From Stay-At-Home Mom to Full-Time Front-End Developer With Phoebe Voong-Fadel (S8E1)

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Phoebe Voong-Fadel

Today’s women often feel like they’re being pulled in different directions, juggling decisions about careers, life, and family. Is it really possible to have it all at once—starting a family, pursuing a dream career, and managing all the other logistics of a busy life?

As she was working an unfulfilling administrative job and becoming a first-time parent, Phoebe Voong-Fadel was pondering the same question. She enjoyed doing tech projects, but thought she needed a CS degree to change careers. Then, maternity leave gave Phoebe a perfect time to really rethink her career, research her options, and take the plunge. She quit her job and started learning to code as a stay-at-home mom after the birth of her second child.

Of course, as any stay-at-home parent knows, having two children under 2 years old at home is a job in itself! But Phoebe’s efforts paid off, and she’s now back to working full-time as a front-end developer.

In today’s episode, Phoebe talks about how she structured her days and found time to code as a stay-at-home mom, when she felt ready to start freelancing, tips for job hunting as a self-taught developer, advice for parents who want to learn to code, and more!

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 about someone who switched from being a stay at home mom to a front end developer. But first, a quick word about this episode's wonderful sponsor.

Laurence Bradford 0:32
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And we're back in today's episode I talk with Phoebe Voong-Fadel. Phoebe is a front end developer from the UK who builds interactive maps for a living. After working in higher education for over a decade. She quit her job after having her second child to be a stay at home mom. And that's where she taught herself how to code. Two years later, she accepted her first job as a JavaScript front end developer at the age of 36. And that's what we're going to be talking about today, how Phoebe switched to tech from a completely different industry, how she taught herself to code while raising two young kids as a stay at home mom and advice she has for other people who want to break into tech from non technical backgrounds. Our conversation also touches on the resources that she used to learn how to code, the importance of transferable skills, and how to stay motivated in your coding journey. If you want to learn how to balance a busy life with learning to code, this episode is for you. Enjoy. Hey, Phoebe, it's great to have you on the show. How are you doing today?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 2:22
I'm good. Thank you for having me on. So

Laurence Bradford 2:24
Yeah, I'm really excited to talk to you. What part of the world are you in?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 2:28
I am in the UK. I'm in England in a small town called Crowthorne. Nice. So

Laurence Bradford 2:34
We're definitely a time difference. Ben, right. I think you're six hours ahead.

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 2:39
Yeah, I think maybe five if you're on the east coast. So yeah, right. There's five or six? Yeah, it depends on the time saving the hour adjustments. So I think it's five or six hours. Yes, because

Laurence Bradford 2:51
We have the daylight savings time and oh, man, you're still I would love to get into your journey and your career and all that. And as we know, you taught yourself how to code and you currently work in front end development. But I'm wondering what motivated you to start teaching yourself how to code early on.

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 3:12
It's quite a long journey in terms of the seeds were buried quite early on in my career. So I'll go back to, I suppose back to my university days. So I studied humanities, so I study history. And it wasn't, you know, it's in the field that's completely related to a web development, I kind of fell into a career in higher education. So I worked at several universities in London, and I sort of progress up the administrative ladder, and sort of did a range of roles. It was a good career. But I found that I was unfulfilled by it. So I started gravitating towards more technical projects. And then I thought, okay, I'll see how I can pursue a career down that road. But I always thought that I had to get a computer science degree. And I spoke to a technical team within my department. So they're the educational technologists. And they told me that I could pursue a technical career, but take HTML and CSS to start off with so I can become a web developer. So that's kind of like how it happened, really, I kind of didn't know what I wanted to do, but knew that the career I was in was wrong. So that was kind of my first steps towards becoming a web developer. And that was probably about six years prior to when I actually first started learning. And then I did a HTML course. It was a three day course. And that's where I actually met my husband, he was the instructor. And then from there, it just kind of the idea was always in the back of my mind, but I kind of was a bit scared to let go of the career that I had. So it was kind of like a again, I kind of put it on the back burner, did a few courses and co Academy and then stopped and then I think it was after I Had my children, I sought to really rethink about what I wants to do. So after my second baby, I decided to give up the work that I was in and just take the leap and start learning web development. So that's how I kind of got into it.

