How to Get Your First Dev Job by Playing Call of Duty, with Scrimba Student Shaun

Shaun Jackie Hickman (00:00):
You have so many skills and qualities that you don't realize because it's not so obvious, it's not written on the job specification. See, if you work in a restaurant and it's super busy and you can stay relaxed, that is a good skill to have for working in code and try and take what you do have and transfer it into something that can be adaptable to multiple situations.

Alex Booker (00:19):
Hello and welcome to The Scrimba Podcast. This is a weekly show where one week I interview a recently hired junior developer and then the next week an industry expert, like a hiring manager recruiter or senior developer so that you can learn how to break into tech from both sides. I'm your host Alex Booker, and today I'm joined by Shaun Jackie Hickman, who was recently hired as a junior developer when Shaun was just 15, he knew he wanted to be an English teacher, but he didn't have the grades necessary to enroll in uni for English. He took a windy path to eventually graduate in business, but his degree didn't lead to the work opportunities that he finds fulfilling. That's around the time Shaun discovered a language other than English. I'm talking about JavaScript and Scrimba. 12 months later he was just hired, and he joins us today to share his 5:00 AM study routine job, hunting strategy, the advice he wish he knew at the beginning and how he met his now boss at a Call of Duty gaming event. Yeah, you're listening to The Scrimba Podcast. Let's get into it.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (01:29):
I definitely didn't think I was going to work in computer from when I was younger. I always had a computer when I was young, but it never really interested me in ways are working with it. I just wanted to play games on it really. I didn't have that scrappy attitude, if my computer was broke. I wouldn't try and fix that I didn't have that natural draw to it. I knew what I wanted to do since I was 15. I wanted to teach English. At uni I did business management. I wanted to do English, but I didn't have the grades. And business was okay, but my journey through higher education was very alternative. First, I went to do social sciences and then I went to do business. I failed the first one. Then I went to uni to do accountancy and law failed that. Then I switched to business and then I failed and then I left uni and went back to uni to do business and then passed and then I was going to do the post grad in higher education and then teach that.

So I was going to teach business and that was kind of the plan. But then COVID happened, and I thought computing was kind of cool. So I had this IT apprenticeship thing that I found. So do you know when you hear about people who spend loads and money on a bootcamp and there's loads of money, but it's a really good experience. Well, I paid loads of money and had an absolute fiasco of an experience.

Alex Booker (02:47):
It was.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (02:49):
I think I got scammed. I paid like 4,000 pounds and this is why I thought it was a scam. You have to pass an exam that included nine certificates, so it was like A+, A-Secure, AA Networks, Cisco, all these different certificates.

Alex Booker (03:02):
This was a bootcamp or something else?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (03:04):
I think it was a cult or something, man, honestly, it was a nightmare. It was just like a crash course thing where you learned all this stuff and when you passed you got a job, but the criteria to pass was super elevated. So I did that and it was a nightmare. So a couple of years later, the thing that reignited my desire to get into, funnily enough, do you know those videos and it's like a day in the life of a programmer and it's like 10:00 AM go surfing. So I knew that they weren't asked like that, but it did kind of get me thinking the life of a developers pretty good, the freedom. You can work anywhere. The work is challenging and creative.

So I looked at Udemy. I found a course for front end development, HTML, CSS, a little touch of JavaScript, and I used to listen to podcasts all day at my old job and I was just searching for front end development computing podcasts, and I found Scrimba. So the first interaction I ever had with Scrimba was actually the podcast before I knew it was anything else.

Alex Booker (04:08):
That's wild.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (04:09):
Yeah, it was cool, and it was really fun, and I liked it, so it kind of intrigued me. I went on the website, I think I did the first JavaScript module. The first thing I did was, do you know the Scrimba, Per does with the train counter?

Alex Booker (04:23):
Yeah, the passenger counter, classic.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (04:26):
And Per is super cool man. I like his style and his approach, and I was just going to sucked in by the personality of it. It was super friendly and just fun. I liked that. So I went down the career path and I ended up making a connection with someone from a LAN party that I went to.

