CodeNewbie Founder Saron Yitbarek: New to Coding? Take Action with These Practical Tips

Saron Yitbarek (00:00):
People focus so much on people taking a chance on them when they get their first job. It's always positioned as, oh, they gave me my first opportunity. I'm so lucky. That hiring manager has no interest in taking a chance on anyone. They are interested in hiring people who can do the job. That's their whole point. Their goal is really around making money.

Alex Booker (00:23):
Hello, and welcome to the Scrimba podcast. On this weekly show, we speak with successful devs about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior dev job.

I'm Alex, and today I'm joined by Saron Yitbarek, host of the CodeNewbie podcast, which is another pod dedicated to helping new developers learn to code and break into tech.

Needless to say, in the last 10 years, Saron has heard it all. And in this episode, she's condensing some of her best advice for new developers.

Of course, you're going to learn Saron's inspiring story as well, from studying medicine to journalism, to working at Microsoft, before going to a bootcamp to learn to code. You are listening to the Scrimba podcast. Let's get into it in just a second.

I did want to quickly ask that if you are enjoying the episode, you share it with someone else learning to code. That's because the more listeners we get, the bigger and better guests will agree to come on the show and share their insights with you in the future.

Okay, for real this time you are listening to the Scrimba podcast. Let's get into it.

Saron Yitbarek (01:31):
I feel like my road to being a developer was very choppy and definitely not planned at all. By the time I got to college, my intention was to be a doctor. And so I was going to go to med school, much to my parents delight. They're both pharmacists, so doctor was the ultimate goal. Pharmacist is like second prize, so they were very excited for me to go for gold. And that was the plan.

And it wasn't until I actually shadowed a doctor, I think it was either end of junior year, beginning of senior year that I realized what the job actually entailed. And decided that I in fact did not want to be a doctor. And I really wish I had done that research a little bit earlier and didn't wait until I was almost graduating to figure that out.

But what I realized that, oh, what I liked about science was more of the storytelling. And it was more of figuring out how reactions happened and how things developed.

And it was more of the journey of chemicals and the journey that our body goes on to do the things that it does. That was what attracted me to it. It wasn't actually working with patients, giving medication, advising. And I feel like you should want to do those things if you're going to be a doctor.

And so with that, I said, "Oh my goodness, what am I going to do?" And I decided that journalism was something that I had done in high school. I'd gone to a Magnet program in middle school and high school for communications and media.

And so I thought, well, I've always loved writing and storytelling. Maybe I'll go down that road. And so the first job I had when I graduated school was actually working at NPR, which is our national public radio. It's our big nonprofit media company here in the US.

Alex Booker (03:17):
I heard you got to interview Boys II Men.

Saron Yitbarek (03:18):
I got to interview Boys II Men, that's right. And they did an impromptu private performance for us. And I got to bring my husband, who at the time was my boyfriend, and he was a huge Boys to Men fan, and he got to watch them perform. And he got to talk about photography with them, and it was a whole thing.

I won so many cool girlfriend points at the time, but yeah, but NPR was where it started for me. And it wasn't until, frankly, I just had a really hard time making the journalism thing work. I applied to so many different internships, jobs after my short stint at NPR, couldn't really get very much. Finally got a fact-checker internship position at Discover Magazine. Was there, was reading the Steve Jobs book actually was where tech started for me.

Alex Booker (04:00):
Is it the Isaac?

Saron Yitbarek (04:01):
Yes, it's the Walter Isaacson book. Read that book. And that was really my first introduction to technology in a way that spoke to me, in a way that made tech feel human versus cold and mathematical.

To be fair, I never seriously considered engineering before. I don't really know why it never crossed my mind, it never really crossed my path in that way, but that book was the first time that I could see myself in the world of tech. That I could see the beauty and the creativity and the humanness that tech can bring.

And that was what really sparked my interest. And so from there, I started researching and looking up different tech things, got into the world of startups, ended up reading more books in the startup space. Lean startup was one of my go-tos at the time. Even to this day, I still read it every once in a while.

Alex Booker (04:51):
Good principles in that book, for sure.

Saron Yitbarek (04:52):
Yeah, so good. And so I started researching, and after a while I said, "You know what? I think this is the world I want to be in. I think this is the place for me. There's so much potential."

And I think I was really excited by the potential of technology, by the potential to build one thing by one person that can go on to be used by millions of people.

This idea of creating things, of crafting things, of being a maker, a builder, those were just so interesting and so fascinating to me. And that was what got me interested in investigating that as a serious career option.

