Very few things in life that are worth doing will come easily, and of course, that includes learning to code and getting into tech. Overcoming obstacles is just part of the process! However, even if we know this in the logical part of our brains, it’s still frustrating to experience setbacks in the moment.
Disclosure: I’m a proud affiliate for some of the resources mentioned in this article. If you buy a product through my links on this page, I may get a small commission for referring you. Thanks!
I’m welcoming Josh Kemp to the podcast to discuss this. Josh—who was a blacksmith and farrier until getting badly kicked by a horse—is no stranger to life not quite going as planned!
After a period of intensive study, Josh landed his first tech role as a junior developer. He has since moved into test automation and currently works as a QA consultant, while continuing to pick up new technologies and skills on the side. (All without a college degree, by the way!) It’s also worth checking out his online course, The Fastest Way to Land a Tech Job
In the episode, we discuss four common obstacles to expect as you kick off your future tech career. Listen below!
This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.
Laurence Bradford 0:07
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host Laurence Bradford and today's episode is all about dealing with obstacles when you're new to the tech industry. But first, a quick word about this episode's wonderful sponsors.
Laurence Bradford 0:23
Flairon School's online data science boot camp gives students the knowledge skills and the experience they need to land jobs as data scientists. Start learning for free with their Data Science Bootcamp Prep Course, just go to flatironschool.com/learntocodewithme to get started.
Laurence Bradford 0:41
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Laurence Bradford 0:59
Today's episode I talk with Josh Kemp. Josh is a former blacksmith and farrier, who after getting kicked badly by a horse started learning to code. Josh studied three hours every day for the next nine months in two days until he landed his first junior developer role. In this show, we talk about the obstacles he faced along the way and how he overcame them. Make no mistake about it, Josh locked in his first coding job fast. And today, he helps others get developer QA and other tech jobs with his course, the fastest way to land a tech job. You can check out his course by going to learntocodewith.me/fast. That is an affiliate link which means I'll earn a small commission for referring you. But as I always say, I only want you to invest in the products and the courses that are going to help you reach your goals the fastest. Enjoy the episode.
Laurence Bradford 2:00
Hey, Josh, thanks so much for coming on the show.
Josh Kemp 2:02
Hey, Laurence. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate. It's me awesome.
Laurence Bradford 2:05
Yeah, I love chatting with people like you who made a total career transition later in life. And I know that the listeners love to hear stories like yours too. It's really inspiring. It's really motivational. I'm excited to hear all about it and your insights on how to handle stress while learning to code. But first, could you share with us what your life was like before you started learning to code?
Josh Kemp 2:27
Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, I was homeschooled. My parents are big into college education. I started college at 16 for business law, and I did not like it. So I became a little bit of a not a rebel, but I was like, I'm not doing college. I'm doing my own thing. I wanted to be a caricature artists, little cartoon guys that like Disney See, and I did that first summer didn't make any money. You know, just kind of bummed around. It's my Starbucks things, but eventually I found my niche of being a farrier, a blacksmith shoeing horses made, you know really decent money doing that I did it for seven and a half years. I got kicked, kicked in the face actually. So no longer beautiful. That's a joke. So then I, I broke my, my right thumb, my left Pinky. And I just basically said to myself, okay, I've had my second kid, I no longer feel invincible. I need to find something else that can support my family. And one of my clients had told me, that was I think was a he was a DBA. At the time, he was like, hey, if you learn how to code, companies will overlook your lack of credentials since I didn't have a degree, but that's kind of what I was doing before.
Laurence Bradford 3:38
Wow. So how long were you in that other industry for before you made the switch?
Josh Kemp 3:44
So I did. I apprentice with a guy for six months shoeing horses until he said I was good enough, whatever that means. And I went then I went to shoeing school at a trade school in California Sacramento, which is like eight nine weeks, which makes you good enough to be dangerous. Then just like coding, yeah. And then I did it on my own for seven and a half years. So up till I was what? 20-28 so.
Laurence Bradford 4:11
Yeah, so that's a good amount of time. I mean to be in that industry and then make the switch. What? So like, What impact did that injury have on your life? And I don't want to sound weird when I say this, but some ways are you kind of like thankful that it happened because it ended up by word.
