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Coding with Confidence with Star Richardson

Relicans host, Pachi Parra talks to makeup artist turned software engineer at This Dot Labs, Star Richardson, about getting into tech via tutorials, contributing to open source, finding community during the pandemic, and searching and interviewing for her first job.

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Jonan Scheffler: Hello and welcome to Launchies, proudly brought to you by New Relic's developer relations team, The Relicans. The Launchies podcast is about supporting new developers and telling their stories, and helping you make the next step in what we certainly hope is a very long and healthy career in software. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of The Relicans podcasts on We're so glad you're here. Enjoy the show.

Pachi Parra: Hello and welcome to Launchies, a podcast for newbies, developers with non-traditional backgrounds, and career-switchers. I'm Pachi, a DevRel at New Relic, and I'm going to be your host for today's show. And you can find me all over the internet as pachicodes. Today I have with me here, Star. And I love your name by the way. I think it is great.

Star Richardson: Oh, thank you.

Pachi: And she's a developer that used to work with makeup. And I thought that was awesome because it's a very different gap. I was a nanny and now I'm a dev, so I know how it's hard to break into tech if you're from a different background. [chuckles] So thank you for being here, and welcome. How are you doing today?

Star: I'm good. How are you?

Pachi: I'm doing pretty good. And so, I always like to start by asking when did you first start thinking about working in tech? Because sometimes, when people are in college or high school, they had some classes, but they didn't consider tech as a career there. So when did you first have the spark to work with tech?

Star: Well, going through high school and everything, I never knew anyone...we didn't have any programming classes in high school. I know some schools have. And I just didn't really know that it was a career path for me, or I always thought, I don't know, geeky guys did it. I didn't know [chuckles] that I could do that. And I actually was mostly focused on art to start with. I started to go to an art school for fashion design, but I left after a semester because I was out of state, and I just felt lonely and missed home. But after that, I just worked in restaurants for five years before then becoming a makeup artist and working in retail as well. And I liked it, but something was missing. I didn't really know what I wanted to do. And the past five years that I have been dating my boyfriend, he has been a programmer, a project manager more specifically, for about seven years. And so I'd kind of seen him working or heard him talk about things. But it wasn't until the pandemic, when I got furloughed from my retail job, and I had to start doing freelance makeup. And he also started working from home. I started to get to see what he did day-to-day, and I thought, oh, that interests me, and I think I could maybe do that. So I started taking the Harvard CS50 Intro to Computer Science course just to try things out, and I quickly fell in love. [chuckles]

Pachi: That is awesome. I never finished that. I started CS50 like three times.

Star: It's a really good course.

Pachi: It is.

Star: Because I had some courses which are very tutorial-based. They're just like, "Write this, and then write this." It's very much like they give you a one-hour lecture, and then that teaches you basic syntax and concepts. And then you have an assignment where it's like, build these features, but they don't tell you how to build them. [chuckles] You just have to figure it out, which is nice.

Pachi: And how did you figure out what to learn?

Star: A lot of trial and error. So before I actually started doing the CS50 course and taking things seriously, I was just reading through things. I was on the CS Career Questions on Reddit and also just reading through documentation on W3Schools just to see if it was something I could wrap my brain around. I don't know; I was reading a lot about the benefits also of working in tech. It seems generally the work culture is a lot more positive, and there are better opportunities for work-life balance, and just general freedom in how you want to work, which again, coming from restaurants and retail sounded wonderful. [chuckles]

Pachi: I bet.

Star: But yeah, it was kind of hit or miss. Eventually, I took CS50 just because it was structured. And so they started by teaching us C, so a lower-level programming language which was, I think, valuable to learn. And then, we moved into Python, and essentially our first assignments were to code everything that we had written in C in Python. And so, it was crazy to me to see how different Python is. The things that took me more than 100 lines of code in C only took a few lines in Python. But I just used that to experiment things because they talk a little bit about JavaScript and CSS and things in that course.

And so, from there, they have a few different other courses that Harvard offers that kind of jump off from that course. I decided to take their web development course just because it seemed the most approachable to me. And I don't know; JavaScript, the little bit that I had messed with, seemed to work with my mind and make sense in my mind. So I decided to go that route, and it also helps that my boyfriend is mostly a front-end developer. So I knew I'd have someone to help me with it. [chuckles]

Pachi: And that is really helpful just having somebody to tell, "Hey, I need your help. What's going on here?"

