Learn to Advocate for Yourself with GitHub Developer Advocate Rizel Scarlett

Rizel Scarlett (00:00):
If you're just only coding, it's great. You got all these projects out and you're learning more, but nobody knows you did all this. You can't expect people to find it out without you telling them, so the best person to advocate for you, is you.

Alex Booker (00:15):
Hello, and welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, we speak of successful developers about their advice on how to learn to code and get your first job as a developer. I am your host, Alex Booker, and today I'm joined by Rizel Scarlett, developer advocate at GitHub and a mentor to early career developers.

Rizel seems to impress wherever she goes, and in this episode I'm expecting some of her magic to rip off on yourself. I suppose what's stood out to me about Rizel, is that nothing has been handed to her, and as a result, she takes nothing for granted. That has surely trickled into her work ethic and ability to identify and carve out opportunities where other people might not even be looking. After studying psychology, but running out of money, she inched into IT supports then inched again into coding. Step by step, she now works at a company we all admire, like GitHub. How does she do it? It's The Scrimba Podcast, let's find out.

Don't forget to keep an ear out for your key takeaways from this episode and share them on social media. Every week we read out our favorite comments and takeaways in the break. Word of mouth is the best way to support this podcast, so thank you in advance. Without any further ado, this is Rizel Scarlett, let's get into it.

Rizel Scarlett (01:35):
It definitely wasn't something I wanted to do. I didn't really understand truly what coding was, and I didn't have other people in my life who were really in tech. What happened and how I got into tech initially is that I was studying psychology in undergrad, and then I realized I don't have enough money to continue to the next semester, so I ended up having to drop out.

That made me realize, "Okay. If I don't have money to continue to the next semester, maybe I won't really have enough for the next following years." And usually with a psychology degree, you need to get a graduate degree to essentially start making money and actually have a career as a therapist or a psychologist. So I decided to go back to the drawing board and figure out what careers would, I would still be able to make a living without having to go through years and years of school. Tech kept popping up, so I decided to try that out. At first, I was a little nervous on the computer science front, because I didn't have a strong math background, so I went for IT instead and became a IT support person. But after a few months and years of working in that, I wanted to challenge myself more and I attended a coding bootcamp, and became a software engineer.

Alex Booker (02:50):
It feels like quite a leap from psychology to computing. What played into that decision at the time?

Rizel Scarlett (02:57):
I'll be honest and say maybe the money. That was really survival mode and I was like, "You know what? I've used a computer before. I should be able to figure this out."

Alex Booker (03:08):
Was it as easy as you might have hoped?

Rizel Scarlett (03:10):
The transition into IT support was not too bad, because it was really just me troubleshooting. A lot of times I was working with older employees who maybe never really were comfortable with their computer, so that part wasn't too hard. But the transition into software engineering was a little bit harder than I expected, but I liked it. I think I liked the challenge of thinking and realizing like, "Oh, I actually do have a more logically minded brain and I just never paid attention to it before."

Alex Booker (03:41):
I was checking out your LinkedIn, by the way, and the only thing that struck me right away is how small my scroll bar got on the right-hand side. Because your work experience is so long, it seems like you've done quite a few different types of roles around the IT support and later on, development. I think before it said you're a front desk associate of Planet Fitness. That's pretty cool. But yeah, can you talk us through that a little bit, the story there?

Rizel Scarlett (04:06):
I think one of the reasons I probably had so many jobs is because I was excited to have a job. I don't know if that makes any sense. When my parents brought me to America, I came here undocumented and they didn't know it would negatively impact my life as much. So for a lot of my life I couldn't have a job and do other things that adults in America could do. So as soon as I got the opportunity to be able to work, I did so many jobs. So I started off as a site director and a coach at this organization called Let's Get Ready, and they teach people SAT prep.

Then I went into Planet Fitness as a front desk associate. On the side I was like, oh, in order for me to be able to fund my learning for IT support, I wanted to get a higher paying job. So I became a phlebotomist while I was working at Planet Fitness. That's how I got that phlebotomy job. Once I finished out my courses with IT support, that's when I transitioned into IT support. And then after that is when I transitioned into software engineering. If that helps paint the picture more.