Josh Kemp 4:36
Yeah, no, I in hindsight, you know, difficult situations always suck and you're like, man, why the heck is this happening? And then it's like, oh, you know now. Yeah, now I'm glad that I am no longer shoeing horses. Initially, the income was a pretty drastic change. So like it was wintertime when I got injured I broke my I kicked in the hand and broke my pinkie I'm fairly I won't I'm not not bragging but I'm very, very tough and very driven and I continue to show horses with my hand broken and just sucked. It was wintertime It was like 20 degrees outside. And I were thinking to myself, alright, I needed to get a skill where I can literally walk into a building with just my brain. Someone gives me a computer I can make money and I want to make enough money to provide well for my family. And so yeah, it was it was it was very tough but in hindsight Yeah, I'm so glad I got the tech.
Laurence Bradford 5:31
Yeah, so when you first decided to pursue tech look into it, figure out what to learn what was like the first thing that you did?
Josh Kemp 5:40
So so I'm very thankfully one of my natural skills is I've good people skills are very strategic and very driven. And I'll give you an example of when I listened to someone else besides like what I thought I should do. I was trying to get out of shooting when I was up in Northern Virginia up near DC so all my friends were like in the working class. MIT had top secret clearances, and they're like, Hey, get a security job. And then you can work your way and help desk you can slowly get into the tech field. So without doing any job searching or anything I just said, Okay, so I got paid a bunch of money, went and took a week long armed security officer training, did their shotgun trading their handgun training, and I passed and I'm like, Yay, and I go to get a job. And basically every job once like 10 years experience, or, or the local jobs didn't require armed and they didn't pay anything.
Josh Kemp 6:33
So I was like, Oh, crap, I totally didn't start with the end in mind. I just just started learning. So when I did coding, it's after that failed. I then it was like, okay, which jobs is 2012? I was like, which tech job is the hottest, which is newest? It'll have more entry level jobs at the time it was rails. No, that's not the case anymore. But um, so I found out it just googled on the LinkedIn, different sites. And I saw that there was Junior rails developer positions, but there weren't many like, Junior c++ position. So I was like, Okay, let's do the math here. Let's do the hot technology, it's easier to learn. And that's why I decided to shoot for it.
Laurence Bradford 7:17
Yeah, that's smart. So looking online to see like, what kind of junior dev positions were out there? That's a really good point. I think you mentioned with like, there were, like Junior Ruby on Rails dev openings, but not like, would you say C sharp or c++ or something? Yeah. Yeah. I think another thing is like, based on where people live, you mentioned like you are in Northern Virginia. I'm in New York, someone who lives I don't know, in Missouri or something. I think like, the different depending on like, what companies are in your area, there could be different technologies, because I know there's some people that are some areas that there's a lot of oh god dotnet and right and that So yeah, I think that's really good advice, though. Just looking online, seeing what's available. So anyway, so you did this Research, you saw Ruby on Rails, you saw their job openings, you saw their companies are hiring for it. And then what was your next move?
Josh Kemp 8:07
Well, so so when I was when I was a kid I wanted to get in computers at our church is there's this guy who is deaf, but he could lip read. So I thought he was cool as can be. So I got this dude, just start talking to him. And he would like lip read and talk to me. I don't even know what to say. This was like, man, how does he do that? But hated computers. And, you know, as a kid, they seemed really wealthy. And I was like, Oh, cool. I want to do computers. So someone had told me though, that like, if you're not good at math, you know, don't do that, you know, bad idea. So I wasn't great at math and in high school, and in hindsight, I think it was just the way I was presented the information. But anyway, so I was always just kind of wrote that off as that's not for me.
Josh Kemp 8:48
So when I looked at Ruby, one of my clients that gave me a book, I don't know c++, there's some language that was very low level. And I was like, oh, gosh, I can't do this. This is going to suck. Then I somehow stumbled upon Ruby. They have a good learning community. We're friendly at their meetup groups. And I was like, Oh crap, I can I can read this stuff. I can do this. And I mean, I'm not the smartest tool in the shed, right? So like, for me, I was like, What can I do that I can succeed at? And part of it is like, I feel good about not having to have a chip in my shoulder to be smarter than everybody. I just say, hey, look, this is how I learned. And, and Ruby was, for me, just a light bulb of like, I can learn these things. I can create a web application. And the end, I got a job with it. So I was just thrilled to find Ruby and they worked out great.
