This Developing Story

TDS 79 - From Factory work to Developer Work - Will Johnson

Episode Summary

Will Johnson is a former factory worker who transitions to learning code. He now works with the egghead community putting on events. Join us in learning his story on how he made his way into tech and built a network while doing it.

Episode Transcription

Episode 79 of this developing story.


What's up. Y'all yeah. So this is so this is another episode of this developing story in, I am changing it up a bit cause I have a guest. This is actually the first time I've actually had a guest and. Since 2017 and I've always wanted to have a guest, but I was never actually super proud of the podcast.


I think I got to the point there was the podcast, got me my job at Netlify and. I felt like I arrived and succeeded and having guests come on this podcast versus coming on Jim stack radio or another Avenue that I had, our channel that I had, it just felt disingenuous because this podcast really sits to serve.


Telling my story, but also giving me access to folks I looked up to and saw the industry. Now I'm actually meeting a ton of people. I don't really know their backgrounds and I'm super fascinated just to learn more. And what I'm finding is it's easy to invite people to podcasts. And I think a lot of people.


Are really enjoying the idea of being able to share their stories. My story has been shared multiple times. Also shout out to the, get hub, read B projects. So if you go to me slash Brian dash Douglas, you'll see my face. And yeah, they did a whole interview about me since basically since I stopped doing this podcast in 2017.


So everything from that story onward, I was able to share and it felt. Refreshing, but also give me opportunity just to get to know other folks as well. So that's what this is. I'm having a conversation with Paul Johnson. I do hope you enjoy it. I do want to also just give a shout out to some of the stuff I've been doing in the last couple of weeks.


My YouTube channel it's picking up again. I am shipping videos on a regular basis completed my 28 days. Again, I've actions also mentioned that last week and Yeah, it's just, everything's a sort of like falling into place. I'm leveraging the Twitch streaming to create YouTube videos as well. I won't do all YouTube videos from Twitch streaming, but I think I will probably start doing some live coding because I find like my explanations on Twitch streaming is.


A little more focused and actually it's not even that focus. I just don't know what the deal is. When I record tutorials or screencast specifically with the intention to do long form instructional content, I tend to get a bit rambly. I also got a call out, shout out to the the individual who commented on my YouTube video telling me I was, I never got to the point in the next JS video.


I, 100% knows that was the case I had for whatever reason. Actually, I do know the reason at the time I was actually trying to build content that would actually drive traffic. I was trying to build content that would drive traffic into the YouTube channel. And one of the ways she did that is to look for keywords that are exploding.


And one of them was next JS. Unfortunately, I didn't have a lot of context around next JS also. I didn't really have a great time to I didn't really have a good understanding of next JS to really get into detail. So I talked about everything else except next JS. And I think. Folks based on the downvotes people, I definitely got to point I haven't had a video like that since, because I just have NAF wanted to get as many downvotes as a guidance from that video, but I've learned a lot.


I look forward to do an update on the next GS video soon. But with that. Let me stop rambling. Now let's jump into the introduction to will Johnson.


Cool. Yeah. My name is will Johnson. I am a self-taught developer from Kansas city, Missouri. Started teaching myself web development, HTML and CSS and JavaScript starting like 2018, knew that it going to be hard to get into the industry. So I use social media and networking as a way to get a job.


So I landed a job at AK at IO, which is a web development education and company. And I did community engineer and basically I do like events that bring like the group of instructors to do things, to showcase their skills, whether that's, workshops Q and A's lane type of promo type things talks to this almost like a lot of events for our instructors to show their skills and link them up with.


The people who are members of the site who come to learn and we try to create like better learning materials based on the problems that people are having. So it's been a really fun experience. And while I don't really write code all day, I've shipped a few components on a CAD IO. But most of my work is community work which is awesome.


And I want to dig into more about egghead, but I want to really touch base on your self-taught learning path. Like what sort of encompass being self-taught and what were the sort of tools that you leverage to, to get to where you are? Self-taught was, it was wild. It was probably the first time that I had to put together a curriculum for myself.


So that was like, it was different. But so I started on U Demi with the web development course by cold steel, like the famous one. Almost everybody knows about that one. So I started there actually. I'm not even. You said code steel, coat steel ELA 45. Oh, got it. Yeah.


