Episode 134: How to start a career in computer programming – with Emily Hill of Joy of Coding Academy

You may be considering starting a career in computer programming and software development.  But how do you start?  What are the benefits of joining a coding bootcamp?  How do you know which bootcamp is the best one?  What job might you get at the end of it?  And who is a career in computer programming suited for anyway?

In this episode, software engineer trainer Emily Hill explains why she’s leaving her position as a tenured professor to start a business teaching people how to code, what it takes to get into computer programming, and how she plans to use her business to build a better work-life balance.

Today’s guest

Emily Hill of Joy of Coding Academy

Website: Emily Hill and 6 Figure Software Developer Masterclass

Email: hello@joyofcoding.academy

Dr Emily Hill is a software engineering trainer, educator, and mother of four (soon to be five) kiddos.  After struggling to learn how to code while earning three CS degrees, Emily has been on a mission to make it easier to master the art of programming and become a six figure software developer.

Emily has taught problem solving and coding skills to college students for over 10 years as a tenured professor, and she realised she could teach the same skills faster and more effectively outside of the university.  Due to this Emily founded the Joy of Coding Academy, where she helps problem solvers realise their dreams of becoming six figure developers.  Her top students have landed six figure developer jobs at Amazon, Chase, and tech startups.

As the primary wage earner in her home, Emily has grappled with balancing career and family life.  Ultimately, she realised that every parent is the co-CEO of their family, and as she learned how to create her business, she began learning how to create systems that supported the well-being and nurturing the highest potential of every member of her home, both parents and children.  There is still clutter and tasks left undone, but she finds she has more time for her business and quality time with her family with four children than she had with two.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [1:40] What Joy of Coding Academy teaches and who it’s for.
  • [3:20] How Emily found her passion for computer science.
  • [05:05] The mindset you need to understand programming.
  • [07:55] How to develop your mindset.
  • [09:00] The benefits of spending time in academia.
  • [10:29] The disconnect between the computer science taught in college and what is needed in computer science jobs.
  • [12:29] The way computer programming jobs have shifted away from requiring degrees.
  • [13:55] Why Emily started the Joy of Coding Academy.
  • [16:50] How starting your own business can help create a better work life balance.
  • [19:13] Benefits of starting your own business and how to find a model that works for you.
  • [21:05] The challenges of starting your own business.
  • [22:50] Different limiting beliefs that might be holding you back.
  • [23:40] How to know when it’s time to take your side gig full-time.
  • [27:00] How colleagues may react to you leaving your job.
  • [28:45] How a quality product can cut through a saturated market.
  • [31:20] How to assess if a bootcamp is right for you.
  • [35:20] The importance of having the right skill set when looking for remote work.
  • [37:10] The type of people that will succeed in a programming career.
  • [38:50] What you need to know if you want to become a computer programmer.
  • [39:30] How Emily hopes to grow her business in the future.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 134: How to start a career in computer programming - with Emily Hill of Joy of Coding Academy

Jeremy Cline 0:00
One of the things you don't need if you're thinking of starting a business is an original idea. If you've ever looked at what's already on offer and thought, 'I could do better than that', then there you go, you've got an idea for a business. That's what my guest this week did. And if you've ever thought about a career in computer programming and coding, make sure you listen to the end of this interview, because we've got some great tips for the things that you need to think about. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:44
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. How often do you look at something and think, 'Wow, I could do a better job than that.' And when you have that thought, how often do you then put it into practice? It was having that thought that led my guest this week to start her own business. Having spent years as a student and then a member of a college computer science faculty, Emily Hill realised that what was being taught didn't match the skills employers were looking for. As a result, Emily founded the Joy of Coding Academy, through which she teaches computer programming and systemic software development. Emily, welcome to the podcast.

Emily Hill 1:27
Thank you, Jeremy, so much for having me. Glad to be here.

Jeremy Cline 1:31
So, what is the Joy of Academy, sorry, what is the Joy of Coding Academy, and who is it for?

Emily Hill 1:37
Yeah, thank you so much for that introduction. So, the Joy of Coding Academy is a bootcamp style academy that I have created to help train software developers. It's grounded in my understanding of curriculum, as you mentioned, having been the director of a computer science programme at a university, I used to have this two-and-a-half-year-long course sequence to get students from zero to hero. And now, I took the best bits of it, threw out what you don't need, threw out the administrative overhead with exams and things like that, and now, I've condensed it into a six-month programme, so students can come in. It's designed for problem solvers who want to become six-figure software developers, and they can get in and out within six months and start getting those job offers.

Jeremy Cline 2:20
So, when you say problem solvers, is this anyone who can solve problems? Or does it need to be someone who has this sort of technical IT bent?

