The Only Thing Worth Investing in Is Yourself, with Scrimba Student Özge

Özge Ahras (00:00):
Actually, you notice this after the earthquake, editing material can be lost from your hands at any moment, so you should make some of your investments in yourself. You should also invest in your own career and peace of mind.

Alex Booker (00:15):
That was Özge Ahras, a determined and resilient self-taught developer who persevered through a challenging journey, including the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Turkey, to recently secure a front-end dev role that truly lights her up. I wanted to speak with Özge because her experience showcases the power of continuous learning and adaption in the face of adversity. From pursuing coding self-study while working a demanding job to relocating countries for better opportunities, Özge's story exemplifies the importance of perseverance, self-improvement, and seizing new chances. I'm your host, Alex Booker, and you are listening to the Scrimba Podcast. Özge, welcome to the show.

Özge Ahras (01:03):
I graduate as a computer engineer. Back then at university, I always loved coding and developing something. Back then we were using Java and C# because it was like 2012, I think I graduate that year. So I was very curious about development, but unfortunately I couldn't do that much development because when I started my first job, it was like a consulting firm and they were using this third-party tool for customers, and this tool just only was using the Vanilla JavaScript on very basic level, and unfortunately I couldn't develop myself as a developer, and I continued this shop for eight years maybe. Unfortunately, this tool gets unpopular, I started to think what should I do for my career development?

And I was loaning JavaScript and from other departments, I had friends that told me about this React, and they told me that I should learn from my career development and I think if I want to became a developer, I should learn some new technologies, right? I saw the learning front-end development as a way to stay relevant and expand my job opportunities so I started to look for React courses online, and then I saw Scrimba, I think it was beginning of 2020 and there were a few courses back then on Scrimba, just like JavaScript, HTML, CSS, yeah, and React. I saw the React training was free and I immediately signed up and then I realized how poorly I was even in Vanilla JavaScript, so I left React lessons.

Alex Booker (03:04):
Oh no.

Özge Ahras (03:05):
Yeah, halfway and started the HTML, CSS and JavaScript lessons because it was like ESX technologies back then I think in 2020 I didn't know anything about ESX and I learned this ESX and JavaScript technologies from Scrimba also.

Alex Booker (03:22):
So you studied computer engineering at university and you were coding Java and [inaudible 00:03:29] shop you said, and then you got this first job out of university probably you're expecting to be doing programming and stuff if you studied computer engineering, but it sounds like maybe you were a bit surprised when you got to the job and they were using only very basic Vanilla JavaScript, and I think you said you felt quite limited there. Tell me a bit more about that job. Which country did you work that job in and why did you stay there for eight years if it wasn't quite what you were expecting?

Özge Ahras (03:59):
I was in Istanbul, I started my work life in Istanbul, in Turkey. Really, I couldn't quit the job because I needed the money. So it's difficult to change your career when you need money and you need to continue your life.

Alex Booker (04:15):
Absolutely. When you decided to learn React and you realized that even your Vanilla JavaScript could do with some improving, especially the ESX stuff, did you realize when you were working that first job that you were like maybe not doing your best programming or were you a little bit surprised when you left the job and you were like, "Oh, I thought my JavaScript was more up to date than this because I've been using it for eight years"?

Özge Ahras (04:41):
Yes, I was very surprised actually. And I thought that the new version of JavaScript, it'll resolve our problems and thanks to God, my company decided to create the project from scratch with the latest technologies. So I asked my manager, "I want to be a front-end developer if it's possible to be in this project as a front-end developer," then he said, "Okay." And we started this project using JavaScript and really it's fixed at least 90% of our problems.

Alex Booker (05:20):

Özge Ahras (05:21):

Alex Booker (05:21):
What was your experience like re-learning JavaScript and getting hands-on with React for the first time?