Star: [chuckles] Yes.

Pachi: It's priceless. And like you said, you started in the pandemic, and you already have a job.

Star: Yes, I started about late June, so it's been a little under a year. And it's actually funny because when I first started coding, I thought it was only going to take me a few months. I thought, oh, I can just learn all of this very quickly and get a job in a few months, [laughs] which is ridiculous now to think of. But I really don't know if I would have started in the first place if I knew how difficult it would be. I mean, I think it's totally worth it, but I don't know if I was ready when I first started to wrap my brain around just how long it would actually take.

Pachi: Yes. And when we're self-taught, we put so much pressure on ourselves because if you think about it, a person that goes to college they do four years before they are ready. And when you're self-taught, it's like, okay, I'm going to do this for a year, and then I'm going to find a job. [laughs]

Star: I mean, I feel like I maybe might have been able to find a job sooner if I had specialized or focused on one thing. I wanted to learn full-stack development. So again, I learned Python and some of the back end and then JavaScript and React, and then from there, I learned full-stack JavaScript. I created a site with an Express backend and learned some TypeScript. But I think if I had focused on just frontend or backend, I maybe could have done it faster. But I've always been a person who kind of...I like to know everything or try to.

Pachi: But that's good. So you have a better understanding on things. And when did you feel ready to start applying for jobs?

Star: I started probably a couple of months ago. So about nine months in, I felt like, again, I had been working on just adding new features and things to my personal project that I've been working on, which is a cryptocurrency portfolio tracker. And I felt like I was, I don't know, doing decent enough work, and it felt like I could start applying and be useful somewhere. And I'd also started contributing a little bit to some open-source projects. So I felt like I had a little taste of what it's like to collaborate with other developers. And I've heard from so many people that, and I think this myself, that if I keep waiting until I'm perfect, I'm probably never going to apply. [chuckles]

Pachi: That's very true, especially because they always say women want to wait to be 100% ready for the things before applying while men think if they check 60%, they apply anyways. And it's too much to learn, like seriously.

Star: Yeah. This past year, I've definitely tried to let go of perfectionism and try to be more like the guys and just go for things. [chuckles]

Pachi: Yeah, be like the guys. I love that. And you mentioned you did some open source. I always find starting with open source hard because it's hard to find good first issues.

Star: It definitely was super intimidating. My first open-source contribution was actually just updating the docs for a company, which I think is a really easy, approachable way to enter open source for anyone. Because it still allows, I had to read through a lot of code still to learn how things work in order to write the docs accurately, and I wasn't writing them from scratch either. I was just formatting them, but even going through them, I noticed that there were some parts that were out of date. So I was able to update some of those. I think finding something like just the documentation, starting small and just seeing like, oh, it's easy to clone this, make some changes, and submitting your first pull request and all that. Once you do the first one, I think it takes a lot of the fear out of it.

And I had originally heard about this open-source project through...a few months ago; I started going to mentoring meetups and just more meetups online in general. And I met someone who we've become friends. She became my mentor, but she's the one who told me about it. So, I don't know; I think finding those connections and finding people who are like, "Oh hey, can you help with this?" because then you have a personal go-to for questions you might have about contributing to it as well.

Pachi: Where did you find those people for you?

Star: So I didn't go to any meetups or join any groups for a really long time in my coding journey, which was, I think, a big mistake. Finding people to talk to is definitely super helpful. So I started going to these monthly Women in Tech mentoring sessions for a company called This Dot. And I actually work for This Dot now because of the people that I met going to these sessions, but it's mostly geared towards women. I don't know if they necessarily exclude anyone else from going, but they're super helpful. They cover different topics each month. And everyone there is super nice. They encourage you to reach out if you have any personal questions. And so from there, I also met someone at this meetup who told me about a group called Virtual Coffee, which I don't know if you've heard of Virtual Coffee. They're a fantastic group. They have biweekly meetings or two meetings a week in Zoom. I think they are Zoom meetings, but then they also have a super helpful Slack channel where it's just full of people that are all just cheering you on and are able to give you feedback. That would be another great place to find open-source projects to work on. I think they actually have an open-source channel where people post those kinds of things.

