From Glassblower to Software Developer using Free Coding Resources with Michael Pimentel (S7E7)

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With barely enough income to support his wife and child – not to mention a poor working environment for his physical and mental health – Michael Pimentel wanted to move on from being a glassblower.

So after working for nine years as a glassblower in the film industry, Michael Pimentel taught himself everything he needed to know about coding, without boot camps or college degrees.

Michael taught himself coding through freeCodeCamp and other free online resources. Eventually, with the help of his connections in the space and his determination, he got his first full-time job in tech. He’s now a senior software engineer since starting in tech three years ago.

In this episode, Michael talks about how he taught himself while working in a physically intense full-time job, landing his first tech job, and getting more roles over time. He also gives advice for people who want to move into tech from non-traditional backgrounds.

This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.

Laurence Bradford 0:00
Hey, welcome to the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford. In today's episode, I speak with someone who went from being a glassblower for movie and TV sets, to a software engineer. And he did all of that without a college degree, without going to a coding boot camp, and with paying very little for learning resources. All of that is coming up after a quick word about how you can support the show.

Laurence Bradford 0:20
If you enjoy learning about the tech industry through this podcast and you're wondering how to enter it yourself, you should consider doing some freelancing. If that sounds scary, don't worry. I've put together a freelance Starter Guide for newcomers to the tech field. It will help you work out if freelancing is right for you. How to get your first client, how much to charge, and loads more. Oh, and it's 100% Free. request your copy at And thanks for listening to the Learn to Code With Me podcast today. Take care.

Laurence Bradford 1:15
And we're back. In today's episode I speak with Michael Pittman tell Michael story is fascinating. He worked in the glassblowing industry specifically for film sets for nine years before he started teaching himself how to code. And what makes him even more interesting is the fact that he doesn't have a college degree. And he never went to a coding boot camp. He is entirely self taught. And that is exactly what we're going to be talking about today. How he taught himself to code while working full time, how he got his first job in tech and how he got more roles in the tech industry as time went on. If you want tips for staying motivated while learning how to code, this episode is for you. Enjoy.

Laurence Bradford 2:01
Hey, Michael, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Michael Pimentel 2:04
Hey, Lawrence, thanks for having me.

Laurence Bradford 2:05
I'm really excited to talk with you. You have a, like interesting self taught experience. And that's what I would like to dive into first. Could you share with us how you got started in software engineering?

Michael Pimentel 2:17
Yeah, absolutely. So kind of a story kind of goes back to a few years ago when I was working for a company that made lights for the film industry. And I was working there as a manufacturer glassblowing really interesting work, kind of working in a manufacturing type of shop warehouse, loud working on the lay that spun in a really hot environment. I was there for a really long time, and things just kind of didn't progress in terms of career wise, and just financially, it was just really difficult. I live in California and California being like one of the most expensive places to live. It just wasn't sustainable. I'm married, and I haven't A child and with that, you know, it just wasn't something that I could maintain. So it kind of motivated me to start thinking, you know, I need to probably either go back to school or find another another route career choice. So I can, you know, be able to support and have a career that can provide general finance support and everything like that.

So it kind of led me to back to my interest in computers and everything like that. So I started to do some online searching and everything like that. And it brought me to, you know, software development, coding, you know, some booming career choice that is really big right now and everything like that. So it's like, okay, maybe I should go back to school for that. But at the time, it really wasn't the best option. I went back to. I took a couple classes because at the time, that's what I could afford at my community college. And it just got really difficult to maintain a full time job and take a one or two classes and it got really expensive because my wife was well was going to school, in college, and everything. Like that.

So it was really difficult for us to support both of us going, especially, you know, not really knowing what I wanted to do. So I did a lot of searching, and I came across Free Code Camp and Free Code Camp, you know, like when you get on their landing page, it's like learning to code for free. And all these people learn this way. And I was like, wait, three, this doesn't make sense. This bezel usually a lot of scams out there, start off free, and then you have to pay something and everything like that. And you know, to my surprise, actually was free. And then so I started it, I just jumped right in and just start to go to the curriculum. And it sparked my interest. And I was like, wow, this is really cool. It's it kind of goes about it in a way that gets you interested really quickly, you know, with HTML and CSS and how you can kind of get feedback on the webpage really quickly. But that's kind of how it started. Because I just I just couldn't go that route with a continue into school because it's just really expensive. And I already had like a car loan. I couldn't get like a student loan. It was just it was It wasn't really practical. It was like, Okay, do I put myself in some really extreme debt that I don't know if it's going to lead to something that's going to pay off in the end so I, I had to find another another option and look like learning to code on my own through free resources when that resource beginning with Free Code Camp was was the route I took.

