Ask Better Questions, Get Better Jobs: How Spencer Sped up His Interview Process and Got an Offer Only Four Days after the First Interview

Spencer Dye (00:00):
Every interview I was doing as me getting ready, learning and growing for the right opportunities. So every interview before that, I would just get a little better, get a little better. And when I came to this one, I was feeling confident and I already had been in enough interviews where I just knew the questions I needed to ask.

Alex Booker (00:14):
Hello and welcome to the Scrimba podcast. On this weekly show, we speak with successful developers about their advice on how to learn to code and get your first job as a developer. I'm your host, Alex Booker, and today I'm joined by Spencer Dye, a recently hired junior developer. Spencer started his journey into Textum years ago with an interesting graphic design and then later Webflow, which is a no-code website builder. It wasn't long though before Spencer ran into the limitations of Webflow and taught himself to code on Scrimer and stayed consistent using a habit tracker.

Building on his related experience and using an efficient job hunting strategy, which you will learn in this episode. It took Spencer just five months to land his first role, which is pretty amazing. I'm really excited for you to learn from Spencer's experience firsthand, but first I need to quickly remind you, if you enjoy the episode, you share it with a friend learning to code. It helps this free podcast more than you know, and we appreciate your support as we set out to produce the best podcast for anyone learning to code. With all that said, this is Spencer Dye, let's get into it.

Spencer Dye (01:25):
I've always been to computers, ever since I was like 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 kind of a introvert in school, so spent a lot of time on it. And originally I was into design, like graphic design. So I would be making logos or just doing design for various things. And of course when you're doing design, you're kind of in a parallel world with development, especially like web development. So I've always known that it existed. 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 it's like that was the first taste I ever had of it.

Alex Booker (02:06):
Ninth grade in America. How old is that?

Spencer Dye (02:08):
14, 15 years old.

Alex Booker (02:10):
Oh wow, that was pretty young.

Spencer Dye (02:11):
But it was just minor. It was a class, I enjoyed it and forgot most of what I did there like two years later. It didn't really matter.

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. And I didn't necessarily enjoy that. But in the meantime, and during over the summer, I actually used this tool, I don't know if you've ever heard of, it's called Webflow. It's essentially a web development tool, but you're not really writing code. But that tool gave me a really, really good introduction to the basics and fundamentals of CSS and HTML because the box model, it's a kind of hard thing for some people to wrap their heads around. But the way that this tool introduced it made it really easy for me to get comfortable with. And all of the CSS properties are the same. So I understood what the properties did. So when it came time for me to want to transition to code, it was a lot easier, I feel like I forgot a big advantage because I had a really good background to work from.

Alex Booker (03:03):
That's so interesting. I'd never thought about Webflow as a more visual tool to help you understand underlying DOM concepts. The box model.

Spencer Dye (03:12):
It's kind of crazy. Yeah.

Alex Booker (03:13):
Because padding, margin, all those kind of things, you're just configuring them with an interface as opposed to with code. But then when you start to learn CSS, in this case, you can just focus on the syntax. You already understand the concept.

Spencer Dye (03:24):
Exactly. Yeah. So that's my first taste of it. Because I already was doing freelance design work, and so I was like, "Oh, maybe I can do freelance web design." Because Webflow's not coding and people who don't know how to code can use Webflow. I mean, not maybe as proficient as someone who knows how to code, but you could use it. So I was starting to use that and every so often there was some limitations I'd hit and I'd have to use some custom code and I was like, "Oh, this is interesting."

And then eventually after doing some work, I was working for this agency doing work with Webflow, and I decided that I didn't want to go to college anymore because I didn't want to be an accountant. I was already making a little bit of money doing Webflow design, and I was like, I know there's this thing where you can learn to be a fun developer. I have to learn JavaScript, but I think I could do it. And I just decided that that was something I wanted to do.

So I sat down for a few weeks and I went through all of the basic web development modules and free code camp to really solidify my HTML and CSS skills. And that was pretty easy to me because Webflow taught me a lot of that stuff. And then when it came to the JavaScript side, I was completely green, I had no experience writing any sort of JavaScript. And that's when I found Scrimba and that was a game changer for me because the way that it was taught allowed me to feel like I had an actual instructor. And it was funny because I thought the instructors on Scrimba did a better job teaching me the information I was learning than some of my instructors I had in college.

Alex Booker (04:38):
Oh, no way. That's awesome to hear.

Spencer Dye (04:39):

Alex Booker (04:40):
How did you go about devising your own curriculum, I guess? Because you started with Free Code Camp, switched to Scrimba. Somehow I get the impression you were still doing some of your projects and stuff on the side.

Spencer Dye (04:51):
I was, yeah.

Alex Booker (04:51):
So how did you plan your day and manage your studies?

