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S2E20: From Learning Ruby to Starting a 150+ Person Tech Company with Sid Sijbrandij from GitLab

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In today’s episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast, I talk with Sid Sijbrandij. Sid is a self-taught coder and Y Combinator graduate. He is the the co-founder and CEO of GitLab, an open source tool used by developers to create and manage codebases collaboratively.

In 2007 Sid was operations director for a company that made personal submarines. He began teaching himself Ruby and started consulting with clients. Eventually, Sid transitioned into a full-time tech career. In the two years since attending Y Combinator, GitLab has grown from a nine-person company into one that now boasts over 150 employees.

In our conversation, we talk about what it takes to keep yourself motivated while learning to code. Sid highlights the importance of attending meetups and finding a supportive community. We also hear his best tips for mastering the tech interview. Overall, Sid reminds us that being fully engaged and passionate about the process makes a big difference.

Key takeaways:

  • You don't need to learn a lot before you go to a meetup. As long as you're passionate about the subject, you'll be welcome in a group of like-minded people.
  • Client work is motivating because it adds pressure to get something done. Don’t try to create motivation by being harder on yourself. Try to create motivation by external triggers.
  • Candidates stand out by showing a genuine interest in a company. Tailor your cover letter so it's specific to the organization where you want to work.
  • Take the time to prepare for your interview. It shows you're thoughtful and motivated, which means you'll bring the same traits to your job.
  • During an interview express yourself clearly, ask the right questions, and respond to feedback.
  • When you're looking for an open source community, find one that is welcoming. Start off small, ask for feedback, and slowly increase your contributions.
  • Everyone is specialized, so don't feel like you have to know everything. The more you dig in, the more you realize how much you don't know. Don't be too hard on yourself.

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