Emily Hill 2:31
Oh, such a great question. Obviously, people that already are interested in technology are going to be a great fit and hit the ground running. But I've worked with students that have no technical experience prior to entering the Joy of Coding Academy. That's one of the things I specialise in, in contrast to some of the other bootcamps and university programmes that are out there, because I worked with hundreds of students, I was teaching at small liberal arts, this is something that's big in the US, I don't know worldwide, if that understanding, but it's a general education school. It's not like an engineering school. And so, I would get art majors, music majors, theatre majors, physics and math majors too, and they'd all be together, and we'd all be learning. And so, my materials and the approach I use, I know it meets the needs of many different types of learners. So, it's really for anyone.

Jeremy Cline 3:16
What got you into computer science and coding in the first place?

Emily Hill 3:20
Ah, so I really enjoyed computers from a young age, I was in preschool in the early 80s, which was really before the internet revolution. So, it was really unusual for me at that time for a child to be into computers and be interacting with them. But my mom was a software project manager, actually, at Bell Labs, and so, she always made sure technology was in the house. And so, I was exposed to it at a very, very young age, and I was always kind of interested in it. And then, eventually, I was on the cusp of going to college, ah, computer science, or maybe I should do music, I loved to sing, and I'm classically trained in opera, I just love that, but my brother who's 11 years older than me, he got a degree in music, and his first job was in computers anyways. So, I was like, 'Eh, let me just skip the music degree, keep it as a hobby, and go into computer science instead.'

Jeremy Cline 4:10
And what did you think you'd be doing when you started?

Emily Hill 4:12
Oh, that's a good question. Well, I knew I didn't really want to sit in a windowless box programming, which, of course, is what I did in grad school when I did it, but I was always motivated to try and have an impact and change the world in some way. And if you think about it, software, I mean, think of how many times you use a device in a day, and how software, the software on your phone and on your computer, starts to design your life, like we design, our lives are based on the weather app, or our email, or the internet. And so, the question is, who is designing that software? And so, that has been a really important part of my journey of what are we creating, why are we creating it, and making sure that we can create it at a high level of quality, so that it really benefits all of mankind.

Jeremy Cline 4:57
When we spoke to arrange this interview, you mentioned, I think, having been a student for 10 years before becoming a faculty member. Did you plan on being a student for so long?

Emily Hill 5:08
No, not at all. Partly, that was because I found learning how to programme very challenging, even though I was ostensibly doing everything that society directs us to to learn something. I tried learning in high school, basically referred to the kid in front of me, and he helped me through, I had no idea what I was doing. He kind of helped me, I took in a little bit of it. So, let me go to college, let me get a computer science degree, a Bachelor's of Science, and see if that helps. No, it didn't. I got all this theory, but I didn't know how to apply it in practice. And so, then I was like, 'Well, okay, more school must be the answer.' Right? Clearly, it's been working so well so far. So, I went to graduate school. And I did finally learn while I was in my master's programme, but it wasn't because my instructors taught me. Once I hit graduate school, they just had higher expectations of capabilities that I didn't have. So, really, I kind of just missed the boat there. And so, eventually, I was at this point where it's this pressure cooker, where it was either do or die, it was either learn how to programme or fail out of grad school. And I was way more afraid of failing, so I finally figured it out. But once I did, once it clicked for me, I was so frustrated with how that process had gone. I was like, 'It doesn't need to be this hard.' And so, from that point on, my attention shifted, and I was really passionate about, okay, how do we make this simple and easy for anybody to learn, because it didn't need to be as hard and long of a journey as it took me.

Jeremy Cline 6:36
So, what was it you did that enabled you to get to that point where it all clicks?

Emily Hill 6:41
Such a good question. So, actually, there's a couple of foundational elements that you want to have in place, like the alphabet, right? We can't learn to read and write until we know the alphabet. So, there is this basic alphabet of programming. But beyond that, it's actually a mindset shift, where you actually get comfortable with not knowing the answer. Because as a programmer, technology is constantly changing, right? The software we use today looks very different from the software we used six months or a year or two years ago. So, the problems are always changing, the technology is always changing, as programmers and software developers, we're always constantly in a position of not knowing the answer, of not having the solution. But the mindset shift is having confidence in a process and a strategy that you can use to solve any problems. So, you're constantly being thrown into situations where you don't know the answer, but you're calm in those situations, rather than getting stressed out and flustered. So, that was like the mindset shift that I had to go through. I needed enough base knowledge, that alphabet, and I needed that strategy for problem solving. But once I had it, it was all about having the confidence in myself that I could do it, and I can solve the problem.

Jeremy Cline 7:51
How did you learn that mindset?