Spencer Dye (04:54):
I would say not as organized as I could have, but I think I was just so enthusiastic about reaching the goal that I kind of overcame my disorganization. And so I would just make sure mentally to be like, okay, this is something I need to work on, and I would push myself to sit down and get started on it. But when it came to the Free Code Camp thing, I just followed the different little modules that they had there. But when I came to Scrimba, I wanted to make sure I didn't just start a module of the JavaScript course and then not touch it for weeks. I was like, I made sure I did it every single day. Which was hard at first, but then after a while it became easy.

Alex Booker (05:25):
It's like a habit. You start building up a streak and then you get to a point where somehow it's easier to keep going than break your streak because you work so hard to get there.

Spencer Dye (05:34):
Exactly. I had a printout habit tracker on my wall.

Alex Booker (05:36):
No way. That's such a good idea.

Spencer Dye (05:38):
And you can make one and you don't need to print one out, but I printed one out because I'm not very good at making straight lines with my hands, so I would just put an X every single time. I think my criteria was an hour or 30 minutes of learning, and then eventually that raised up. My advice to people would be always start extremely small to the point where it's impossible to fail. So if it's five minutes, then it's five minutes and then work up from there. But don't set lofty goals of like two hours because it's going to be hard to hit, and then when you don't hit it, you'll feel guilty and then you'll kind of dig yourself in a hole.

Alex Booker (06:05):
I happen to use a habit tracker myself on my phone called Everyday, so I'm happy to recommend that for people to check out as well. But in general, really solid idea I think. What were some of the challenges you face teaching yourself to code?

Spencer Dye (06:17):
I think I really majorly underutilized the Scrimba Discord because I just never used it, I don't know why. I just never reached out when I have problems. So I think the challenge I had was like, oh, I could probably solve this problem if I had someone to talk to, but I just didn't allow myself to do that. So I kind of had to resort to Google, which is a really good skill as a developer to have. So I guess that benefited to me, but it made it difficult at times to be like, I have no idea how I'm going to solve this problem and I don't have anyone to talk to. So I guess I just have to keep trying. And I would get frustrated, but it taught me how to overcome and not give up on these problems.

Alex Booker (06:51):
I mean, you look at a curriculum for a course or for a program, and there are all these modules, right? HTML, CSS, whatever, maybe algorithms and data structures and even sections on getting a job. But the one section you never see, over two sections you never see is how to Google things effectively and how to stick at problems when you get stuck. I feel like those are two implicit things that every developer has to learn at some point. But it's not the kind of thing you sit down and study, it's the kind of thing you build through experience. So probably it doesn't belong in those curriculums anyway, but nonetheless, you have to learn them.

Spencer Dye (07:24):
Exactly. Problem solving is, I would say, the most important skill you could have as a developer. I mean really in life, but especially as a developer. I mean being able to solve problems independently and be confronted with something that's what you think is immovable at the time, but then you're able to overcome it just by persistence really.

Alex Booker (07:40):
That's such a good feeling, by the way, solving a problem you didn't think you could solve.

Spencer Dye (07:45):
A hundred percent. Sitting down and being like, "Oh, I have no idea how I'm going to do this. It's not possible." And then after you just kind of dig into it, you're like, "Oh, I solved that quicker than I ever thought I could."

Alex Booker (07:53):
How long did it take you to learn to code at a hireable level? And say you took your own advice here and asked for help more often, what impact do you think that would've had on your timeline?

Spencer Dye (08:02):
I think it would've shortened my timeline. Because I had the Webflow background, from when I first started using Free Code Camp, like those modules, I think that was February of 2022. But then I was kind of intermittent when I would do it. But when I really, really committed to doing it every single day was early April of 2022 is when I hit Scrimba. And then I got my job in early September. So I mean, it took me like five months from when I committed fully to when I got hired. But I felt like I could have been hired a little bit earlier than that, so maybe like four, but it worked out really well.

Jan Arsenovic (08:35):
Coming up, transferrable skills and why are they important?

Spencer Dye (08:39):
Everyone has specific advantages that other people don't have, so you have to take stock of what you're good at.

Alex Booker (08:44):
I'll be right back with Spencer in just a second, but first Jan, the producer, and I want to read some of your comments from last week.

Jan Arsenovic (08:51):
First of all, a big shout-out to everybody doing a hundred days of code and listening to the Scrimba podcast. Currently on Twitter, we have Thomas Pritchard, we have Blake Toliver, and we have Gurick who on his day 32 tweeted, "What tech Twitter podcasts do you listen to? These are very informative and motivational. The Scrimba podcast, Free Code Camp and Code Newbie." Thank you. You put us in a very good company.

