From Frying Chicken to Working at Google With Danny Thompson (S8E2)

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Danny Thompson

Danny Thompson was facing a crossroads. He had to decide between staying a gas station fry cook forever or making a drastic career shift. And after hearing that rapper was learning to code, he felt encouraged and decided to start coding, too.

Even while working countless hours as a full-time fry cook, Danny made the time to learn how to code on the side. Today, Danny’s made the full career change into tech, and he currently works at Google in Developer Relations. From understanding the basics, to finding a great community of developers, to helping hundreds of people land their first job in tech, Danny eventually turned his hobby into a profession that he previously thought was only for college graduates. (Or at least people who’d worked in a traditional office building.)

In this episode, Danny talks about his experience learning how to code, his job search strategy, and how he landed his first job in tech. He also shares the value of meaningful relationships in your career, how anyone at any age and background can learn how to code, and his best advice if you’re considering a career change.

This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.

Laurence Bradford 0:00
Hey, welcome to another episode of the Learn to Code With Me Podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford. And today's episode is all about someone who started off as a gas station fry cook. And now just a few years later works at Google. But first, a quick word about this season sponsor.

Laurence Bradford 0:32
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And we're back in today's episode, I talk with Danny Thompson. Danny is a software engineer currently working in Developer Relations at Google. The reason why I reached out to Danny is because his story is just so inspiring. After working as a gas station fry cook for almost 10 years, he decided to teach himself how to code after hearing a rapper talk about coding. And that's what we're talking about today. How denninger decode while working full time as a fry cook, what his whole tech job search was like, and how he landed his first developer job and beyond. All without a college degree and all without a formal technical background. Our conversation touches on the value of building meaningful relationships in your career journey, and how anyone can learn how to code no matter your age or your background. If you want to break into tech from a completely unrelated career path, this episode is for you. I really hope you enjoy it. And if you do, please make sure to subscribe to the podcast and leave us a rating and review. It really helps us so much. Alright, let's get into it. Enjoy.

Laurence Bradford 2:24
Hey, Danny, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Danny Thompson 2:27
Thanks for having me. I'm so excited to be here. And I'm a big fan of the podcast. I've been listening to it for a couple years now. So very excited to be here.

Laurence Bradford 2:35
Oh, well, thank you so much. Of course, I just gave you a longer introduction before we're chatting. But could you just tell us a bit about your story and what was happening in your life before you started learning to code?

Danny Thompson 2:47
Absolutely, I was the reason why I got into tech was because of a rapper, this rapper invested several million dollars into a tech company. And this kind of blew my mind. Because at this point in my life, I was 30 years old working in a gas station frying chicken. And I found myself at a fork in the road at this point. And I said, If I go right, I'm going to be in this gas station until the day I die. Or if I go left, I'm gonna make a change. And I don't know what it is. But I just got to do something different. And I was at this time that I saw this interview. And he's being asked, and he's like, why did you spend several million dollars into a tech company. And he said, I'm learning how to code. Now this blew my mind. Because I never knew someone from my kind of background could ever learn how to code. My perception at the time was coding was for the PhDs in the rocket scientists of the world never for an average individual. So he's learning how to code and I'm like, wow, why is he learning? And obviously, he's not learning how to code because he wants to become a developer. And the reasoning was not that he's going to become a developer and given this million dollar rap career, right? But it was, why wouldn't you want to know how the thing that you touched 90% out of your day, how it operates? Like, why is the extent of our knowledge when it comes to a computer, opening up a browser opening up YouTube comm and watching some cat videos. And so he starts learning how to code and soda Why? And I said, I want to know more like, why does my laptop cost $2,000? Why does my smartphone cost 1500 bucks. And I started learning how to code and it was never with the idea of I'm going to become a developer that came way down the road, it was more longer idea of I'm going to make a website and it's gonna be the best website in the world. And it's gonna have all this stuff, and everyone's gonna want to check it out. But I'm just going to make a website and just have something on there. And it was through that mindset that I got on And I love that website. I always talk about it. But I get on Free Code Camp and I just start learning how to code. And in a couple weeks I really realized at that point, like the world of programming is definitely more complicated than I anticipated in the short run. I thought I could just drag a couple boxes over there and I've got a multimillion dollar website right. And I start going further further further. And I get into HTML CSS and I start touching the cusp of Java scrip, and I hear about this thing called meetups. And I go to this meetup. And at this point of my life, you know, I made a very simple application where you enter the URL of an image. And like it returns the image with like some coloring on top. It's like Instagrams worst nightmare, right? But that's exactly what I made. And I thought, basically, at this point of my life, I could cure cancer with code. I'm not good, right? Not terrible, terrible. But I walk in this meetup. And I instantly realize that I don't know anything. I was introduced to this brand new breath of knowledge that I didn't know existed people saying this, like foreign words to me like Java, C sharp and SQL. And I never heard of this, I thought the world began and ended a JavaScript and I didn't know there was anything past that. So I instantly realize that I'm excluded from the conversation because I don't know anything. And I said in that moment, that I will never be excluded again. So I go home and I start learning I start learning more about JavaScript, I start learning about six functions, I go to the next middle say, do you know how to do this with arrow function? Do you know this and ESX, I go home, start learning one more, start learning about SQL, I go to the next meetup saying you don't know what a SQL query is, you know how to do the SQL table, and then I go home, start learning more about Java. I do know about spring framework, do you know how to do this. And now, I've been brought into this amazing community of developers that just want to help as many people as they can. And it was through the introduction of realizing how much I've only scratched the surface that allowed me to really continue and learn more, grow more become better. And through meetup communities through Free Code Camp and many other web sites, I was able to learn how to program I was able to create an amazing network of developers and people that I could tap into in a moment's notice. But the bigger thing is, I was able to have people that I can rely on and fall back on. And through that process, I was able to go from someone who didn't believe they were even allowed to be in this industry, to now someone who's found a very comfortable position with this industry. I've helped several 100 people in the first jobs in tech in this industry. But the bigger thing is, if it wasn't from getting real advice and real feedback, I wouldn't have been able to even be successful in an interview situation. So I owe everything in my career to meetups and Free Code Camp and websites like that, where the resources and the compounding knowledge just exists in a way that you can absorb it in your own time and pace.

