Chelsea: Hey, friends. You’re listening to Collaboration Code Radio where we bring together the San Diego coding and tech community. I’m your host, Chelsea Kaufman, CEO of LEARN Academy. And today I have with me Dante Moore.
Dante: How are you?
Chelsea: I am great. How are you?
Dante: Pretty good, pretty good. Thank you for having me on.
Chelsea: Oh, gosh, thank you so much for being here. I’m really excited to actually learn more about you and your life before LEARN.
Chelsea: No, no, no, not from what I heard. And a little bit of like your journey has been so cool to kind of watch you be a part of the class and then after the class come back and being part of the classroom for a little while, and then watch you go on your job hunt and just thrive.
Dante: Yeah, it’s been really fun. Where do you want me to start?
Chelsea: Where do you want to start?
Chelsea: Okay, well, so you’ve been out of the boot camp for about six months, is that right?
Dante: Six months, yeah.
Chelsea: Yeah. And you’re just now working in a new job, even newer job than the last time I heard.
Dante: Yes, yeah.
Chelsea: That’s exciting.
Dante: So I originally was working at (Job?) Connect and it was really good but it’s hard to gauge a company just from an interview until you actually start working at the company. And once I start working there it wasn’t a fit for me, I wasn’t a fit for them, they wanted me to just be like segmented. And I was working freelance at the time with another company and they offered me a position that I wanted, and I’ve already experienced their culture, I’ve had game nights with them so I decided to take that position.
Chelsea: Yeah, I’m excited to talk to you about that mostly because we talk a lot in the classroom about finding that right fit and how important culture is, how important that supportive environment is. And so we’re going to get to that.
Chelsea: But let’s start way before that.
Chelsea: Where would you say home is?
Dante: Home for me is Japan. I was born and raised in Japan. I went … I started maybe elementary school all the way to middle school. I came two years back to America for middle school to improve my English. And my high school years were in Japan. And I went back for college.
Chelsea: Okay, all right. So tell me about … that’s … Okay, let’s take a step back. Tell me about growing up there and what that was like.
Dante: Growing up there was … it was different. I realized at a very young age that I was different from everyone else, it was a learning experience of like how to fit in, how to be not Japanese but living like Japanese environment. I learned a lot about myself. And as I got older I realized these things. But when you’re growing up everything seems like I’m just a kid there, I’m slightly different from everyone else, I don’t know why, but I had fun growing up there.
Chelsea: Yeah, that’s a really amazing thing to kind of learn so early on in life. Like, how do you see those skills helping you as you’ve gotten older?
Dante: I have a joke with my friends that I’m a chameleon, like where I can just jump into any group and I think that’s my upbringing is I had to learn like, “I like these things but no one else likes these things, let me try what they’re doing and see if I like it. And if I do like it, I have a new set of friends.” So growing up that was kind of like my lifestyle, it’s like just trying different things outside of my comfort zone. So as I got older it just became kind of like second nature to me.
Chelsea: Cool, okay. So you stayed in Japan for a while and then you left.
Dante: I left, I came here, lived with some relatives in Mississippi. I learned …
Chelsea: It’s very different.
Dante: Yeah, I learned very quickly it was … That was probably the hardest probably two years of my life, and I say that like kind of jokingly but it was really hard. I remember …
Chelsea: How old were you at that time?
Dante: I was 12, 13 maybe, I was going into …
Dante: Yeah, I was like finding myself and then all of a sudden I like kind of know who I am, here’s Mississippi I’m like, “Who are these new people that I have no clue,” but definitely a learning experience.
Chelsea: For sure. That’s such a crazy age to kind of take … uproot yourself and put yourself into a whole new culture.
Dante: Yeah, for sure. It was fun though, it was fun, and it’s like I still have the like my cousins, I still talked to them to this day. And my first interaction with them was like, “I hate you guys.” But now I like their family and they help me grow as a person.
Chelsea: That’s so cool. How great it is to have … to be tied with a family like that. So then you went back to Japan.
Dante: I did. I went there for high school and I did my first three years there, and I did my last year of high school in San Francisco.
Chelsea: Oh, okay. What brought you to San Francisco?
Dante: I think ultimately my parent, my mom, wanted me to make sure that I had English, like that was her most important thing is like, “You have to learn English. Like, you just can’t have Japanese.” So like just thrust me into like English school. I think I learned a lot. I think like I honestly felt like that was probably the best year of my life, because I was away from like everything that I knew and kind of self-relying on myself.
Chelsea: Yeah. They take you to … you go to new places at very like important …
Dante: Pinnacle, yes.
Chelsea: Pinnacle parts of your childhood, like right when you’re becoming a teenager, your senior year of high school.
Dante: Yeah, and I think … I mean, for me I think a lot of people those pinnacle years are like they become comfortable, and for me I was becoming uncomfortable. So a lot of how I am today is like that uncomfortableness of like, “Well, hey, I was comfortable, let’s try something new and see how it goes.”
Chelsea: Well, there’s finding being okay with being uncomfortable.
Dante: Yeah, peace, yeah.
Chelsea: Having peace with that. And I’ve talked about this a lot with other students, that I think when you’re in development and you’re programming you are often in a state of feeling like you don’t know, you don’t know where the answer is, so there’s that state of being uncomfortable.
Dante: That’s my whole life.
Chelsea: I know, you’ve been preparing your whole life.
Dante: Yeah, for sure. And like honestly, to your point, programming like for me was just like a logical step is I’m always uncomfortable so I was like being uncomfortable with programming it’s nothing new to me.
