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Episode 161: How a Middle East Studies Major Transitioned to a Software Engineer - with Becca Rosenthal

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Episode Description

If you have wondered about how people with non-technical backgrounds can survive coding bootcamps and then thrive in a technical role, this podcast is for you. Becca Rosenthal is not a relauncher and she graduated from college in 2015, so she is much younger and much earlier in her career than the typical guests we have on our podcast. We asked her to join us today because of the unlikely route she took to what is now a highly technical career. After leaving her non-profit work and a period of exploration, she enrolled in a full stack immersive training bootcamp at Hackbright Academy. Becca is now a software engineer at Reddit, where she has been for almost three years. Listen to find out how she did it, what bootcamp was like, and what her work has been like since. "Hello my name is 'potential'", "Be shameless", and "Referrals are your friend" are just the tip of the iceberg of the excellent advice and commentary from Becca that is relevant for relaunchers making this kind of career transition.

Read Transcript

Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the chair and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Today we welcome Becca Rosenthal. And we especially asked Becca to be our guest today, because if you wonder how people with non-technical backgrounds can survive a coding boot camp and then thrive in a technical role, today's podcast is for you.

Becca Rosenthal is not a relauncher and she graduated college in 2015. So she is much younger and much earlier in her career than typical guests that we have on our podcasts. We asked her to join us today because of the unlikely route she took to what is now a highly technical career. We are going to hear how this Middle Eastern studies major in college, went on to work for a Jewish community organization in Mississippi running educational programs, and then ultimately returned back to her hometown in Oakland, California, and enrolled in a full stack, immersive training boot camp at Hackbright Academy.

She is now a software engineer at Reddit where she has been for almost three years. And we're going to find out how she did it, what the boot camp was like, and what her work has been like since.

Becca, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.

Becca Rosenthal: Thank you so much for having me.

Carol Fishman Cohen: So Becca you're in Mississippi, and then I know that you ended up moving back to your hometown in northern California, and made a decision to start taking a coding boot camp. Can you talk to us about what happened in that transition and how you got there?

Becca Rosenthal: Sure. So, this job in Mississippi, it was a two year fellowship. And it ended the day before my 25th birthday.

So I played a goodbye show 'cause I was playing a lot of live music, and then three days later started driving cross country to move back into my childhood bedroom with no job prospects, and no idea what I wanted to do next. But all I knew was that I wanted to solve interesting ethical problems with people who were smarter than me.

And I did not want to be in the Jewish nonprofit world anymore. I knew I wanted health insurance by age 26. That's literally all I had. So I started looking at job postings around Oakland, where I'm from. I'm moving back to my childhood bedroom and almost everything interesting was in the tech sphere. The tech world is solving a lot of interesting problems, and the tech world is creating a lot of interesting problems. And so I thought to myself, it'd be cool to get a seat at the table and I probably need some skills. So during the day I was temping at my mom's real estate company that she works at, basically inventorying all of the development projects in Berkeley.

And it was fine, but it was certainly not what I wanted to be doing long term. So I started looking more intentionally and I posted in the San Francisco Women in Tech Facebook group and said, "What's the deal with boot camps?" Because at this point I had been hearing about them, but it sounded like a scam. The idea of taking a course for a few months and then getting a job as a software engineer... software engineers? These people are brilliant. They've been doing this since they were in diapers and they have no social skills and they just sit in dark rooms hunched over whatever, looking at something on a screen. I don't know what that is. I was a jock in high school, right? Like, I have no idea what you're talking about. I could never be that.

So I post in this Women in Tech Facebook group, and somebody responds, "Hey, I went to Hackbright Academy and I had a great experience. And now I'm an engineer with this biotech company and I'm happy to share more about it." So I hop on the phone with her on some random Tuesday morning and she starts telling me that Hackbright is this all women's boot camp that teaches you a lot of intro basic stuff, enough to get a baseline so that then you can go to a job and Google absolutely everything, which is what engineers at all levels do anyways. And I said, "Okay, a three month investment into a full-time course for programming, where my only experience is this college course that was the only “F” I got in my life does not sound like a great idea. Is there some way to put my toes into the water and see if I like it? That's a really big plunge to take." So she suggested I do a boot camp prep course. And so Hackbright had one that was at the time twice a week after work.