Laurence Bradford 5:21
Awesome. So I want to backtrack a little bit to your, your work before you got into coding. So you Okay, you said it was a manufacturing role? I have in my notes that you were a glassblower which I don't even know what that is for movies and TV shows? Yeah, definitely. What is it glasses?

Michael Pimentel 5:42
Sure. Okay. So a glass blower typically like if someone like Googles or glass lords, usually someone that takes some raw material, which consists of all the materials to make glass essentially depending on what what the, you know, the end product is going to be there's different types of glass of course. So basically you take them and you hit keep them in a furnace or with a really hot torture claim, so that it becomes like in this malleable state, and then you shape it essentially. So what I did there is we worked on the lave, and we basically built like the light bulb globe, it's spun on a lathe, and then you would heat it up really hot with a hydrogen oxygen burners to like 1000 degrees, and then you shape it based on certain dimensions. So basically, they would take that and then we'd have like a filament type that would basically you know, have some kind of chemical reaction and light up based off whatever the the fixture needed, you know, for the filming.

So that the specific light that they made, there was an HDMI, which is like a chemical name that I really don't know all the details into it, but it basically replicates the color of the sun. So like if you see like on film sets, do you see those lights that kind of are on the background that make everything look real daytime and nighttime filming. Those are the lights that we made when I worked there. We are One of the few American companies that still made them, like with our hands still as opposed to a machine meaning making them in a in a warehouse somewhere. But essentially, essentially that's what it was. We were just hand making them with a glassblower. And that's what I did. While working there. I was there for I think, nine or 10 years.

Laurence Bradford 7:18
Wait, really? Oh my goodness. Okay. Wow. So sorry, I'm surprised it was that long because for people listening to the show, we're actually speaking through video so I can see you so I'm like, Wow, it doesn't look like you could hold a job. Because you look young so young that to have a job for that long then and then start another career. Okay. Wow, that threw me off. Oh, well, how did you get into that? Because that feels very nice. You are essentially making bulbs that camera crews and in production crews are using on the sets of TV shows. I mean, we were chatting before we recorded you live in California. I know like the entertainment industry is in the movie industry. And all of that is obviously very prominent out there is that kind of how that happened. Or,

Michael Pimentel 8:01
yeah, it's interesting. Um, so actually, the reason why I got into it is because my dad worked in the industry for like 30 years. And I had come out of working at Jamba Juice, and I was there. I was my first job actually, I was working as a team member worked up to an assistant manager, and then eventually needed, you know, to make more money because I got married really young. So I my dad ended up helping me out getting me a job there. And, you know, I just ended up staying there for a really long time. But that's really how I got into it. It was my dad was in that industry for a long time. He had connections and everything like that.

Laurence Bradford 8:37
Got it. So did you go to a trade school or anything for glassblowing?

Michael Pimentel 8:44
No, I actually just learned on the job. And still to this day is one of the most difficult things that I've ever done physically, like for almost anything that I can compare it to. I think programming is its own challenge, but physically like that was the probably the hardest physical thing I've ever had to learn because it was like if you don't do it right the first time then you ruin it. So it's there's no going back and fixing it once you kind of ruin it because the glass that we would work with, you'd have to mix it with metals and then once it's kind of melted to a certain point you can't go back and extract those materials out of the glass so it's kind of ruined if you don't do it right. And that was probably the really nerve wracking part when I did that job.

Laurence Bradford 9:28
Yeah, wow. It also sounds like it could be dangerous if you're working there's really like high temperatures

Michael Pimentel 9:35
Yeah, absolutely. I got burned really really bad third degree burns I have three burns like all my arm from it, but yeah, it was it's definitely dangerous was

Laurence Bradford 9:43
I'm just curious did that have any role in your decision to like look for a new job like I know you mentioned like the financial side but were there other things too?

Michael Pimentel 9:53
Yeah, absolutely. That part Benin Okay, so the big part actually aside from like, the financial reasons that it just didn't pay that much. It was the work environments. It is in the Central Valley of California, which in the summertime gets, you know, triple digits consistently. And the warehouse that it is done is basically like a garage. It doesn't have an air condition, it doesn't have any of those things. So the environment itself was just really, really taxing. There's been there was a couple of times when I had gotten like heat exhaustion I got sent home because of it because like say it's 100 and 310. Even outside, inside that shop where you'd be working is 120 130 degrees. And it was just unbearable. I used to if I were to look back on some old like Twitter posts, I probably have pictures of like a thermometer that in the area I'd be sitting and it's just like maxed out because it was just so hot.

But yeah, that's that's probably one of the biggest you know, motivating factors to Wanting to look for another job, it got to a point where I was like, I need to get out of here no matter what this job is just killing me physically. And you know, a lot of other reasons, you can imagine in an environment like that the people that you tend to work around kind of got, like, a really, you know, not the best work environment because, you know, like, we're all under a lot of stress. And, you know, tend not to get along very well when they're under a lot of stress physically, mentally, and just everything that came along with that job. So it just became like, kind of like a hostile work environment as well. So it was like a lot of a lot of factors that kind of came into me like I have to get out of here. I need to find something else, you know.