Pachi: That's really nice, and yeah, especially with the pandemic.

Star: Yeah, I think during the pandemic, I wish I had found these resources sooner because having other devs to talk to, I feel like I've grown a lot more in the past few months than when I was trying to learn by myself.

Pachi: It is because when you're by yourself, it's just trial and error, trial and error. Sometimes you don't know...

Star: Yeah, it kind of feels like I'm just walking around in the dark hoping to find things. [laughs]

Pachi: And sometimes you do, and sometimes you don't, and sometimes you're just like, I don't know what I'm doing. So yeah, that's very helpful. I'm really happy with how those people...I feel like that's one positive we can say about the pandemic because more people gathered online to try to find themselves. I feel like everybody would have been lost. [chuckles]

Star: Yeah, I almost feel kind of bad, but the pandemic has been great for me. I don't know if I would have been pushed to find the things that I really like without the pandemic.

Pachi: I can say the same. But I guess we just have to deal with what life throws at us. So you have been working long, and you have a good job. So, how was your job search like?

Star: I had originally...I told you I was hanging around CS Career Questions on Reddit for a while, which if anyone is familiar with that Reddit, there's some good advice, but there's also a lot of bad advice. And some of the bad advice that I followed because they say it everywhere is just to apply to as many places as possible because it's a numbers game. And I think that that's...I mean, it is true. If you apply to enough places, it is a numbers game, but I don't think that's the best advice for someone from a non-traditional background. Because I had a lot more success with focusing in on companies and sending more passionate cover letters, and actually talking about why specifically I want to work for this company rather than just sending out a bunch of half-hearted applications. And then also again talking to people in groups and finding my mentors and finding jobs through connections that way. That was also definitely way more fruitful than sending applications into the void.

Pachi: Yeah, especially because you get so many nos. You know you're going to get nos, but if you get too many nos...

Star: It was definitely disheartening. I sent about 90 applications out and only heard from a few companies. And now I'm working at This Dot. I attribute me getting this job to making those good connections and finding my mentors because having someone that will champion you and sell you to the company is super valuable.

Pachi: Yes, it really is because, at the end of the day, the job is about connection, right? It might be two people with the same skills, but if somebody knows you, they know the kind of person you are because you cannot really put the soft skills in a resume. You cannot make a portfolio with soft skills. Yeah, that's really good advice.

Star: Yeah, that was the hard part for me because I feel like I'm pretty good in interviews. So I knew once I could get that initial interview, I felt pretty confident about that, but it was so hard. It's so hard to make your personality come across in a job application. So I feel like the only way to really do that is to try and make those genuine connections and actually talk to people at the companies you want to work at.

Pachi: Yeah. And especially for people that don't have a CS degree. And we don't need that anymore as much as we used to but still, having the degree there opens doors that are not open for us otherwise. And that's sad. Please change it, tech industry. [chuckles]

Star: And I feel like it was even harder because, I don't know, a lot of career switchers have some sort of degree, even if it's not related to computer science. But coming from having no degree, I feel like it's even harder to prove your credibility.

Pachi: Yeah, I feel you. I have no degree either. So it's just like, hey, I don't have a degree, but I know things, and I'm awesome.

Star: So, yeah, it's definitely important to build projects, talk to people. Again, talking to my mentor and actually working on the open-source project she sent me. And then showing her, oh, I can contribute to things in a normal manner, I think is super important.

Pachi: Yeah, that helps. I don't like that, but for people from different backgrounds, anything we can do to just maybe stand out just to add an extra because it's just the way it is. If you have more shining lights on your head, you're going to be seen. [laughs] So I was reading…because I am all over Polywork, so that's where I found you. And I saw that you are into crypto and blockchain, and that is a very interesting side of things for a front-end developer. So how did you stumble into that?

Star: Having a boyfriend that is way more into these things than I am kind of helped me get started. We've been investors and followers of crypto for more than five years, I guess about five years now. And once I started getting into development, it just kind of naturally was like, oh, I know this is an up and coming field, and it's very interesting to me. So I want to learn more about it. I'm still very new to it. I wrote my first smart contract about a week ago. [chuckles]

Pachi: Oh, congrats.

