Duck Tapes Transcript: Code School life with Alex Aranda
John: And this is officially going to be the start. So I say welcome to the Duck Tapes.
Alex: Thank you.
John: No, that's to the audience.
Alex: It's an honor.
John: That's to the audience. That's to the audience. I already messed it up.
John: So this is a podcast for duckheads. Is that funny?
Alex: Is this where you edit in the crickets?
John: So joining me in the duck pond today is Alex Aranda. Anybody recognize the name? That's where I add in the crickets. So Alex is a long time friend of mine.
John: Oh, I'm your host John Haupenthal, by the way. I'm all all over the place today. Regular listeners will be surprised that I am not doing things in the correct order. No, it's different every time. Every time.
John: Oh, so Alex, who I've known forever, right? Coming on 20 years. Is a good friend of mine. I was just curious, how many episodes of the Duck Tapes have you listened to?
Alex: So far this will be the first one I've heard.
John: Great, great. Thank you for the support.
John: So I decided to have Alex on today because like myself, Alex has decided to change his career path and go to a code school. Which is how I got into code-ing a couple of years ago. And I thought it would be interesting to hear how he is doing and what he's experiencing, because I know that a lot of our loyal duckheads are junior developers and probably going through the same sorts of struggles.
John: So Alex, even though you've talked a couple times, officially now welcome to the duck pond.
Alex: Thank you.
John: Great. So let's talk about, number one, let's talk about how old you are.
Alex: Getting into the nitty gritty. All right.
John: So I've mentioned many times before on the podcast that I am a little bit older than your average new coder. Even though I think now, I don't know, maybe I'm not new anymore. A couple of years in. But you're definitely new.
Alex: I'm brand new.
John: Shoot. No cursing on this podcast. I almost let one fly because Alex is with me. Don't laugh either. No, laughing. So how old are you?
Alex: I'm currently 38 years old.
Alex: So I'm coming in late also.
John: And you decided to join a code school, why?
Alex: I wanted a change of pace in life. Something that's going to give me a little bit more flexibility, something that'll help me spend more time with my family. I've got a growing family with two little ones and another one on the way.
John: Oh boy.
Alex: Oh yeah.
John: I'm not going to give you the congratulations that I know you're trying to pull out of me.
Alex: And so I'm in industry right now that takes a lot out of me. I'm currently, up until now, I've been in nursing. And I'm looking for something that's a little bit more structured as far as schedule goes.
Alex: And also it was more in line with my passion for computers. I mean, I've always enjoyed working with computers and technology.
John: Yeah, it's interesting actually. We could talk a little bit about, I guess, our histories, and how we both ended up in this industry after doing things that are totally different.
John: Alex and I met 20 years ago when a lot of you were not born yet. We started working at the same restaurant here in Southern California. We both worked there for, God, almost a decade.
John: Hosting, serving, and then eventually getting into management. We played in a band together for quite some time while we were working there. I think, I don't know about assuming, but hoping that it would go somewhere one day. I sang and played guitar as Alex drummed. We had a practice space at Alex's dad's metal shop, and once that metal shop moved and our practice space went away, the band fell apart and we had to find something to do with our lives. And then I worked in retail for another decade before going to code school. And what did you do in that time? Quite a few things.
Alex: I've done several different things. I went from getting my class A license and driving a semi truck to working in my family's machine shop, and actually coding for the CNC machinery that they own.
John: Do you know, I forgot about that.
Alex: Yeah. That's different kinds of coding. I mean, it's cheat codes where you're telling a machine to cut.
John: Not your finger.
Alex: Right, exactly. Everything but your finger, ideally. Which still ended up happening. What else did I do?
Alex: And I'm asking you?
John: You ended up in nursing, yeah.
Alex: And then I ended up in nursing, ultimately. Where I've been for the past 10 years.
John: And now ending up with coding. It's interesting though that we both have kind of had an interest in computers, but never really did anything too computer oriented.
John: Because I know when I came around to coding finally it felt like it fit like a glove, you know?