Laurence Bradford 11:41
Yeah. Wow. I mean, that definitely makes sense. There's a few other people or one that is coming to mind that we had on the show in a previous season whose name is Josh camp, and he was a I hope I say this right, a horse. I think it's a horse fair, fairer. Hope I'm remembering this right but he would change The Hub's on horses, which could also be really dangerous, obviously, if a horse kicks you, and I believe it was an injury that ultimately led him to, you know, look for other work and whatnot. So we'll link to that in the show notes for people listening now, because it was, you know, a few years back when we had him on the show and any other episodes, I believe it could have had a few where there was someone with a more sick physically dangerous or physically laborers job. And that's kind of what led them to make a pretty big pivot because I can like working for you as a glassblower. In those in that environment, physical, you know, super, super hot. It's totally different from working as a software engineer. And when you started coding, you mentioned using Free Code Camp and other free resources. Were you still working full time as the glassblower. And you were learning outside of that?

Michael Pimentel 12:51
Yes. Yeah, I was. So I would, I had a full time job there. And you know, because of the heat, I would work really, really early on. I tried to go in as early as possible as three in the morning, get off, you know, at noon, or whatever it was 11 or 12. So that time that I would get off, of course, I'd always be so exhausted from that job. So I'd have to go home and like sleep for a little bit. And then the thing was, that was interesting with that is, it was hard for me to be going having a full time job like that. Maybe some people can relate to that, you know, like, or maybe just a full time job, in general is exhausting. But this job probably pushed it because of the environment itself, the hostility behind it. That kind of gave me more motivation to be like, you know what, I know I'm really tired right now. And I'm not really motivated to to learn this coding thing that is completely foreign and difficult. But when I get off work, feeling the way I did at the time, so you know, wanting to leave that place so bad, that it was just that extra boost of motivation for me to learn and study and just do everything I need to do to succeed in it.

Just cuz it was just so bad it was I got desperate, you know, I really did get desperate I just remember that I always I tend to forget that but then when I do remember I'm like wow, it helps me to be like really grateful you know to where I am now. And it was really hard working a full time job and learning because I did learn while working there for probably about a year and a half, maybe almost two years I was learning and there was there were times when I would make huge progresses. But then at the same time, I remember thinking like, is this really possible? How do people get a job doing this? like yeah, I can build a website but there's more to it. Like is this all I need to do to get a job type of thing you know, um, but yeah, it was it was hard and I don't want to say like oh yeah, it's super easy because in or feeling able wasn't especially having to work a full time job and it's not like I could just, you know, take days off and, and everything like that I had to work but yeah, It was difficult. So you were

Laurence Bradford 15:04
doing that you said you said for like one and a half, two years where you were doing both things at the same time. I believe you mentioned this earlier. But you, you used Free Code Camp. Did you use any other resources? Or do you mentioned community college? Did you were you taking classes there?

Michael Pimentel 15:20
Yeah. So additional two Free Code Camp. So that Yeah, there's a lot of other things that I did that helped me. So Free Code Camp opened up at the time. I haven't gotten Free Code Camp in a while. But at the time, it had like, a way that you would join a meetup. And it was through Facebook. It was like Facebook groups or something. And it was like find a Free Code Camp meetup because I guess they had like an umbrella under their Free Code Camp meetups that you can join. And you would basically type in your city and find the nearest one that was that was organized and everything like that. So I found one in my city. And it was, you know, there was like a few people a part of it that would meet up and So I joined that group, and I reached out on there. And you know, pre Code Camp does a really good job with trying to connect people. So it's like, hey, introduce yourself and post on there so that people can know, you know, your journey, etc. So I did that.

And I ended up meeting up with the organizer of that meetup. We met out of Starbucks, you know, talked about, you know, everything like, I'm learning this. And now, where are you in Free Code Camp thing. So eventually, I got more involved in that met more people that were learning as well. And then it kind of led to turn remember, oh, the meetup. There was also the Free Code Camp for our area that was attached to that Facebook group. And he was like, Yeah, I just started this Meetup group. So we can kind of be more broad for people that don't have Facebook, we can just kind of grow up there. And he was like, you want to help me with that? Because, you know, he was maintaining a full time job as well. And he needed someone to kind of fill in that gap where he couldn't, you know, so I was like, Yeah, sure. I could definitely help with That. So I helped him kind of take on the organization's portion of that meetup. And like, hey, let's try to meet with kind of swap the weeks, you know, we'll meet on a Saturday, one week, and then I'll take the next Saturday type of thing. We'd meet out of Starbucks.

