#110 Jerome Hardaway is the definition of willpower
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Jerome Hardaway 0:00
How I came upon the idea of SQL. I have no idea why. I think I just went in one of the tech section and picked up the first book to say it alone something. The technologies that I've worked in the last three years of my career. I did make a plan decision on. But the first technology I worked on, I did not. So yeah, that was it. I saw a book, pick it up and never look back.
Tim Bourguignon 0:31
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey podcast, bringing you the making up stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. My name is Tim Bourguignon, and today I receive Jerome Hardaway. Among many other activities. Jerome is a technical evangelist at QuickenLoans, the executive director of VetsWhoCode, a fellow podcaster and a community organizer, Jerome, welcome to DevJourney.
Jerome Hardaway 0:58
Hey, it's a pleasure to be here.
Tim Bourguignon 1:00
It's my pleasure. Jerome, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story look like and imagine how to shape their own future. So, let's go back to your beginning, shall we? Where would you place the start of your developer's journey?
Jerome Hardaway 1:17
Um, if I was to be honest, I would probably place a starter, my dev journey around 2009 2010 run, you know, I was recently getting out of the military and the great recession was going on in America. So that's when my dev journey really began. I was getting out the military and I was getting these thank you for your services when I was applying for jobs, but they weren't hiring me. And I was looking around and people that seem to be doing okay, in the recession. We're all developers, so people in the tech industry. So that was when I made my decision to get in the tech industry. Were you with a big air quotes? techie before that Oh no, not in the slightest I'm least I was like sales military I was security forces while in the military, and I wasn't doing that I was big into combat sports so like the tech bug didn't really hit me. And till rather early in life, I was like 2425 four I started looking at Tech seriously, how did you uncover this unknown unknown and start start making sense of what is what and how you could get in there and and where you're beginning could be located and then map a path. Further on, Roger that. For me. What really got my attention was I saw like a code.org commercial on Facebook, and I was like, Hey, you know, I can do that. If a dude was to play basketball mine. He did it. I know I can do it. So I happen to have a gift card for Barnes and Noble and I picked up a book on SQL SQL however you want to say it and I started teaching myself databases and I end up getting my first job as a database analyst for for department Homeland Security. And it was my first big break and everyone that
Tim Bourguignon 3:15
they need to me what would keep you going you couldn't have been unicorns and rainbow path for all this time It must be hard to just start over in a completely different field and have to do search for a job I mean, you probably don't have a revenue at that at this time. So how how did you get to pass the hurdles and and get learning in that get this this job search and everything with time pressure on your on your on your neck?
Jerome Hardaway 3:45
sheer force of will I mean, you know, one of the things that they teach us in the military is discipline. So you know that and tenacity so that whole you know, never giving up, think and consistently and continuously pushing myself that's a reasonable My goal, um, there was always in case and I've always been, I mean, that whole training cycle mentality always been like, pushed in the Air Force. So basically when I wasn't doing like something like constructive I trying to live, I wasn't looking for a job. I was training for a job, right. So, you know, that's pretty much how I kept my focus by consistently being in this like repple feedback loop. I'm either gonna be practicing reading or interviewing or doing right. So that's, that's how it's helped me. Well, that's how I've like focused on it.
Tim Bourguignon 4:41
Wow, congratulations. Did you have two questions there. The first one is How did you decide on going toward databases and SQL? And the second one, did you create some kind of portfolio of what you're doing you can kind of create a trace of your life learnings of the sequel SQL field or something to show to show during the interviews, how did you approach this preparing for the interview?
Jerome Hardaway 5:10
Roger how I became how I came upon idea of post SQL SQL. I have no idea like I think I just went in one of the tech section and picked up the first book to say something I'm like, you know, I wish there was a technologies that I've worked in the last three months I mean three years of my career I did make a plan decision on but the first technology I worked on I did not so yeah, that was it. I saw a book pick it up and never look back for the interview because it's all government stuff. It was pretty much like all I had to do like once I showcase that I'm you know, new interview and they did like a test on me. Like to make sure that I know wasn't like guy wasn't blowing smoke you know, I was able to get so that's really it.