Dante: Just Googling.
Chelsea: Yeah, right, figuring things out.
Chelsea: Yeah, tackling new problems. Cool. So you then went back to the University of Tokyo.
Chelsea: And got your degree out there.
Dante: Yes, I got my international business and marketing. And at 18 you really don’t know what you want to do, and in our society that’s something, you have to pick something, and definitely by Japanese standards you have to be in school by 18. So I just picked what all my friends were doing and they are all in business and marketing, and I did it. I don’t regret it, but it’s something that … it wasn’t … I wasn’t interested in it. It was I just went through the motions, got the grades, got the diploma.
Chelsea: Are there things that you took out of that, that you think you use?
Dante: For sure, how to run in business, definitely marketing. Marketing I would say kind of pushed me into development because I had to like HTML, like build a landing page, build like an e-blast, like things like that I felt like we’re just like the maybe breadcrumbs that led me to development.
Chelsea: Cool. So it may have started like really …
Dante: Yeah, but I didn’t realize it yet.
Chelsea: Totally. I think that’s true with a lot of people, that I know for myself that when I was a kid I was building computers with my dad, and I didn’t even really put it all … and then I went into the arts, like I went into nonprofit arts organizations after that and totally changed. But computers have always … the internet and all of that has always been a part of it in this weird way. So when I transitioned into this field like it was a natural like, “Oh, I think something in my whole life was telling me this is where I needed to go.”
Dante: You just weren’t listening.
Chelsea: I wasn’t listening. It took me a little while, but I think that’s a common story. I think that we are getting better at introducing it earlier and showing people that this is a really great career path.
Dante: Yes, for sure.
Chelsea: Cool. So after college you became a marketing manager.
Dante: At Rockton Bank.
Chelsea: Rockton Bank.
Dante: Yeah, it was kind of like my first real job.
Chelsea: Sure. I can’t really imagine you like working at a bank. Not your life, but this feels a little …
Dante: I have two sides, so that’s the chameleon. So Rockton Bank is very similar to like eBay but they also have like a bank aspect to it. So like they have like this e-commerce site, and that was the site that I was more on. But it was I had to be serious, and like I can be serious but like all the time, like I had people under me and I was fairly young and I think maybe the youngest person like on the team. So like I had to be extra serious, like my tie was like very …
Chelsea: I can’t even imagine you going to work in a tie.
Dante: Yeah, suit and my briefcase, I was a salary man.
Chelsea: Oh, man. All right, you definitely like made … I think you found the right path.
Dante: Yeah, for sure, yeah. I like not wearing suit as much.
Chelsea: That’s what Rob says. Yeah, totally. Okay, so after the bank, you were there for three and a half-ish years.
Chelsea: And then you went … and then you became a project manager, is that right?
Dante: Yeah, so I worked at … I came back to San Diego and I was a project manager. So I came to San Diego …
Chelsea: So what brought you to San Diego, was it the job?
Dante: No, it was not the job.
Chelsea: It was a girl.
Chelsea: It was a girl.
Dante: Yeah, so I was dating someone and it was … I wanted to come back regardless, but in order to come back I had to take her with me and she wanted to come to San Diego. So I let her choose where we came back to and she chose San Diego, and I got married. And it’s probably the best decision of my life because like I’m very nonchalant, so now I have like this motivation.
And so I was working as a project manager, and that’s kind of where I got like the huge taste of like being a developer, like I realized like, “Oh, I can …” Like, I had all these engineers, I didn’t understand what they were doing so I had like had to research so I could like manage them. And I enjoyed watching them work, like I would … they thought I was micromanaging, but I was really like, “Yo, what are you work on, like how can I work on that?” So that was my big break to realize I like development.
Chelsea: All right, that makes sense. I think that that’s a common path that we have students that have all of a sudden around other developers are like, “What is that thing that you’re doing over there?”
Chelsea: Cool. So can you talk a little bit about that like transition of that motivation that pushed you to it?
Dante: Yeah, so originally at the company they had like a branch, and the main branch I was working as a data scientist, that’s kind of what my background is. And it was just more analyzing the data not actually making the apparatus to analyze the data. So once I had the opportunity to actually make the apparatus to analyze data, I realized I don’t like analyzing the data anymore, I like actually making the tool and then having someone else.
And for me it still didn’t click like you might want to be like a developer, it was just like I need this tool, I had to make it myself, I had to like Stack Overflow all these problems and like MacGyver this kind of thing so I can analyze data. And once I did it, it was like a huge accomplishment. And no one … like everyone else was like, “Wow, we can analyze the data,” but no one realized like, “Oh, we have a tool now, that way it’s so simple.”
So like for me that’s what I was more proud of, is actually making that tool.
Chelsea: Yeah, the process.
Dante: The process of making the tool, the struggles. Like not the end product, like the end product was great but I enjoyed the whole process.
Chelsea: Yeah, okay. So then what was the jump? That like did you … because you eventually came to LEARN.
Dante: Yeah, so what was the jump? I think the jump was just late night YouTube videos before going to bed kind of like just like how do you become a developer, like taking like online courses. And eventually I realized one bad day at work I’m like, “All right, I’m out.” And I rolled and it’s been great ever since. So I don’t know what the key pinnacle moment was, but there was a lot of things that kind of attribute to me moving to leaving my job and going to LEARN.
Chelsea: Yeah, how did you first find boot camps? Was it the path down YouTube thing?