John: It was just like, oh, this makes sense now. This is an actual profession that I enjoy. Whereas I'd spent, you know, forever doing things that I thought I had to do to make money.
John: And it turns out there's a whole industry that I could enjoy my job and make money doing that.
Alex: Well, and I had the same kind of thing where in nursing I got to a point where I kind of felt like I wanted to get out and do something different, and my wife's family was actually kind of pushing me to go into the tech industry. But I felt kind of like I owed it to my wife to stick with what I was doing and not jump around so much. You know wives, they like financial stability and that sort of thing.
John: Yeah, yeah, crazy. Especially when you have kids.
Alex: I know, right?
John: Yeah, I don't know what it is.
Alex: But no. I mean, fortunately, my wife is understanding and she's given me the opportunity to-
John: Yeah, she's not going to listen to this. You can stop with all this.
Alex: Oh, yeah, well.
John: She's so wonderful.
Alex: I love you babe.
John: Yeah. And actually talking about the band for a second. I sent you that article yesterday that I found online where it turns out that they did a study and drummers actually naturally have problem solving skills, and are, I think it said they're smarter than most people they're around and they increase the intelligence of people they're around. Which I thought was BS.
Alex: Yeah. Personally, I felt that's been true all my life.
John: Yeah, yeah. Constantly in the band you'd be like, shouldn't we do this?
John: Shouldn't we do this right here?
John: I'm not going to say we should, but we should. So I thought that was very interesting. So yeah, now we're both... Well, now I've been in the coding industry for coming up on three years, and it's been great so far. And I'm sure that you looked at my success and thought, well, if John can do it.
Alex: Yeah. No, my thought was if the lead guitarist can do it, a drummer can do it for sure.
John: Yeah, yeah. He's going to take control. So now how long have you been in your program?
Alex: So I've been in the program for, it'll be a month in a day or two.
John: Out of how many weeks total.
Alex: Out of a 12 week program.
Alex: I did start two weeks before the program with some prep courses to get ready for the program. But I'm about six weeks into starting to learn coding.
John: So what does your program, what is the end result? Or what are you learning, I guess, in the end, when you come out? What are your skills going to be?
Alex: So what they advertise is I'm going to be a full stack developer.
Alex: Able to work in front end, back end.
John: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And then I think you mentioned React is what you'll be doing on the front end node and the back end?
John: And you're coming in with pretty much no web development, right?
John: Real Basic from back in the day, like all of us.
John: So no React or anything yet. No frameworks yet.
John: So I am super excited to see the light bulb go off in your head when you are introduced to those concepts.
John: How has it been so far?
Alex: It's awesome. I love it. It's tough to learn everything.
John: That wasn't supposed to be a hard hitting question, by the way. You look shocked.
Alex: I wasn't expecting any hard hitting questions. This is taking me out of my comfort zone.
John: Yes or no.
Alex: No, it's been great. I mean, I think I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew it was going to be a hard road learning something I haven't been really comfortable with.
Alex: So it's been tons of fun. I enjoy the whole learning process and all this stuff that we're learning. It's hard to pick up at times.
Alex: But it's just practice.
John: Yeah. What has been, or has there been, anything that's been sort of surprising about, I guess, the code that you're learning or the learning process or your class or anything? Is it easier than you thought? More difficult? I've been a little bit, I will say, a little bit annoyed and surprised at how quickly you're picking up on things. Because I was hoping that I could kind of guide you through it like some sort of savior.
Alex: Well no. And you've been... I mean, I've come over here to talk to you about all the issues I've had and you've been super helpful. That's awesome.
John: Right, right, right, right.
Alex: But what I find to be most interesting is I seem to be my own biggest problem.
John: Yeah. In what way?
Alex: I'm expecting things to be harder than they are, and so I'm making them out to be harder than they are. I'm like over-complicating myself.
John: Right. Overthinking simple problems.
Alex: Exactly. Exactly.
John: Very, very common. Yeah.
Alex: Where I'll sit there and stare at the screen and can't figure out what's going on and I'll end up asking help from an instructor or coming to you, and it's just like, oh, it's syntax.