Özge Ahras (05:27):
It wasn't easy on the beginning, but after I saw Scrimba it was really, really easy. Yeah, absolutely. Because on Scrimba, when you listen to do the lesson at the same time, you can try the code and see the results. It's very great experience for students because in well-known training channels like YouTube for example, or other training channels are nothing but videos that get boring after a while and are very difficult to follow. For example, when I'm working right now at my company, I am thinking about a solution and immediately it came to my mind, "Yeah, I saw that on Scrimba," and when I searched for that solution, I can find it in 10 minutes, but if you want to check the YouTube video, it'll take, for example, one hour to find that solution. But in Scrimba, the lessons are parts, part and parts. You can find that part that you need, it's very easy to follow.

Alex Booker (06:33):
I was looking at your portfolio actually, Özge, and I noticed you've completed a lot of projects.

Özge Ahras (06:38):
Yeah, but these projects, maybe you know, they are already in the front-end developer pack.

Alex Booker (06:43):
So a lot of this coding and the learning, was that something that you were doing as part of your job or were you doing it on the side?

Özge Ahras (06:50):
I was doing it on the side actually because it was fun for me, especially, I love JavaScript, some people are hating, I don't know why, some back-end developers, but I think JavaScript is solution for everything. You can use it everywhere, like on back-end, on front-end, for UI.

Alex Booker (07:16):
For mobile, for IoT, for games.

Özge Ahras (07:17):
Yes, everything.

Alex Booker (07:18):
I think someone even used JavaScript on a rocket ship one time.

Özge Ahras (07:21):

Alex Booker (07:22):
The back-end developers who don't like JavaScript did not like that very much.

Özge Ahras (07:25):
But what can you do?

Jan Arsenovic (07:28):
Coming up, how Özge changed jobs and countries.

Özge Ahras (07:33):
They send a project to me and they said, you should finish this project in six hours. It was very stressful actually because when a company sends you a test, they usually give you five, six days to complete it.

Alex Booker (07:47):
Wait, wait, oh my gosh.

Jan Arsenovic (07:48):
But first, let's take a look at social media. Hello, I'm Jan the producer, and in every episode I go through your Twitter and LinkedIn posts mentioning the Scrimba podcast. Helen C is tweeting about our progress through 100 days of code, "Day 65 started learn intermediate algorithmic thinking by building a dice game from freeCodeCamp's JavaScript algorithms and data structures curriculum. I listened to the Scrimba podcast, episode 150, how to figure out what you want to do with Scrimba student, Amy, while learning to code the Dice game on freeCodeCamp." Sounds like a winning combo. And Roxana Rodback also listened to the same episode, "Chaperoning a field trip to BP this AM, nice bus ride with a Scrimba podcast playing in my ear. Alex and Amy hit the nail on the head. With the internet, we see our options now and that it's possible to make a change. This is why I'm only just discovering where I should be."

If you're enjoying our show and if you want to make sure we get to make more of it, the best thing you can do to support us is to tell somebody about it. You can do it in person, in your Discord community or on the internet, and when I say on the internet, I mean on social media and as long as your social media posts contain the words Skrimba and podcast, we will find them and you might get a shout-out right here on the show. Of course, if you're feeling extra supportive, you can also leave us a rating or a review in your podcast app of choice. Are you listening on Spotify? Are you listening on Overcast? Apple Podcasts? Google Podcasts? I don't know, we are on literally every platform out there. If there's a possibility to leave us a five star review hopefully, please do so, it really helps. And now we're going back to the interview with Özge.

Alex Booker (09:43):
Help me understand a little bit in terms of your journey. You were doing this job, you've been working here for a few years, you had the opportunity to join the front-end project, so I guess you were maybe doing some front-end learning on the job, but you were also doing it on the side because you were really enjoying it and you really loved JavaScript. Is that right?

Özge Ahras (10:02):
Yes, that's true, but mostly I was doing it after job, before job because when I was working I had so many tasks and just small part was the JavaScript and front-end development, so I couldn't do much, but after work I continued to learn JavaScript and React. It's because it was fun.

Alex Booker (10:25):
You mentioned that when you learned about Scrimba, learning to code became a little bit easier, but also learning to code alongside your job, that sounds like it could be a little bit of a struggle as well. Were there any other challenges about learning to code that stopped you from maybe getting where you want to go as quickly as you could have?