Laurence Bradford 9:38
Yeah, that's awesome. So when you were began teaching yourself how to code. You were also working full time. Right. Right. So I'm curious. I know the listeners definitely are what kind of problems did you face when you are balancing all of this?
Josh Kemp 9:55
Thankfully, my wife we've been married now just over 10 years. We got married really young, a bunch of babies, but I'm, I'm 33 now. So I made about 23. But anyway, so she's super, super supportive. And, you know, we were like, Look, I googled online trying to figure out at the time the boot camps were just starting like dev boot camp, I think was the time the first one, I tried to get in those boot camps. And, and I went up to New York to get into flat iron, I just missed getting in, I end up renting a house losing a bunch of money trying to I just risk the whole I'm a risk taker, and I lost a bunch of money on that. But so I came back down after knocking Deb boot camp or flat out and I said, You know what, I'm going to learn this myself. I don't know how I'm going to do it.
Josh Kemp 10:38
I found one other guy who had taught himself and I reached out to there's two people I reached out to them asked how long did it take you? How many hours and both them had said about 1000. So then I just said I'm gonna do three hours a day. And I figured in a year I'm gonna get hired somehow. And it ended up taking me 827 hours which, for me, I needed something Simple metric to help me like stay focused. So I talked to my wife and said, let's do 21 hours a week, in three hours a day. So we put the kids to bed at 10 o'clock. Sorry, we put the kids bed about eight o'clock. In bath, we talk a little bit, I would code from 10 at night to one in the morning or later, I'd fall asleep on the couch. My wife could wake me up like Hey, get in bed. But yeah, we just we just just didn't miss a day grounded out every day. It was tough, you know?
Laurence Bradford 11:28
Wow. So 10pm at night to 1am like five days a week or seven days a week?
Josh Kemp 11:34
So what I do is I had had to keep my shoeing my horse sharing clients happy and believe it or not some people like wild horse sharing what is that? But like, believe it or not, so my clients are like really like Polo horses and they go to events and they have to be like ready? And they're very much like, you know, hey, my horse also shoo you got to get here now. So some days it would mess up my you know my schedule so I wouldn't be able to study much I would make up the hours on the weekends, if I had to do four or five hours, I'd go to Panera. And I would just, you know, get a drink, sit down and just go for four or five hours, however, sometimes six hours to make up to make sure every week I had 2021 hours because I realized without keeping track, I thought I was doing 21 I really did like, you know, 12 and I was like, oh, man, I need to keep because you know, you lie to yourself, where it's like, I feel like I'm doing a good job. But if you're not like cold, hard truth, it's like, Look, I got to do the time. I've got to put it in. And at first it really sucks because you're not good at anything. You can't debug stuff very well. Yeah, that's how we did it.
Laurence Bradford 12:40
Yeah, yeah, I really like that tip of using like a metric like a certain time. And it's okay, you can repeat this again, you did 21 hours a week because you were trying to get to how many hours total?
Josh Kemp 12:52
So so time I found two people, one on LinkedIn one on some website that had gotten hired just and they didn't have a degree and I had met And I said, How can it take you? And they gave me a month? They're like, Well, I was doing this six months. In one guy's like, I did it two years. And I was like, but how many hours? Are you studying? Because it's hard to know, like, was a one hour Was it 40 hours a week? And basically, they both guessed it was around 1000. So I gave myself just just a number, like, okay, you know, if I work hard, I can get the same results if theoretically, so, I just put that as a number and figured out how long would it take me, you know, roughly a year. And then I figured out I need 21 hours a week to make this happen. I didn't want to go longer than a year really, because I feel like it's hard when you have kids and hard on your family to be gone, you know, not present. And I knew I could do that for a short time, but I didn't want to, you know, do that for a long, long period of time with my kids.
Laurence Bradford 13:46
Right? Yeah, no, that definitely makes sense. So you Okay, so you're doing 21 hours a week trying to get to that thousand hours, try and take a year do it and at the time, okay, so you're working full time you have these injuries. What kinds of Things like, like, were there moments where you were really stressed? Or were you were really nervous or you're about to just, like, throw in the towel and be like, you know what, maybe this isn't for me. And how did you deal with that?
