Tae'lur Alexis, self taught programmer and founder of CodeEveryday, talks to us about:
- Figuring out that software was what she wanted to do
- Learning to code from scratch on the modern web.
- How front-end development was appealing as a beginner due to visual feedback and opportunity to be creative
- How social media was key to her success in landing a job as a self-taught developer
- The CodeNewbie and 100DaysOfCode communities on twitter and the roles they play in supporting developers
- Setting up realistic habits and goals to prevent burnout
- What the interview process was like for a new-commer to the industry
Joel Hooks: [inaudible 00:00:01].
Taelur Alexis: Hi Joel.
Joel Hooks: I wanted to talk to you about being a self-taught, self-directed programmer and get into programming from a life of working service jobs and doing this and that to transitioning into becoming a programmer. What was the initial motivation for you to switch out of what you were doing and become a coder, in terms of your professional life?
Taelur Alexis: I didn't have any prior exposure to computer science or programming as a child. In fact, I didn't even know what it was until I was about 20, 21. So I came across it last year, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life because I was working in retail, customer service, fast food and whatnot and I really was unsatisfied with the treatment. I just didn't feel as if the work I was producing was fulfilling to me.
Basically, I looked up different jobs and whatnot that were out there and my mom actually ... you saw [inaudible 00:01:01] was really good with the computer and everything. But I mean, I think that's like a generational thing 'cause I was raised with the PC and everything from like a child, so I was always on it.
But I never did anything technical with it or whatever. I was just always Googling stuff and I love Wikipedia. I came across, okay, like IT and then, software development. I tried the whole IT route for a second and when I mean a second, I mean a whole second. I tried to learn computer networking and I was like, "Oh, okay. Yeah, I didn't ..." I wasn't interested in at all.
But then I came across Code Academy and I learned the basics of Python and then, I was like, "Okay, this is interesting." But I didn't know what I was doing. I did not know why I had to learn variables and whatnot like that. So that was February or January of 2017 and then, I didn't revisit it until the Summer or Fall of 2017, really.
That's when I came across web development and that's when I was like, "Oh, okay. Like I heard about Udemy, and Egghead and Medium and whatnot. Then I started to [inaudible 00:02:06] different resources and then I was like, "Okay, I actually like this." I like the idea of building websites because I like the gratification that you get seeing your code transition into the browser and everything. I was like, "Oh, okay, I really like this." So that's how I kinda stumbled into. It was a random chance meeting, I guess.
Joel Hooks: So you find Python and you hit variables and arrays and strings and all that fun stuff for the first time. Did that turn you off from programming for a minute?
Taelur Alexis: Only because I didn't know why I needed to learn it. I didn't understand the practicality of it. Yeah. 'Cause I mean on Code Academy it's just, you're filling in spots and you're reading the text and everything, but I'm not really understanding why and how you use this in an application, and how this would be appealing for me.
Joel Hooks: It feels like third grade when they're trying to get you to learn multiplication tables, I think a lot of times.
Taelur Alexis: Right? Yeah. Yeah, it's like, "Why do I need to learn this?"
Joel Hooks: Everybody's like, "Math is really fun. You'll love it. Math is so much fun." And they're like, "Okay, 12 times 12."
Taelur Alexis: That's true though.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, it is. I see it all the time. Programming, obviously, it's interesting. It's a puzzle. You can do all sorts of things. You can create wealth, you can make startups, you become a bazillionaire or whatever, but you have to learn what variables are and how to concatenate two strings and what an array does. It's just like a carton of eggs. It's all this stuff that you have to climb up before you get there. Then there's no visual representation. You don't get a lot out of that. They'll be like, "Make a hangman game or something." Something silly that doesn't ... isn't a lot of fun.
Taelur Alexis: Right, exactly.
Joel Hooks: So at that point, you're in the summertime and you find front-end development basically, is what I'm hearing. Is that the case?
Taelur Alexis: Yes I did.
Joel Hooks: So what's the appeal with the front-end versus learning the other stuff? As a newcomer and for yourself, what was the appeal of front-end web development?
Taelur Alexis: When you're just coming in to the whole world of software development and whatnot, you don't really understand what the differences are. Running development and back-end and all that kind of stuff, but for me, what appealed me to front-end development was the fact that I was able to utilize my creativity and also, to be able to see what I was like creating 'cause I really do love that. It's grown into me wanting to get deeper into user experience.
