🎙 About the episode
Meet Ollie Church 🇬🇧! Ollie started out as an actor. He took up coding as a hobby during a lockdown and made a puzzle game partially inspired by an escape room where he worked at the time. Now he works in fintech!
This episode is about lockdowns, hobbies, motivation, and having fun. Ollie talks about his career change and approach to goal-setting. He also shares advice on choosing portfolio projects, as well as dealing with rejection - something that actors are maybe even more familiar with than new developers.
You'll find out how an online game he made for fun brought Ollie some income even before he landed his firs junior developer role, and what it's like to accidentally be interviewed for a senior role when you're applying for a junior position. Spoiler: Ollie did get the job in the end!
You'll also get an inside scoop on working as an actor, and how the pandemic has impacted the world of performing arts and in-person experiences.
🔗 Connect with Ollie
- What is's like being an actor (01:59)
- Theater, in-person experiences, and performing arts during the COVID-19 pandemic (03:18)
- How Ollie took up coding (07:55)
- Front-end development as a hobby (09:34)
- How Ollie and his partner created their first online puzzle game (11:43)
- How to make learning to code playful, and how to choose portfolio projects (14:17)
- Ollie's puzzle game became a work project! Here's how that happened. (17:13)
- Should you apply before you're ready? How Ollie navigated changing careers and defined his goals and deadlines (20:53)
- Ollie's job hunt stats (25:51)
- An interview process from hell (16:15)
- How Ollie got his current job - it started with a rejection (30:13)
- How to deal with rejection and when is the common advice about it actually useful (31:03)
- The interview that got Ollie his current job... and how it went wrong (33:30)
- First months on the job and imposter syndrome (38:33)
- Ollie's closing advice for new developers: do the projects you think are fun and focus on showing up. It's a marathon, not a sprint!
🧰 Resources mentioned
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Stop thinking about what's going to look good on the portfolio. Think about what would be fun. If you go with what's going to look good on a CV, what you'll likely end up doing is searching online. Then you'll get hundreds of projects that look good on a CV, but the problem is, so is everybody else.
Hello! And welcome to the Scrimba podcast. On this weekly show, I speak with successful devs about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior dev job. My name is Alex and today I'm joined by Ollie Church who recently got their first developer job at a FinTech company based in London. In my view, Ollie has been incredibly successful. He used to work as an actor. Then he found happiness working as an escape room where genuinely he might still work if not for the pandemic, which caused a lot of turbulence for Ollie and the in-person experience industry, as you can imagine. What makes Ollie successful? Well, instead of watching Netflix and eating biscuits during the pandemic like me, Ollie learned to code with help from Scrimba. He stayed motivated by building a project he genuinely wanted to see come to life, an online puzzle game.
And actually he ended up partnering up with the escape room to promote the online puzzle game and even share the revenue, which means he was earning at least a little bit of money within just a few months of starting to learn to code. Still, Ollie wanted a full-time job and started the arduous process of applying to junior developer jobs. He experienced a gutwrenching rejection, and actually at the next company he interviewed at, they accidentally interviewed him for a senior developer role. How is Ollie meant to succeed there? Actually he did. And so despite these challenges, I'm really proud to say Ollie found success and he joins us today to share all the specifics, like what the interview process looked like and the advice he wished he knew when he was in the trenches. You are listening to the Scrimba podcast. Let's get into it.
So I wanted to be an actor ever since I was really young, since about the age of six. And I auditioned for drama school, managed to get in eventually. Graduated and became an actor. And along with that comes a whole host of jobs that I've done in order to pay bills alongside being an actor.
Oh, have you been in anything we might recognize?
I think it's unlikely. In fact, you've committed the Cardinal sin when talking to an actor, Alex, that you should never ask if there's anything-
Oh, I'm sorry.
I did mostly theater stuff and a few short films, but nothing really famous. I think generally there's an accepted rule that if you become an actor for the vast majority, obviously there are people that become actors and they become really successful and they manage to make a career out of it. I've got friends who are doing that. Literally their only income is acting, but for the vast majority of actors, and there are tens of thousands of actors just in the UK, the vast majority of us, it's sort of 10% of the time acting and 90% of the time not acting. And so you really do have to love it. That's why when you speak to actors they will tell you how much they love it because that 10% of time is worth the other 90% of time that they're doing stuff that isn't relevant.