Alex Booker (05:22):
Oh my goodness. There's just no limit to technology, and what you can build and how far it can go. I remember one of the reasons I convinced myself to do coding is that I had these ambitions around startups and building apps and products, but even if I didn't succeed at that, I knew that I could still get a really excellent career writing code at a company.

Saron Yitbarek (05:40):
Yes, the backup is a very good backup.

Alex Booker (05:43):
How did you then go about actually learning to code?

Saron Yitbarek (05:46):
When I decided that I wanted to get into tech somehow, I still didn't really know what that meant. I didn't know what a full stack meant. I didn't know what languages were. I still didn't really know anything about it.

I was looking into these different roles, these different jobs, and I decided to look up how to learn to code or something like that. And what I came across was the MIT open course ware. I don't know if that still exists. I think they may have rebranded to edX. But the MIT open course ware was when they would put lectures, I think they were completely unedited, not made for camera, not made for remote consumption.

They just had a camera in the back of the classroom, recorded the course, and then put it as is onto their platform. So it wasn't an ideal experience, but they had their internal programming course up there. And I said, "Okay, great. This will be my introduction. I'm going to learn and I'm going to level up, and then we'll see what happens next."

And so I tried to take that course and it was so hard. It made my brain hurt in the most unpleasant of ways. It was so painful and so confusing. And I think part of it was I didn't know how to study, I didn't know how to learn it, so I treated it like my organic chemistry class where I memorized, I was memorizing code.

I thought that's what you had to do. I thought you had to memorize these blocks of code. And so I had flashcards and I had my little notebook. I wasn't typing anything into the terminal. I wasn't actually running anything. I just had no idea how, and it sounds so silly now that I say it, but when you are new to this world, and back then, I don't remember if Code Academy existed quite yet. I know Scrimba definitely didn't exist.

Alex Booker (07:23):
What year are we talking, by the way, Saron?

Saron Yitbarek (07:25):
This was 2012.

Alex Booker (07:27):
Oh, wow. It's remarkable how far learning platforms have come in the last 10 years.

Saron Yitbarek (07:32):
Oh my goodness, yes. So I think Code Academy may have just come about, or maybe it was about to it. It was around that time. But the world of learning, it just wasn't made for people like me who just had no idea what was going on and wanted a zero to one.

That's how it started. And so when that didn't work out, I thought, I guess I'm just not made for this. I guess I'm just not made to be a developer. I'm not made to get this. So I set it aside. I still stayed in tech. I interviewed for a position, got an internship. The internship turned into a job.

I ended up working at a couple of startups as an early employee, but I was always on the sales and marketing, business development side. I was never actually doing any engineering.

So it wasn't until, I think it was two years later that I was working on a project where I was PMing. And I was managing the creation of this core software we were trying to build with this team. I think it was in New Jersey.

And I was managing it, and it was a huge pain. They were doing all these things and they weren't quite listening to me, and it was very frustrating and the app wasn't really working. And I just kept saying, "Ugh, if I knew how to code I could do this myself." That's just the thought that entered my brain.

I said, "Maybe I'll try this one more time. Let me see if I can learn to do this again." I decided to learn to code, and at this point I said, "You know what? I think this is what I want my job to be, but I'm not sure yet. I don't want to make any big decisions, life decisions, so let me learn how to code. I'm going to learn it seriously for a month. I'm going to give myself a month to figure it out. I'm going to evaluate how I feel at the end of that month. I'm not allowed to quit until the month is over, and at the end of the month I will decide if this is truly for me or not."

And so I spent a month coding for, I don't know how long, but it was a ton of hours a day. And I was building and it was painful, but when it worked, it was amazing. And I just went on that coding rollercoaster journey over and over again.

Alex Booker (09:26):
Oh yeah. You mean going from feeling like an idiot to feeling like a superhero, an up and down on a daily basis?

Saron Yitbarek (09:32):
Yeah, constantly, just up and down. Yeah, I don't know if it's a healthy relationship that I have with code, but here we are.

By the end of the month, I said, "Yu know what? I think this is what I want to do. I think this is the world I want to be in."

That was the point where I said, "Okay, how do I do this?" Do I do self-taught and keep going? Do I do a four-year degree and go back to school? Do I get a master's? Can I even get a master's with where I am right now? Should I do a bootcamp? And the bootcamp appealed to me the most. That's what I ended up going with. I went with the Flatiron School, because I really valued the structure of an in-person experience, being able to ask a teacher if I had questions, of having TAs ready and waiting for questions who were available, constantly available.