But at the time, I just liked the idea of building landing pages. I thought it was like really fun. The way I would approach it, I was using a Udemy course at the time to learn web development. We were learning, of course, HTML CSS and Bootstrap.
So that's what I knew during that time in the Summer and I would just build up different landing pages that were just based off of little life startups that I had in my head of what I would want to build and everything.
Looking back. Yeah, I think I really loved programming because I wanted to build products, but I didn't understand that at that time. I loved the idea of designing a layout or a company that I had in mind. At the time, I was thinking of building a coffee house landing page or a music site and everything. Just stuff like that.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I mean that's fun too because you get the instant feedback and you can come up with a creative idea and you can explore the future. But at the same time build something and learn how to code it up, while you're at it.
Taelur Alexis: And then show it to you're mom and stuff.
Joel Hooks: Yeah. It's like you can't show your mom your console logs. They're never perfect. Wow. You made some text go. Cool. So I saw you first on Twitter and I'm sure that's the case for a lot of folks. That you start to use the social network and Twitter, in general, seems like it really is associated with modern developers. That's where a lot of developers hang out. Right? That's where the community is. I was wondering how you use Twitter and how Twitter has played a part in your path to learn how to code and become a developer and look for employment and that kind of stuff?
Taelur Alexis: Social media is really essential for me. It really did not start off like that. If I can remember correctly, I only started tweeting last year because of the 100 days of code challenge. Before that, I was never a social person, where they're online or in real life. I didn't like Instagram because I didn't like the idea of having to constantly post pictures and usually selfies, right? And I'm not very consistent. Well, now I am a Twitter but at the time I really wasn't consistently, like social media.
I found a community of people who are really just encouraging. The whole 100 days of code community, as well as the code newbies community. They're just from all different kinds of backgrounds, all over the world and just super nice.
I really felt encouraged by people to consistently post updates on the projects I was fielding and what I was learning. It was also a way for me visually document progress. I believe that helps me gain, I guess, some visibility and it led to some companies reaching out and everything like that.
That didn't happen until July of this year. So it had been six or seven months or whatever that I was on there before I got many career opportunities. Before that I'd network with really cool people, like great friends and whatnot. People I can potentially work on projects. That helped me build up my confidence and my skill. I learned how to communicate better because people ask me questions about my code because I had my GitHub up and stuff and I'll post random little code stuff or whatever.
I think being able to communicate your code and everything to people in a way that they can understand, as well as showing your projects and what you built, that in a way is selling yourself and marketing who you are and what you can do and what you can produce. I think that's what a lot of employers look for.
But I know that's how I got the attention of a few companies who reached out in the Summer of 2018 and it led to that and it's still like that. I see people that post job [inaudible 00:07:50]. Even I've done it. It's pretty simple like, "Hey, I'm Taelur Alexis. I'm a front-end developer who specializes in building assessable unit interfaces with React or whatever. I know this and that and here's the link to my GitHub and my Linkedin." Give me a job, basically. A lot of companies are on Twitter and they do notice and stuff. So yeah, that's how I got my first job actually.
Joel Hooks: It's unique in that regard too, Twitter. To me, you're not going on Instagram and getting coding jobs or Facebook or whatever. Facebook, maybe you have a family member, a distant friend or whatever. But Twitter has this ability that lets us as programmers develop our personal brand or whatever, for lack of a better word and put it out there. There's a lot of other folks like us watching.
Taelur Alexis: You're breaking down barriers between you as a developer and higher up people. I've been able to converse with people who are way more experienced, way more successful than me that have created different frameworks and whatnot. It kind of lessens that whole bubble and everything. You're able to really access different people that are potentially useful or knowledgeable and stuff like that.
I think that's really, really important because when you're a a developer in the industry, when you're newer, it often be scary to approach people like you. You know what I mean? You're the founder of Egghead and stuff but you're really cool. You'll comment on a code newbies Tweet or something. You're really relatable and approachable and stuff like that. But we don't know that 'cause we see your title and then a lot of us are like, "Oh crap."