And then someone posted on the meetup feed, like, hey, there's a hackathon coming up, you guys should come reach out. And you know, I think it was free. And it was in our area. So I went to the hackathon. And myself and a couple of other people that were in that group. And then we ended up or I ended up meeting a few other people at that meetup that were real professional programmers, you know, that were there at the hackathon. So I introduced myself to them and everything like that, met some really, really nice people. And probably the most helpful and kind person was actually the the organizer of that hackathon. When I met him and everything like that, he gave me his contact information. He and he said, Hey, we should get together sometime and I'm chat and he was a professional programmer kind of running his own business and everything. Like that. So eventually I stayed in contact with him. And I met up with him. And I told him my journey and what I'm trying to do, and it was super supportive, and he was all about helping people in my situation, you know, like, make connections and even even help them with an internship and everything like that. And that's kind of where it kicked off actually, where it went from me trying to learn to me actually making connections and and potentially those connections leading to jobs. That was huge, actually.

So this person that ran that hackathon also ran his own meetup. And his meetup was a little bit more like mature. He had organized large meetups and organised like speakers, where he would teach people how to get started with a new technology and all that stuff, you know, so this person, I met up with them, and they were willing to like, Hey, you want to work on a project with me and I was like, wow, real project. Like, that's what I need to experience with a real project. So I met with him more often some of the people that worked with him and he ended I've worked with a lot of other guys that are just people in general, men and women that were like kind of doing their own thing that are a little bit more advanced. As programmers, they're building their own websites, starting their own software business in like, consulting and everything like that. So that's where it kind of took off is that connection? You know, I went to a hackathon met some people. And then it led to more people that were kind of in the same boat as me. And if they were more advanced, they're willing to help me. You know, like, if I struggled with something and everything like that, it was really that was like pivotal in me being successful.

Laurence Bradford 19:37
Yeah, that is a great story and other interviews that I've been doing this season. We invite the guests on and we think they have a really interesting transformation story is kind of like who I've been really trying to get on the show this season. And every single person I think I've interviewed so far, and there's been you know, a handful have all had this like really awesome Like community component to their story and in like kind of showing how supportive the tech community is, and in various ways. And it sounds like you found that, you know, through this hackathon, through connections through other connections with more experienced people in the field that helped kind of catapult you forward.

And they were able to help support you in various ways, and maybe help if you were stuck, as you said, build your first project. And I think that's really cool. I think it's really good for beginners to hear that because I know when I first started out, and probably you too, I would imagine like it can be really intimidating, and feel like very overwhelming and you can feel really alone. And it's like, it's almost, I haven't experienced, like trying to break into other industries. But in a lot of ways, I feel like even though tech seemed really intense and really hard, I mean, it is, but there's just such kind of helpful people like I have a friend totally random side story, but She's not intact she actually was trying to break into on the entertainment like film like movie TV show. And she had to work at an unpaid internship for like a year and really like claw her way up. She actually does really awesome, like producing on really awesome documentaries now. But yeah, it was like really hard, very competitive very, very cutthroat very, like, you know, and I feel like the tech community is so different from that, like, it's people are super helpful.

Michael Pimentel 21:33
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I've heard that as well. I'm not sure if it's if it's like the demand in this industry that people were like, trying to get into it. Or maybe people maybe a lot of people have gotten to it. And they kind of see you know, all the hard work that that it takes, I guess that they want to help other people as well or like coming from something like my background and everything like that, but they kind of want to help people as well. But yeah, I notice As well as a lot of really helpful people, even before like, I started going through these meetups and everything, I joined Twitter, and that's when I found like, just like a Free Code Camp for code newbie podcasts or their hashtag, in general just like just to get help and everything like that.

And when I, when I reached out that way, just random people that that were professionals reached out to me like, Hey, I think I was struggling with like centering a div or CSS, something, something kind of silly, you know, and I needed help with it. And some random person was like, Hey, give me your GitHub repo. And I'll help you with that. And I was like, wow, some random person that really was like more Santee that worked at Microsoft or something like that and are willing to help you. I don't even know this person. But yeah, I definitely noticed that about this industry is there's a lot of willing people to help you you know, regardless of of your background and everything like that.

Laurence Bradford 22:49
Yeah, another guest I literally just had on the podcast said that she had so many breakthroughs Caitlyn for people listening to the show and in episode Caitlyn. She was talking About how she had so many breakthroughs on Twitter asking for help, and people that she didn't even know like, offering to help her. And in various capacities, I feel like Twitter is such a good. Well, it's funny because like social media, like every platform kind of like has its own little like corner or whatever. And it could be really good for certain things. And I feel like asking for help, like, in that way, Twitter is awesome, because people will jump in and people it's almost like a forum, but it's not. But people are very, like, communicative, unlike, you know, Instagram or something, which is mostly about the photos and it's not the same kind of,

Laurence Bradford 23:38
I don't know, environment, just different anyway. It's interesting.