And so I would work my day at this really boring job. And then I would hop on BART, which is the public transportation, and go to San Francisco and go to this space where they taught us Python. It was really the intro to it. And for folks who don't know what Python is, Python is a pretty human readable coding language, which is used a lot for data science and a lot for people who work in spreadsheets.

So if you work in spreadsheets and have no interest in engineering, strong recommendation to learn Python, because it's really good for uploading all the data from a CSV and then being able to manipulate it. And if you've done stuff where you're copying and pasting hundreds or thousands of fields from one cell into another, you can write a program to do that for you. And Python is probably the way you'll do it. So, fun fact.

Anyway, I took this Python course, and I totally caught the bug. Because when push comes to shove, coding is just puzzles, right? There's some piece of information you get in and then you need to spit out some piece of information in some format, figure out what you need to do in the middle to make it happen.

And so I felt myself get home at night and open my computer and then say, "I'm going to build a rock, paper, scissors game." I did that one night afterwards and I opened my eyes and it was 2:00 in the morning, and I had built this thing. And apparently I had a knack for it, 'cause it was puzzles and patterns and I'm really good at word games, the Boggles and Scrabbles and stuff like that of the world.

I never thought of myself as somebody who'd be good at programming. Looking back, my mom says, "It makes perfect sense." But of course I didn't listen to her because what does she know? We'll put a pin in that, as that was a mistake. Mothers definitely don't know anything about their children. They have no idea.

So anyways, I got the bug. And, so for this prep course, they said for the final project, build something, build some terminal-based game. And one of the options they floated for an extra project was a rock, paper, scissors game. Another one was to build blackjack. And I had already built a blackjack game just in my spare time, and they're holding it up as this final project pedestal. And I was like, "I've already finished that." And it turns out that a cohort of the full-time, three month, immersive, 10 to 6, five days a week for three months straight boot camp was starting in three weeks.

And they were like, "This cohort's kind of small. Our head of admissions is going to be doing interviews. And if you're interested, let us know." And I said, "I'd love to kind of gauge my progress and see." And so it was a 20 minute conversation of, "Hi, here's the deal. I'm going to give you a little problem and then you'll solve it. And the intent is that the problem will take you 10 or 15 minutes." And so she gave me a problem and it took me two minutes and I did it. And she was like, "All right, we have 13 minutes left." She gave me another problem. I did it. "Okay. We have nine minutes left. I think we're good here." And then a couple days later I got an email that was, "Hey, so the cohort starts in a week and a half, here's what it costs. Let me know." And I think at the time it was like 15K or something like that. And I was like, "That's an insane amount of money to spend for right now." So I worked with them and figured out a financing plan and talked to my parents and figured it out.

And most people, when they get into the coding boot camps, they've been thinking about it for years. They have been doing a lot of online self study. They've been taking courses. They've been really thinking about, “How do I get out of my previous career and move into this engineering one,” like really deliberate thinking. For me, I very much stumbled in it as I like puzzles and this is something to do. And I never thought at the end of it, that I'd be able to get a job as an engineer. I thought that I would develop enough lingo and a sense of what engineering looks like that I'd be able to get a job in product. And at the time I was dismissive towards product managers. Looking back, I was an idiot and product managers are miracle workers who have very difficult jobs. I was assuming they just sit around all day being like, "We should build these features. All right, engineers go build them." And that's it. That's not it at all. There's so much more there. But, yeah, so I started Hackbright full-time really having no idea what I was getting myself into.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Hold on a second, Becca, I just want to take you back to something you said a little earlier. I want to go back to your first couple days in that Python class, when you were testing it out. You're sitting there in the classroom, they're showing you things, this is the first time you've ever encountered this kind of thing.