Özge Ahras (10:45):
As an adult, right now I am 34 years old, as an adult, it's hard to focus on one thing. You are not student anymore, you are not at the university. You have a life, you have responsibilities. And also I was working so it was very like if you don't like coding, it is hard to learn, but I was loving it and still loving it and I continue to learn, still I'm learning every day something.

Alex Booker (11:13):
In your post in the Scrimba Discord community, you mentioned that sometimes you didn't have the motivation to learn, but then you had a terrible earthquake in your hometown and that caused you to pause the courses for a while while you took care of things at home.

Özge Ahras (11:30):
Yes, yes. Sometimes yes, you can't find the motivation to learn because life, it's not straight away sometimes, it'll be up, it'll be down and it is really hard to focus something sometimes. If you are human, it's normal. About the earthquake, yes, unfortunately there was a huge and devastating earthquake in my hometown Hatay in February last year. Unfortunately, I lost some of my friends and neighbors in this earthquake.

Alex Booker (12:07):
Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry.

Özge Ahras (12:10):
Thank you. The house where I was born and raised was destroyed. I was in Istanbul at the time and I was working and living there, but unfortunately my entire family and close friends were affected by the earthquake.

Alex Booker (12:25):
This was the Turkey/Syria earthquakes in 2023, is that right?

Özge Ahras (12:30):
Yeah, last year. Actually you noticed this after the earthquake, anything material can be lost from your hands at any moment, so you should make some of your investment in yourself. You should also invest in your own career and peace of mind. That's why I continued working actually.

Alex Booker (12:50):
I think that's such a powerful idea.

Özge Ahras (12:51):
Yes, it is because everybody lost something at earthquake, some relatives or some material things like houses, cars, and one day you are waking up and you have nothing, but if you invest yourself and if you invest in your peace of mind, you will find a way to go further from that position and you'll be good in physical way and also psychological way. It's important to invest in yourself. That's what I learned from the earthquake.

Alex Booker (13:33):
Can you take us back to that time you were working this job, you were learning to code and I'm sure there were challenges, right? But you were well in your way and then almost out of nowhere I feel like things like this, they just happen out of nowhere, it can be so surprising.

Özge Ahras (13:49):
Really I couldn't do my job and I couldn't think about anything for learning for code, for anything, especially just I was curious about my family only, my family and friends.

Alex Booker (14:02):
Did you get news quickly or was it quite suspenseful waiting to find out what the effects were?

Özge Ahras (14:09):
Unfortunately, yeah, I have to wait. It was in the middle of the morning, like 4:00 A.M. in the morning and I heard the news about 6:00 A.M. and then first thing I do to call my family and friends, but you can't reach them because the communication was broken. So I waited like two or three hours then I get some information a little bit, and I heard they are okay, my family and my friends and I was relieved. But in some way you feel like you have to do something, but you can't because it was very far also from Istanbul and the airport was broken, you can't fly there.

Alex Booker (14:52):
No, exactly, and as much as you want to go and be there, I'm sure the authorities wouldn't really invite people to the sites of an earthquake where there are aftershocks and all that kind of stuff.

Özge Ahras (15:03):
Yes, fortunately it was very bad situation to wait and do nothing, just wait.

Alex Booker (15:12):
So you can't work, you can't really focus on coding, you can't travel back home, what can you do?

Özge Ahras (15:19):
Nothing. Just following the news from the television or the internet, but it was also quite less news because you can't communicate in any way with that people. It was hard, very hard.

Alex Booker (15:35):
I mean, just to be clear, the effects are devastating in general, but your family, they were okay in the end, I hope?

Özge Ahras (15:41):
Yeah, they are okay, but most of the houses were devastated and they are destroyed, unfortunately, and so many people died.

Alex Booker (15:52):
Coding does not seem very important compared to that all of a sudden.

Özge Ahras (15:56):
Yes, yes. I think after three or four months everybody started living normal, but still it is one year now and it's still not normal normal, unfortunately.