Laurence Bradford 23:43
Yeah. So switching gears a tiny bit. I would like to hear about how then you ended up getting your first like, full time real position.

Michael Pimentel 23:52
Yeah, absolutely. So it was when our meetup grew so when I met this person, a friend His name is Nate probably give him recognition there because he's been so huge in my in my career and as a friend and generally still, until today, we kind of joined our meetups, and we grew it to this big meetup. And it was like 300 people, we grew to over 300 people. And then we he had connections with someone that was really involved in trying to grow the tech scene in the Central Valley of California. A lot of people probably think that in California, it's like tech everywhere. Tech is huge, but that's really just isolated towards like the Silicon Valley Bay Area.

And when you go to the outskirts where I live, it's like farms and orchards and just really like farmland, and it's kind of the outskirts you know, of all the tech you go over the hill, and there's all the big central Silicon Valley and everything like that. But out here, it's it's completely different. It there's still a lot of factories out here and everything like that. So tech isn't the big thing out here.

So he was trying to this person, he tried to basically bring tech out this way like hey, companies, there's a talent out here as well. So he was a part of that big that This big movement that's still going on today. So anyways, we ended up getting a space with his help. And he supported it. He, he got funding for it. And we moved our meetup in there. And we were able to go reach out to the computer science professors as some of the community colleges, they are able to come out. We reached out to people that taught computer science in the high schools, I reached out to people on Facebook, I went out and tried to like introduce myself to all these people. So we can grow like all these, these groups that are people are better in software or coding, to, hey, come to this meetup because we can all grow with the tech in the valley.

So we had this large event where I was like kicking off our merging of our meetups. And we had I think, like, over 150 people's like almost 200 people from professors come in computer science to high school teachers and computer science to people learning and everything like that. So I want to And I was speaking in front of it, and I was basically motivating other people that were in my position, like, Hey, you guys should really, you know, I was kind of leaning towards Free Code Camp, like if you guys want to learn to code because those people that are that were like thinking about it, you know, not really that much into it. So I kind of wanted to focus on those people, because that's where I had the experience of coming from. So I was like, Hey, you know, it's not that hard to get into it. There's some really, really great resources that are free, that doesn't cost anything, you know, the meetups like this.

There's a lot of great connections here and people willing to help you if you're struggling and everything like that. So I was talking there about all that. And at that meetup was a few other engineers that worked at companies nearby, one consulting agency, some of the banks, you know, they have some of their software people out in the Central Valley as well. And a couple a few of the people that were there were friends with my friend Nate, the one that had basically helped me out and everything that had always been elections. He introduced me to one of the guys there and he said, Hey, his company's hiring, I want you to I want to introduce you to Michael. And this is after I was kind of getting already had a getting experience with building some projects and everything.

And my friend Nate was like, Yeah, he knows what he's doing. Now he, he's employable. He's definitely you know, has experience with building front end back end software and everything. So he introduced me to a friend of his the name of Josh, and he worked for a company that basically did consulting for like probations law enforcement software. They did software for nj Gallo, a lot of big companies. So they're really established. They're around for like, 20 years. So I met with him. And then he was like we are we're actually looking for someone like more of a junior developer. He's like, give me your number. We eventually had coffee just kind of talked and was like that. And we just hit it off. You know, we just kind of our personalities, kind of, you know, he liked you know, hanging out and everything like that.

So that kind of started like a friendship. You know, we talk for about a year, you know, and he would help you with stuff like that. And I was like, hey, and he's like, our company is kind of in the middle of like, you know, hiring but they kind of put a freeze on that and everything like that. So after about a year when I, when I met him, he finally called me up one day. And the funny story is that I was getting to a point in, in learning how to code and currently working where I was almost ready to give up. Because I felt like I was putting all this effort. And then I wasn't getting any any reward from it. Like, I felt like I was applying everywhere. And I wouldn't get any kind of responses to my resume. I reached out to people to help me with my resume. All these things I did. I did a lot, maybe not everything I could have, just because I didn't know.

But I felt like I wasn't getting any hits on my resume. Or if I did get a call. It was like, you know, I didn't know how to do some kind of algorithm that I didn't learn or memorize or whatever it was. So I was getting really discouraged, I was almost gonna be like, maybe I do need to go to school, maybe I do need to get a degree, maybe I need to just or join a boot camp or join something that is going to make me be more appealing to employers. So I was looking, and just kind of getting really discouraged at the time. But the funny thing is that I got a call from my friend, Josh, and he goes, Hey, we have this big contract coming up, we need to hire a developer. And I've been talking to my boss about you, and we'd like to bring you on. He's like, of course, we'll have will interview you and everything like that. And he's like, Are you interested? And he's like, I'm almost 100% sure, they'll bring you on because, you know, he's like, I know you and I know your work. And I can help you and everything like that. And I was like, Are you kidding me? And when he told me that I was thrilled, but I was like, actually really scared. Same time. He was like, This is reality. This is like real software coding. I don't know if I can do this.