Also a big shout out to [inaudible 00:09:21], I hope I'm pronouncing it right, who's learning and doing projects in Scrimba, listening to the podcast and tweeting about all of it. Emmanuel F Kuma tweeted, "Developers needing help on job hunting, acing interviews, and creating great resumes should listen to Randall Kanna's Scrimba podcast on becoming a standout developer. It's a real goldmine." And over on LinkedIn, Boris [inaudible 00:09:43] said, "Since I started listening to the Scrimba podcast, I've got another layer of motivation. There's good advice, there's so much knowledge shared and there are insightful success stories. Thank you, Scrimba." Those would be my picks for this week. What'd you think?

Alex Booker (09:57):
No. Yeah, it's incredible to see all the supports on social media. We really appreciate it when people share a link to the episode or give the Scrimba podcast a shout-out on social media or sometimes in comments, some places like Dev2 and Hashnote, that's really cool to see as well.

A little tip for social media is that people tend not to click off the platform, so if you just share a link to the episode, that isn't really going to go very far because Twitter ultimately don't want people to leave the platform. And just in this day and age, people don't tend to click a tweet that says, "Hey, check out this episode." Unless they've been looking forward to it or know the person. But what people do really appreciate, and I think it earns you more followers and get more engagement and help you meet new people on social media while also supporting the podcast, is to share your key learnings like a takeaway or something that resonated with you or ask a follow-up question.

Make sure to tag me, my username is BookerCodes, you can always find it in the show notes. I'm going to be retweeting five tweets next week, at least, that mention the podcast and get the conversation started. We're really trying quite actively to bring the community a little bit closer together here, instead of making this a podcast where we just talk one way, [inaudible 00:11:05] directionally. We're really trying to stimulate that conversation and we hope you'll be a part of it.

Jan Arsenovic (11:09):
All right. Once again, Alex's Twitter handle is in the show notes. And now we're back to the interview with Spencer.

Alex Booker (11:17):
A lot of people when they are learning to code or complete a curriculum, they wonder, "Am I ready to start applying?" And actually it kind of catches them by surprise sometimes because you've got your head down coding and then all of a sudden you're like, "Crap, I need to get a job." Getting a job is a skill in and of itself. How would you think about an approach getting your first developer job, Spencer?

Spencer Dye (11:35):
The thing that I would want to know like back at the beginning of my search is that interviewing and finding good opportunities is a skill that I will a hundred percent get better at when I put time in, just like coding. When we all started coding, we're beginners, we didn't know what we were doing. But now a lot of us are a lot better than we used to be because we just put in the time and the effort. And the same thing applies to interviewing and being able to find the good opportunities and understand which opportunities you should apply for and which ones you should not apply for. Because there's those kind of opportunities that exist that you just don't want because there's jobs out there that are worse than other jobs.

Alex Booker (12:07):
Well, maybe they're just not that exciting to you. What do you think about this argument about focusing on a handful of jobs where you can genuinely feel like there's a good fit and a good chance versus people who apply to hundreds and hundreds doing easy apply?

Spencer Dye (12:20):
I think that you might feel better. I mean, mathematically, if you focus on quality opportunities, then your rate of success in terms of interviews, is going to be higher than if you just blast out a whole bunch of applications. Because even when you know you're applying to a hundred jobs and you only expect to hear back from three because they're low quality jobs, you still get a small feeling of rejection from each one, and that builds up. So if you want to not feel that, then I would say focus on higher quality opportunities.

Alex Booker (12:46):
I'm actually reflecting on the message you wrote in the, I got hired Scrimba discord channel when you got the job for the first time. And you spoke a little bit about your top tips, which were to not be afraid to put yourself out there and believe in yourself and overall be consistent, even in the face of rejection. Amazing advice, I love it. And it's the kind of thing that we hear and we think, "Yes, of course, this makes so much sense." But then the emotional side of it is not always so easy to wrangle. Do you remember how you felt during your job fencing process? And how did you deal with the emotional side of things didn't quite go your way?

Spencer Dye (13:18):
Sometimes I'd feel like ecstatic because I would think, "Oh, I'm getting theses. I have three interviews this week." And sometimes I wouldn't have any, and I would feel terrible. What really helped me, this I think I haven't heard anyone talk about on the podcast, is to have some sort of personal philosophy or established philosophy that you kind of live by.

So for me it was Stoicism. And Stoicism is really big on worrying about what you can control. And so for me, the emotions will always be there. If you're getting rejected, if you do bad in an interview, if you feel like you're not getting any responses. You can control those things a bit, maybe you can optimize your resume or you can prepare more or you can continue to learn coding, get better in interviews. But at the end of the day, a lot of these things are out of your control and you just have to derive your happiness and success from the things that you can't control. So it's like if you've been putting in the hours every day, if you've been sending the applications out, if you've been revising, then you should feel as good as you do when you get an interview, even if you don't. Because really at the end of the day, you have to put your energy into the things you can control and you can't just worry and that's not going to change anything for you.

Alex Booker (14:16):
And on the flip side, really good things you didn't expect can happen as well. That's kind of out of your control in a way.

Spencer Dye (14:23):
Oh yeah.