As part of my many, many jobs, I became an escape room host and stepped up from that to become a manager for the escape rooms that I was working at. And I was bubbling along quite happily combining acting. I did a bit of performance teaching and being the manager of this escape room, that also fitted quite nicely. And when the pandemic hit, it was a huge shock to the system. I mean, basically the acting world shut down, especially for me where most of the stuff I was going up for was theater. There was no theater. The escape room shut down because we couldn't have guests. And the only thing that continued for me during that time was the teaching, which I had to suddenly do by Zoom, which is an impressive skill when you're trying to keep children aged four to sort of 14 in various lessons amused and engaged online.
Oh, fair play . That sounds tough.
It was tough, but it's a new skill because what I was teaching was acting and performance and musical theater. So to try and take that into the video format, which I'd never done before was very panicking at the start. But it's new skill now. I mean a lot of what came out of the pandemic for me was new skills and that's always a good thing.
Yeah. I guess the pandemic forced a lot of people into situations where they had to adapt. Online teaching is kind of interesting because if you were a lecturer before, maybe it's not such a stretch to teach a class on Zoom with slides and stuff like that. But if you are teaching something to do with acting or singing, it was really unfortunate though. The whole acting and live entertainment world just shut down in the UK and the order in which things reopened, it was weird because cinemas reopened, but at that same time you weren't allowed to go to the theater and things. And it just felt really unfair. I guess that all combined put you in a position where you were asking, "What do you do next? What are you to do in this situation?"
Definitely. And it was an interesting period for me because a lot of my friends who were in the acting world were on zero hours contracts or were in roles where they're considered self-employed, which is a whole slightly questionable area where they are working for a company but they're also self-employed. But obviously when the lockdowns were announced in the UK, when we had the furlough scheme that helped the wages of people that were employed and on contracts, that didn't extend to the self-employed. And so a lot of my friends were in a situation where they could apply for the self-employed grants, but that wasn't going to be enough to keep them going. Whereas I was really, really fortunate because my role at the escape rooms was a full time contract. So I was on the furlough scheme and that put me in a really interesting position where I could take that support and use that time to do what worked for me.
And that meant finding things to do rather than sitting and watching Netflix because I did that for about a week and it drove me almost insane. So that's where really started to think about, what am I going to do, especially when we were six, eight months in and going, "Well, when is this going to end?" There was no end in sight. And what if these things don't come back? We were hearing more and more of theaters that were closing down, theater companies that were stopping and a more exclusive net as well. Because if you think about acting as a tiered scheme where you've got your big stars at the top who they don't audition and people contact them and say, "Oh, would you like to do this?" And then at the bottom you've got people like myself who are desperate for any audition we can get.
And if you take a situation like this, then everybody moves down a peg. So the big, big stars that are doing movies, okay, they're still doing the movies. But then you've got the subset of stars that, okay, maybe they're not doing movies, but they've moved into taking the big roles in theater. And so the people that were doing the big roles in theater are now doing slightly smaller roles in theater. And so it has a knock on effect and the people at the bottom then find it 10 times harder to actually even get involved. So even when theater came back, it never really picked up and is still not back and friends are still struggling.
But let me ask you, Ollie, was computing and computer something you've always been interested in? It's not so uncommon to come across people who have jobs in IT or to do have computers that eventually after working in tech in a different role or something, dabble with computers and learn coding. But of course you were in a very analog job before, all about entertainment and performances.
I've always loved computers and gadgets. My dad was sort of heavily involved in the IT department where he worked. And so we had a computer at home and when I was growing up, it was quite unique. My school had one computer when I was in primary school. And when I got to high school, we had a whole room full of computers. And that was really exciting, but beyond just getting to play with them in a way that meant that I was comfortable with computers from just a user point of view, I never had any experience in coding or in anything to do with how they actually worked. It was just an interest and a love of gadgets. The comedian, Eddie Izzard has a sketch where she talks about the two types of people, people that have techno joy and people that have techno fear.