Alex Booker (04:43):
Yeah, I saw in Discord you mentioned that's probably one of the most unique ways I've heard of someone meeting their now boss and getting an intro to a company.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (04:51):

Alex Booker (04:52):
I want to get into that in a second. Probably you weren't listening to podcasts for teaching English, so I guess I'm missing something there in terms of what you were doing for work before you stumbled upon coding again.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (05:02):
Yeah, the job before this was one of those massive great corporate companies where I was employee number E12B, and I was just to set my desk and can you be quiet kind of thing.

Alex Booker (05:16):
Yeah. What was the actual title?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (05:17):
I think it was customer service representative, something like that.

Alex Booker (05:20):
So kind of using some of that business knowledge to support customers.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (05:23):
I mean that's a good way of put it, but I don't know if I would describe it that way. I'm sure they would like me to describe it that way, but it was like, "Do you know one of those jobs where you feel like you're only doing it because the company helped me invested to get a computer to do it." I was like, "It was a job for a computer." It's like a back-office admin, super boring. It was okay. I mean it comes with pause. It was like I made a really good friend there and they led to other things and like I said, I could sit and listen to podcasts, and it was a good kind of stop gap. Good job for studying but not a good career job if you get me.

Alex Booker (05:54):
No, 100%. And that's just the way it goes sometimes, to be honest. You can't necessarily make the change you want in your career in one step. If you can, that's great, but I don't think that works for everybody because they have bills to pay. It just doesn't feel right. Maybe they can see a way to make it work while also working a job. Maybe they listen to podcasts when they can or conserve their energy a bit so they can invest in something that really lights them up like coding. How did you actually approach the studies then? It sounds like you mostly did the Scrimba front end developer career path with Per at all. Did you sort of do this after work on the side or was it something you could focus on full-time?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (06:30):
My study routine was pretty rigorous once I got into it. I was working full-time, and I've worked full-time since I left high school, so through all my uni in endeavors and college and everything, I've always worked full-time, which some people are like, "Oh, it's so hard to do anything when you're working." And I get it's difficult, but because it's all I've ever known, it's kind of easier for me to manage. I would wake up in the morning at 5:00 and study for maybe an hour, a couple of hours and then go to work and then I would come home, and I would do other things that I wanted to do and then I would study afterwards.

I hear a lot of advice on the... I've seen all the videos about how become a developer, and you need to only focus on coding and if you are not at work or dealing with a necessity, you should be coding. And see it doesn't really work for me because I already had loads of good habits that still benefited my life that I wasn't willing to sacrifice. I like to exercise and play music and spend time with family and I wasn't willing to sacrifice those for coding, so I just put into the time that I still had spare. I think if I just did it all day every day, I don't think I would've enjoyed it really.

Alex Booker (07:40):
Nah, man, you have to recharge a little bit in between I feel like.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (07:43):
Oh, for sure my consistency is the key. You don't want to overwhelm yourself.

Alex Booker (07:47):
How many hours a day would you say you were coding and practicing code?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (07:51):
I would say two to three hours. That wasn't every day, but two to three hours. What was my ideal kind of and a half in the morning and then same in the evening, which is a decent amount of time.

Alex Booker (08:01):
Alongside a full-time job. That's very decent. Yeah, that's great.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (08:04):
Yeah, not too bad. I found that doing it all the after work was a nightmare, which is too much. So breaking up then some in the morning worked for me.

Alex Booker (08:12):
What time did you go to bed if you were waking up at 5:00 AM?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (08:16):
I go to bed like 10:00.

Alex Booker (08:16):
Yeah, that's good. The idea of waking up in the morning early. Some people call it a power hour, just an hour to yourself at the beginning of the day with less distractions because in this digital world, less people are online, but also if you have kids for example, they're still sleeping. Maybe there's power hour to start your day. I think that's awesome. But obviously, if you're burning the candle on both ends going to bed really late as well. That sounds a bit like a recipe for burnout. Why'd you think you have this honestly, really great approach to balance and harmony when it comes to things that recharge you and obviously spending the discipline to practice a skill like coding? Obviously, we know a lot of people struggle with this, I struggle with this. There's a whole YouTube market of people making day in the life videos as sharing advice about how to optimize their life and their day. It sounds like you've got a pretty good intuition for it. Where does that come from?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (09:08):
So there's a lot of factors that motivate me to get things done. When I initially thought about getting back into coding, adjustment through a breakup and I've only had two kind of rough breakups in my life and both of them were really good for my development afterwards. We split up and I was like, "Okay, this sucks. So I need to make a significant change in my life to just make the situation better."

