6 min read

Covid career change - from cruise ship cleaner to developer

Covid career change - from cruise ship cleaner to developer

Aldhair made a career change due to Covid. He became a web developer by learning to code with Scrimba, an online learning platform. Before, Aldhair was working as a cleaner on cruise ships. This interview tells you how Aldhair learned to code, his tips for self-taught web developers and how he got his first job. Enjoy!

Hey, so can you introduce yourself?

Hi, I’m Aldhair Escobar, I’m from Mexico and currently living in Veracruz, MX. Currently, I’m working as a Developer for Client Solutions at Scalero, My main duty is building HTML Email Templates for clients, apart from that there are some “inside” projects where I’m using Node JS and even Electron JS to try things out. The company is based on San Francisco so it’s a remote position and I’m loving it a lot. Previously, I have worked as a Tax advisor for almost 4 years, and as a cleaner at a cruise ship.

Why did you learn to code?

Well, as I said before, I was working as a Tax advisor and spending a lot of time and energy without getting paid enough so I decided to start learning English (You can see that I am still learning it), this language opened some doors so I submitted an application to Royal Caribbean International as a cleaner on a cruise ship (which got me a better salary than my last job).

The idea to work as a cleaner was to have some experience in that industry and improve my English skills, at the same time I was saving some money.

When I was on the ship, I applied to some jobs but they didn’t allow me to have an interview (you need a second contract in the company so you can apply to another position), and I was thinking on return to the ship and apply to a better position with a better salary and then COVID happened…

Fortunately while on the ship I thought about learning some new skills after finishing my contract (e.g English for business, code, or maybe to buy a franchise).

I decided to start learning to code because I was curious about it and had some business ideas that required it.

How did you start learning to code?

I started with some courses in my native language for around 1 month but I did not like them. I realized I was able to understand English resources so I began with FreeCodeCamp and did the first web development certification module, along with that I found an Udemy course called “The Complete Web Development Bootcamp” by Angela Yu ($10) and things started to make sense.

So if I can make a timeline could be like this:

April – FreeCodeCamp (Free), “The Complete Web Development Bootcamp” by Angela Yu ($10).

May – Full Academy Intro (Free), Full Academy prep (It was Free)

June – Continued with the courses above, building some projects. (I also tried some new courses that did not like)

July – Building projects in Frontendmentor, youtube video courses (JS, CSS), Started in Scrimba with a React Course (Free).

August – “Frontend Developer Career Path Scrimba ($19 Monthly), “21 Days Challenge “Conquering Responsive Layouts” by Kevin Powell (Free), Frontendmentor projects.

September – Responsive Web Design Bootcamp (Scrimba), Building projects for my portfolio.

October – UI Design Bootcamp (Scrimba), Building Projects and continuing with the Frontend Career Path (Scrimba).

November – FullStackOpen Part 0 and Part 1 (Free), (Finished Frontend Career Path), Started Practicing about Interviews (Scrimba has a module about it), Applied for jobs, I got an interview.

What made you decide to learn to code with Scrimba?

I was curious about the platform because of this option to modify the code directly on the screen and the mini browser so I decided to take the Learn React For Free course and I just loved it.

It is so interactive! They have amazing teachers! , you are writing code the whole course and that is something that I like about their courses, there are many challenges and repetition is the key! (And I love the “spaced repetition” system).

Apart from that, I like to hear someone explaining a concept and I like when they use images or diagrams to show something, so I realized that Scrimba was created for me 😀

What courses did you do with Scrimba?

I started with the Learn React For Free course, and then I decided to get the subscription because I wanted to take some Bootcamps and the Frontend Developer Career Path, so I paid $19 per month until finishing the Path.

The advantage is that you have access to everything with the subscription and maybe in the FrontendCareerPath there’s a module that is also part of a Bootcamp so then you can finish the Bootcamp and get the individual certificate while you continue with the “main” (FrontendCareerPath) course.

I loved the Path because they are putting together all the things that are going to help you to get hired.

With Scrimba I learned a lot of JavaScript and CSS and also improved my  ReactJS knowledge, the challenges and projects helped me to build my projects that I was going to use in my portfolio.

How did you get your first entry level developer job?

I always had this idea to have my GitHub profile with everything I was building, together with a “nice” CV because you know… without any experience or degree, you need to show something…

For that reason, I had my GitHub profile with almost every project I was building, a CV, and a simple portfolio website and started applying for jobs that I was interested in; I sent four applications and then got the opportunity to have an interview from one of those submissions.

Scrimba has a module dedicated to interviews and some challenges about it so it helped me with my confidence.

I was nervous because I was so interested to get the job in that company and I got some questions like “What did you learn in that course (Frontend Developer Career Path - Scrimba)?” “Why did you change careers?” Why did you go to the ship (my last job)? “The best characteristic a leader can have...” The best attitude of an employee”, Am I willing to relocate?”.

After that interview, I had three more interviews (same company), did a test (Wonscore), and built a small project with HTML, CSS and Jinja Template Engine (I learned a little bit of python to get this done).

So after 812 hours of learning and this interview process I got an offer!!

What does a typical day as a software developer look like for you?

My main duty is building Email Templates, so I get my ticket with its handoff and I start building the template with old HTML and CSS, apart from that, for instance, last week I was testing some stuff with Selenium WebDriver and Selenium IDE, and this week I am building a small desktop app with ElectronJS.

So it depends on the day, if there are a lot of templates or not then I do something else. I love what I am doing and everything is better than I was expecting.

Do you have tips for people who want to learn to code without doing a degree?

If I needed to start again, I would do things slightly different, for instance, I would start with 2 weeks of watching a lot of YouTube videos about web development, frontend, backend, stacks, languages, and also some videos that gave you the “roadmap” and all that kind of things.

After that, you will know what you don’t know and what you want to do, maybe you want to build websites or desktop apps, so you will see exactly the language that you need to learn.

Then, the most important thing, in my opinion, is to learn how you like to acquire information. Do you prefer books, video or audio? Or just the exercises without video or audio like FreeCodeCamp? It’s really important to know this because you need to search for resources that will work for you (because you prefer it).

I realized I was spending time on some resources that I didn’t like a lot so that was the main reason I decided to test Scrimba (and it worked!!)

Only with those first steps, you are going to save you a lot of time so now you can focus on the resources that you chose.

Always build stuff, it’s going to be a disaster, It won’t look good and that’s great! You can always return and fix it 😉.

I encourage you to use a “Pomodoro app” (I used “forest”) so you can keep track of your journey and see how much time you are spending, this is going to help you to push yourself and gives you extra motivation.

What are your career goals for the future?

The idea is to get familiar with my new job, this is my first time working remotely, in tech, in a startup so it is taking time, and after a few months I want to return to build personal projects, I have some ideas and maybe I will try to build a SaaS product. In short, I want to get used to working in this field and keep pushing myself.

Thanks for the interview! (And to Scrimba for sponsoring)