Dante: I think it was the path down YouTube, yeah. It was like some cat videos thrown in there. But yeah, it was just Googling like software engineer or web developer, and then eventually arriving to this one person video and then now having that keyword coding boot camps and now plugging that in and getting more information.
Chelsea: Got it, cool.
Dante: Long nights.
Chelsea: For sure, for sure. Do you remember your first like experience coming to LEARN?
Dante: Yeah, I do. Even for me, and it was intimidating, like I felt like did I make the right decision, like you’re in a room with like 20 other people, you don’t know them yet and like from LEARN’s perspective super welcoming but like still it’s a new environment, and like my first like interaction I took someone’s chair, the guy got up. I’m not going to say who he is, he knows who he is.
Chelsea: You worked for it.
Dante: And he said something like under his … like under like, “Oh, this guy took my chair, blah, blah, blah.” But I didn’t know, and I was like, “Oh, this is going to be terrible.” But yeah, that day maybe from like 9 to 12, it was super like intimidating. But like after lunch, like once you sit down and you bond with like the people that you’re going to be with for the next three months it was wonderful.
Chelsea: The first day lunch is something that is really special to us.
Chelsea: That like we … so just to fill everyone in, so you were in our Alpha 2019 class, so you started at the beginning of this year. Kind of cool like way to end your year.
Dante: Yeah, for sure.
Chelsea: But that like on the first day of school or class, we bring together all of the classes. So the class had just started, a class that is currently in session, we bring together all this staff and like our partners at Notch 8, like just bring everyone together and be like, “Here’s a bunch of food, let’s all talk to each other.”
Dante: And it’s super organic too, it’s not like … it’s not … You guys don’t force it, like it just naturally happens.
Chelsea: No, we’re not very good at like forcing things. We tend to roll in the more organic as best we can. And we have talked to a couple of your classmates before, both Tucker and Jessica’s at the podcast before. And I think that talking to them that your class like formed a pretty cool bond.
Dante: Yeah, I mean, I think everyone thinks their cohort’s like the closest, but I think our cohort’s the closest. Like, even like coming … like we’re getting too late, but going back to like the class that I taught, I don’t think they’re as close as our class was.
Dante: We’re coding and doing partying every other night. Sorry, guys.
Chelsea: Calling them out. Yeah, that’s great. I think that that idea that the cohorts are there to kind of lift each other up, and that it’s not a kind of competition.
Chelsea: It’s a weird thing because you are all there to like go get jobs, so I think the natural thing is for people to think, “Oh, they’re going to like duke it out for the jobs.” But in reality it’s so much more effective if everyone is there like lifting you up.
Dante: Yeah, and it’s not even just like for the like three months or four months, it’s beyond, like I still talk to Tucker, I talked to Tucker yesterday, and I hang out with people, we go to brunch and it’s like, “Oh, how’s the job hunt going like?” It’s motivation to like, “Are you still coding?” Like, it’s that extra voice like keeping people moving still, like that’s how I see it. Like, I have friends from this like at the end of the day like I learned coding and I have five friends that I hang out with constantly.
Chelsea: Yeah, that’s so great. I mean, it’s you’re going through such a big shift in your life, and having that support system around you is it just makes it that much easier.
Chelsea: Knowing that they’re also going through it.
Dante: The struggle too.
Chelsea: Right, they’ll go on the rollercoaster ride with you. Cool. So you went through the course, you had your internship with Emotiv.
Chelsea: Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Dante: Yes. Probably the best way to end like the LEARN boot camp for me, big shout out like Matt Bosworth, he’s the mentor. Basically his company makes an EEG headset that you can put on your head and it monitors like brain activity, it’s like health and fitness kind of. And he gave us the headset he’s like, “Here you go, do what you want with my headset.” And it was like a gift and a curse because my partner, Ace, that we did it with, we knew what we wanted to do but we didn’t know how to do it. And I feel like that’s kind of where like development starts is like, “All right, we want to take this headset and we want to move some medium.” So we took the headset and we sent mental commands to a Bluetooth ball, and the ball would basically move based on the mental commands.
It sounds cooler than it is.
Chelsea: I don’t know. I remember watching [unclear 19:17] at the end, it was pretty cool.
Dante: And so it’s a four-week internship, and I would say for a week and a half we struggled, and Matt let us struggle, like he just … the whole week and a half he’s like, “What do you guys want to do? All right, how do you get there?” And like I remember one day, he’s going to be angry that I said this, but we had like a bad day and it came to the point that Ace and I were like copying code like on someone else’s Github and trying to like Frankenstein something. And we showed him, and he’s like, “You guys are not script kids anymore. You guys had to actually develop.” And that’s all he said.
And we went back to our desk and I was Slacking Ace, I’m like, “Man, let’s ditch this guy.” But like from that I kind of … he was right, like if you want to be a developer you actually have to take the time to actually like go to the struggles, like figure out what you want to do, even if it’s very like juvenile, like just get something working and then re-factor later.
Dante: And at the end of it we had a whole working project that we could show people, and I still show people.
Chelsea: That’s so cool. It’s such a good … I don’t know, Matt’s great.
Dante: He’s awesome. I’ve been super lucky with like my mentorship and like he’s a person that I could call right now and once he’s done tending his like artichoke farm he’s going to call me back. He’s like a lifelong friend, and he still checks on Ace and I, like I saw him two weeks ago, he’s just like really good guy.
Chelsea: That’s awesome. That’s good to hear.
Dante: He’s a good developer too I should say.