Emily Hill 7:53
How did I learn that mindset? That's a great question. For me, it was a pressure cooker of an assignment after an assignment that I couldn't do. In fact, one of them, I went to my instructor who gave me the assignment, and I said, 'Can you please help me? I'm having trouble doing this.' And he couldn't help me, he gave me a pity B. In the US, we grade on a scale from A to F, and so, B is like second highest. So, he gave me a pity B, because he couldn't help me. So, the instructor that gave me the programming assignment couldn't actually help me solve his own programming assignment. So, eventually, I had enough knowledge of what was happening behind the scenes that I was able to develop the strategy to solve any kind of problem. I picked it up from an apprenticeship, from a student who kind of knew how to debug a little bit and knew some things. I picked it up from another student, I just kept asking questions. And eventually, I put it together. But that's a really long and winding path, and so, what I try to do is shorten that experience for students. And I have a very, very well-worn path that's much, much condensed that gets you to that point with a series of activities.

Jeremy Cline 8:56
What was it that kept you in academia once you stopped being a student?

Emily Hill 9:00
Hmm, well, first off, I was really passionate about helping others learn to code more easily. And I really was passionate about trying to improve the system that hadn't worked for me. So, I was getting my master's, but to become a professor on the other side, you have to have your PhD. So, in part, it was safe, it was easy, I was there already, and also, because I wanted to get that job as a professor and learn to teach coding to others, so that I can hopefully make it better. In the long run, though, I found that computer science and programming are not the same, and when I eventually became a professor, it took me just as long to learn how to teach programming as it took me to learn how to programme, and I eventually realised I was really giving my students two degrees, one in computer science, one in programming and software engineering, and it was just really challenging for both of us, which is why I ultimately decided to walk away from academia and address the problems from outside, rather than trying to fix it from within.

Jeremy Cline 10:03
You've mentioned how the way that the subject was taught didn't seem to make things easy. And you also mentioned, when we spoke previously, about this disconnect between what was being taught and what employers actually wanted. How did you identify that disconnect in the first place?

Emily Hill 10:25
Ooh, that's a good question. How did I identify the disconnect? Well, mostly, it was about expectations. And what I was seeing, both in my experience as a student, as a computer science student, and on the other side as a professor, because once you get in that position of leadership and authority, and being in a position to craft a computer science curriculum and work with other faculty, it really, really came out. So, I went into computer science wanting to learn how to programme, because I knew that's what I'd be asked to do on the job. That's what the jobs were for. But when I got in there, that wasn't what I was taught. And in fact, once I became a professor, I recognised and understood that there's really a disconnect between expectations, that computer science is not programming. Programming is a tool that we can use to study computer science. But most faculty do not believe it's their responsibility to teach their students how to code. Whereas most students come in expecting to gain this skill in the course of their studies. So, you have this disconnect between colleges, university programmes, and what students are expecting. And so, then, that's where things start to diverge. In fact, what most people don't realise is that computer science was invented before the computer was. Right? So, it's part of the, it helps you understand computer science. And to be honest, personally, I always found my deepest insights into theoretical computer science came from coding it and programming it, from doing it, but it's not actually what's taught at the university level.

Jeremy Cline 11:58
This is a branding, marketing expectation management question. And I'm just thinking back to my law degree, which was the academic study of law. It does not train you how to be a lawyer, not by any stretch of the imagination. It's an undergraduate degree, it's very academic, it certainly trains your mind in a particular way, but it does not teach you how to be a lawyer. Is that kind of the same situation with computer science degrees?

Emily Hill 12:29
I think so, a little bit. And I think, once colleges and universities became synonymous with jobs, that was kind of the beginning of the end, because universities have historically been a place where we learn how to think and broaden our thinking, not necessarily specifically for a particular job. And the other thing, and this is partially from employers, historically, employers required computer science degrees for their software developer positions, because that was the closest the academia could come to preparing them and training them. But in fact, in 2018, this is partly what inspired me to start looking outside of universities, in 2018, an article was published, the top three tech companies in the US no longer required degrees, because they were admitting that, for years, they've been hiring computer science graduates who didn't have the skills they were looking for, which has given rise to all these boot camps. And now, it's really, really challenging to get these tech jobs, because industry doesn't completely understand what it's looking for, and the students who are trying to get the jobs don't know how to showcase their talents. And so, now, it's become basically passing an exam to get some of these tech jobs. So, it's just kind of shifting where is the assessment of the skills happening, whereas really, I think the conversation needs to shift around what are those essential skills that people need to be successful in industry.

Jeremy Cline 13:52
So, why did you decide to start to do something about this?

Emily Hill 13:56
Because I believe that to have the awesomest software in the world, and really to kind of keep growing as a society, we need everybody at the table. Anyone who wants to be able to create software, I want them to be able to get there. And I think this is too important and too powerful to be left in the hands of those that just intuitively can figure it out on their own. And so, that's why I kind of look back, and I look at all the amazing projects I've gotten to help contribute to, as in my role as an educator, and it's just awesome. Like, it's so cool. I get to be part of all these amazing opportunities, they're doing mobile apps or doing web apps, they're changing lives, they're creating this infrastructure that can potentially help millions of people. And so, that really fires me up and gets me up in the morning.

