Nadia Zhuk 0:00
I made the conscious decision, that whenever there was a team meeting or some kind of meeting where there was a need to show some code and discuss it, that I would volunteer to share my screen. It was very stressful for me in the beginning just to open my code and type something when few other people were looking. I'm not sure why. But it was one of the most stressful things for me, even though they were friendly people in my team-mates. But I did that over some time. And I think that it was the best way to deal with any sort of fear. Just to consistently do it until it becomes so natural to you that you are not sure why exactly you were stressed out about it. So for right now, for me, it's not a stressful thing at all anymore.

Tim Bourguignon 1:02
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey podcast, bringing you the stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. My name is Tim Bourguignon. And on this episode 137, I received Nadia Zhuk. Nadia is a self taught software engineer based in Poland. At work, she designs and build backends for payment processing and subscription management for Zendesk. Outside of work, she reads a lot, and publishes a monthly newsletter, about the book she read. She also authored the book, "Crossing

the Rubycon:
How to learn to code and build a programming career", where she shares the story of how she went from being completely non technical, to being employed as a programmer in just nine month. We'll have to talk about this non-technical stuff. And you know how much I like do that atypical second career story, so I'm really looking forward to it. Nadia, welcome to DevJourney.

Nadia Zhuk 2:02
Hi, Tim. Thank you for having me on.

Tim Bourguignon 2:04
It's my pleasure. So Nadia, the show exists to help the listeners understand what's your story looked 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?

Nadia Zhuk 2:18
Yeah. So I would say that my developer's journey started just over three years ago. It was in I think, in the summer of 2017. At that point, I was still living in Belarus, where I'm originally from. It wasn't I wasn't at a good place in my life. Shortly before that, I had to shut down and media startup news magazine that I had been running for the previous three years. And I was at a place where I was really not sure what I wanted to do with my life in the future. I was sort of disgusted by the world of politics and news journalism, I was very disillusioned with all of it. I didn't see any future in journalism media or writing at that point. And I also was, to be To be honest, I was just lost. But I had an idea of leaving Belarus and moving to Poland, because I had the working visa here. And it was just generally easy to move. So I started thinking of what I could be doing once I move here. And I didn't have many prospects, to be honest, because I had skills that weren't really transferable to a new country. That's where people spoke a different language, which I didn't really know at that point. And when I was looking at job opportunities in Poland and analyzing them, I quickly discovered that there were that there were jobs that were very well paid. And in general, that seemed very exciting. But most of them required some technical skills, which I didn't have at that point at all. As you said, I was completely non technical in the sense that not only I was non technical, I was also scared of technology. I was intimidated by it. And I always considered myself the type of person who wasn't good with technology. You know how you think that people are either good with languages or good with math. And I was in that first category. But when I discovered that, actually, if I wanted to have a good life in a new country, and if I wanted to avoid the face that many people go through, where they work, in supermarkets or in cleaning jobs, if I wanted to skip all of that I needed to teach myself some technical skills. So this is how it started. And at first it started with Photoshop and excel and some technical skills that weren't really coding yet. So I was just trying to see how it would feel and I saw that I was actually pretty good at it and later on It turns out that I had more time before I had to move to Poland. And at that point, it was actually my husband, who is also a software engineer who encouraged me and pushed me towards learning to code because it seemed like the next, the next natural step for me. And also, it would open up so many new opportunities for me. So yeah, that's how it started.

Tim Bourguignon 5:23
That is really cool. Um, let's unpack a couple of things. So you created a startup before? Did you always have this this creative and entrepreneurship mindset in you?

Nadia Zhuk 5:33
Oh, well, it was a media startup. So it was, it can be more correctly described as an NGO. So it wasn't, it was a nonprofit organization, it was a startup in the sense that it was just a couple of people starting up something from zero. So I would say that it wasn't really done with the idea of making much money. It's many startups are, it was mostly an idealistic project, where, you know, we believe that we could change the world or influence the world in a significant way with our work, which was, in our case, telling the stories that other journalists were telling, and just bringing new ideas to the world and explaining them in a certain way that wasn't really covered. So yeah, I think that I didn't have I can't say that I I've ever had any entrepreneurial instincts before that.

Tim Bourguignon 6:31
Okay, so you wrote a book, two years, four years in your career? So did your view on journalism and the future of media and stuff change in the last three years?