I just wanted someone to just walk me through the journey. That's really what I wanted. And I wanted to not worry about, oh, am I learning the right material? Is this the right tutorial? Am I confused? I wanted to have that live support was very important to me, and so I decided to do a bootcamp.

Alex Booker (10:29):
Sort of laying the train tracks while also driving the train, or coming up with your own curriculum. It sounds doable, but it's really, really hard. If you're in that position where you can afford to go to a bootcamp or pay somebody, or whatever it happens to be, to show you the steps that are highly probable to lead to success as a developer, get you to that hireable level and beyond. I think it's a great idea, but boot camps do cost quite a lot of money.

Saron Yitbarek (10:55):
Yeah, absolutely. I had to borrow money. I had to borrow money from my mom to help cover the tuition, and at that time, I was living with my now husband, then boyfriend, who basically said, "I'll cover the bills while you learn."

So I had a ton of support. I definitely couldn't have afforded it on my own, and I think we all saw it as an investment in my future and in the ability to have some mobility, some [inaudible 00:11:19] mobility to move into something different where I would be able to sustain myself.

And so we took a very calculated financial risk, but it was definitely something that I did not have the money for on my own. I had to get support and help from people who luckily did have the money and then could support me. So I was very lucky in that regard.

Alex Booker (11:35):
The idea is that you spend 10K, but you're ideally going to get a job at the end which pays that many times over per year and gives you all these growth prospects. I really like that way of framing it and thinking, but obviously there's so much hard work that goes into that once you're there.

Saron, what was the most valuable thing you got from the bootcamp? Was it the teachers, the community, curriculum maybe, or job opportunities? Sometimes there are career fairs at the end.

Saron Yitbarek (12:00):
All of the above, honestly, I would say that the curriculum was absolutely amazing. My teacher, [inaudible 00:12:07] is to this day one of the best teachers I've ever had. He's so, so good at explaining and breaking down complex topics. I still remember his lectures in my head. Whenever I'm coding, I still just go through them again, relive them my head. They're very, very good.

The community was amazing, and that was what launched the next part of my journey, which is CodeNewbie, was having that community of people who understood the ups and understood the downs, and who were really excited to learn with me, who were really excited to support me, who I was excited to support. And really having that room full of people who understood the journey was just so pivotal in my learning.

And that was one of the things that I think would've been hardest at that time for me to find on my own. I think that today there's so many more communities online. There's so many discords, so many meetups, so many slot communities, although those are a little less popular these days, but there's so many different ways to find other people. And back then that wasn't really a common thing.

It was very, very, very valuable to be able to have a room full of people that you could say, "Man, I'm having a really bad day. How's it going for you?"

"Oh, I'm having a bad day too. Okay, let's be there for each other."

Jan Arsenovic (13:16):
Coming up on the Scrimba podcast, do you really have to be passionate about code?

Alex Booker (13:21):
The only barely controllable emotion I've had towards code is anger probably.

Saron Yitbarek (13:25):
Okay, I might have to stop using that word.

Alex Booker (13:28):
I'll be right back with Saron in just a minute. But first, Jan, the producer, and I wanted to look at what people are saying about the Scrimba podcast and give some shoutouts to the community.

Jan Arsenovic (13:37):
On Twitter, Ness at NESSAROO, hope I'm reading it right, shared the episode with Lane Wagner and wrote, listening to Lane Wagner on the Scrimba podcast about the effects of tech playoffs and how engineers should keep learning even after landing that first job. Feeling pumped and optimistic whenever I listen to Scrimba.

Thanks for always delivering, Alex.

Thank you for sharing this episode. I must admit, I like all of them, but this is one of my favorites when it comes to our recent episodes. If you haven't heard it, you probably should. I'm going to link it in the show notes.

Over on LinkedIn, [inaudible 00:14:13] wrote. Heard this phrase on the Scrimba podcast. Long-term consistency. It's a really powerful statement for somebody like me and for like-minded career changers. We go through so many ups and downs, so we need to stay consistent in our approaches, and prepare ourselves that it might take a long time to get there.

And also on LinkedIn, April UN wrote, one of the best ways to get inspiration for my coding journey has been hearing the success stories of others. A great podcast I'd like to listen to is the Scrimba podcast. If you're starting to feel burnt out, bombed an interview, or if you're in the through of sorrow, I would highly recommend listening to their podcast.

Also, there was a really uplifting discussion in the comments. So if you like our show and if you're learning something from it, you can also share it and tweet about it. And LinkedIn about it, and I don't know, [inaudible 00:15:01] about it.