Joel Hooks: Yeah. I mean, social media in general, right? Across the board, but in terms of the development space, it can lead to comparing yourself to others and their success or they are going faster or they know more than you or whatever. I feel like that can be a problem. How do we avoid that and is it even healthy to sit there and compare ourselves to others all the time?
Taelur Alexis: It's not. It's not, but it's inevitable. A lot of people have the tendency to only tweet the good parts of the coding [inaudible 00:09:48]. There's a tendency to be like, "Oh, I learned this in like a day and I built this and it looks super epic." And here you are not being able to send her a div in CSS. You know what I mean?
Joel Hooks: I spent six hours today finding a stray semi colon that was killing my whole program.
Taelur Alexis: Right. So I try to balance that and not just tweet the good things about the whole journey or the interview process. I also try to tweet failures and obstacles I've had to overcome because I think that provides a sense of balance and really trying hard and not to be on social media 24/7 helps.
Try not to compare yourself to others. It's a hard thing to do but it's definitely impossible, if you put certain barriers and also realize that your journey's different from other people. Just because this person got to the destination a little bit faster than you does not mean that it's going to stop you from getting there too or even further.
It's just looking at it like that and just being supportive of people. If you can turn you're, I don't want to say jealousy, but basically, jealousy or envy towards others into support and motivation. Instead of being sad that someone got a job before you, actually comment on their reply or something, on their tweet and be like, "Hey, congratulations." You never know, you could gain a friend or a connection or possible breakfast to accompany. You know what I mean?
Joel Hooks: Yeah, it's like being on a team. If your teammates scores, you don't get sad about it. You should just congratulate them and move on and play your game, right?
Taelur Alexis: Exactly. It brings good karma.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I agree with that. So I want to rewind a little bit and you've mentioned code newbies a couple times and then 100 days of code. I've been aware of what they are and I'm far removed, right? I've been programming for 10 years. I'm so interested in what it's like learning ... Like when I was learning, I didn't even ... we barely had stack overflow. I think it had just been founded and these days with like 100 days of code is awesome and code newbies is great and I was wondering what your experience is with those two groups of folks, which seemed to overlap a lot to me on Twitter [inaudible 00:11:43].
Taelur Alexis: Yeah, pretty positive. I often use the hashtags in mind [inaudible 00:11:49] when I was documenting my daily progress with learning how to code and all that kind of stuff. Code Newbies, I know they have a Q and A discussion. I don't always participate in them. Not for any particular reason. I just have ADD and always doing 10 billion different things.
I like that they ask questions that are pretty open-ended and I like to see the responses from people. I do love how inviting those communities really are and how everyone is very supportive. Every day, you'll see someone on Twitter saying, "Hey, I'm going to make the public commitment and the pledge to try to code for at least an hour a day with the 100 days of code challenge and stuff." You'll see people retweet and like it and give feedback and you end up finding mentors. My experience with mentors is iffy. It's up and down.
My first mentor was great and I had met him off of that, actually. It's a great way to find mentors without even trying to find mentors, honestly. Feedback on your projects because that's really, really important especially when your self-taught and you're not in a coding bootcamp or in a computer science curriculum, where you have instructors and TA's that are able to review your work and grade it.
As a self-taught developer, you don't have that. You lack the structure and guidance and whatnot. You don't often have people grading your projects and so people will give you their opinions of it and stuff like that. That can be really, really helpful and can help your growth and everything. You end up learning from different people of different backgrounds. You'll get followers who are senior developers or engineering managers, but also people who are on your same level or probably a junior developer mid. Those communities really helped with that.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I don't know. At first I thought, 100 days of code, this some sort of scheduled thing. But it's just people picking it up and using the hashtag. Is there even an organization or is it just an organic thing that exists on Twitter?
Taelur Alexis: I don't know.
Joel Hooks: Code Newbies is an organization.
Taelur Alexis: Yeah, that's an actual organization [inaudible 00:13:54].
Joel Hooks: They run a conference, it's great, in New York. My son went last year. It was amazing. So that's an organization. 100 days of code almost feels like this organic thing that's just kind of spared it up. I liked the Code Newbie questions too when they come through because a lot of times they're ... even as an experienced developer, it's like they're relevant to us and we can share answers too. So it's pretty fun and I like seeing social media used in that positive way too.