Nadia Zhuk 6:45
I don't think my ideas have changed. And I don't see myself coming back to news journalism anytime soon. So

Tim Bourguignon 6:53
Let's put it on programming. Programming is so enjoyable that you don't want to go back. Okay, so let's, let's go slowly into tech. How did you go from those unknown unknowns, discovering what tech is in the first place? And Excel, you said, you learn "Excel, which isn't so much tech anymore after a few a few years", we could we could fight against that. But not today. Where did you discover, this could be your first step. And this could be a second step. And how did you learn? How did you realize how you need to learn in order for you to process all this?

Nadia Zhuk 7:32
It was, it wasn't a smooth journey, it was mostly me stumbling in the dark, just looking for answers and trying different things, throwing stuff against the wall, and just seeing what stuck. Because honestly, I didn't have any structure to my learning. At first, I consider going to a boot camp as many people do. But back then, the boot camps that were in the wooden rails in Europe were so expensive that at that point, it was possible to buy a tiny apartment in my hometown, in Belarus for the cost of boot camp. So it says a lot about the prices on boot camps, and also the prices of apartments in LA in Belarus as well. But actually, I started I think the first thing that I started was this little 15 minute tutorial, it's called try Ruby, which is a great way just to get a glimpse of what will be used as a programming language. And, in general, by Ruby, I had a friend who a couple of years before that told me that there is this cool programming language that can do something that was really amazing, called meta programming. I had no idea what it was, but it sounded cool. So I tried the tutorial. And it seemed I liked it a lot, then, I think I'm not sure how I came upon Code Academy. But I think it was one of the most popular things that always came up when you Google coding resources. So I tried Code Academy, I tried HTML, CSS, played around with Ruby on the platform. So that gave me a little bit more of a feel for what programming is and whether I would enjoy it or not. But still, at that point, I think I didn't really understand what coding was at a deeper level. And what happened then, like there was a detour that I remember that I'm not proud of where I google, I think a lot of people when they start coding, they Google, you know which programming language I should learn which programming language will allow me to get a better paying job and being rich and famous. So I googled it. And of course, it was JavaScript, then and I think right now as well. So I tried to learn in JavaScript with some really inappropriate tutorials for someone who was a total beginner. I remember one tutorial where I had to build a server in Node JS. And it was at the point where I had no idea what the server was required. When I build it, why would I need that? So I spent, I think a few weeks struggling with that it was a really low point, because I didn't know them. What I know now that sometimes certain tutorials that are marked as good for beginners in programming are actually meant for beginners in JavaScript, but people who already know programming, so the problem was very often not with me, but with a tutorial. But still, of course, I was very worried that, you know, I was too stupid for these, that this wasn't for me. And then I think I decided to try learn, and it will be one more time it was then. And I'm not sure how I came upon this tutorial. This is tutorial, Ruby on Rails tutorial by Michael heartful, which I always recommend to people that are just starting to learn to code. And this is not an exaggeration. But this tutorial, I think, changed my life in a way. Because it was the first time when I was doing something related to coding where I felt that I could actually understand it at some point. So just the way the tutorial was structured, made sense to me as someone who was completely new to coding who had no idea what coding was, and I think this tutorial, determine the path forward for me, I went over this tutorial, I think two or three times, also, I didn't have a tutorial or a mentor or anything like that. So I was just, it was just an intuitive approach, I felt that, okay, if I have something that is sort of making sense to me that I will, I will just need to go over it a few times to make sure that I understand at least 78% of it. And then I could go to more complicated materials and move further. But it was a very intuitive approach that I just constructed by trial and error. It's nothing too formal for me.

Tim Bourguignon 11:51
Did you manage to deconstruct this tutorial? To understand why it worked for you?

Nadia Zhuk 11:57
No, I didn't. But I think it would be a good idea to go back to it now and look at it and try to understand how it was different from the rest of the tutorials. I think it made fewer assumptions, or it had fewer gaps, gaps in the explanations and other tutorials. And it wasn't, it wasn't talking over my head in some way. It was explaining things just you know, they did make sense to me. So it's hard to to really deconstruct it.

Tim Bourguignon 12:26
But I understand that very well. When I started learning programming, that was way back then there was scene back then. And I had a C book and I could understand how to program, the step I was missing how to compile the program. And it was kind of assume that you know how to compile a program. And yeah, I never got over the step. And so I could theoretically program. But I never came to writing a program with that book like this. And it took me a couple years later to to really start understanding how that all works together. And so the assumptions you mentioned is really, really important indeed!