And a part of me was going to say no, like, I can't do this. This is too much. You know, like, there's a difference between working on a side project that you know, Like, whatever no one's really gonna care about versus working on software that people use. So I, I got really scared. I went to my wife and I was like, I don't know if I can do this, like, I'm gonna quit my job and I go do this and then I fail. I can't go back to that job. That's just, I can't do that, you know, like, it's, this is a big decision. You know, I've been here for nine years, or whatever it was. So, ultimately, my wife convinced me and was like, you need to do this. People don't get good things unless they taste take some kind of risk. Regardless, you you should try it, you know? So I call it my friend. I told him I concerns and Josh was like, you know, you're just trying to scare yourself out of it, dude. So just take it from me. I'm going to be there to help you. So don't worry, egos you need to take this. Just take it you know, and I was like, Okay, let's set up the interview and everything like that. And he goes, alright.

So I set the interview and they hired me. And that was basically it. I I started there. With no professional experience and it was all because of someone was willing to help me, you know, again back to that, you know, this industry is always really helpful people that are willing to take a chance on you and help me help you and everything. And, of course, there's a lot of challenges, you know, working in actually writing real software and everything like that. But in the long run, it really helped me and was just huge into getting my first job. And then after that first job, of course, my resume after that, just everyone all of a sudden carried to look at it, you know, I didn't have nearly as much difficulty looking for our next role after that. I think it's like once you get your first job, regardless if it's a junior level or whatever, in this industry, it kind of goes downhill after that you actually get considered you know, you'll get your resume looked at you'll get that first interview and everything like that.

Laurence Bradford 31:49
Yeah. Wow. So how long did you work there for at the first job and then what what kind you don't have to get like super detailed, but like, what kind of work were you doing? Essentially Sure,

Michael Pimentel 32:01
yeah, I was there for about a year. So I started off working on back end actually, in a node framework or on on the node runtime. Basically, the contract was migrating some. It's funny because I went from like, barely learning it, and writing mostly front end to writing have some back end code. And the the contract was basically taking some old enterprise micro services that were written in like Java, and then rewriting them on node j s lambda. So that that was what I was doing for like the first four months.

And after that contract ended, they moved on to another project. And it was more full stack. It was JavaScript, it was using Angular on the front end, Node JS on the back end and some SQL Server, but I got to write full stack, front end back end using JavaScript node and everything like that. It was really fun. I got to work on two different big projects there and I learned so much That's where my full stack experience kind of like took off. I got I got to learn so much. And the people that I worked with were huge. It was just, I can't even, you know, express how thankful I am to the people that I work with there. And I still am friends with them. That helped me and you know, explained things that broke things down and haven't been able to understand these other languages.

Laurence Bradford 33:24
Yeah, wow. And I know you recently got laid off due to COVID-19. Was that from this same employer? Or was this another job you had gotten after your meeting? That company? Yeah,

Michael Pimentel 33:39
yeah, it's another interesting story. So I was there at that company for like about a year and then towards the end, my wife and I found out we're gonna have our first child. And so I needed to, it was that company was great for it was actually a bump in salary than I currently made at my other company, the light bulb company, but it's I still needed to, I needed to progress. I needed to move on and grow in my career. And financially. So I started to look, I started to you know, I even asked my boss at the time, I was like, Hey, I have a child on the way, is there any chance that I can move up or anything like that? And you get any feedback? And it was like, yeah, definitely, you know, and whatever amount of time. So I took that I was like, okay, that's great. But maybe I should start looking and see if I even get my resume considered now that I've experienced. So I started to look. And then I got hired at a startup in the Bay Area in Silicon Valley. And I was there for almost a year.

Laurence Bradford 34:37
Wait, so I don't want to I don't want to interrupt you. But was that working remotely? Or do you move there?

Michael Pimentel 34:42
I actually had a hybrid role. So I would go into the office for like an hour and a half commute, two days a week, and then work from home the other three days. But yeah, it was a there I got a taste of the whole Silicon Valley feel of how a software company is around. And I think my skills went up even higher because of that environment. But yeah, so I was there for about a year. And it was a startup that wasn't able to get another round of funding. So actually, we all they started to lay people off. Fortunately, they didn't lay the software team off, like, right away. But since we found that out, we started to look, all the engineers that worked at that company, you know, like, oh, they're not getting funding is a good chance, they're probably gonna lay people off. So we all started looking and I got hired at the credit union, and I was there for about a year, or Yeah, about a year exactly, actually.