Josh Kemp 14:11
Yes. So, so for me, I'm very driven. And I can, and honestly, it horseshoeing it's almost like abuse. I mean, you get into this horse and he sits on you, he kicks you, he tries to bite you. And I'm like, I always thought of myself as tough and like, I can do anything. You know, like, I've had that mentality. And my parents always taught, you know, always kind of like, you know, I felt like, if you don't have a degree, you're, you're not going to make it that's that's my feeling whether or not the minute that way, so I always feel like how to push myself. So the first day, I was going to learn to code, I downloaded Sublime Text. I spent two and a half. My blog post is still off, like I didn't delete anything to make myself look bad. I just left it up. It took me two and a half hours to save a file. And in hindsight now, basically, I should have just closed it and reopen it. That's all I need to do. But I got stuck in a state where for some reason it wouldn't save. And I just, I was losing my mind like thinking, wow, Josh, you must be an idiot. You can't even you can't even save a file.
Josh Kemp 15:16
So those moments, I mean, absolutely, you feel like you're just like, I can't do it. Everyone must be smarter than me. You know, they're better than me. Some people just like maybe I'm just not smart, but in, but you get through those times. And for me, my kids were super motivating because I just, you know, there they are. I'm like, I need to take care of these kids. My wife was a stay at home mom. And you know, like, you know, we just had to do it. So I feel like in hindsight, you're saying earlier, it was actually good to have all this pressure because I almost couldn't fail cuz I have to make it you know, versus some people that talk to me, I've done coaching. I don't coach anymore, but like I did a bunch of coaching for the last two years. The biggest thing is people will be like, they're just too comfortable. They might be in a parent's basement, but there's too much easy Netflix TV and like they don't have enough drive like I had that because of my situation.
Laurence Bradford 16:13
Yeah, I love it reminds me of another guest I had on seasons ago, we'll have to include them in the show notes. His name's Brian. And I think he's one of the all time favorites but he transitioned into a new role as a software developer and about the think the same time you did, he also had two kids, he also was working full time, and he just cut out all the distractions and I think what you talked about like the press, you had so much pressure that you couldn't fail and I just think back to my own learn to code experience which is really different I think from pretty much everyone's people will show no way I won't I will get into it, but I was like actually totally by myself. Like I was living in Thailand and I had no one like literally no one around I knew I was, I was alone. So I had a lot of time. And, and at first I was kind of going crazy. And I ended up back. I never talked about this, but ended up gaining a lot of weight because I would just eat a lot of junk food and like watch Netflix and stuff, even though it's in Thailand. And then I was and then after several weeks, I was like, pulled myself out of that and got back on the horse. But in any event, it's just really interesting to hear like the different places that people come from. But I have found that people like your situation, like with a lot of pressure, I think make that transition a lot faster. Because other guests that I've had on the show that switched into tech, the fastest have I think, for the most part all been married and had kids and we're working full time and they were the ones that did it in like eight months, 10 months or something.
Josh Kemp 17:47
Laurence Bradford 17:47
So you Yeah, so you ended up landing a junior dev job after nine, nine months in two days is whatever in town? That's right. Yeah. Which is really impressive, you know without a college degree while working full time. So what kind of job was it? And how did you find it?
Josh Kemp 18:04
So and I will say, I will say this because people asked me after at one blog post go viral, someone put my blog posts on Hacker News, and all these people emailed me, and basically basically said, in nicer words, wow, this moron who shoes horses for living can do this, what did I miss? I must be doing something wrong if he can do it. So I think there's two types that I've come across the people. There's people like myself, my previous education of like, my tech background was like, I could send text messages. I could send emails, if I needed to attach a photo, I would have to get my air quotes. techie wife to help me. So like, from going from that to getting hired. Versus you hear people are like, Yeah, I did coding in high school. And now I'm learning to code but really they have a solid fundamentals of like, variables, strings. I didn't know what a string was. I'm like, what in the heck Why did they pick the word string? Why they say text? So like, so for me, I got up to nine months to, you know, two days. And I just started speaking at local meetup groups. And, you know, I'm very passionate about trying to learn like I give it my all whatever I do. And this one guy came up to several camp tried to help me but one guy came up to me and said, hey, let's have coffee. The time I didn't realize it was like a informal interview. And he invited me to like a final interview. And I was up against he told me this, this the job required required air quotes a four year degree, and they wanted six years experience. And I was like, Well, I'm not gonna get that. And the person who's also interviewing had six years experience and a degree and I'm like, why are they even interviewing me?