That's excuse the ignorance because actually I'm pretty, I guess I learned how to code what eight years. That is awesome. Coach steel. I've never actually heard of this guy and That's his real name? Colt steel. I know. It's like the coolest name ever. That's like steel hammer, like that sort of level.


So yeah, I started with that course. So it teaches like full stack JavaScript and back then they had Jay's query and stuff like that. But I didn't do the whole full stack part. So I wanted it to be, I was like instead of being a, so instead of doing full stack, I was like, okay, I want to Focused on the front end.


So then I started learning react U S team Treehouse for that back when it was using classes, I hated it. I really all the, this stop prop super construct. I was like, what is this? I, wasn't a big fan of react back then, but hooks is great though. Yeah. Then I did a course that I really liked called practical JavaScript, which was about Gordon Xu.


And as you basically build it to do that, but he teaches you everything instead of going concepts. He'll like you would teach the thing right. When you need it. So if you needed an object, instead of saying here's an object, here's what it does. It's here's an object. Let's put it into the Until the app, but you wrote like 20 of them or something like that.


It was quite a few, it was a different approach than I've seen with most courses. Definitely like one of my favorite. And then I'll, and then, then I started applying for jobs and then I started getting stressed out and just start, looking at, anything like. I think I looked at spelt, which I actually liked a lot.


Like trying to think this was all just like last year, 2019, not 20 2019. I'm sorry. I forgot though. Yeah that's pretty amazing. Cause like my introduction was which is how I originally I saw your name with cause your original Handley's to be Ruby on wills. My introduction was Ruby on rails.


So like where does that this, did you learn Ruby on rails at the time? No, actually what happened with rails? It is when I actually started working at daycare he was because that's what they use on their backend. They use rails on the back end and react on the front. Now that we actually use next JS on the front end.


But at first it was a, it was the rails API with react on the front. So he was like, I would like for you to learn rails. When I had like first got the job and I was like, sure. So that's where rails came in at. It was after I was already employed. Yeah. Okay. That's wild too. For whatever reason, I talked to you in 2019 where I went in the rails.


That's your intro. But it seems like you were already into it and which is nice that they gave you the chance to learn on the job and become decent or expert. I'm not sure what, where your rail skills are at this point, but it's nice that you're building to learn it. Yeah. I obviously say I'm decent.


I do the thing where I'm like, look at random code basis that I know we're in rails. Like they have to be like, cannot figure out what's happening here. So that's not configure it out. It seems yeah. That's awesome. So what was the you weren't had a code in 2019. He did a bunch of courses.


And thanks for sharing the links too as well. I'll drop those in the show notes for folks who were interested. And I think I've dropped. At least one of them in the chat already, but the introduction to the egg head, like how did that sort of come to being that was so me and the co-founder of Medicare, Joe hooks we met on Twitter.


I'm not exactly sure. How is that? Cause it was like It was like, basically someone was like it was like in the Slack group, someone was like someone else said that was doing a bootcamp in the Slack group was like, Hey, should I learn, react or view? If I'm trying to get a job. And somebody was like, learn, react.


And then they linked a whole bunch of egghead courses. I didn't know, like what I don't know what AK was at the time. This is when I was still learning and I looked up AK and then somehow I came on, the fog, came across a podcast. I came across the founder. I found that he had five kids. I had six, he learned how to code in his like mid thirties, 33 at the time. And I was like, Dan, it seemed you know exactly what I'm trying to do. So I remember I don't know what I said to him on Twitter or what, I don't remember what happened, but we ended up following each other on Twitter. And then I will post every day what I was learning on Twitter, all like the courses I was taking any small projects I was building and anything like that.


So we like, interacted back and forth a couple of times. But the big thing that happened is that I had just went on this interview. And I had someone like write me a letter of recommendation. I had two people on the inside of the company like vouch for me.


And I didn't, and I ended up not getting the job. They were just like, Oh, you don't have any experience, which is still crazy to me. Because like I found out that job, I don't even use frameworks. It's like HTML, CSS, and vanilla JavaScript. And I was like, yeah, I could have did that way. That's how I feel.


I really could have did that. Like I didn't even experience in my opinion. So actually, can I ask a hard question though? Do you think that they that was more of like an excuse that they wanted to give you? Yeah. Yeah. Cause I hear that question. I hear that response all the time. Hey did I'm gonna experience actually I was just on Twitter.