Nadia Zhuk 13:01
I know I had a really a moment when I saw light bulbs just lighten all over the place when it was in the very beginning when I was just learning HTML and CSS. And at first I was learning in Code Academy, which has this great interactive thing in your browser, where you just type code and you see it right there called ngadimin. And it seems like magic. But still, I went through those tutorials without really understanding how it works. And I had this, like big moment when I created a file that I opened in my browser. And I saw this website here, you know, on on localhost, obviously. But still, it was somewhere on my computer. And when I saw what it meant to write some code in an editor and then open that file. This was the moment when I realized how it worked. And I think I figured that out myself in a way or I made the Ask someone, but it wasn't intuitive for me at all, even such basic things like that

Tim Bourguignon 13:59
As a teacher to to take the the other, the other seat in, in the discussion, it's really hard to realize what assumptions you are making. And that that's what I love about teaching is you are sure that your your content is really good. And you're really prepared to teach somebody and you get some questions that you never expected. And when you really have to think to stop think and consider, okay, how can I understand this? Do I understand it at all. And it really makes you grow as a person so I really love this or this to figure that out. If you ever write a blog post or or or deconstruct what worked for you really and go back to this I would be very interested to hear that. Um, so let's let's get a little bit further on your journey. How did you go from this learning step from from discovering this whole world making sense of the unknown unknowns etc. to getting prepared to apply for work? And then getting professional in this in this sense and mastering the, the or Yeah, preparing yourself to apply and be courageous enough to apply and say okay, now I know enough I can apply to this.

Nadia Zhuk 15:14
Well, I would say that as many people I was talking to tutorial hell for a long time.

Tim Bourguignon 15:20
Is that is that a term coined term?

Nadia Zhuk 15:23
Yeah, tutorial hell! It's surreal place. And actually, I enjoyed that place a lot. I enjoyed building those toy apps and going through those tutorials just for myself, I entered going through different books, I really enjoy studying via written books and building the apps that I described there. But I always felt that there is one more book that I need to complete, and then I will feel more comfortable and made, the data will be more ready to apply for a job. But still, that I, I put off this moment for a really long time. And all the time, my husband, who was sort of helping me out and guided me a little bit, he was telling me that you just need to build stuff on your own, just need to build your own little projects, whatever. And you shouldn't be stuck in those books all the time. But I always said now I need to study the theory and how best to do it. So obviously, I was just too scared to try something out on myself. But then how I made the switch was, again, because I had to, I was in a situation where I was sure that I was moving to Poland very soon. So I gave up my permanent department that I had. So we were living in kind of a temporary arrangement. And as time went by this arrangement was looking less and less temp temporary as things tend to be. So I just felt that I needed to apply for jobs. And I was applying for jobs in Poland while still being in Belarus. So to me there, it's very important to get a job quickly so as to be able to move quickly. So there was this external incentive for me to do that. And I think that it was very uncomfortable. But I think that this external pressure, and just the fact that I put myself in a situation where I didn't actually have a choice I didn't to apply to jobs, and you know, and move out. So that was something that pushed me. So and I knew that to apply for jobs, I needed to have a propeller, I needed to have at least a few projects that I could showed my potential employers. So I started building some some simple apps that could demonstrate the skills that I had. I also build a very rudimentary portfolio website where I told a little bit about myself and my projects and what I like and what I don't like. And at that point, I started applying, but I was not comfortable applying for a job for kind of chocolate the point it was just sending out applications in a really terrified state.

Tim Bourguignon 17:53
How did that go? Are you still terrified of applying? Are you over this now? Tell us about that?

Nadia Zhuk 18:00
I don't know, I think I'm not sure if anybody truly gets over it. Just as time goes by the things you're scared of change, right? So whenever you read the job description, I think that for me, at least when I read the job description, I most often I feel that I'm not qualified. So it was like that back then as well. Something just the level of complexity changes a little bit. But I'm much better conquering my fear right now. And in general, I, I've learned to separate myself from my fear, I know that this is not rational. And this isn't that this fear of feels real, but it's not connected to reality at all. And I just accept it. And I usually tell myself, okay, I know, I'm scared of flying. I'm scared of doing this or that. But I have to do it. And I will do it. And then we'll see what happens. Also, I've learned that most of the time 99% of the things that I've carried, though, have never happened.