Chelsea: Right. Number one like yes. But I think that that motivation, that mentorship is such a huge part of the mentorship process.
Dante: For sure, yeah.
Chelsea: And that it creates … you get introduced to people that can continue to help you in your career and that that is so valuable, that we’ve really enjoyed partners like Emotiv and some of our other internship companies that just have great mentorship, that really care about helping people to like make that shift and not just copy code but really think about it.
Dante: And I think that’s the beauty of like the LEARN program is like sure there’s a whole bunch of other programs that have like three-month boot camp, but to have that one month internship to actually get like real work, like be accountable for some type of project is super important.
Chelsea: Yeah, thank you. So I mean, you may have already shared this already, but like what would you say is your most enjoyable part of the boot camp?
Dante: Most enjoyable part, definitely getting a job, but like inside the boot camp I think once things start clicking, like everything is not going to fully click but like just bits and pieces like, “Oh, I know what that’s going to do.” Or like as you’re doing a lecture and like someone’s explaining something and you’re kind of like, “Oh, this is going to happen or that error is going to happen.” Once that starts happening, you start like realizing like, “Oh, maybe I can do this.” So there’s many of those moments. I wouldn’t say like there’s one moment, but like those are the moments that I enjoyed during boot camp.
Chelsea: Yeah, it sneaks up on you.
Dante: Yeah. And I guess we’ll get into it later, but like you know so much more than you think you do. And then once you’re actually like have to prove it, like you’re like, “Oh, I actually do know this stuff.”
Chelsea: It’s true, it’s sneaky. So what would you say … Do you have any advice that you would give students?
Dante: I thought about this one, and my advice is like there’s two types of people, like there’s people that need to like compare themselves to actually have that motivation – that’s the type of person I am, like looking at the Tucker’s, looking at the Jeff’s, like they’re at the top of the class, so when I see them I’m like, “Wow, Tucker’s still going home and he’s putting in like five hours after boot camp. I need to put in 10, because he’s double the developer I am.” So like but if that’s not your personality, don’t do that. Like, because it can lead you the other way where like you think that you’re putting in all these hours and you’re not catching up with someone.
So kind of knowing like yourself as a person – do you need that competition to actually like thrive to like push yourself to be a better whatever or are you the person that has it your own pace? As long as you’re like being truthful to yourself like, “I’m going home and I’m going to study for three hours,” as long as you’re hitting those benchmarks, whatever you set for yourself, don’t compare yourself to other people because it will have the reverse effect, you’re a spiral.
Chelsea: Yeah, everyone learns at different paces, and so it’s hard to … Comparing is almost impossible to do, like I think that you’re right in looking at it as a motivational source. But if you can see that like the way you learned something where I learned something is going to be totally different and at different rates, and then I’m going to grasp something maybe before you, and then you’re going to grasp something before me, and then …
Chelsea: So kind of stepping back from that and understanding kind of trusting, trusting yourself is probably one of the hardest things that we ask students to do.
Dante: For sure, yeah. And another thing is getting a person that you can study with outside of class, like I was super fortunate that my group of friends like we had hobbies outside of like just like coding. So like after class we would get on, play a couple of video games, and then like, “All right, let’s do that lecture today.” And then we’ll all do it, we’ll give each other tests, we’ll like look at each other’s code. Like getting that like that support group outside of the … like outside of LEARN, so you’re going home and then you can like, “Hey, I can study with someone else,” so you’re just not studying by yourself. That really worked for me.
Chelsea: That’s great advice, that’s great, like having that connection with other students is really cool.
Chelsea: So after you’ve graduated you started doing some freelancing.
Chelsea: That was a great thing. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Dante: Yeah, sure. So it wasn’t even my idea actually, and like credit to Musique, she’s the one that actually put it in my mind like to use Upwork which is like a platform for freelancers. And I started off very simple, it’s like stuff that I was comfortable with doing, like not even development, like I’m really good at like HubSpot CRM and Salesforce, so I would like, “All right, I need this done.” But then working with them I’m like, “Oh, you guys also need a landing page, I can build that for you too.” Like use lenient on my development skills.
And it helped for two ways, one financially it helped, and two like I’m practicing, like I’m still learning and I’m responsible for this client. This client is like giving me a project and I need to finish it in a timely manner. And, of course, I looked up things, but that’s normal development, I had to like how do you hook up this page to like this password page or something, simple stuff like that I still had to look up.
So for me I felt like it’s a good way to learn, continue learning, and get paid for learning. As long as you’re truthful with yourself and you can do the job, I feel like it’s a great opportunity to learn and get paid while you’re learning.
Another important thing I would say about freelancing is like you meet new people, and we’ll talk about later, but like for me I met a lot of different people from walks of life that like they’re, “Hey, can you do this for me?” Or like, “Hey, I’m in San Diego, do you want to hang out?” And it’s more than just … they weren’t just my clients, they were friends that I’ve actually hang out with now.
So I think it’s a really great opportunity. You do have to put yourself out there though, that’s the one thing I will say is you have to be comfortable with one like applying for these jobs, getting shut down, but for every job that you get shut down there’s a job that you’re going to get. There’s really no other advice I can say but put yourself out there.
Chelsea: Right, like you can’t get anywhere if you don’t ask.
Dante: For sure.
Chelsea: Right, or apply or whatever it is. What were the like difficult parts of freelancing?