Jeremy Cline 14:41
And so, why the Joy of Coding Academy?

Emily Hill 14:44
Because I want there to be a place where people can actually learn how to solve problems using programming. And I think that that is missing right now, both at the college and university level, and in boot camps. Some of my students actually are from boot camps, they still didn't have an awesome experience, some do, you know, I can't say it all of them, some may have an awesome experience. But for those that it doesn't come super easy, that the self-taught route isn't feasible, they want that guidance, that hand holding and the mentorship on what their career will look like, or you even want a custom solution, for example, one of the things I offer that's different from the traditional university and boot camp structure is customisation. So, if a student comes in, and they want a particular niche type of job, like biomedical coding, we create a path for that. And so, I'm able, because I focus on the fundamentals, and you just apply them to a particular domain, I can support a much wider variety of projects than the average programme can do.

Jeremy Cline 15:43
I happen to think, this might be a contrarian point of view, that coming up with an idea for a business isn't necessarily that difficult. You've just got to look for a particular problem and a particular challenge, and figure out what you can do to solve that problem or challenge. The success of a business relies on how that solution is executed. And part of that is that the person who's doing the execution, it's right for them. So, you know, I identified about a year ago that there was an opportunity to do something in the podcast space, sort of offering a transcription service, unlike what was being offered at the moment. And I started to do it. But then I realised this just isn't for me, it doesn't suit me. So, what was it that made starting the Joy of Coding Academy right for you?

Emily Hill 16:43
Oh, this is such a good question. And I loved how we're transitioning a little bit towards that whole work-life balance thing, which I'm also super, super passionate about. And that was it. Right? It was the work-life balance. I was university professor, I had a tonne of job security, you don't get more job security than tenure. But I also had no upward income movement. My university, and in general, higher education is in a fight for its life. The biggies like Oxford and Harvard, MIT, they're not going anywhere. But some of the medium level tier places, the herd is thinning. And so, my university hadn't given raises to the faculty for about 15 years, I think maybe one, they had one raise in 15 years. So, there's no income movement there, my family is growing, I have four children, one more on the way. So, you know, our needs are growing, we live in a very expensive area outside of New York City, which is where my husband and I were both born and raised. So, my children get to see their grandparents daily, it's such a cool opportunity, it's very unusual. So, I really want to make that happen for them. But on the flip side, so I had this great job, that ideally, could be fewer hours per week than the traditional nine-to-five, so that was great. But I didn't treat it that way, because I'm so passionate about it, I just kept giving and giving and giving, and eventually, I had nothing left. And so, I started looking is there something different, is there something that gives me a better balance of my time and actually has income growth potential, right? I could become a software developer or a software engineering trainer for a company and get paid tonnes of money that way. But then, I'm still at the beck and call of somebody else's schedule and training programme. And I really wanted to have ownership over my own thing. That's one thing I really liked about being the programme director of computer science, was getting to craft the path that was the most successful, because I'm really driven by success and student success and student outcomes, which is a little bit unusual, that's not always the case. And so, because of that, I wanted the freedom to create my own experience, both for me and my family, our quality of life, and for the student experience that they were coming into. So, it was free to guarantee results in whatever way made sense. I work with students until they get the job, until they get the result. And it's not a job that I say they want. It's the job they come to me saying, 'I want this job', and we go after it, or this type of job, and we go after that. So, it can be much more student-focused and have that freedom.

Jeremy Cline 19:08
So, what was your vision when you started?

Emily Hill 19:11
What was my vision when I started? Working an ideal number of hours for me, having a flexible schedule, to still work with students all the time, give them everything I have, but do it in a way that I'm not overburdening myself and burning myself out all the time, like I was in my day job, and having that growth potential to really take our quality of life to the next level.

Jeremy Cline 19:36
And were you already aware that this sort of structure online courses, that that was a thing, or was this something that you kind of had to look out and go out and investigate and see what was out there that was going to tickle these boxes for you?

Emily Hill 19:51
Yeah, so I started actually on this journey back in 2018. I knew I wanted to create something like this. In fact, I actually pitched it to my university, I pitched the business plan, that would bring in within four years two million dollars to university, fully fund computer science, give us all lucrative salaries. They declined, which is their choice. And so, just once I saw it, I couldn't not do it. Now, it's totally morphed and changed and evolved, because in a university system, it's going to look different when you have a physical brick and mortar setup than when you do it completely online. One of the things that gave me a lot of ideas for the form of the Joy of Coding Academy that it's taken on is because, to learn how to launch a business, I took courses like this, to teach me the business side of things. Because although I knew the technical side, and I've worked with students and helped them get six-figure jobs for 10 years, I didn't know how to get my own students in the door, how to connect with people, how to create a business, and all those inner workings. And so, the model is partially based on some of the other programmes that I've taken to learn that business side of things.