John: Yeah, most of the time when you come to me I'm like, oh, this guy is never going to get it. You're a lost cause, but okay.
John: I mean, that's, I think, just common, no matter what level you're at. Trying to find, I don't know, yeah, just really overthinking a problem instead of just kind of starting out with even the most basic solution. Because it's like you'll think of a solution and you might think like, oh, that's too many lines of code, or that's too easy. And then you're like, I know there's a cleaner way to do it, and you obsess over the cleaner way. And then you have nothing.
John: You've never put the basic first one out there.
Alex: Right. Or even like you mentioned earlier, we were talking off air about the rubber ducky. You know? Even just talking things out in plain English, not so much code, or just getting out the concept in plain English really helps to kind of visualize what needs to happen in order to code for it.
John: Yeah. I don't know if we've ever mentioned on this podcast, maybe we have, the name Duck Tapes comes from the rubber ducky method of if you are stuck on a problem in code, just explain the problem to a rubber duck, and likely you will find a solution. Because just verbalizing the problem step-by-step, kind of forces you to understand where your roadblocks are and why you got stuck in the first place, and then you move past them.
John: So great. Glad we touched on that. Good.
Alex: You're welcome.
John: Thanks for bringing that up. So let's see. jQuery. What do you think of it? Hot take. No, I'm just kidding. How do you feel about after code school and the job hunt and that whole kind of unknown part?
Alex: I'm worried.
Alex: I'm worried that I'll find a job. I'm worried that I'll find a job within a reasonable amount of time.
John: Uh-oh. What? You worry that you will find a job?
Alex: Well, yeah. I mean, I'm going to get a job no matter what.
John: Yeah. Uh-oh, there's that confidence. That's very confident. So then-
Alex: But it's just finding a job within a reasonable amount of time. I mean, of course you can't spend six months looking for a job. But I'm also going to do everything I can, put myself out there as much as I can.
John: So I think that's something that's a good thing to talk about, is that even though you are only a third of the way through your program, it's maybe not a good idea to wait until the very end to start, not necessarily, you don't need to apply for jobs now, but to at least kind of build a presence.
John: I know you mentioned that you signed up for LinkedIn, which everyone in the audience will be surprised by that you just signed up. You just signed up for LinkedIn, which is great.
John: But just building that portfolio. You know, you can get on Twitter. I know you always have hilarious jokes.
John: That the world probably needs to know.
Alex: I Twitter all the time.
John: Yeah. But yeah, the unknown part, or I remember when my little class graduated and it was super scary. My program had us meet weekly afterwards and discuss the job hunt and how we were feeling. And I remember the first week was very positive and everybody was excited, and then by like the third or fourth week it was starting to fall apart and people were getting, I don't know about depressed, but a little bit anxious and scared.
John: I mean, you do apply a lot, and either hear nothing or just get rejected right off the bat. So it's a difficult job hunt because there are so many people that you are competing with. So yeah, get ready for that dude.
John: I hope I am a motivating you.
John: But I guess one of the things that our program did that was very helpful was they had us create a spreadsheet, and each day we had to apply for a minimum of five jobs. And in the spreadsheet you would put a link of the company's website, the person that you emailed, and if not a person, then the link that you used, if you heard back, and what the job description was. And then you would just keep adding to that and that helped in case you wanted to keep applying for the same job and you talked to a different person. You could put their name in there.
John: Another good thing is if you find a company you want to apply to, find somebody that works for them on LinkedIn and contact them and explain your situation. Obviously try to make it somebody in the tech department. Always apply through the company's website if possible as opposed to Indeed or the other services because your name will inevitably stick out quicker.
John: And then I'm sure you listened, Alex, to our recent episode with our head of HR, Rachel Valentine, who was telling us that she gets quite a few applicants from code schools and their applications and resumes tend to look very similar. Which I think is very common because as part of these programs, they will help you write your resume in the end. Which is great, but because of that, everyone looks pretty much exactly the same. So don't be afraid to go in there and put some stank on it. Just put a little bit of yourself in there. Because, you know, theoretically most of you will have a relatively similar skillset. So personality will differentiate you.
