#185 Scott Spence from VBA Analyst to webdev
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Scott Spence 0:00
If they take the time to go through that, then they can understand who you are as a person, your personality. And like what you say we put in like a little easter egg. I usually say at the end of the FAQ, if you've got this far, thank you so much. Just reach out and say a special phrase, which is in this, and I'll get back to straightaway. And if they say that if I get an email with their subject line, I will get straight back to them because they've taken the time out of their day to to read all of that. So obviously, they want to talk to me and I appreciate that.
Tim Bourguignon 0:38
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers. To help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building your own this episode 185 Receive Scott Spence Scott as a second career dev who rescheduled from a VBA analyst developer role into web development. He's a developer advocate for graph CMS, and a massive fan of the JAMstack and Zelt kits. When he's not coding or CI check, you will find him obsessing over mechanical engineering and restoration videos on YouTube. Scott, welcome their journey.
Scott Spence 1:20
Hey, Tim, thanks for having me. It's really great to be here.
Tim Bourguignon 1:24
Later. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up, if you would like to join this fine crew, and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests, then editing audio tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info, and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. So Scott, as you know, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story look like, and imagine how to shape their own future. So as always on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your tech journey?
Scott Spence 2:13
I the stock my dev journey would be pretty much when I started full time work really. So I didn't really have I think it's college or university as you call it here in the UK, I just left school and did odd jobs from there on. And I was around must be about 25. When I started doing a just like a filing clerk role. One of the big banks here in UK. And one of the managers at the time started using VBA to automate the Data Management Information reports for the finance department, which is why I was working. And that was pretty much the start of it just you know, clicking a button somewhere and watching a spreadsheet built itself. I was like, wow, this is amazing. And quite into it. From there onwards ready. And I stayed with the bank for good sort of five, six years after that. And then went on to work elsewhere, and did other things other places. So that was pretty much it for that side. I mean, there's many a story I could tell about that. But I don't think we should sort of go into that sort of thing. I did. Yeah.
Tim Bourguignon 3:24
So let's let's dig in that just a little bit. How was it to see the scripts running and building a spreadsheet and doing stuff? And flipping to the other side of saying, well, maybe I could build those spreadsheets?
Scott Spence 3:37
Tim Bourguignon 13:24
We'll be right back. Hello imposters, if you work in tech want to work in tech or are tech curious in any way you'll want to listen to this. We've launched a community of professionals who come together to share information and advice about jobs, roles, careers, and the journeys we all take throughout our lives as the designers, builders, fixers investigators, explainers and protectors of the world's technology. We call it the impostor syndrome network. And all welcome. So find the imposter syndrome network podcast wherever you listen to find podcasts, and look for the isn community on your favorite social platform. Hashtag impostor network. Yeah, so
Tim Bourguignon 14:09
Scott Spence 14:48
Well, Tim, that's that's a good point. And I couldn't tell you any of my knowledge from my VBA days now. totally forgotten all about that pretty much with the day writing stuff as well. So it was a defining factor in my first web dev job. But they said, primarily, you know, your background is going to be more suited for what we want to do here at the first agency I was with, they did government digital transformation. So they thought, you know, it's not an exact fit, but it'd be a good match. And that's how I got to do that first job. But I mean, if someone starts talking about, you know, specific areas of that domain, you know, I could probably think of some bits what I remember more than anything is like, like any money laundering stuff, security stuff, because that stuff, you know, it was always a big deal, obviously, a bank. And there's, that's pretty much it, because that sort of stuff, you need to remember anyway, for, when you open up ever accounts, moving money about people get, you know, they start asking questions about all sorts of stuff. So that's stuff I sort of remember, there's other stuff, it was really specific part of the bank. And when you think of like a large enterprise, like a UK bank, and how many sort of different areas that have to deal with what we hit, what we had to deal with was, like, very specific, and finance doesn't. It's not just finance everywhere, there's just very certain specific areas, which sort of match up. So I'm guessing, with my first web dev job, they just thought he's got a lot of experience working in corporate environment, let's say, and that the government would be very similar to that. And from what I could tell, because I was only there for six months, is quite similar. So you know, they thought it'd be a good fit. So
Tim Bourguignon 16:39
do you manage to, to not sure what the right word would be to transfer skills from one to the other, and not just rent for skills, but also get the new company to recognize that you're not a newbie, you have 10 plus years of experience already, and you bring something more on the table then? And then new graduate? I was, yeah,
Scott Spence 17:00