You can also leave us a rating or a review in your podcast app of choice. I try to find all your feedback, so I might even feature you on the show. If you're tweeting about Scrimba and you want to mention Alex on Twitter, you will find his Twitter handle in the show notes. And now we're back to the interview with Saron.

Alex Booker (15:21):
How does a aspiring developer get more involved in community? Could it be blogging or doing conference talks? I know that during the pandemic especially, and we saw this at Scrimba, discord communities and online forums like Dev 2 just exploded as well.

Saron Yitbarek (15:37):
Discord is really great. Discord, Slack communities, I think are probably the two most popular ways. I think that blogging can be helpful. It really just depends on where you're blogging, if it has a community, if you have a community, that sort of thing. But it can be a potential place. But I've also found people just networking via just Twitter or I guess Mastodon. I haven't been on Mastodon yet.

Alex Booker (15:58):
No, me neither.

Saron Yitbarek (15:59):
Yeah, I still have to figure out where I'm going to go for my server and do all that stuff. So I'm still figuring that out. But in the meantime, I'm still on Twitter. And I think that being able to just tweet out into the community and say, Hey, here's who I am, here's what I'm doing. Replying to people, responding to people, DMing people and saying, Hey, I saw that you're also a former hair stylist.

I'm doing that right now, trying to break into tech. Would love to talk to you, do a coffee chat. So I think that there are so many people online who are open to meeting with new developers, who are excited to meet with new developers. And so I think that there's a whole world out there of just social media and just putting yourself out there that doesn't necessarily require the upfront work of a conference talk or blog post.

There's also created communities as well, like 100Devs is a community, so they're a training program where you can both learn to code, do projects, get job ready and get a job. I think it's a 30 week program. And what is really cool about what they do is they have this tier of users called the catch-up crew. And it's for people who aren't necessarily following the courses week over week, but are doing it on their own in a self-taught manner.

And they're welcome as well. So you're welcome to join there. I think they have a discord, they also have a Twitch. And meet people, have coffees, connect, all that good stuff on their platform too. So there's plenty of places that you can go to find your community.

Alex Booker (17:24):
I think sometimes what people struggle with when they're new to community is fostering those deeper connections. Maybe you write a post, maybe you give a talk. I like the idea of giving a lightning talk or something, by the way, because normally people come to you then, but they've got questions. Maybe you go out for food afterwards. I think that's a really cool tip on Twitter and Discord and things like that.

Sometimes it can feel like you are talking into the void a little little bit, and I know that can be discouraging for people. Is there any advice you can offer?

Saron Yitbarek (17:53):
I think that's when replying to people becomes very helpful, that's when joining existing conversations becomes really helpful. Retweeting other people. And also that's where you can latch onto hashtags. Like for example, Black Tech Twitter is pretty big, very popular, and so if you identify as someone who is black and in tech, that's a hashtag you can use to surface other connections, but also to join the conversation as well.

So I think there's a lot of ways where it's not just you tweeting, it's you interacting and you participating. That can be a lot more fruitful.

Alex Booker (18:26):
I love this idea of being almost like a cheerleader. You don't have to be the focal point. You can be supporting others, and they will definitely notice you, definitely appreciate you. There's this thing where if the same avatar essentially, and that's why I always encourage people to use the same avatar across platforms.

If it keeps popping up, you get a bit more heightened to it. And you notice when they maybe share a code pan they want some feedback on or a question, or something like that.

One way I've heard about people finding success on Twitter is by participating in 100 days of code to foster those deeper connections, you just need to keep showing up. And 100 days of code, people start to recognize you. They're like, oh my God, we're on day 80 together. I've been seeing you in my peripheral these last few months. Let's get to this finish line together.

And it's a really good idea. On the topic of consistency and community, how important would you say consistency is to learning to code?

Saron Yitbarek (19:21):
I think it's everything. I think that it is so easy to be discouraged and it's so easy to give up prematurely. They're definitely people who code and it comes easily to them. I was not one of those people. I don't think that most people are those people, especially career changers who are getting into that mindset a little bit later in life.

If you get into it thinking it's just all going to click, it's all going to work out on the first go, on the second go, even on the fifth go, I don't think it's going to pan out that way.

And so I find that being consistent and being persistent is just so important, because there's going to be a lot of ups and downs. There's going to be a lot of points of failure, and you just have to trust that you can figure it out eventually.

Maybe not right now, maybe not in 20 minutes. Maybe you need to go ask for help, but you can figure it out. So I think you just have to trust in the process, and believe in that process in order for it to really make sense.