Laurence Bradford 7:27
Yeah. Wow. So I have a few follow up questions. Like when you were just telling your story, how you got started. I'm curious, what year was this that you started learning? And where do you live? I totally, usually ask people to start but where were you located, at least at the time when you were working as a fry cook.

Danny Thompson 7:41
So I still live there. Now I live in Memphis, Tennessee. And we are not a tech town by any means. Tech is not the forefront of our city. We're known for barbecue. And so Memphis has been where I've been for the last 13 years of my life. And we've developed an amazing community of developers here. And this all started about four and a half years ago. So around 2017

Laurence Bradford 8:04
Gotcha. 13. Okay. And curious. Also, what wrapper? Was it that you first heard talk about this? Well, I am. Okay. Okay. I actually, okay, I still remember that in the news. Like, I remember that in this sort of learn to code space, because I started my blog in 2014 15, I forget, I think is 2014. So I was already sort of like in the learn to code blogging realm. And I remember that being like a news kind of clip when he was talking about that. But anyhow, that's really interesting. I also want to ask, from the time you heard him talking about coding, and then you got online started learning at Free Code Camp, which I agree, great resource, how much time between that and then going in person to a meetup was there? Probably two months? Two months. Okay. Was there a reason why you waited? I don't know long. That was it. That's a long time to go to an in person event. Never knew it existed. Gotcha. So then you just you've kind of discovered it started looking at meetups to attend. And it all went from there.

Danny Thompson 9:01
Yeah, I saw somebody mentioned it on like a Free Code Camp forum, I think it was. And so I said, Oh, let me just see. And I searched Memphis, and we had a meetup. And it was like the same four or five people. And I went in there, and I enjoyed the experience. And what was great was I was able to continue going back back back to where I started helping organizing and leading the meetups. And that's when I said, we're missing something here. And the one thing that I saw that I could help with beginner developers as well. I said, if I can showcase you in a very different light, as opposed to a resume, could I get an hiring manager or recruiter or someone like that interested in you, outside of well, you don't meet the qualifications? Because one thing I realized this, especially for me coming from a gas station, nobody wants to talk to the chicken guy, right? Like what what do I offer in terms of all these other people that have degrees in these accolades? How can I compete and I said, What if I pique their interest on a different way. So I started taking a bunch of pictures at meetups, I started showcasing developer projects. And the thing was at that time, I still didn't believe I was good enough to ever be in the industry. And so instead of showing my own work, I'll show him the work of others. And what ended up happening. I remember I helped the very first person landed interview, and they ended up getting their first job offer. And I was with him when he got that offer. And I remember he was so happy, literally, there were tears in his eyes, because he's been chasing this thing for like 18 months. And he's finally made it happen. And I realized in that moment, nothing mattered more to him than making his dream and tech become a reality. And nothing mattered more to me in that moment, than sharing that success with him. And that kind of got me hooked to the process of helping people. And I've never charged anyone a dime to help them get a job in tech. I just love helping people. And the thing became went from one person to 1010 became 2020 became 40. Now it's become several 100 people in the very first jobs in tech through that process.

Laurence Bradford 11:07
So initially, this was helping people like through the meetups, so in your local methods in your community, right, okay, that's, that's really awesome. And while you're saying all this, I'm thinking, were you still working as a fry cook during this time?

Danny Thompson 11:21
Yes, I was working as a fry, cook the entire process. And I was literally leaving meetups or developers while still working in a gas station. And the thing with the gas station was honestly, I was almost in a sense killing myself, like I was working 100 hour weeks, I was working these insane hours. And I was making just enough money to still be broke. And I, I just loved everything about development in that process. And I love the community that was a part of, but I genuinely believe that I'm not good enough to be in this industry, because I would go to these meetups, and I'm seeing all these people that work in office buildings that have degrees, they're coming from colleges, they have way more than I can ever bring to the table. And I said, there's no way I can compete with that. How can I even work in an office when I've never been in an office? Like, I don't know what these buildings look like on the inside? How can I even stand out in the interview process. And so I said, I just really just want to be around tech in general. So if I'm going to these meetups, and I'm learning these concepts, I'm happy anyway, like, it wasn't more along the lines of what am I going to break into this industry, it was more along the lines of, I'm really happy doing what I'm doing at the moment. So I was just content. And really, part of the thing was I go to these meetups, and one of my nicknames for a long time was Popeyes, because I'd walk in a room. 15 minutes later, the entire room smelled like a chicken restaurant, because I would come literally directly from frying chicken. So because of that, like there was definitely a lot of like imposter syndrome in that respect, where I felt like I didn't belong. But at the same time, I was just really happy to be around people that I could talk with something that I was enjoying and passionate about. It wasn't more along the lines of trying to transition my career. It was just, for example, if you like modeled cars, or airplanes, you go to a club where you can, you know, hang out with other people doing model cars and airplanes. I was just hanging out with people that like writing code the same way I was enjoying the writing code process.