Josh Kemp 19:49
So I bombed the interview. pletely failed the interview. And they took me out to a I think a sympathy lunch is the polite way to say it. I mean, I like to just say things like, they are like, you know, I bombed it. I didn't get a single answer, right. Let's just put it that way. I had made a Rails app, which I was pretty proud of. But at lunch, I said, Hey, to the manager, I said, am I able to Google those questions and get the answers? He's like, Sure. So by the end of the lunch, I had all the answers. And I said, Hey, this is what you were wanting. And he's like, yes. And then I thought, I totally lost about least felt good. I gave him the answers. And then I was told later that they picked me. It was like a tide whole team picks. 20 people decided they picked me because I had more enthusiasm and passion. And the other person just seemed like it's just another job. So I think it's it shows you I've never been qualified for any job have ever gotten. Like when I worked at IBM, the manager had to write me a letter explaining why she hired me even though I didn't have a college degree, which was a hard and fast requirement.
Laurence Bradford 20:54
Wait, sorry, I write a letter to to you or to someone else or?
Josh Kemp 20:58
I'm sorry. So So, I was speaking to me a group came up and said, hey, let's have lunch, which is how I've gotten all my jobs, you know, like, you speak at local places. And no, she had, I've even had a requirement at that time that you had to have a degree and a job required a CS degree. Oh, so she had to basically explain why she was making a poor choice.
Laurence Bradford 21:21
Okay, like to her manager or something. Yeah, yeah. Okay, so she had to, like, write a letter explaining why she, they hired you to HR, her manager or something. Okay, that makes more sense. Okay, that's why Well, that's all I think really encouraging to people to people listening. And I loved what you said about like, every job that I've had I've been unqualified for and I think that's like, like, I think too many people feel like they need to meet every job requirement or 90% of the job requirements that a job listing has when in reality you maybe need to meet like 50% or something. Right? Yeah. So that's all really awesome information. So, okay, so when you got this position, you weren't really job hunting, right? Like you weren't like applying to jobs online or were you?
Josh Kemp 22:10
So you know, I have a course now. And I made this course because I got laid off this job I got laid off the next job, and no fault of my own just companies downside and things like that. And through all the last five years, I've been tech, here's been my experience whenever I apply for a job, I never even get an interview. I hardly ever even hear back. And most people I talked to that degree, get discouraged with that. And they're like, Oh, well, obviously I'm not qualified. And the truth is, when you send in to like applying, it's like this HR person decides who's the qualified by Do you have a Degree or no degree? So I was job hunting because I was speaking at local meetup groups. I wasn't sure if it was going to work, but I knew. I think it was on the six month I tried a positive And didn't hear. You know, I heard crickets back sounds like Well, that's not gonna work. So I just figured if I'm helping out in the community adding value, talking, giving small talks and shaking, nervous, you know, I figure, if I'm ever gonna get a job, this is the place, someone's gonna give me a shot. It did work, but you didn't have at the time I had never done it. But now I've done it many times, so I knew it worked. But--
Laurence Bradford 23:28
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Laurence Bradford 23:34
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Laurence Bradford 25:47
Yeah, I love the tip of adding value to the community is adding value in general I feel like my my blog and other writing that I've done online has even if it's years old, like from like two 2015 or something, it's come back. And it's helped me in ways today that I'm still just kind of blown away by like the fact that I wrote some blog posts several years ago that now someone found now they're reaching out about something that's like some kind of professional opportunity. It's just crazy how when you provide value that it really comes back and helps you in all sorts of ways. And you're giving back and it's really awesome. So I want to backtrack actually a second, because you mentioned laid off. So you mean from the tech job that you ended up getting you were you were laid off?