Laurence Bradford 5:15
I didn't realize you actually studied history, because that's what I studied to back in college, but I never worked in higher ed or academia or anything. But I do recall, after studying history, and kind of really thinking of the career paths that like people I, I was within that program were going to be on. And it was all kind of like, yeah, it feels like it has to sort of be academia or something. Something like that, you know?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 5:42
Yeah, no, I totally agree. It's kind of like you either go on to a PhD and become a researcher, or you become a professor yourself, or I just kind of like fell into a career. And it was, it's quite funny. You get a lot of people in the same from the same kind of backgrounds, English degrees, history degrees. So yeah, it's just the environments really nice to work in. And I think it was, would be completely fine. I think I could have probably gone the rest of my life working within that sector. But there was always this kind of growing voice in the back of my mind that can you know, this is not what you want to do, ultimately. But yeah, I mean, it's, it's just one of those things. And I just thought, if I don't do this, I'll regret it. Yeah. So

Laurence Bradford 6:23
I'm curious how it sounds like you took a bit of a break from working when you had your children, right? That's right. Yeah,

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 6:33
I went back to work in between the first and second, I was in work for about six months, because they're quite close together, the children, there's a difference of 19 months between the two. And then I took because in the UK, we have quite long maternity leave. So I had about a year off. And then I decided to not go back to the work that I was doing before. And I just it gave me time to think and reflect during that time.

Laurence Bradford 7:01
Well, it's great that you guys have such a long maternity leave and paternal leave, I'm sure as well. In the United States, it really depends on the company, you know, more so than anything else. Because I do think some can have much more generous policies and other but that's a different topic of conversation. So you were at home to raise time now reflecting on your career path, what you want to do in the future. And then you decided you didn't want to go back to the previous role that you had? What was the next thing that you did? Because you said that it I think he said six years I have written down from the time you kind of started thinking about it and dabbling it until you really like fully committed?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 7:35
Yeah, yeah, it was, it was probably about that. I think in between that it was it was kind of half hearted attempts. So I would do. So like I said, I attended like that three day HTML course, and implemented some of what I learned. So I think what was great was that my work was very supportive. So they would try and integrate whatever aspirations I had with my current work. So I would sort of, because we, we used a learning platform called Blackboard. And I could go into documents and that she transformed HTML myself. So I would do sort of things like that. But it kind of I always kind of held on to my career at the same time. And I think I had to just give up my career in order to fully pursue web development. And they kind of just start from that. And I just started doing more research into which platform I wanted to do. So I chose Free Code Camp, because I like the curriculum that was self paced. I could learn whenever I had time, and there wasn't like these deadlines where I had to meet these Otherwise, I would fail the course. And then I just took it from there. It was just day by day. And I just thought, well, I'll start it and see what happens. So I just, and I started to like it and realize that this is something that I wanted to carry on pursuing.

Laurence Bradford 8:50
And what year was this? Or how many years ago was that from like today?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 8:55
So that was 2017 was when I actually started to learn consistently tried to learn consistently every day, but with children, it was really tough. But that's probably end of 2017 autumn, I think was about the time I started,

Laurence Bradford 9:08
Right? And for those listening who maybe aren't familiar yet, with Free Code Camp, even though I'm going to assume most people probably are, if not all, could you just briefly describe what it is and and what it's like.

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 9:22
At the time that I was using it, there were six certificates. And if you complete the more, you have the full stack kind of development certifications under your belt. But if you do the first three wishes, HTML site, kind of responsive web development, and JavaScript, so add CSS that covers those kind of three subjects in and front end libraries and the first three certificates, you could pretty much go into front end development from that point. The rest were about back end languages and you know, kind of no j s, but it's just kind of like a self paced platform where you go in the code says with Then the webpage. So you don't have to set up your own environment, your own ID. And you just kind of complete a series of exercises. But then at the end of each section, you have to complete projects. And they're quite challenging. And you're pretty much kind of left to yourself to try and solve this. There's a great support within free coke out they have a lots of forums, where you can go in and ask questions, and it's really safe. And the people are lovely. So if you do get stuck there is that the support but your is pretty much just online learning at going at your own pace.

Laurence Bradford 10:36
And another thing that they do, which I think is really neat, and I believe they still do this to this day, is the projects for nonprofits, right?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 10:47
Yeah, that that's how I got into it. But yeah, so I think they used to have a kind of, I think it's a situation where they grew to with another nonprofit to do work for them. But at the time, I don't think that was happening anymore. But I remember when my husband was telling me about Free Code Camp, and he said, they do this great deal. So you can get experience after you complete your certifications. But I'm not actually 100% sure they do that anymore. I was totally fine.