Laurence Bradford 13:15
Yeah, I totally get that actually, that's, that really resonated me because early on when I first started my website, my podcast, and now in 2021, I do it full time. But for years, it was just my side thing, I worked full time or a freelancer, I did other stuff. And I always just viewed it as a hobby for a really long time. Like I in my mind, it wasn't like a real thing. It was kind of just like a like a hobby or a passion project or something. So it kind of feels like this was almost like it was almost like a hobby for you or something. It wasn't, as you mentioned, like with cars and other collectibles, how people will go to events and conventions and whatever for that. But it's not like their job. So when did that switch for you though? Like I know, you helped people get jobs in tech, which is amazing. But when for you personally, were you like, Okay, wait a second, this is more than just a thing I like to do

Danny Thompson 14:04
Outside of work. So I think it was like around 30 people in helping and someone had said to me, he's like, you're great at helping others. But you're really bad at helping yourself. And I said, You're right. And it was after that, like my wife would always tell me, you have way more potential than you're utilizing right now, especially with the gas station. And there's nothing wrong with working in a gas station or frying chicken. But I think there's a lot more on the table that you can get if you want it. And I remember having a conversation with her. And I remember even telling my son, I'm working all these hours and I'm doing all this stuff just to make sure like we're in a better situation. But to be completely honest. I wasn't doing everything that I could I was lying to myself among everyone else in my life because if I was doing what I could as much as I could, I would have been putting myself in positions where I would be going to interviews and I would be having a comment Decisions I need to have. And I wouldn't be turning down phone screens and things like that, because I was already telling myself are they're not going to consider me after a phone screen I, I was really self sabotaging in the worst way possible. And it wasn't until I changed that mindset of saying, I'm not good enough to, I am worth having a conversation with. Because I may not be the smartest person in the room, I may not be the most beautiful person in the room, but I am valuable. And I can bring some value to this team. And it was in that moment that I realized, if I go into a conversation with a value mindset, saying, I am valuable, I'm gonna bring value to this conversation, I will bring value to this team. And if you give me an opportunity to have a conversation with you, I will bring so much value that you will fall in love with, instead of these begging mindsets that I had previously was like, please just give me a chance, give me a chance, I just need a chance. Nobody wants to respond to that. And that's when I realized if you bring value, they will bring the checkbook, it's as simple as that no company in the history of the world has ever turned down a surefire bet to make money. So be valuable, and they'll respond accordingly.

Laurence Bradford 16:08
Yeah, when you were just talking about your dream experience, and the mindset shifts, and all that I was I was thinking about this book I read, which is really, it's kind of random and unrelated, but you just remind me of one of these types of people that they go through. And the book is called boundaries. And it is I think it's fine, like Dr. Henry cloud, or something that's not the point. But the book is, as the name suggests, all about setting proper boundaries, with people and whatever. And there's different people. And there's different folks who have different kinds of things with boundaries. But one of the people that they talk about, remember early on in the book, through the story they give is this example of a woman who basically does everything for other people, but she doesn't help herself. And I remember I was reading this description. And by the way, I don't resonate with that kind of person who puts everyone else before them. But sounds like you were sort of doing that. But and then he sort of talks about the mindset and how it's like allowing yourself and like giving yourself a seat at the table, not just everyone else at the table. And you're you know, serving them, which is obviously it's like a great personality trait to have, of course, to serve people to help people and to put others before yourself, but it needs to be balanced, right with also getting what you need for yourself and for your family. And, and all of that. Anyhow, this was thinking that when you were when you were speaking, but with what you the last thing you mentioned, bring value to the table. Totally agree. And okay, so you were helping people, you were a fry cook, you had this mindset shift. What was the first like tech job that you that you had, so it could be freelancing or contracting or full time job like what was the first time you actually got paid to do something tech related.