Josh Kemp 26:31
Josh Kemp 27:27
Josh Kemp 28:40
Laurence Bradford 29:29
Wow. I didn't even realize about those coming in his interview. I'm really glad we you're sharing them. So what did you end up doing? The second time you got laid off and oh, and real quick, I do want to throw in. In the second episode of the season with londa Quisling, we talked about how test automation and QA is a great place for beginners to start. Another one that I think is good is like internal tools. So I know what where I was working Previously, we had like different pods. You Two parts, like the product and one was internal tools. And they built and maintained the internal app that our customer support team used. And I feel like that will actually people on the pod one of the main people he was he, he started the company he was he was on customer support. And he was able then to move over and be one of the like the pod leaders of internal tools. You know, this took a few years, of course, but in any case, I think that's another good direction to go on. But sorry, back to back to this. So when you got laid off the second time, what what did you do?
Josh Kemp 30:33
Right, so I I was pretty so when I was shoeing horses I made I don't know, not bragging but as a 25 year old, I made a lot of money I had I made over 115,000 so I was like, Oh, you know, I'm doing good for myself and I'm providing well for my kids and I thought, you know, life was good. When I when I was doing the tack, you know, I was making like, you know, 65 and I was getting by but um I just felt like wow, here I am, you know 30 almost 30 I'm kind of thinking of my younger self quite What the Hey, like, you know, you just feel like as you get older you should be in I guess the natural progression, you feel like you should be doing better.
Josh Kemp 31:15
So I was I was pretty discouraged. I mean, I'm not gonna lie, I had a couple on the way home on that Tuesday at a couple might have had a couple tears drip out. And I was just like, really discouraged because I had been learning at the first company all their tools that the next company learning all their tools, and now it's like, oh, crap, now I'm on there. So I end up saying, You know what? I was in Northern Virginia cost of living was very, very high. We had friends in Raleigh, North Carolina, so he said, let's move. Let's just let's just try to get a job down there and move cost livings way less.
Laurence Bradford 31:47
And it's a huge tech hub.
Josh Kemp 31:49
It is. It's it's
Laurence Bradford 31:51
Lots of tech companies there.
Josh Kemp 31:53
Yeah, it's great down here. I love it. Um, but but at the time, I didn't know what was gonna happen. So I ended up switching My pride and say, you know, I'm gonna move in my folks for a month just just cut back on my finances. I had some job offers to go further up north, like in Washington DC, but the commute was going to kill me. So I said no. So I had some other stuff I could do up there. But I just wanted to, to, you know, change and have more time with my kids. So, out of desperation, I said, All my success has been desperation, like I'm always like, crap, what do I do now? It's never like sitting down twiddling my thumbs. It's always like, I need to make this work. So I, I reverse engineer the job hunting process. I said, Okay, if I send out applications, I get nothing back. So I'm not doing that. And then I, I looked at recruiters and I said, how do they make their money? And then I was like, oh, what if I act like I'm a recruiter? How would I find me? And so so basically, I got hired in nine days. And I was Wow. surprised because previously it took me two months. And you know, praying and praying, I hope please, please.
Josh Kemp 33:04
And sounds like Oh, so that's how I end up making my course. Because people come to me like, how did you get hired nine days? And it's like, I'm not a genius. Like, everything I've done, anyone can do in my opinion, but basically starting with the end in mind, find the job that you know you're a good fit for do not apply for it never apply for the job, which of course, everyone's like, why would you never do that? And the number one rule is, most not all, most recruiters get some commission off of you, if they get you're hired. And if you go apply for a job, you're now in that company's search, their database, whatever, and they don't get that. So just basically basically using them as a way to get into the company. You know, it's just different than most people but I never apply for a job. I never applied for job ever since. And I end up getting hired down at fidelity. And what's hilarious is my title was a mid level software engineering testing. And the truth is, which is hilarious because people now like, oh, how do you know you're good enough?
Josh Kemp 34:16
I'm not good enough, you're never gonna feel good enough, like, well, you have a cool title or, you know, it's like, the person who interviewed me, had me all they had to do was reverse a string using not using string dot reverse, so I just use a loop. And that gave me the title mid level. And I'm like, that's a terrible, but I found out later, the person who interviewed me had been giving my someone handed in my papers like here, go interview this guy. And they weren't even an automation tester. They were a manual tester. So they googled some questions to ask. And I think it's just funny how like, we put all of our self that like how we feel about ourselves, and half the time. It's a rush job when you're getting interviewed on some of these things.