Alex Booker (05:11):
Yeah, yeah. No, but the reason I ask I think is because so many people learning to code, it's easy to see that person coming out of school, thinking you're already behind as someone changing career, or you had to make the perfect decision. But I think for so many people, and you're a perfect illustration of this, there's nothing wrong with trying out a bunch of different jobs, seeing what resonates and course correcting a little bit. There'll be some things you like about one job or one role within tech, and from there you can improve your path, instead of trying to design this perfect path without all the information up front.

Rizel Scarlett (05:42):
Yeah, I agree with that. I think a lot of times, especially when you graduate high school, they're like, "Pick the career that you want for your rest of your life." You don't need to do that. You can try out a career, take your transferrable skills from that career and try out another on.

Alex Booker (05:55):
Without school or anything, how did you go about teaching yourself computing and coding?

Rizel Scarlett (06:00):
I tried self-teaching at first, which was great. I did free code camp and the things that were available to me in 2018. But after that, I decided to go to a coding bootcamp, because for me, just how I am, I like more of a structure or some accountability. Somebody being like, "If you don't do this, you're going to get in trouble." So that's where I learned computing, and then I continued to learn more, because after I got a job, I enrolled in college. So I did have some formal training.

Alex Booker (06:29):
It's cool you went to a bootcamp, but I mean it's really interesting as well that you could identify about yourself, the ways you like to learn. There are always challenges whether you go a bootcamp, university or self-taught route, they're just a bit different. What did you enjoy the most about the bootcamp, apart from the accountability?

Rizel Scarlett (06:45):
I think, I enjoyed that I didn't have to figure out what I needed to learn. I think I struggled with that a little bit when I tried to learn on my own. I just wasn't sure, should I start with Python or HTML, where do I go next? And I think, I enjoyed the camaraderie of other people within the bootcamp. I went to a free bootcamp called Resilient Coders. That was mainly for people of color. So I liked starting off my software engineering career with people of color.

Alex Booker (07:14):
Can you talk more about that community and camaraderie part of learning to code?

Rizel Scarlett (07:18):
I think, a lot of times people think coding is this lonesome isolated job, and there are times when we're working alone, but it's great to be able to work with people and be able to be like, "Oh, can I bounce an idea off of you?" Or whatever. And to hear from other people's experiences that like, "Oh, I'm struggling and having a hard time with this as well." I think, that was really helpful for me to have other people be like, "Oh man, this is hard to learn." That way, I wasn't thinking that I'm the only one not picking up the information.

Alex Booker (07:50):
Was it a tough decision to go to a bootcamp? You mentioned that this one was free, essentially. That's pretty special.

Rizel Scarlett (07:56):
It was still tough though. Well, okay, actually I'm a little bit more impulsive, so as soon as I heard about it, I was ready to just join it.

Alex Booker (08:06):
Decisive, not impulsive.

Rizel Scarlett (08:08):
Okay. I like that word better, decisive. Yeah, I was ready to join it. I was like, "You know what? I'm ready to learn more." I had the privilege of still living with my parents at the time, so it wasn't like I wouldn't be able to afford rent or something like that. But I told my boyfriend at the time, who's now my husband, that I was going to join it and I wanted him to join it with me. And he was like, "Wait, hold on, but how would you have money for other things?" Because it's free, but that doesn't mean you'll still have an income coming in. So he suggested that we still both do it, but how about we save six months' worth of money first, and then join the bootcamp? So I think that made it easier for me, but besides that, it wasn't a hard choice. I was ready.

Alex Booker (08:49):
So your husband is a developer as well?

Rizel Scarlett (08:51):
Yeah. Yeah, he is.

Alex Booker (08:52):
And you both learned at the bootcamp for the first time pretty much, or I guess, you did some free code camp and slip at first?

Rizel Scarlett (08:57):
Yeah, we both learned at the same bootcamp. Yeah, I did the free code camp stuff a little bit before. But yeah, it was great to have him in there, but also, we had a lot of arguments.

Alex Booker (09:08):
What do you mean, semicolons or no semicolons, tabs or spaces, JIF or GIF.

Rizel Scarlett (09:14):
I think, now we learn to appreciate it, but there are areas of parts of web development that he's amazing at and I'm not good at, and then vice versa. So sometimes I would come in with an idea that just didn't really make sense, and he'd be like, "No." And I'd be like, "No, my idea makes sense. We're going to do it." So yeah, I'm a little bit stubborn.

