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From Washing Dishes to Managing Engineers: How Jesse Weigel Pivoted into a New Tech Career (S8E4)

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Jesse Weigel pivoted into a new tech career under a unique combination of circumstances – a growing family, a curiosity for coding, and a friend with a job opportunity. 

Even without any formal training in coding, Jesse decided to take a programming job offered by a friend. By teaching himself through free resources online, he was able to pull it off. As he continued to learn more and more – even participating in freeCodeCamp’s early live streams – he built the confidence he needed to book clients as a freelancer. With more experience under his belt, he eventually got his first full-time job in tech! 

Now, Jesse is a head of engineering at Tabela, a Christian networking startup, as well as a live coder for the freeCodeCamp YouTube channel. In this episode, Jesse talks about what his life was like when he first learned to code, how he landed his first few jobs in tech, how he found clients as a freelancer, and what he does today.

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 how a former restaurant worker went through lots of odd jobs and eventually became the head of engineering for a social networking startup. But first, a quick word about this season's wonderful sponsor.

Laurence Bradford 0:36
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And we're back. In today's episode I talked with Jesse Weigel. Jesse is a head of engineering at tabela, a Christian social networking startup, as well as a live coder for the Free Code Camp YouTube channel. He lives in Steubenville, Ohio, right near Pittsburgh. The reason why I reached out to Jesse is because his career path is incredible. He went from washing dishes at a restaurant to becoming a software engineer with lots of twists and turns and other odd jobs along the way. And that's what we're going to be talking about today, how Jesse made the transition from the food and service industry to the tech industry. We chat a lot about what his life was like early on when he first began learning how to code. We also spend significant time talking about his first few jobs in tech, how he found clients as a freelancer, and what he learned from all these different roles that he found himself in, then we get into what Jesse is doing today in his full time job where he manages others. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to subscribe to the podcast on whichever podcast player you're listening on. Alright, enjoy the interview.

Laurence Bradford 2:33
Hey, Jesse, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Jesse Weigel 2:36
Oh, you're welcome. Thanks for having me.

Laurence Bradford 2:38
So I'm really excited to talk to you because you and your wife are the first husband and wife duo I've ever interviewed. Now. I spoke to your wife about a year ago. She's also a self taught coder, which I think is really awesome. And I'm really glad to have this new milestone to have a married couple on two different times. But to self taught coders it's really great.

Jesse Weigel 3:03
Yeah, it's it's awesome to have her be into coding as well. We can talk to each other about work issues and understand each other. That's been really cool.

Laurence Bradford 3:13
Yeah. So I think that's a perfect segue into just talking about your story and how you started coding.

Jesse Weigel 3:20
All right, yeah. So I've always been interested in electronics. Growing up, I didn't really have a computer or access to the internet until I was a teenager. But then at that point, I was fascinated by it, I would frequently break my parents computer and then rush to try to figure out how to fix it before they found out about it. And so that's how I first got into just learning more about computers and how they worked in high school. I did some basic HTML and CSS in in Notepad. So I had a class where we did typed everything out in Notepad on Microsoft Windows. And it was very basic. I think I made a website about the movie, the matrix, because that came out around that time, and I was very into the matrix. And I didn't really do do much with programming. I went to college, and I took a basic programming class. And I actually, I think it was c++. Yeah, so I did a c++ class. And I remember building a calculator, and I liked it, but I didn't go on with it. My degree was actually in business. So I just, I didn't do much with programming. I had a couple of different various jobs that had nothing to do with programming manager at a restaurant waiter. I actually taught at a high school I taught theology and Latin at a high school. And after a few years of that, I realized my family started to grow and I said, You know what, I really can't support my family on this salary. I need to find something else. And I got together with a friend of mine from high school, who had a media marketing company and needed someone to work and First, I started ghostwriting blogs, and quickly realized that they needed a programmer. And if I taught myself how to do the work, I could pick up more hours and make some more money. So it was partially out of curiosity that I knew I liked that type of work, and then partially just out of need that I had a wife and we had two children, and I needed to pay the bills. So my friend was awesome, and said, Hey, if you can figure out how to do this, I'll pay you to do it. So it takes some time and figure it out and do it. And that's how I went. And so I taught myself through free resources, just increasingly complex tasks. So at first, it was just very basic, like changing CSS styles, I did a lot of WordPress work, which some of the work if you're not familiar with WordPress is a content management system. And you could do a lot with what we would call today, no code or low code. But I found out a little bit more about JavaScript in those early days. And it seemed really difficult at the time, but I realized that's where it's at. That's where the magic happens is with JavaScript. So anytime I had a chance to get into JavaScript, I wouldn't around that time is when Free Code Camp first came out. And that was an amazing resource for me, I got a chance to volunteer with Free Code Camp at later on down the road in my in my story, which was kind of amazing, because that was a resource that helped me out a lot. At some point, I gained the confidence to get clients on my own. And I was freelancing for a while. And I did enough work and built up enough resume to get my first programming job. So this was maybe about two or three years after first starting to code for money, that I was able to get my first full time programming job at a small university. And that's I feel like when I, when I felt like I was really starting to become a programmer, before that, I was not very confident in my skills at all. Because when you're on your own, and you don't know any other programmers, there's always this doubt, like, Am I doing this? Right? I don't know. So I mean, you'd watch other programmers on YouTube. And usually, it's rehearsed on YouTube. So it always seemed like everyone was better than me. Now looking back on it, I think, Well, yeah, you could do as many takes as you want, and just put out the finished product on YouTube. But at the time, I was very intimidated. So I guess I didn't know what it was called at the time. But I guess we would call that imposter syndrome, where you just doubt your own skills and think people are paying me to do this, but I don't really know what I'm doing. But that was, I guess, kind of the the brief version of my journey to being a full time programmer. Now. After that, I got increasingly more senior roles. So I got more into JavaScript. And when react started getting big, I realized like, hey, React is pretty cool. I have a need to learn how to do that. And I've been in the React system, React ecosystem for, I'd say about five years now.