Alex Booker (14:23):
Did anything surprise you about your job search?

Spencer Dye (14:25):
Yes, I got some interviews with some companies and some positions that I didn't think was possible. I interviewed with a couple of pretty big well known companies, and so I was pretty surprised. I mean, because I was able to leverage my experience working with Webflow. Because I was working as a web developer in a way with a team, and I think that was relevant experience that I was lucky to have that most people don't have that. But what surprised me was that I still got the opportunity to interview with these companies. And then there was some opportunities that the whole process, the multiple interview rounds would span over a month. Whereas the job I ended up getting hired, I had my first interview on a Monday and it ended up getting an offer on a Friday. And it's like the job I ended up getting was the easiest process versus the ones I didn't get were the most, I would say, difficult processes.

Alex Booker (15:06):
Why you think that is?

Spencer Dye (15:07):
That's a great question. I think there's a lot of factors that go into that. I think one is the company itself. I mean, some companies don't really have their stuff together when it comes to hiring, it's kind of a mess. But I think this particular situation was because I connected well with who's now my boss, but at the time was my interviewer. I think kind of all of my previous interviews and my previous failures and learnings kind of all compounded and allowed me to really do well in the initial interview. And I think starting from there, he was more enthusiastic to move forward with me because he thought I was a good candidate and we connected and ended up getting hired at the end of the week.

Alex Booker (15:39):
I mean, it is the grease for the wheels. If you have a good connection, if there is a good fit. I think big companies, they have more defined processes, it's hard as they go outside of those, there's more bureaucracy. But a smaller and mid-size businesses, I feel like there are opportunities to accelerate the process and they will take those opportunities if they're keen on the candidate and they're worried about maybe you're interviewing elsewhere, they're worried about missing their opportunity. There's no point dilly daddling, essentially, when both sides see a good fit, you might as well just move ahead full steam. So maybe you are feeling the effects of that a little bit?

Spencer Dye (16:10):
Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, you could just tell when some companies are like, yeah, they don't really care how the interactions go with the candidates. They're just sticking to the book. Whereas some are just like, wow, I enjoyed talking to that candidate. I felt like they're a good candidate, I want to move forward quicker. Because they understand that they could lose a candidate because drawing a job interview process over a month is a good chance that someone might offer them before that.

Alex Booker (16:30):
Yeah, yeah, a hundred percent. Tell us, Spencer, a little bit about the company and the role you're working now.

Spencer Dye (16:36):
Yeah, so the company I work for, they own a whole bunch of different financial lending brands all across the United States, and I'm working in the marketing department and I'm developing all the marketing websites for this company. So we have designers, copywriters, the whole team, and essentially I'm the end. And so I get the designs and I develop the product into a working thing.

Alex Booker (16:56):
Do you think that your experience of design has helped you in this role? Because I guess on one hand you're being prescribed these designs, so I wonder if it even helps to have that design experience.

Spencer Dye (17:06):
Oh yeah, a hundred percent. Especially when the designer kind of gives you just like, oh, the mobile versions and the desktop versions. And I'm really good at inferring what things should look like in between, like tablet versions or the smaller break points that kind of get forgotten.

Alex Booker (17:18):
Go back 10 years, you maybe had a wide screen view and a narrow screen view or something. And probably this was a time before factor tools like Sketch and Figma, so you got a Photoshop file and the designer tried to imagine every use case. But today, view ports come in every single size, and there are so many interactions on the page that to prescribe every minor detail via a design file is just not practical or realistic. I think as a developer you can bring a lot to the table if you can also bridge the gap and like you say, infer the middle parts, the in between.

Spencer Dye (17:49):
Yeah. And I think that was one thing that maybe was my advantage in the interviews is I interviewed with my boss and then one of the designers and I talked about how I had a background in design and I think him knowing that ... usually he said there was a big disconnect for him in past developers he worked with when it came to understanding where he was coming from and where the developer was coming from. And that's a constant battle. The designer wants this really cool thing, the developer's like, that's going to be too hard. But I think him knowing that I had a design background made him feel more at ease that I could be empathetic to what he wants.

Alex Booker (18:18):
I guess I'll point out that you are working on the marketing team doing things like landing pages, it sounds like, and you're describing a great fit, basically. Your particular profile for this particular role was perfect. I would say to someone listening who isn't as great at design, perhaps, there might be an equally great fit for you, it might just look a little bit different.

Spencer Dye (18:37):
Yeah, exactly. I mean, you just have to take stock of what skills and what ... because everyone has specific advantages that other people don't have. Everyone is different, of course, so people are going to be better at different things. And so you have to take stock of what you're good at and what you can offer that other people can. You have to leverage that.

Alex Booker (18:52):
I'm really excited to learn a bit more about what the interview process looked like and how you're getting on. But what do you say, we do a quick round of quickfire questions first?

Spencer Dye (19:00):
Oh yeah, let's go for it.