Alex Booker (09:34):
Oh, that's so cool. And did the coding come easily to you? You had this background with computing working in IT and support and things, but again, programming is this specific way of logical thinking, it's so new to so many people.

Rizel Scarlett (09:45):
There were parts that I was able to pick up well from being in IT, but then there were parts that weren't that great. I think, I picked up how to use the terminal and command line a little bit faster than maybe other people in the bootcamp, because I was like, "I've used this before" or, "I've heard of the term APIs before." So I was like, "Okay, I get what it does." But the part that, what you said with the logical thinking, I had a really hard time figuring out, how do I write these functions or steps telling the computer what to do. And my bootcamp teacher kept saying, "You got to break it down little by little", but I struggled to understand that at first.

Alex Booker (10:21):
I think that whole, thinking like a programmer, part is difficult for most people, but it comes with practice right, and there are some tools. And I think the one you mentioned from your teacher, breaking things down into small units is a great tool. Just takes a bit of time to learn them and then you can be on your way. And with that in mind, I'm wondering how you went on after the bootcamp. How did you go about finding your first developer opportunities?

Rizel Scarlett (10:44):
I was very excited to do that, so I did a couple IT internships, like we said, in IT jobs. I tried to see if I could stay connected with those companies and see if I can be able to return as maybe a software engineering intern. So I had interviews with those people or maybe even recruiters, that maybe moved from one company to another. So after my coding bootcamp, I landed a internship at a company called Formlabs.

Alex Booker (11:11):
Why internships over junior developer roles?

Rizel Scarlett (11:14):
I started off with internships first, because I was used to them from IT, and I liked the experience of being able to try out, is this company a right suit for me and am I a right suit for them? And then also be able to figure out how do software engineering teams work without me having the pressure of, this project is going to sink or swim the whole company. In an internship, they give you toy projects sometimes, and they might throw it away.

I was nervous of what would it be like to work on a software engineering team. I was nervous of failing. And I was like, let me just go in softly, and then if I do a good job, they can transition me from intern to full-time. And then, I know a lot of times people want to leave their bootcamp and then make as much money as possible. I had the privilege of, at the time I still lived with my parents, so I was like, I'm okay if I make a little bit less money to be able to build my confidence and my knowledge of how software engineering teams work, without putting too much pressure on myself.

Alex Booker (12:13):
And those connections you had from the previous IT internships you did, did they help at all with these first opportunities?

Rizel Scarlett (12:19):
Yeah, I think they definitely did. One recruiter that I worked with at one of my IT internships ended up moving to a different company, and I messaged her, and then I was able to get an interview.

Alex Booker (12:30):
Yeah. I think that's so underrated. Just every person you pass, even if they're in a different industry perhaps, there might be some opportunity to help each other out in the future. I was also interviewing someone a few weeks ago where she was just talking to her friend about development, and then her friend recommended this company that she'd heard of. I think just vocalizing what you're working on and what you're looking for, is a great way to attract those opportunities.

Rizel Scarlett (12:53):
That's so true. If you just start telling people your goals, someone might probably help you move to the next goal. They'll be like, "Oh, I know exactly what to do." I love that.

Alex Booker (13:02):
How long did the internships last, and did it go as you planned? Did you get given more responsibility in the same company, or maybe you parlayed that experience to get another role as a junior or mid-level or whatever it happened to be at the time?

Rizel Scarlett (13:14):
The first internship experience didn't go as well. It was really weird. I wasn't on a team of other software engineers. I was on the business systems in LS team and I was the only software engineer. They wanted me to build out a web app. That didn't go as well, because I don't think I got the mentorship I needed. But then I did another internship, which I know sounds crazy, but I did. And at that company I was able to go from intern to junior developer. They had a lot more software engineers, they had mentorship and they had a better plan for how I would move from intern to full-time.

Alex Booker (13:47):
I suppose with the benefit of hindsight, if you went back to that time, you'd probably know the signs to look for, what would make a great team or a great employer. Can you maybe share that hindsight with us today? Say someone's looking for a new job, what are some of the things you recommend they look for to make sure that they are joining a supportive company and team that can help them grow?