Alex Booker (20:13):
There's a fantastic blog post I read probably two or three years ago, but I think about it a lot. I'm going to link it in the show notes. And the title is something like to be great, be good consistently.

This idea that if you continue to show up, that's how you end up becoming great. Just by not giving up. It will happen if you give it time and you don't get deterred. I like what you said that not everybody is a coding whiz on day one, but in all your experience at the bootcamp, learning to code, with CodeNewbie and later, can anybody teach themselves coding or is it reserved for a special few?

Saron Yitbarek (20:47):
No, I think that anybody can teach themselves coding. I think that there are some people who just don't like it. I can totally appreciate and respect that you give it an honest try, and you're like, nah, I'd rather not be at a computer all day. Or I'd rather not think in this way. Or I'd rather just not look at code. So I think that's perfectly legitimate. I don't think everybody needs to be a developer. I don't think everybody has to be a developer, but I do think that everyone can be a developer.

And frankly, I don't really care if I'm right or wrong on that. It is in my best interest to believe that to be the case, because that is how I give myself permission to fail. That's how I give myself permission to have a bad day, but then try again tomorrow.

That's how I'm able to give myself the space and the graciousness to keep going, to try again, and not just write myself off and take myself out of the running.

So even if that's not actually true, I choose to believe that it is true. Because I like that world, and I think that it brings out the best in me and it encourages me to keep going and keep trying, even on days where it might be a little hard and things aren't really going my way.

Alex Booker (22:00):
I completely agree with you though, to be honest. I don't think coding is this natural ability, but you need intrinsic motivation. I think in recent years, especially with booming tax salaries and the opportunity to work remotely, a lot of people have been drawn to coding for the career prospects, and there is some validity to that.

I think that can lead to a very strong intrinsic motivation. But when I'm talking about the opposite, which is extrinsic motivation, I think people maybe get started because they want a really big salary or they like the idea of the prestige of working at a tech company. Or maybe they have some grandiose ambition to change the world or something and be recognized for that.

And these things burn quite hot and quite fast, but they burn out as well. But when you have a very strong intrinsic motivation, in other words, coding and solving problems is something you genuinely enjoy, you love those aha moments. You like this idea of a career where you'll always be learning and challenged. I think you're much more likely to find success in the long term.

Saron Yitbarek (22:56):
I think that wanting to get into tech for the pay is a very legitimate reason. At the end of the day, your career is largely about your salary and your work environment. And how you're able to feed yourself, provide for your family, all that stuff.

So I think that if you're in this because you want to get paid and you want to have job security, you want to have a certain lifestyle, I think that is very legitimate. I think that if you're doing it exclusively for those reasons and you don't also like to code, it's just going to be really, really hard.

I think coding is a career that is very hard to have if you don't enjoy it at least half the time. I think that that's my threshold. At least half the time you have to like it, otherwise it's just too easy to quit.

It takes too long, it's too painful, and I think that it's really hard to do with only extrinsic motivation. So yeah, I agree. I don't think you need to be passionate about it, I'm very sensitive to this idea of everyone having to be passionate about everything.

I think it's fine if you just like it. I think it's fine if it's just a job, but I think that if you go into it having absolutely no interest, no curiosity, I think it's just going to be really hard to get to where you want to go.

So I think that finding a way to enjoy it, finding the joy in coding will just give you more ammo. And will give you more longevity in your career and will help you get to that finish line so that you can enjoy the higher paycheck and all that good stuff.

Alex Booker (24:22):
Well, this is a fun segue, because I was reading some of your posts. And you wrote a post titled your biggest asset as a first time dev. For the benefit of anyone listening, what is the biggest asset for a first time dev and why is that?

Saron Yitbarek (24:35):
I've spent the last almost 10 years now, I can't believe it's been almost a decade, helping people get into tech, breaking into coding, all that good stuff. And I've been really interested in going all in on the getting a job part of the journey, versus learning to code and breaking into the industry, just really focusing on getting into jobs.

So I've been writing some blog posts around people breaking in and being able to make that into a career. One of the reasons why I wrote that post is that people I feel like focus so much on people taking a chance on them when they get their first job. It's always positioned as, oh, they gave me my first opportunity. I'm so lucky, and they don't look at it from the hiring manager's perspective, which is usually that that hiring manager has no interest in taking a chance on anyone.

They are interested in hiring people who can do the job, that's their whole point. Their goal is really around making money, and it's not around you being given an opportunity or you breaking in.