Star: So that was fun. And even the tutorial that I followed shows how to do it with React. And I'm learning more about dApps and how front end kind of interacts with blockchain or can interact with blockchain. I'm still certainly not even close to an expert on the subject, but that's something I really want to learn this year because it's something that I think really fascinates me. And, I don't know, I think the internet is moving towards that.

Pachi: I love that you're doing that. You have been doing this for a little over a year, but you really got into that.

Star: I feel like it's opened up a whole new world because I feel like before, I just always got bored of things really quickly. And once I discovered development and the whole tech realm in general, I was like, oh, things are never boring. There's always something new to learn. You can never learn it all and all of that. It was super awesome to me.

Pachi: Do you mind if I ask you your age?

Star: I am 25.

Pachi: Okay. I love that because sometimes I have people that are 20 asking me if it's too old to learn to code. [laughs] I'm like, what are you talking about? I started learning how to code when I was 28. So I was like yeah, I had to say it.

Star: Yes. I definitely think it's never too late. I mean, the past year, though, I definitely had moments where I was doubting like, am I too old to do this? Am I too late? But no, there are people getting into it even in their 30s, 40s, 50s. There are negative parts of tech, but I think, in general, tech is a very welcoming industry.

Pachi: Yeah. If you find the right people, if you find the right places to hang out, for sure, I know there are some really good people. I know there are some not great people. But in general, I think that's why it's important to find those places like you say Virtual Coffee because that really makes a difference to have people in your corner even if it's not for the technical help but just people who are understanding because tech is a very different industry from other industries. So it's good to have friends who know what you're talking about. It's like, hey, where's the bug? Or that you're freaking out because of a comma. [chuckles] But yes, programming is fun.

Star: Yeah, I'm so happy I found it. I'm still really mad that I didn't know about it before. I feel like if someone had just told me all of the benefits about it in high school and how interesting it was, I would have been like, oh, I definitely need to do this. But I don't even think anyone from...I live in Missouri. I don't think anyone in my town was a programmer, or at least not that I know of. No one was doing that.

Pachi: But yeah, I feel like that's another thing, and I mean, I'm from Brazil, so I have a different upbringing. But lots of people that I talk to say the same thing, like, "That was never something that was showed to me as a career." So how were we supposed to know that?

Star: I guess I always thought it was something like being a doctor or becoming some kind of chemical engineer. I thought it was something that was so out of my reach. And I mean, I don't consider myself a not smart person. When I was in school, I took gifted classes and things, but it was still...I don't know. I maybe attribute this just to how I've been raised. As a woman, in society, these general subtle things and these limitations I have in my mind that I don't realize like where they come from. But I never thought that that was a thing I could do.

Pachi: Yes, that's very true. And like it or not, when you see movies and TV stuff, you always see the same kind of people doing these kinds of things. So I always like to say that if you are a man, you're never going to consider be a kindergarten teacher because you don't see a man being a kindergarten teacher. [laughs]

Star: Yeah. I totally believe….there's the phrase that some people say like, "You can't be it if you don't see it." It's so silly, but it's so true. Until I started poking around on Twitter and finding these communities and seeing other women do this, even before I found these communities while I was learning to code, I had a lot of fear just because in the places that I was in on Reddit; I wasn't really hearing or seeing about other women in tech. So it was kind of scary. I was like, what am I getting into? But then again, as I started to find these communities and finding people on Twitter and see other women coding, I gained more confidence. I was like, oh, I can do this, other people do this.

Pachi: Yeah. As long as you find the right people, I feel like a whole new world opens to you. Like, hey, there are people here that I can actually talk to about code and makeup if I want to, and it will be fine.

Star: Yeah. Until I found these when I was first learning to code and thinking about possible projects I wanted to build, I had some ideas for makeup projects, but I just pushed them away because I thought, oh, this is a male-dominated field. They don't want to see my makeup projects, or that's not relatable to them. But once I found those communities, I'm like, oh, I should have embraced that more. It gave me permission to accept it, I think.