Tim Bourguignon 6:06
That was it. That's amazing. Um, let's do some some awesome time jumping a little bit now that you have government jobs under your belt and also industry job and how that was this this first job different from the, the consecutive ones.
Jerome Hardaway 6:24
I mean, not as exciting way more boring, I guess is way out. Like the last job I had was pretty exciting. I worked with quite a few good people on the team and this job that I have currently is pretty exciting as well. I get to essentially be a cool kid in tech. You know, pretty awesome. A first job was just you know, it was boring, but it was important, right? Usually the most important jobs or the most boring ones, you know, I was Doing database stuff that ensure like I was joining reading creating databases that would join information from multiple like background check tools to make sure our American waterways are safe. So I get it. I mean there's a reason you know, the reason why I exist but when you're 20 something and even now in my like at 33 I'm like yeah, that was a boring job. So yeah, I get swept that's it.
Tim Bourguignon 7:28
But boring can still be very interesting. In what way was this boring job was still air quotes. a stepping stone for your next job.
Jerome Hardaway 7:38
I mean, well, it just taught me what I didn't want to do. Right I realized quickly on the I was bored to death of databases. I didn't really get to you know, I'm, I'm a little bit I'm a Leo and I'm a little bit like, like to be an extrovert. So I like my work to be seen. And I gravitate to Towards like, design and pretty you eyes and stuff like that. So I knew the databases wasn't, you know where it was that for me I couldn't wait to get to that point where, you know, I could start building on the front end of the websites. So I guess let me let me know like digital marketing and front end development you know things like that where where I want it to be.
Tim Bourguignon 8:24
How do you How did you decide on where and how to transition to something more more UI friendly front end friendly where you could see what you do and be seen?
Jerome Hardaway 8:38
Raj? Well, I went back home to Memphis I was the job a house in Florida I moved home to Memphis to help a family member who was a sick at the time. And like it was a actually just fell into my lap and I was just at a digital marketing Like it was a nonprofit, but I was brought on board do the digital marketing. But when you're the youngest person in the room, and you had a nonprofit in America, what happens is, hey, you're young grew smart, fix the website. So how I ended up getting my first time being able to run in and fix it. And back then I, it was great. I followed as many rules like to see online and things like that. Now, like, oh, my goodness, I'm like, embarrassed by but I get, you know, and it was kind of cool. Like my first really big project. My first project on front end was projection level. I would never recommend that. But I would never, I think like they made a mistake and letting me play on the code was code and live and, but you know, you live you learn, like, you know, I would never do that again. I would. I wouldn't do that. But I know better because i'm a i'm in this industry, right. So
Tim Bourguignon 10:00
Guess we all look back and are horrified. But what we did before? I think that's a common trend in our industry. How did you learn in getting in there? Again, buckling up and just doing it? Oh, yeah,
Jerome Hardaway 10:15
I just focused on really trying to push like super, super hard and learning as much as I as much as I can. I guess what I've always done, like, I just went in and saw a problem, solve, solve problem, solve the problem and done the next problem solve that problem. Water lakes problem solve that bone. Building a thing is a lot different from like, interviewing for a thing in tech lab where you're interviewing Good thing you need to know the words and all this other stuff and all the right length lingo. But when you're building a thing, it's all about just getting it done and doing it like in a manner. That's right or looks right. All right. So I much rather build things and internet Have you for things nine times out of 10? So, yeah, that was the process just, you know, banging on the code until it worked.
Tim Bourguignon 11:08
But that is very cool. Very cool. And what kind of technology were you working with back then?
Jerome Hardaway 11:13
Tim Bourguignon 11:50
Jerome Hardaway 12:01
Tim Bourguignon 14:16
make sense. and at what time did the community speed community aspect of software development entered your your journey?
Jerome Hardaway 14:25
Tim Bourguignon 21:09
And that's awesome. That's really the way it should be done. I totally agree. And how do you find those vets with whom you decide to to work with?
Jerome Hardaway 21:22
Tim Bourguignon 22:40
the last 14 to 16 weeks. Wow, that's that's a lot to put in in 14 to 16 weeks.
Jerome Hardaway 22:46
Tim Bourguignon 23:21
Do you have a feeling for what kind of vets are the ones that go through your process? And are you can you can already see being successful in the beginning.