Danny Thompson 17:43
So for a while I was doing like little small freelance projects, I was really the first freelance website I ever sold, I talked about this, quite often, honestly, is to a Mexican restaurant right near my house, I was still learning how to code at the time still working at the gas station. And I was eating in this restaurant. My wife was literally out of town. It was a Saturday, but she was flying back in. And I thought the food was so great. I was like, this is going to be a great place for us to come back to and I wanted to see their hours to see if they were even open on Sunday. And I go to their website. And in the nicest way possible. This was one of the worst websites I've ever seen in my life. And I said, God, I still don't even know what the hours are. And so I was talking to the waitress, and I said, is the manager here and of course, she was like, Whoa, did that I do some really nothing wrong with you. I just want to have a conversation with them. And the manager comes in, I told him, I said, Hey, I wanted to see your hours, this website is really rough. And I just told him straight up like, you can make this change the same as this change, and the website will be significantly better. And the owner then comes out about five minutes later and said, I heard you were critiquing the website. And you know, I also admit like it's rough. I was like, yeah, you can do XYZ, and it will become way better and a better experience for everyone. And he said, Could you do it? And at this point, I'm like, Yeah, I can do it. And in my mind, like, instantly my mind starts racing, because I was thinking of just giving them the information to lead with it and say, Hey, just having cool every major website, fix this. And so I'm instantly racing. I'm like, I have no idea what websites go for. I have no idea what to charge for this. And I don't know how to value this work. And so there's like, could you do it? I was like, Yeah, I could do it probably take about two weeks. And they said, Well, how much would you charge? And my mind said, okay, like, $1,000 is a lot of money. I want $1,000 but I know whatever number I'm probably gonna throw out, they're gonna, like, negotiate down. So I just do our 18 $100 and I'm like, they're gonna ask to 4000 I'm, like, done deal. They took the 1800. And at that time, that was like, a lot of money for me. So when they took the 1800 like, I was the happiest person in the world. I'm like, Okay, I'm about to sell all the websites to every Mexican restaurant around me and this and that, but it was actually Once I started doing that, I started realizing what goes into a larger scale project. But for them, they just needed something simple where display their hours displayed their menu, no fancy animations or anything was pretty straightforward. But that's when I realized a lot of people when they think of freelancing, they think of I need to go work, I need to grab these global clients and these bigger people. And then I need to get on these websites like Fiverr, and all these other places. You will underestimate how many people mom and pop shops around you need actual websites that lead to conversion of customers. And it's not even like converting in an online sense. It's like, how do you get to my location? What are my services, what are my prices, things like that, like, I can't tell you, especially in the pandemic, how many websites we helped make, where it was just like a call to action to Uber Eats or doordash, and things like that, where they can redirect their customers with their full menu, like simple things, it doesn't have to be this masterpiece of a website, a lot of times the simplest item leads with the largest return. So don't always think of like global things like I need to, you know, sell websites for $20,000 a pop, you can be making a lot of money selling smaller websites that you can turn out quicker, and keep those clients for a long time as well. And from there, that's when I ended up becoming a software engineer at one of the biggest companies in Memphis front door, which is a great company, they're grown rapidly, they've expanded offices and California and Colorado and other places like that. And I was there for a long time, it was one of the best companies that I could work for, in my opinion, I was very happy with the team that I worked with and the technologies I was working with. And they really gave me I, I really liked the job for one particular reason, they invested in me learning more. And they gave me the opportunity to grow. And one thing that I talked about quite often as I turned down six jobs in tech before accepting my first. And the reason for that was number one, I was kind of stubborn, I knew what I wanted. And it was a situation of if I want sugar, I don't want to accept Splenda. And I knew exactly what I wanted, I wanted a place where I can find mentorship ways for growth, I also didn't want to find a company that would pigeonhole me and keep me in a box, but instead gave me opportunities for growth within and front door matched all of that. And I literally was promoted within three months of being there from my first position. And I was I was promoted twice before leaving from my recent position at Google. And honestly, I'm very, very happy with the way and the growth that I had with the company.

Laurence Bradford 22:30
Oh, awesome. I want to talk more about that. But after a quick break to hear from our episode sponsor.

Laurence Bradford 22:39
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Laurence Bradford 23:54
Okay, great to be back with you, Danny. So we were just chatting about your first experience working building a website for a Mexican restaurant and then eventually working at front door. I want to talk more about that because you said that you turned down six jobs before accepting your first there at front door. You mentioned what you were looking for. But how did those companies not fit the bill? And I'm curious how far in the process you made it to realize you know what, this isn't a good fit and, you know, walked away from that potential position.

Danny Thompson 24:24
Right. So there were many times where I was interviewing with companies, and they seemed great on the front end. And one thing that I'm a big believer in is everyone will advertise the greatest things about themselves. And they will cover up anything refer bad about themselves. So anytime I was interviewing for a company, one of the first things that I did was hit up LinkedIn and reach out to the developers working there. And I wouldn't tell them that I'm applying for a job or anything I would just say, Hey, you know, I've heard XYZ about this company. Can you tell me about your experiences there? Do you feel like you have growth there? Do you feel like you're working on it? That actually supports you. And they will give you the real information of man things are really rough here that working us like non stop, we're always on call, or they would say, there's no training at all, or they would say things along the lines of, we're working on this tech stack. And knowing all the tech stacks around me really allowed me to know what I needed to bring to the table. And what I was if what I was learning was valuable. So the the stack that actually ended up giving me my career was Java and Angular, and front door worked on that. And whenever I spoke to the developers on the on the team that I ended up, landing on actually, they told me great things, and they said, you know, whether the work is hard, or the work is difficult, we're gonna support you along the way, that meant a lot to me. But also, one thing that really mattered the most was, am I going to have an opportunity to grow? That was like, the biggest thing for me, because I've seen companies that will hire developers, and they overload them with work, burn them out, throw them to the side, and on to the next one. It's like a turn of productivity that just disappears. For me, it was like, I don't mind working hard. Like that does not scare me. Hard work has never scared, you want to scare me, tell me there is no work. Don't tell me that there is. But if you tell me that you're going to burn me out, throw me to the side with no possibility for progress. That's not the kind of life that I want to lead. That's not the kind of company I want to stay with. And for me, obviously, I worked in gas stations for almost 11 years, I wherever I chose was a place that I intended to stay for a long period of time. And if I'm going to stay there for a long period of time, I don't want to change one depression for another. I don't want to be unhappy at one job and be at my next job unhappy, especially when it's supposed to be my first job and taking my dream job and all this, I didn't want that to be the situation for me. So I was very, very careful about who I chose to attach myself with long period of time. But I will say for a lot of the interviews, I remember even I'm a very big believer in not wasting my time or theirs. Because I value both. And I remember even in one interview, halfway through, I realized this is going to be a bad fit for both of us. And I just stopped the interview there saying, I really respect your time, I really respect this process. We are both not going to be happy with this. So I think it's best if we part ways now. And they were kind of like what, and I said, it's just not going to be a good fit. But instead, I have no problem trying to recommend other people to come check you out. And if there's ever a way that I can be helpful in the future, don't hesitate to reaching out. That conversation ended up creating friends that we've now known each other for several years. I think one thing that people don't often think about is just blunt honesty. And I feel like even as human beings, we internalize so much that we never let it out. And I think sometimes just being open and honest, will bring you way more rewards than you've ever thought possible.