Alex Booker (19:04):
All right, man. Who is your favorite coding teacher or your favorite coding course that comes to mind from recent history?

Spencer Dye (19:10):
Pair the JavaScript course.

Alex Booker (19:11):
And what was your first coding language apart from scratch, I guess?

Spencer Dye (19:15):
JavaScript. Well, I guess HTML, but I mean one that actually has types and logic, the JavaScript.

Alex Booker (19:20):
That's always a divisive topic, but I'm with you. What about in the future? Are there any technologies or programming languages you're excited to learn next?

Spencer Dye (19:27):
I'm continuing down the path though, I want to be a full stack developer. So I need to learn node more than I know now, and Java maybe even. We have some legacy sites that are built with .NET, so that's C sharp and that's something I want to learn. I also want to learn Python because you can build a lot of great backend tools with Python.

Alex Booker (19:44):
Do you follow or look up to anyone in the tech or design community we should know about and can follow and look up to as well? Maybe on Twitter or YouTube or something?

Spencer Dye (19:53):
Yeah, let me pull up my YouTube subscriptions really quick. So we have one channel called Web Dev Simplified. This guy's really great. He teaches you basics, he teaches you concepts, he has projects, and this guy does a really great job. If you want to be better at design, there's a channel called Design Course.

Alex Booker (20:07):
That's Gary Simon, right?

Spencer Dye (20:08):
Exactly. Yeah.

Alex Booker (20:09):
Yeah, he's got Scrimba courses.

Spencer Dye (20:10):
He's really great. I mean, he even teaches some web development, so I would say him. And then another great channel is Traversy Media, I would say he's very underrated. He has a lot of great courses and a lot of really relevant courses. I would say that's my top three.

Alex Booker (20:21):
Let me ask you a few questions about how you like to work and code. When you're coding, do you prefer coding in the morning or nighttime?

Spencer Dye (20:26):
I prefer coding in the morning. But it's funny because I usually end up coding late at night when I'm less productive, but morning is always better for me, for sure.

Alex Booker (20:33):
What about tea or coffee to fuel your work sessions?

Spencer Dye (20:35):
Right now I'm drinking coffee, but a good English breakfast tea [inaudible 00:20:39].

Alex Booker (20:39):
That makes me very proud as a Britain interviewer. And what kind of music do you listen to while you're coding? Or do you prefer to play on hard mode and code in silence?

Spencer Dye (20:46):
I listen to a lot of different music. Sometimes I listen to ambient noises, rain sounds or lofi music.

Alex Booker (20:52):
Just stimulating enough to eliminate distractions but not distracting in itself.

Spencer Dye (20:56):
Exactly. Yeah.

Alex Booker (20:57):
All right, Spencer, thank you. That's all for the quickfire questions. Thanks for being such a great sports. Let's get back into the interview a little bit.

And I did actually want to kind of come back to the beginning in a way, because I remember early in the interview you described sort of doing graphic design and then doing coding very briefly at school before studying biology and then going on to do accounting. And now you finally ended up doing coding. Talk to us a little bit about how you chose a career in coding.

Spencer Dye (21:23):
Yeah, I think the coding came from me doing Webflow, which came from me doing design. Because it was kind of a double transition. So Webflow is a transition from design and coding is a transition from Webflow. But I didn't jump straight from design to coding. So I would say I kind of always was looking up for the next good opportunity and I felt that when I was a designer, that Webflow would be a great opportunity. And then when I was doing Webflow, I was like, oh, front end developer. I actually really like this coding side more than the design side. And so then again, I just pivoted to that.

Alex Booker (21:50):
So you kind of pick coding because you liked it basically.

Spencer Dye (21:53):

Alex Booker (21:54):
No, I mean that's a great reason, don't get me wrong. You have to coding to enjoy the tough parts as well as enjoy the great parts of coding. But you didn't talk about the career side of things, which I think is interesting. Coding can afford you a lot of really cool professional opportunities.

Spencer Dye (22:08):
Yes. So of course I knew about the earning potential being a developer. I mean that's one of the best perks I would say. But it just wasn't my number one motivating factor because I knew that there's so many avenues in life if you really, really want to, to make a lot of money. And so I was just like, I don't want to sell myself short for maybe what I think is a quick fix for money and then be miserable. So I was really first focusing on what I liked and then finding opportunities to make money doing that. And I just happened to like something that is pretty easy to make money with. So I was pretty lucky.

Alex Booker (22:37):
Webflow is pretty powerful these days. There are even, believe it or not, people listening, there are full-time Webflow jobs available. They're maybe not as prevalent as coding jobs, they're more specialized. But they're there and they pay well. Why didn't you stick to Webflow? I mean, sounds like you were getting on pretty well with it, but you chose to move on and drop down a level to do the code.