Jeremy Cline 20:53
I'm sure that starting a business like this isn't all rainbows and unicorns. So, can you talk to some of the challenges that you have faced along the way?

Emily Hill 21:04
Absolutely. So, I think, for me, I mean, most of the barriers for the business have been within, right? They've been mindset, things we've been talking about. And some of the same lessons I learned wen I was learning how to programme still apply to business, I just didn't get it. It took me, I needed to see the lesson again, and get it there, being comfortable not knowing, being comfortable with uncertainty, those lessons still apply equally well here, having the confidence to move forward even when there's a lot of uncertainty around, that still happened. I think, for me, one of the biggest hurdles, and this is one of the things I think that has inadvertently kept me in academia for a long time, because between being a student and being a professor, I've been in academia for 20 years, it's really easy to hide in academia. And so, in terms of executive function, just getting up and executing on a to-do list, and not getting overwhelmed, those kinds of challenges are really easy to hide in academia. Because, you know, if you get grading done one day or the next day, it doesn't matter, right? You just need it done by the end of the semester. So, it kind of promotes this feast and famine kind of workload, rather than like a well-balanced workload life. And I think hiding has been part of it. So, the big challenge, for me, in starting business is getting out there, doing things like this, talking to others, sharing my story, sharing what I'm building, what I'm creating, and letting people know that it's here. I think, for me, that has been one of the bigger challenges, even though I have tonnes of experience getting in front of a crowd and getting in front of a room, just, you know, getting my vision out there and learning ways to do that, I think has been probably one of the biggest challenges I faced.

Jeremy Cline 22:44
So, what would you say were the biggest limiting beliefs that you had to overcome?

Emily Hill 22:49
Probably that I'm not good enough to do whatever it is. And I think, to be honest, that was the limiting belief from learning how to programme as well. And it's just kind of the same way, that I am good enough, I can do this, I've done it. Even though I have all these testimonials, I have all this data, still the inner imposter comes out, it hits everybody, right? It hits all of us. So, learning to just turn that off, let that go, and recognise my own worth in the world, I think, has been part of the journey for me.

Jeremy Cline 23:19
So, as I understand it, you're just about to quit the job and go full time with the academy. Can you talk a bit about the thought process there? So, why go full time, why not keep it as a side gig, why now is the right time?

Emily Hill 23:35
Yes. So, these are all really great questions. So, I have struggled with work-life balance for a long time. As a professor, I had the opportunity to take a sabbatical. And for those of you that don't know what a sabbatical is, it basically means I get paid to not teach for a semester, ostensibly to do research, although my research programme was so advanced, I didn't really need to do very much, a couple hours over the whole semester took care of things for me. So, I thought, for sure, I would figure out this whole work-life balance thing. I didn't have any work, I was getting paid a really nice salary for a semester, for a few months, where I got to really focus. And it was still a huge struggle. And at the end of that experience, I was like, 'I don't know how I can go back.' And actually, I tried, I didn't quite get far enough, but I tried to leave and walk away with no safety net. I threw up my hands, I was like, 'I'm throwing in the towel, I can't figure this out right now. I want to spend time with my kids, I don't know how to align being the professional working woman I want to be with the mom I want to be. How do I do this?' Ultimately, I was convinced by my university and my husband, because I'm the primary wage earner in the home, we both work, but we definitely need my salary to pay bills, and so I stayed with it. But that was basically the genesis, I was like, 'I have to find something else, I have to do something else.' So, when it came time to walk away, I've been thinking about this for two years and laying the groundwork for two years. I've proved the concept we have, about a dozen students in the door, it's starting to become successful and really take off, it's not yet at the level where it's replacing my income, it's getting there, it's not quite there yet. But in November, I decided I really needed to commit to walking away or not, because I wasn't doing anyone any favours. In the academic world, to help hire the next person to replace me, my university needs to know a year in advance that that's happening. I'm trying to be kind to the university that I helped create this programme and start this, and I'm trying to do this in as kind a way as possible. So, I let them know, we happen to be hiring anyways, so that was good. So, I got some lead time to make my decision. But I ultimately realised in November, just a few months ago, that I was really solving a bigger problem, that it wasn't just about software engineering education, but about helping people get tech jobs, and solving that issue both for industry and for aspiring developers. And I realised that, by working on that problem outside of the university, I was helping solve it for my students in the university, but I can also potentially help change that industry more broadly. And so, once I realised that I'd have a bigger impact not in my university, it made it a no-brainer, even though I wasn't quite sure yet, I don't have everything figured out yet in the business quite, I'm still working on that, but it became a no-brainer that I had to walk away and go all in on this, because it was just too important. Every day, I hear about industry people who are like, 'Ah, we can't hire good quality people, we can't hire qualified people, we can't find them.' And then, I hear all these students, they can't find jobs. And I see the solution. And I just couldn't sit back on the sidelines anymore and let it happen. Because since 2018, when I first recognised the problem, it has only gotten worse. So, I felt I really had to enter the ring more seriously.