Jerome Hardaway 23:34
Well, the high performers they do show themselves pretty early, but for the most part, like I don't really focus on that I just focus on, you know, doing the best work and supporting people as best as I can, right. I focus on making sure they have a mentor that matches their speed, their speed and their skill set and their weaknesses and strengths. I focus on making an environment where they can be themselves without having a pattern, match and Just be able to, you know, talk and share, you know, their problems with us and you know, be able to, you know, walk through those problems is
Tim Bourguignon 24:08
what I focus on. So very much the the squishy part do I hate this word, but the soft skills part? Well, the person side of things,
Jerome Hardaway 24:17
no, I feel this empathy is more the empathetic part, focus on I focus on ensuring that it's a place where you can learn, like I don't focus on if you're a high performer or a low performer I focus on, you know, how can I help you? Right? What do you need? So it's more empathetic than focusing on high performers?
Tim Bourguignon 24:39
Absolutely. I wasn't not really hinting at high performers, low performers. And what I was wondering more is, how do you do you discover somebody who is going to be was going to bless them in this industry, when they haven't had any interaction with tech before. So finding The right state of mind in somebody without relying on code to to check it. You see what I mean?
Jerome Hardaway 25:08
I understand I think I say I disagree with that thought process because I don't feel like there's a state of mind. I feel like you know, if you're willing to put in the work, then you be great in this industry. Like I say, I come from a security forces background, when I carry to M four and M nine every day I have there is nothing in my background that suggests that I would be a software engineer. I don't come from a high math skills, high marks and math. I don't come from a fancy college. I don't come from a family that was known for technical things. I this was not something that I was surrounded on. This is I made a decision, I decided I was going to do the work for it. So if you're as long as you want to do the work in this industry, you can reach whatever level you choose to reach in this industry. You have to you know, as a friend of mine says you have to be willing pay the tax and that tax is different for everyone, right? But you have to be willing to do that
Tim Bourguignon 26:06
work. I love the positivity. But that's pretty cool. But maybe maybe this is the thing i've i've no relation to go to the army in any way so so I apologize if I if I said some terrible things, but that's that's the idea that I have when I when I think about about the military is people willing to put the effort and go through the grinding teeth and and do the thing. So maybe this is what what those people have in common that goes through your process and are successful at it. They all come from this system, where where they learn to do this in a very effective effective way and so they can adapt to a new industry and a new field. And really put in the work as you say and and go through the process and becomes a Word.
Jerome Hardaway 27:00
Yes, that is a that actually is correct. That's how we view it. Like, you know, they have the debt, the discipline and the intestinal fortitude, to do this work to push and learn this skill. So, you know, that's how we view it, we don't look at it, we don't look at programming from academic point of view at Vinci Code, look at it from a skill point of view. And like, you know, it's just like building a muscle in the body, you got to do your reps, you got to train and train and train and train. So that's our process. And that resonates with veterans a lot more because they are understanding that, you know, just like in the military with basic training, I it was a skill learning and community indoctrination of it. It's the same with tech, right? So that's what we that's what we focus on.
Tim Bourguignon 27:48
And it probably helps as well that people with the same mindset or the same shared experience, probably can can relate to each other and To speak the same language and get faster to the point during this learning process.
Jerome Hardaway 28:05
Yes, you're right. I, you know, I think that's something that is part of our superpower for our DNA is that you know, knowing that everybody from the top guy to the person who left and right of you is a veteran who knows how to write programming and knows how to write code and knows how to buy how these experiences work. It helps you get through it like you're not alone, right you're not in a vacuum in a silo like you know, they know that you know, how it feels to be deployed, you know, how it feels raise a family while I how to code you know, how to how all of the this adversity and hardship feels when you're doing it. So it's easier for them to understand that you know, what, if you did it, I can do it and I know type environment will create. That is, that is amazing. Congratulations on that. What is your, your vision for the future more cohorts, um, twice a year with 26 spots or do you want to, to offer more spots for more chords to to have more vets working with you What's with your idea of vision for the future? My idea is always, you know, deeper, going deeper into stack and then scaling. Like, I want to have one of the most modern jam stack web apps out there for our nonprofit. So that's one thing. But also on the second level, I want to be able to scale we want to go on the podcast, and we are in podcasting now. And we want to get into YouTube videos and lessons on there. And then we want to be able to create a way that you know, we can report lessons and then have people coding in real time and meet up their mentors, like on the app like we really want to push the envelope but a lot of places. beyond that. I have no idea I keep people keep trying to ask me for a 10 year plan and stuff like that. I keep reminding them and I'm a A 33 year old guy who made a non profit on accident, like I don't have any concrete plans.