Laurence Bradford 8:14
Oh, wow. So I probably should have asked this earlier. But or to start, what year was it then when you first start learning and I know you had like a lawn and kind of windy journey, but I'm talking about like, when you first started, even through that ghost writing blog that you did, and you started to code a bit.

Jesse Weigel 8:33
So that would have been, so my, my second child would have been still pretty young. So I'm guessing that's around 2012 when I first like, took the leap and quit my full time job to pursue what became a coding career.

Laurence Bradford 8:49
Okay, cool. 2012. And then you mentioned Free Code Camp when it first came out. Do you remember what year that was?

Jesse Weigel 8:55
Oh, gosh, I don't remember that year it was after. So I didn't find them right away. But I remember early on they, they had a live stream on New Year's Eve. And I remember being on my exercise bike at my house and the kids were asleep and my life is asleep. And I'm staying up late to watch the Free Code Camp live stream on New Year's Eve. That's how what kind of excited I was about it that I wasn't at a party and I wasn't watching the ball drop. I was watching this Free Code Camp live stream on New Year's Eve. And I had the opportunity to do my own New Year's Eve live stream at some point as well, because I was inspired by that Free Code Camp live stream.

Laurence Bradford 9:39
Yeah, when you mentioned that I feel like I vaguely remember seeing that because I started learning. Oh, gosh. I think it was 2013 because I started learning to code with me about a year later and that was in 2014. But I don't remember when I first came across Free Code Camp actually. It wasn't that Early on, though, cuz I know where I was learning Initially, I wasn't Free Code Camp. But then I do remember relatively early on maybe like 2015, or something coming across Free Code Camp, but I guess it was already established to some degree at that point. Anyhow, I feel like I do vaguely remember that. But okay, so it sounds like for a few years, you were doing different kinds of like smaller freelance roles. And that was with a friend, right?

Jesse Weigel 10:25
Yeah, that was with a friend, my friend Zach. And he was a few years younger than me in school. But his brother was in the same grade as me. And I spent a lot a lot of time at his house, we used to hook up our computers and have land parties and play video games together. So we were all pretty close. And, yeah, it was just, it was really good luck. Just a chance encounter my my dad, actually, who knew I was looking for work, saw him at a wedding. And mentioned to him that I was looking for work. And Zack mentioned to my dad, hey, I've got this company, Here's my card, tell Jesse to call me. And through that I got back in touch with him, which I hadn't talked to him for a few years. And yeah, and he started me out. And this was, this is gonna sound a little embarrassing, because of what programmers make now. But I started out at $10 an hour. But this was ghost writing for blogs, and this was, you know, back in around 2012. But he said, I'm going to start you at $10 an hour, because I started everybody at $10 an hour, but every few months we're going to meet in, you're gonna get a raise every I think it was quarterly. And he actually he stuck with that he was true to his word. And he stuck with that. And I took him on harder and harder projects. So it ended up really helping me out in a tough situation I was I was very close to accepting a job, actually, I got offered the job to work stacking boxes at a Walmart distribution center. And I had to make the decision like, Am I going to continue with this coding job? That wasn't much of anything at the time? Or am I going to take this job at a Walmart distribution center, which did come with benefits. But I would have been kept, you know, I would have been working there. And long hours working through the night most times and my life would have been very different if I had taken that job. But I really, I believed in I guess my ability to to learn and to do this. So it was a tough decision I had people were were really strongly encouraging me to say, Hey, you know, you got a family, you got to think about stability for them, you got to take this job. And I almost took it, I went through all the tests, I even had to do a drug test and everything for this job. And then at the last minute, I said, No, I'm sorry, I'm gonna turn the offer down. And that that put me on the path and like I was determined, I have to make this work. You don't have to make coding work.