Jeremy Cline 27:00
What's been the reaction of your colleagues?

Emily Hill 27:02
Well, since I tried to leave a couple of years ago, they now just kind of accepted. And some of my colleagues have also stepped down and tried to step away from university a little bit. So, my university transitions to a higher teaching load where we teach more classes a year, and some of them are taking pay cuts to their salary to teach less, and in fact, that's what I did this semester to kind of transition away. And it has been lovely. But I think my university might be stopping that next year. So, it's kind of like a temporary stopgap for us. But for the most part, they've been very supportive. And to be honest, so many people are leaving the university, because again, no raises for 15 years, right, that it's not really, they've really struggled to hold on to computer science faculty, because a six-figure developer, that's the starting salary. Most people of the calibre at a professor level that have that technical expertise can earn 200, 300 to 500k a year. So, university salary that's not quite at six figures is a really hard sell, even though there's a great quality of life, job security you won't get anywhere else, financial security can also buy that job security, too, right? So, different sides.

Jeremy Cline 28:16
I want to ask you about this industry, specifically, because it's something that I quite often see on career discussion boards about how, well, some people would say now is a great time to get into coding, there's fantastic opportunity, and then, there'll be a comment from someone else who says, 'No, it's now just getting too saturated, there's too many people doing all these coding boot camps, there's just not enough jobs to go around.' What's your take on that?

Emily Hill 28:46
So, yeah, that's a great perspective. I think it requires a little bit more discernment in there. Are there a tonne of boot camps? Yes. Are there a tonne of qualified people coming out of them? I am not as convinced about that. So, in terms of people who know what they're doing, who know how to use software and use coding to create software that does something, that serves a business need, or creates, solves a problem for someone personally, those people are in high demand. And the salaries, I mean, the starting salaries can range, I've seen from 40k a year, this is US, to 150k a year. That is a huge, huge range. But I've seen students successfully land jobs at six figures starting salary. In fact, one of my students just got a job at a start-up for 125k. So, I think in terms of that lower end, that 40 to 60k, there's a lot of people that know a little bit, but if you take the time and follow a path, and it doesn't have to take any longer in terms of time, it's just a different pathway, if you take that time to target that six-figure level of thinking and coding, there is a tonne of jobs, there's a tonne of upward movement, and people are desperate, the companies are desperate for people that know what they're doing. Right now, the biggest companies, the biggest tech employers just have a whole training arm, where it doesn't matter if you came out of a boot camp or university, they train you for a year before they put you on production level code. Right? So, the biggest, they're called the FAANG or the MAANG companies, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Netflix, those big ones, they are training their developers for as long as six months to a year, before you actually get to touch code that goes live for clients. And so, there's a huge need for developers. There's not a huge need for people that know a little bit. So, that's where I think, what you said, it can be both true and false, right? That there is a huge need, but in terms of the skills that they're looking for, that's kind of grown over time. But there's still chops for people with smaller skillsets as well, that aren't quite at that level. A lot of people will get a job, get their foot in the door, and then keep learning as they go. So, there's a tonne of options out there. I would say, there's a tonne of jobs, there's a tonne of need, and software isn't going anywhere. Right? It's just exploding.

Jeremy Cline 31:05
So, you mentioned how there's an awful lot of these boot camps. How does someone who's starting out and who perhaps doesn't really know very much about this start to assess whether or not a particular bootcamp is going to serve their needs and ultimately get them a job?