Laurence Bradford 27:51
Yeah, it's I mean, I think it's really impressive and really admirable that that honesty and just saying listen, like, this isn't going to be a good fit. I'd like to like I don't know the right word. He says withdraw my candidacy or you know it let's just stop talking. I you have to of course frame it in like a nice way which it sounds like you did, right? You're still maintained connections and you know, friendships or what have you with people at those places and help them out in the future, which, which is amazing. And yeah, I feel like it's also kind of thinking about the long term game or the long term plan. Because I think if it's all the time with people who quit companies and stuff, it's like, you may need them as a reference later, like when you leave, like you want to leave on like great terms as possible, because it also just to be a good human being Of course, right. And just to think, again, the future, you may cross paths again, right? And another job with co workers. And you know, just for the sake of pleasantness you want things to be, you know, nice. And I get along with everyone. Anyhow. So how long were you working then at front door?

Danny Thompson 28:51
Almost two years, I was there for quite some time. And the thing that I love the most about my experience the front door, I was hired for Java, Angular, and halfway through, they said, we're rewriting our entire code base. And we're going to be switching to react and go. And they said, Are you willing to stay on take on this new challenge, learn new things and create new code? And I said, if you're attaching a paycheck to it, the answer is yes. I learned whatever you want. I learned any framework, any language. I see. Especially online, there's a lot of like language hate and things like that, like people like Oh, I can't believe your code in XYZ. I love every language, every framework and especially if there's a paycheck attached to it, I'll learn whatever you want. So for me, it was a very exciting time to learn React and go which brand new world to me. And I actually ended up really enjoying both and I still to this day work with react and go and I try to keep that as my main stack, but I learn anything necessary to solve the right problem.

Laurence Bradford 29:47
Okay, I'm so glad you brought this up because I feel like such a common question I get asked or people wonder about all the time is if I know one stack, and a job asks for another or I have to learn another like, is that the end of the world? Like, what happens? Could you just talk a bit about the process of like, not in Super detail, of course, but like switching to that new stack, and how you kind of went about learning it, I also be curious to know like how the company supported you, and other folks working there and getting up to speed with best practices and all that.

Danny Thompson 30:20
Right. So best practices, a lot of it came with time, because when they decided that languages, I don't think anybody really had a high high level idea of what that was going to be. But for me, I am a very, very big believer in project based learning, meaning I don't do super well with video tutorials and things like that, what I do whenever I want to learn anything, and this was even as a beginner, I would try to make something when that thing doesn't do what I want, I will research that particular item until I know enough to make it respond accordingly. And what ends up happening is that Google search, that research path will teach you way more than any generic tutorial will ever teach you. It is good to watch tutorials to get your fundamentals. But outside of that, the real learning comes from you putting your fingers on that keyboard and letting them dance around. That's as simple as that a lot of people. And I think that's why a lot of people get stuck in tutorial, how they use the tutorial so much as a crutch. They never allow themselves to think what if I do XYZ, and I've got a lot of content on tutorial how to help people get out of that. But I think the greatest path of learning comes from you not knowing something, and you figuring it out. And I feel like whether that's a five minute task, or a five hour task, that research alone will give you more value than someone hand holding you down a predetermined path that is error free, that errors make you better. Don't be afraid of them, embrace them. I love failing. So many people are afraid of failure. I love failure. And I'll tell you why. How do you know your ideas good enough? If you've never pushed the boundaries of it to actually fail? How do you know you've gone far enough with that idea. The only way you'll know is if you fail, fail, pivot grow, be willing to fail that lets you know either a this is a great idea. And I need to pull back slightly. Or this was a terrible idea. And to make it better. I can pivot iterate and make that better make it more profound. I can tell you, most people, when they reach their level of success, do they know if it was far enough? Like even when it comes to like salary negotiation? If you accept what they gave you right away, and you don't counter? Do you know, if you left the extra 10 grand or 20 grand on the table? You don't right? Sometimes putting it out there? And let's say you ask for 10 grand, they say no, they say no cool, I'll still take the original offer. You don't know where you could land if you never fail. Don't be afraid of failure. I'm not afraid of you succeeding. And I'm pretty confident most people will, I'm afraid you won't fail, learn something from that experience, and allow that to be a growing situation for you. I'm a true believer in this. There's no real failure. These are moments that make you grow and become a better version of yourself.