Pachi: Yes, and I feel like when you find a good community, they got your whole self; it's not just your programming side. You make friends, and you can talk about anything really after you find a safe space. That's why I really love communities. I'm so passionate about communities.

Star: Yes, that was another thing with discovering these tech communities. For a long time, just growing up, I thought I had to be one thing, like, I could only pursue one interest, and I didn't realize I can do it all. I could do anything I want to. [laughs]

Pachi: Yeah. And another thing why I say that you’re never going to stop learning is because somebody may be coding for like 30 years, but if he has been on the backend for 30 years and now they want to be on the front end, it's just a whole new thing. So yes, there is so much. And like you said, tech is a different industry. Of course, in general, it has some toxicity, and it has some issues because some people overwork themselves because it's just how some companies are. But if you find a nice, healthy place to work, it's just so flexible with your time. I actually worked at This Dot a little bit as a DevRel.

Star: Oh, awesome. [chuckles]

Pachi: I was helping with Twitter for a little while, so I know how great they are. I love Tracy. She's awesome.

Star: Yeah, I just feel super lucky. I'm finding these communities and talking to people, and then now getting to work at This Dot, I feel like I've just been set up for success. I've heard all of the tips about managing burnout and how to, I don't know, try and have a good work-life balance. And then also finding this company that supports a healthy work-life balance, I don't know, I just feel really lucky. Because I know there are a lot of places in tech that still struggle with that as well.

Pachi: Yeah, and that's a thing I always say to people who are just starting. And it doesn't seem like I have to say that to you. But most of the people that I know, their first job sucked. It's just like, there's no way around it.

Star: Yeah. I was fully expecting my first job as a developer to suck. So again, I feel so, so lucky, so happy to not have to go through that.

Pachi: You're like, hey, I skipped that. That's so nice.

Star: Yes, thank goodness. [laughs]

Pachi: I'm so happy for you, really. My first job was really not like that. But yes. So you are at this job…like you said, you were set up for success. Can you tell me some of the challenges you had in your first month when getting started? It was a whole new thing.

Star: I feel like I adjusted pretty quickly, but the first couple of weeks...the first week and actually the third day I was there, I had almost an anxiety meltdown just because I felt like I had all these questions, and I was just so terrified to ask them and sound stupid. So I struggled with this one problem for hours that day, and I was just freaking out the longer it took me to work on it. And eventually, I stopped, and I took a walk, and I calmed down. And I got up the courage to just tell my manager I had these questions, and I've been worried to ask them. Again, I'm fortunate that my manager was very reassuring and helpful and was just like, "Oh, you should have asked me this earlier. It would have been great. Don't ever feel afraid to ask questions." And he didn't really say this specifically, but this is advice I've heard somewhere else is try to...something that's helped me is to try to reframe asking questions. Instead of it being like asking questions, think of it as getting unblocked. Like, if you ask something, it'll just help you do more work rather than just struggling on your own for no reason.

Pachi: That's a really nice way to see it. I just say, hey, if you struggle for something, let's say for half an hour, it's probably time to go and ask somebody for help because you're just slowing everybody down in the end. [chuckles]

Star: Yeah. You're really just holding yourself back if you don't ask those questions. And so I tried to reframe it in my mind after that. I'm like, I want to use this first job to learn everything I can as quickly as I can. So I'm trying to get past that fear and just ask questions as I get them. And it helps to...there's another developer on my team and whenever we're in a meeting she asks...she's a senior developer too. She's been doing this for five or six years, but she asks so many questions. And I'm so glad she does because it gives me permission to ask questions too. [chuckles]

Pachi: That's really great. It really helps. Like hey, somebody else is doing it, so I can do that too. [chuckles]

Star: Yeah, I think as long as you're asking good questions, it's fine.

Pachi: And sometimes you might have the same questions. So it's just helpful. And that's really nice. Yeah, I really love it. It's so nice that you have this first job that's such a great environment. Yeah, I'm really happy for you as a person that did not have that.

Star: I'm a lucky girl. [laughter] And for any women who may be listening, This Dot does have a…they call it Hire the Fempire Program. I don't know if you remember that, Pachi. But they do try to actively hire women and just generally increase the diversity in tech.