And I'm very much someone that has techno joy. I love the chance to get my hands on gadgets and things. The interest in coding really, I guess I like I always was interesting. I remember as a teenager having a MySpace page and you could customize that greatly with great sways of what I now know is HTML and CSS, but at the time had no idea what it was. Just found this code on the internet, copy and page it. That was about as much coding as I had as a teenager. I never really got the chance until my boss at the escape rooms and my friend, Tom, he was doing a lot of coding. He's able to code in several different areas. And I said to him, "I'm really interested in it. I never got to do it. I'd love to know something about it." And he was the one that got me on track with it. We're talking in my mid to late twenties here. So it's a long time coming.
What was the undertone that this is something you might get paid to do in the future as an alternative to acting or at the time, was it just something you were well curious about?
At the time, literally just a hobby. So when I first got into it, I just was really interested in it. I had been looking for a hobby for a while and I hadn't really found anything that had clicked that I really wanted to do. I wanted something that wasn't in any relation, because a lot of the time what you're doing as an actor is trying to build skills that you can put on your acting CV that are going to give you an edge in the casting process and make you more interesting. And I wanted something that I could say was absolutely nothing to do with that that could give me a break from everything else. And so having this opportunity to learn coding, it was purely that. It was just a hobby. I had no interest in getting a job. I was very happy in my job at the escape room. Yeah, when I started, it was literally just a hobby. No idea that it would eventually become an aspiration.
It sounds like you had this voice nagging in your head saying, "I would like this hobby, but I feel like I should pick something that will also support my career." Like that kind of tore you away from it. But when you were in lockdown and you didn't have as many options, coding was the thing that stood out to you.
So me and my partner designed the puzzle together and I did all of the code and that was a really incredible experience because suddenly this hobby that had been something that I dip my toe in every now and again, whenever I fancy it, was something I was doing every day. And that was a whole new experience for me doing this coding every day while I had no other commitments.
Coming up on the Scrimba podcast. How Ollie accidentally found himself in interview seats for a senior developer position.
The first question was like, how much have you worked with C shell before? And I said, "None, absolutely none."
Sorry to interrupt. But I wanted to please remind you to subscribe, share, and maybe even give a cheeky five star rating to these Scrimba podcasts, especially in Spotify or Apple Podcasts. All these things really help support the podcast, help us reach new people and enable us at Scrimba to bring you this podcast every week. Next week, I'm talking with Nadia, who is a product engineer at a really revered company called Intercom Offer and while I just think she has an incredible story about immigrating from Belarus to Poland and now London through coding and hard work.
My journey into coding wasn't that traditional. I initially started out as an English teacher generalist and an editor. I actually used to run my own independent news magazine back in Belarus. So I did that for a couple of years and it was great right until the moment it wasn't that great and we had to close down the magazine and then I was kind of forced to make a decision of what I wanted to do with my life next. I was 25. I didn't want to do anything related to journalism or news or politics at that point. I knew that I wanted to move from Belarus to Poland and I also knew that I didn't have any transferable skills that would allow me to build a successful life in Poland.
That's next week on the Scrimba podcast so make sure to subscribe if you want to hear it. Back to the interview with Ollie. I love the way you describe it as playing with it. You're playing around with stuff, learning as you went along and then you sort of identified a project that was exciting to you and you went full speed ahead. This is very, very different, Ollie, to a lot of stories I hear, which are about people architecting these study plans and aligning every project by what will look good in their portfolio. It's kind of funny, because it's not that different from your considerations about code and supporting your acting career. There is often that pressure that what you build has to be good for your employability, but that means you're not necessarily aligning by what is fun and enjoyable. So you actually are less likely to complete the projects. Talk to us a little bit about your approach, how did you make coding playful for you?