Tim Bourguignon 19:04
That's a good way to look at it. And rationalize a little bit. How were the interviews compared to what you expected those interviews would be?

Nadia Zhuk 19:13
I don't I didn't have any expectations. Like I know a lot about interviewing process now. But at that point, I think I wasn't that I hadn't invested that much time into researching the interviews and I think it was a good thing because if I knew if I knew everything that I know now I would be really scared that someone would put me in front of a whiteboard and asked me to write some algorithms on it. But luckily I didn't know it and I was just, you know, shooting out resumes and cover letters. Everywhere I could I applied for basically for every job I applied to companies didn't have jobs. Then I apply to At first I was very specific that I was going to apply only for Ruby on Rails jobs. Then I saw that And I was very specific that I wanted to move to Cracow because I really enjoyed Krakow. And this shows, again, how delusional I was because cronquist is big tech hub, where people from the whole area calm and the people from the top universities in Poland with master's degree in Computer Science apply for the same jobs as I was sitting back in Belarus, you know, without Polish citizenship, and without a degree, whatever. But I was still doing that. So I did that for a while. And then I changed my approach a little bit. And this is, I think, something that might be useful for people just to be a little bit more realistic, uncertain situation. So I realized that if I wanted to get a job, I need to lower my expectations and apply to basically other to other cities, to other kinds of jobs, maybe to other programming languages, and stuff like that. So I did that. And eventually, I got a couple of a couple of people got back to me. And I did test a test task for one company. And then we had the just a normal interview by zoom, which wasn't too technical. And since it was just, it was, it was an internship this four month. So I think that this is why there was no, it was a very small company. So there wasn't such a lengthy or very serious interviewing process. So they just decided to they saw my work, and they decided to give me a chance. So that's, that's how it how it worked. So my first interviews weren't that intense, I would say that, when I applied for my second or my next job, third job, this is where things were more complicated.

Tim Bourguignon 21:35
Tell us about that.

Nadia Zhuk 21:37
Yeah, so I had a lot of different kinds of interviews, weirdly enough, I've never had one where I had to implement an algorithm on the whiteboard. Nice. So I guess that I was lucky in the way I had to implement an algorithm. But on my computer, which was kind of normal, I think, which something that the person can do if you don't know how to code, I had the white whiteboard interviews where I needed to design an architecture, the architecture of an application. So just to say what the models will be and how the information will be structured. So this was the only whiteboard interview I had, and it was really interested in not that stressful, I think that this was a good format for me. And also, I had a couple of interest in interest, for instance, one where I needed to write some SQL on a piece of paper. So that was, that was fun. It made me realize how that I really don't remember the syntax that while and it was kind of a different format, you know, very unexpected. So there was once one when I needed to look at a piece of code on a piece of paper and find a bug in the code when it's written down on paper. And I had an interview, which were which I really enjoyed. And I think that it's it's a pity that they're not more common. Where we discussed, Ruby, as a programming language with the interviewers, we talked about how the language works. For instance, there were questions like what other how a private method is different from a public method? Well, how classes are different from modules and things like that. So this was something very interesting that I think helped people see whether I'm comfortable with the language, where whether I understand how language works, because I think in many cases, people just memorize some methods. But I'm not sure how the language works as a whole. And also, I think most of my interviews were just bad programming sessions on my computer where we needed to where I needed to either add a feature to an existing app, or maybe debug something and fix a bug in the code, which were interviews that I found very manageable. I think, of course, it was stressful with any interior is. And sometimes I would freeze it can fear. Because for the first time, I think it was very scary for me to even share my screen. And I think a lot of people struggle with that as well. But once I got over it, it was I think it was more manageable and enjoyable in a way as well.

Tim Bourguignon 24:21
Did you have the chance to train the skill of working with someone speaking while you type thing expressing your thoughts process? What is not on the paper, but what's really happening inside of you to share it with somebody and get them on the page? So did you get a chance to practice this outside of interviews?