Dante: Difficult parts were maybe speaking the language, like there was a call, I’ll be honest I had like a CTO and like I think like obviously he knew I was a junior, but like when he’s asking you questions like do your research, like you’re applying for a job so you have to do the research, like they give you requirements of what they’re looking for, kind of have a game plan of how to conquer each bullet points. This is like maybe my second one – I did not have that game plan. So at the end of the call I did not get a call back.
Dante: So, but from that experience I learned like, “Hey, all the answers are here, like he’s telling you …” He’s like, “I need a login page.” All right, how would you talk with that problem? It might not be the most efficient way to tackle that problem, but at least you have something to speak on that. Just don’t go in blind.
Chelsea: That’s great, that’s good advice. And I like that you started out small, right? Get those early wins.
Dante: Yeah, get those reviews and get those five stars.
Chelsea: There you go. Play the game. And then started … and I love that you’re like making … creating relationships with the clients. I think that that … whether you’re doing freelancing or you’re looking for a job, like creating relationships and a network of people that you can go to is how you’re going to find that next one.
Dante: Yeah, for sure. And I think there’s like … I use Upwork but there’s like … there’s so many platforms that you can leverage to get jobs, like just freelancing jobs, so freelancers.com, Upwork, there’s even some Craigslist, I would be shady of those. But there’s a lot of platforms that you could use, and the thing is like essentially you’re just copy and pasting your resume or whatever and just placing it on different platforms. For me they’re just like fish hooks that you’re hoping that one will get that fish for you and then you do the research and you get the actual contract job.
Chelsea: Yeah. So were you … like was the idea to kind of use this supplement while you were looking for a job or was it like I want to try out freelancing because this is maybe a path that I want to go down?
Dante: I think it was a little bit of both, and the reason I said that is because there was a plan that we can have like our own consultancy firm, but like at the end of the day I would say the ultimate goal was just to like supplement some income while I look for a job. But then as I started to do it I realized I don’t really need a job, I can just keep doing this. So it was a little bit of both.
But there’s always security with having a job in the beginning, because you’ll have that person you know you’re going to get a paycheck every two weeks, every month. and you have that mentorship, like I think that’s really important in the beginning of your journey is to have that person that when you go into work you can see the disappointment on their look because you blew up some codebase. I feel like that’s really important to develop you as a developer.
Chelsea: That makes sense to me. There’s a balance to it.
Chelsea: And I like recognizing that in the beginning of your career how important mentors are or how important learning still is and just learning the basics.
Chelsea: It wouldn’t surprise me if we reconnect in 10 years and you have like this crazy consultancy.
Dante: Everyone keeps saying that.
Chelsea: That wouldn’t surprise me even a little bit. The way you connect with people just is like that wouldn’t surprise me.
Dante: Thank you.
Chelsea: Which is one of the reasons why when we … so LEARN … sometimes when we have classes that overlap we like to bring in extra or bring in alumni to kind of help out and just make sure that there’s always somebody there to answer questions. And so that was one of the reasons why we reached out to you was because of how you connected with people in your cohort and just how we saw you in the community, that we knew that you would be a really great teacher, and eventual mentor to the people going through class.
Dante: Yeah, thank you. And for me it was a really, really like huge opportunity. I will say I was really happy when I got the Slack message, not because like it’s a job but I felt like it was an additional opportunity to keep learning. And I’ll say it again, I learn way more than the students did because you don’t know how much you know and you don’t know how much you don’t know until you’re actually forced to like give a lecture. It’s like I thought I knew something, and then I’m like, “All right, let me just go write up a lecture.” I’m like, “Man, I don’t know this at all. Let me go study this a little more so I can actually go out there and like if they have questions I can actually answer those questions.”
Dante: It was tough. My first day I remember telling Sarah, “I hope no one ask me questions, like please don’t ask me questions.” But that quickly died down like once I did my first lecture and I start like gassing myself up like, “Oh, I can’t do this, like I’m really good at this.” And like to this day I still talk to a lot of those students, and it’s one of those things where like it is like emotionally draining but like it’s in a really good way, like at the end of the day like to see someone that was struggling to understand a concept, to actually understand a concept at the end of the day is like I’m looking at myself all over again.
Dante: So I would say it was definitely a high point in getting me to where I am right now. That it was not only like interacting with like the students but you guys as a staff, like how you guys operate, like what was expected of like the teachers, like it kind of like made me a little more serious.
Chelsea: But we’re not serious a lo of time.
Dante: Not all the time.
Chelsea: And we didn’t make you wear a tie.
Dante: You did not make me wear a tie.
Chelsea: I was thinking about what you said that actually something Matt said about like letting you kind of figure it out. Now there’s probably a good chance that Matt knew the answer, right?
Dante: Oh, for sure, yeah.
Chelsea: And I think that that’s one of the hardest things for our instructors is to make that shift of like, “I really want to tell you these answer,” one because that’s the easiest thing to do, and two it makes me feel good because I can show you that I know the answer, right?
Chelsea: But that’s not the best thing for the student, right?
Dante: For sure.
Chelsea: And that’s such a hard like shift.
Dante: It is. And as a student it drove me crazy to walk to Matt, Jess or Sarah and like, “Hey, can you help me with this?” And then Jess like drink her coffee and like, “So what are you trying to do here?” I was like, “I’ve been stuck on this for 30 minutes. Can you please just help me?” But that pain that you’re going through is like it’s very essential to learning, like if she would just gave me the answer or he would give me the answer – I would have probably just, all right, plug it in, and it wouldn’t register in my brain. But that struggle that you have to go through, it adds an extra layer of learning because you remember that pain of like, “Oh, I remember when I went through this, I did blah, blah, blah, and it works now.”