Laurence Bradford 11:18
One thing that I knows for sure. It's free, as the name implies, right?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 11:22
Yeah. It's completely free. It's all based on donor, giving their, you know, money and donating their money. So it's, it's great, because there is no kind of stakeholders involved or anything. So it's just other people giving back. So a lot of the people who give to freako camp, were free co campers themselves. I've given back to them, because I used them extensively for two years. So I thought, yeah, that's only fair to give back to them when I got my job.

Laurence Bradford 11:49
Yeah, that's awesome. And you actually start to talk about the next thing I want to ask you, which was how long you went through their material their certifications for? And what that was like, because, again, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that you were a stay at home mom at the time to your two young children. And I'm wondering what your days were like, like, how did you structure your learning in?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 12:14
Yeah, it was tough with two kids. And they were two, our two babies under two at the time when they started learning. Yeah, at the start, it was basically code whenever I could, whenever there was sleep, whenever they were napping, I could sort of get 15 minutes here and there. So and in some days, I couldn't code at all. So I would have to just abandoned and I just had to base it around my children schedule. But it got easier as I got older, once I kind of put them into childcare part time, and then allowed me to do full days of studying. But yeah, at the time, it was I was going at snail's pace, but at least I was moving forward, but I was going quite slowly at the start, but it was just kind of getting into that routine. And once I found my routine, it was fine.

Laurence Bradford 13:03
And I apologize if you answered this already. But did you go through multiple other certification programs? Or did you just kind of do like, like one of them? Because I think each one is quite big, right? Like it takes a long time just to get through one?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 13:18
Yeah, I think each certificate is estimated to be 300 hours of coursework. So I did five of them five out of the six, I still aren't completed last one. But what I what I did was freako camp, I use that as my main curriculum. And then I would branch off because there are some things which either I had knowledge gaps, for example, I hadn't done math since I was like 1516. School, and I would have to go off and go to Khan Academy and do an algebra course. So I would have to branch off and do my own research and then come back to the curriculum. So I would do that quite a lot. Because there was just some things which I just didn't know enough of. And I have to do extra reading what extra practice. But I did about five of the six certificates at the time. I do want to go back and complete it. But it's whenever I've got the time to do it.

Laurence Bradford 14:09
Yeah, of course. So. So you were doing this for two years. And after two years was that when you started to apply to new jobs that were in web development for the first time? or? Yeah, I guess I just want to get a sense of like what the timeline was, because that's probably one the most common questions I get asked is how long will it take me to get a full time job in tech? And my answer is always well, it kind of depends, right? Depends on what you want to do depends on how much time you have a day to learn depends on your starting point, as you just talked about knowledge gaps. So yeah, I would just I would love to learn more about how long this took and when you start to apply for jobs for the first time.

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 14:50
Yeah, it did take quite long for me. I know that some people expect the answer to be like six months or nine months but for me it took over two years because I was stunned. Part time, and also because I was attempting to freelance. So about six months into learning, once I completed the first three certifications, I decided to try and get some work experience. So I started freelancing, you know, kind of just as a general front end developer, I created my first website, which was it was for my sister in law, but it was for her business. So she said, she didn't have a website for her, she does nails and she didn't have website for her business. So I said, Okay, I'll do it, I'll do it for free. So it was no pressure on either side. So she was happy with that arrangement. And she was technically my first client, and I could use my portfolio. And then from then I decided to carry on learning, but also kind of seeking out opportunities when I record. So I decided to so I thought, okay, I'll just join Fiverr and Upwork. But unfortunately, that didn't work. For me, I couldn't find any work, I found that I was competing against a lot of people globally, and it was just really tough. So then I decided to go locally, and see if I can find clients within the city that I was in at the time. And I started freelancing as a WordPress developer, because a lot of small businesses just wanted something that was reasonably price and something that they can manage themselves and change the content. And WordPress was perfect for that. So then I started going down the WordPress path whilst I was doing Free Code Camp. And then after I did that, for about another year and a half, I had a few clients while I was studying, I decided to apply for jobs. I think the catalyst for that was when my son started school. And I had a bit more free time. And I think when he saw that I said, this is kind of a natural time for me to actually start looking for a new job. So that's when Yeah, that's kind of more or less how it happened for me.