John: And that's John's advice on coding.
Alex: Well, can I ask you John?
John: No, no, no, no. I'm going to interview you.
Alex: Right, nevermind. Sorry.
John: Yeah. What? What?
Alex: How many places did you apply for?
John: This is depressing. I probably applied for... So I got hired six weeks out from my code school. I was the second out of 12 to 15 of us to get a job. That's not like toot my own horn. It's just how it worked out.
Alex: Mr. Cool Guy over here. I
John: Honestly, I applied to maybe a hundred.
John: I was contacted back by, God, probably 10% of that.
John: I got one to two other interviews. Both were over the phone. And I passed one test and did not pass the other. And where I'm at now, Vincit, was my third place. And it was an in person interview and I think that played quite a bit of difference.
John: But yeah, it wasn't fun. It was a rough six weeks.
John: I really recommend starting a fresh project out of code school and working on that. I found that going back and just trying to fix my projects that I made in code school wasn't very fruitful. I think it'd be a lot better to take all the knowledge that you've learned in code school and start fresh, just create a brand new project. Because just trying to fix everything that you've done in code school could probably take awhile, and ultimately that project is not going to be representative of where you're at in coding now. No matter how many little bug fixes you apply to it.
John: So do something fresh. I didn't do that and I should have. Because what happened was my code school projects were what I was putting on resumes, and those were reviewed, and just no matter what you did at the start of your code school isn't going to be a great thing to show off.
John: And at the time I was like, well, it's a project. So, you know, it's a finished project. In my head, you know, quote-unquote finished. So it should be something that I should say that I did. But I mean, understandably, any employer that looks at that is going to think like, what is this stuff? Because it's stuff that you made. I guess imagine something like you just made a Connect Four game, right?
John: So I guess what I would say is when you're applying for jobs in two months, don't put that on your resume. You know? Because even though it's a cool thing that you made, the coder that you're going to be in two months is so vastly different than the coder that made that program that it's disingenuous to say that that's representative of what you can do. So yeah.
Alex: And that's kind of along the lines with what our instructors have been telling us, too.
John: Oh, good.
Alex: You know, we have one instructor who told us take a portion out of... For instance, he said wake up Saturday mornings and spend a couple of hours working on a project of your own. Number one, to kind of brush up on your skills to keep that going while you're out looking for a job, but also to work on stuff that you can add to your portfolio and show off too.
John: Yeah. Yeah. Because yeah, portfolio, going to be huge. We did a code review on one of my interviews and all I had in my portfolio were the projects that I made in code school. So like I said, there were parts of that code review that were pretty embarrassing, and there were mistakes that were left in there that I wouldn't make at the time of the interview. But because I decided to include projects from my early code school days, I had to kind of just say, oh, I wouldn't do that now.
John: And the interviewer-
Alex: But you did.
John: Yeah, yeah. Well, it's in here in your portfolio. So I think that's a really good idea. But just, yeah, having having a fresh project is a good thing to do. There's a lot of free resources online, and some great paid ones. You know, former guests, Wes Bos, Scott [Dalinsky 00:21:33], Kent Dodds, a lot of great paid content out there as well to check out.
John: If you're listening to this on... Oh, nevermind. I was going to say Black Friday, but this is actually coming out much later than Cyber Monday. So forget it. I mean, buy them full price. I was going to say there are some deals going on. Those are over now. So just go buy it at full price. It doesn't matter.
John: What kind of job would you hope to land after this? Or what would you expect your workplace or job to be? I mean, I guess it's so early to decide. Would it be like website development? I guess that's what you're prepping you for. Mobile development. Agency. I guess you just want a job, right?
Alex: Right, right. At this point, I'll take anything I can get.
Alex: What I'm kind of looking for is something that's going to give you the most exposure, the most opportunity to learn. So that's kind of why I had like an agency in mind, because I figured that'll give me a lot to work with and a lot of opportunities to expand the knowledge that I've started to gain at school. Right? Because it's not going to stop. I'm not going to stop learning there.