So definitely the hardest I would say like the first day or two I was just like, “You need help, here’s an answer, here’s an answer.” But I was over with that. But as like as you see like them getting stuck on the same problems again, you realize that you’re actually hurting their learning because they’re like, “Oh, yeah, Dante just told me to do this. Let me just go back to that code.” But they’re not understanding why that is actually working.
So like definitely by like the end of the week no one’s getting answers for me. I was just sitting down with them and I’m like, “All right, what’s the struggle, man? Tell me what’s going on.” And at the end of the day I think it helps way more, like you don’t understand how much it helps in the moment because you just want the program to work, but at the end of it you will see like, “I’m glad that I had to struggle for an hour just to get a button to actually fire.”
Chelsea: Right, yeah. I think that that from our perspective is something that we’ve always like you want to walk that line.
Chelsea: You don’t want to get to the place where students are struggling so much that they get like flooded and lost and like can’t function anymore, which sometimes happened. But you also don’t want to feed them. You can’t feed them the answers over and over again.
Dante: And I think like as an instructor everyone has their own like pain tolerance or like, “I will let a student struggle a little more because I know he has it in him, whereas a person that’s been struggling like maybe for two or three concepts I don’t want them to keep struggling because they’re going to be like I didn’t get this, I didn’t get this, now I’m not getting this.” So like there’s a real fine balance, and I have to like applaud the teachers and instructors to actually like know that balance for each student, because everyone’s different like I can struggle for eight hours, and they asked, “What did you finish?” Like, “Oh, I just had my button working.” But someone like me or someone that’s opposite me maybe like after 5, 10 minutes of like researching they just need the answer because they’re at that point.
So it’s definitely you have to know like each and every student, which is I find fascinating as an instructor.
Chelsea: Yeah, it is a hard thing to get to know everyone as quickly as we need to get everyone and understand how to push them and also support them.
Dante: For sure.
Chelsea: So I think that we worked a long time in trying to figure that out. And mostly like how to train our instructors so that they can do that. So I have to ask because I have no idea what it means, but Matt, our lead instructor, has now referred to the Dante method a few times and I still don’t know what that means?
Dante: The Dante method, there’s a lot of them but the one that I think that Matt is referring to is a React props method. So during our cohort we learned props basically by building one component and then putting all the props in it, and then the next day it’s like we’re not doing that at all. So like when you’re learning the concept of props it’s super … it’s hard to like grasp exactly what it’s supposed to be doing. So like from day one to day three or four you’re learning completely different ways.
So for me it was super tough, and I probably didn’t fully grasp it until like I was working in my internship. So what I did was I took those two methods and said, “All right, we’re going to build a component, and then we’re going to build it like we normally do it on day one, and then we’re going to gut everything out of it and put it on its separate component,” so that way you’re seeing exactly what each component is doing.
And I feel like it really helps, and Matt says it helps, and I saw when Matt did his lecture they all look like I did, they’re like, “What?” And then I suggested, I’m like, “Matt, you should do it this way.” He came back after lunch and did it and like, “Oh, that makes sense.” So two … like I think there’s really two points there is like one is like you guys are really open to like learning like, “Well, maybe this is a better way.” And two is I’m always right. No, I felt like especially when I saw that it clicked in my cohort, like we all have like our ways of doing things and we just do it for ourselves, but I felt like it’s a really important way to take one big problem and break it down into two problems essentially.
Chelsea: Yeah, that makes sense to me. And I think that what we try and model at LEARN on our staff with our teaching team is a lot of what we’re trying to teach the students on how to be a junior developer on a team that even if you are the newest instructor, you can still tell the lead instructor who’s been programming for 20 years, “Hey, maybe you could look at it in this other way.” And I think it’s so valuable when you go on to a dev team to understand the value of your voice.
Dante: For sure, yeah. Sometimes I need to quiet down, but I think … and another point of that is like Matt’s been doing this since I was a baby, so like he has his way of doing it and it works because he understands each and every little ins and outs. But if you don’t understand the ins and outs like something gets missed, like if you miss one part of that problem maybe something else won’t matter.
Chelsea: Well, and that I think is why we try and balance our teaching staff, that you have Matt on there who’s been a developer for a long time and does know a lot about the field and the industry and the technology, but then we also have instructors who are at different levels in their careers so that they can look at it differently and they can explain it to the person that’s just learning it because they remember what it was like to not know.
Dante: Yeah. And to that point I remember I’m like asking like Matt a question and he would explain it, I would grasp it a little bit but I just need a little more, then I would go down to like Damon or Sarah and then they would explain it, I’m like, “That makes sense.” Because like they’re around my level, like they understand like that pain point that I’m stuck on, where Matt he understands the pain point but like breaking it down to like (Gerber?) food he can’t do for me.
Dante: So I feel like that curve that you guys have is super crucial to like you have a super senior guy, you have mid, you have like early juniors, like it’s really important to have that curve because at each point they understand a different pain point.
Chelsea: Right. And we’ve seen that as you grow in the class, as you continue to learn through the class that their expertise becomes valuable at different points.
Dante: For sure, yeah.
Chelsea: Right, and so that balance that like having Matt around when we’re doing the group projects, when you’re doing your capstone and you’re struggling with things, that like the experience he has of building apps is so valuable. But that in that first like six weeks it’s really important to have somebody that’s like, “Oh, yeah, I remember what it was like to learn this new concept.”