Nadia Zhuk 24:41
Yeah, when I when I got this my second job actually I I made the conscious decision that whenever whenever there was a team meeting or some kind of meeting and where there was a need to show some code and discuss it that I would volunteer on my screen. If it was possible. So it was very stressful for me in the beginning just to open my code and type something when few other people were looking, I'm not sure why. But it was one of the most stressful things for me, even though there were friendly people in my teammates. But I did that over some time. And I think that was the best way to deal with any sort of fear, just to consistently do it until it becomes so natural to you that you are not sure why exactly you were in stressed out about it. So for right now, for me, it's not a stressful thing at all,

Tim Bourguignon 25:34
It's probably one of those things you mentioned before, do the risks that you have in your mind, when you imagine this is gonna be very risky. And then when you when you rationalize it, there's no risk inherent to this, you should just do it. But But inherently, it's, it's crazy. It just makes you crazy. I really understand what you mean. But that's the best way to learn that the absolutely best way to learn. You had the chance to be on the oldest side of an interview process now that you have a few years, where a few years down the line?

Nadia Zhuk 26:08
Not yet, unfortunately, but I think that it's gonna happen in the future.

Tim Bourguignon 26:12
Do you have any ideas of what you definitely don't want to do, or what you definitely want to do in this position,

Nadia Zhuk 26:19
I think that I would actually allow the person who is interviewing some time to be silent. Because I think that in interviews very, very often interviewers are very anxious when someone is silent. And you know, thinking is an activity that is associated with being silent, for some reason. And I think that very often interviewers are not comfortable with that. So they start asking questions and probing someone, and sometimes it's helpful, and sometimes it's not helpful. So I think that I would try to be more comfortable would be in silent and just given the person time to, to think, and just trying to help someone who is struggling, because I think that very often people are that interviewers are not really the best, the best place to see someone's killed because most people are so nervous that they don't know for me, if I'm functioning at the island of 60% of my brain, it's an interview, it's great, because the stress levels, for me are still very high when I'm interviewing. So I, I will try to put myself in the shoes of someone and just assume that they're very nervous. And maybe they might be very good at programming. But sometimes when you're stressed, you just cannot think you cannot concentrate. So if I would see that someone is making a mistake that might be connected to them being stressed, I maybe would try to ask them a question why they're doing that? Because sometimes you just ask them, Well, why are you doing that? And the person immediately says, Oh, this doesn't make sense. It's just, it's a mistake. So they immediately see that they made the wrong choice. And it doesn't mean that they are a bad programmer that just made a mistake.

Tim Bourguignon 27:57
Interviews are very stressful. And I like to start interviews nowadays with a question to which there is no wrong answer. And that's very relatable to this, this podcast is asking the interview, we too, to tell me their story. And since I don't know their story, there is no wrong answer. There is no expert other experts at their story than themselves. And usually it helps build up in the first five to 10 minutes. Really this confidence of a I'm in a friendly place, I can speak about myself, and the person in front of me is curious and really interested in what I'm what I'm telling. And I found that to be a good way to ease into an interview. But at some point, you have to get technical. And of course there is this, this side of things where where sometimes mistakes happen on Monday, you don't really know how to how to tell them when you can point it out. But it might be a bit too intrusive, and you will raise the the stress levels or you might ask questions, and maybe they're not gonna see it. And it's always complicated, but it's definitely a factor you have to go to buy in an interview. Okay, really cool. So let's go back to you to your your your work. You managed to get this internship first, I think, and then a second job. And then you came to Zendesk. Yep. How did this transition go? And what did you learn along the way?