Alex Booker (16:11):
It must really change you as a person to experience something like that. It brings into question things that in the modern world we think are very fundamental. We think it's very fundamental that if we pick up our iPhone or our Android and we reach out to someone, we're going to at least connect. But when the infrastructure is down, all of a sudden you can't reach anybody, let alone at a moment's notice and then we grow up in these towns or villages, we go places and some things that have been there for centuries, whether that's a building or a monument or a road where you have memories, you think, "Well, it's amazing to have a connection to this place because it's always going to be there. Even if I change, I can come back here and it'll be the same." But then the town, it isn't there anymore. It's all changed and I think it just must bring into question some of the fundamental things. And whenever that happens, it's quite a changing experience, I would imagine.

Özge Ahras (17:06):
Yeah, that's very correct. For example, if you ask one of the earthquake victims, she or he will say, definitely it doesn't matter to have a house or to have a car, fancy car, fancy phone, and you don't rely on material things. You're just living your life and living in the moment and get as much experience in life, that will matter, and the health of course.

Alex Booker (17:38):
How did you change your life after you learned that?

Özge Ahras (17:41):
Mentally I think I let go the thinking about getting everything like I should have a car, I should have a house, I should have fancy clothes, I should have everything, good shoes, good phones, that doesn't matter anymore because right now I am traveling more and experiencing more, learning more. I am investing in myself rather than the material stuff like good cars, good shoes, good everything, I don't know.

Alex Booker (18:17):
And they're not really investments. You spend money on them, but then they lose their value. But I feel like when you invest in yourself, you create value and wow, I can't think of anything better to invest in than yourself because you'll be with yourself for the rest of your life really.

Özge Ahras (18:34):
Yes, that's true.

Alex Booker (18:35):
How did you design your life after such a big event and how did you design your career and coding around the life you wanted to lead? I'm hearing that you wanted to be less materialistic and you wanted to focus on investing in yourself and building memories and probably fostering connections and things like that as well. I think for a lot of people in technology, we kind of feel like we have to put a lot of our life into the job, and some people, they don't work to live, they live to work, if you see what I mean. I just can't imagine that's how you think about it anyway, based on your experience, but I want to hear how you kind of designed your work-life balance going forward because everything would've been different.

Özge Ahras (19:16):
That's why I moved to Malta, especially for the work-life balance. So at my job in Turkey, it was very stressful and we were doing after hours every day and I decided, what is the meaning of working that much? It doesn't make sense in any way. So always I had the dream going abroad like Europe and develop my career there, so I was looking for a job abroad before the earthquake also, but after the earthquake I really accelerated because I just wanted to go from Turkey.

Alex Booker (19:58):
I mean, Malta, it's not exactly a technology country compared to say a Silicon Valley or a London or a Berlin or something. I'm not saying anybody has to move those places, but it is certainly like a very small place and I can't imagine there's a huge amount of industry. So I don't know, I would assume you didn't move there for the career opportunities, but rather the lifestyle because it is just an incredibly beautiful place with beautiful people.

Özge Ahras (20:24):
Yeah, that's true. But you are wrong about the opportunities and the industry because there are lots of iGaming companies here.

Alex Booker (20:34):
Oh yeah?

Özge Ahras (20:35):
Yes, lots of them. It's a small country, yeah, I know, but there are quite chances to get a job here like tech person.

Alex Booker (20:43):
Tell me about that, you must have changed job when you moved there.

Özge Ahras (20:47):
My friend first came here, he was offered a job by a company in Malta and he accepted it and then he settled him in Malta in a very short time. So he said, "You should come here because Malta is very beautiful and sunny place," because I hate cold and I love sun and hot weather. So I said, "Why not?" I was already thinking about moving abroad and living there, so I started to search job in Malta only, and then fortunately I found a job in two months. It was very quick.

Alex Booker (21:22):
Congratulations, that's awesome.

Özge Ahras (21:24):
Thanks to Scrimba again.