Laurence Bradford 33:21
Yeah, I think of that a lot when folks like with interviewing and applying to jobs in their first jobs and maybe feeling like they are qualified or what have you. But my thought is always you know, the worst that can happen is they say no, or they don't respond to application. And then if you get an interview and you bomb it, you'll grow. And you'll get better in the interview process because of that experience. And again, worst thing, they're just gonna say, no, they're just going to you maybe you won't move forward. But it's not the end of the world. And you can take those experiences with you to the next place, which actually is I think maybe a good segue into the next thing I want to talk about in that is your work at Google. So you were working at your first company front door for two years. And then you ended up starting to work at Google. So could you talk a bit about that and how that transition happened.

Danny Thompson 34:09
So to even understand the transition, I need to go back one step. And that step is I'm a big believer and building out a network. And by building out a network, if you maintain those relationships, you you will honestly have constant opportunities coming to you. One thing that I see from a lot of people is, for example, using a tool like LinkedIn, and I'm a huge fan of LinkedIn, I love LinkedIn. But LinkedIn, they'll use it once they already lost their job. So now you're trying to rebuild this network that you had that was doing something for you. And the thing with that is it takes weeks upon weeks before it comes back to life. So now because you didn't maintain your network, you're several weeks behind the curve. And now you're trying to bring something back. One thing that I tell people is if you maintain these relationships, you will have many opportunities coming your way. Even when I was at front door, I had constant jobs being thrown at me because I made these great connections. A lot of the times when I make a connection with somebody, that day, we may not have anything mutually beneficial for someone. But in a year from now, two years from now, they may come across a situation. But you know what, Dan is a great fit for that. Joe is a great fit for that. Sally is a great fit for that Samantha is fantastic for this, you'll never know if you don't maintain that relationship. But if I've met you, and you forget me after that conversation, those opportunities will never come back my way. And they may go to somebody else that you know, down the road for the opportunity at Google. My position there is now in Developer Relations and community management. And what I'm doing is helping communities all over North America, get resources, get tools, and giving them anything necessary to help their community and their members grow. Whether it's a beginner, or whether it's a developer with 25 years of experience, we want to help them out in whatever way that we can. And for me, I've been leading meetups for several years now. So it's almost like marrying my love of helping others and technology together. And if I can do not one, but two of the things that I love, this is something that I'm gonna want to do for a long period of time. And what's funny is I was talking to somebody on my team the other day, and like, it's a lot of work is and I was like, Yeah, but it's not, it's, it's not a big deal to me, because I'm enjoying it, as opposed to saying, Oh, this meeting today, I always say life is so incredibly short. It's so short, that I don't want to be in a position where I hate five days out of the week, and I'm living for only two, I'd rather enjoy all seven of my days. And I'm now in a position where I can do that I'm able to challenge myself, I'm literally facing challenges I haven't even thought about before. And I'm really loving that because it allows me to create some very unique solutions that I've probably never thought about. And all of this came by maintaining my network. What's funny is I wasn't approached by like a Google recruiter or something like that, I was approached by the decision maker for the roll saying, I've watched you I've know people that you've connected with your name has come up several times, I really want to have a conversation with you. And the other thing is, even when it comes to landing interviews, I always tell people, I have three steps to landing a job in tech. Oh, actually, it's four steps to landing a job in tech. Number one, you have to have a great LinkedIn profile. 675 million monthly users, of which 90 million are hiring managers, decision makers, for businesses and recruiters, you need to stand out where they hang out, it's as simple as that. If they hung out at a restaurant, I tell you to go to that restaurant, well guess what they're hanging out on LinkedIn. So that's where you need to be. If you make a great LinkedIn profile, a lot of the times it will do a lot of the hard work for you, you will land on a ton of job searches, you'll land in conversation that you didn't think about have that LinkedIn profile. Second is you have to have a great portfolio site. It doesn't necessarily have to be technical savvy. But it does need to be appealing to the eye. And I will tell you why. Majority of hiring managers have never written a line of code a day in their life. They're given a job description that they don't know anything about. But they just know they have to tick these boxes. Well, if your site looks good on a subliminal level, they're like, Oh, this person probably knows what they're doing. Let me hand this over to the decision maker. Now, we that's where step number three comes in your portfolio items in your GitHub, your projects are your proof that you know what you say, you know, like, if you are a chef, and you cooked a great dish router, well, you really know how to cook. This is the same concept here, your portfolio items, your projects, your items that you make, are going to talk for you. I always say let your actions speak for you because they will speak louder than you ever could. So your portfolio items are showing your command of the language, your technical knowledge and your abilities to create projects, use that and item number four, you have to have a resume. A lot of people only have one resume, I think that's a big big fault, you need to have several. And the big thing is that most people don't think about is matching keywords from that job description in your resume. Because most employers have something called an 83 worst letters combined, in my opinion, but it's an automatic tracking software. And what that does is it's literally searches your resume to see how many keywords you match. And some hiring managers put a certain percentage that if it doesn't match this, a human being will never even see it. So you need to tailor your resume based on the jobs that you're looking for. I see a lot of people say I applied to 1000 jobs. I got one call back. I said that one callback was probably one job description, you match enough keywords on but if you fixed your resume up to match those certain keywords, you would have probably got 50 or 100 callbacks out of you know 1000