Spencer Dye (22:54):
Right. So when I was doing the Webflow stuff, actually I was looking at Webflow jobs. But then when I would search Webflow developer, I would just inevitably get more results for front end developer. And I was just like, I want to improve by chances, I should learn how to code. It's a pretty great skill to have. And then I realized too, I felt kind of limited and I'm kind of the person that always likes to go a level deeper. And so for me, coding allowed me to have way more control, whereas Webflow, you kind of are stuck in the limitations that the developers of Webflow allow you to use. And so I really like the feeling of having complete freedom in what I want to build.

Alex Booker (23:25):
Yeah, and now I think about it, they are Webflow jobs because some companies have just committed to Webflow and they're using it throughout their whole public facing website or something. But I doubt they're true technology companies because you're not going to build a backend inventory management system with Webflow or a custom point of sales system or something like that. It's really for kind of static-ish, frontend websites such as landing pages and informational pages. So I guess by nature, that's already a very small subset of all the businesses out there. And then I think for the kind of business that really does just need an informational page, to be honest, you are going to hire a freelancer to do it. So freelancing of Webflow sounds like it could be an incredibly profitable type of business that there are just much, much less jobs for in-house Webflow people than developers.

Spencer Dye (24:15):
Exactly. There's great opportunities and if you want to be Webflow developer, and that's more some people's speed, if they're like actually, you know I like being a web developer, but Webflow is what I like to use. More power to you and you could definitely find success doing that. That's just not what I wanted to do.

Alex Booker (24:29):
All right. So coming back to the kind of main theme of the interview, I guess, about your journey into tech. You described a really rapid turnaround, actually, from the first interview on a Monday to getting the offer on a Friday. Can you talk us through the process a bit? What the steps in the interview process were. And maybe give us an idea about what kind of questions they asked you and how you best prepared?

Spencer Dye (24:51):
I applied to that job on Indeed, which for me when I got replies for Indeed, I thought that was more rare because there was always so many applicants. And my boss actually told me that when I had applied, there was maybe 400 other people that had applied and he only saw half those applications for some reason, and he happened to see me.

Alex Booker (25:07):

Spencer Dye (25:07):
Yeah, I mean really just the chances, right? I don't know. I was pretty lucky again. You have to put yourself in a position to get lucky, you have to keep putting yourself out there.

Alex Booker (25:14):
Not to deflect too much from your answer, but Indeed is like that by nature, I think. You get a lot of non-technical people applying to everything and it sounds like polluting the hiring pipeline.

Spencer Dye (25:24):
That's kind of also why people should apply on different channels. I got an email and he's like, "Hey, I'd love to connect." And I think at that point, I really felt like at the end of my journey, I really felt like I'd already gotten my job even though I hadn't. I just felt like accomplished. I had gotten all these interviews and I felt like I was having more success, I felt I was very close. And so at that point I was already in the process for a couple of other jobs and he reached out and I was like, "Oh cool, another one." And I had a Monday morning like phone screen interview and I was committed to really making an impact. So I was just asked this guy so many questions that we ended up talking for an hour. And he actually relayed to me later that that was one of the reasons why he wanted to hire me because he said I seemed very logical because I asked a lot of questions.

Alex Booker (26:03):
What kind of questions did you ask?

Spencer Dye (26:04):
Everything. I mean I was asking him about the technology they used, I was asking him what their processes, what the team looked like, where he wanted to go with things. Because at that point, I had just become a lot more knowledgeable than I was just a month or two prior. And so I was able to talk in depth in some terms of that I wasn't able to talk in just a few months.

Alex Booker (26:21):
That was a great move, like showing as much interest as possible in the role. What happened next?

Spencer Dye (26:25):
We had a second interview, I think it was on a Wednesday. That was with me and then one of our designers, and that was a really great interview. The designer, he's a really great guy, a lot of fun to talk to. We connected about my background in design, we connected about the fact that I used to work for an agency, he worked for an agency. So we kind of talked about how hectic it can be. And I think that kind of showed my manager that I was a good fit for the team and he told me that they like to hire for fit.

So I think the fact that I was also focusing on making a human connection was really important. Because I think one thing we all forget when we're interviewing for these jobs is that we're really just talking to other people. Yeah, we might put them on this pedestal because they have a job and they're going to hire us, but at the end of the day they're just people. And so what we really need to focus on is finding a way to connect with them, as well, like really. Even if it's outside of coding.

Alex Booker (27:07):
It's funny how the dynamic shifts from that interview where you're in the interview seat, they are in control in that situation, but then when you join the team, you're very much level and you're there together to achieve objectives and move the needle. And it is just interesting remembering the that's going to make up the mass majority of the relationship. And so connecting on the human level, I think, is spot on.