Pachi: And that's important. And there are always people saying, like, why do we have to focus on women? If women want to program, they program. But it's not like that. Like we said if you don't see it...That's why I love any initiative that focuses on hiring women and people of color because it is necessary.

Star: Absolutely.

Pachi: Tech has been an elite profession for too long. And if you think about it, the first programmers were women, and they just stole that away from us.

Star: Yeah, I definitely think having a more diverse workplace is definitely more beneficial to everyone too. You just have more people from different backgrounds that think about things differently, which is super valuable.

Pachi: Yes. And I haven't ever thought about that before, but I was interviewing somebody for a podcast the other day, and she said, "I was tired of having only men building the things that I used." That's true. They're all building the things that we use. That's why some stuff could be so much better if we had a woman on that because we use that too; half of the population are women. [chuckles] So that makes sense.

Star: Yeah. I mean, all different types of people have different ways of using things and how they think about things.

Pachi: So yes, all women, you're welcome in tech. And I have to mention it's hard. It's not an easy process, but it's worth it in the end.

Star: Yeah, absolutely.

Pachi: And thinking about that, if you could go back's not that long, it’s like a year ago, what would you tell yourself, like, the thing that you missed or would have made a difference?

Star: I think honestly, the only thing I would have changed is trying to find better communities earlier on and people to talk to about code because I had my boyfriend, but I wasn't trying to bug him all the time with every single question I had. [chuckles] And I think it would have been super helpful to have a whole community to lean on rather than just struggling through things by myself. I am glad, though, that I did struggle a little bit and bumped around, and tried different things, and even have things that failed because I think there's some important growth that happens even going through that.

Pachi: Sure. Some stuff, some mistakes had to be made to learn [chuckles]

Star: Yes, that's how you learn.

Pachi: Right. But that's nice. You mentioned your boyfriend a few times. I know some people...sometimes, I see memes on Twitter about dating programmers. But would you say that it has been helpful for you, or sometimes you get annoyed because he explains it too much?

Star: If anything, I feel like he works too much, and then he gets burnt out and doesn't really want to talk about code too much. He's one of those. He's trying to work on the burnout cycle and reducing it. But yeah, I enjoy talking to him about code, especially early on when I was first learning; I was like, "Oh, it's so fun talking about these things."

Pachi: Every little thing you're like, "Oh, that's awesome. Look at what it's doing."

Star: I mean, I still get excited to talk about code. Yeah, again, I try not to bug him too much because he works a lot. [laughs]

Pachi: Yeah, it's exhausting. But that's something that I joke like you program during the day, and after you stop working, we go work on our side projects. I think programming is the only career that people do that. Most jobs, you just leave the job, and you go do your thing. Programmers are the only people that do more programming. [laughs]

Star: As I started this new job, I've tried to step back a little bit on working on outside projects just for a little bit because I'm trying not to get burnt out really fast. Because even though I enjoy those things, I know that even too much of a good thing can be overwhelming.

Pachi: Exactly. And sometimes you're enjoying something, but that doesn't mean that you're not going to burn out.

Star: Exactly.

Pachi: Even if it's something fun, everything can cause burnout. Sometimes you're like, oh, but I'm not doing much. I'm having fun. Yes, but you're still exhausting your brain even if you're having fun in the process. So sometimes, you really have to stop.

Star: I feel like it can be hard to identify that too. Sometimes even working here after I'm done with my work hours for the day, maybe I didn't finish a problem, and so I still want to keep working on it. And I'm like, okay, calm down. [chuckles] Save some for tomorrow.

Pachi: So what do you feel is helpful for you when you need to stop and realize that you are on the way to burnout or not? What helps you to stop?

Star: For me, I noticed this almost manic phase that I'm going into, or I notice when I get into a flow state, which is nice sometimes. But again, if I take a step back and notice, oh, I've been doing this for four hours, and I haven't left my chair, I try to take a literal step back and just go for a walk or get a snack or something. And I try to just almost do a meditation or just check-in and see what my energy level is at. Because sometimes, if you're really concerned about a problem, it's hard to gauge that accurately. But I think even meditation or yoga for me is a nice way to really focus and see where I'm actually at, emotionally or mentally.