Dante: To that point it’s really funny, because I remember Damon and Sarah, and Jess was our instructor, and we had like a flow and then Matt came out of nowhere and he came in and he was speaking gibberish, like his first lecture I was like, “What is this guy saying?” Like, everything, it’s just going over our head. And as you progressed to the program like he starts speaking English, like it slowly becomes English and you’re like, “Oh, that makes sense.” And I don’t know if that’s because we become better developers or like we just meet somewhere in the middle, it’s probably one of the most fascinating things, because he comes in and he’s hitting you hard.
Dante: And as you progress through the course it just starts making sense, and like when he goes up and you start looking forward to his lectures, you’re like, “Oh, man, Matt’s going up there, he’s going to blast us, but I’m going to learn so much.”
Chelsea: Yeah, that’s cool. So I want to kind of step away from that and move into what you’re doing now.
Chelsea: And I am really interested in talking about this idea of finding the right fit for you, because I think that there are so many opportunities out there that we do try really hard to encourage everyone to find the space that’s going to make them the most successful.
Dante: Yeah. So for me I did this one because I truly do like developing, but I also wanted the freedom to be more agile, like if I didn’t like this environment I’m like, “All right, I could leave.” Like, so I started working at a company (Job?) Connect. Great, I had a really great on-boarding, they were super, super supportive, but their culture wasn’t for me, like it was very corporate, just go in your cubicle, get some work done, we’ll talk at the water cooler. And for me that just wasn’t my environment. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t looking forward to going to work.
So I was freelancing at another company called (Bi Proxy?), and I experienced their culture because I was freelancing with them, I understood what they stood for, I knew people’s name, they invited me out to parties even though I wasn’t part of the company per se. And I just liked the company culture just in general. So when they offered me the position to come on board I just looked at they’re both … I’m doing both the same thing, but I would have so much more fun and I feel like if I’m having fun at work I’m going to learn more at work. So I just decided, I don’t say jump ship, but I decided to convert.
Chelsea: Yeah, make a different choice.
Dante: Yeah, so I mean, for me that was the most important thing for me, it’s like I want to have … I want to have the skills that I have the freedom to do what I want, and I feel like that’s what software development kind of stands for today is like you could work from home, you can freelance, like of course there’s other professions that you can do that, but I feel like in this day and age software development is that right now.
So if I have the skills and people find me desirable, I want to do what’s right not only for like the company but definitely for myself. So I decided to change companies.
Chelsea: Yeah, well, you said earlier that it was hard to like see the culture when you were interviewing.
Dante: For sure, yeah. I mean, I think that’s like for every company, like as you’re interviewing with the company you guys are both putting your best foot forward, right? It’s just normal business. They’re not going to say, “Hey, the power goes out every five minutes.” Like, they’re not going to say like the bad things that happen at the company. So I think that’s another really great thing with freelancing is you get an opportunity to work with the company, and if it doesn’t work out then you just peace out, or you get offered to actually work full-time.
So when you’re interviewing for a company obviously put your best foot forward, but also realize that they’re putting their best foot forward too. And somewhere in the middle you guys are going to meet because you’re overselling yourself and they’re overselling their company, so like just be wary as when you work for a company it might not be what you expect it to be.
Chelsea: Sure. Now looking back on it, are there things that you learned that you feel like maybe were, not red flags, but like kind of gave you the insight that you didn’t see when you were interviewing with them?
Dante: To be honest I don’t think so. The person that I interviewed with very much like me, bubbly, and we were the only bubbly ones, and he didn’t work in the office so like what I was expecting was to go into the office and have people that, not all bubbly, but like enjoy, like having conversation. And that’s not kind of what … It was very much like we’re understaffed, we need to just get work out. There was no time for, “How was your weekend, Bill?” Bill was working all weekends; he doesn’t want to answer your question.
So for me like being this early in my career I didn’t want to kind of get stuck in that corporate environment. I just came back from corporate environment, so I didn’t want to get in that environment again.
Chelsea: Sure. Well, and it sounds like you’ve identified that that’s not a place where you could learn and grow.
Dante: For sure. Learn I think I could, but grow I don’t know, because I need sunshine to grow and I didn’t feel that sunshine. I felt like I was just going to work and just doing my cart and going home. But like I didn’t know my co-workers like what were their hobbies, like I feel like that’s really important if you’re going to be with these people for eight hours a day I kind of want to know like, hey, what’s your hobbies, like I want to have something else besides code to talk about. And I didn’t get that when I was working at that company. So I knew for me personally it’s just not where I want to work at.
Chelsea: Sure, that makes sense. And so tell me a little bit more about what you’re doing now?
Dante: Yeah. So I felt like this is like a sponsor, like so (Bi Proxy?) they are a commercial real estate, basically they’re like Zillow for commercial real estate. Right now I’m working just pure backend which is like what I want to do. I’m terrible at the frontend. So they gave me the opportunity to just work in the backend which I enjoy, like I enjoy just making tables, merging tables. And the atmosphere is like the head engineer is super patient, like I’ve been, like I said, super lucky to have like these super patient like mentors, and he’s like I can blow up the whole codebase which I have, and then I stayed up all night trying to fix it, and I came in super early so I could like catch him and he was already there, I’m like, “I blew it.” He’s like, “I know, let’s fix it.”