If there was one massive piece of advice I would give to anyone, it would be, stop thinking about what's going to look good on the portfolio when you build your projects. Don't think about that. Think about what do you want to build? What would be fun? What would be fun? Because it will be interesting to build because you don't know that and you want to know that or what would be fun because at the end of it you'll have something that is enjoyable or really useful to you as a person? And I think that's a really good place to start. If you go with what's going to look good on the CV, what you'll likely end up doing is searching online or what looks good on a portfolio CV and so then you'll get hundreds of great lists of projects that look good on a CV, but the problem is that so is everybody else getting those same lists of things that look good.
And so the projects that you end up creating, they may be technically good or whatever, but when you come to speak about them, you're not going to be as engaged with them. You're not going to be as interested in them. I mean, because I approached it from a point of view of not really wanting a career, the stuff I was building was stuff that I just thought would be cool at the end of it, would be enjoyable or useful or interesting to me. And so when I came to put my portfolio together, it wasn't that I had thought of these projects and put these projects on my CV because I had planned to do that. It was just that these were the projects that I'd made along the way. And then when it came to interviews and things and I was able to talk about them, I was excited to talk about them and they were different from what other people had on their portfolios, because that hadn't been bothered about what was going to look good on the portfolio. That would be my biggest piece of advice.
Start from a point of what do you want to build? What do you think will be cool? And if that's a to-do list, then that's a to-do list, but it's your to-do list, which is more exciting than the to-do list that somebody else thinks you should make and then becomes a chore because it's a job that needs to be done for the portfolio.
I've played your more recent mystery game. It's like a web browser based game. You have puzzles in a sense and have to unveil information. I can just totally imagine an employer checking that out and having a little play themselves. And then you've got the whole story to go with it. That's awesome. But one thing that really struck me is it looks like it took a lot of time and effort and I feel like you must have been very motivated to see it through and finish it. And I just wonder if that's the do of the fact for you while just genuinely enjoyed developing it?
100%. That's a really interesting project because the first puzzle game that we made was created as a fun project in the first lockdown. It was purely just personal. And then when I showed it to my bosses, I had two bosses at my escape room, they were really, really impressed by it. And every escape room had to go through this process of, "Well, how are we going to get any money in if we can't have people in through the door?" And so this was a really interesting thing because they were looking for stuff that we could do online and here was a puzzle game. And so it became an actual product that is still being sold. Whereas the second one, when it came along, we already knew it was going to become a product. But again, because it started from that place of, I really love what I'm doing here, I mean, personally, I really love puzzles. I really love escape rooms. I really love figuring that stuff out. And so having the chance to create something like that to me is really fun.
The motivation comes from being fun, but obviously the second puzzle game that we made, we knew it was going to be a product as well. And so there was that added pressure in a way, but I quite thrive under pressure. I thrive under the stress of wanting to create something really cool. So that's where the motivation came from. And the fact that I had that government support to be able to have the time, because if it had been any other period, I don't know whether we would've got there.
I hope you don't mind my asking, but when you said products, it made me wonder if you benefited financially from these projects, when... You were quite new in your development journey. That would've been really impressive.
I have really good friendship with my bosses at the escape rooms and we're still friends now, even though I've made this career change. So when we showed them the product, as I say, like me and my partner created them together so she did all of the artwork. I'm not very good at art. So all of the hand drawn artwork and I did all of the coding and together we came up with the puzzles. So when we presented it to our bosses at the escape rooms, we didn't do it with any thought of personal benefit in terms of finance, but they very quickly offered us a 50-50 split on anything that was made from the project. And we worked together to get it up to the standard that would go to market. So yeah, so I have benefited financially from it, even though at that point, it still wasn't my idea that I was going to go into this.
This was just another sort of very slight revenue stream that came from something that I created. And that wasn't unusual for me because of the numerous jobs and things. I was used to getting finances from all different areas, but this was the first big project that I'd made in terms of code. And to have it become a product that was being sold to real life people and being used and to get some financial compensation, it's huge. I was really thrilled about that. And I guess, that happening with the first game that we made probably was the starting point, the catalyst that suggested, "Ah, hang on. Maybe I could do something with this."
Yes. I could tell the plot was starting to thicken. And it certainly made me wonder what next steps you took. Let's just assume you decided you wanted to pursue development as a job. How would you change your approach once you'd made that decision?