Pachi: And that's really nice because especially for people that are starting, you just want you to do so many things to be ready, and then you want to show off. And especially the first job, I want to be the employee that everybody loves.

Star: I want to say yes to everything, but I'm trying to keep that in balance and not say yes to too many things. Again, I try to take track of everything that I am doing and just know my limits and also tell myself I have endless time to keep learning new things. It's not like I have to learn everything this month.

Pachi: Yes. That's very true. You don't have to learn everything. And sometimes we don't even know we're going to want to learn something later, so why not focus on one thing?

Star: Yeah, take it one step at a time. [laughs]

Pachi: That's always a good thing. So my last question for you is, what is your number one advice for people that are starting or want to start, and they're wondering if tech is for them? What's your top tip?

Star: I would just start, just take a course or read a book or watch a YouTube video. It was important for me to figure out what my learning style was and what I liked. So for me, I like taking courses. I like the structure of them, but do whatever you think is going to work for you. And just start because once you actually get started learning something, you have a better frame of reference from where you can go from there and where you might want to go. But if you're just sitting thinking about it, it's harder to move forward from there.

Pachi: That's a great tip. Every time I am ending an episode, I just think how much I wish I had listened to this episode before. [laughs]

Star: And don't think that you can't do something. Learning to code has given me so much more confidence. I've talked about this before at another podcast I did. But I took a how to learn course when I first started learning to code as well. And it just told you about the actual science of our brains and how we learn things, but that gave me the knowledge and the confidence to know that we can learn anything. It just may take time. We may have to learn things in different ways. And like I said, figure out what your learning style is. But it gave me the confidence to know that if I just keep working on something, eventually, it will click. Our brains are forming new connections all the time. And just not having that limiting belief like I had in high school where I was like, oh, I can't do something. That sounds crazy.

Pachi: Yes, that's true.

Star: I think if you really want something and you just keep working towards it, you can do it. That sounds really cheesy. It's going to be different levels of difficulty for everyone, but I think it is achievable.

Pachi: But sure you can do it. If you really want to do it, you can do it. It's not going to be easy by any means. [chuckles]

Star: You can do it, and it's worth it. I guess another tip is to remember why you want to do this. When I was doing research and learning about the work-life balance that tech has or at least usually has, like I said, and the ability to work remote, and just have more financial freedom to do all of the other things I want to do, like travel or all of the other hobbies that I want to do, and also being able to problem solve and do something fulfilling, these are the things that I thought about continuously over the last year. When things were difficult, I was like, I don't want to go back to waiting tables at a restaurant and hating my life. I want to do this.

Pachi: And it is really nice to contrast like, I hated my life, and now I love what I do. Yay. [laughs]

Star: Yeah. I mean, it's crazy how much can change in a year.

Pachi: It really is.

Star: I'm still in disbelief, kind of. [chuckles]

Pachi: Yeah. So it doesn't matter where your life is right now. It can change so much if you just believe.

Star: Yeah. It takes some time. Even if you are just learning to code or program an hour a week, you'll be in a better spot than you were before.

Pachi: That's true. Everybody has their own time. Just respect that. I feel like this podcast episode was full of greatness. Thank you so much, Star, for being my guest today. I had so much fun.

Star: Thank you, Pachi. [Chuckles]

Pachi: I love how much I learn on every episode. Do you have a place where you want people to follow you on the internet?

Star: I have a Twitter; it’s @alicenstar. Alicen is spelled like Alice with an N, A-L-I-C-E-N, but I try to be pretty active on there.

Pachi: And you're on Polywork because that's where I found you. [chuckles]

Star: Oh yeah. I'm on Polywork now. I'm just experimenting with it, but I really like it so far. [chuckles]

Pachi: So again, thank you so much for being here today. That was great. And thank you, everybody, for listening. This was Launchies for you. And stay tuned; we have a new episode every week. And I hope you find this episode useful. And if you know anybody that you think would be a great guest, just let me know. As I said, I'm everywhere on the internet. I'm very active on Twitter as @pachicodes. So thank you, and have a great day.

Jonan: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of the rest of The Relicans podcasts on In fact, most anything The Relicans get up to online will be on that site. We'll see you next week. Take care.

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