Laurence Bradford 39:46
Yes. Oh my gosh, she has all that such good advice and like yeah, I'm like nodding the whole time you're talking the okay the thing with the resume is so relevant. I was just talking to someone the other day who's been applying to a bunch of jobs, not development jobs, but still texting hasn't had much luck. And I was saying to her, I was like, well, you really need to customize, I remember when I was applying to full time jobs, I would customize my resume to every job I applied to, I end up having to apply to that many, because I then ended up getting job relatively quickly. But every resume I sent in was slightly different to match the job description and the keywords and whatever they were looking for. And the other thing that you said, that just clicked with me too, was the portfolio. So and just having it be visually appealing, because I think so much trust is gained through how a website looks. And I'm just thinking for myself, if I'm googling something, just a random question, maybe about health, maybe about finance, whatever, not not technical event, and I go to a website, and it just looks like trash. I don't really trust it, I click away and I go to one, even though the information could be good. I'm just like, Oh, I don't know if I trust this person. Because if it looks like it was built in, like 1999, I'm like, I don't know, I'm gonna go to another one. So those are awesome tips. Okay, we're kind of running short on time, I really want to ask this, but it's kind of like a follow up to the last thing, you were just talking about getting a job. But you're obviously an amazing people person, a connector. I feel like that's just like a natural gift you were given for folks that are more introverted and maybe don't feel as comfortable making connections and and all of that, what are some actionable ways people can maintain these professional relationships? You know, make them maintain them? Yeah, as they move about their career.

Danny Thompson 41:25
So I'm not extroverted by nature. This is something that I've learned. And I will tell you, I was quiet for a very long period of time. And the one thing that I realized, and this, I realized this at almost the end of my career to gas station, how many opportunities in life have I lost? Just because I haven't said I'm interested? How many promotions have I lost? Because I didn't say, Oh, I think I could do that. Like how many, like, how many jobs have I lost? How much money have I lost? How many? How many times have I been in a situation where I could have probably got myself out of lower living standards, and moved up a little bit just by saying, I'm here. And that is when I realized, if I want anything of value to hit my career, I need to be able to say, I'm here. And I'm willing to do what it takes to make that happen. And once I changed that shift, I was able to say, Okay, I can go from into an interview and say, I'm valuable. I can bring value to this team. I can go to a meetup and say, Hey, we're both here because we like React. What about React do you like? And that's why I love meetups, everyone is there ready to have a conversation? No one shows up to a meetup saying, well, I want to be secluded, they came to this crowded place, because they want to talk about tech, they want to talk with other people that know about tech. That is why I love meetups. So you can walk into that room and just walk up to anybody and say, I'm a SQL Developer. Do you know anything about SQL? Or if it's a meetup about Angular? Hey, I work in Angular, I'm assuming that you're either wanting to learn about Angular, or you work in it. What do you do about Angular? Or you could say, what's your favorite ID, anyone that writes code has their own preference on it, ie extensions, things that make their life and career easier. These are great ways to start a conversation and cultivated. But one thing I'll even say, with, especially using things like LinkedIn, and getting a job or network or anything, the reason why my four steps the resume is last is because I think you should do something before you ever apply to a job with a resume. See, for me on a resume, I can only live on this blank piece of paper. But nine times out of 10, you can see who posted the job on LinkedIn. So what I've always done, and what I always tell people to do is, Hey, I saw Sarah ad, you know, green technology over here is posting this job, I will send her a message saying, Hey, I saw that you posted this job. Here are three reasons why you and I need to have a conversation, a BNC. I look forward to your reply. If they reply, they're gonna say someone that's really interesting, let's set up a time for you. And I'd have conversation, boom, I just made it in an interview number one, as opposed to being on a blank piece of paper with 1000 other applicants where they can't see the things that I've been doing, they can't see the things that I've showcased on my profile, they can't see my product, like, it gives me a huge leg up. And I will tell you, if you follow that process, before the process of sending in blank resumes, I guarantee you, you'll probably get 50% more replies, just being completely honest about it. And it makes it a lot easier because a lot of hiring managers don't get a ton of messages. They're always the ones actively messaging others. So by you saving them a lot of the work and your discoverability you're helping them in that process. And that's the weird thing about LinkedIn, right? If I were to find you on Facebook, and say, Hey, I see that you're working at this, you know, this company. What do you do there? You're your weirdo. You're stalking me. How do you know I'm working at this company? But on LinkedIn, you're like, Hey, I see you're working at this company. Can you tell me about it? They're like, Oh, yeah, I was appointed the month. This is what I write, this is where I park. And this is where I eat lunch, they'll tell you everything. LinkedIn is this place where people are ready to have conversations about their career. And one interesting stat that I found out about LinkedIn, 75% of users on LinkedIn, make over $80,000 a year. They are on there with the professional mindset of making connections, meeting others and building out that network. And by you being proactive and messaging them, you're already helping them in that process. And if you can bring value to the conversation, you will never be forgotten. But if you go into that conversation very passively. And please, please, for the for anything worthwhile, do not send a message saying, Hey, how are you? No one. And I mean, no one will ever reply to your message should be almost making it too easy for them to reply, give them a question that makes them reply, say something about yourself saying, Hey, I'm, I'm a brand new developer, I'm learning right now how to code and I'm researching companies in our area, what tech stack Are you using there? And do you see this as a tech stack that you're going to be using for a long time, that is how you can figure out whether your town is a C sharp town, a Java town, a Python town. The other thing with that is check your job listings. One thing I always say is go to your local website, whether it's, or whatever, and just watch it for a couple of weeks, what jobs are coming, what jobs are going and what jobs stick around and stay there, you will quickly find that, like if you have a lot of Python postings, but none of them disappear, you might not be in a Python town. But if you start seeing a lot of job listings go for Java, and they disappear because they fill the position. And you see new ones come up. That might be a Java town, or C sharp town, whatever it may be. A lot of times you'll see some agencies even posting jobs, where they're constantly trying to recruit people, but they're sending them to other cities, they're not keeping them there. That's why they keep those job listings up for weeks, upon weeks, upon weeks. Be aware of that and take note of that. And that will let you know that hey, Memphis, Tennessee doesn't have Python jobs. But we definitely have a lot of C sharp jobs. And I see the C sharp listings come and they disappear. That might be where I want to put my effort in learning as opposed to Python or something else. Hmm,