It wasn't that difficult, to be honest. So I was coding every day because we had this project and I wanted to get it out. And I was aware once I went back to work, it would be harder to do that sort of thing. So, the lockdowns were spent very intensively doing that. The biggest challenge was coming back to work and I was still finishing off the front end career path when we finished the second lockdown and I was back into work. I worked a very odd working week. I did a full-time job, but within three and a half days in a week. So I was working really long days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and half of Thursday were my time off, my weekend. And so really the transition over, like it was harder because suddenly I was doing this whole working week, half the week, but because of how my week was split, it meant that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I could still do the same as I was doing in lockdown.
I could still spend those three days focused entirely on doing the Scrimba courses or building the projects, whatever it was that I was doing. And so I was able to compartmentalize stuff quite easily because of that split.
In terms of the specific things you were doing, did you maybe start to think a bit more about your marketability, your resume, your portfolio, finding lists of jobs on job sites and crafting cover letters and things like that?
I had made the decision that I wasn't going to apply for anything until I had completed the front end developer course that I had my first CV ready and that I had my portfolio done. And so I set myself a challenge because up until this point, I'd been doing it as for fun and there wasn't any timescale on anything. And I was quite keen that I didn't want to rush anything. I know a lot of the time there's advice like, "Oh, apply before you're ready." But I felt like there was a baseline that I wanted to reach to start getting ready. So they were my first focuses to get the portfolio down, to finish the course and to have my CV and my LinkedIn, because I'd never really used LinkedIn at all. It had never been important for acting. And so I didn't understand it at all to begin with.
I know in the final module of the career course there is the set of lessons on LinkedIn and that was so useful. So yeah, my focus became, get the course done and get the portfolio ready and everything else would fall into place. That was my idea. And so I set myself this deadline of being ready to go by the new year, by this year. And I managed to get my portfolio online on the morning of New Year's Eve. So, deadline hit. No problem.
You were serious as well. Most people are hungover.
It was the following day the hangover comes, but the morning of New Year's Eve was all good. Fair.
I really appreciate, by the way, your perspective. You don't necessarily have to apply before you're ready. What you need to do is do what you're comfortable with and what you think is going to work for your situation. So I guess it was around this time, you must have been, I assume, applying for jobs and things like that. What was your first impression? How'd it go for you?
It was interesting. And again, like, I feel like compared to a lot of other stories, I was in quite a unique situation because I wasn't unhappy in my job. I hadn't decided that I was going to become a developer because I was unhappy with my life and I wanted something that was going to take me out of that. So there was no real rush. I'd actually had in my brain that I wanted to make this career change before my 30th birthday, which is, it was 11 months away from when I started applying. So I was in no rush to get to that point where I had a job.
So I guess I didn't find it intense or particularly a stressful situation because I would just make the applications as and when they came up. If I had a week where I didn't apply for a job, then yeah, okay, I'd then look at it afterwards and go, "Oh, that would've been a really good one to apply for." Or, "That would be a really good one." But because I didn't put the pressure on myself to find a job really quickly, I didn't worry too much about it.
And maybe if we'd started approaching that deadline that I had in my brain 11 months later, that pressure would've started to come on because I would've been disappointed that I hadn't made progress. But there's only so much you can be in control of in life. You can't be in control of the job market. You can't be in control of what jobs come up. You can't be in control of whether the recruiter has already seen the perfect candidate. You can just apply and see what happens and make the changes if you feel that they're necessary.
You were kind enough to prepare and share some statistics about your job search. And I calculated for, if you sent off 32 applications and you got four first round interviews, that meant you had a success rate of about 12, 13%, which is really good, actually. Do you have any stories or memories of those four interviews? I assume one of them was the job you eventually ended up getting, but what else could we know?
I really enjoyed all of my interview experiences. I did have one that I wasn't a fan of, but it was a very different style of interview. So I had done an initial screening interview for a role that was like an intensive training process. And then after that, you would go into a job. Three out of four of these weren't actually web development. What I ended up being approached for quite a lot of the time was software development and full stack. And I have no experience at all in working in the backend languages. But this was the first one that approached me about this and said, "Well, don't worry because this is a training scheme. So you'll learn a lot of that stuff. We just need you to study the basics." And so I had the screening and it was really positive and he was really happy.