Alex Booker (09:30):
We're tiling this episode, Learning to Code After Heartbreak.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (09:33):
Hey, let's do them, I'll get my guitar and everything. But for real man, I was like, "This sucks." So I need to change something. It's up to me to change my environment and to make my life better. So that was one factor for sure. Another factor was in my previous job it really was rough. It was good for podcasts or whatever, but see in a job like that for me when you are just selling your time for money and it wasn't that much money. So it used to be really great on me and I was like, "I really want to do work this challenge and interesting and I really love the philosophy of technology as well." And there's so much to think about, so much to learn and potential and that was super interesting to me and definitely a factor for technology. The last thing I'll kind of say for that ability to stay driven is my dad gave me a really good piece of advice when I was young.

So he said, "What do you want to be when you're older?" And I said, "Game developer or something, just because I play playing games." And he was like, "Okay, well why don't you become an astronaut?" And I was like, "Well, I'm not really that smart." And he was like, "Okay, well, why don't you become a doctor of medicine or something like that." And we went through a couple of those and afterwards he was like, "The only thing between you and any of them is discipline really either what the excuses or whatever. But if you really want something, the only thing really in between you and that reality is just the hard work, how you committed it, can you do it?" And the reality is you, it's just a case of will you do it? And when you understand that you can pretty much do anything, then that's really freeing for me. Some people say, "Oh, I don't have a computer in mind, or I don't have an artistic mind, but I don't really see that in anybody." I think we all have an insane potential. So I want to find mine.

Alex Booker (11:18):
I feel like if you were to do something like this, if you're to do something really hard and push yourself, you need to do it over a long enough period of time that you can actually improve and learn a new skill and that has to be sustainable. And I think when you go at something a little bit too hard, despite the fact you're super eager, that can quite quickly lead to a feeling of not moving quick enough, burnout potentially. And if you zoom out enough, this actually is slower than if you take it steady doing three hours a day while also making income, oftentimes being unemployed, it can be a really scary feeling. You don't feel like you're part of society sometimes. I think it's a good way to keep on top of your mindset and you've had a really good approach to this.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (12:00):
For sure, man. It worked out. It wasn't easy. I'd say it as if it comes so naturally to me, but it's not as difficult and I'm not like a quick learner at all. So it takes me many, many times, many attempts to understand something. So if I don't do it every day, I want it happen.

Jan Arsenovic (12:16):
Coming up, Shaun's interview process took a long time, and he was okay with it.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (12:21):
I wanted it to be very natural and for it to be the right thing.

Alex Booker (12:25):
I'll be right back with Shaun in just a second. But first, Jan the producer and I wanted to read some of your comments from social media.

Jan Arsenovic (12:32):
After recording this interview. Shaun texted Alex saying, "Oh, I forgot to mention I did 100 Days of Code and made it to the day 136. On that note, I'd like to give a shout-out to everybody who was recently tweeted that they were doing 100 Days of Code and listening to The Scrimba Podcast. I'm probably going to forget someone, but there was Emmett, there was Roxanna, there was Blake, there was SRJ Codes, there was Thomas, there was Hunter, there was Goobric, there was Emmanuel. Anyway, fear a listener of The Scrimba Podcast and you're doing 100 Days of Code right now, why not tweet about it and join the community of people who are also doing the same. On LinkedIn, Natalia [inaudible 00:13:18] says, "Thank you very much for the podcast. It really helps me get out of self-doubt and see the reality. Also, they're always fun to listen. Great work." Thank you.