Alex Booker (21:26):
Thanks to you. I love how much you are appreciating Scrimba, I really appreciate you saying that stuff, but you were the one putting in the hours after work because you love it because you were motivated. You were also the person who picked coding back up. A lot of people when they're doing something hard, they make a lot of momentum, but then some big event happens, granted not normally an earthquake, but something happens and they stop and they don't pick it up again. It is harder, you've lost all that momentum, but I think to your credit, Özge, you picked it up again and kept going. And yeah, I think you deserve all the credit actually, I'm really happy for you.

Özge Ahras (22:07):
Thank you. Thank you very much.

Alex Booker (22:09):
What was the process like of finding a job there? Did you quit your job in Istanbul to focus on this move or did you try and navigate the change alongside your job, maybe you wanted to line up a job in Malta before you moved there and so on? And yeah, how did you find the job? Was it on LinkedIn or maybe you got a connection or something?

Özge Ahras (22:28):
Actually, I was following a structure when I was searching for a job. I create this structure for myself, this process.

Alex Booker (22:35):
Oh, tell me about it.

Özge Ahras (22:35):
When I make decision to go to Malta first, immediately on LinkedIn, I searched for Malta only and then I connected with a lot of recruiters and I found the companies of Malta who are using the React using ChatGPT. I asked ChatGPT, "Which company is using React and JavaScript?" And apparently a lot of iGaming companies are here and they are using the latest-

Alex Booker (23:07):
What's iGaming?

Özge Ahras (23:08):
Gambling online.

Alex Booker (23:09):
I've not heard that term before, interesting.

Özge Ahras (23:11):
And then I start to follow all the companies and I started to follow company's websites and I was checking every day for the new jobs for the company's websites, and I was writing to all recruiters, headhunters, and then I found my job on my company's website and they reach out to me and we start the interview process.

Alex Booker (23:38):
So you chose to apply on the website instead of applying on LinkedIn.

Özge Ahras (23:42):
You can find the company names online, on the internet, on ChatGPT, on everywhere. So I was searching for them on LinkedIn and then from LinkedIn to the company website. Yeah, I was following them also on LinkedIn.

Alex Booker (23:54):
By the way, when you were reaching out to recruiters and companies, what were you saying in those messages?

Özge Ahras (24:00):
I was saying that I am a front-end developer and self-taught React developer, and I was just looking for job, that's it.

Alex Booker (24:07):
No need to over-complicate it.

Özge Ahras (24:09):
If they had any, I will be willing to apply. That's all.

Alex Booker (24:14):
Nice, nice. Did you get any interesting leads from that?

Özge Ahras (24:16):
Not all of them were interested also, but for example, if I apply or write five people, just one of them was replying back to me.

Alex Booker (24:27):
Not bad ratio.

Özge Ahras (24:28):
Yeah. If I apply for example 50 jobs on LinkedIn, just one of them was replying back to me.

Alex Booker (24:36):
You only need one really to take an interest, which is always a nice thing to remember.

Özge Ahras (24:40):
Yes, that's true.

Alex Booker (24:41):
When you got in touch with this company through their website and you sent, I assume, your resume and things like that over, what was the hiring process? Did they really grill you in the interview process?

Özge Ahras (24:53):
I think it was first step of interview process, first they called me after I sent my CV and applied from the company website, they called me and they told me to make a quick interview on the phone and we decided the date, and then they called me for 15 minutes just pre-interview like that, and then they send a test, a project to me and they said, "You should finish this project in six hours."

Alex Booker (25:29):
Interesting, okay. How did you feel about that?

Özge Ahras (25:31):
It was very stressful actually, because when a company sends you a test of a project, they usually give you five, six days to complete it.

Alex Booker (25:40):
Wait, wait, oh my gosh. When you said six hours, I thought they meant, "Hey, you've got a week, but don't spend any more than six hours. Do an hour ahead, do an hour..." I didn't think you had six hours almost like a time trial.

Özge Ahras (25:52):

Alex Booker (25:53):

Özge Ahras (25:53):
But it wasn't that hard project. If you are a beginner, for example, you can finish it in six hours, it was okay. I finished it in four hours. So yeah, I did this test, the project, and I sent back to them, and you should really use just React and GitHub, you should push your call to the GitHub and you should send the GitHub link to them. After the test, it was HR interview and the HR interview was like one hour, they were asking me very basic HR questions that you can find it on LinkedIn.