Laurence Bradford 16:52
Yeah, that totally makes sense. And just wondering, did you enjoy having clients because I feel like some people and this is actually kind of the group that I now fall into, early on, I really liked the idea of having to bring clients and you know, all of that. But then as time went on, I was like, You know what, I don't know if I really want to do this. And I think I would just be a lot happier if I just had like one thing at one job one full time job. Where do you kind of like fall in that spectrum?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 17:20
Yeah, I completely agree it can be, it can be a lot. I mean, it's, you kind of end up being the support for that person. So they come to you for everything, it depends on the clients that you have. So luckily, most of my clients are quiet, you know, their website hardly ever changes, or they're very independent, so they can do the updates themselves. But I still have some of those clients today, but I still manage the website, I still manage the hosting and all the security updates. So I think for me, I guess, I guess I never intend to stay freelancing for very long. So it was just a chance for me to sort of take that commercial experience tip box when it comes to applying for jobs. And yeah, so I kind of picked up enough where I can manage it, but I can see how it can be quite overwhelming. And there's so many deadlines where you have to invoice them. And you know, I know there's software that can help you with that. But you do have to keep on top of it. And you know not to mention tax returns and all the administration that comes with freelancing and managing your own business.

Laurence Bradford 18:23
Yeah, you just took the words out of my mouth, it's like it, it is managing your own business. Even if again, I know you're in the UK in the US there's like different things with taxes or whatever. But here in the US even if you're still like a sole proprietor like you don't have an LLC or up, Inc, or whatever the different business structures are, you still have to think of things and run things like a business, you have to invoice people. You have to keep track of you know, what you're earning, what you're spending their legal agreements and things before you start working with a new client. There's so much that goes into it. And yeah, I found that, you know, working full time or now what I'm doing like one thing, it's a lot less headspace. But obviously Everyone has their own preference to what they enjoy and all that. But yeah, so it sounds like you now work in front end development, right?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 19:15
That's right, yeah, I'm in a full time job. In a small company. It's quite, I guess it's quite bespoke in terms of what we do. So it's web GIS. So I'm the front end developer for all the web GIS applications that we produce. It's completely different. You know, when I apply for the role of singing, I don't know anything about mapping. I don't know anything about you know, longer tree last shoe projections, etc. So, it was a really steep learning curve for me, but I guess it's just worth development as a whole. You know, it's you just have to jump in. And you have to be really enthusiastic about learning new skills because it's forever changing. So it kind of for me, it was, it was hard, but, you know, I enjoyed learning something new.

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 19:58
Awesome. Well,

Laurence Bradford 19:59
We have take a quick break for our sponsor of this episode. But when we get back, we'll talk to you more about friend development and how you got your job today.

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Okay, great. We're back. So I was wondering, Phoebe, when you start applying to these new roles? Did your background in education and history in administration? Did that help you anyway? Like, were there any transferable skills that you were able to bring to these? Whether it was an interview or even your job today?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 21:47
Yeah, definitely. I mean, like, if you come from a different background, you know, don't forget that what you've done previously, you can take it over. I mean, in terms of things like communication skills, being able to kind of speak to different stakeholders, you know, because in the job that I was in, I would speak to lecturers, students, people from different departments, suppliers. And it really does make a difference, because I think there is a stereotype that people who are from the tech industry or from the tech sector can't communicate very well. I mean, that's a terrible stereotype. But it does actually help. I mean, that when I went for interviews, you know, I think it made a difference that I could have that kind of side of things in terms of communication, the communicating technical, technical terms in plain English, I think that's helped, for example. So when explaining things to clients, and not using so much jargon, I think it's helped coming from the background that I've come from, for example.

Laurence Bradford 22:45
Yeah. And when you were applying to these full time roles, were you like, how are you leveraging your past like full time experience working in higher education? With your freelancing experience? Did you kind of put both on the resume that you were sending in? or How did you position that?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 23:03
Yeah, I definitely put down at the top. So I would start with my latest experience, with the use of freelancing and the rest of my professional experience, I still list it, but it was less emphasis. And I would put more description in so the more technical things that I've done, so it's more applicable for the roles that I was applying for. But yeah, it's just about focusing your CV or your resume towards the job, and especially when it comes to the covering letter. And that's where you kind of want to explain how passionate you are about the job and what you do what you want to do and how you begin for that role.

Laurence Bradford 23:40
And when you started applying to different roles, were you at that point, just focusing on front end? Or were you applying to other kinds of roles beyond that?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 23:50
Yeah, I think for me, it was focusing on front end to begin with, because it was what I was aiming at the job that was aiming to get was in front of development, but I would have probably gone for a general web developer or any kind of junior role where they're willing to train up their candidate. So yeah, I was quite open in terms of the roles. But there were plenty of on the front end developer roles, to be honest. So I just focus on that first.