I don't know what was on the screen, what you had to respond to. Can you just bring us into the classroom for a day or an evening. And when you were sitting there those first few times, were you confused or did it click for you right from the beginning?

Becca Rosenthal: So in the prep course, everything clicked. Everything was moving at a really slow pace that felt really comfortable. So it was the equivalent of a math class being, "Today, we're going to talk about the plus sign and really dive into what does the plus sign do? And here's what goes on the left. And here's what goes on the right, and sometimes it's top/bottom."

The prep course was really slow and approachable, so I felt like I was able to pick up on that really quickly. And then when the full-time program hit the first week where it was, “Let's learn all of Python,” where it was all this stuff I had done over the previous two months, it was like, "Oh, I got this in the bag."

And then we started doing other things and my head exploded and I lost every sense of comfort. But, and I don't say that in an intimidating way, by the way, I just say that there's a lot of content. Having said that at Hackbright, the learning environment was awesome. It felt like a house. They had a no computers during lectures rule, and then there were labs afterwards. So they had these really fun, like chairs on the floor. There were stuffed animals everywhere. The whole bootcamp is Harry Potter themed. It was a very homey environment and there's this kind of perception of boot camps that they are like hospital blank rooms that are all white and it's just intimidating and scary and cutthroat. And Hackbright was the total opposite.

It was such this lovey-dovey nurturing environment where like the joke was, if you're wearing a bra, like why? There's just no need for that. This is your homework, please be comfortable. And so, when I encourage anybody thinking about boot camps to really be intentional about it, much like folks who are lucky enough to have the option to really intentionally choose where you go to college, right? You visit different campuses, you talk to different students, you really get a sense of what the culture is like. And I don't think boot camps should be treated any differently. There was one woman who did full-time with me, who had started at another boot camp and then said, "Oh, this is really toxic. I want nothing to do with that." And then she came over to Hackbright halfway through this other boot camp.

Carol Fishman Cohen: That's such great advice that they have different styles, different approaches, different types of people who are your colleagues, you said the Hackbright one was all female. But I like this idea of researching them ahead of time and searching and understanding and figuring out which one you're most comfortable in.

Becca Rosenthal: Yeah. But I will say that advice is a little tainted and the reason, Carol, I want to make this point though, because I think that advice is good advice while also recognizing that when I was Googling about different boot camps and trying to decide if I was going to Hackbright, because it was the first thing I looked at or because it was actually what I wanted, I started looking at differences, and the Hackbright is mostly Python-based and Hack Reactor was mostly JavaScript based and I'm learning these pieces of information, right?

And therefore, what? Because I didn't even have a vocabulary to make conclusions from the information. So I think that at some point you just have to take a plunge. And you're either ready to take this chance or not. There's no right or wrong way to go about that. So when I was in the prep course, there were other women who were picking stuff up as quickly as I was, and they were totally on top of things. But when they got home at night, they didn't open their computers. They just weren't interested in it. They said, "I can do this. I could acquire the skill, but I don't like it. I don't want to become an engineer." And so they did not transition into the full-time boot camp. And that's fine. But for me, I was both good at it and I liked it.

At some point you just have to take a plunge.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes. And then, so you said, at the beginning there's a review of the Python part and you felt comfortable. And then all of a sudden after that it was all new material. Did you feel intimidated then, or did you feel like, "Wow, I'm so excited and there's so much more to learn?" And also, were the people of all different ages in the program?

Becca Rosenthal: Yeah. Okay. So starting with, was I intimidated? Mostly, I was just shocked. There was so much coming at me. I had my first emotional breakdown on day two, where it was, "I have made a huge mistake." We were learning about version control and I was just losing it. I remember my family was seeing a musical that night and I went to meet them at the theater, and I was just bawling, because I had a homework assignment to do and I was so stressed. And they were just like, "What has happened to you? What is going on? You are a shell of a human and it's only day two." And I kept looking at the folks at Hackbright and being like, "I cannot do this. Why did you tell me I was ready?"