And here's a review from three months ago on Apple Podcasts saying, "Best podcast for transitioning to a tech career. I honestly can't think of a better resource for someone trying to break into a career in tech than The Scrimba Podcast. Alex is such a great presence, and the guests are the perfect combination of people who are able to give in-depth actionable advice based on their long professional careers of their own and success stories of Scrimba students who are able to break into tech themselves. It's a surprisingly bingeworthy podcast and I recommend it to everyone I meet who is still in the process of breaking into tech." Well, if you're feeling really supportive, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever may be the podcast app of your choice or join the conversation on LinkedIn or Twitter. Honestly, as long as whatever you post contains the words, Scrimba Podcast, we will find it and you might get a shout-out. That's it for this mid-row and now we're back to the interview with Shaun.

Alex Booker (14:25):
Let's go along the path of getting this opportunity, as I'm sure people listening will be curious about this connection between a LAN party and you getting the job. It's not always obvious when you should be ready to apply and how to go about doing it. Was this something you proactively pursuing a job on LinkedIn and stuff when this kind of serendipity happened, or did it just happen, and you ran reverts?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (14:50):
Yeah, I was applying on LinkedIn and my LinkedIn experience is another story I can tell you. I don't know if I was ready, but no one really feels that way, but I was willing to apply and go to interviews and be a fool, but at least learn from it and improve. And very early on I heard the advice of, "Just apply, just apply and get experience and go interviews and fail them and get better." But good advice is only good if you actually take it right. I never did that until I was maybe halfway through the React basic course, but at that point I wanted to apply.

The LAN party is totally non-related. I did go to sound events for the job hunt. I went to some meetups in Edinburgh, and they were fine, but the LAN party... Short backstory for the LANs. When I was 14, my dad took me to a LAN in Scotland for my birthday and he met a bunch of guys there and they were really crew and my dad was an office space, so he would host LANs there and it's just kind of grown from there. And I just went just chill him and I was working on a project, I was making a website for my mom's business and my boss, he walks past, and he was just like, "Why are you calling that a LAN party in there?"

So we just kind of got talking and yeah, he was really cool. He mentioned he was looking for a developer, like a flexible developer in a role, some kind of business involved support and the company I'm working for now is like a startup. So everyone does a little bit of everything. So if I was only a coder, I wouldn't have been a value candidate for it, but because I have business and so on, I was. But yeah, we just met over the weekend. He was cool. He had made some music on his computer showing me that we played COD 4 and a really good way to meet your manager is just slain. I mean, I'm in a Call of Duty deathmatch really breaks the ice for sure.

Alex Booker (16:37):
What was that like a little search and destroy 1V1.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (16:40):
We usually play team deathmatch on the COD 4, original modern warfare game.

Alex Booker (16:45):
Yeah, yeah, I know it well.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (16:47):
Yeah, come if you went to Edinburgh, man, come. Just like the group of guys that go. Yeah, it's been going on for about 15 years. It's a pretty tight group so we get on well.

Alex Booker (16:54):
So your boss at the company you work for now, walked past your screen, saw you were doing some coding and was intrigued enough to strike up a conversation. Now, you're working at the company. That's really cool.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (17:06):
Yeah, exactly. He was like, "We're a LAN party, mate. Why are you programming?"

Alex Booker (17:10):
I guess it demonstrated your dedication to the subject at least. I mean you didn't have any idea someone was watching, so I think that must have spoke well for your enthusiasm at least. I'll just quickly mention as well by the way, but that's very interesting because you could never have sat down with a pen and paper writing big letters of a top job-hunting plan and write go to a LAN, right? It makes no sense, but there's this idea of expanding your luck surface area. The more you put yourself out there, the greater your chance of being lucky. That could be going to local meetups to do with coding. It's really cool you tried that even if it didn't pan out in terms of your specific opportunity.

But by saying yes to the opportunity to code up that website, you kind of obviously had it as an ongoing project and therefore the chance arose to work on it and hack away at it quickly while the person who now you work with walked by. Just a really cool example of how you can't predict how things will pan out. What was the interview process like after you met.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (18:08):
See them just before we move on. That's a really good point like that you never ever hear that in the videos on a device getting a developer job, but everybody at the LAN works in tech. There's so many developers there. So see if there are some LANs in your area, you'd be surprised at how many of those guys are actually in tech and if you're in a gaming as well, it's really easy to make friends with that kind of thing. So maybe we'll just uncover the top tip on meeting people in tech.