Alex Booker (26:31):
"Tell me about a time you had a conflict in the workspace," or, "Tell me about your biggest weakness," and that kind of thing, I think.

Özge Ahras (26:38):
That kind of thing, yes. You can find these HR questions everywhere on the internet.

Alex Booker (26:42):
Sometimes I wonder why they still ask those questions when I think most people know the answers that the HR people are expecting. I don't know, I thought they would start asking some new questions, but nevermind. What happened next?

Özge Ahras (26:54):
Next after HR meeting, I joined two technical interview. It was one senior front-end developer and head of tech, and then of course they ask about technology and JavaScript and react related questions. And thanks to Scrimba again, because you can find this React and JavaScript questions and answers like exact questions and answers on the Scrimba front-end developer pack.

Alex Booker (27:24):
The React interview question module, yeah, Cassidy Williams.

Özge Ahras (27:27):
Yes, this one and also JavaScript.

Alex Booker (27:30):
Nice, nice.

Özge Ahras (27:31):
The questions were very, very similar, so you can learn these questions and the answers, you can reach the interview very successfully.

Alex Booker (27:41):
What does this new company do? What are they all about? And what's your role?

Özge Ahras (27:45):
My role is front-end developer and we are using React and JavaScript and some of other departments, I think they are using [inaudible 00:27:53].

Alex Booker (27:52):

Özge Ahras (27:54):
Yes, the latest technologies, thank God.

Alex Booker (27:56):
You're going to stay ahead of the curve now, Özge.

Özge Ahras (27:59):
Yes. And we are doing these iGaming sites to Europe countries and I am doing the front-end part of it. It's very fun working for a gaming company because it's gaming, the company has always had these parties with game providers and you are playing at the office. The office environment is very fun actually, and it's very young agile team. It's good to be here.

Alex Booker (28:29):
Are you working in an office mostly or is it remote, hybrid even?

Özge Ahras (28:34):
It's hybrid, mostly hybrid, but no one cares if you don't go, if you work from home, if you work from the office, it's up to you.

Alex Booker (28:44):
Cool. Yeah, sounds really good. I think it's just fantastic. This journey is very unique. I mean, I would say a lot of people go from not knowing coding to learning coding, but the situation where you studied it, and I'm sure there were many elements to your role when you joined that company for eight years, but the one element you cared the most about the coding, maybe you sort of fell behind a little bit. That's never a kind of nice thing, I would say. It's okay, and you've done the absolute best thing possible here, I think, but I can relate to that. And I remember for example, when I was younger, I would make YouTube videos and I built this really successful YouTube channel and I just stopped doing it and then four years later I thought I was still good at videos, I was like, "Yeah, I've done that before, I know what I'm doing, I think," and I tried to make a video and I could barely remember how to edit, the video didn't get many views and it was so humbling.

And one thing I really love about myself and I really love about your story as well, is that some people I think would give up at that point, be like, "Oh, whatever." But in both our cases, and I'm so impressed by your story, you kind of made a plan and you pushed through, and even though there was some adversity there, in particular what happened at home, I'm so sorry to hear about that, it sounded awful, but I can only appreciate your transparency and the way that you've channeled it into something positive. I think that's exactly what the Scrimba Podcast is all about, these kind of success stories, so thank you so much for that, Özge.

Özge Ahras (30:08):
Thank you. Thank you for inviting me this podcast and let me share my story for everyone.

Alex Booker (30:15):
It's been amazing. Thank you so much for coming on.

Özge Ahras (30:17):
Thank you, Alex.

Jan Arsenovic (30:21):
That was the Scrimba Podcast, episode 151. If you made it this far, please subscribe. You can find the show wherever you listen to podcasts. The show is hosted by Alex Booker, I've been Jan the producer. You can find both of our Twitter handles in the show notes. Keep coding and we'll see you next time.

The Only Thing Worth Investing in Is Yourself, with Scrimba Student Özge
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