Taelur Alexis: Right. With the 100 days of code, I don't think it's an organization. I think it's more of just a challenge where you publicly make a pledge to code for at least an hour a day. It's just a challenge just to help keep you productive and active and help you attain your goals. But that's how I interpreted that to be.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I think that's what it is. It's just an accountability and a little bit of instant community. You're right. If you're sitting there trying to learn something and you were in a vacuum and have nobody to talk to or give you any sort of feedback, it makes it way, way harder to learn anything, I think at any level.
It's great but it also has its drawback. So talking about learning resources, and I know you have to have a favorites, but do you have ... What's your favorite learning resources that you found, as somebody that's trying to start and break into web development? What would you recommend?
Taelur Alexis: What helped me the most was Udemy. 'Cause I had courses that would teach me web development from the front to the back-end and also how the web works and everything. In a way that was structured and helped me.
Joel Hooks: Is that Colt Steele?
Taelur Alexis: Yeah.
Joel Hooks: I hear that a lot though and I haven't taken his courses and I need to just ... I would like to watch them just 'cause people love it so much. But what is it about Colt's teaching style that really spoke to you and how is it useful?
Taelur Alexis: His instructor style is really on par. It's really, really good. He's able to break down concepts in a way that you can understand and he's really helpful. He'll review, before the next lesson or at the start of the next lesson, he'll review what you just learned and how that's going to help you learn this more advanced concept.
He also sprinkles in little projects along the way. For me, with the projects, he was having us build. In the beginning, yeah, they may seem basic little light to do apps or landing pages, but if you're creative, you can take those little projects and expand on them and make them more creative and use your imagination and everything like that.
Yeah, he's really, really good with that. He's really good with being able to take knowledge that at first sounds really hard to comprehend and just make it simple and easy for you to understand. But he doesn't try to talk to you in a way that you're like, "Oh, you're dumb or something." You know?
Joel Hooks: Yeah. He's not talking down to you, but he's teaching and lifting you up versus, I don't know. If you're condescending about it then, that doesn't help anybody for sure.
Taelur Alexis: Right. Yeah, I was taking his web development or web developer bootcamp. That's what I was taking. That was my first Udemy course. I also have taken Andrei Neagoie. I don't know how to pronounce his name, but he has a course, it's Zero to Mastery, which is pretty similar actually to other bootcamp. But it also adds in technologies that are pretty in demand today, like React and Redux and stuff like that.
But I always say for people to start with a web developer boot camp. It's only $10 usually on sale on Udemy. But what I recommend to people who are just learning how to code, I don't necessarily recommend them to start off with paid content first. Try to learn the base of HTML and CSS. See if you even like it or learn the basics of Python, I guess, because people always recommend Python. For free content to start off with, I always say, "Okay. Yeah, Free Code Camp."
Joel Hooks: Yeah, for sure.
Taelur Alexis: And Code Academy.
Joel Hooks: Free Code Camp is amazing. The HTML and CSS portion, I've really been impressed by, in terms of a way to to break in and just start learning that stuff, which is a pretty good starting point.
Taelur Alexis: Exactly. Yeah, I definitely agree. And then after you did a little bit of that you can start to expand and use other resources and whatnot. For me, in my journey, I used a lot of resources which can have its pros and cons and one way you're not bound to one way of learning or one instructor and everything.
On the other hand, you get into learning the same thing, over and over without even thinking about it or it can slow down your progress. So it's just, in one way, I encourage people to explore and find out what they like. Find out what courses or what websites are best for them and then go from there. Always keep medium. I Medium MDN as bookmarked and everything to reference
Joel Hooks: Now that's MDN in Mozilla. I think it's developer network or something.
Taelur Alexis: Yeah, Mozilla developer network. We're WT3C schools.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I'm not a fan of them. I really like MDN.
Taelur Alexis: You're not a fan of them?
Joel Hooks: No. I don't know. Their search engine dominance is definitely ... They'd come up in the top result every time. They're really good at that, but I mean, I just prefer MDN, in terms of ... like that kind of documentation site about the browser APIs, basically. You can't not go to W3 schools because they like the top of every single result when you type in array push or array shift, for the 50,000th time to look up what re shift does. That's what's going to pop up for you.