Rizel Scarlett (14:06):
Yeah, that's a good question. One, are there varying levels in the team? I think it's a little bit scary to join a team of all junior developers, which is rare, but it sometimes happens if they're all new to coding. And then if there's mostly senior developers, I guess that's not too bad, but I think having varying levels helps, because one, you have the other junior developers like you where you can relate to them and have that camaraderie. And then two, if you have more mid-level or senior developers, they'd be able to come and help you out, give you better mentorship, give you better code reviewing. That's great. Also, how do they react to when people make mistakes? Are they more on the blame culture, or is it more of a blameless culture? Because that can really affect your confidence as a software engineer, because a lot of times it's not your fault if you mess up, it's just there was not guardrails in place for someone at your level. I would look for those two things.

Alex Booker (15:03):
That's a petrifying situation to be in, where you are scared to fail as a junior, because that's how growth happens when you fail and you learn and then you don't make the same mistake. There should probably be processes in place to make sure that when you fail, it's not catastrophic. You hopefully don't bring down production or send a mass email to the entire custom. What was that company? There was a company recently that sent out a test email to millions of millions of users, and there's a bunch of tweets like, "Obvious juniors in trouble."

Rizel Scarlett (15:32):
I think it was HBO. I have a talk where I literally talk about setting juniors up for success, and I'm like, "This was an example of not doing that. It's not their fault." There wasn't enough guardrails in place.

Alex Booker (15:44):
That's perfect. We'll have to link that in the show notes then.

Jan Arsenovic (15:47):
Coming up, how to brand yourself and why you should take your time.

Rizel Scarlett (15:51):
I learned to code in two months, now I'm making 500K.

Alex Booker (15:56):
I'll be right back with Rizel in just a second. But first, Jan, the producer and I, wanted to read some of our favorite comments and takeaways from last week.

Jan Arsenovic (16:05):
Indira Kumar at the Luckiest Man on Twitter shared our interview with Lane Wagner. And bro, I've learned so many insights on the details and possible reasons behind the recent tech layoffs. The Coding Mermaid shared the episode with Florin Pop and wrote, what an awesome and truly honest podcast. Thank you for sharing so much advice. Cherry at Cherry D tweeted, been listening to The Scrimba Podcast episodes all morning at the office. A guest mentioned Kevin Powell and now I'm going through his beginner's CSS playlist. I'm discovering great additional resources to help strengthen my understanding.

Alex Booker (16:41):
I was also really thrilled to see people mentioning The Scrimba Podcast as part of the 100 Days of Code.

Jan Arsenovic (16:48):
Totally. Thomas Pritchard at TPritchard843 mentioned us twice recently in his 100 Days of Code. On day 31, he listened to The Scrimba Podcast to hear the inspiring stories of other self-taught devs. And on day 32, he listened to The Scrimba Podcast again on his commute.

And over on LinkedIn. Jack Lee mentioned us in his, day 109 of 100 Days of Code. I'm actually going to go through your LinkedIn posts in the upcoming weeks, because I think I've been sleeping on it, but in the meantime, if you're enjoying the show, tweet about it, share it, mention it on socials, and you might get a shout-out. And now we're back to the interview with Rizel.

Alex Booker (17:30):
When you're a junior, it can feel a bit like every company is doing you a favor maybe, by recognizing your potential and investing in you. And that can be true to some extent. I think it's fine to be grateful, but you also have to recognize that as a junior, you bring a lot to the table as well. What's your experience been working as a junior?

Rizel Scarlett (17:51):
I think I did start off thinking that like, "Oh my gosh, these people are so nice for just hiring me. I have no clue what I'm doing." And they took a chance on me. But looking back, I don't think I should have thought that way, because I did bring a lot of value to different teams. I feel like I helped us to think about different user experiences differently. I know that I always bring an eagerness and excitedness to complete work. Sometimes people might not be like, "Oh, I don't know if I want to do that." But I always have been a person that raised my hand and been excited. I'm like, "Oh, I want to learn about this." So I think I've always brought that personality of being eager. And I think other people, if they are junior and they just reflect on themselves and who they are, they're probably bringing some really valuable insight to their team or helping to improve the team culture, and they don't even realize it.

Alex Booker (18:45):
How would you get hired as a junior developer advocate at GitHub? What's the story of that?

Rizel Scarlett (18:49):
Yeah. I was working as a software engineer and I was also helping to run a non-profit. It was very grassroots. It was just the three of us running it. And this non-profit was teaching women of color how to code, and non-binary people of color how to code. And it was just basics of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and then we encouraged them to go to other coding boot camps, or we created partnerships with other coding boot camps so they can learn more. And through that, I realized I really enjoy building out demos, teaching people, creating slide decks, empowering people. And I was like, "Oh, I wish I could do this for the rest of my life", but this nonprofit doesn't pay the same money as a software engineer. But then I started to realize, there's this thing called developer advocates, and people are doing it.