So when you're applying for a job, and you're trying to break in and get that first opportunity. And you look at, okay, how can I do that job well? There's really two parts. There's your track record and there's your potential. And your track record is nonexistent because it's your first job. You haven't done this before, but your potential is very much there.

So when it comes to showing what you can do in the future and showing that you are going to do a great job, that's where you really show your interest, your commitment, your working hardness. That's when you really show the amount of effort and the amount of interest you have in this world. And this is where passion comes into play, because hopefully you like it, but even if you don't, you can fake it until you make it.

You want to demonstrate that you have this passion for code, because that interest and that fascination, you being into coding is going to be the thing that's going to propel you and push you forward. That doesn't mean you have to be passionate to be a successful developer, but it is that mindset of this is the world I'm in. This is the world I'm committed to. I'm loving it. I'm into it. I'm going to push.

It's that feeling that you want to at least convey. It may not be true, it may not be how you really feel, but at least you can convey that feeling. If you're able to convey that successfully, then you are much more likely to work a little bit harder, push a little bit further, investigate a little bit deeper in a way that makes you a great team player, given the fact that you don't have a track record.

You can't say, "I've done this for 10 years," because you haven't. All you really have at that point is your interest.

Alex Booker (27:15):
I've not thought about passion and stuff for a while. Because I remember a few years ago it was quite common for people to say, "I'm super passionate about front-end design, or super passionate about [inaudible 00:27:25]," or something like that.

But it's become a bit of an icky word in recent years along with hustle culture and things like that. And I just out of curiosity defined passion, and it says strong and barely controllable emotion.

Saron Yitbarek (27:38):
Oh boy. Okay, I might have to stop using that word.

Alex Booker (27:40):
The only barely controllable emotion I've had towards code is anger, probably when things don't work.

Saron Yitbarek (27:48):
Okay, so there we go. There's passion. There's passion.

Alex Booker (27:51):
You're really there to demonstrate your potential so that they might invest in you. I spoke to Cassidy Williams on the podcast, and she pointed out that 100 days of code is good for another reason.

Actually, funny enough, Sean Wang, also known as Swix, made a similar point as well around this idea of a learning exhaust. Where everything you're doing, you're leaving a little something behind, whether that's a [inaudible 00:28:10], Green Square, or a tweet about 100 days of code.

And Cassidy said this as well, that it's a way of demonstrating your commitment to the craft. And that it's not something that you've maybe picked up a course, you've dabbled with it a little bit. You have the input at least, because if you can't count on someone for the input, you're never going to get the output regarding good quality code.

At the same time, you also, I think, need some significant portfolio projects that demonstrate how you bring things together. I like what you said as well about how juniors sometimes feel as though they are grateful for the opportunity. I totally get that, you can't help but feel grateful I think sometimes when a company takes some kind of chance on you. But at the same time, junior developers can be an enormous asset to teams, don't you think?

Saron Yitbarek (28:53):
Junior developers and early career devs in general are really, really powerful to a team, because they force you to explain things in a simple way. Because I feel like when you talk amongst yourselves as senior people, as advanced people, it can get a little hand wavy. It can get a little, oh, I assume blah, blah. Of course we're going to do...

There is an assumed, we've been doing it this way, so this is how we're going to do it. But when you're talking to someone who's relatively new to the industry, you have to explain, yeah, we do this because X, Y, Z, and that because I think is very powerful because it forces you to confront the way you've been doing things, how you've been doing things, why you've been doing things, and it forces you to explain yourself and to build a case for why you should do things the way that you're doing them.

It's like an explain it like I'm five. But as a member of your team, you always have to explain it at a level that is understandable to everyone, not just people who happen to have been there at the start. So I think that it's a very, very powerful way of doing it that way. I think it also forces you to look at code, look at systems, look at your workflow from their perspective.

Because I'm hoping that if you have more junior people on the team, you're also mentoring them, and you're also giving them a chance to be their best and having them level up. And so it forces you to look at everything from their perspective, look at the way you're working, the way you're collaborating, the way you're communicating, and really forces you to review what you're doing and make sure that what you're doing still makes sense.

It's still the way you would want to be treated. So it forces you to constantly reevaluate the state of things, which I think can be very powerful for any organization.

Alex Booker (30:37):
I like this quote, which is when you teach something, you learn it twice. And as a junior, you invoke that in the seniors.

Saron Yitbarek (30:42):
I love that.

Alex Booker (30:45):
And yeah, let's not forget, the junior developers are much cheaper than senior developers, and seniors will eventually need someone to delegate to. There's plenty of tasks that a junior can sink their teeth into that maybe a senior's done so many times before, it's not really interesting to them anymore.