Taelur Alexis: Do you find yourself still looking up array shift and everything like that? Or [inaudible 00:19:24] for something?
Joel Hooks: I've stopped using those in favor of low dash for many years, but I'm on the low dash documentation every time. I'm like, "How do I add something to this array or how do I remove something or what's the low dash version of slice?" Or if I have to use slice, I gotta look it up every single time. Yeah. You can't keep that in your head.
Overtime, you do absorb a lot of it. I can code sometimes for hours without having to look at documentation. But it's not a day goes by that's not some sort of Google search to figure out what's going on because that's far as the human brain works. You got to have room for other stuff too. There might be people that are like, have their array API memorized completely and know right off the top of their head exactly what unshift does. Because it gets weird because you also had to know, what's the return value and does this mutate your array and all that kind of stuff. All the side effects that occur with those things too. Which is why load dash is just generally superior, in my personal opinion. They should just merge.
Taelur Alexis: What is low dash?
Joel Hooks: Low dash is probably one of my favorite all time APIs. It's generally built to manipulate collections and objects and do things like add objects to array or get the first item from an array or get the last item from an array. You do it in a way that doesn't mutate the original, so it's immutable and then, you get a consistent return result.
Also, John David Dalton who writes it and works at Microsoft is a really, really competitive person. So he tries to write low dashes methods to be faster than the browser version of those methods. So it's like, map and reduce and filter and all these different array methods that have come over the last few years. He tries to write versions of those that are even faster or guaranteed to be as fast as whatever browser implementation you're doing.
It's a really wonderful library and worth the time to poke at and learn. Yeah, it's the first thing I install anytime I start a new project. After it's fired up, it's going to be yarn add, low dash.
Taelur Alexis: Does it have any tutorials on it?
Joel Hooks: We don't.
Taelur Alexis: Oh really?
Joel Hooks: We're holding out for JD to record for us and I talk to him a couple times a year. I even come visit Seattle and I go walk around the Microsoft campus with him and enjoy his company and hope that one day he'll have the time, I think really to record something for us. But then he's like, "Oh, I wouldn't even record low dash. I would want to report how to build low dash." And I was like, "Well, that would be better."
Taelur Alexis: Oh wow.
Joel Hooks: I should just [inaudible 00:21:44]. Yeah 'cause I could hear your hesitation, like I was asking you a trick question about your favorite resources. Egghead is not a great resource for beginners.
Joel Hooks: Yeah. We cater to people that know all the basics, the generally. I send people to Treehouse. I send people to Free Code Camp. I should send more people to Colt Steele, Udemy as an organization bothers me, but Colts is an amazing person.
Taelur Alexis: Really? Oh crap. I kind of want to ask why.
Joel Hooks: No, no, no. They're just too loose, I think is the base of it. The sale that's always expiring in 11 hours kind of grinds my gears a little bit.
Taelur Alexis: Yeah, 'cause it's BS 'cause it's going to be up like the next day.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, it's just like ramping somebody's anxiety just for a sale and it's this dark gray pattern trick-
Taelur Alexis: And the instructors are only paid off ... they're only pay 50% off the $10 sale. Right?
Joel Hooks: Yeah. I don't even know if it's 50%. I don't know their deal. It's kind of more of a business objection then the content, 'cause there's a ton of great content on there and it's so accessible to folks. Especially people that are just getting started, like having inexpensive and free resource is important. Across the board, we need more of that and that's what the Internet should ... that's part of the reason it should exist, anyway.
One of the things that I think is interesting, you talked about it with your Twitter habits and your learning is, what are the habits that you have to build? How do you actually stick to this, whether it's 100 day of code or just in your personal day-to-day? How do you, one, make the time and two, be consistent and stick with it over the long haul?
Taelur Alexis: So I'm going to tell you how I did it wrong.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, that's great too.
Taelur Alexis: I mean, 'cause when I was learning how to code, I was dedicating eight hours to 10 hours a day, while I was working a full-time job and trying to balance a relationship and whatnot. I would go so hard because I was like, "Oh well, I have to because I want to build this. I want to get this done. I want to learn this fast and duh, duh, duh, duh." So effective time management is really, really important.