I'm like, "Wait a minute, people are doing talks and teaching people and getting to experiment." And I'm like, "Oh, I want to do that." So I continued to stay connected in the Twitter community or the Twitter developer community, and I was really just, I don't know a better word for this, I guess looking at people's LinkedIn's to just understand how they got from point one to point B. And one day I saw that GitHub was hiring a junior developer advocate, and I was like, "This is so perfect." Because I had been interviewing for regular, not junior roles and developer advocacy, and people were like, "I think you have some of the fundamental skills, but you're a little too junior." So I was like, "This one is great, because this job description says, willing to learn." And I'm like, "That's me. I'm willing to learn."

Alex Booker (20:20):
How long have you been there for so far?

Rizel Scarlett (20:22):
Oh man, maybe a year and five months.

Alex Booker (20:25):
So in a matter of a year or so, you've presented a GitHub universe during the keynote, which is so epic by the way, Rizel. That's so cool. Published so many posts on dev.to, they get lots of attention, hearts, favorites, comments, all that good stuff. Streaming of a public speaking, Twitter spaces and obvious things, obviously delivering a lot of value. It's really cool.

Rizel Scarlett (20:46):
Thank you. And I think I will say, what made me even more productive and maybe able to make an impact, was my team and my manager being able to understand how they can best support me and allow me to grow. When I joined GitHub, my manager at the time, who was Brian Douglas, he would meet with me twice a week. He would talk to me about different strategies he uses to succeed, like sometimes he would attend product meetings. Even if we weren't necessarily invited or he would rewatch the recordings to figure out, what does GitHub really want to push forward.

So he could figure out what he should prioritize in terms of advocacy and awareness. And he just looked for different ways to insert himself. And I think him giving me that advice and then also putting me at the forefront of, if someone said, "Oh, we need someone to do this", he'll be like, "Let's try Rizel, let's have Rizel do that." And I think that helped me a lot more, and he would still support me. He wouldn't put me in something that I was completely going to fail at. He would give me the tools to succeed, and then I would be able to execute from there.

Alex Booker (21:51):
I like that a lot, because even though clearly you were perfectly capable as you took the opportunities created by Brian in that case, and run with them. As a junior and a new company, you might not have raised your hand and be like, "Yeah, I think I can do that", but having your manager self advocate for you in that way, is really, really powerful.

It's hard to get a take of where your open source contributions and writing and Twitter and things like that, where they were before you got the job at GitHub. Was personal branding, which could be writing, public speaking, having a portfolio or whatever, where these things you were conscious of during your job searches before you got this role at GitHub, or are they things that snowballed a bit later?

Rizel Scarlett (22:31):
I think they snowballed a bit later. I didn't really have that presence. I think I knew you had to, but I didn't really know how. I've always been someone that used Twitter a lot, even when I was in college or in bootcamp, I'll be like, "Oh, I got to learn this today. It was super interesting." I would tweet that out. And I guess now, looking back, that's quote, unquote learning in public, but I didn't realize that.

Alex Booker (22:53):
You invented it about knowing it had been invented already, so I'd let you speak you to it.

Rizel Scarlett (22:59):
He did. Yeah, it was two years too late. Besides that, I think what I had used in my quote, unquote portfolio was my slides that I made at the nonprofit I worked at, or maybe I sent in some recordings of me teaching, but I really didn't have this long history of me creating content.

Alex Booker (23:18):
Do you think the learning in public and having a personal brand is a good thing to focus on as a junior developer, or would you instead suggest people focus on just becoming the best coder and interviewee they can be?

Rizel Scarlett (23:31):
A lot of it seem overwhelming. I think both are of almost equal importance. I think a lot of times we do see people who don't have those coding skills, and they're on Twitter being like "10 ways to become a developer in 10 days" and stuff like that. And I'm like, "This is clear that you might not really understand software engineering and you're just trying to create content to gain more of a public presence. But I think the balance is important. If you're just only coding, it's great. You got all these projects out and you're learning more, but nobody knows that you did all this. You can't expect people to find it out without you telling them.