Spencer Dye (27:27):
A hundred percent. And I think it was really big too is at that point, I kind of was like in a mindset where I was like, they're interviewing me but I'm interviewing them just as much. I need to make sure this is a great opportunity for me. So I didn't feel ... like the pressure kind of alleviates when you kind of put it that way, when you're like, oh, I'm also asking them questions. And I asked them a few questions where it kind of had them thinking a little bit, put them on their heels a little bit because they're like, "Oh, no one really ever asks us that." So I would say put a lot of focus on asking good in-depth questions. Those are some questions that I had maybe prepared before or thought about before, but the more you ask those questions, the better you'll get at asks them on the spot.

Alex Booker (27:59):
I think there's two levels to your advice there and it's really interesting because I think everybody listening should follow level one, which is ask probing questions that demonstrate you're interested in the business and we'll help you move closer to being excited about the role when you can see all these fears. Plus don't forget you're gathering intel, as well, because as you learn what's important to them in, say, step one of the interview. In step two, you can emphasize that to the next interviewer who probably shares the same pain points and values. You can ask your interviewer, what's some of the biggest challenges for the design team is facing right now? And you might not have a lot to say about it right then, but you're going to go away, you're going to come back and have that second conversation with the designer, you can be more prepared.

And then the second level, which is a bit more advanced, I think, and it's a lot easier to feel confident and comfortable doing it once you've already been in the industry for a minute, I think. But it's really just kind of like, okay, they're going to give you a hard time and ask you some really hard questions. Tell me about a time you had a conflict and you resolved it. Tell me how you live up to our company values and all these things. I think it's really healthy actually to then challenge the company and say, "Hey, how do you enforce these values? Can you tell me about a time where you've lived up to this expectation in terms of the culture and things like that?" It's hard to navigate unless you've been in that environment before. I feel like that's why I categorize it as a bit more advanced. But fundamentally what you're saying, Spencer, which I think everybody should take away from this episode, is to have a two-way conversation.

Spencer Dye (29:20):
Yeah, I mean you have to give it to him a little bit. I mean you have to show that you're not afraid and you have to show that you're willing to put them on the spot because that shows that you're someone who can stand up for yourself and people want to work with people like that. Everyone wants to work with someone that they trust can handle themselves and that shows that.

Alex Booker (29:35):
Did they put you through the ringer at all when it came to your technical chops? Where did that come into things?

Spencer Dye (29:40):
No, they really didn't at all. That's the funny thing. This job was like, I'm not even make any technical questions. They maybe asked me my background, what's your background with this? But they didn't really drill me at all. But there were other interviews if we want to talk about them, where I definitely got grilled big time.

Alex Booker (29:53):
Why'd you think they didn't want to make you do a coding interview or something like that? Or bring a take on task in.

Spencer Dye (29:58):
I believe that would just come down to who my manager is. He's just a really chill guy. And again, you're working with people, so people are going to be different. And this is a mid-size company, so we have more leniency in the process and he just decided that he didn't want to do that, I guess.

Alex Booker (30:13):
They don't want to hire someone who can't do the job. So why do you think his confidence was high enough already?

Spencer Dye (30:18):
Because I had some experience before, working with an agency. And I think that kind of soothed his apprehensions. As well as I had a portfolio that he could look at and look at my code and look at what I was capable of, as well.

Alex Booker (30:31):
Perfect. I think that's one of the most important reasons to come prepared ahead of your job search with some projects and some demonstrable experience, even if it's not paid. Because at the end of the day they can look at your Giza profile and see your contributions. They can read your blog post, your stack overflow answers or whatever and see how you write and think about problems. Sometimes we joke at Scrimba that this is the diploma of the 21st century. This combination of online profiles because they prove that you can do the job in a way.

And then the interview process, I guess, with challenges and things, I think there's a few factors that go into it that are not just proving your coding skills. That is definitely part of it, but obviously you have a track record online a lot of the time or work experience supported by references, so they should be able to believe you can do the job in some way. But then they might want you to do the job in a specific way, and if that's the case, the interview process might be designed to prove you can adapt to their way of working.

For example, everyone knows that for web development, data structures and algorithms, it's not the most important thing ever. It comes up quite rarely and in specialized cases. Yet companies like Google and Amazon, they really emphasize this in the interview process and I think it's mostly just to check, hey, can you fit within our way of working? We really do value and care about these things. If you don't agree, then maybe you're not a good fit here.

I think another element of it is if they have a lot of applicants for the same job, they might want to find a way to differentiate you and give them a great talking point. And maybe just see how much you want it, as well. If you get a take on task and it's very easy to jump on the call and have a few conversations and be charming and sound good and all that kind of stuff. But obviously if you get given a take on task or some kind of challenge and you're not willing to put in a few hours to prepare for it, that's going to speak volumes to how much you really care about the opportunity. And that's going to help them, I think, prioritize who to take forward in the process and how to approach giving you an offer and things like that.