I'm guessing that's what they understood. But like I said, there was a massive, I have actually gone into detail on that. But there was a massive skill gap for me there. Because just from the end of 2017, to when I started working in March 2018, you know, I sort of got into React, because I knew that was where the market was, and there was loads of jobs in that area. So I was like, and I was very, what's the word about most of my trip where I was very focused on areas I should learn, and like with the free cocaine curriculum, I think there was jQuery in there. And I was always asking, is jQuery going to be used in like modern new apps? And a lot of the answers were no. And same thing with like AJAX, and all of these old sort of protocols. And I just went straight past them, because I very much, you know, back in, like the my sort of API mistakes. If I learned something, and didn't use it, then I would forget it. So I saw that as wasted time and effort. So I would only learn about something I needed to learn about at the time. I know it sounds terribly lazy. But if it was something which I needed to do at that point, I would, you know, do our best to understand it and work through it, you know, oh, that's, that's one thing I did six years ago. And I remember every detail about it, exactly. My brain doesn't work like that. So it's something I think most people's don't, you know, if you're not using the same skills day in and day out all the time, then, you know, your knowledge for them just reduces. So a good thing, which I didn't talk about between me starting to learn web development in mid 2016, to the end of 2017. Was say, like, it was brought to my attention. I think by Quincy Larson, all by the Free Code Camp blog, it was called 100 days of code. And it's quite like a spammed hashtag on Twitter. Now, it's quite popular, but I still really do believe in that. And I always try to help people out on their hashtag when they're doing stuff. It's like, I still believe in where it's, it's like, you just try to code for an hour each day, for 100 days. And it did cause a lot of anxiety. A lot of people if they like they did, certainly six days, they missed a day, and be like, Oh my god, I broke my streak. And that was what they tried to sort of enforce with this blog post. But if you just pick it up the next day, and to just carry on counting, that is absolutely fine. No one, you know, the 100 days of code fair is not going to come and say, you've missed the day, you're a bad person. So I tried to sort of say to people, just just, you know, just try to use those muscles as often as you can to do that. And that's what really helped me, especially with working with GitHub, because at the time there was like, just do a diary, and then write three or four lines in a readme, and it push it to GitHub. So that's how I got used to using Git all the time. until I took part in like October 1 as well, which was always really good to get to know how to work with GitHub and like social coding, say, with pull requests. And what really gave me the confidence to start applying for jobs was another sort of initiative called chingu collabs. And I always give them a shout out whenever I can, it's a great initiative, where you have three or four like newbies that say, where you're looking to get a job, and you just make a project together. So I was working with someone in Romania, Egypt, and I can't remember name or place, but we're totally distributed, we all made a project together, I was nominated as the project manager, so that we know that we're on the CV. And we would all just at the time, GitHub used like issues, not discussions, because you can use discussions now for, you know, talking about stuff, but we're probably finishing would use like the Kanban board. And it just be like, you know, in progress, done or in review, and then done. And then that, and working with other people, understanding how they did things, and us all learning from each other on, like pull requests, reviewing pull requests, and just discussing things like that, really sort of gave me the confidence to start hitting up employees and saying, you know, I could work in a team doing sort of thing. Awesome. So yeah, that's, that's, you know, if there's anyone looking to get that good real world experience, then Ching, do collabs is really good. They're all sort of volunteering somewhere, which I know Freako camp do suggest, but in that case, some of the times, it's just like free work for like a charity. And they would just go, here you go, here's all the stuff we want done. And you just get a big, you know, you just get like a big list of requirements and features they want. And, you know, no one to work with sometimes. So that can be tough. And I'd always suggest
Tim Bourguignon 21:53
very often that when you started applying, how did you find out what kind of employer you want to target? What kind of tech you want to target, all that you've been learning or just a subset, or how do you go about it wasn't
Scott Spence 22:07
targeted, because I think all of the finance places, they just wanted, like 10x developers, and because of my, my sort of education in the past, I didn't have degree, and I didn't have you know, anything college. So a lot of the time, they were just structuring lists straightaway. And that was quite tough, because it was I was starting over again, essentially. And that was always a blocker for me, you know, having that any sort of like university degree to come in move, which was, it's totally irrelevant these days. Anyway, a lot of the time. So I'm sorry, I don't want to dismiss anyone's hard work who is currently studying at university or college, you know, he will get a lot of useful information out of that, and obviously, an education and you know, a degree or something at the end of it to show but a lot of the time, it's just like a checkbox. And you know, it's just a minimum degree standard, which means, you know, if you apply for a web developer job, but you've got like a degree in like the arts, then you'd get in. So it's a bit of a weird barrier to come up against. And that was tough. And I am, I got the first opportunity for a site called the it's called hacker job, where you would do all of the, like practical coding tests on their platform, to just do it once for each employer. So they knew you'd gone through all these practical exams, and they just bring you in for a face to face and you talk to them, which was fantastic. And I was all for that. Because for take home tests that I was always a bit, what's the word for it dubious about, you know, putting all this time and effort into this one thing, which is just going to go off and vanish somewhere, properties get looked at by senior developers, they'll scroll through and go, there's great whatever, and then not be used anywhere else. So this is when I really started to try and put a lot more content on my GitHub profile for like, simple projects I've done. And it would help for those sort of coding exercises, where it's like, I've done this before getting a bit of information from like an endpoint and display an error list, which pretty much all front end developers or anyone wanting a front end developer wants information from somewhere, put in a list. And that's what it is, in its simplest form, if you make lists of things on a web page,
Tim Bourguignon 24:30
visualize data store data.