Recently someone said they had to mix too much experience, which is it's a hard thing to swallow, understand like what that is, because like you went to that job thinking this is a job for you and then they told you overqualified. So it's because there's no there's no structure notice certification for web development.


Whether it's an HTML job or it's a next JS job, like people it's all, honestly, it's all about your network too, as well. And it sounded like your your tweeting and your connection with Joel was an en they had that connection to know like what could get you to the job eventually, but yeah, I didn't mean to interrupt, but yeah, if you want to continue.


Yeah. You're fine. You're right about that though. It's really just, it was just, they were it was, there's a certain way things go and they didn't really want to break that, which I understand. But yeah, so after that I tweeted my frustration. I wasn't like super mad or anything, but I was just like, I've been through a lot and working hard.


I feel like I'm ready. And then he ended up giving some advice. He was like, you should blog. And stuff like that. Do some other things like besides Twitter, do some other things to get yourself out there. So then I started like writing blog posts about, stuff I was learning in JavaScript.


And then I ended up meeting like more people that way. And this was so maybe six months later after another few other conversations that we had he asked me to like work for them, part-time to review their courses. And after that, after doing a couple of weeks, he basically asked me, you know what I like to come on full-time as an employee So I was of course I said, yeah, cause here I am, that is amazing too, as well.


And it really comes down to something I wanted to also bring up too as well, which is the book put together which is using Twitter to break in the tech. Do you wanna talk a bit about that sort of concept and also what sort of pushed you to write the book? Sure. Yeah.


I wrote that book for a lot of different reasons. Like one of the reasons is that people always ask me, and and just give you some background. I've always used Twitter for like networking and stuff. Back in the day I dunno, man, I'm old, but I just realized my son is 15 and I'm like this is before he was born.


So there was like a really long time ago anyway. I used to use a, I was in a dance group. But things like that was like it wasn't a thing. It was like, either people were like rappers or singers or like the local, like artists and stuff. So it was like a dance group. People would always be like, y'all just dance.


That's what they always like, that's it like, y'all, don't sing. Y'all, don't just dance. So I use like social media, like Twitter and Facebook then to show people. We did. I didn't want to explain it anymore. I didn't want to say Hey, we're, we can, sell out a show or whatever.


So we would just showcase it on Facebook and Twitter, and then we will let the people commenting and stuff like that kind of speak for ourselves, speak for themselves. That so doing that, 15 years ago showed me the power of social media, because I was able to open up for like when pretty Ricky was popular in pleasure, P we opened up for one 12 and stuff like that, starting to date yourself and try to figure it out how old you are.


I'm 35. Nice. It doesn't feel like this was 15 years ago though. I still feel young. You're actually only one year older than I am, so yeah, we're not too far off, except I used to dance, but I hadn't, I wasn't like in a career or anything like that. So please don't ask me for the D well, actually I'll do the Douggie for people, but you gotta subscribe.


That's actually one of my favorite dancers when it was hot. Yeah. Yeah. You're in Kansas city, so that's like this down the street a couple hours. So that, that, that got me into the power of using social media to network and make connections and, do things that were exciting to me.


So since people would always ask me and I really couldn't, they, in a conversation, I couldn't really distill everything like the, the philosophy, the mindset behind it and stuff like that. So that's why I went to using That's why we decided to write the book. I took all that stuff I've learned from back when I had the dance group from also in the middle of that, I had a YouTube channel I was doing I was doing like NBA two K tutorials, and I use like Twitter to I ended up being like cool with the developers of NBA live and stuff like that for they sent me like a I ended up being featured on there on the NBA live website.


And then I liked that. This was, I don't know, 2017, I think. Okay. That's pretty recent. And that's interesting. Cause you got a very similar story to Nick to his shoes too, as well, which I know, cause he came to the tech world playing competitive tech him. Yeah, that's awesome. So it sounds like the correlation of, cause it's funny, the I know we talked about this last week in our conversation cause we had a meeting and I pitched you on coming on to talk here.


It's all about the hustle. And I think when he know how to hustle and Andre, he's actually in the chat saying that he used to work one 12 records as well. Not as well, but that's what he used to do. The cool thing about that is You just know how to get your stuff out in front of people.