Clearly I wasn't ready. And they were like, "No, you're fine, you're ready." And I was like, "If this is what ready feels like, then we need to talk about what ready means. Because if this is what you are telling students they signed up for, you are monsters." I'm like, "This is not okay." And they were like, "No, you're fine. You're fine."

Okay, fine. I guess I'm fine. And for the first six weeks...

Carol Fishman Cohen: So obviously they had seen your work.

Becca Rosenthal: Yeah, I wasn't alone. Because, think about it, for me, I was two years out of college. I was two years out of being in an academic environment. And high school had been the last time where I was learning for eight hours a day. And at Hackbright the way they structure it is the first six weeks they throw the kitchen sink at you. You do two lectures a day, and in-between them you're doing labs, where we did what's known as pair programming, where you're sitting next to somebody, you have to have two keyboards, two mice, two screens, but only one computer. And so one person is driving. Meaning one person is typing and clicking and whatever, and the other person's instructing how to do it.

So it's a very collaborative learning environment. And it's just really fast. So for the first six weeks of the program they were just dumping information on us. I think they introduced us to six different coding languages, which are all just different ways of approaching similar problems or different subsets of these different problems. I felt like I was maybe grasping 20 or 30% of everything. And they kept being like, "It's fine. It's fine. It'll all come together during project season." And project season is the next month where you spend a month building a web app. So you then combine everything, right?

So we learned one type of database and how to communicate with this database. And then we learned one language to help manipulate the browser, which was Google Chrome or Firefox, Safari, those are browsers. And then we learned a few different ways to connect them. It was during building the project that all the dots were supposed to turn into a picture. And definitely things started clicking then.

But even then I felt like a huge imposter and people kept telling me that I was doing fine. And my mentor, who I was placed with, kind of randomly kept telling me that I was doing fine. And again, if this is what fine feels like, nothing is okay. Because it did not feel fine, but apparently it was.

Carol Fishman Cohen: What about, so in terms of your classmates, were they all different ages and where they also experiencing the same kind of response to the curriculum that you were, or were some people just like flying through it and it felt like you were an outlier?

Becca Rosenthal: So my classmates were all over the map in the coolest way. I was 25. I was the second youngest person in this cohort. The majority of us were in our twenties, thirties, a couple of women into their forties. There was one woman who was a partner at Deloitte who was taking a break and curious about coding. And it was unclear if she wanted to go into engineering or was just curious.

One of my good friends was a lawyer who was like, "I do not want to do law anymore." The woman I spent the most time with was a professional air rifle shooter, who had spent a decade at the Olympic training center in Colorado and had literally won gold medals for the United States, who was flying to South Korea for world championships, learning C++, which is another language on the plane being like, "I think I want to become an engineer." And she and I had so much fun sitting across tables from each other on weekends when we were doing weekend assessments.

And the rule with those was you work alone. And we would sit across the table from each other, banging our heads against our computer, yelling at our screens together. We were each doing our own work. I would get a problem and be like, "I just got number four. Did you get number four?" And she'd be like, "I'm still stuck on it. I don't know if I'll ever get number four." And it would be like, "Well, I just spent the last hour on this. Good luck." And it was such a comfort to know that other people were also struggling. There were also people who had come from data management backgrounds, web backgrounds, and mathematics backgrounds, who were just chilling.

And I spent the entire lecture series with my hand in the air being like, "Oh, say that differently." "Can you explain?" "What?" "I don't believe..." "Can you do that again?" Like the whole thing. And they were just kind of coasting through. And to be blunt, it was the first time in my life where I didn't feel like I was running with the big dogs.

It was the first time in my life where I felt like I was in the bottom core, the bottom quarter of the class. And in hindsight, looking back and talking to the Hackbright staff, because I've now mentored a lot of folks and I've continued to be involved in that community, when I said that's how I saw myself, they all looked at me and were like, "No, you were fine. You were just loudly confused. Everybody else is quietly confused and more quiet and more confused than you were." And I was like, "Oh, great." But if I could sum up my career, the words "loudly confused" I think are pretty accurate.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Oh, that's a great way to describe it. So talk to us about what happened at the end, when you graduated and then what was your job search like? And then, did you have to do a lot of technical testing when you went into interviews? Or how did that all work?