Scott Spence 24:34
Yeah, so So yeah, I really try to sort of build up my portfolio of things I've done and that's what got me sort of noticed by recruiters, and I'll donate you have opinions on recruitment here in the UK. It's, I guess it's like anywhere you just get a lot of Have you seen this LinkedIn say hack, but if you put your like an emoji in your username in LinkedIn, you can tell when you have a recruiter reach out to you and they Haven't really haven't reviewed the email been blasted out, because it's still got the emoji in your nose. So yeah, those emails just get ignored. And I talked to the recruiters who have actually spent more than like 30 seconds looking at my profile, and just decided to dash out an email. So I would speak to recruiters who would say, Scott, I really like your project, you've done with X, Y, Zed. And I actually turn it into a project where I had just like one whole page, which was called an FAQ page, it was on my site. And I'll just link to the FAQ for the usual round of questions I'd always get asked. So you know, you check it out. Now, if you go to squarespace.com, forward slash FAQ. And it's still there. But it's just a long list of questions, which I was always asked. And, you know, as a developer, I hate using that phrase, but as a developer, you don't like repeating yourself. So it's like, everything is here, you need answered. And a lot of time ago, this is great. Everyone should do this, I think. So it just cuts out a lot of the initial phone screen you'd get with a recruiter,
Tim Bourguignon 26:03
bringing everybody should have their their FAQ page, it helps
Scott Spence 26:07
just reduce a lot of the initial phone screening a recruiter needs to do. So I'd always say look, you know, first contact is by email, please just read this list first, before reaching out. I had a candy link just so they could, you know, read the FAQ. Book. I mean, I know when they'd be calling because the thanks to like PPI insurance claims here in the UK, I just never pick up my phone anymore. Because it would always be where you were in a car accident? No. Or, you know, you can earn this much money back. So as a general rule now, just don't answer my phone unless I know I'm expecting a call on unless it's someone on my my contact list or no, yes, I just found that was a good approach. And recruiters would respect that. And they would, you know, spend a bit more time reviewing your sort of profile as it were. So yeah, I'd always find that makes a
Tim Bourguignon 26:54
lot of sense of having trying to find different strategies. And with those LinkedIn recruiting software, one that has been working was just kind of similar to yours, I have a GitHub page. So we've got a profile page where I put some very specific, not jokes, but almost there's a one one thing I say, one of the main characteristics of my job is asking if you've been talking to Bob. So basically connecting connecting people and saying, Well, I'm more into management now. And so it's really connecting people making sure to talk to one another. And I've had a couple recruiters reach out and ask if I was alright. And it got I found very interesting. And with this person, I connected and really, really talked to them. He didn't go anywhere. But I really had a pleasure to talk to them because they went that for the last counter example I have was someone asking me if I would like to join a company, which with the different the wrong job description, the wrong name for myself, and then the wrong link, which is the common job.
Scott Spence 27:55
Yeah, I had. Yeah. Hi, Mike. Who's Mike? Yeah, so this is just a copy paste file. I also had the other day before a senior Golang developer. And I've never looked at a line of code ever. So yeah, I don't you mean, when you say, if they take the time to go through that, then they can understand who you are as a person, your personality. And like what you say, we put in like a little easter egg. I usually say at the end of the FAQ, if you've got this far, thank you so much. Just reach out and say a special phrase, which is in this, and I'll get back to you straight away. And if they say that if I get an email with their subject line, I will get straight back to them, because they've taken the time out of their day to to read all of that. So obviously, they want to talk to me, and I appreciate that. And that was, you know,
Tim Bourguignon 28:44
that's a nice trick. That's yeah, I need to pick up on that one.