And if your stuff is your mix tape, if it's your dance crew, or if it's just getting your resume, like you gotta be able to hustle and put yourself out there and be found. Because like, when I talked about having no certificate, like you can't just say, Oh, I know Ruby on rails, or I know next or react, I can get this job.


Yeah. Unfortunately like very much, unfortunately, like that's not enough to cut it. Like it holds, it has to be like, Hey can, and this is really unfortunate. It's can this person, would I hang out with this person, which is like a. A horrible interview question, but what people, how people are doing was like, Hey, will this be a team that our team member that we're like, we can go get drinks with, or go play basketball with and not ever people that plays basketball and that sort of cuts out everybody who.


Doesn't have the, it doesn't have that accessible to them, but I would love for the world to change. And I would love to be part of that change to bring more people in. But I just want to say this because I think knowing it is well knowing is half the battle. So yeah, there it is. Yeah. Knowing how the game is played is very important.


Then I kind kinda think about it. First it's the finished the first thing, but the books. So all that stuff I learned from using that and getting like connections and making cool stuff happened, I was like, let me turn this into a book so it can scale. And other people can learn about all this stuff and use it for themselves.


So that was the motivation behind the book. Got it. And then for the, I seen like playing the game. I like it to, I let think about it to the matrix, right? Like when you first send the matrix, you don't even know what's going on. You just sit in there, you live in.


But then when Neil realized he was in the matrix, yep. He became powerful and he mended it to his rules or he, so that's the kind of like mentality. I'd say if you know how the game is played, you know how the matrix works, you can use it to your advantage and then use it to help other people like Morphe is dead.


He didn't take all this knowledge that I can fly in. Stop bullets in Dodge bullets, not, he didn't keep it to himself. He let other people reap the benefits. So that's so even though the, might not like the way the game is played, you can use it to your advantage and help other people as well.


So day-to-day mainly now it's planning events. So like we're going to start doing like introductory workshops. So like different like frameworks and developer tools. And they're going to be free. So just for people to like hour and a half, just to learn, enter something they haven't played with before, get a chance to learn about someone who works with it all the time.


And then we have the egg head talks this year. We've been like more career focused. So it talks about how to stand down the interviews, how to, do like certain technical things and interviews and things like that. So mainly I mostly just like planning events and just, Lincoln with people and seeing what people are doing cool stuff or reaching out to them and see if they want to come with a cat and presented to our community how I reached out to you about the GitHub actions, yep. There's N there smelly ZBB five videos on egghead total and get hub action. So if you go to bring in someone who's, well-versed in it to teach it and for the people who is interested in it. Yeah. Yeah. I'm honored. And then another thing that we're doing is that we really liked to.


It was funny thing that we talked about this and he's okay, we're bringing school back. Basically we were a bunch of people learning the same thing in the same order, at school. So we're doing like learning based cohorts, but they're going to be like building projects.


So right now we're working on one, that's a like a SAS product. That people are building and it's we're giving them the layout, so they can use whatever tools they're comfortable with or giving them like the layout of how it should look and what should be the outcome. We're going to start doing those a lot more this year, too.


Right now it's like a private kind of within our a little circle that we know to do our little test runs. But eventually open up to more people and let people do itself pace and people can come out. With some new skills learned and a project, they can show whether that's for a portfolio.


If they're trying to get a job, they're trying to get a better job. We're going to come out with things that they can tangibly show that I've learned this thing and I'm not just saying I know it. Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. I look forward to that. And honestly, I haven't, I mentioned this to you as well last week, but I haven't been active on my head count.


So I'm looking forward to getting part with this workshop stuff, but also pointing people to their cause I think that's just having the knowledge because I get people all the time asking me, how did I get started? What's really good tutorials. Screencasts, I'm just like it's been a while since I've been a beginner.


At least when it comes to like react and stuff like that. Let's see. Other thing is like, when you've been doing it so long, And like you saw the beginning of react. It's hard to know, like what's the best way to teach hooks. So I love that having the having these lists and the tools and also egg, Hey, what the heck they had to do it is it's awesome.


And I've seen that company grow to where it is today from the beginning of this, getting random people in the JavaScript world to. To the ship, of course. But yeah, I appreciate you sharing that knowledge and sharing your background knowledge. The only thing I didn't ask you is what you, what were you doing before you started learning how to program and what was the catalyst to even learn code.