So the best person to advocate for you, is you. So you have to put it out there, even though it feels like a little cringey sometimes. And then people will start recognizing like, "Oh, Alex is really smart at this. Maybe we should hire him or maybe we should bring him on a podcast" or something like that. Getting your name out about the work that you're doing, is just as important as actually doing the work, in my opinion.

Alex Booker (24:36):
Hopefully someone clips that and goes viral. Thank you for using my name in your example. With the remainder of our time, I thought it'd be really interesting to talk a little bit about some ways people can learn in public. I'll throw categories at you and we'll take it in a certain direction. Maybe the first one that's a really good one to start with, is public speaking. This could be all kinds of things. It could be giving a lightning talk, a meter, it could be submitting a CFP as a conference. Maybe you won't be talking it like NDC or GitHub Universe or something as a brand new developer, but there are some conferences like Code Land, I think it's called, with Forum and Dev.to, which is specifically for beginners, so there are opportunities there.

Maybe YouTube videos could count for something like this as well. Just putting your face and your voice in front of an audience, whether it's async or not. But the question people always run into quite quickly is like, do I have anything to talk about? And then it's like, "Oh, I don't feel very confident doing this." It's really out of your comfort zone. Is it something that's always come naturally to you? In any case, what advice could you offer to people looking to get involved?

Rizel Scarlett (25:38):
First of all, I still am a pretty shy person. I actually was surprised that I could even do GitHub Universe, because when I do public speaking, my voice is usually shaky. Even as a kid, I will talk and I'd be like, "Hello?" So I understand if people feel nervous. And then in terms of not knowing what to talk about, I think an easy one is your journey and how you got in there. And then also, I think a lot of times people give themselves this barrier of, oh, people have talked about this before, or everybody already knows about this. It's not really true.

There's somebody out there that doesn't know about HTML or doesn't know about CSS or whatever. Even if you think it's basic, there's somebody that doesn't know it and would love to hear it in the way that you are going to explain it. That's how I always try to think of it. And I would say, a low barrier to trying to do a talk, like what you said with a YouTube video, is like there are virtual conferences and virtual meetups out there, especially since the pandemic happened. That was really, really helpful to me to just hop on a Zoom and do a talk, because I couldn't really see anybody's faces. I was just looking at my slide deck and that was helpful for me.

Alex Booker (26:50):
And by the way, they would love to have more volunteers, I think. They probably can't get enough, so you might be surprised at the reception.

Rizel Scarlett (26:57):
Yeah, that's true.

Alex Booker (26:58):
Okay. The next category, and I think there's a little bit of overlap here, but we have to talk about it, is writing. Could be a Dev.to post, could be your own blog, could even be writing for your portfolio, doing a writeup of one of your projects, for example.

I've read a bunch of your Dev.to posts. In fact, a lot of them before our interview in recent months just popped up on the feed, because they were doing really well on the platform. And I think you write so wonderfully, you seem to have so much to write about. I actually don't know how you do it. The posts are like, dun, dun, dun, dun dun, so long. But at the same time, it feels like you're not using any more words than you need to. What's your process for creating a really awesome Dev.to post?

Rizel Scarlett (27:38):
I don't even know if I ever thought of my process. I've always liked writing, because I feel like I express myself better through writing than speaking. Usually if I learn something new, I'll write it down on a list of like, "Oh, this will be cool to write about, because I just learned about this." And sometimes I'm not necessarily thinking this has to be for other people. Sometimes I write for me, I'm like, "Oh, I need to remind myself of how to do this technical thing." Or if it's on a soft skill thing, I'm like, "Maybe I'll just remind myself that I'm not, for the moments that I have imposter syndrome or I'm feeling down that I'm not that bad as I'm thinking." That's the one thing.

And then as a developer advocate, I think it's easier for me to think of all of these things to do, because sometimes I'll be listening to people of what we want to promote. We want to promote co-pilot more or code spaces. So then I'll be like, "Ooh, what's this really cool thing I could do with it?" And I'll write that down and save it for later. In terms of writing, after I got all these random ideas, I'll choose one and I'll create an outline, and the person that I'm writing to or the type of person. So if it's me as a beginner, if it's me as an expert, that way, you said I write too much, I would write even more if I was trying to write for every single user.

Alex Booker (28:54):
Hey, hey, not too much, just enough. Okay.