Just making small goals helps you with your confidence and everything. Because if you try to set to learn 10 different things or to code for eight or 10 hours a day and you end up not accomplishing that then, you're gonna feel like as if you didn't progress. Setting small goals everyday really helps.
An hour a day, if you can. I can try my best to speak for other people but my situation, it's different in a way from someone that may be a parent. You know what I mean? Or taking care of their parents or something. For me, I don't have kids, so I have the freedom to do that or whatever. At least trying to set a goal for coding, like an hour day is really helpful.
Also, give yourself some kind of structure. I swear Joel, there are people who are trying to learn three different languages at the same time.
Joel Hooks: That's hard.
Taelur Alexis: Very hard. I'm not going to say it's impossible because I don't want people attacking me on Twitter, but setting realistic goals. I think that's my main answer for that question.
Joel Hooks: I've seen people trying to learn game development, just as an example and then putting a AAA super game as the target versus, I just want to make my little guy jump or I just want to make my little guy shoot a fireball. Some sort of like small attainable thing that you can do that actually makes progress to the bigger picture.
Taelur Alexis: Exactly.
Joel Hooks: Yeah and then consistency too. I think that's important. However much time you can carve out and carve it out and then, consistently stick with it over time. Because if you just stick with it, if you don't quit, it's pretty amazing, I think what we can do.
Taelur Alexis: Exactly. So do you have any advice for people that are trying to stay consistent and everything? [inaudible 00:25:35] burnout.
Joel Hooks: I think that comes, one, from not meeting goals or setting goals that are not attainable or just like straight up life happening and having too much and so much is going on and then, you're just doing too much for too long.
Honestly, when I was younger, I could do it more. I learned how to program on my own, self-directed at my house, after I got done working my day job. I was burning the midnight oil going all night, but at the same time, I had to do it. I felt compelled and I had to get there 'cause there was no way I could get out of my current career and jump into a new career so I could advance.
But I had to jump in at a level to where I could continue feeding my family, right? Like I couldn't come in and half my salary and just work through that. I had to figure out how to jump in and be, I'm using air quotes, the senior developer right out the gate.
But then at the same time, you do that for six months and it really will. You'll crash and so, you have to balance and you have to set a realistic schedule and your consistency has to include, consistently taking care of yourself and getting enough sleep.
Taelur Alexis: Self-care.
Joel Hooks: Eating properly and even simple stuff like staying hydrated, right? 'Cause you can sit there with the computer, I know when you're really into it and you're really going hard, you can forget about almost everything and zone out and not take care of yourself at that point. Which is, if you, if you don't do that long-term, then it depends on how you define success, but it can definitely be detrimental to your actual goals that you're trying to achieve.
Taelur Alexis: I think for me, because I was coding everyday for eight to 10 hours. It went to a point where I ... Yeah, I have burnout and then ultimately fall out of love with programming for a little bit. Not for too long. But yeah, so kind of adding to what you're saying, self-care is really important.
Especially, when you have found your passion, which maybe coding, like how it is for me. If you really do care about your growth and your progress with your potential career in tech and everything, then you have to prioritize self-care in the beginning and also, demand that in your everyday work life and actually do get a job as a developer.
Joel Hooks: Yeah and I mean, it's easy to forget, I think, for a lot of people too. It's absolutely essential 'cause if you want to do this for a long time, then you have to take care of yourself That's true with most anything, I think.
Taelur Alexis: I've taken a break from coding for a week now. I'm supposed to be learning Ruby on Rails in the next couple of days and messing with, I guess, Redux or something. But back then, I would not know that I would be actually comfortable and fine with saying that now. Back then, I was like, "Oh I got to code every day, duh, duh, duh, duh and I have to code for like hours on end."
Now that I've learned the consequences of thinking that way, I'm able to be a bit more relaxed and it's actually made me love coding even more because I do it out of passion for it, not necessarily out of necessity because I need to.
Joel Hooks: Yeah. So beyond the code, right? You get past the first hurdle. But then, you figure it out and now you understand what a variable is, what an array is and beyond that, right? You're able to build things and you understand what's going on.
Then it's time to go out and actually try to get paid to do the thing. That means job interviews and talking to people and the job hunt in general. I was wondering what that interview process has been like for you and what have you learned? What have your takeaways been from the process of finding work and getting work in this field?