Sure. So before then Ozzy they're doing like call center or factory jobs. And it was it was a lot of reasons I built up to it. For example, I was working at a call center that I really liked. It was a company that I really liked and always wanted to work for it.


My plan was to like move up to be like the team manager. I heard they made like 96 yeah. A year. And I was like, Oh my God, 90 K. This was way back when I had, Just two kids. Even 90 K probably wouldn't be enough. It was like that, but they ended up getting bought by another company.


I ended up getting laid off with like only $3,000 severance, which is, better than nothing. And then I worked for then I went to a factory jobs I had a family, I needed a job. That place was super on and off. They would, not have product. So I was like, not work but only get paid, $200 a week cause unemployment and stuff like that. So then I ended up leaving asking before I left that place. They was like, besides not working in, not paying well, they were just bad people. Like they treated you bad. I was, I didn't have any insurance. I was there for three years and like never missed a day.


And I remember I had asked cause my daughter was like a super daddy's girl. And she was like she was in kindergarten, her first kindergarten in school. She was like, dad, can you bring me some cupcakes for my birthday on Friday? So I had asked my supervisor, like on Monday I was like, Hey, can I get off on Friday?


This one time to go, celebrate my daughter's birthday at our school. And he literally laughed in my face, like audibly. He was like, it's like your attempt. And then walk the way. And that's all. I was like, Yeah. And I was like, what am I doing? It just really hit me. What am I doing here?


I'm 30 years old getting treated like this. I can't even get one day off to go see my daughter. What am I doing? So then I just started and plus a bunch of other stuff like that. It's harder to start looking like, what can I do? What makes money, what's going to help me be able to take care of my family, what isn't going to, treat me like complete garbage.


I've tried a lot of different things. My, my first goal was to work for myself. So I started a cleaning business. Then I didn't, I did that YouTube channel me and my wife, we would like to sell t-shirts on Shopify. So we was like grinding we gotta find a way.


And then randomly I was on this, I was on the hip hop forum. And in one of the forum posts was like, Hey, is everyone taking advantage of this you sale? I had never heard of you DME before. Yeah, I know so I clicked on your wife clicked on it. Cause I don't even know what you deemed me was back then.


So I clicked on you DME. And I seen everybody buying this course called the cold steel web development course. Like every, they was like, Oh, I just got this, I just got this. I just caught this. I was like, man, what is this stuff? So I looked up, where the element I seen the salaries and, and I was like, Oh, they work from home and all this like stuff that I wanted.


So I was like I'm a, I'm gonna learn this. And even then it took me like, From the day I bought it. I'm not going to lie to me like three months to actually take start the course. Cause I was so intimidated about programming computers. So to me, like three months to actually take it then I started and then we know it was rough HTML and CSS wasn't that bad.


But one, once I got the job Greer while I was like staying and stuff, it was kinda hard. Any last words you want to share? Any advice you want to share with the the audiences with us? Sure. I'd say the. The main thing is, when you're trying to do something there's this saying that I got from Eric, Tom it's like where your focus goes, where your energy flows is when you come like super focused on something and put, put work into it.


It'll just start writing it off of you when people want to, be a part of that and, help you along the way. If you're trying to do something, get somewhere, just really put a lot of the attention and focus on it. And weirdly enough, people will start thinking, help you.


I've had so many people reach out to me that, I didn't ask them for anything or, they just want it to be a part of seeing me get to where, I feel like I should be and I've seen that happen for other people as well. I know that sounds like super duper vague, and it feels super vague, but it really does happen.


Like it just, you just start giving off energy that people want to be a part of. I know it's hard. I know you, we have doubt and things like that, but put that focus and intention and you'll reap the rewards. I've seen it too many times. All right. Speaking of rewards, hope you were rewarded by this conversation.


If you were interested in jumping on chats with me either on Twitch or this podcast. Definitely hit me up in a Twitter DM. He could find me, but EO or head over to my discord, the soft discord. And let me know if you're interested and if not, definitely head to subscribe at BW live and check out my content.


Also check out will Johnson's content he's will Johnson IO on Twitter. If you're interested in skip him a a follow up and letting them let them know you appreciate his story. And then with that, y'all stay saucing. .