And due to, you know, the pandemic and everything like that. They started to kind of restructure, reorganize everything and affected a lot of teams, including my own team, and were a part of that layoff as well. But yeah, it was it was kind of something that I could imagine I mean, it Obviously, as affected a lot of people everywhere, and it feels like it's one of those times that no one can really have planned for. But yeah, I've been a part of that I've been affected by that as well.

Laurence Bradford 36:13
Yeah. So just to like for myself and the listeners, so you basically you've had three different jobs like in tech at this point in each were for about a year. Yeah, give or take. So you essentially now have like three years of like, full time software engineering experience, and the most recent position that you got furloughed or laid off or what have you. Is that a credit union? And what were you doing there? So it was just it's interesting cuz you've such like different experience like from like, a consulting firm to like a tech startup to a credit union, like I imagine, like the experiences that each one were quite different, like the environment, the way people work and stuff.

Michael Pimentel 36:55
Absolutely. So going working at a credit union, and a It's a pretty large credit union. And the way things are done there as opposed to the other companies that I worked at. Worse, it's significantly different. So the startup that I worked at, they were a pretty large startup, they're actually around for 10 years they had employed over we know, like 300 people, the engineering team was 50, engineers, people. And they operated like they were, you know, big tech company and everything like that. So, but at the same time, I had the experience of being able to shift to a lot of different projects at the same time, like there was times when I was working on a mobile app. And one like for one sprint, I'd be working on like a whole two weeks on a mobile app. And then I'd be pivoted to working on their web app, client side, front end code.

And then after that, I'd be working on some hardware code, completely different working on a proprietary algorithm that needs to be converted in red on a mobile app. It was different stuff all the time. It was really exciting, but also really nerve wracking because of the context switching a lot, and learning new languages at the same time. So that was that I learned a lot by a lot of the fast paced stuff at that startup. And then when I got to the credit union, there, it was a little bit more relaxed. Because there's only one product that I worked on, essentially, it was the core banking app. And there I had a team of eight engineers that were dedicated for this core banking app. I got brought on as a senior engineer there. And then that that role kind of pivoted towards a lead developer. I was on that project for about four months. And then my boss promoted me to the lead developer of that team. So essentially, there was a lot different roles because for one, it was one project and it was a mobile app. I had experience with mobile app at the other company, but not to this extent. It was just a huge mobile app.

And the price Marry, the premier objective being handling with people's money was probably a significant factor to the change of like, importance of the application. That part probably added a lot to the stress when I worked there, knowing that you're working on something that deals with people's money, and 500,000 active members. So that was a big learning experience. And I had to, I learned a lot of new stuff, learned new languages learned how to do a lot of things that you would typically do in web development. But yeah, there's a lot of big differences and structure, probably a lot of different departments that you have to work with before you can get approval in changing something like maybe, typically in other companies, I would change some piece of code that would maybe look slightly different because it just makes more sense. Well, at the credit union, it wasn't that simple. You had to get a lot of Have approvals and a lot of tests writing to make sure everything was secure. And they went to just a lot different avenues, you know, which is different.

Laurence Bradford 40:08
Yeah. That yeah makes me dealing with financial information, you know, sensitive data and all that would be quite different. I imagine. So now that you're in, you know, by the time this episode airs, you could already be in a new job. But you know, being active in your job search now, I'm just curious, what kind of company are you aiming to work at? Like, do you want to stay in like the financial industry? Are you trying to go back to a startup, or maybe a consulting firm that you get to work on all these different projects? Yeah, what what are you What did you like the most? I guess,

Michael Pimentel 40:42
I, let's see, I probably, ideally, would, wouldn't stay in, like financial industry, just because all the little differences and how delayed development can be due to all those hoops you have to jump through but probably the most When I had was working in a consulting agency, because he had to work on so many different things, different projects and everything like that, but a lot of them had their own, you know, pros and cons, you know, in terms of like, what I would prefer probably something that is more established due to more stability, just because of everything that's kind of going on right now. You know, I've heard a lot of people have lost their jobs, regardless of the industry, even in software, I would probably prefer stability if I could choose, regardless of the industry, but um, yeah, it's probably it's probably more geared towards that, you know, what I can find that is more stable and everything like that. I do have a few other avenues in Euler, you know, companies that I'm going through right now. So I am confident that something will end soon. That's probably the good part is that there's still a high demand for software engineers and everything like that. So There's a lot of good, good places that are hiring right now and everything like that. Yeah, nothing, nothing too specific.

Laurence Bradford 42:06
Yeah, gotcha. So I'm kind of jumping around here. But I really want to ask this question. And it goes back to your glassblowing experience. I was wondering if there was anything from that or your position before at Jamba Juice, that you were able to transfer or in some way helped you in your job, your new job as a software developer.