Laurence Bradford 24:17
Yeah, and I have to ask this, because this is a question that I also get asked a lot. And I know people are very curious about it. Okay, so the current role that you have, or your first one that the first full time role that you had after you started learning if it if it wasn't the one you're at today. Did you get that through like the traditional application process? Or was there any element of knowing someone who worked there who got you a foot in the door?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 24:45
No, I did there anyone from this particular company? I went through a traditional routes, I joined a couple of recruitment agencies, usually it was through applying for a job through like indeed, and Glassdoor, and it's usually out advertise via an agency anyway. So I was I end up signing up with this agencies and these recruitment agencies. And that's how I got the role that I got. And yeah, I kind of just did it through that way that I just took my CV. And then they said, yeah, we want to interview you. So I was quite surprised, because I think I'd only apply for about four jobs. And two of those offered interviews. So I was like, I was quite lucky.

Laurence Bradford 25:25
Yeah, that is like, amazing. odd. I was actually thinking to ask that next to like, how many interviews or how many jobs you applied for to ultimately get that one? Because I know for some people, it can be quite a lot before. Yeah, that's really impressive. Yeah, I

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 25:40
Was really surprised myself, because I had read all the, you know, several threads on Twitter and articles about how hard it is when it comes to actually finding your first role in tech. So I was prepared. I mean, I had made spreadsheets and ready to track and hassle people were there for if they had gotten back to me, but yeah, I think I just lucked out. I mean, that, you know, it could, they said that they had been looking for the right person for several months, and they haven't come across the right person. You know, I guess it's combination of timing luck. I mean, it just also depends. I mean, I know that some people apply for 100 roles before they even get their first job. But for me, I think it was probably not a conventional candidate. I've got experience in a whole field. But I think for them, they like that. And they like the fact that I was freelancing as well. So it's just depends, like so you know, it's a lot of time is just timing and tweaking your resume to make sure that it's grabbing the attention of the recruiter or the employer.

Laurence Bradford 26:44
Yeah, I was going to say I, you mentioned timing, you mentioned luck, which of course, you know, can can factor into these things. But it also sounds like you put a lot of time and effort into crafting the cover letter and the resume like, would you would you personalize them for each job you applied for?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 27:03
Yeah, I mean, it was usually quite generic with agencies, they would just ask for your CV, and then they will phone you up and have a chat with you. And then they kind of get to know you that way. And then they would recommend roles. But yeah, I mean, I was I wrote a few covering letters when I was applying. But yeah, I mean, it's, it's just one of those things where I think I put a lot of work into the CV before I even started applying, I got my husband to review it, I got another friend to review it to, you know, to make sure there's no spelling errors or anything, like improve on it. So it's just kind of like putting the work in initially, but I was ready to tweak it if I need to, to because I knew that one CV or one resume isn't gonna meet the needs of everything. So it's just about adapting and be willing to sort of change it whenever you need to do it. So yeah, I mean, in my situation, because I kind of got my job immediately. It's quite hard to say because I mean, like, you know, I know, people will probably want to hear how, how can I get this job and I got mine quite quickly. But I would say just making sure that you've got a good CV, making sure that it's no obvious things that spelling errors, make sure it's concise. Try fit it on one page, that makes a difference, because a lot of recruiters don't have time they prefer if it's all on one patient, if you can, just small things like that, really, and just kind of being I think I was interview ready as well. So I had been interviewing for my previous career. So I kind of got used to the process. And it's just I guess it was just small things that probably contributed towards me getting my first job in tech. But you know, I can't. It's just that, you know, I'm hoping that if people are listening that, you know, it is possible. And if you think that because you're too old, or you're going into it, and you've done something else for so many years, no one wants to employ you. I don't think that's necessarily true. And I think if you have enough motivation enough, well, you can't get that first roll. So I do think it's possible.

Laurence Bradford 28:59
Yeah, for sure. And like being hardworking, being organized, all of that isn't I know, it comes easier to some people than others. But it's something you can control. Right. And it sounds like going into it you were organized because you mentioned you had spreadsheets already set up to track all the jobs. You were going to be like applying or interviewing for which I did the same thing. By the way. This was kind of a while ago, at one point when I when I knew I wanted to like get a full time job and stop freelancing. I put together like almost like a funnel or something like how many I applied for interview like like how I moved in the process so I could track everything. I ended up getting a job though in like two weeks or something. So I never needed all of it. But that organization yeah really says a lot to like how someone just approaches the process of applying to jobs and not just kind of sending out random you know, resumes just to any job that comes online, but putting thought into it.