Becca Rosenthal: So I want to say one more thing about during the boot camp, by the way, which is the way I structured my life was that I made a deal with the gym I went to that was close to a BART station.

I would go to the gym in the morning and then I would drive to Chinatown and buy some pastries to be my breakfast, lunch, and dinner also, and then hop on the train and do that. And so my life was this boot camp for three months. And I'm a big fan of Parks and Recreation, and Ron Swanson has a quote, "Don't half ass two things, whole ass one thing."

And for me, I very much whole-assed this boot camp, and I was very privileged to be able to do that. I was living at home. I was not paying rent. I wasn't really worried about food. Expenses were mostly covered and I was really lucky to be in that position. There were a lot of folks who had a much more difficult time, both during the boot camp and in the job search process because they had real life to worry about.

And so I don't say that to say, if you can't go all in and give all of your attention to the boot camps, you shouldn't do it. But I do say that to give some really concrete advice to figure out how you're going to take care of your day to day, because the intellectual side of boot camp is hard and you're going to want to be able to commit the time to really commit to it.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes. Great advice. I'm really glad that you brought that up. It just sounds like it's so consuming of your brain, that this idea of thinking ahead of time and getting the rest of life in some sort of an order so you can commit wholly is terrific, especially because it's such an investment.

Becca Rosenthal: Right. I mean, I was spending quite a good amount of money. I cleared out my savings so that I could invest in a skill that would land me a job. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. And it was really hard. It was mentally, physically, emotionally exhausting. You know, I mentioned I was going to the gym in the mornings. For the first half of the program, I was exercising. For the second half of the program, I was leaving Hackbright at 9 -10:00 PM and I was not working out in the morning. I was just using their parking lot. I became a crazy person during this thing. And there were folks in my cohort who didn't. But the majority of us who got jobs quickly afterwards, not all, there's definitely exceptions. The majority of us were the ones who put in the extra hours.

Carol Fishman Cohen: I see. Yeah. So tell us what happens when you finish the class and then you start looking for a job. Is it like any other job search or did you just automatically start getting interviews because you were a graduate of the Hackbright Academy?

Becca Rosenthal: Yes. So, if only graduating from a boot camp meant you are now on every recruiter's radar and you just had a job waiting for you. That's so not how it works. The challenge with tech, particularly when you're trying to enter at the junior level, is that folks aren't investing in the skills you have. Imagine graduating college, knowing how to open a word document and start typing, but having no idea what content should look like. You've written some paragraphs, but you don't know if they're good. That's all you know.

And so the way that I went into the job search mentally was thinking, "Hello, my name is potential. You're going to have to work really hard to get me to be good at this, but I can learn quickly and I'll be fun to teach. And I will bring all of these other skills to the table that your engineers who came through traditional coding paths don't have. I've all my experience from a Middle East studies major with being able to communicate across different ideological spectrums. If I can communicate Zionist ideology to Palestinians and anti Zionist ideology to Zionists and folks who are pro Israel in a way that's pallatable, well, then I can communicate between engineers and community managers.”

And so I pitched myself as somebody who could do all these other things. Anyone can learn to code, not anybody can learn to context switch and code switch across technical and non-technical teams. And so I really leaned on the interpersonal skills and I learned the basics as well as I could.