Taelur Alexis: When I was trying to find my first job, it was hard because yes, I had a portfolio site that was pretty good and I had some decent projects or whatever. I didn't have a network and I didn't really know what I was doing. I would just constantly apply to jobs and I would always get rejected.
The few times that I had interviews 'cause I only had maybe like three, three or four interviews before I actually got my first job. It was pretty challenging and I was also in a city that wasn't known for [inaudible 00:29:47] tech hub. I was in Orlando, Florida and Florida isn't always the best to tech jobs. I'm going to speak to me and personally, and also my best friend too.
So yeah, it was really, really hard. Now this time, actually with my second job search for my second job, it's been much better 'cause I've been presented with more opportunities because I utilize social media. Not to be a whole social media addict, but it really, really helps. I was able to gain references. I think what I've learned is that when you make some connections with people, you're able to get your application in the door and get better references and everything like that. That really, really helps when you're self-taught and you don't have a computer science degree.
This second job search, I haven't had to actually apply for a job. I've gotten interviews solely off of my GitHub and because of Twitter and stuff. That's really interesting with the whole GitHub thing. Companies actually review your code and none of them really cared too much about a portfolio site, which was ... that was interested.
For my first job that was ... I think it really helped me stand out. Especially as a front-end developer, they'll be able to see my actual work and everything. But this time for these companies, especially with things like higher salaries and everything, they really just look at your GitHub and everything and then they're like, "Okay. All right, let's interview you." And I'm like, "Okay." It's been different. I've had way more opportunities to interview and everything like that and learn from it.
Joel Hooks: So when you're in the interview process, are you getting the typical, like the coder interviews? Have you experienced any of the white board questions or technical questions while you were in these interviews?
Taelur Alexis: The majority of my interviews, this round, has consisted of take home projects, which I actually like. It may be too time consuming for other people that have a lot of commitments. But for me personally, I really liked the idea of doing that, over white boarding interviews because they're able to really see how I'm actually able to get things done and how I wish I showed my projects and everything. But it's been mainly like that. A lot of like technical phone screens.
Joel Hooks: They're asking you questions, just your over the phone or Skype or whatever and you're asking questions?
Taelur Alexis: Yeah, yeah. They'll ask me questions like ... Oh, and this actually leads to a great tip. But they'll as me questions about like, "Oh, what does clean code mean to you?" And other stuff like, "What is your experience with performance testing, unit testing, accessibility and whatnot?"
Oh, and then, a lot of problem solving questions. A lot of questions where they're on the phone or in person, have a lot to do with how you're able to solve problems. It seems like, even if you're not able to create the solution, if you're not able to create a functional solution and everything, so a problem that they're giving you. They more so care about how you're able to approach the problem.
Let's say for instance, they want you to build to-do app or whatever. They're like, "Okay, so if we were to take away this, what would you do then? What if we were to add this or whatever?" They're trying to see if you're able to be creative on the fly it seems like. Especially in in-person interviews and how you're able to think and everything.
If you're able to communicate your thought process. That's really, really important. I had an interview with Amazon, for instance. One of the things that they gave for me, was ... or that they told me that I should do or work on, is communicate my thoughts to the interviewer more. It's interesting.
You have to approach that as if like you're teaching someone how to solve a problem or how to do this or whatever. They give yourself [inaudible 00:33:42] head instructor, I guess. That's what a lot of my interviews have been, is really the technical phone screens or ask me my problem solving.
Then also, questions that you get, when you're in customer service, when you're interviewing for a retail job or something. Like how would you handle a conflict with a coworker? How do you work effectively in a team? What is your role in everything? And so I'm just like, "Okay."
Joel Hooks: Do you find there's similarity between the interviews? Or a lot of overlap or are they pretty unique, in terms of what they're asking you to answer and what they want you to know?
Taelur Alexis: There's overlap in the way that they always ask about the problem solving, like how I'm able to approach problems. But the problems itself are pretty different. But okay, two of my take home projects involve me building a crud, as well as an onsite that I had, was also involved in building a crud and stuff like that.
Joel Hooks: Do they try to make it fun and not a to-do list or they just use a to-do list? [crosstalk 00:34:36] Because it's all a to-do list at the end of the day.
