Lydia Hallie grabbed my attention a couple of years ago with her article on Medium about already being a professional web developer aged 19 years old. She was obviously doing great a year out of high school as she was already getting job offers despite having no formal work experience with a company. I chatted to her about her drive to learn programming without a Computer Science degree, her advice for newbie coders and her aims for the future.
Many thanks for the interview! So can you give an introduction for people who want to know more about you?
How did you originally get into coding? What resources did you use?
I read that you completed a bootcamp in the US. How did that help your learning compared to learning on your own?
Yes! I am a very quick learner and am very motivated just by myself. I didn’t really need to go to a coding bootcamp to learn how to code, however I felt like having a certificate would help my credibility, since I was only 19 years old and genuinely interested in starting my programming career. I felt like it would be difficult to prove my professionalism and genuine passion if I didn’t have a certificate. To be honest, this was probably not entirely true since I’ve never been asked to show my certificate (I just showed projects I built), but I’m still glad I went to a coding bootcamp just for the experience.
I know you have some notes you took while learning for sale on Gumroad. Any more planned soon?
Haha, maybe! I always feel bad charging money for the stuff I make. I know that this isn’t smart from a business perspective, haha, but I just genuinely want to help people by sharing the stuff I know. It just takes so much time to write them and I am already making free resources all the time, so unfortunately I have to do it. There are just so many things I want to do, but so little time!
I saw on Twitter you teach your mom to code! How is she getting on with programming?
Haha, yes, it’s adorable. I introduced her to React and showed her how easy it is to build a website with it without too much prior knowledge. She still calls it magic, or says “can you really understand all of that?” when I’m sitting in front of a monitor filled with code editors and terminals. But it’s definitely nice to show her that coding isn’t this magical, scary thing, but it’s actually much easier than many people think.
What advice do you have for someone who is learning coding but finds it overwhelming?
That feeling of being overwhelmed won’t go away, get used to it, haha. Try to find out what’s overwhelming you, and break it down into smaller steps. For me, it often helps to have a clear goal: let’s say I’m working on a side-project that’s a simple chat app. I’d research all the technologies I’d need in order to build this, then research what I actually need to do with these technologies in order to get my final product.
By building something at the same time, you’re far more motivated to both do your research a lot better, but you’ll also understand the concepts much faster. Watching courses is often just lame and you won’t remember that much, but by actively working with it yourself, you’re really making it your own and you’re far more likely to actually understand and remember how it works.
Do you prefer to work from home or do you ever use cafes or co-working spaces?
From home, 1000%. I absolutely can’t work in co-working spaces. Actually my favorite place to work is in a Starbucks (or any other cafe), in a quiet corner with my screen facing the wall and wearing my noise cancelling headphones, haha. I still want to be around people to not be entirely alone, I just don’t want to interact with them. Unfortunately, I really can’t work in an office, which is a bit annoying but I really can’t focus. I also can’t work office hours, I mainly work during the night and early mornings. Not great if you work in co-working spaces, haha.
Babel! I actually use Typescript most of the time so then I just use the Typescript compiler.
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Was it easy or hard to pick up remote work initially as a developer?
Super easy. During my school time I always worked hard from home and I just feel so much better when I’m in my own comfortable environment. I can think so much clearer when I don’t feel anyone look at my screen and I can just wear my comfy clothes haha. Having my own food/snacks around and being able to just go for a walk or run outside whenever I want has improved my productivity so much. Yeah offices really aren’t my thing.
I know you work some crazy 60 hour weeks. Any productivity tips for people?
Just remind yourself what you’re working towards. Know why you’re working so hard, and how your goal will impact your life. To be extremely honest, my mindset is not healthy. I tend to neglect myself and other things in my life as I’m just working and studying all the time, I’m still struggling to find a healthy work/life balance. But at the moment working so much gives me the happiness, motivation and fulfillment that I need in life. Working hard makes me happier, and once you notice that working hard pays off, it starts to become an addiction. However, it’s not sustainable.
You’ve already achieved so much and you are only 21. What are your big dreams for the future?
Haha, I never look so far ahead. I don’t even know where I’ll live in 2 months and probably won’t start planning that until like one week before I have to move out again. I just do whatever feels best at the time, and I know that I can always trust myself to make the best decisions. I would love to work on products that focus on reducing climate change since I worry about that a lot. Generally, I just hope I can keep on working with amazing, inspiring and smart people, and work on products that I always think are way too complex for me to understand, to keep on challenging myself haha!
Finally, there seems to be confusion about where you are from. Your insta story says you are Dutch and not Swedish like people think. What’s up with that?
Lol, yes. I think this is because many people know me from my Medium article which I wrote when I lived in Stockholm. I am Dutch, born and raised, but I often travelled around even as a teen. I like the country (and the tech scene is great) but there are way too many people and it’s way too crowded. I moved to Sweden after finishing high school, so I lived there for a couple of years. I speak/understand Swedish and all that, but I’m not Swedish, I’m Dutch 😀