I think as a junior, you're a fantastic investment as well. Your cost is low and your trajectory and velocity is high. I think if you stay at the company for a couple of years, maybe three like they would expect, you will pay your salary plus.

In capitalist society, companies are bound to make money. When they pay salary as an investment, they hope that will impact on their revenue. I absolutely believe that [inaudible 00:31:19] developers can do that. You're also like a blank converse. It's that a genuine benefit. Like people say things like, oh, if you've been working as a developer for a while, you learn bad habits. And you have to unlearn them, and that can be a problem.

I feel like it's not that hard to unlearn bad habits, but maybe I'm just naive.

Saron Yitbarek (31:35):
It depends on the kind of person you are. There's some people who are very, this is the way I do things and I'm not changing. But I think that in general, as a group of people, developers, we're always looking to change. I feel like we're always looking for the shiny new thing, the shiny new tool, the better way of doing things. We're always looking for upgrades and updates, so I don't really think that's a major problem.

But I do think that there might be things that have gotten out of date that maybe we didn't realize were out of date. And if we're taking someone who just graduated from bootcamp or who just broke into the industry, they might be the ones that have the latest tools and the latest knowledge that maybe we just never had a reason to learn.

So there's an opportunity to actually learn from more early career people as well.

Alex Booker (32:16):
In summary, junior developers are awesome.

Saron Yitbarek (32:18):
Yes, absolutely.

Alex Booker (32:22):
Saron, tell us a bit about New Year, new dev career. I saw that's a project you launched recently, and I just love the ring to it.

Saron Yitbarek (32:28):
Yeah, thank you. Yeah, so like I said, for the past 10 years, I've been helping people break into tech mostly through content, but I've also done so many different one-on-ones, private conversations, given advice, looked at resumes. I've done my fair share of hiring. I've screened resumes, I've done interviews, I've done the whole thing.

Over the years, what I've realized is that the learn to code part has actually gotten pretty well covered. But I feel like the thing that is more scary, the thing that is less known is the get a job portion. Literally, how do I get in? I've learned, I've spent months, sometimes years leveling up and trying to become a great developer. Now that I'm a great developer or just even a good developer, it's the breaking in and nailing that first gig, that is the harder part. With that in mind, I decided to just try to help people one-on-one.

I didn't really know how to help, but I figured, you know what, let me just talk to people. Let me talk to people one-on-one. Let me mentor people. Let me set up these weekly check-ins with folks. And so I tweeted a couple times. I said, Hey, if you're looking for a new job and you want some mentorship, if you want some advice, if you want a resume review, hit me up. I would love to work with you.

And I got a bunch of people who reached out to me and said they were interested. I'm currently mentoring about 20 people that I meet with each week for 30 minutes to up to an hour. And I meet with them and I basically say, "All right, what are your get a job goals? How are they going? What advice can I give? Let's set up some mock interviews. Let's do some resume reviews. Let's help craft your story. Let's figure out your schedule."

There's one person that we were even trying to figure out, okay, how do we make time for you to code? How do we look at all of your life to dos, and consolidate them and make them more efficient so we can make in more time? So I try to help in whatever way the person needs, and I've been doing that for several months. And I've learned so much about the questions people ask, and where people get stuck and the help that they need.

And I thought, okay, I can't really meet with many more people on a weekly basis, because even 20 is kind of pushing it. So I thought, okay, I want to do something that scales. And again, there were these same handful of questions that kept popping up throughout the months throughout the different people I met with.

I must have met with way more than 20 people just on a one-off basis. I decided to take all of that, and taking advantage of New Year's resolutions and this people doing goal setting at the start of the year, I came up with New Year new dev career. The website was, which I can't believe I got that.

I can't believe it was available. And it's basically a set of emailed guided worksheets that help you work through different questions that have to do with getting a job in tech. The questions might be, what projects should I build? That's a very common one. How do I tailor my resume? What should I learn? I think that one of the big questions that people get confused about is they've spent months learning how to code, but now that they're actually job searching, they're like, okay, what should I double down on?

What should I really focus on? How do I network? Networking is such a big deal and is so intimidating for so many people. And so what I'm doing is instead of meeting one-on-one and giving out frankly the same type of advice for the most part over and over again, I'm creating these guided worksheets that help you get answers to your questions through really thoughtful, really tactical questions of my own. Supported by some content, some background information, some resources, some videos to help you figure out the right plan and strategy for you.