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 29:57
Yeah, and I think also what's really good to get feedback, so I had a whole other tab for like questions asked in interviews and feedback, what I can improve. And you know, I think sometimes it's quite hard to hear, you know, especially if you're quite sensitive, things that you can't improve. You don't necessarily want to hear criticism, but it helps you become a better interviewee. So I think that's probably a good tip is just make sure you get feedback from whatever job if you can't, if you don't, if you're not successful, because you need to learn what you did wrong, and how you can get better. So I always give that as a tip to someone that's applying, just get feedback whenever you can.

Laurence Bradford 30:38
Yeah, that is such a good point. And that just kind of reminded me of something back when I when I was working full time, and we would do lots of interviews. And you know, you obviously can't accept everyone, or you would interview people, and you have to kind of reject some and you know, hire one person. And I never had this happen to me. But there would be other like hiring managers, who would have like a candidate who was rejected, ultimately, maybe they had an interview or phone interview or whatever. And they would ask, I can't remember exactly how it always be worded. But they would say something like, I just want like the feedback like, Could you just tell me why I wasn't considered or why I didn't move to the next round? Or why wasn't ultimately the one given an offer for this position? And it is like a really bold question to ask. And I think it's also kind of bold, on the other end, getting getting that question and then navigating, how do I respond to this person, but I remember people I spoke to who had this kind of happen to them, they would say, Well, if the person is serious, and kind of like, bold enough to ask it, I'm going to be honest, and tell them exactly why. Because obviously, they really want to know, and hopefully they could take the feedback and use it to to, you know, improve their, whatever it may be to get to get the role that they are hoping to get. Yeah, I mean, I really liked that tip. And I don't think I've we've ever had anyone mentioned that on the show before. But yeah, that's a good one to collect that feedback from people. And the other thing I think about too, is every interview that you go on, even if you feel like your show under qualified or you're really nervous, and all of that it's practice, it's practice, right, so you're gonna get better the more that you do. So even if it doesn't end up landing to an actual job, and all of that, it's okay, because you're still crafting your interviewing skills.

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 32:28
Definitely, I would say that's a great tip. Because just so when you're applying for something, don't necessarily apply for your dream job, you apply for any job that said within the field that you want. Because you want to be able to practice anyway, to practice scope for those interviews. And the way you improves by doing more interviews, and it's just something that, you know, unless you have very natural interviews, I'm not myself, I have to do the practice, I have to sit there and do mock interviews with whoever unfortunately is up there. On the other hand, usually my husband, but it's just kind of running through that process, and you find that the more you do it you to actually get better at it. So it's one of those things where you have to practice. So yeah, definitely, I would say, go through that process. And combat, it's like a cyclical kind of process, you go for it, you get the feedback, you improve. And then you know, it's kind of iterative, like with coding. So I would say, you know, use that same principle, when you're applying for jobs, it says it is exactly the same principle. And eventually, through sheer numbers, hopefully, you will get that job at the end of it.

Laurence Bradford 33:32
Yeah. So he just talked about doing mock interviews and doing them with your husband, was there anything else that you did to prepare for interviews specifically?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 33:42
I mean, there's some really great resources online, about how to prepare for a front end developer kind of, or even, you know, whatever field you're looking at. So I was looking at a front end developer interview questions, and there's some generic questions. And and then there's some answers. I mean, of course, you know, you can't just say, worth worth and someone else's answers, but it gives you an idea of what they expect you to know. And it's a great way to sort of if you don't know it, go off and find out what the answer is. And then, you know, try not to understand it, prepare for it, and then have it kind of in one of your kind of interview bank questions. But yeah, you don't know what they're going to ask you. You don't know how, you know what kind of technical interview you are going to have. I mean, I was quite lucky. I didn't get whiteboard it, or I didn't have lots of technical questions that I had to answer. But I was ready for I had, like a list of things like, for example, in CSS, HTML, on JavaScript and know how things and like, you know, for example, closures and JavaScript understanding that and Okay, so I prepared kind of like questions and answers, just generally for any kind of web development within web development and the subject within web development. And also accessibility. That's one that you shouldn't forget as well. And I would have like spreadsheets. With different tabs and have like the various topics that possibly they could ask, but it's just kind of I treated it like revising for an exam. And I knew how to do that. So I use the same principle when it came to preparing for a job interview, and the possibilities of what they could ask me. But I would say also, don't get too bogged down with all the technical subjects. You know, don't forget that. One of the questions that I probably asked you is, tell me about yourself? What experience do you have apart from this job you're applying for you then? Because he knows Don't forget about all the general questions, not just the technical, but also about yourself. So when you're preparing interviews, usually want to know what you're like as a person, not just your technical knowledge.