Alex Booker (18:35):
Well, people say networking needs a rebrand instead of small tables, business cards and that kind of thing. Imagine the kind of LAN party to connect with people intact. If you could find a game you were all interested in or something with a low barrier to entry, that could be really quite interesting, especially in a city.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (18:52):
This KDA gets an internship, so the interview process was quite long because the company is super small, so taking on a new hire is quite a big deal. I met my boss in around October. I had an interview with him around the same time. I then had an interview with the business development guy in December. The time between interviews is quite important for me to mention for two reasons. One was this job works a lot with PHP and WordPress, which I didn't have any experience in, and I was pretty deep into the front-end career path. So at this point I had a bit of fork in the road. I was like dare commit and go for the front-end career path and just keep learning and react or they switch my entire direction and start learning about PHP and WordPress and that's quite a tricky situation.

And I fell into the trap of being like when I was doing PHP, I was like maybe I should be doing React and then the same I would React and think maybe I should be doing PHP. So I did kind of mess with my trajectory a little bit, but because there was such a gap in between interviews, I did projects for them. Can I have the mentality of I'm not going to wait for them to maybe give me the job, I'm going to take it. So I started doing projects for them with PHP and WordPress, designing insights, setting up payment gateway. I was communicating with them the whole time just saying like, "What do I need to learn to get this job? Tell me specifically what you want me to know, and I'll learn it." And they told me, and I learned it.

So they want to know that kind of thing. So don't be shy if you are speaking to someone who young maybe you're going to get a job with, ask them directly. What do you actually want from me because I'll figure out how to. All right. So had other interview in December and then I had another interview in March and then I got the job in April, so I was quite at a long time. It was like six months from the first interview to being hired. It wasn't a quick process by any means.

Alex Booker (20:45):
That's an interesting one because, and this is totally valid by the way, and I think it's a great example of planting seeds that might grow into trees later. You kind of made that connection maybe at a point where that team wasn't quite ready to hire anybody, let alone yourself. They maybe just had some emerging requirements. They really had to get their ducks in a row as a startup to make sure they were bringing on someone in a role they felt could be successful in the long term just by being warm and being available, you made it easy for them to reach out to you or proceed with the conversation when the time was right. You didn't force it, you didn't rush it, but you did make it very obvious to them that if they want to move ahead, you're someone who can learn the stack and grow alongside them as you'd hoping to startup.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (21:28):
Yeah, exactly man, I didn't want to force my hand. I didn't want to force them into make a decision. I wanted it to be very natural and for it to be the right thing because I care for the here as well. I have an emotional investment in this company, so I wouldn't want them to employ me unless it actually was the right thing for them, and they could tell that as well. They like me from attitude and my culture and things like that. So it wasn't just my ability to program, I can do the job and had more chance.

Alex Booker (21:56):
You mentioned business development, which I think is a really interesting subject you could teach us about, but what do you say? How about we do a round of quickfire questions first?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (22:04):
Let's do it.

Alex Booker (22:08):
If you had to pick one, want this feels so biased now. What is the font learning resource that has been the most impactful on your journey to learn to code?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (22:16):
For sure. Scrimba, definitely.

Alex Booker (22:18):
Yeah, I need to start adapting these questions based on who I'm talking to because I feel like a total shell now having known your answer based on your description anyway.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (22:27):
Maybe you could ask him what project was the best throughout the Scrimba path, which project maybe had the most influence on your education?

Alex Booker (22:34):
Shaun, what was your favorite project from the career path?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (22:39):
I really liked the Chrome extension where you made a personal dashboard. I think APIs are critical and for some reason my brain just likes working with them, so I really enjoyed that. APIs is a bit like you're getting someone else to do the work. They're just sending you the information, so quite like that.

Alex Booker (22:53):
What is your favorite technology to use at the moment?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (22:58):
Can I say ChatGPT as I can there's a technology because I love using that.

Alex Booker (23:01):
Yeah, yeah.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (23:01):
I use that for everything in emails, research and code. Honestly, everything. I use it for learning stuff with music and I think it's unbelievable and if you're using it, you definitely should be.