Scott Spence 28:49
Yeah, so, you know, it's quite far down the bottom. So you know, if I've got that far, then, you know, by all means, have a chat. And, you know, it helps them sort of decide if they need to speak to you or not as well, I think I'll put at the top. There's a lot of eyes in here. And it does sound arrogant. But I just want to be transparent and not waste either of our time. Because I've worked really I'd be on the call how you find in the market, you know, What's your preferred stack, all these sort of questions, which could just be you know, this meeting could be an email sort of thing. Which is exactly what it is. I'll just try to get all that out of the way as we can get to the bit where we're talking about what who I'll be doing the work with and what we'll be doing, rather than, you know, the long list of qualifying questions a lot of them need to ask.
Tim Bourguignon 29:34
That may sound like a first word problem or a bit pedantic but one of the things that I really like to do is when I hear the kind of questions you were asking if you're into go Lang or something I really asked the recruiters how in the hell did you did you land on my patients? How did you find me because nothing matches the end. That's it sounds a bit like this, this TED talk with the guy talking back to spammers sounds a bit like that, but I'm really interested in how do they manage to learn on our profiles with mismatching the most important keywords I've noticed?
Scott Spence 30:06
Yeah, I often think when I get those sort of emails is that man, they must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel or to have got got down to me to be asking for this sort of thing. So yeah, in the let's
Tim Bourguignon 30:18
switch gears a little bit in the intro, I read from you, there was the word advocate in there. How did that entered your story at some point.
Scott Spence 30:27
So I really got into, let's say, the teaching aspects of what I do at the moment are around the same time as I started to full time work, actually. So I read somewhere that it's important to keep like a blog of what you've achieved. And I started to do it as much like I did this one thing, here's how I did it for for future, and just to help me understand the process. And, you know, I found that I really sort of enjoyed doing this and helping other people or, you know, that person who's like one or two steps behind me understand concepts and stuff from so I really got a lot from it. And it was around mid, you know, mid 2019, I guess, when I started my agency I was at, after my first web dev job. And I was like, this is, you know, really good. And I really liked producing the content and just sharing it with people and, you know, documenting what I've learned. So that, and, I mean, this does go to, you know, where I work at the moment I work for graph CMS at the moment, I didn't at the time, but my first YouTube video was how to use Gatsby and graph CMS. And Gatsby and graph CMS were really good match because they both use Graph QL. And I sort of got it with Graph QL how to use it. And also got it with graph CMS is is what they are a great match. So that was sort of my first foray into talking head while coding saw video. And as I sort of got to learn more about Gatsby, I would sort of document it. And there's just tons of stuff in there now. And I still reference some of it myself. So I do write for future Scott. And like for the person who's like a couple steps behind me as well, I always misspell the same thing. It's like trying to solve this problem and getting it to work. And it's always that initial did it, which is always the good. The good thing. And I've described it to someone else every day is like what development in general is dislike continuous slaps in the face, like you continually hit a brick wall, hitting a brick wall hitting a brick wall until you get through that brick wall. And then there's another brick wall, which keeps on hitting you. So it's just the initial, you know, satisfaction of getting that one thing done. Awesome. Let's move on, you tear down a wall again. So it does sound very masochistic. But it's not, it's a great feeling of getting that one thing done. It's like just loads loads little Lego bricks, just building up to the full thing. So that's why
Tim Bourguignon 33:09
you're scratching your own itch when you do those videos and news tutorials and really try that yourself.