Michael Pimentel 42:31
Um, probably the thing that I don't know if it helped me, but those are just a few different things probably. So working probably in an environment that required me to have a lot of perseverance, probably aided to my benefit and in general and just work ethic. It helps me to be able to deal with probably stresses and deadlines. And challenges in my current role, because I dealt with that a lot. And I think probably a lot of people can can relate to that is, you know, working in a place like that or just any kind of work that requires them to give a little bit extra than is required. Just so they can, you know, succeed or do well at their job, it probably just helps helped with those areas, and work ethic to work hard, endure a lot and everything like that. But to also know what I want going forward and what I don't want in a in a career or, or next role.

Also, a big part that working at that company helped me in was probably having difficult conversations with my employer. I had a lot of those at that company. And it prepared me to be able to deal with those difficult situations. A lot better at all my other roles. And what I mean by difficult situations, probably dealing with difficult people, another one being having a conversation with your superiors about compensation, you know, asking for what you feel like you deserve and everything like that. I've had a lot of those and they didn't go so well at that company that I feel really confident and know how to approach those types of people or whenever those conversations need to happen, you know, it can be difficult for a lot of people, but I think I have so much experience with it, that it's it's kind of more fluid for me and how to do it in the right way. It's aided a lot in that in my careers going forward.

Laurence Bradford 44:41
Yeah, that makes sense. And, like, I can only imagine like the stressors you would deal with being in an environment with the glass blowing like super hot you said you were you know, sent home from heat exhaustion. The stress like literally the physical danger of burning yourself. It's like working you know, from home As a software engineer or in or in, you know, a startup office in Silicon Valley is like, the stress level would be so much less like like the Yeah, the comparison, right? Like the stressors you're dealing with compared to maybe like the the ones that the other place. Yeah, like whole other circle a

Laurence Bradford 45:15
whole other thing, right?

Laurence Bradford 45:17
Yeah, we are, like running out of time. And there's one last question I want to ask before we wrap this up. And it's just if you could share any like Final advice to people listening right now, who are just starting out, maybe they were where you were, like, you know, four or five years ago, whenever whenever you got your start? What advice would you give them?

Michael Pimentel 45:39
See, so I think for one, perseverance, when things feel like it's difficult, it may be typical at first, but the more and more you do it, and the more and more you practice, you will eventually understand it. Some of the most complicated things that I've that I could not have imagined when I first started of doing I'm able to you know, thoroughly explain that They seem like almost simple now, I think the more and more you do it, the more natural it will feel. And it will be really, really simple. Just Just keep on doing it and things get easier. Also, and in your journey and learning, it's really important to try to reach out to people to make connections, go to meetups, ask questions, because those are going to be the areas where, where you're going to find a connection that can help you find that career and, and, and ultimately help you, you know, be successful in this in this career field. But those are probably the two biggest ones is, you know, no, I know it's hard at first, but it gets easier, and it gets fun. You know, the challenges you start to face get really exciting. And it's really rewarding. Ultimately, you know, all the hard work will pay off as long as you just keep to it, and it will pay off.

Laurence Bradford 46:52
So yeah, awesome, great advice and a great way to end this interview. Thank you so much again for coming on. Where can people find you? Online.

Michael Pimentel 47:01
Yeah, absolutely, uh probably my Twitter. My Twitter handle is mtpjr8,or my website is just my name my first name Michael or Oh, it's my first initial and my last name.

Laurence Bradford 47:18
Awesome. Thank you so much. We'll make sure to link out to those and thank you again for coming on. Absolutely, thank you.

Laurence Bradford 47:27
Thanks for listening today. If you missed anything or would like to recap, you can find the show notes at If you're listening to this episode in the future, simply click the Search icon in the upper navigation and search for the guests name. If you enjoyed this episode and are interested in learning how to code, there's no better time to start than right now. To help you out we have a free downloadable resource with our 10 learning strategies for new coders. It's perfect for beginners, you know Your experience or background, and you can download your free copy at

It was great to have you with me on the Learn to Code With Me podcast today. I'll see you next time.

Key Takeaways:

  • Don’t feel like you’re stuck where you are. Even if Michael was dead tired after working full-time, the desire to leave his current job became his motivation to learn to code.
  • You can get into coding even with financial constraints. Use resources like freeCodeCamp, hackathons, or meetups. Here are 76 of the best places to learn to code for free.
  • The tech community has so many people willing to help out, regardless of your background. Michael got his job mainly from an important connection he made!
  • Working in different locations, projects, and businesses add to your experience. Utilize various opportunities you have available to build your skills.
  • There’s a high demand for software engineers despite the pandemic. So if you want to make the switch, now’s the time to do it! Here’s our complete guide to job hunting during the pandemic to help you out.

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