Nadia Zhuk 29:22
Yeah. So my first job was actually my first real introduction to coding because before that, I thought that I knew what coding was, and I was comfortable with coding. But on my first day, I realized that I have no idea what I'm doing. I have no idea what I need to be done. And this was very, very stressful. But also, it was amazing in the way of how much I was able to learn on my first day in my first week. For me the challenge additional challenge was that at that point, I didn't speak much polish and my colleagues didn't speak much English. So it was a very interesting experience when people were talking to me in a language that was very hard for me to understand, because I know I knew the basics, but Polish people real talk really, really quickly. And also, there were a lot of technical words being used a lot of words that are specific that are international and other languages like browser. But in Polish, they have their own Polish equivalent of the word that doesn't sound anything like browser. So I had people talking to me, and using the words that I had no, I had no idea what they meant, sometimes, because they weren't in different language sometimes, because I was really clueless about coding. So I remember I had to, I had the problem of even googling or even understanding what I needed to Google, because I wasn't sure what word it was like, or was it mean the two words and what it meant. So I was basically just trying to survive, I think my first few weeks, it was very stressful. Most of the time, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know what code I needed to write, I didn't know where it would fit. So I would just, I was looking at the app as a whole. And I was trying to understand where would my code go in the structure of the app. And I wasn't really sure. So it was a complete mess in the beginning. But I think that it looks this way to me. But I think that in retrospect, I was doing pretty well, considering the the amount of new stuff I had to learn and in general, the conditions of being an immigrant and all the stress the new language in your country. Now the rest because I really did the very smart thing of changing careers and changing countries at the same time. And I came to Warsaw, I think, like on Tuesday, and then on, I planned one whole day to find an apartment. And then on Thursday, I went to work. So that was that was very interesting. So I think that this first job was very crucial in my learning progression. It showed me what workflows are, what the tools are, how do people work? What does the day look like for for a developer, I was learning a ton, I was constantly learning new type of work, I was working way too much. I wasn't working eight hours, it was much more. So I devoted my whole time to working or studying the watching tutorials. and on weekends, I relaxed, and I only coded for like five or six hours. So that that was that was relaxation for me.

Tim Bourguignon 32:33
Oh god.

Nadia Zhuk 32:35
Yeah, it was it was crazy. Yeah. And then, at a certain point, I realized that the time has come for me to change jobs. And the second job was very different. It was a job at a very big software house with 600 people at that point in Poland, completely remote, very different people very different projects. It was client work mostly. So that job taught me a lot about working remotely, he taught me a lot about teamwork. It also showed me what I like and what I didn't like in in a software developers job, what was important for me, and a lot of things that I learned there. So I'm very grateful for all of my experiences. And each job I was trying to make, to always do a retrospect retrospection of what happened, and to understand what worked for me and what didn't work for me, and also which mistakes I did. And I think it's my first two jobs I especially the first job I the number of mistakes I made was just out of this world, not only when it comes to coding, but also when it comes to just relationships with people fighting, fighting for myself standing up for what I need in the workplace. just expressing my wishes and my desires to management. That was something that I never did. I was scared of everything. And I had some I mean, it wasn't completely baseless because I wasn't a good programmer. And I needed to have a job to have my residence permit in Poland. So there was an additional stress of being an immigrant and worrying about papers. You know, when you get fired, you need to very quickly find another job so that your application doesn't get rejected. So people who are immigrants, and listening to this, they will appreciate this added level of stress that you have to an already very stressful job. So there were a lot of mistakes there. And at the second job, I think I also learned a lot. And those things that are learned helped me understand myself much better. And it helped me come to a place where I was where I am now. And Zendesk where I think a lot of my wishes, a lot of my learnings, a lot of my wishes actually came true in this current job

Tim Bourguignon 34:49
Looking at the clock, I think I have one more important question which would be when did the book came into into your life or the idea of the book? And how did that play in In this story and how it came to be.

Nadia Zhuk 35:02
Okay, so the idea for a book came back in February or closer to march of 2020. It was a point when I read another book written by a self taught American software engineer, where she tells her story of being completely non technical, as she described it, and becoming a programmer. And in the same book, she also tells about how she studied computer science in college. And then she changed majors. And I think at that point, I was really a bit tired of those stories of completely non technical people who code it when they were nine, who built websites when they were teenagers who studied Java in school. And I thought that okay, but where are the books who are written for people like me, who had zero connections with coding until the age of until layer eight, for me, it was until I was 25, zero connection to coding zero education in computer science in school or in college. I didn't have a computer until I was 15. Then for a very long time, I didn't have good internet connection at home, I needed to go to those this government facility where they had internet, it was called internet cafe. This was my introduction to the world of internet. So it was very, it was not a part of my world in any way, shape, or form. So I thought that I'm sure there are people like me in this world, who would really like to read the story of someone who was like them, and then build a successful career in tech. So I wanted to show people like me that this is possible, and also equip them with the tools to do that. So this is how the idea of the book came came, I wasn't sure how this book would look like I didn't know how to write a book or anything like that. So I just sat down, and I started writing everything that I could think of. So I told my story of how I went through this process, how I learned to code how I found a job. And this book is a combination of my personal story, and also a how to guide, showing people exactly the exact steps they need to take to go from zero coding abilities to working as a professional programmer, and as long along with different links to resources to learn into code and different tips that I give when it comes to job search, and also the learnings that I had along the way. So this is I think that this is a book that something that I wish I could have existed two years ago when I was learning to code, but it didn't. But now it does. So I think that that's pretty awesome. And I'm really glad that I managed to write it last year, it took eight months of work, which is actually not that much. It doesn't it doesn't feel this way when you're writing it.