Laurence Bradford 13:01
Yeah, wow, that's, um, yeah, I can't imagine being in a situation like that. And it's funny when you say $10 an hour, because when I my first tech job that I had, and while you can see me exam video on but for the listeners, I'm using air quotes, because my first you know, quote, unquote, tech job was basically being an assistant to a web developer who was building an e commerce site for a local business in my area at the time, I was living in Pennsylvania, which is where I grew up. And I would go there every day for like, four or five hours a day and just do a lot of really mundane work. And I was making $15 an hour at the time. And I was relatively fresh out of college, I knew it wasn't very much money, but I was just really excited to like have an opportunity to start freelancing because I knew that once I sort of had one project under my belt, I could move on to you know, more things, I could use that as like an example on my resume or portfolio or whatever, to get another job and get another job and then slowly start to earn more over time. So I feel like there's no shame and you know, starting at a really low hourly rate, even though I know so many things online, it's like, you know, 5080 $100 an hour. But a lot of those people they don't start there, right, like they have to get there. They get there overtime, unless if they're senior right. So yeah, anyway, thank you for sharing. I think that's like really great when you were working with your friend that was that like more than 40 hours a week, how many hours were you doing?

Jesse Weigel 14:37
So my my billable hours, the hours actually got paid for vary widely based on what clients that we had at the time and how much work we had from those clients. So there were some months where once a week I would go to at the time he lived in the same or he lived close enough that I could go to his Place, and we would pull all nighters. And we would work on code and help each other. He had like two offices set up in his apartment, he was single and had the space that his apartment was set up very nicely for, basically, for an office setting. And I would learn a lot during those overnight sessions of coding. But then there were other times when we didn't have that much work. And I would fill up a lot of my time with with learning. And then I started to think, maybe I could do this on my own and get my own clients, and kind of even have to work. But to be totally honest, like to the, to the world, I projected this confidence, like, Hey, I'm doing this computer stuff. And it's going what really well, but internally, I was always the first few years, I was always nervous, because I, I never knew if I would have hours from month to month, or how much I would make. And I shouldn't say my wife was also working at the time. So she worked as a professor at a local university. And she also took a part time job doing event planning at that university, which was more of a seasonal job, some some months out of the year, it would be very intensive. And I would do less work. And then someone's had a year, there wasn't much to do, and I would try to do more work. I know it was frustrating for her when I didn't have work. And I was spending all my time learning. It was hard for her to understand. I think she understands a lot better now that she's in the industry, how important that was. But it was it was tough for us during that that period of me freelancing, we had our third child. So it was, it was tough. It wasn't like, I think sometimes like you, you said, you see all these well paying coding jobs. And you think, you know, it's almost like easy mode, you learn how to code, you get a great job and in your set. But when you're first starting out, that's that's not really how it is it until you get some experience. It's not easy mode, it's not really set that there's a clear path to take. So I don't regret the decision to enter this industry. I'm very happy with where I ended up. But it was tough at first, and a lot of a lot of self doubt.

Laurence Bradford 17:17
Yeah, having inconsistent work can be really difficult, especially when it's not just you, it's you and your family. And do you have four kids now? Or is it or is it three, we have four now? Okay, I remember because as I said at the start, I spoke to your wife last season, we'll link to her episode in the show notes page. So folks can go back and check that out if they like. And I remember her talking about that. But yeah, I can definitely see how that would be a an uncertain or kind of uneasy situation. And out of curiosity, how long were you to married, like when this was going on? So when the work was inconsistent when she was working the full time job, the part time job, and then your work would really Evan flow?

Jesse Weigel 18:02
Yeah, so we were married in 2007. And this, this all started around 2012. So, you know, we were still, I would say babies at marriage, right? You know, we'd only been married a few years. And we were new parents as well. So it was it was stressful. It was stressful. And I really, I really appreciate my wife being there. For me during those times when we didn't have a lot like we didn't go. We actually her parents paid for us to go on vacation quite a few years in this early years. Because, you know, we had enough money to pay our bills. And that was about it.

Laurence Bradford 18:42
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But as you said, Now, you and your wife are both working in tech. It's just, you know, part of part of your journey, and you're somewhere else now. And I'm sure heading a lot of new places in the future. But thank you for sharing some of that. The things you know, early on. So, okay, so previously, though, before you were working with your friend and having these fluctuating work schedules where you could work a lot or work a little, you primarily worked in like the restaurant service industry, I believe, was that Yeah. Was there anything from that industry specifically that helped you when you started working in tech?