Taelur Alexis: One had me build a directory. You're able to add a user.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, like an address book.
Taelur Alexis: Yeah. Yeah, like an address book and stuff. So yeah, a couple of those have actually been like that same thing.
Joel Hooks: Lot of times our instructors on Egghead, they want to come up with novel examples, which is fine. Like come up with something clever, but I'm like, "You just use a to-do list." And then they be like, "Oh, I'll do an address book." I'm like, "It's just a to-do list."
Taelur Alexis: Yeah, basically. Yeah. It's funny.
Joel Hooks: It's just a to-do list with people's pictures and their addresses and stuff. But it's literally the same thing. It's forums and lists.
Taelur Alexis: Forms. Yeah.
Joel Hooks: You were talking about questions. I was like, "Well, can we add servers sinking to our to-do list? How would you solve that problem?" That was what popped into my head, something like that. So if you're in this interview and they're asking you stuff and you're either stumped or you don't know, do you take notes? Or are you learning while you're in an interview at the same time? How do you use that to go home and know what to study or add to your list of things that you're trying to learn?
Taelur Alexis: I'm screaming right now. You have to take notes. I strongly recommend that and actually, interviewers in person, 'cause I've had a lot of interviews in this round. Every time, I brought a notebook and a pen and they actually like that because you're showing that you're willing to learn on the spot and that you're able to get feedback and everything.
Yeah, it's really, really important. So I take notes because you're able to find similarities. In the questions that I was asked about the clean code accessibility, blah, blah, blah, like TDD and stuff like that. I would take notes of that and then, I would write it down and then, I would try to study a bit more. So then for the next interviewer, at least we prep for that in case they were to ask.
But then also, I would use those notes and then I'll come with my own questions because ... For the next interview and ask them about it. Like, "Oh, do you guys perform unit tests and this." A job that I actually interviewed for recently, I asked some questions that I was asking in previous interviews and he actually was like, "We don't even use that." Like, "I never thought about that." It can impress them a bit and then it's also ... just it's good to learn because you also really learn from your failures.
Even if you fail an interview, if you took notes in that interview and everything like that, you'll be better prepared for the next one and you'll grow.
Joel Hooks: To me, if you're on the job and I show up to a work meeting, you're not going to come without my notebook and my pen and not ready to take notes. To me it's your first work meeting, at the end of the day.
Taelur Alexis: Exactly.
Joel Hooks: All right, so I'm going to close it out with, so where do you see yourself in five years?
Taelur Alexis: So I really, really want to produce content and I want to teach people different web development concepts. I think that's where my passion actually was and building my own projects. Then also, helping share my knowledge with other people. So I see myself doing that. I see myself speaking at more conferences, organizing workshops and everything.
Then, I'm also building a platform called Code Everyday IO and that's where I'll be ... it's where I'll cure a bunch of web development resources that I like recommend and everything. Because a lot of people always ask me on Twitter like, "How do I [inaudible 00:37:45] learn how to code? What resources do you recommend?" Duh, duh, duh. I want to review content and everything as well as provide a community of people that are learning how to code and everything. I want to see that expand and grow because I want to be my own boss, really.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, I recommend it. It's good. It works for me, not having a boss. I don't know. Me and [inaudible 00:38:04], do what you want to do and help other people in the way that you want to help people is a pretty nice gig if you can build it.
Taelur Alexis: I admire what you're doing because at least you're able to ... you're able to profit of course, but then also, you're helping people and you're providing something that people need and stuff.
Joel Hooks: Yeah, you can feel good about it, right? At the end of the day, it's like, "Oh yeah, I'm doing something and it's all right. I get to help myself and help others." You can't really ask for much more than that. So where else can people find you on the Internet?
Taelur Alexis: I live on Twitter.
Joel Hooks: Me too.
Taelur Alexis: So, find me on Twitter at Taelur Alexis. T-A-E-L-U-R A-L-E-X-I-S. That's where I'm mainly at for right now. I mean, yeah, all my social media is Taelur Alexis. So like Instagram, you can find me on there, even though I'm barely on there. Mainly on Twitter.
Joel Hooks: Sounds good. Thanks, Taelur.
Taelur Alexis: Thank you.
Joel Hooks: Bye-bye.