Tim Bourguignon 30:09
But it's going on the list. Let's pivot a little bit. Um, how did you go to word developer relations? And how did you learn this job and start this this new phase of your career?
Jerome Hardaway 30:22
That's a one other day found me is one of those things where the best part about trying to build a community and teach people and stuff that people will notice, and I was just doing some work for the dotnet foundation. I've been nominated to get on their board, and I was going through the talks and stuff I did, like, Oh, of course of six years, I've done my almost 50 talks. And, you know, I wrote pot, I wrote a lot of blog posts, and I've done podcasts and I've done you know, I've taught 250 people or I've been a part of that journey to help them. Get to it. Job like that's, you know, I'll really crazy resume when you look at Oh, I code and I have done all of this while coding at big companies, right? So that helps I mean that they they came for me they were looking for built this diff relationship team and I was a person that people were talking about in the community and that's you know, that's how it happened that was it. I wish I could say I had some concrete plan on how I took this on this job and like planned it out but no, I just I'm a person I believe that if you keep doing work and keep doing making dope things, don't things will happen to you. How do you find the time to continue sharpen your your, your skills, so your acts
Tim Bourguignon 31:46
and coding on real life projects between teaching leading a nonprofit organization, doing Devereaux work etc that that's you only have Have 24 hours a day,
Jerome Hardaway 32:01
I assume. But what about those 24 hours in the day is about how you use this 24 hours in a day like I went DHH in a book called rework, he talks about it like, you know, having doing deep work matters, right? If I'm not distracted, and I can do in four hours, I can do pretty much my entire week of email in four hours, right? I did that yesterday. For instance, I answered every email on every phone call, set up all the meetings and stuff like that. It took me about four hours, but I'm like, pretty much booked solid for the week, right? Same concept for programming like that, like, yeah, I might have this a little bit of time or this time of learning, but I know, let me put this time on my schedule and take this time actually learn. Let me write it down. Let me focus on this, like do a front sight focus on this one subject, and, you know, go forward with that. So that's how I that's how I've done it. Like that's how that's what works for me again
Tim Bourguignon 33:02
buckling up and doing it so it seems
Jerome Hardaway 33:06
that just got to do it
Tim Bourguignon 33:10
but that is pretty cool. Um So do you have an idea of what's what's coming for use in since you're not searching for it and things tend to to all the dominoes tend to fall in place after you've been doing thing do you think do you have an idea what's next me though is going to be in your in your tech career.
Jerome Hardaway 33:29
I have no earthly idea like I'm telling you all the time I just you know, and I'm getting this Deborah position like I've been on this for six weeks. I'm like getting some cool opportunities. I just got off a call with front end masters and they're gonna have me do a workshop and do some things for Smashing Magazine. And we're gonna do some stuff with some stuff with them and I'm trying to finish up some stuff while Riley like it's been a big year like get into this whole content creation component is a real passion for me. So That's where I'm, that's where I'm focusing on right now for the next like, year or two years while also like not not trying to really plan Just say yes to everything right?