Anyway, I'm just saying all this because it's not just about proving your coding skills, that's not the only thing. They ultimately have a set of questions and problems that they need to solve and improve their confidence with. There are multiple ways to achieve this. And it sounds like in your case, the company were quite flexible about how you like to work and assured by some of your previous track record and work experience.

Spencer Dye (32:38):
Yeah, exactly. And I think the fact that we connected well, all of us, was a big factor in how smoothly the whole process went.

Alex Booker (32:45):
You mentioned that when you got into the first interview, you came prepared with a lot of questions. Did you do that for all of your interviews? Or was there a reason in particular you felt like you wanted to prepare a bit more for this interview?

Spencer Dye (32:56):
No, I didn't. This was kind of just a culmination of all of the previous interviews. Essentially I kind of viewed every interview I was doing as me getting ready, learning and growing for the right opportunities. So every interview before that, I would just get a little better, get a little better. And when I came to this one, I kind of was just like, I was feeling confident and I already had been in enough interviews where I just knew the questions I needed to ask and I had a go-to when my mind came to a blank for some reason, I kind of had a go-to that I could just fall back on.

Alex Booker (33:23):
That's, again, just a massive testament to why it's so important to warm up and practice getting a job as a skill.

Spencer Dye (33:29):
A hundred percent.

Alex Booker (33:30):
Something else you pointed out that I wanted to make sure we pick up on before we wrap up here is your advice to apply on different channels. What is a channel and what do you mean by that?

Spencer Dye (33:40):
So what I mean by a channel is essentially different platforms or maybe even different mediums. So I didn't do this, but some people live in areas where there's a lot of great opportunities for networking. Whether that be code conferences, I'm serious, there's code conferences. Look them up, they're probably somewhere around you within driving distance at least. There's areas like that, that you can go and you could find people or you can apply on LinkedIn, apply on Glassdoor or apply on Indeed. Really just increasing your chances with every different place you're putting your application out there.

Alex Booker (34:07):
So you would advise someone to apply on Indeed, but also maybe go on the company's website and apply directly?

Spencer Dye (34:12):
Oh, yeah.

Alex Booker (34:13):
Or even on LinkedIn. Because companies post the same job on several platforms typically.

Spencer Dye (34:16):
Yeah. I mean they're not going to disqualify you because you apply for the same job on their website on LinkedIn and on Indeed. I mean if anything, it shows that you're thorough and you can find ways to stand out. So I would say it's probably only going to work to your benefit.

Alex Booker (34:28):
Yeah, I think that's a good shout in moderation, especially used as a tactic on platforms like Indeed. Or if you see on LinkedIn, but there are hundreds of applicants, you might listen to an episode like this and realize exactly what you said, Spencer, which is that that's a lot of people to sift through and even if you're a great candidate, you might fall through the cracks. So take it in your own hands and apply on a couple of platforms, maximize your chance of being seen.

Spencer Dye (34:49):

Alex Booker (34:49):
What do you reckon, Spencer? Just to wrap up, I want to hear the advice you wish you had when you started coding and on this job hunting journey. Does anything come to mind?

Spencer Dye (34:58):
I have a couple things. So one thing is, again, that you will get better. So if you have a bad interview, if you feel like you're not getting responses, you just have to keep going, you have to keep putting the reps just like in the gym. I mean, you're going to get stronger, you're going to get better. The only way you're going to do that is by actually doing it. You can't avoid it, you just have to keep pushing, keep trying. Every single day you have to put that effort out there and one day you're going to look up, you're going to realize you've come pretty far. You just have to be persistent, really. Like there's no way you're going to fail, the only way you're going to fail is if you just give up.

My second thing that I would say I wish I knew is I would always kind of feel anxious or stressed that maybe I wouldn't get an opportunity or that I would mess up a good opportunity when it came to an interview. And I just kind of overcame this by focusing on the microsteps needed to achieve my goal. So if that is applying for jobs, like, okay, I'm not getting opportunities, then I put all my focus in on, today, I'm going to do a really good job at finding good opportunities, identifying them, and then crafting my resume specifically for that job or crafting my cover letter specifically for that job. So that I maybe just increase my chances, even if it's marginally, I increase my chances and that's going to really work to my benefit in the long run.

Alex Booker (35:59):
Amazing stuff. Spencer, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story. It's been an absolute pleasure mate. Until next time.

Spencer Dye (36:05):
Til next time.

Jan Arsenovic (36:07):
That was the Scrimba podcast, episode 109. Thank you for listening. And if you made it this far, please subscribe, there's a new show every Tuesday. One week we talked to a recently hired junior developer like Spencer, and another week we talked to an industry expert. So you get to learn from both sides. You can find the show wherever you listen to podcasts.

The Scrimba podcast is hosted by Alex Booker. You can find his Twitter handle in the show notes. I'm Jan the producer and we will be back with you next week.

Ask Better Questions, Get Better Jobs: How Spencer Sped up His Interview Process and Got an Offer Only Four Days after the First Interview
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