Scott Spence 33:15
Yeah, a lot of the time. So I just show how I've been poned the website from Troy hunt, there is an API, where you can sort of type in a password, and it says here that's been missing, you know, 1.7 million breaches sort of thing. That wasn't what I'm scratching my own itch for. But I use that in conjunction with this thing, which I found really annoying at the time was around 2017, where I'd have like this business bank account and have this crazy long passwords, like 18 characters long. And then a number five, five character password, and then some other random thing as well. And it always it wouldn't pick six, it's a pick characters, 513 10 and one. And you'd have to go through this mental gymnastics. So you start counting these numbers. So I'll just read right? Okay, won't go to is just putting, like an input field or password. And to say, Pick this letter from this input field, just so I know where it is. So that was, you know, scratch your own itch was just putting your password here. And you can pick the characters from it. Because I'd always find this really annoying. And then just to build on that brought in the demo been poned API. So if you put your password in, you can see if it's in any breaches as well, which, you know, I was quite proud of at the time. And I'm looking to move there. I think, didn't Gatsby want to move over to swell and start using it in just because it's I still don't like it. I use it occasionally. I'm not with that business banking account anymore. Because of that reason, and because they had terrible online experience. There was the worst and I got it at the time because it was a new someone at the company. And they said yes, come and talk to us. We could set you up. And when I first started it, it only worked this was in 2017 you could only sign Up in Internet Explorer 11 For some reason, I remember being on a call with them. And it's like, this is a really bad user experience. And this is the security you need to go through to use this service. Okay. Yeah, I've I've since left them. And I use wise now, which is a quite business banking service. But yeah, that was primarily I'm trying to think of other things as well, when I first started learning get, I had just like this massive markdown document of all these git commands I needed to remember. And, and then I started adding things to it. Like for this, I always had issues with globally, installing packages with yarn and NPM. And just bits around it. And then after a while, this just became this this massive repository of loads of markdown files. So I was alright, okay, I'm going to share with share this with the world. And I turned it into just a site with an index. So you could do a search, and then find your specific issue. So that was called cheat sheets, cheat sheets, X, Y, Zed, I still use it myself to this day. And yeah, I mean, like engineers do. If you have, if I have an issue, this is really annoying me, I'd like to be able to work around this. You just you do. And that's the great thing about being a web developer as well, you can just you know, that, you know, the power is in your hands to make that change to do that thing. Versus Yeah, which is an awesome thing.
Tim Bourguignon 36:28
Very cool. When you look back on that whole story, there's really this moment, I'm fascinating about this moment you deciding to to live this former life of yours, maybe with air quotes, but this life you had built VBA expertise, finance expertise, really being kind of recognized in that industry for what you can do and really provide value there and decided to switch to something else, what would be the advice you would give someone who is maybe kind of in a transition like this, and maybe fearing about the future saying saying, but I have something here? Should I shouldn't hide? What should I do? What will be the thing that might have helped you in this transition
Scott Spence 37:07
Tim Bourguignon 40:13
nobody, that's you really have a past and a, you're bringing it with you. And that's the way it should. Yeah, but
Scott Spence 40:18
what you what you said about that, it's just their thing is just like a whole other life now. And I can't really I understand how, you know, places that that work. But I can't really say a lot of that helps me where I am now, like across CMS. But my previous role, where I was, I saw, they got bought out by a larger company, like a really massive advertising company. And things started happening like that the core functions like HR and finance, they will start to disappear. And as I've seen this before, places where I've worked at previously, where they get bought out by a large organization, and then all the sort of core functions is like, you get absorbed into the larger organization. And all the management saying, don't panic, it's fine. No one's going to lose their job. And then like, three months later, everyone loses their job. I need to move on from here, sort of thing. So I guess just, you know, been old enough, long enough in the game. I can see, you know, when stuff like that happens is, you know, potential reflects that. So. So yeah, I'm really old.
Tim Bourguignon 41:25
But that makes for good stories. So that is good. Yeah, it's good. Yeah. It's good. It's been fantastic. Thank you very much for sharing your story. Thank you. So where would be the best place to to find you online? You mentioned a couple of links already. But let's, let's recap that and then started discussion with you.
Scott Spence 41:42
Yeah, sure that most developers, web developers on Twitter at Spencer's 10 And you could find me on most places. Spencer's team GitHub, LinkedIn. So I just used that from everywhere. I think it's like a 20 year old sort of handle now. I think it was just what I was assigned, like when you office jobs. So I've just used it everywhere now. And yeah, check out my website, Scott spence.com. And, yeah, I'm on YouTube as well. They won't let me ask Scott Spence there. Scott Spence, please. Someone said to Scott Spence, please, because you can't say it without smiling.
Tim Bourguignon 42:17
Orange doodles. Got pens. Yeah. Okay, we'll add a link to all those, those links in the show notes. Scott. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. Thanks. And this has been another episode of tensor journey. And we'll see you there next week. Bye.
Scott Spence 42:37
Bye. Bye. Thank you.
Tim Bourguignon 42:41
Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you liked the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Would you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally, don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter at @timothep ti m o t h e p or per email info at Dev journey dot info. Talk to you soon.