John: The amount of learning that, well, that I still have every day. But the first couple of months at my current job, where I've probably learned the same if not more than I learned at code school, just because being forced to work on a project and figure out problems everyday, you just learn so much. And the overall comradery and team spirit or whatever that there is in a place like this is great. Like everybody understands where you're at. Everybody definitely understands that I'm at a lower level. You know what I mean?
John: Not now. But back then. So everyone wants to help out. In this industry it seems like there's very little, I don't know, everyone just wants to help. It's really great. Even online. I mean obviously there's people that are not cool.
Alex: I mean the internet is the internet.
John: The internet is the internet, right? Spoken like a true coder. So you should fit in. You should say that in your interview.
Alex: There you go.
John: The internet's the internet, right?
Alex: Yeah. Right.
John: What do you need me to do? I'm going to take care of it. So why did you end up selling your drums? That's what I really want to know.
Alex: The hard hitting questions.
John: Oh, man. Because I've got to be honest, that was a heartbreaking day when you told me that you were like, yeah, I cleaned out the garage or whatever, and I finally just did it. Pulled the trigger and sold the drums.
Alex: Yeah. Well they were sitting in the rafters at my family's machine shop for maybe six months to a year at that point. [crosstalk 00:24:24] And it was like the $300 set at a Guitar Center, like the cheapest set I could get.
John: Yeah, yeah.
Alex: So I wasn't losing much.
John: That was like a nail in the coffin, though.
John: When that happened, it was like, well, I guess we're never going to make it. You know what I mean?
Alex: Yeah. It meant more symbolically than it did. You know what I mean?
John: I mean, it had been, you know, probably months to years since we'd practiced.
John: Yeah, go look us up guys. I don't even know if our music is anywhere online anymore. Probably not.
John: I mean, that'd probably be good.
Alex: I mean, the internet is the internet.
John: Yeah, if you can find it. We're not even going to tell you the name. Try to find us.
Alex: Right. Yeah.
John: If anybody hacks into the internet and finds our old band, then you'll win something.
John: There'll be a special link if you find our music. And if you click on that link, you'll win, I don't know. Something great.
Alex: We'll play your next birthday.
John: Yeah, we'll play your 19th birthday. Oh, man.
John: But also what we like to do on the Duck Tapes is we like to ask every guest about what they listen to while they're coding, and who their favorite band is. And that's real. We do do that. I know you gave me a weird look.
John: But we do it. And most of the guests the responses are mixed. Some people say nothing and don't have a favorite band, and some people love music and give us a favorite band.
John: I guess, so out of the two options, we get both. Isn't that cool?
John: So I think I know who your favorite band is, but who is it?
Alex: My go to everything, when I put on Pandora or listen to the song specifically, it's usually Creedence Clearwater Revival.
John: Oh, okay. I thought you were going to say The Vandals.
Alex: Well, that too. But I mean, they're like second.
John: Wow. Okay. So do you listen to music while you are coding?
Alex: Not generally. I'm still at a point where I have to like focus really hard on what I'm coding on. So sometimes listening to music, when I have, it almost like distracts me. I end up singing along to the tune.
John: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. A lot of people listen to soundtracks or lofi hip hop.
John: Which I do. It's actually, it's pretty cool, because you can still tap along to the beat and it kind of distracts you. I think there's some kind of like science behind that helping out.
John: You know? It'd be good if I knew that.
Alex: Right? I've heard that video game scores are really good because they're meant to like-
John: See there you go. Verified.
Alex: You know?
John: Yeah. Really, we've had a couple people that actually said that too. They actually knew the composer names.
John: Which is weird. I don't know.
Alex: Hey man, the Skyrim soundtrack is awesome.
John: Oh, no. I feel like I'm the only person.
Alex: Skyrim's a video game, John.
John: I know. We had a guest on from this YouTube channel called Brackeys, which is immensely popular, and all they teach is how to code video games. So big video game stuff.
Alex: Oh, really?