Laurence Bradford 34:58
Yeah, that's that's a really good point. Think like some interviews people are or the whole team is really prepared for the candidate. And there's been a lot of thought put in, but then there could definitely be times where so maybe someone's sick and someone else is filling in or you know what, if someone has an emergency come up and they're filling in and they don't need, they barely even looked at your resume. And it sounds like what you said, like the person didn't even really know what your job would entail. So they were looking up, but yeah, it's funny how life happens. Well, thanks so much for sharing all of your stories and all these tips. Is there anything else you'd like to leave the listeners with before we get going like any other job hunt tips?
Josh Kemp 35:36
Yeah. So I would say, you know, like, I'll give you one last story. I was at a job. And this HR person came up to developer Sierra next me, she said, You have to interview this guy in 10 minutes. He's like, what? And he used some other language that we won't use. Basically, though, he said he got his buddy and he said, pardon me this guy. They both agreed that the person wasn't a blank. We'll just get that's cool. I was like, you're gonna hire the dude or give your recommendation if he's nice, because they really didn't have time to really, they didn't have. They had project deadlines. But what I found after helping coaching people, there's, in my opinion, there's roughly two types of people that that are trying to get into code. There's people who write hello world. And then they think, Oh, I'm ready to make 100 K. And it's like, no. And there's people who are amazing. coding, technically, they might have dropped out of computer science, but they don't have the people skills, and they don't care about the people skills.
Josh Kemp 36:32
And I think it's much easier to get someone hired who's very nice and positive and energetic. It's much easier to get some of the less technical ability hired than someone with more technical ability, who makes no eye contact doesn't shake hands. You know what I mean? So like, if my advice someone who's trying to get in tech right now is, here's the rule. Like if you are very new to tech, like I was, and you can afford to take 4550 K, you know, try, like, get into tech support. And then if do that or if you're going after that, do QA. If you do if you make QA makes a little more than your test automation, if you still love coding, then do a junior dev role versus trying to go straight to junior Dev. I don't think people should put ourselves like here in 12 weeks and go from zero to hired. That's tough. So I think it's unrealistic.
Laurence Bradford 37:21
Yeah. Yeah. I like that progression. They're starting in tech support and kind of working your way up and not going right to the junior Dev. I think that's sound advice. And I think of my own journey into tech. And it was always like baby steps that led to the next thing. You know, I didn't go full force right away. My first job. I was like, making like $15 an hour and working and I was like working in like a basement--
Josh Kemp 37:45
Like it was awesome.
Laurence Bradford 37:47
Yeah, I'd only been learning for like a couple weeks at that point. So I thought it was great. So I was basically being paid to learn but it was very Yeah, it was far from glamorous. Oh my goodness. It was far, very far from glamorous. Anyway, thank you so much, Dr. for coming on the show is great. Where can people find you online?
Josh Kemp 38:03
So I have three places. I'm on Instagram, @JoshuaCamp85. I have my blog, Joshua camp. But then my course is called the fastest way to land a tech job. And I've put everything I've learned into that. And I think it helped a bunch of people. But yeah, feel free to reach out to me ask me questions. I'd love to help.
Laurence Bradford 38:27
I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Josh. If you missed any of that, or would like a recap, the Show Notes for this episode can be found at my website at learntocodewith.me/podcast. If you're listening to this episode in the future, simply click the Search icon in the upper navigation and type in Josh's name. Again, Josh has a course where he teaches people the fastest way to land a job in tech. It's especially relevant for those who are coming from non traditional career backgrounds. When I say non traditional, I just mean non traditional getting to tech, so someone without a computer science degree or maybe no college degree at all. You can learn more about his course at learntocodewith.me/fast. Again, the URL is learntocodewith.me/fast. I will earn a small commission for referring you if you decide to get his product. Thanks so much for tuning in and I'll see you next time.
Obstacle 1: Not Knowing What to Learn in Tech
This is the first obstacle that any new coder will face while they’re still looking at lists of courses and technologies, baffled about which to choose.
In a previous episode, we’ve covered how to decide what programming languages to learn, but Josh has a great, practical tip to add for anyone who’s struggling and needs a general direction to start from.
Here’s what you do: find which tech jobs are the hottest/newest right now, as they have more entry-level positions available. From there, reverse-engineer your skills to fit that role.