And he said, "We'll put you into the next round. It won't be a problem. It's all good." And the next round was a video interview where you do it yourself. You get the webpage that you have to go onto and you have to complete it there and then once you start it. It puts a questionnaire up on the screen and then you have to record your answer. That's fine. It's a little impersonal, it's a little like talking to a brick wall. But the problem I found is the system has all these different timers on it. So it has maximum length that your video was meant to be, but also an amount of time that you had to fully record your answer, but you could also redo your answer once, if you wanted to. And so this process of receive the interview question, record the answer, but if the time ran out, then it would just upload whatever you had there and then.
This sounds like a bad voicemail system.
And I got so annoyed with it because it also had all these safeguards in it that were designed to make sure that the correct person was answering the questions and things. So they were using the camera to check against a photo it had taken right at the start and because of how I have my setup on my desk, the camera wasn't always picking me up. And so alongside trying to record all these answers and answer these multiple choice questions on languages that I had really only just got a basic grasp of, along with the stress of all that, I kept having these alerts pop up that were like, "We can't detect you. You're not there. You need to make sure that your... Or they'll cancel the interview." It was just the most stressful interview.
That is preposterous.
And I finished it and I was like, "That was just so laughable." And I was like, "There's no way that I have made any impact on that. It was just so terrible." In the end, they actually stopped hiring for that intake that they were doing. So I think that was a blessing. All my other interviews I really loved. I'm sure that people definitely find interviews a really stressful situation. But as an actor who was used to going into auditions, as far as I'm concerned, auditions are 10 times more stressful because interviews were the bit of auditions that I really liked, which was the chatting to people on a topic that you enjoy and are passionate about and have an opinion on. And so for me, it was no more stressful than having a chat about a situation and all I had to do was just do a bit of research in advance to make sure I knew about the company so that I had stuff to talk about.
I know that something a lot of actors had to deal with as well is like rejection. So I wondered if that influenced your perspective on rejection or redirection, if you like, in the job search as a developer?
I hadn't really given it any thought, but you talked about like a 12%, 13% success rate of my interviews and compared to acting that is really, really good. When I got rejected or suddenly didn't hear back or something, I didn't really think about it because I was very used to the idea of rejection.
Tell us about the job you ended up getting.
I worked for a company called Salary Finance, which is a really fast growing FinTech company in the UK. We are also expanding out to America and we've got teams in Mumbai. I think we've got teams in South Africa as well, and is such a massively fast growing company. And the way that I ended up getting an interview was that on this particular morning, I received a call from a job that I'd been through a few rounds for and was really excited for. It was really a brilliant job. Everything I'd wanted in a job. And they called me that morning to say, "We are really sorry. We really loved you. You were down to the final two, but the other guy just had just a little bit more experience in what we wanted." And I was gutted.
Oh man, I'm sorry.
Well, sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can form. That same day in the evening I got a call from a recruiter.
Often you get advice like, "Oh, if you get rejected, probably there's all these reasons why. It's redirection." Very well meaning things. And I say a lot of this myself, but I also recognize that there's a little bit of a lack of empathy there, in a sense. Did any of that advice help you or was it just a kind of situation you had to deal with?
Advice on rejection is an interesting one because it's advice from a really measured point of view. It's advice that is thought of at a point of clarity. And the reality is that when we experience rejection, the first thing that's going to come is not the clarity of, it's nothing personal. It's just this situation, like whatever. The first thing that comes is, "Oh God, I didn't get it. I am a failure and I'll never be good enough." As an actor, I've dealt with that a lot. And I'm quite comfortable with getting that experience and getting it out of the way and understanding that it's not a personal thing. But it's very difficult to remember that in the moment, I think, especially when it's something that you feel so close to. I think rejection is easier if it's... I've sent my CV and they've got back and said, "Oh, not this time. You're not quite right for the role." You're like, "Ah, okay, well I've sent the CV. That's fine."