Laurence Bradford 47:09
That's a really good tip. Yeah, I think a lot of people don't think about that when they first start learning. I mean, I certainly didn't, but like, depending on your geographic location, the languages and the frameworks and what's being used by the companies in that town, it could be different, as you just mentioned, so yeah, that's a really good, um, and relatively easy, not too time consuming tip to figure out like what skills and technologies and roles are being filled in your specific area. So unfortunately, we're running out of time, and but you're such a wealth of knowledge, I wanted to ask one question that we're going a bit over. But I really was curious about this before we even gotten to the interview. And I wanted to know if your background at all, as a fry cook, helped your coding career in any way, like Were there any, like transferable skills or things that you learned while working there that are helping you today?

Danny Thompson 47:58
I think the one thing that I learned was, like any good recipe, you never get it on the first try. And even when it came to chicken, it was many months of iteration of improving the recipe, improving the taste. And that is when I realize you will never have a fully finished product, the first go round. And you should be okay with that. And I'm a very big believer in whatever you're working on, push it out, publish it, put it out there, your favorite application is probably on version five right now. But they never would have been there. If it wasn't for version one, you can't improve what isn't there. So whatever it is that you're doing, put it out, it doesn't matter. If you don't think it's the best thing in the world, version two can be better version three can be better than that, put it out, because if you put out something, then you have something you can talk about because someone somewhere wants to hear about something, and you have that something, only thing you need to do is put it out there and see what happens. I'm a very big believer in learning in public. Because I will tell you right now, there are things that I know today that I probably bad practices by not and I got to improve upon that right? That is the field of technology, you will never have it right it changes all the time. If you are opposed to growth, this may not be the field for you. But if you're willing to learn, and always be open to new conversations, ideas and topics, you will thrive, absolutely thrive in this industry. But if you are dead set in your ways, and you're saying no, no. What I know is this and I'm never going to fix it. You're not going to do well because I can tell you right now, the Java that I learned the beginning is already different than the Java that I used. It will constantly improve and so will you if you're willing to read, improve, pivot and grow?

Laurence Bradford 49:53
Well, I think that is a fantastic way to wrap up this interview and great, great advice to you know, we Ron, thank you so much again, Danny for coming on and chatting with me. Where can people find you online?

Danny Thompson 50:05
You can find me on Twitter. All my social medias are D Thompson Dev, you can find me on LinkedIn at Danny Thompson. And if there's any way that I can help you out, don't hesitate to reach out. I will be honest. One thing that I always tell people if you're trying to contact me, don't do it in a DM, comment on posts and replies because the thing is, I get so many that I can't see them all. But by commenting publicly, others see that and they can join in the conversation and help you and grow. I also have a Discord. We have over 4000 developers there. We do a lot of coding tips, tutorials help, we do pair programming sessions. So if that's something that you're interested in, check out my Twitter, there's a link in the bio and you can join that Discord. It is completely free. We never charged for anything that we do. It's just to help you out.

Laurence Bradford 50:51
All right, amazing. We'll definitely include links in the show notes and episode and all that to all the places to find you online. Thanks again for coming on and talking. Thank you for having me. I hope you enjoyed today's episode. If you missed anything or would like a recap, you can find the show notes at If you're listening to this episode in the future, simply click the Search icon in the upper navigation of the website and search for the guest name. If you enjoyed this episode, you can subscribe to my show on whichever podcast player you use. For more free tech related resources, tips and recommendations, visit the website and blog over at learn to code thanks so much for tuning in. And I'll see you next time.

Key Takeaways:

  • No matter who you are, or what your background is, you can bring as much value as anyone else to any job. Don’t be afraid to take those interviews! 
  • Opportunities come in all sizes, and you don’t need to start with a huge, global client or employer. Danny found his first client at a local restaurant.
  • When receiving job offers, try to reach out to employees from that organization to see if that company would be a good fit for you. 
  • There’s no real failure. How would you know the limits of your ideas until you push the boundaries?
  • Never underestimate the power of your network. Stay on top of platforms like LinkedIn and GitHub even after you land a job to keep those opportunities coming!

Disclosure: I’m a proud affiliate for some of the resources mentioned in this article. If you buy a product through my links on this page, I may get a small commission for referring you. Thanks!

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