Jesse Weigel 19:18
Yeah, so I think I learned a lot of what we call soft skills, or I would say people skills from working in the restaurant industry. So I worked at various positions. And so I was a dishwasher. At one point, I was an assistant manager, a bartender, a server. So I did, except for cooking. I did pretty much all the jobs you can do in a restaurant. And I learned that it's not enough just to do a job sometimes. But when you do a job and you help the people around you feel good about their experience. That's really where it's at in the restaurant industry. It's not really that Hard to take in order for food, like you're allowed to write it down. So it's pretty, the mechanics of it are pretty easy. You write down when someone tells you and then you take that back and enter it into a computer or hand it off to the kitchen. What the key is, is that you try to help the people that come in to the restaurant, I at least, I always tried to help them feel a little bit better about about themselves and about their experience than when they came in. Like if I could leave them feeling better when they leave them. When they first came in, I thought that that was a success. So taking that into coding, especially when I was freelancing, and working directly with clients, it wasn't enough just to say, all right, I can get this done, and be kind of gruff about it. But really try to help the clients business be better try to help them to understand why we're doing this, why it's important to have a web presence, or I was doing some search engine optimization work at the time, try to explain to them, why is this important for your business. And I spent a lot of time talking on the phone, most of my clients were remote, I did have some in person meetings with clients, but making sure that they felt good about what was going on, and really making sure that you took responsibility. So you know, when when you make a mistake, and a restaurant, you apologize, and you make it right, you say, you know, hey, we're, we're gonna, this one's on us, this is on the house, you know, I'm gonna pay for this, if I mess this up or do something. And that really helped. There was one situation where this was probably the worst mistake I ever made. In my my coding journey, I was changing some DNS records. And I accidentally took down the email service for a business for like three days. So no one in the business could send or receive emails in this was a big, like, home renovation business in near New York City. And I told the client, you know, I'm sorry, I made a mistake, I will pay, they actually called someone else to fix the problem. At first, they called their previous tech person, because they didn't realize I was a new tech person. And I said, Listen, I'll pay the bill, whatever it is, I'll pay the bill, you know, I'll do what I can to make this right. And I was super nervous about it. But that, that's what I felt was right. That's what I had been instilled in me that, you know, Hey, you got to take care of your customer. And thankfully, because of that, the woman who owned the business said, you know, like, we're not going to mention it. Again, it's all fixed. And I kept on working for her and actually got several new clients referred to me through her. So my biggest mistake actually became something that kind of bonded us closer in our business relationship. And I feel like I got that from the service industry, from the restaurant industry of the people that come into your restaurant or not, it's not an adversarial relationship, it's a relationship where you, you want them to feel good about the services that you're getting. And, you know, sometimes that means you got to take a loss to make them happy. And so I think that that helped me, and you deal with a lot of negativity in that industry as well. Sometimes people just aren't in a good mood when they come in. And you have to deal with that and still smile and be happy about it. So that kind of, maybe toughen me up a little bit, to deal with rejection and negativity, and not to let that get me Get me down.

Laurence Bradford 23:30
Oh, yeah, I worked briefly in high school as a hostess at a few different places. So you know, greeting the customer and seeing them. And yes, I know firsthand that it could be difficult, especially if someone comes in there, and they're not in a great mood. And you have to kind of navigate that. So yeah, totally understand, I totally get where you're coming from. I'm excited to talk more about freelancing and getting your first client but we're going to take a quick break to hear from our episode sponsor, we'll be back in a second.

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Laurence Bradford 25:17
Alright, and we're back. So Jesse, how did you then go about getting your first client? Like, where did you find them? Because that is what people ask all the time who wanted freelance whether full time or part time, where and how do I get a client.