The advice is good about remembering not to take it personally, about picking yourself up, about moving on. But I think, also just take the time. Don't pretend you don't feel hurt by rejection because it is a horrible situation when you feel really connected to something and you are rejected from it. So take the time. Take the time to experience that, accept it, acknowledge it. And that, I think will help reach a point of clarity far sooner. Ultimately the advice is there to try and help you deal with rejection, not to help others think that you're dealing with rejection. So take the time to feel that rejection, accept it and then that advice becomes golden, I think.
The advice isn't going to be like a one step cure, but hopefully it will help you frame things in your mind in such a way that you can keep going and hopefully find what might be an even better opportunity as I think you're kind of alluding to right, Ollie. I kind of interrupted you, but you were telling us about how you got this phone call about the job that would eventually become the job you have right now.
Just on the point of dealing with rejection and learning to be human and feel this stuff, and also cope with it. I'd really recommend Darren Brown's book, Happy. He talks a lot about stoic philosophies and things like that. That is really great. And I also use the Headspace app to do meditation and things like those two things. I wouldn't be able to cope with half the stuff I do without those philosophies. But in terms of this phone call, so I get this phone call quite late on in the evening from a recruiter called Sarah. And she tells me about a company that she's currently looking for a senior developer for, but that she came across my profile on LinkedIn and thought it was really cool and that she wanted to suggest to the company that they meet me anyway, because they were fast growing.
They were looking for a lot of people and knew they were going to be looking for a lot more people over the coming months. And would I be happy with that? Of course I was like, "Yeah, yeah, definitely." And she said, "This is a full stack position. So it is front end and it was working with View and TypeScript and C Sharp. And I was like, "Well, I don't know any of that, but if they're happy to meet me, I believe I can learn that stuff. I've learned everything I've learned up to now. Like there's no reason why I can't transfer those skills and I'm really willing and happy to learn." So she went back to the company and they agreed to meet me. And I got an interview and again, never lie, never pretend that you know stuff that you don't because it's only going to come back to you.
So I was really honest in the interview and said, "Look, I don't know any of this stuff. Since receiving this phone call, I've looked into View and I'm really happy that because of my experience with React, I know how View works. And I think I'll pick that up really quickly, but I don't know anything about C Sharp and I don't know anything about the back end. And there was like, "Well, but you know coding. You know the basics of coding. You know about loops, you know about if statements. You know this stuff basically transfers across everything. And so I had this interview and it wasn't a technical task as such, but they gave me a question that involved me explaining how I would find the angle difference between two hands on a clock. And that's under pressure is not my strong point, but I had my phone nearby so I reached for that to do some of the sums and things.
And actually that came back in my favor because he said, "I was really pleased that when it got to doing the math you didn't know the answer and you reached for your calculator because that's the sort of thinking in the real world, you're not expected to know everything all of the time, but as long as you know the tools that you can reach for to try and find the answer. And so it was a really positive interview and I finished and thought, "Ah, that's really brilliant." They scheduled a second interview and this one was with some other people in the company. And I went to that interview and it was solid. It was good. They were polite and nice, but I came away and I thought, "God, they just didn't get to the same enthusiasm level that I wanted." This was to Sarah, the recruiter because she called me afterwards to find out how it had gone. And so she said, "Well, okay, well, they haven't come back to me and said 'no' yet. So, who knows? I'll see if I can find out."
And what it turned out was that because they hadn't been hiring for a junior developer, my application had gone in under the senior developer in the recruitment tracking system that they had. And so the second interview panel thought they were interviewing me for a senior developer role.
Oh, that must have made so much sense to you.
It really did afterwards. And I can just imagine what they were thinking the whole interview, because the first question they said was like, "So where have you worked with C Sharp before? How much have you worked with C Sharp before?" And I said, "None, absolutely none." And continued from there talking about what I had done instead, but I can imagine their inner thinking going, "Oh my God. Why are we interviewing? How has he reached a second interview having never worked in C Sharp?" But it made so much sense. And clearly like that misunderstanding had been worked out internally and Sarah called me back and said, "They really loved you and they'd like to offer you a role. Let's go."