Alex Booker (23:12):
What is a technology as in a programming language you would like to learn next when you have the time?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (23:17):
I would like to learn Python. I think Python's cool. I like the idea of learning more about backend stuff.

Alex Booker (23:23):
You're not tempted to do Node.js and leverage your knowledge of JavaScript at all.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (23:26):
I consider that as well. I would need to research it more properly somewhere backend would make sense for me. I think it's pretty cool.

Alex Booker (23:33):
What kind of music do you listen to when you go?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (23:34):
I knew you're going to ask this. Do you know the Lofi Girl hip hop, everyone knows the Lofi channel, all of that, and they just released a new one that's like synthwave, so I like that. And Silent Hill soundtrack and Silent Hill game has an amazing soundtrack.

Alex Booker (23:48):
Coding and scores and soundtrack, so underrated.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (23:52):
Oh, sure, mate.

Alex Booker (23:53):
I love The Social Network soundtrack is perfect for hacking away. Do you look up to or follow anyone in the tech community we should know about and check out after the show?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (24:02):
Well, I'll get two answers. One is Kevin Powell because that guy is just a sweetheart. I love his approach. He's super friendly and so nice. I love that guy.

Alex Booker (24:10):
We love Kevin.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (24:11):
And I think NetworkChuck is really cool. He doesn't do any front-end stuff, but it's about him hacking, like cybersecurity, ethical stuff and...

Alex Booker (24:20):
They got a YouTube channel, right?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (24:21):
NetworkChuck. Yeah, for sure. He's really cool. I like him.

Alex Booker (24:24):
Awesome man. We'll link them both in the show notes. That's it. That's all for the quickfire questions. And to your point about ChatGPT, I just want to chime in because I was such a reluctant adopter of ChatGPT, I felt like I was cheating. I was like, "Ah, should I rework this email of ChatGPT? Should I ask it to rephrase this thing for me?" And when it came to coding, I hadn't really explored it enough, but now there are so many things that I would've previously searched Stack Overflow for. For example, say you want to access an element on the dawn, sometimes I forget the methods, or I wonder how to do something a bit specific. I'll just tell ChatGPT to generate that code. It will give me the same thing I would've got from Stack Overflow pretty much.

So I no longer perceive it as cheating, but even better it can actually kind of adapt the code to your situation. It can generate the code with specific arguments. For example, next level stuff. I think you have to use it or lose it. This is the way things are going. I do wonder though what the right thing to do as a learner is because with coding I feel very in control. I feel like I know how to do this, I just need a reminder. But something I'm always trying to improve at is my communication skills and my writing skills. And more and more lately I've used ChatGPT to make my writing clearer or more persuasive or terse. And I feel like maybe by using ChatGPT to do that, I'm not actually flexing the muscle. I'm not going to become a better writer as a result. And it got me thinking from a new coder's perspective, what that might mean. Have you reflected on it at all?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (25:52):
Yeah, it's a really good point, man, I totally agree. I find that way even what you mentioned before by writing emails all the time, you'll ask it to rephrase it and be more confident and then I'll just do it. So you don't actually learning, you don't have the kind of grit that comes with that learning and the same as the code if you is asking it or write your function that does X, Y, and Z, it's just going to do it and then it may work. But has it really benefited you or has it just kind of like you said, changed you. Because under some companies now that have banned using ChatGPT, so it's a really gray area because if you don't adopt it, you are really shooting yourself in the foot. But if you just obsess over it and get it to do everything, it's not going to work out either.

So I think finding an balance is it should be treated as a tool. Okay. That's why I love the philosophy technology like that considering how much more AI is going to be involved in our life. I don't think we can really comprehend it yet in the same time to be alive and it's everyone know.

Alex Booker (26:53):
I bet you're so fan at a LAN party philosophizing about the future attack while doing 360 no scopes on COD 4.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (27:01):
Yeah, exactly.