Jesse Weigel 25:33
This is very difficult, especially if your focus is on learning how to code, that skill set that helps you code isn't necessarily the same skill set that will help you get clients, especially early on. So I looked on the freelance websites. So I think Freelancer is one of the sites I was on, I went on, was it Angie's List or something, something like that. So basically, every freelance website I could find, I made an account on there. And I started doing work and some of the work was very low pay, but you have to build up a reputation on these sites. I made sure I put it out there to everyone I knew friends family, that I was, I was looking for clients. And I have to be honest, the best clients were through word of mouth. So I built up, aside from a few jobs here and there that I got through freelancing websites. My best jobs were came from one of my students, when I taught high school. She was in college at the time, and her boyfriend was a bodybuilder who wanted a website. I did that website, his friend had a startup, who also needed a website, I did that website. That friend, his parents had a business, they needed a website worked on. And then through that business, I also got some other clients. So it's weird how everybody was connected, it was all personal connections, and you did, you know, a good job with one. And that led to another and another and another, which I feel like that's, that goes back to making sure your clients are happy, right, and not to burn bridges. Because not all of those jobs are easy. Some of them were very difficult. Some clients are more demanding than others. But always making sure to not lose my temper, when frustrations came up, kind of led me to getting more and more clients. And each client that I got it was a bigger client, it was more money more work. So that that's really how I got the work in. Like putting myself out there, you have to put yourself out there to the people that you know first, which is tough, because you don't have a lot of confidence at first. And sometimes you have to take jobs that that aren't that good. And you make mistakes. I remember I shook shook a man's hand at a restaurant once and said, I can do this for $200. And I ended up putting so much work, I told a man that I could do an e-commerce website for $200. And had to work through payment integration and set up and putting in, you know, so many products into this website. And I had never done it before. But that ended up being a great relationship. We still follow each other on social media, you know, that client and mine and I'm sure I could probably reach out to that person if I really needed to and said you need anything done. And I'm sure they would try to help me out. But I and that's again, there's even when I realized that that was going to take longer, I shook that man's hand and told him it would be that price. So I stuck with that price. But that was one more site that now I could say I've successfully launched an e-commerce website, which is a big deal. So sometimes you have to do things like that just to build up your resume.

Laurence Bradford 29:03
Yeah, I was I was going to ask if you actually went back to him and said you had to do a price adjustment. But you sort of answered the question. You said you didn't you finish the site with that $200 budget, but again, every like, mistake or misstep, you know, that we take along the way we can learn from and then in the future, you knew if you were ever going to an e commerce website, you fully understood all the work involved in the things to think through that could impact the price. But yeah, when you're first starting out, it is so hard to know how long something will take and how much work is required. It's like almost impossible or really impossible, actually, until you do it. And then you figure it out and you're like okay, wait a second. This is actually a lot harder than you know than I thought. And I love though like what you said at the start of like the last response you just gave about how code the coding skill set, and like the getting a client skill set. They don't really overlap. They're kind of like two very Different things. And even if you're using a site like the freelancer.com, or the Upwork, or what have you, you still have to be able to, like, communicate to people and apply for jobs and all of that. And that's a separate skill in itself.

Jesse Weigel 30:15
Yeah, for sure. And I would say I'm, I still think that I'm not great at finding clients yet, like I've done it before. But I'd say that's probably, it's a weird feeling to try to sell your own skills to someone else. And I guess, when you're interviewing for jobs, that's kind of what you're doing, as well. So I would say it's a skill you need to have whether you want to freelance or whether you're going to interview for your job, you need to be comfortable with being honest about your skills. And that's not really the time for humility, right? Um, I like humility. And if you watch, I do a YouTube show, and everybody knows that I'm pretty humble. And I show my mistakes, because I do a live a live stream, and there's a lot of mistakes on there. But when you're actually with the client, you need to have confidence, not not a false confidence, you know, don't don't lie about your skills. But after you've been at it for a while, you kind of realize that even if you don't exactly know how to do something, you know, you can figure it out. Once you work through so many problems. You kind of get a feeling that wow, this seems overwhelming now. But I know once I break down this problem and work through it step by step, I'm gonna, I'm gonna figure out how to do it.

Laurence Bradford 31:31
Yeah, of course. And as you said, not having a false confidence. I think that's a really good thing for people to take away to always have integrity, you know, not to lie or to mislead people. Because if you do that, even perhaps unintentionally, it could really backfire in the future. And as you said earlier, one of your biggest mistakes freelancing with the DNS mail server situation and ended up bringing you two closer together, and you just told the person what happened. explain the situation. And even though I'm sure that was really scary, and hard, and ended up working out, kind of like for the better, it sounds like I mean, it brought you guys closer together.

Jesse Weigel 32:07
Mm hmm. Yeah. And it was, when I say it was hard. I know, when I realized what happened, my wife had just made dinner, and my wife and the kids were all at the dinner table. So I left the computer. And I went up, and I had dinner and Irish shaking, I was physically shaking, because I realized how bad it was what had just happened. And that was probably the most anxious and scared that I had ever been at any job. And let alone coding. But I got through it. It's experience, I can look back on now and say, when things get bad, I can think back on that and think, alright, that worked out. You know, I can get through this.