Just a crazy moment where, as I said, like I'd given myself sort of 11 months to try and find a role. And in three months, there I was, sort of saying, "Yes. Yeah, I'll go for it." Followed by a really terrifying moment where I thought, "Ah, I've got this job. That's brilliant." And people started like, "Oh, well, what will you be doing?" And I was like, "I don't know. I don't know what my day to day life will look like now. I hadn't really thought that far ahead beyond I just want to code as a job." And so suddenly I was still doing all this research panicking about like, "Well, I really don't know on day one. I'll get there and then what? What happens next?"
You've been there, what nearly two months now? How are things going in general, Ollie? What does a typical day in the life look like and how are you enjoying it overall?
Yeah. It's been really, really brilliant. It's been one of those... When you say about taking risks and it being terrifying and like, it took me about the first week just to get my laptop set up. I so had no idea what I was doing. And I was trying to follow all these different onboarding guides. And it took me so long, but everyone has been so friendly, so accepting of every question I've asked. Nobody has ever made out that I'm wasting their time or that exasperated, because it's another question. The team, and especially the squad that I'm specifically working with have been so friendly and helpful, and that has made the experience so fun. What I was doing in the time outside of my job as just, this is something I enjoy and something I want to do, that's my every day now. I go to work and we have these meetings and I get to interact with people that are internationally across the globe and have such incredible intelligence and knowledge and learn from that.
Obviously I've got to get on top of all of the C Sharp stuff and that, and I'm making progress with that. But I get to not only play around with that in my own time, but also learn that stuff in my work time, because that's all part of it. It's been a really fun experience. It's been a really tough experience in a lot of ways because there's a lot of firsts for me in this role. It's my first Monday to Friday job. It's my first job that exists in an office. It's my first remote job. It's my first tech job. But I think when you've got the attitude to be a self-taught developer from nothing and no code to a point where you can get a job, you've got to be the sort of person that enjoys learning, that enjoys taking on challenges. Otherwise you're not going to get that far. You've got to enjoy it. And so these last two months have just been so exciting.
So fun. Tough, anxiety inducing at times, but mostly that's me. The imposter syndrome is really real. I spent about the first month thinking, "Any second now they're going to realize that they've hired the complete wrong person and I'm going to be gone."
That wasn't from them. Everybody's been so lovely. I don't think at any point they have had that thought, but the anxiety is true, but that just spurred me on to learn more, to learn faster, to work harder. So it's all good.
Awesome, man. I'm really happy to hear things going well. And what lies outside your comfort zone is growth. We're almost out of time, Ollie, but I was hoping I could learn what are your closing words to any new developers, an aspiring genius that might be listening maybe just a few months behind you?
As I said earlier, the biggest piece of advice is do the projects that you think are fun. Don't worry about what's going on in the portfolio because when you get into that interview, people will be excited to see your passion for your project and you'll be happy to talk about them and you'll smile and they'll hear it in your voice. And that will be what sells your projects. Not whether the technical stuff fits to this certain parameter. The technical stuff will spit to parameters because you're writing these projects in the languages that you're learning. And that's what you're showcasing. So make what you think is fun and just aim to make progress each week. Take away the idea of becoming a developer in three months. If you manage it, then great. That's fantastic and well done to everybody that manages that transition. But remove the time pressure, aim to make progress. It's a journey. It's not a sprint. It's a marathon, which is a cliche, but it's very true in a lot of ways.
It's very true. And I think a beautiful note to end the episode. Ollie Church, thank you so much.
No worries. Thanks for having me.
That was Ollie church. You can find all his links like to his portfolio, Github, et cetera, as well as a link to his acting reel from when he was doing acting, which I think is really impressive in the show notes. Thank you for listening. Of course, if you made it all the way to the end, you might also want to subscribe for more helpful and uplifting episodes. We've recently hired juniors like Ollie and industry experts like Nadia, who I'm interviewing next week. Don't forget as well to tweet at me, your host, Alex Booker, and share what lessons you learned from the episode so I can thank you personally for tuning in. My Twitter handle is in the show notes. See you next week.