Laurence Bradford 35:45
Yeah, I was I'm sort of chuckling because I'm thinking like, if you're in an interview, and the interviewer asks you, why do you want this job, you just draw a blank? Even if you did amazing on the technical portion, if you can't, like give a decent answer to why you want to work there, or why you're interested in the company or anything like that, that could be a bigger red flag, I think, depending on the interviewer then not doing great on the technical stuff. Yeah.

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 36:13
Yeah, yeah, I would say yeah, definitely, like, do your research on the company, because they might ask you anything about this company is like, No, but I know everything about JavaScript is like, you have to be well rounded. When you when you do prepare for any kind of interviews, not just, you know, don't just focus on coding and technical sides to just try and do everything and be any, they don't have all the time in the world, you just have to do as best you can, as well, so and the more knowledge you gain, the more compounds and you will find that it will get easier. But the first interviews hardest. And you feel like oh, I've done so badly. But you've probably learned a lot from that. So it is a process and it's quite scary. So don't beat yourself up if you find it really hard to get going. Because for me, it took me a long time to actually start to apply for a job, because I was very scared. But once you get going, you realize at the end of day, it's just people at the other end, and they just kind of want to get to know you and why you and you have to show why you want why you would be good at that job. And why you want it. So hopefully, if you're passionate will shine through.

Laurence Bradford 37:19
Yeah, yeah, great advice. So I'm switching gears a bit, because I really want to talk about this, we don't have so much time left. But nowadays, so I'm like fast forwarding a lot, because you obviously got you know, a role in friend development. Fast forward a bit. You do a lot of writing, you also do mentorship for people learning how to code right now. And I wanted to know how you started doing that.

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 37:45
Yeah, so I started blogging and writing more because I wanted to talk about parenting and learning how to code and those are the sorts of subjects that I was interested in. And I wanted to kind of just see if I can, if I can help a few other people through that process. For me, that was my goal, just to help other people because it was quite lonely learning from home with kids just at home and not on their own. And my husband worked away a lot. So for me just to have that kind of putting myself out there. You know, even though I'm quite introverted, so it was actually quite strange to do it. But I thought, well, if I've got to do something else with just go full hog. So I decided just to write about myself. And then later on, I started writing more technical guides and things that I've learned and I thought that are really hard. And I thought, well, if I find the heart, someone else is going to find it difficult as well. So I then I started writing more technical, sort of beginner how to guides. And it's just kind of gone from there really, I haven't written written anything recently, but it's just been so busy with the pandemic and having to homeschool. But then, in terms of the mentoring, I was approached by Andrew hedges from the colab lab, and he runs a nonprofit. And they mentor early career developers, they teach them collaboration skills, pair programming, how to basically is a project from start to finish eight weeks, you build a shopping app. And it kind of teaches you the softer skills of programming, because everyone that starts in the program has to have a certain level of skills. So you need to know, react and HTML, CSS and the basics before you even get on to the program. It's just to teach you how to collaborate and how to do code review. So it's, it's it's really fantastic because it's not necessarily the skills that you learn through platforms like freako camp Code Academy, because you learn things about how to use Git, GitHub, and how to do code reviews. And it's just a great way to kind of get a taste of what it's like to work on a software team. And yeah, it's fantastic. It's an eight week program, you know, and you get a mentor is more or less once one with a mentor. And so yeah, it was rewarding. I love doing it. And that was I did my first cohort just before Christmas last year.