John: Yeah. They were super cool guys and fun to talk to, but I know nothing about video games, especially current ones. So it was like half a conversation. I was like, I don't know. This all sounds so cool.
Alex: Yeah. Yeah.
John: But actually there's a program called Unity that actually the barrier of entry is very low for coding video games. So that'd be something cool to look at after you graduate. So look for Alex's game in January, 2020.
Alex: Coming right up.
John: And if it's not out, he didn't make it. He failed. He failed. So if you had to pick one song, because you know...
John: Okay, new segment. We're going to have a Duck Tapes playlist on Spotify. Which, God, I've got to bring this up. You don't have Spotify, right?
John: What a weirdo, dude. Like the only person in the world that I know that does not have a Spotify account. So we're going to start a Duck Tape Spotify playlist that'll be available publicly, obviously. And every guest will add a song. So Alex, one song. And don't make it some dirty Vandals song. If you had to pick one song, like what's your favorite song right now?
Alex: It's a long one because there's a jam riff in it. But Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Alex: And it's I Heard It Through The Grapevine.
John: Oh yeah, that's a great one. Classic.
Alex: Yeah, awesome.
John: Okay, so that'll be the first song on the playlist. So we'll link to it in the podcast notes and everyone can go check that out. I know you're all dying to hear it.
John: So let's do closing message, Alex. What would you say to somebody that is thinking about joining a code school? And we're going to meet up with you again in a couple of weeks to see where you're at. But right now you're loving it. In a couple of weeks you might be hating it. But right now you would highly recommend it, right?
Alex: I would highly recommend it.
John: Dang, okay.
Alex: Yeah. If it's something you're interested in, definitely.
John: Yeah. From any industry. It doesn't matter where you're at, right?
Alex: Right, yeah.
John: If you're a nurse.
Alex: Yeah, in our class that we've got, you know, I'm a nurse, we've got teachers, just from all walks of life people are coming in. And you know, the one common thing is everybody kind of has a passion for it. They know it's something they want to get into.
John: Everybody is younger than you. Right?
Alex: Well, that's the other thing.
John: That was the same thing in my coding class.
Alex: I'm not the oldest. There is one.
John: The teacher is older.
Alex: No, the teacher is even younger.
John: But see, in the tech world, age doesn't matter.
John: That's what I tell all the people that are younger than me at my job.
Alex: Age is just a number.
John: Everyday I explain it to them. I'm like, listen, we're all cool though, right? I might be older, you might be younger. I don't know. I'm not going to check your license. But I know that we're all cool. And they all say, yes, John. Go back to your desk.
Alex: Shut up old man!
John: Usually standing behind them wagging my finger, saying, guys, I want to pick up on that discussion about age that we were having yesterday. I feel like we didn't quite put a pin in that. Can we talk about it?
John: Well that's great. Yeah, I obviously recommend it. It worked out for me. So we're going to check back in with you in a couple of weeks and have another riveting conversation.
Alex: Is it cool if I mention that I'm LearningFuze here in Irvine?
John: Mention it. Yeah. Yeah. I won't bleep it out. Where is it? God, I wish I had a soundboard. I wish I could be funny. Yeah, mention it.
Alex: Yeah, so I'm at LearningFuze Coding Bootcamp in Irvine and it's awesome. If you're interested, they have weekly info sessions, I think, that come in and check out.
John: Yeah, my code school was OCCS, Orange County Code School, which is now defunct from what I understand. So that should say something about my quality of knowledge that the school that I went to shut down shortly after I went there. I ran it into the ground. No, they might be going. I think maybe just the founder left. I'm not sure.
John: But a former instructor of mine, Tim Davis, shout out, is at your school now with you. So maybe we'll both be equally as smart.
Alex: I hope so.
John: Well, no. Because I'm not a drummer.
John: Oh that's [inaudible 00:32:01]. Call back.
John: All right, Alex. Thanks for coming on.
Alex: Thanks, John. It's been a pleasure.
John: Look for Alex on Twitter. @POTUS. All right, bye.
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