Alex Booker (27:02):
Yeah. You mentioned business development, which I think is kind of an interesting subject. What is it?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (27:07):
So I mean It's a broad term. An example for the company that the situation our company's in, we want to redirect our direction and change the couple of clientele, what kind of services we're going to offer them. Right now, we are like a maintenance and support website, but we are considered moving into software as a service, that kind of thing. So I think business development is mainly of the redirection or realignment of your company that correlates with the members values, beliefs, where they want to be. The business development guy who works here asked a really smart question that resonated with me, and he sat us all down and said, "What do you actually want from this business?" Because if it's not going to give you what you want, there's no point in us doing it. What do you want to do when you come into work? How much time do you want to spend here, et cetera? So we are in a fun position because every skill is very broad so we can decide to go in any direction that we kind of prefer.

Alex Booker (28:03):
How do you combine that with coding? Because that's what you've done it sounds like. And that's very interesting.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (28:09):
For example, a lot of our requirements will speak to us about SEO keywords, so otherwise it isn't necessarily a coding thing. I would then take that, and we are putting together a package where we're going maintain the website and update it and program it. But for business development, things like SEO keywords, we also offer our service for that. It's important because if you only good to programming, you need to have a team that can do everything else for you. We can do a little bit of all of it just because we're such a small company. I had a conversation with a guy on the Scrimba Discord and we were in a debate and is it better to design a website from the perspective of the developer or from the client? Because I've studied business, I always prefer the Amazon approach.

You start with a client and then work your way back and that's how I would design a website like scalability and so on is really important for a website. But if it isn't right for the client's journey and the user experience, then it doesn't matter how nice it's coded, it's not a good website. It's from my perspective, a website is a means to an end.

Alex Booker (29:11):
Yeah, no, you're 100% right. Every page on a website should have an objective for the business. For example, to drive a signup or to get someone to subscribe to a plan could be to inform or educate as well or help them complete a certain action. The page has to accomplish that for the user, for it to have business value, 100%. Obviously, if the page doesn't work because you're neglected to think about the architecture or how you implement it, that's also bad for the user.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (29:36):
And I would rather a client has a positive journey or the developer spending too much time in an area that they won't actually experience. Everyone who comes on your website is a potential client or subscriber, or anything. So ideally every one of them should leave with something.

Alex Booker (29:51):
There's quite a few things I'm taking away from this. The first is the coding is obviously a specific skill. Thinking a programmer is a specific skill, but within a company there is still so many other skills that you need to be successful. We know about the obvious things like communication skills, for example, writing skills, but understanding how the business works, understanding what the customers need, understanding the relation between teams. There is this kind of, I think a little bit derogatory term, which is like CodeMonkey, this idea that a businessperson feeds in requirements. Back in the day, a CodeMonkey was someone who wrote the code while a programmer kind of thought about the logic and the instructions and things. But what I'm getting at is that you don't necessarily want to be prescribed very specific tasks you've encode. That's a little bit boring to be honest.

It's better and especially in a startup, if you can really get involved with the decision-making, really understand what the business is trying to achieve and give your inputs and respond to things that are happening based on this knowledge, which I think you clearly had from your experience doing business development at uni and even if that kind of gray corporate environment, I know it wasn't very dynamic, but you bring all these experiences to the table that allows everybody in the team at a startup to be a generalist. Honestly, in professional workplaces, especially startups, and actually that's the only place I'm really qualified to talk because I've only really worked at startups. Nobody really wants to hold someone else's hand. You don't want to have to explain everything in very ABCD kind of terms. It would be great if they had a level of understanding, a level of context where they could infer certain things and run with it and come up with solutions.

And it sounds like this is the way in which you've combined, you've been doing coding for about a year. That's a very respectable, very solid chunk of time to be doing coding, but you make yourself a more competitive candidate by combining your previous experience. I think this is a really great practical example of this one that we use all the time at Scrimba in our events and on the podcast and stuff is like, "Hey, if you're a teacher, maybe you'd be really productive in an edgy tech company or something like that." But that's quite a 2D kind of example. I like yours a lot as well because it shows how it's not always so clear cuts. You always bring something from your past experience to the table.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (32:02):
Honestly, you have so many skills and qualities that you don't realize because it's not so obvious. It's not written on the job specification. Even see if you work in a restaurant and it's super busy and you can stay relaxed in a really hectic environment like that, it is a good skill to have for working in code or anything. So try and take what you do have and transfer it into something that can be adaptable to local situations.