Laurence Bradford 32:53
Yeah, he turned that situation around. And I can only imagine how difficult that would be. I mean, I remember I took out, unintentionally, just my mom's email because I had like her website, and I moved something over and I didn't realize the mail was separate, because it was through G Suite and blah, blah, blah, but her mail went down. And she's, you know, it's my mom, but she's calling me like, I can't send emails. I'm like, oh, gosh, I have to get on the phone with like, you know, these different people to figure out what's going on, like the Google support, because I had no idea anyway, that was that was kind of stressful. So I can't imagine for an actual client like that would be really difficult. But as you said it, you know it, you move past it. And now you have that also as a point of comparison in any other difficult situation, which is great. So nowadays, though, in 2021, are you still freelancing at all or no, you're just working full time? Yeah,

Jesse Weigel 33:45
so I'm working full time. Occasionally, I take a freelance client, if if it's, so my role is usually it has to be a project that I'm just so passionate about, or they're just willing to give me so much money, I can't turn it down. So those are my criteria now, because any additional work I do that's time away from my family. So it has to be something that I think this is a sacrifice now that will help my family in the long run, like maybe this Christmas will be better for you know, for my kids, because I'll have a little extra money to spend on presence or, you know, maybe for vacation this year, we can order food every day and you know, something like that. So that those are the terms that I think now when I think about taking on a freelance client, but my main focus is on my my full time job.

Laurence Bradford 34:34
Yeah, and that that makes a ton of sense. You have to weigh the right the pros and the cons and the trade offs and, and all that. So with your full time job, though, when I know you said this in the beginning, like the chronological kind of order of things, but it's if I recall, it was a few years after you were freelancing that you got your first full time job, what made you want to stop freelancing full time to do a full time developer position.

Jesse Weigel 35:00
Yeah, so we had three children. And not knowing how much I would make month to month was very stressful, it was stressful for my wife, it was stressful for me, just to not have that steady income. And then not having benefits was also stressful. There were times like to be 100% honest, I wasn't making enough money we were on government assistance at times for we live in Ohio. There's some great programs, especially for the children for them to get medical care. But like, for me, I didn't go to the dentist for probably five years, right. It's just like, that's not something that happened. I didn't go to the doctor's, right. Luckily, I had no major issues. But I knew I couldn't continue like that forever. I wasn't really saving anything for retirement. So I thought I need to find something that has benefits. And something that's steady, you know, I was willing to give up some of my freedom, and kind of kept my earnings and go for something a little bit more steady. Luckily, there are a job had opened up at a university that was it would have been a 10 minute commute for me. So it was it was very close, it was the same university my wife was teaching at, I got that job, the job wasn't supposed to be about coding coding would have only been a small part of it. But once I got in there and started working, and they realized what my skill set was, I was able to kind of turn the job into a full time I would have called it like a front end developer position. That wasn't really my title at the time. Like, I actually can't remember what my title was, you wouldn't have thought I was a programmer based on my title. But it was a front end developer job. Through that I was able to learn a lot, they were willing to help me pay for training, I went to my first tech conference with that job. I started to learn react when I was there, I started my YouTube channel, which led to me doing live streaming for Free Code Camp YouTube channel. At that point, I was able, I got invited to speak at conferences, and I was really able to grow my network. through there, I found my next job, which ended up being a senior software engineer at Dick's Sporting Goods. And that was that was when I really started to feel like a real programmer, because I had multiple job offers at once and was able to pick the job that I wanted, I actually had a few companies bidding a little bit higher for me, which made me feel awesome. Like, wow, people really want me. They want me to work. And so I worked at Dick's Sporting Goods for about a year and a half. And then someone approached me about a startup. And we met quite a few times. I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to go into that startup life. But I liked the idea for the startup. And I said, Well, I still need to be able to support my family. If you can raise enough money that we know that I can, I can still support my family, then then, you know, talk to me. And they went out and raised capital from venture capital funders. And they got back to me and said, Hey, we can secure your salary, would you like to come work for us? So I did. So now I'm at a startup called Tabella. And I'm head of engineering for Tabella, and I have a team of engineers, we're fully remote work from all over the globe. And it's exciting, it's different work, because now I'm into management as well as is coding, which is, it's very different to be on the management side. Because sometimes your your work day is filled with talking to people, and you don't feel productive. Coming from being full time coding, you felt productive when you wrote code. And now I've had to shift my thought process to say if one of my engineers is having a rough day, and I spend, you know, an hour on a video chat with him talking about their issues. That's productive, right. That's, that's my job. So it's definitely been a shift for me. But it's been it's interesting, it's good. I'm still I'm kind of torn between the two worlds of coding and managing. I'm not sure which way my career is gonna go at this point. It's kind of an interesting time for me.