I've been building these worksheets for my mentees and been test-driving them and seeing what they think, and they said it's been very valuable, very helpful to them. So I am putting it out to more people. Hopefully it'll be helpful. We'll see what the results show, but I'm really excited about it. And I really hope that it gets people the structure that I think a lot of people are missing.

Alex Booker (36:22): Check it out. We'll put a link in the show notes, for sure. The one thing that stands out to me right off the bat on the landing page is the worksheets and how it's action-based. There's so much information out there already, all the information you need to become a billionaire and get a six pack of abs or learn to code and [inaudible 00:36:41].

Saron Yitbarek (36:41):
It's all there.

Alex Booker (36:42):
What we're missing is action.

Saron Yitbarek (36:43):
Yeah, I think that you absolutely nailed it. There are so many great YouTube videos, so many great blog posts, but it's so different watching a video, watching even if it's a short five minute video, and actually going through the process of building out a worksheet on your own.

And for me, the real power of the worksheet happened six months ago. I was trying to figure out what new project to build and what kind of ideas to play with. And there's this really famous Paul Graham blog post, I think it's called, how to come up With startup ideas or something.

And I'd read that post a couple of times many years ago, and it's very long. It takes quite some time to read the blog post. There's lots of really good information, very instructional, but at the end of the day, the format is a blog post. And so I had an intern working with me at the time, and I challenged her.

I said, "I want you to take this blog post and I want you to turn it into a workshop. I want you to take the questions he asks, and I want you to turn it into some type of workshop that you and I can do together, some type of worksheet where you can ask the questions and we can talk them through together."

And even though technically it was the same content, and even though technically it was just a reorganization of it, just converting it from the passive format of reading to an active format of these blank worksheets that we had to talk through and actually fill out was an absolute game changer.

That's what I want to do with this. I want to take this generic advice that we've all received on how to tailor your resume, how to come up with projects, how to schedule your time, how to be productive, and turn them into really action-packed worksheets that you have to go in, hands on the keyboard, typing it out, filling it out, and forcing you to be an active member of solving that problem. I think that that's really going to be a game changer.

Alex Booker (38:38):
A really nice note to end on, I think, and I can't let you go without asking now. Now, I know you've spoken solve these developers with similar problems. Maybe what is the main problem that new developers face in your view, and how do you generally suggest they overcome it?

Saron Yitbarek (38:52):
There are two big things that people seem to get stuck on pretty frequently, and it's the what should I learn and how do I network? For the what should I learn, my biggest piece of advice is to use job posts as your rubric to figure out what you should learn. Because they're telling you, they're telling you what they want from you. They're telling you what you should know and what you should come in with, and what type of experience, what type of skillsets they need to do that job well.

People will turn to just the internet in general and go, oh, let's Google top trending tools and top languages, but those are not the right searches. The right searches are the job postings themselves. If you're in doubt, if you're feeling overwhelmed, if you're getting analysis paralysis of which direction should I go in? What programming language should I double down on?

They're telling you in the job posting what they want from you. And then as far as the networking, people just don't know what to say to people, which to me is such an interesting thing to get stuck on. Because I love talking to people and I love emailing people. I have no qualms, no problems with that, but I found that a lot of people just literally don't know what to say. They know they should network. They even know how to network. They know how to find people.

But in terms of, what do I say that's going to get me a response, that doesn't feel awkward, that doesn't sound contrived? That is the thing that people get really stuck on.

And for me, short and sweet is the way to go. Being honest, asking for a very small thing, and I have a whole template in newdevcareer that people will get access to to map out what they should say in their first message.

But the idea is short and sweet, have a simple ask, share one quick thing about you. Don't write an essay. And just be honest about who you are and what you're there for. But those are probably the two big things that I've seen people get stuck on the most.

Alex Booker (40:44):
That reflects my experience a lot as well, by the way. So I totally get where you're coming from. I see come up a lot. Glad that we can share your resource. And yeah, Saron, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. It's been a pleasure.

Saron Yitbarek (40:55):
Thank you for having me. This was great.

Jan Arsenovic (40:57):
That was the Scrimba podcast, episode 106. Check out the show notes for resources and for the ways to connect with Saron.

If you made it this far, subscribe, there's a new show every Tuesday, and if you're just discovering the Scrimba podcast, we have more than 100 great episodes. So if you can't wait for the next one, just scroll through our feed and you'll probably find something that interests you.

The podcast associated by Alex Booker. I'm Jan, the producer, and we'll be back with you next week.

CodeNewbie Founder Saron Yitbarek: New to Coding? Take Action with These Practical Tips
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