“Start with the end in mind,” says Josh. “When I started coding, I was like, okay, which job in 2012 is the hottest, which is newest? At the time it was Rails. I just Googled, went on LinkedIn and different sites, and I saw that there were junior Rails developer positions, but there weren’t many junior C++ positions. So I thought, let’s do the math here. Let’s do the hot technology. And Ruby was for me, just a lightbulb of ‘I can learn these things. I can create a web application.’ In the end, I got a job with it. So I was just thrilled to find Ruby, and it worked out great.”
Obstacle 2: Having a Full-Time Job
Ah, time: there’s never enough of it, right? And when you’re working a 9-5, plus a commute, plus just living life, the hours can slip away quickly.
Josh has been there. While learning to code, he continued his regular job working with horses (with a broken hand, no less), plus raising a family. But again, he started with the end in mind. “I found two people who had taught themselves, and asked how many hours did it take you? And both of them had said about 1000. I thought if I work hard, I can get the same results.”
Starting from this 1,000-hour number, Josh did some division. “I figured in a year, I’m going to get hired somehow. And I needed 21 hours a week to make this happen. I talked to my wife and said, let’s do three hours a day. So, we put the kids to bed at about eight o’clock. And that’s when we’d talk a little bit, then I would code from ten at night to one in the morning or later. Some days, horseshoeing would mess up my schedule and I would have to make up the hours on the weekends, but I had to make sure every week I had 21 hours. The cold, hard truth was, look, I’ve got to do the time. I’ve got to put it in.”
Try setting the same 1,000-hour goal for yourself! Josh ended up putting in only 827 hours of study over 9 months and 2 days before he landed his first junior developer role. Aim high and you might achieve your goals earlier than you think.
Obstacle 3: Dealing With Stress and Doubt
This obstacle is an internal one, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Maybe things aren’t going as quickly as you’d hoped, or there’s a concept you’re struggling to grasp, and it makes you wonder, am I really cut out for this?
(Spoiler alert—you are!)
“I’ve had those moments where you feel like, I can’t do this and everyone must be smarter than me, they’re better than me, maybe I’m just not smart,” Josh says. But you get through those times.”
The solution here is multifaceted. First, it’s important to intentionally get out of your comfort zone and push yourself: foster the mentality that you’re tough and driven.
It also helps to have a compelling personal reason that will make the stressful times worth it. “For me, my kids were super motivating,” Josh says. “I need to take care of these kids. I feel like in hindsight, it was actually good to have all this pressure, because I almost couldn’t fail. I had to make it.”
Obstacle 4: Getting That First Job in Tech
Getting the first job can be the hardest, because when your resume is still thin and more about what you’ve been learning than jobs you’ve done, you don’t tick as many boxes on job listings.
“Whenever I apply for a job (the traditional way), I never even get an interview,” Josh says. “And most people I talk to get discouraged with that and think well, obviously, I’m not qualified. The truth is, when you apply, it’s this HR person who decides who’s qualified by ‘Do you have a degree or no degree?’”
However, this isn’t as discouraging as it sounds. There are things you can actively do to increase your chances. Plus, all it takes is one person to take that small chance on you.
Josh’s first tip is networking. When you’re actively meeting people in the industry, you’ll be the one they think of when an opportunity opens up.
“I just figured if I’m helping out in the community, adding value, and giving small talks, someone’s going to give me a shot. One day this guy came up to me and said ‘Hey, let’s have coffee.’ At the time I didn’t realize it was like an informal interview. And he invited me to a final interview. I wasn’t qualified, but they picked me because I had more enthusiasm and passion, and the other person (who had a degree and six years experience) just seemed like it was just another job.”
Another idea is to start a little lower down than you want at first. “If you are very new to tech and you can afford to take $45/50K, try to get into tech support. Then, if you do that, move on to QA. If you can make QA, then do test automation. If you still love coding, THEN do a junior dev role versus trying to go straight to junior dev. I actually like test automation and I still got to write code.”
The last tip? Instead of applying online, reach out to recruiters instead—or make it easy for them to find you. “Never apply for the job,” Josh says. “The number one rule is most recruiters get some commission off of you, if they get you hired.” Beef up your LinkedIn presence in particular (see The 5-Day LinkedIn Crash Course).
So many people in the tech industry have been through the same obstacles you’re facing as a new coder or job-seeker. Luckily, that means a wealth of crowd-sourced knowledge and tips for you.
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