Tim Bourguignon 37:43
I've heard of book being written for years, or so...

Nadia Zhuk 37:48
I don't know, I don't know how people do that. Because I think that around the eighth month, I was I was kind of hating that book. And I was hating that the fact that I got myself so deep into it, that I already but the sunk cost was so high that I couldn't just stop doing that I needed to finish. And yeah, I published it in the, I think the end of November.

Tim Bourguignon 38:13
Did you get some feedback? Or was it really a one shot from your end? And then you revealed it to the world? Did you have some somebody helping you? Or maybe somebody helping you along the way?

Nadia Zhuk 38:24
Yeah, I had, I had an editor who was helping me. And I also had some better readers who reviewed the, I think the third draft of the book and or four in total, who reviewed the book and gave their opinions. So I chose two people. In my case, one person was a technical recruiter who gave me feedback on the section about finding a job and she gave me some tips how to improve it. And also she shared some tips that on the recruiters now and now those secrets are revealed to the programmers, they can, they can use them. Okay, so their advantage. And another friend was a software engineer who reviewed the sections of this about learning to code and gave her advice on how whether I was missing something or some something was unclear.

Tim Bourguignon 39:09
Awesome. Yeah, that would have been my next question is how you made sure that you didn't put only your subjective experience into the book and open it a bit more to other ways of doing things. But I guess that explains that if you had the external input from different persons, that makes it a bit more universal.

Nadia Zhuk 39:32
Yeah. But But I think on the whole, the point of the book was to share my lived experience. So I've got something back about people they don't they didn't agree with some things that I said about the city where I grew up in there. It wasn't actually that bad of a place and I was like, okay, but whatever. It's just in like my lived experience, and this is how I perceived it and the whole story is very personal. It's just I found that I react to stories better. I like stories. And I think most people like listening to stories and the more personal and the more honest they are, the better. So I tried to make my book, as honest as I could I shared much more than I felt comfortable within that book. So I just hoped to make the book as open and as relatable as I could. But it's just my personal story and my personal outlook on the industry. As I said,

Tim Bourguignon 40:28
While researching stuff for this book, did you discover other books that you hadn't found before that could have been guiding you at that time?

Nadia Zhuk 40:37
Amazingly enough, I haven't found anything quite like what I was describing. I know, probably every, like startup founder said, No, this hasn't been done before. But I really haven't. So maybe there is something out there, but I haven't found it yet. I was I think a lot of the books are very American centric in the way. They're produced by Americans and also more towards Americans. But my book was written mostly as some as a book written by someone who grew up in Eastern Europe, in the country, ravaged up to the fall of the Soviet Union. Kind of a kind of a poor place as well, not many resources, not much access to opportunities that might be available to people in the United States at that point in the 90s. So it was a completely different world from the world that is often described in those books. So I was hoping that people who are growing up in different countries might be able to relate to my story a little bit more. And they've got some feedback from people from Africa, from India, and from all over the place that they really liked it and learned a lot from it. So I'm, I really hope that people who are underserved when it comes to learning materials might be able to get something from this book and use it as their friend as their tutor. If they don't have someone in their life.

Tim Bourguignon 42:02
Two thumbs up from me. You wrote it in English, right? Do you have any plans? Or is it written in Russian or in, in Belarus or in, I don't know, all those languages that are in the ex Soviet Union, Eastern European countries to make this book more approachable for people like you, with big air quotes, who came from the same background, as you?

Nadia Zhuk 42:27
No, I didn't have any plans to translate it, because it would be a whole different project to translate it into Russian because I was writing it immediately in English. And when I'm writing, I'm usually thinking in English. So there is no translation happening. At least I try not to have it because if I translate them, it comes out all Russian and people really don't like it. For some reason.

Tim Bourguignon 42:49
I know that problem.

