. Tell me more about that.
[00:45:57] LN: I think for me, especially me, I have attention issues. And so for me, I need to have my days, my weeks, my months planned out. A lot of folks come into learning to code with bright eyes, big dreams, and they don’t find a way to be consistent, which stops them from actually learning. And one of the big things that can help you be consistent is actually planning out what your days are going to look like. What are the big three things you’re going to get done tomorrow? What’s your week going to look like? Because if you just say, “You know what? I’m going to grind out code,” it’s not going to work. I’ve talked to way too many folks that tried to grind out code. Two months later, they’re not there.
[00:46:34] SY: Number three, my first coding project was about?
[00:46:38] LN: So I think my first big one was List Full of Hope, which was that reverse Craigslist idea, this idea of folks posting what they need, and folks being able to say, “You know what? I can provide that code,” or, “I can help you get those things that you need.”
[00:46:51] SY: Number four, one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is?
[00:46:55] LN: How to actually learn the fact that in the beginning of every textbook I’ve ever read, they don’t have something about active recall, spaced repetition, Pomodoro Technique. It’s absolutely wrong. Please, please, if you’ve listened to me at all, learn those three things. It’ll change your life. It’ll change your ability to actually learn. So many folks start to learn how to code and quit because they don’t put those three things in the practice. When if you did, your life would be completely different.
[00:47:25] SY: Love that. Well, thank you again so much for joining us.
[00:47:28] LN: Thank you so much for having me.
[00:47:36] 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, email@example.com. For more info on the podcast, check out www.codenewbie.org/podcast. Thanks for listening. See you next week.
Thank you to these sponsors for supporting the show!