Emily Hill 31:21
I know, that is a really tough question. And I don't have a hard and fast rule for that, because I think it depends on the bootcamp experience. And everyone is different. So, let me just align it as an analogy, like diet programmes. Diet and exercise programmes, they're a dime a dozen, there's a tonne of them out there. How do you know which one works for you? Well, unfortunately, most people have to try it. And for every diet and exercise programme out there, there is going to be some set of people for whom it works. So, how do you figure it out? How do you navigate it? I think, to be honest, the best way to figure it out is to talk to someone who graduated from it. See if they had a good experience, what they have to say about it. This is different from a testimonial, because a conversation will uncover different things than just seeing a testimonial online. I would also urge you to look at what they're teaching and the pace that they're teaching. This is what I see with boot camps all the time, is they are taking you through really complicated topics so fast. You can learn quickly, but if you just get thrown off a cliff into all sorts of overwhelming tech, how much are you really picking up from that? It's like throwing someone into a new environment to learn a natural language, like going to France and not having any experience with language and just trying to figure it out. Some people will thrive, some people will not, right? So, you kind of have to know yourself, are you all into that full immersion, will you be able to figure that out, or will that be overwhelming for you? For me, that kind of model can be a little bit overwhelming. So, I like to have a more sequential pace, where you gradually build on the skills that came before. So, you can have a good learning path that gets you through quickly that doesn't overwhelm you and isn't confusing, that helps you solve problems. So, I would definitely say, talking to graduates from the boot camp, seeing what their experience was like, looking for how much face time you get, how much mentoring you're getting. And to be honest, those guarantees of jobs can be really challenging to navigate. I have a student in my programme right now who went through a boot camp with a guaranteed job at the end of it. But in the fine print, it was just a job in the tech sector, and the boot camp was actually getting people jobs as data entry jobs, which requires no programming whatsoever. So, I mean, I don't even know how you would begin to navigate on that contract language. So, I think really talking to the people that run the programme, finding and talking to people who've been through the programme, seeing what kind of programme it is and are they focusing on fundamentals, or are they just kind of throwing alphabet soup at you, all these different technologies. Because I think my perspective on educating in the programming space is that my job as an educator is to prepare you for a 20-year career, not just your first job. So, that kind of changes what I teach, because I'm focused on the fundamentals that will benefit you for your entire career, not just that first job. We still prepare our students for the first job, but we're not just preparing them for a first job, we're preparing them for a whole career. And so, that mindset comes out in everything we do. So, I would look for things that indicate this is not just a one trick pony. Can they customise it to what you want? Do they have strong mentoring opportunities? Do you get to meet with face-to-face like this, like synchronously, weekly? Things like that, just kind of really digging in to what you're getting, and being an informed consumer.

Jeremy Cline 34:44
One of the concerns I've seen about this particular industry, and it's something that the past two years or so has really brought to the fore, is the fact that, certainly, the perception is that this can be done pretty much location independently. And so, people in countries where there is a higher cost of living and higher living standards are competing with people in countries where there is a lower cost of living, lower wages, that sort of thing. Is that a genuine concern?

Emily Hill 35:19
I think it depends on what kind of career you're looking to have. Because remote jobs, certainly, they have great quality of life, right, work from anywhere, work from home, it's so nice. But in terms of actually getting those jobs, local jobs are going to be the easiest to get your foot in the door. You probably have connections there, and there's not as many people, the pool is smaller of candidates, when you're looking for a local job. Even in an area like San Francisco or New York or London, where there's like a lot of people. So, local jobs are going to be the easiest to get. Remote jobs require the highest degree of skill. So, I don't think there's a true concern with programmers necessarily all over the world, that they can charge less, because at the end of the day, you're going to get what you paid for. When the range of salaries for a qualified developer is 100k to 900k, it doesn't matter what country you're coming from. The skills command a certain level of price, right? I think, if you're looking at the lower end skillsets, front-end developers, entry level, 40 to 60k, yes, there may be a concern. I think there are some companies out there that do use price to kind of filter, and they look for certain types of people for those roles. But for the types of jobs that I'm preparing students for, basically, starting salary of six figures, it's not a concern, because you have to have the skillset. So, it doesn't matter where you live, right, you're going to command that price, because that skillset commands a high price, regardless of where your original location is, if that makes sense.

Jeremy Cline 36:52
I can see people listening to some of these figures that you're mentioning, they're thinking, 'Wow, I want a piece of that. That sounds brilliant.' But clearly, this isn't a career path which is going to suit everyone. So, what sort of a person is this career path suitable for?

Emily Hill 37:12
Awesome question. So, that's where I kind of lead with problem solvers. Right? I think people who naturally solve problems, like puzzles, like to fix things, like to tinker, those are great, great programmers, and it's really going to suit them and suit them well. And people that show up and do the work, right? I think those are really the two keys. I've seen in the students that I've worked with it, as long as you show up, and you do the work, that's what it takes, a couple of hours a day, five days a week or so, or 10 to 15 hours on the weekend, you can really master this, if you've got the right path, the right approach to get you there. So, I think, if there's people that think logically, they tend to be logical thinkers, they like working with figures, it helps if you're comfortable with math, but it's not completely necessary, to be honest. One of our great programmers that created a piece of software called Ruby on Rails, which runs websites all over the world, he was an English major, not mathematical at all. Because software is both an art and a science. So, it takes all kinds of creative thinkers, not just the logical, science, math, physics side, but also the history, the art, English, it's a form of writing, it's a form of communication. And that's when things really start to differentiate those six-figure developers from those lower level, entry level developers, is that six-figure developers understand that the software is both a means of communicating with others, as well as delivering functionality to users. So, there's levels of thinking that go into those higher, more competitive ranges.