During the last two weeks of Hackbright's program, they call them career prep weeks. And they made sure that your resume is all ready to go, and that you've practiced telling your career story of how did you go from where you were into your current technical path? And the key thing for my career was that Steve Huffman, who's the CEO of Reddit, came and spoke. And I had yet to hear any tech company or anybody within tech, or within the Hackbright sphere say something that made me be like, "I want to work for you." But then Steve started talking about Reddit and I was not a Redditer at the time, but he talked about how Reddit is this place where real conversation on the internet happens and where 99.9% of people are just being awesome, and just having conversations about whatever. And their question was, "How do we stop the assholes from ruining it for everybody else?" And I said, "That's it. That's what I want to do. This is where I want to work. Those are the kinds of problems I want to work on." And I raised my hand and I asked him a question that was basically like, "What are the ethical obligations of tech founders to anticipate how their product will be used for malicious purposes and respond accordingly?" He gave an answer that I thought was really interesting. Those were the first words he ever heard me say.

But the moral of the story though, is I emailed him afterwards and I was like, "Hi, I'm the woman who asked this question. I agree with this part of your answer. I disagree with this part of your answer. I'd love to continue the conversation and get your advice on how to position myself on teams who are working on these types of problems." And then, because fate has a way, I texted my mentor, Jono, who probably isn’t listening, but Jono Warren, if you are, thank you and I'd love you. He happened to work at Reddit.

I was randomly assigned this mentor. And I texted him and I said, "Steve just spoke. FYI, I am going to be your coworker. Thank you in advance for your help." And it wasn't a question and it wasn't, "What do I need to do?" It was just a statement of "I am going to be your coworker and you are going to help me. Thank you very much." Sidebar, I'm a songwriter. And I had written this fictional comedy song about matching with a professional mentor on Tinder. That was three minutes of coding puns and Jewish wedding jokes.

So Hackbright finishes. I know I want to work at Reddit. I know that coding interviews are a thing. And I had the show. Jono came to my show and I played this fictional comedy song, which is on YouTube. You can search Becca Rosenthal and My Mentor and I will show up. Jono came to my show. He heard me perform this song. We did not match on Tinder by the way, I cannot stress enough. He and I did not match on Tinder. This was a fictional premise that I thought was funny. It did not happen. Did not match on Tinder. Did I mention, did not match on Tinder?

So he emails me the day after the show and says, "Send me a resume. I'm referring you." So the way that my job search worked out was I knew that I had this in, and Steve responded to my email and said, "Sure, can I host you with the office for a meal?" And so I had lunch with him at the office three days after my initial phone screen with my recruiter.

Now at this point, the job at Reddit was mine to lose, but I knew that I would have to ace the technical portion, and at Hackbright what they had repeatedly said was that technical interviewing is a skill. It does not reflect how good you're going to be as an engineer on the job, but it's a skill you have to learn to get in the door. And so I spent time after Hackbright just grinding, right? Like if Hackbright was, I thought Hackbright was hard, I was wrong. The harder part for me was when it ended doing the self study to be able to do coding interviews.

And the way that coding interviews worked at the time, and they still do for many companies is basically, you're given a problem and then you are coding on a whiteboard. So you are writing code in a way that is completely different than the way that you've been writing code. You have to learn the skills.

And so there's all of these websites, CoderPad and LeetCode, and all these things that kind of have these algorithm-y problems. It will be, given a list of numbers, give me the two of them, which if multiplied together, have the highest result, or, the three of them that have the highest results. Or you're given a folder filled with PDF files, which includes all of Shakespeare's works, please organize them in a way so that if I give you a word, you can tell me if it exists in any of the works, and if so, which ones. That was actually an interview challenge that I got for one of my interviews at a company that I'm not going to name, but I ended up getting an offer from, and didn't take. So stuff like that.

I spent hours and hours grinding, and the advice that Jono gave me, which was really good, was, "know the basics down cold and everything else don't." So for folks who have any computer science experience, these words will mean something. If you don't, don't worry, you can learn this easily. But what I learned to get it down pat, any problem that was just strings and lists and sets and arrays and hash maps and kind of binary trees, those I could do. And anything else, when somebody asks me a question about them, my answer was, "I don't know, teach me." And again, "Hello. My name is potential" was my guiding principle. And so I wanted to demonstrate that I'm teachable. I wanted to demonstrate that you can redirect me and I will go in your direction. I wanted to demonstrate that I am a sponge and that I am moldable and that it would be your honor to turn me into a good engine.