Laurence Bradford 39:26
Yeah, that's like, that's really cool. The other thing I was thinking when you were talking because you're mentioning the difference between like being an individual contributor, right, versus a manager, and now you're managing engineers, and it's just a different frame of thought, but simply transitioning from a company like Dick's Sporting Goods, which I don't know why people work there. 1000s and that I don't ton of people work there to go into a startup that's like a night and day change as well.

Jesse Weigel 39:52
Yeah, so Dick's Sporting Goods. I worked at their headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and they had at headquarters, some between two and 3000 people in that building. So it was it was significant. My team had eight engineers on it, as well as the designer, QA person, an engineering manager. And that was just one team of many, many teams, there were teams that just worked on one section of one page of their website. So when I was there, we were actually building a new new software to run on all the cash registers. So it was it was exciting. It was a Greenfield project. When I came in, I was able to pick the front end tech stack, which we used React Native running on Windows, which was exciting. And it's still kind of I don't want to say experimental, but at the time, it just came out that that was, that was a thing that was possible to build with react, build a Windows app with React Native. So that was a I had a great time there. I learned so much about proper programming procedures. And like test driven development, pair programming, I got a lot of experience working with people who had been engineer, an engineer for, like 20 years, and had been in the industry. So I actually I loved it there. It was a great experience. It really took a lot to get me to leave there. And I still, if anybody from my team at DSG ends up listening to this shout out to to everyone at DSG. That was a great, great learning experience for me.

Laurence Bradford 41:25
Well, that's awesome that you had such a good, yeah, great, great experience there. How long have you been working at the startup now?

Jesse Weigel 41:31
I've been there. About a year now. We've been here about a year, we were building a social network, and it's launched, it's in the App Store. Specifically, it's a social network for churches. So that's, I didn't really realize it so much until I talked with the founder, that it's really an underserved community, not only in this country, but especially in a lot of countries. There's really no no apps for that. So we actually have a large presence in the Philippines right now. There's nothing like this in the Philippines, we have a large presence in the Spanish speaking world. Most of the people that work there are bilingual, English and Spanish, we actually have quite a few engineers from Brazil as well. So I feel at a disadvantage because I only speak English. But I'm trying to brush up on my Brazilian Portuguese as much as I can to help interacting with, with my engineers. But it was a challenge for me. So it was it was an area that I could see was in need. And also a big challenge, like building a social network is, is difficult. So it felt like this is something where I can really expand my skill set, not only as a manager, but also as a programmer to be able to solve problems that I had never saw before and at a scale that I had never worked at before.

Laurence Bradford 42:54
Yeah, that's really interesting. So are your customers churches then so like a church will sign up and they're congregants or whatever the proper term is, will join, like through the app on that specific church.

Jesse Weigel 43:08
So right now, the the app is free for anyone to join. No one has to pay anything, the churches don't have to pay anything. But normally a church will have a paper, they call it a bulletin. And on the backside of the paper bulletin, there will be local businesses who sponsor advertisements on that bulletin. And the people that go to the church, they say, Hey, you know what, I want to support this business because they support my, my church. So our business model is around taking those same local businesses that will currently advertise on a piece of the back of a piece of paper, which some people may not ever even see. And we want to get them on our app to advertise. So when you go on the app, you won't be hit with a lot of advertisements for things that you may or may not want. For companies that you don't know anything about. What you'll see is advertisements for people in your local community, people that you know that you may see a church. And I feel like that's something that's not necessarily being done definitely not by your big social, social media networks. And it keeps things kind of local, especially after you know, everything happened with a Coronavirus. We felt like this could really be beneficial to people who are used to having some sort of in person community and now that's kind of been taken away from them. They're still a way to connect. It's still a way for people to feel, you know, there was a time that the church may have been the center of a lot of activity. So a lot of social activity and community outreach, a lot of charity outreach. And back when you could you walk to your local parish, that made sense, but now people are so spread out, you may drive a while to get to your parish, you don't have that same sense of community. We want to try to bring that back so that there is somewhere where people can go and reach out help people We're in need, help their communities and do that in a safe environment. We're very big on this being an app where your children could be on this app with and not have to worry about objectionable content. So we're very proactive about moderation. Normally, if you go to an app, something bad might get into the app, and it needs to be reported first, before they take it down. We want to be more proactive about moderation so that something would never get in, and you would have to appeal to get it in. And that might mean that, hey, maybe you post an image of let's let's just say, for instance, Jesus on the cross, right, that picture would mostly you have him shirtless, Will our you know, automated detection might look at that and say, That's objectionable material. And you might have to appeal that. And obviously, we say, okay, you can let that in your church, you can have a picture of Jesus your church, right. But that's kind of our that might be a little bit of an extreme example, but that's kind of our philosophy on that is we want this to be a safe place. And we want it to be a positive environment. So much of social media, you go on there, and you feel worse after you look at it, than before. We would like for this to be a place where you feel better after coming there.