Rizel Scarlett (28:58):
Well, it would be too much if I tried to write for every single user. So if I'm going to write how to use co-pilot, I don't need to write for the expert and the beginner and the intermediate. I'll write one blog post for the beginner. I'll write out the outline and then I'll fill in the outline with paragraphs. So I guess, that's my problem.

Alex Booker (29:15):
I see this mistake all the time, and it's probably something I struggled with a little bit as well. Say you're writing about a quite advanced topic and you use an error function, and then you start going off on this tangent to describe our functions. And then what happens is, the post isn't good for beginners, because you're teaching an advanced subject, and it's not good for advanced developers, because now you're boring them with stuff they already know. If you can nail the outline, I reckon a lot of the actual body of the post is going to come more easily.

Rizel Scarlett (29:41):
I agree. And I still struggle with it today. The other day I wrote a draft blog post, and I was like, "Oh, I'm writing about dev containers. I got to explain what a dev container is. Then I got to do..." I'm like, "I don't need to do all that. I need to keep it simple. And then maybe in a following blog post, I'll write more about that."

Alex Booker (29:56):
And by the way, one of the reasons this is such an important subject to talk about, apart from writing blog posts, is that when you write, what you are trying to do is capture someone's attention and convince them of something or keep them interested to teach them something that's a bit difficult. And this is the exact same thing that applies to your cover letter, to your portfolio, to your LinkedIn, to your correspondence with companies when you're talking to them. I'm just wondering, do you sit down, write and it's done, or I guess I'm telling you my experience here a little bit. I have to write a bad first draft before I can refine it a little bit, and even sleep on it sometimes, to get it right.

Rizel Scarlett (30:32):
Sometimes I'll write out the idea in my mind, but I won't be able to write it out on paper yet. And then if I take a shower or something like that, the thoughts will start coming in and I'll be like, "Oh, okay. I'll go to my laptop, type out a little bit." Sometimes I get a little too laser focused and I'll just finish the draft and press publish. But other times I'll do what you said and write a first draft and then review it and then go back over and delete some stuff.

Alex Booker (30:59):
You should get one of these, I don't know if you've seen them, waterproof shower notepads. You get a little pen and notepad and you can take notes in the shower. I got one, thinking I was going to capture some bloody brilliant ideas, but that's not what happened. I just forgot to use it, to be honest.

Rizel Scarlett (31:13):
I do need that, because sometimes I get out the shower and I'm like, "Oh, I forgot all the thoughts."

Alex Booker (31:18):
All right. The last category of personal branding I wanted to jump into briefly, is on the topic of getting involved with community. It's interesting that you host this nonprofit and you also participate in things like Twitter spaces. That's a pretty broad experience between analog and digital, but it can be super daunting, I think, for people to get involved. Do you have any advice? Maybe sometimes you're just observing or lurking and you feel like maybe there's more to be done there?

Rizel Scarlett (31:45):
I don't think there's anything wrong with observing and lurking. There are communities that I observe and lurk in, because I feel like that's the bandwidth I have to contribute, because I can't be involved and do everything. And then also, maybe I feel like I'm in the point of I just want to learn from what other people are thinking, so I don't think that's bad. But what's helped me in it not being as scary to meet new people, is doing it virtually. With a virtual format, I can't see the person. If I'm feeling exhausted from socializing with people, I could always respond later, and then just go for it. It might be scary, but you never know the connections that you're going to create with people.

Just go for like saying hello to them. Even if it's just liking someone's tweet if you're on Twitter or whatever social media profile. Liking someone's tweet, that's interacting with them. Then they'll be like, "Oh, I've seen that face before. I've seen that name before." And they'll feel a little bit more familiarized with you. So take little small steps. It doesn't have to be, every day you're responding to a million tweets and all that, but just interact with people in the way that your social energy can handle it. That's what I think. You don't have to be... I just being involved in community, because it's just an easy way for me as an introvert to learn from others without having to always be hanging out and draining my energy.

Alex Booker (33:09):
What I take away from that is, it's not so daunting, really. The community is more supportive than you might imagine. And when it comes to social media, it's friends, not followers. Try and foster real connections with people, and they'll probably take you places in group environments as well. I'm totally stealing this advice from someone. It was a guest of mine on the podcast who recently got a job as a developer, and they explained to me that one of their favorite ways to approach meetups was to bring a friend. They might not have a whole squad of learner developers, but they knew one person who was interested. And by going with a friend, you have someone to fall back on a little bit if you need. And I will just happily say that I recently went to a meetup, it wasn't around coding, it was around SaaS and startup funding and stuff.