Tim Bourguignon 34:15
Don't you fear you're gonna be hit behind the head by something like burnout
Jerome Hardaway 34:21
I love what I do. Right and you know what I do take vacations I take vacations pretty hard, why I can live vacation. And like I can just want to take time off. I'm like, a ninja vanished from the face of the earth. You know, and I think that like that recharge. So like, you know, I take a recharge once a quarter and, or like whatever my wife says, it's time for me to take a break. From there, you know, but once I come back, I get to I get to work. Like that's kind of what helped me like focus on this upcoming quarter like just being able to get away from it all and then come back recharged feeling like I got to
Tim Bourguignon 35:01
do the work like they helped me. And I kind of already know the answer. But since you're talking about quarters, do you set yourself some kind of goals for the quarter,
Jerome Hardaway 35:11
I set myself times to like, I don't set goals, I set habits, right. So I try to plan out when every day or time to do something every day. But I don't set goals. I just like the idea is a book that I absolutely live by called atomic habits, you should definitely read it. It has like, I don't believe in setting goals at all. Because you know, a goal is a target. If I'm focusing on my habits like that, the good things will come. Right. So that's how
Tim Bourguignon 35:38
I look at it. And so habits is really focusing on doing the same thing or this thing on a regular basis, if not everyday, or what's your schedule for
Jerome Hardaway 35:50
things like that setting that time apart to do those things for the meetings for the podcast, where the writing for the self education for the dealing Students were the meanings of dev REL for the work with dev rel, like for the building relationships, I, you know, set that time like, you know, or you know, like, these 30 minutes I'm going to send an email to a new person, right? He's a, he's 30 minutes I'm gonna watch a watch a video from this particular place, right? Like I every day I watch, like, videos for coding to learn and make myself better. But I like Mondays is Pluralsight Tuesdays is Laura Cass Wednesdays is front end masters then I recycle that right and that's how I do it every day.
Tim Bourguignon 36:42
I'm my job is on the floor. I'm just amazed by the organization and the sheer, sheer force of will. Going through this. This is really a superpower. Yeah, it truly
Jerome Hardaway 36:56
is a superpower. I will buy. I don't like that. The only real superpower a human being can have is like will so
Tim Bourguignon 37:04
amazing thank you that's usually the points were asked for one advice but I've got so many advice so far um let's let's tweak a little bit what advice besides sheer force of will would you give to someone willing to swept from a completely different industry like you did and Korea different background and try to put their feet in a different industry Intertek would be the one advice you would like to give them.
Jerome Hardaway 37:35
A plan it I think like plan time every day to try to build something or build onto something plan time every day to learn something. There are so many resources out there that you can learn from, you should like, especially right now, it's no better time to be a developer even the free stuff is good, right? So I would recommend that you plan it. And other than that, be prepared to pay tax. I think people they come in, they think, come into tech is easy. And they don't think about how hard it is to get like to get a job or how hard this industry is they just see that, especially in America, you know, you don't really need a degree for it because we look at this skill. And there's a lot of money attached to it. And we're like, No, no, it's still a lot of training. Even if you don't go to college. It's a lot of education, a lot of self education and learning. I mean, I've done so much stuff that I do so much studying and reading and videos and listen to podcasts that I could be like, I got a degree by now. So I could have gotten like a CS degree by now. But I have a degree in marketing. So like I should have, maybe thought about it.
Tim Bourguignon 38:54
Awesome. Awesome. That's a very good, very good advice. Thank you very much. Where should the listeners contact you? If they wanted to continue this discussion with you?
Jerome Hardaway 39:05
Tim Bourguignon 39:29
awesome. anything happening in the next two weeks that you want to plug in. Nothing
Jerome Hardaway 39:33
has right now. I'm just doing a bunch of podcasts and a bunch of writing like that.
Tim Bourguignon 39:40
Then I wish you all the best with your bunch of episodes, then bunch of writing that that's that's fun. Already, I think.
Jerome Hardaway 39:47
All right. Cool. Thank you.
Tim Bourguignon 39:49
And this has been another episode of developer's journey, and we'll see each other next week. Bye bye. All right, bye. Hi, this is Tim from a different time and space with a few comments to make. First, get the most of those developer's journeys by subscribing to the podcast with the app of your choice, and get the new episodes automagically right when they air. The podcast is available on all major platforms. Then, visit our website to find the show notes with old links mentioned by our guests, the advices they gave us their book references and so. And while you're there, use the comments to continue the discussion with our guests and with me, or reach out on Twitter, or LinkedIn. And a big, big thanks to the generous Patreon donors that helps me pay the hosting bills. If you can spare a few coins. Please consider a small monthly donation. Every pledge, however small, counts. Finally, please do someone you love a favor and tell them about the shoe today and help them on their journey.