Laurence Bradford 46:16
Yeah, definitely. And yeah, when you were when you're talking about just the pandemic and Coronavirus, and obviously, like everything shut down, including churches and people would be going there in person all the time. That definitely makes a ton of sense why this would be even more in need or more in demand than ever before. When people are they're not even going there in person perhaps anymore. Maybe now they are because you know, some things are reopening. But yeah, that's, that's really interesting. So we're actually running out of time. But I wanted to know, at your current company, how many people are on the engineering team total?

Jesse Weigel 46:52
Yeah, so we're still small. So we have, we have three full time engineers, we're actually hopefully bringing on a fourth engineer very soon. Just had an interview last week. And we're actually five counting myself. So five full time engineers is still a small team. And we have a designer or founder, we have someone full time working on community outreach. And then we have some part time people working. So we have someone in the Philippines working on site. And we're going to try to get some interns as well, to help us out with you know, we're really focused on the local community. So we really would love to have as many people in the local communities as possible, you know, potentially working in some sort of affiliate capacity.

Laurence Bradford 47:39
Yeah, so it's like 10 people maybe give or take, like summer part time, but Yep, still pretty small. Yeah, well, that's soap. I mean, that's, that's really awesome. And I feel like, I know, when I used to work at a startup, I was about, like, the 15th person. It was in person, you know, it wasn't remote. But that was such a special time. Like, I look really like when I look back on that time, I remember very fondly. And I loved working at the company when it was that small that actually made me realize I really like, well, now I just work by myself. So it's really small. It's just me, but it made me really learn a lot about myself and kind of my work preferences. And yeah, I was like, I really like the small close knit environment. So anyhow, yeah, I feel like that sounds like a great size of a company. So okay, we have to wrap things up. But is there any final advice that you could just leave to listeners who are learning to code right now, and maybe they're in a situation that you were, you know, back in 2012 2013, where things just feel like they're moving really slow, and maybe not where they want to be, and they're lacking confidence.

Jesse Weigel 48:47
I would say, number one, you can do it. Believe in yourself. That may sound a little cheesy, but you definitely will face things that seem insurmountable. But keep going do a little bit at a time, and you'll gain more confidence, and then you'll be able to take on something a little bigger than next time. This is a great industry to be in. It's an opportunity that's life changing. I didn't necessarily get in this just for the money. But to be honest, I've been I've been able to provide for my family in a way that I never thought possible. had I gone, let's say a safer route, more traditional route, you know, we would have been fine. But now, you know, I was able to provide to move my family into a bigger house, a better neighborhood, safer neighborhood, you know, that this is potentially life changing. It's worth the work. And I would say a lot of people have come through have felt those feelings of not being enough of not being able to do this and I say you you can definitely do this. My background. I don't have an engineering degree that wasn't my background. And you know, I was able to Do this I realized that I probably have some privilege that helped me that you may or may not have if you're listening to this, but you you have value you have because of who you are as an individual you have value to this industry. And there is going to be a company that is going to recognize that value and want to pay you good money to be there and to do good work so, so keep at it.

Laurence Bradford 50:27
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Jesse again for coming on. Where can people find you online?

Jesse Weigel 50:31
Right, so I'm most active probably on my my YouTube channel. And I'm also on Twitter. JesseRWeigel on Twitter. I'm on Instagram as well, Jesse.Weigel on Instagram. And, you know, join me, join me for a live stream sometime and feel free to ask me any questions that you have. Send me a DM on Twitter or something. I'm happy to answer any questions that anybody has, whether you're just starting out or you've been in the industry for a while. I love helping people gain confidence and learn how to code. So yeah, feel free to reach out.

Laurence Bradford 51:09
Awesome. Okay, thank you again. You're welcome. I hope you enjoyed today's episode. If you've missed anything, or would like a recap, you can find the show notes at learntocodewith.me/podcast. 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 with.me. Thanks so much for tuning in. And I'll see you next time.

Key Takeaways:

  • If you’re watching tutorials on YouTube or other platforms, remember that they’re all rehearsed. So don’t worry or feel intimidated that everyone is “better than you.” They’re just more practiced.
  • Getting a career in coding isn’t typically lucrative at the beginning. Jesse started at $10 an hour, but he was able to work his way up.
  • Your current non-tech job could help your transition to tech. Jesse’s experience in the restaurant industry translated into other skills when he moved into a coding job.
  • As you grow into leadership positions, you might take on more work that’s not as tech-related. For example, some of Jesse’s days as a manager are spent talking to people.
  • Your mistakes now can help you in the future. The lessons you’ve picked up and an attitude of owning up to those mistakes are critical to your growth.

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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