Nadia Zhuk 42:51
Yeah, so no plans at the moment. But I think that it's not such a big problem, because most people who are who wish to make it intact, they kind of have to learn English, at least to the point where they can understand the book. But yeah, that's, I think it would be nice to translate all the languages in the world, but I don't think

Tim Bourguignon 43:15
It would be an interesting endeavor. To put it mildly. Did you have some, some, some readers contact you and tell you their stories and react to what you say?

Nadia Zhuk 43:25
Yeah, yeah, how fine it's been the most the best thing I think about publishing the book, just getting this feedback and people writing to me from all over the world, and just telling how the book is how, how they what they liked about the book and how it helps them in the moment. I had personally reached out to me from from the United States, who is think she is in her 50s. And she has changed careers as a career changer as well. She's getting into code. She has been coding for a couple of years, but now she's at the crossroads of her career and stuff like that. So I have also helped her and consulted her on her career change as well. It's been it's been amazing to hear back from people i think it's it's definitely one of the best feelings ever to publish something and then see people react to it and write back to you because I know that usually you even if I like something, I usually don't have time to reach out to someone and I know it's a mistake. But I realized that if people make the effort of writing to you or leaving a review on Goodreads about the book, it means a lot to me. So actually started leaving reviews on Goodreads right now I know if the author is alive, they are most likely within those reviews. So now I make a point of if I finish a book and I like it, I always leave a review. I know that it's super important.

Tim Bourguignon 44:48
It is indeed. I know the feeling goes well. I'm not getting that much feedback on what you do. As it is in podcasting. The few comments to get you cherish them very much. Okay. You gave us an avalanche of tips and and of course your book is one of the best tips ever. If you have to pick one for people, we're changing everything at the same time, the language the country, the the they're not background we cannot change but what they do for a living, etc. What will be the the one tip, the one advice you would give?

Nadia Zhuk 45:27
It's hard to choose just one advice. Yes. I think that for me, what's worked for me is something kind of weird. And also, if you have ever watched the famous American TV series Seinfeld, there is this episode where where one of the characters starts doing the opposite of what his natural instincts tell him to do. So for me, my natural instincts are people think that I'm a brave person. But I'm, I don't think that I'm that brave. I think that in the past, especially, I used to be scared of everything. And I think that many people are very scared of changing things and making scary decisions. So what what the advice that I would give people is just, whenever you have this urge, and you have this natural instinct that you better not apply to this job, you better not try this, you better not meet somebody better not go outside, and stuff like that. Just do the opposite of what your natural instinct tells you. Most often, it's just fear. It's not connected to reality in any way, shape, or form. Just do the opposite of whatever feels right at this point. Of course, there are limits to that advice as well. But I think we all know instinctively when it's just fear and when some something real.

Tim Bourguignon 46:44
So question your conditioning and your instincts and realize when your guts telling you to do something, and then try to do the opposite. And other good. buys, indeed. Thank you very much. So where could the listeners contact you they wanted to or to get in touch with you and start a discussion with you.

Nadia Zhuk 47:05
Sure. So everywhere on the internet, I'm @beetlehope. So I'm on Twitter, @beetlehope Also, I'm @beetlehope on gumroad where you can buy my book. And if you want to search for my book, it's called "Crossing the Rubycon". And despite what Amazon or Google think Rubycon is spelled with a "y" and not an "i" because I get very clever and I wanted to use the name of the programming language that I use in the title. Anyways, I think that the simplest way would be to just reach out to me on Twitter.

Tim Bourguignon 47:38
Awesome. And all those links will be in the show notes. Nadia, thank you very much.

Nadia Zhuk 47:44
Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.

Tim Bourguignon 47:46
Likewise, and this has been another episode of developer's journey, and we see each other next week. I hope you have enjoyed Nadia's story as much as I did. I cannot stop thinking about her learning curve. I have been surrounded by computers for as far as I can remember. She went from zero to writing a book about her experience in a matter of months. I am truly amazed. Tell me what you liked about Nadia's story. The one quote I couldn't get out of my head is _"I was stuck in tutorial hell for a long time [...] and actually I enjoyed this place"_. What gem are you taking with you? Tell me. You can reach me on twitter, I'm at @ timothep, or use the comments section on our website under the transcript of this episode. Think about your friends, family, colleagues. Who could benefit from hearing and maybe reading Nadia's story? Tell them to do so today. Send them a link to this episode. Finally if this is your first episode. If a friend recommended it to you. Thank them for me, and welcome on board the Developer's Journey train.