And like obviously you don’t want to do that every day, but to have that … I don’t have that fear like as I’m typing code like, “Oh, is this going to blow up.” And if it does blow up, am I going to get in trouble or am I going to get fired? And I feel like if I have the opportunity to experiment more and actually like, “Oh, what if I did this?” I’m learning more and I’m helping the company and myself to be better.
Chelsea: Yeah, I think that it’s so important to understand how a company will respond to you when you make mistakes.
Chelsea: And I think that that is something that you can talk about in the job interview process, right? Like, what does success look like, what does failure look like? And if failure is like, well, you’re going to get written up and you’re going to da, da, da, then that’s probably like not the culture that you want to get into.
Dante: For sure, yeah. And I think when you’re doing this interview process, you want to make sure that if you can you’re interviewing with the person that’s going to be like in charge of you or who’s going to be helping you. Because you want to get a feel for like who you’re going to be working with and like how they measure success and failure. Like if the person, like if my mentor right now if he said like, “Yeah, if you fail you’re going to get written up.” I probably wouldn’t … even if the culture was great, I probably wouldn’t want to work for that person because I would terrified to like blow anything up and when I did I probably would like sweep it under the rug.
Chelsea: Right, well, it eliminates any … to make any kind of jump forward.
Dante: For sure, yeah.
Chelsea: Because you’re too afraid to make a mistake.
Dante: I will only want to be in that sandbox that I’m comfortable in.
Chelsea: Right, and so I think that that kind of box is, especially junior developers, like understanding how to deal with employees when they mess up because you’re going to mess up, because you’re still learning.
Dante: And I think like to your point, being boxed in, like as a junior developer you don’t really know what you want to do yet like what you want to specialize in, right? Like, I’m a full-stack developer, but I really like working in the backend. Sure, I can put up a little page for you in the front but like my best work is in the backend. So like if you’re working at a company where they’re boxing you in and you’re only comfortable in this little sandbox, you really won’t get to understand what your true passions inside of the development is because you’re too afraid to do anything else.
Chelsea: Right, you need the ability to fail.
Chelsea: Like you need to be in an environment where that’s okay and that you’re going to be able to work through that.
Dante: For sure.
Chelsea: And I think that also it is okay that like when you’re going through an interview process that if you’re not meeting with the person that you’re going to be directly working with, if someone offers you a job – before you accept say, “Hey, can I meet the team?”
Dante: Yeah, and I never thought of that, but, yeah, that’s a really good point. Because typically if you do meet the team you’re white boarding, and like you’re not really meeting the team, you’re up there petrified. But like, yeah, actually having like a sit-down. And that was one of the first thing that the company that worked with now is like, “Do you want to go get a Popeye chicken sandwich?” And before I was even working with them I got to interact with them outside of work and see how they are. And the senior … the head engineer, how he is as a person, like very quiet but he loves cars and we bonded over cars.
Chelsea: That’s awesome. So do you have any closing words for anyone going through a boot camp or looking for a job or any of that?
Dante: Yeah, I mean, going through a boot camp I would say make sure that you actually have the passion to be like a web developer. Don’t join a boot camp because it’s the wave right now, like joining boot camp and I’m going to be a developer. Because what’s going to happen is one you’re going to burn yourself out because you truly don’t have a passion. Like when I say passion like it’s everything, like the 1:00AM like studying, the early morning stand up calls, it’s all that. You have to … I don’t love it, but it’s part of my job. And like you have to love the whole thing.
So if you’re doing it just for like money or just because it’s like the wave, I wouldn’t do it. You truly have to have a passion for this, because like you’re constantly learning. And I think that’s like one of those things that everyone says, like something that I was working on two months ago I had to learn a whole new way because there’s an efficient way of doing it now. And if you’re not staying up with the times, you’re going to kind of burn out and you’re going to kind of fade away as well.
And I think it’s a junior’s kind of job to kind of always be studying. I feel like that’s what my head engineer wants me to do is like what’s the newer way, Dante? Because he’s already set in his ways and he’s not studying, so he leans on me like, “Yo, have you seen like React Suspense?” And I better say something about it because like it’s kind of like my duties to keep him hip. So like I will say like that’s really my biggest thing is like make sure that you actually like this.
And like you might not know now but like when you join the boot camp, like that first week you’re going to know like is this for me. And like I would listen to yourself, like if you’re like this is not for me – just don’t waste your time. Because this is a lifelong thing, this is like if you’re wasting time learning something that you don’t enjoy it’s not going to work.
Chelsea: Right, it’s the craft.
Chelsea: Learning to love the craft of programming.
Dante: For sure.
Chelsea: And not get into it because of the money or the flexibility or what an ideal developer job looks like.
Dante: Yeah, I mean, all those things are great but you need … the core is you need to have that passion. Like those are just great add-ons, but like even if you don’t have the passion like you probably would never even get to those add-ons because you have to prove yourself to get to that developer lifestyle.
Chelsea: Right, for sure. Well, thank you so much for hanging out with us.
Dante: Thanks for having me on.
Chelsea: It was great.
Dante: I appreciate it.
Chelsea: It was great chatting with you. And I love hearing more about like your background and your life, and most of all how it seems like your life has been preparing you for where you are now.
Dante: Something that I didn’t even know.
Chelsea: No, life is funny that way.
Dante: I’m just walking.
Chelsea: Well, here you are.
Dante: Thank you.
Chelsea: Yeah, totally. Well, for those of you listening you can check out LEARN Academy at learnacademy.org, we’re on all the social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, YouTube, all the things. And you can listen to other episodes, Collaboration Code Radio. We’d love to hear from you. Have a great day.