Jeremy Cline 38:46
So, what else does someone need to know who might be thinking about this as a career?

Emily Hill 38:50
That you can absolutely do it and get there. You just keep at it. And there will always be challenges, because bugs are a fact of life. But learning a strategy that you can rely on, and learning that you can execute it, and you can rely on yourself to get there, those are the really most important factors. Anyone can do this, I've helped all sorts of students do it. So, I know, and really, it's about showing up and doing the work.

Jeremy Cline 39:16
And coming back to you and your story and your plans, what's your long-term vision for the Joy of Coding Academy, and how it fits in with you and your lifestyle and your own personal ambitions?

Emily Hill 39:29
Yeah, absolutely. So, I'm really passionate, I know I've said this a little bit, about helping people learn to code and helping create better software in the world. Ultimately, I'd love to get this streamline, the process of bringing students on the door, have a steady pipeline, so we can grow and just increase the quality of what we deliver, constantly, over and over again, and just really over-delivering for what people need to get there, so it's just a really thriving, thriving institution. It is very effective right now, but it's not really at the thriving level, we're growing, we're on the beginning phases, the beginning edge of that, and we're growing. Ideally, I want to get that working really, really well, really smoothly, with a small footprint in terms of my time, where I'm showing up every week, and it's going really smoothly, as a CEO and founder should, and then, really starting to step out and expand into perhaps giving back to other areas of the world, to help make sure that everybody in every part of the world gets to be involved in the software that's changing our lives right now and shaping our lives. So, it's not just about the people that can afford it now, but also, looking forward to growing where can we get back, where can we help transform some lives more broadly.

Jeremy Cline 40:44
Sounds like a wonderful ambition. As you've been on this journey, I'm sure that there are things out there which have helped you. Are there any in particular which you can recommend the listeners take a look at?

Emily Hill 40:55
Yeah, absolutely. One of the books that I have found most impactful for me, I'm still going through it, it's like a whole year-long curriculum, it's really amazing, it's called A Course in Miracles. And so, it's really about shifting mindset to help us level up to be our best selves and live our best lives. And so, it's a series of very, very short exercises that you do every day over the course of a year. And that kind of helps you level up your thinking. In fact, when I read the first chapter, there's some intro chapters that set up the year-long course, when I read the first chapter, I just felt it levelling me up and taking me to higher places of thinking, which I just loved, I absolutely loved. I started reading it back in April, and I started in August, so almost a year ago, I started reading it. And about six months ago, I started reading the daily practices, they are real short, like five pages each. And it just kind of guides you some things to think about to help you grow.

Jeremy Cline 41:45
And where's the best place that you'd like people to go in order to find you?

Emily Hill 41:50
Awesome. So, if anyone would like to know more about becoming a six-figure developer, I think the easiest way is, actually, there's a website called sixfiguresoftwaredeveloper.com, and we can share the link, and so, that will have the latest information and free resources and trainings that we have, so you can see if it's for you, and see if it's a place where you'd like to go and start.

Jeremy Cline 42:14
Is that a number six or six written out?

Emily Hill 42:16
It's six written out. Thank you for that. Yes, six, S-I-X, sixfiguresoftwaredeveloper.com.

Jeremy Cline 42:23
Cool. I'll put a link to that in the show notes. Well, Emily, thanks so much for coming on the podcast and sharing your story, and also, for your tips on a career in computer coding and that kind of thing. Best of luck as you take this full time.

Emily Hill 42:36
Yes, thank you so much for having me. It was lovely to be here today.

Jeremy Cline 42:40
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Emily Hill of the Joy of Coding. I love these interviews where we find out the motivation for why someone started a business and left their job. In Emily's case, it's clear that there was such a big driver about improving the way things are done. She mentioned how college simply wasn't preparing students for a career in computer programming and coding. And she knew that this was something that she could provide. I see a lot of talk on career forums about computer programming as a career. So, I'm glad we had some time at the end of the interview to talk about what that actually means. It was clear from what Emily was saying that there are still loads of opportunities out there. But equally, it's not necessarily a career for everyone. You certainly need to have the right sort of mindset, the right sort of temperament, even if you don't necessarily need to have any of the background technical skills, at least to begin with. The show notes for this episode are at changeworklife.com/134, that's changeworklife.com/134 for Episode 134. And as always, there's a full transcript, a summary of what we talked about, and links to the resources which Emily mentioned. And I know I keep mentioning this, but if you haven't already, it would be amazing if you could leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Reviews are a great way of letting other people know that this show is worth listening to. So, if it's helped you, chances are it's going to help someone else as well. So, do please take a few minutes just to leave a review, and I will be incredibly grateful. There's another great episode coming up in two weeks' time, so make sure that you've subscribed to the show if you haven't already, and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.

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