And so the Reddit process, I had an initial phone screen with a recruiter and then my informal lunch with Steve. And then I had a technical phone screen. So I got on the phone with somebody who, it was a "tell me about yourself and then do one problem" that was like flatten a dictionary or something like that. Which, if it doesn't mean anything to you, don't worry about it. And for the record, I don't think I could do that problem right now. At this point I would have to study again for coding interviews, despite the fact that I've been coding consistently as my job for the last two and a half plus years.

Then I had an onsite interview where I had four or four or five back to back to back to back conversations. Two of them were coding at a whiteboard. One of them was with the product manager. One of them was with the team director. One was cross-functional. Coding interviews suck. The process is so broken and every person I know at every tech company ever is like, "God, interviewing is so broken. Now onto the interview."

And it's just a thing that has to happen. And I don't say that to scare you. I say that to say, you've got to study for it and nothing is handed to you. The other thing worth mentioning is that referrals are your friend. So when Reddit opens up jobs for junior candidates, we get thousands of applications a week. We don't have time to review every single one of those applications. But if you get a referral, the ability to have your application seen goes up tremendously. And so the big secret, which isn't even a secret, but the big trick is to find anybody you know who works at a tech company and get them to refer you.

And the reason that they will always say "yes" is because for most companies, if I refer a candidate who gets hired, I get a bonus. There are some companies where that goes as high as $10,000 per head. So I will always say "yes" and refer you. Because if you get hired, I make money. And if you don't get hired, I lose nothing. So shamelessly ask.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Great, great advice. Becca, this has been incredible and so enlightening and I hope our audience members who are thinking about going in this direction and taking a boot camp or trying one, or even thinking about trying, will gain so much from listening to this conversation. I wanted to ask you the final question that we ask all of our podcasts guests.

And that is what is your best piece of advice for our relauncher audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about today?

Becca Rosenthal: Sure. So I have two. Number one is, be shameless. You already don't have a job at any of these companies. And so your life doesn't change at all if you receive an email informing you that you still don't have a job at this company. And so you have nothing to lose. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. So just go for it. The other piece of advice is to figure out how to give the elevator pitch of your story, which connects your past skills to what you want to do on the technical side, because your background has value. So pretending like you don't have a decade of working in schools, doesn't help you as an engineer. Instead, talking about all of the skills that are transferable from your life, working in schools, is going to be more beneficial. So for example, if you work in a school, think about how many different types of people you had to learn how to communicate with, students and administrators and parents and teachers of all types and all of the various BS you had to put up with.

Great. That is a skill. That is transferable. All of these interpersonal skills are so important. And so anybody can learn how to code. Anybody can learn these skills. Some people will have more and less of an attitude towards it, but anybody can learn the hard skills. The soft skills are the challenge. And so really index on communicating how these soft skills transition and translate into a hard skill based environment.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Excellent advice.

Becca Rosenthal: Oh, and then actually I have a secret part three. One more, which is, tech is a team sport. Tech is a team sport. And so find your people who are going to empower and encourage you. And when you are just more confused and frustrated, you can call and they'll be like, "Oh yeah, me too." Everybody feels imposter syndrome. Nobody knows what they're doing, even if they're 20 years on the job. And so find your community that'll make you feel good, because it is hard.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Love it. That is such great advice and actually great advice for people across the board in tech and outside of tech too, but especially in technical roles that you're describing. Becca, thank you so much for joining us today.

Becca Rosenthal: Thank you for having me. This was fun.

Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes, it was fun for us too, and I learned so much.

And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss strategies, advice, and success stories about returning to work after a career break. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the chair and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. For more information on iRelaunch conferences events, to sign up for our job board and access our return to work tools and resources, go to iRelaunch.com.

And if you liked this podcast, be sure to rate it on Apple podcasts and your favorite podcast platform, and be sure to share this podcast with a friend on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media. Thanks for joining us.


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