Alex Booker (32:24):
I'm really glad you did sort of graduate and went on to work at this really exciting sounding company and I really do appreciate your transparency. By the way, when you said that you didn't have the grades to do English. So you did business management and social sciences and stuff and how you mentioned that you sort of failed at accountancy and business, but you came back to it, which I think is even more impressive. I can only ask this question with a straight face because I failed this way in the past as well. I got really bad grades at school just for context, for anybody listening fails oftentimes that made me feel a bit stupid, but it wasn't really that I was stupid, obviously. Hopefully it's obvious, but it wasn't the right environment for me, or I had to spend a bit longer learning how to learn in a way that's conducive for me and stuff like that. So I'm just giving you that context because it's quite a personal question. I just feel like I can relate to it. What was your experience like and how'd you feel about it, looking back?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (33:12):
At school I was a riot, man. I was just not there to learn at all.

Alex Booker (33:18):
You're trying to get home to play COD 4.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (33:19):
Exactly. I've got headshots to begin. I haven't no got time for these exams, mate. I had a pretty fun time at school socially, so I didn't regret failing because it's like you said, you can just try again, and I'll fail that a lot and I will continue to fail. I'll fail another thousand times, but as long as you try again, it's not so bad. I think being able to admit that you fail at something and that you are going to suck at something when you start the things that I can do now that I'm okay. I like to play music is probably what I'm best at. But when I started, I saw they can now accept that, and you need to... If you expect that you're going to pick something up really quick and you're never going to fail. You are only setting yourself up for a disappointment.

Alex Booker (34:01):
What instruments do you play, by the way?

Shaun Jackie Hickman (34:03):
I really love to play guitar. That's my main jam and I play drums and piano as well.

Alex Booker (34:06):

Shaun Jackie Hickman (34:07):
Yeah, I'm just self-taught. This other thing online called Rocksmith. It's kind like Guitar Hero but with a real guitar. Funny enough, guitar's my favorite thing, but I got a guitar when I was 12. Played it a couple of times, never touched it. I got another guitar when I was 18, same thing. And then I got it again when I was 23 and then I just run with it and now I play it every day. So again, even the things that I love, I didn't get it first time, I didn't get it second time, but I just tried and tried and tried and finally I got it and that is the story of so many things in my life.

Alex Booker (34:39):
Yeah, man. I know that isn't a universal experience. It's only when you try and fail at something over and over again, you eventually get good at it. Do you get that confidence that you can do it again? I wonder if coding would've been so attractive to you if you hadn't already learned guitar. If you can teach yourself guitar probably you can reason you can teach yourself coding.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (34:58):
Yeah, I think so. I see music quite mathematically as well, similar to code. I mean if you want to do something, you can do it. I think it's really that simple. If you really want to do it, you'll figure out a way. People have learned way harder things in way harder situations than I have, so I can even try to relate to people like that. People who are in really brutal environments and then they have support, then you have guidance, but then they figure it out because they've got a commitment and the drive. That's really all you need.

Alex Booker (35:22):
Mindset is so powerful.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (35:22):
For sure.

Alex Booker (35:29):
And I think you've given us a masterclass today.

Shaun Jackie Hickman (35:31):
I don't know about that.

Alex Booker (35:32):
Shaun, thank you so much for joining me on The Scrimba Podcast. It's been a pleasure.

Jan Arsenovic (35:38):
That was The Scrimba Podcast episode 117. We are a weekly show. There's a new episode every Tuesday and it's been like that since I think April two years ago or something, which means two things. One is if you're just discovering us, there's a lot to listen to from our backlog, but also we're probably not going to miss a Tuesday anytime soon. So subscribe that way. You're not going to miss the upcoming shows. Check out the show notes for the resources and links from this episode, the ways to connect with Shaun and Alex's Twitter handle. If you like this episode, share it with someone or join the conversation on Twitter. I've been Jan the producer, and we will be back with you next week. Thanks for listening.

How to Get Your First Dev Job by Playing Call of Duty, with Scrimba Student Shaun
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