I thought it'd be interesting. It was near the office work at. I'm quite introverted, so I was like, "Maybe I'll go, maybe I won't go." But I was like, "No, I need to make a commitment here, otherwise I definitely won't go." So I messaged a mate of mine and said, "Hey, I'm going to this event, do you want to come?" And then the combination of the commitment, plus having someone to fall back on between conversations with different people, it made it super easy, super fun. And just speaking as an introvert, I'm sure people listening, there might be various places on the spectrum of introversion and being extroverted, but as an introvert, I rarely ever regret it. It feels a bit daunting sometimes going into it, but on the way out, I never regret it.

Rizel Scarlett (34:30):
Yeah, I love that. And wait, you just reminded me of something. I haven't had to go to a in-person meetup in so long, because Massachusetts where I live, stopped having a lot of tech meetups once the pandemic happened. A lot of them haven't been revamped, or they only have maybe two or three people showing up. But I do agree with bringing a friend, that always did help. And then another thing that I did, which I don't know if this sounds weird, but I will look at who's on the list of speakers and who's showing up. And I'd be like, "Okay, my goal is to talk to this one or two people", and then I would know I accomplished what I needed to.

Alex Booker (35:11):
I like that so much. Well, we're almost out of time unfortunately, but I was hoping just in closing, we could get your advice for anybody who's starting their career as a developer, learning to code or trying to get their first job. What's some of the most important things that helped you that our listeners might find interesting?

Rizel Scarlett (35:28):
The first thing is, it's okay to switch after a while. Sometimes we look at the tech industry and we're like, which one do I start with? Do I start with data analysis, IT, software engineering, product management? I'm like, go for one of them, focus and stick to that. And then once you get an experience of what that's like and see where your strengths and weaknesses are, then you can maybe try the next career. That's what I think, at least.

Figure out how you can take those transferable skills to something that will make you feel more fulfilled. You don't have to stay in one thing forever. My other advice is, take your time. You don't have to rush the entire process. I know a lot of times in coding and software engineering, everyone's like, "Oh, I learned to code in two months, and now I'm making 500K."

Alex Booker (36:18):

Rizel Scarlett (36:18):
That's not always realistic. And it is okay to let yourself slowly learn and go on that journey, because it'll prepare you even more. You don't want to jump into being a senior engineer, because that's just so much pressure. It's okay to start small and then grow little by little. And then my last thought is, save moments that you've accomplished something, any small win. That way, when you're having a bad day or not feeling too positive about your work or the value that you're bringing, you can look back at those wins and be like, "Okay, you know what? This is just a bad day."

Alex Booker (36:52):
Oh, I like that so much, Rizel. Well, you can maybe email yourself or something or keep a notepad document and just keep track of these things. That's a really cool idea to end on. Rizel Scarlett, thank you so much for joining me on The Scrimba Podcast.

Rizel Scarlett (37:06):
Thank you. Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun.

Jan Arsenovic (37:09):
That was The Scrimba Podcast, episode 108. Next week on the show we'll have a new developer by the name of Spencer.

Spencer Dye (37:18):
I've always been into computers. Ever since I was 13, I think, is when I put together my first computer. Always played games on computers. I mean, I just spent a lot of my time, I was an introvert in school, so spent a lot of time on it. And originally I was into design, graphic design, so I would be making logos or just doing design for various things.

And when I was in the ninth grade, the first time I ever wrote a line of code was this web development class, and I learned a little bit of HTML and CSS and we also did a little bit of Scratch or Visual Basic or something like that, visually you put code blocks together. And then I went to college. I was going to be a biology major, did that for a year, and then I decided I'm going to switch majors to accounting.

Jan Arsenovic (37:55):
Spencer is next week on The Scrimba Podcast. So if you made it this far, you could also subscribe. You can find the show wherever you get your podcasts. Make sure to check out the show notes for resources from this episode, as well as all the ways you can connect with Rizel. The show is hosted by Alex Booker. You can find his Twitter handle in the show notes. I'm Jan, the producer, and we'll be back with you next Tuesday.

Learn to Advocate for Yourself with GitHub Developer Advocate Rizel Scarlett
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