Laurence Bradford 40:09
Nice. And I know the last year has been crazy with COVID. And as you said, just before homeschooling your kids, which I hadn't even, you know, we hadn't even touched upon. But obviously, that was a thing. I mean, for parents, I think, with school age children, in a lot of countries, they could, you know, relate to that. And even before the pandemic, everything shifted so much, though. I was wondering like, how do you decide how to allocate your time because you have family, you have work, and then you have this like other kind of area of helping others through like your writing or mentoring or something like that, which is I'm going to assume like all unpaid, right, so it's kind of like volunteer work. And it's Yeah, that's right. Yeah. It's all volunteer based. Yeah. And then Not to mention, of course, other aspects of your life outside of those things, family work, and then helping others in those ways. How do you kind of figure out like, what time you're going to put where and that you have enough bandwidth to do it?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 41:11
Yes, tough. It is tough. I think with the mentoring it got it had to be pushed back because I was approached before the pandemic really took off. So I was approached early last year. So in 2020, but then I had to delay it to September. And yeah, I mean, first of all, I have to prioritize my children, my family, next things, the job, and then any kind of volunteering activities and doing the writing or the mentoring. And yeah, it has been tough. I managed to fit in the mentoring when my kids finally went back to school in September. And then it was really lucky, I managed to get through that cohort. And then by January, the following year, we were in another lockdown. So I had homeschool for about three months. But when I'm homeschooling I pretty much focusing on work and homeschooling, so I can't take on any extra activities, which is why I mean, things do fall to the wayside. But you know, that's life, isn't it? So I haven't been able to write I've promised Quincy from free Coke, that I would write an article on design patterns, but I haven't been able to do it. But it's in the back somewhere, hopefully, sometime this year, I'll get it written. But yeah, it's just you know, you just have to do what you can. But the other day, we're human. It's only so many hours we can fit in a day. And my basic principles prioritize my family first. Awesome. Well, we're running

Laurence Bradford 42:37
at a time where we have to wrap up soon. There's one final question I want to ask though, which I think is a great piggyback off the last thing you said. And it's just any kind of advice that you have specifically for parents that are teaching themselves how to code and they don't have like a CS degree or anything like that. So they're teaching themselves.

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 42:58
I would say, one big advice is don't compare yourself to others, you're going to see once you join the world of Twitter, and you start researching into people who transition to the tech industry, is that, oh, I did it in six months, within three months, you know, I got this wonderful job at Google. Don't compare yourself, you know, take your time. If it's something that you do want to pursue, it will happen, you have to maintain the pace which is most suitable to your own circumstances. So for me, you know, I, some days, I would only learn for 15 minutes. And that was great. I learned as long as you know, more than you did yesterday. And you have that kind of consistency. And that in mind, then that's all that matters. So go at your own pace, find something that suits you. So for me, I use Free Code Camp, I didn't go to a boot camp or anything like that. But maybe a boot camp would be better structure for you. So you have to find whatever suits your learning style. And don't compare yourself to others. So I think that's probably the biggest tips I've got if you're starting out and make sure it fits around your children and your life circumstances. I love that. I

Laurence Bradford 44:04
Think that's amazing advice for everyone to remember. Don't compare yourself to others. super helpful. And thank you again, so much Phoebe for coming and talking with me today. Where can people find you online?

Phoebe Voong-Fadel 44:16
I'm on Twitter, so you can find me on there. I'm the my handle is at Phoebe v f. And I'm sure we can put a link somewhere because it's not the most easiest handle to remember. And yeah, so you can contact me through there. You can also send mediums if you're not too comfortable just kind of tweeting out in public. Awesome. Yes,

Laurence Bradford 44:35
We'll definitely include a link to that and anything else that was mentioned in the show notes page. Thank you again for coming on. You're welcome. Thanks for listening today. 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 and search for the guests in name. If you enjoyed this episode and are interested in learning how to code, there's no better time to start than right now. To help you out we have a free downloadable resource with our 10 learning strategies for new coders. It's perfect for beginners, no matter your experience or background, and you can download your free copy at learn to code It was great to have you with me on the Learn to Code With Me Podcast today. I'll see you next time.

Key Takeaways:

  • Being a stay-at-home parent can be a great chance to plan a career change. Use those 15-minute naptimes and early bedtimes to think, research, and train for the job you want when you reenter the workforce.
  • Go at your own pace and find resources that suit your learning style (for Phoebe, freeCodeCamp was a favorite). Take your time and don’t compare your journey to others.
  • When you’re moving to a new industry, take stock of your potential transferable skills from your background! Communication, writing, project management, etc. Highlight these in interviews along with the technical skills you’ve learned.
  • Speaking of interviews, look up common interview questions and do mock interviews with a friend, family member, or mentor. Also do your research on each company you interview for.

Beyond just using learn-to-code resources, consider seeking out a mentor who can give you more guidance about working in tech. Phoebe is a volunteer mentor at The Collab Lab!

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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