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Dev Discussions: How To Get a Great Job at a Great Company with James Quick of PlanetScale

Getting Hired

It’s not often you’re glad you got rejected from a job.

But for James Quick, it turned out to be a pretty good thing. He had interviewed for a software engineering role at Microsoft, where he didn’t quite make the cut. Still, the interviewers saw enough skill in him to suggest he interview for a “technology evangelist” role with them. He landed it.

There James was able to gain some valuable public speaking experience – and more importantly, he learned how much he liked talking with others about technology. 

James left Microsoft for a stint as a developer with FedEx, but his calling was clear – he missed the conferences and content creation he was doing as an advocate. He started creating videos on YouTube and speaking at conferences again and then got back into tech advocacy, first with Auth0 and more recently with PlanetScale. 

When he’s not promoting PlanetScale, you can often find him creating content for his 100K+ subscriber YouTube channel and advising others on how to find a great job in technology.

James discusses some of these job hacks in a recent conversation with CoderPad Developer Advocate Corbin Crutchley.

Great Job Hack #1: Create Content

James believes that his content helped him to get the jobs he’s had – and considers it a great way for anyone who wants to get into the tech industry. Even if you’re not super technical or don’t want to get into a super-technical role like engineering, content is a way to share your learning journey with others and prove your knowledge. 

So how do you get started creating content?

Just write or record! Find a topic that interests you and blog or talk about it. Too often, beginner content creators want their first piece of content to be perfect – so they never end up getting anything published. It may sound scary, but the only way you’re going to become a better content creator is to start creating so you can get the feedback you need to improve your work. 

For example, when James wanted to get into blogging, he made it a goal to publish one post per week. It wasn’t pretty at first, but he got feedback every week and got better.

He uses feedback to continually refine his methods with other content mediums as well. With YouTube, he admits that he doesn’t create the prettiest videos, but he’s consistent and speaks on topics that people care about. 

James has found diminishing returns when it comes to polishing his YouTube videos. After a certain level of editing, the views don’t increase enough to warrant the time spent on editing the video further.

He also recently started creating content on TikTok. He uses Tiktok to be less formal and more “himself” compared to the tutorial content he creates. But while this content is less formal than his YouTube courses, they still allow him to position himself as a subject matter expert, making him a more valuable employee.

Creating content is a great way to get noticed by hiring managers and recruiters. If your content is relevant to their business or open roles, you may be one of the first people they reach out to. 

And let’s not forget that those same hiring managers and recruiters often will also Google your name before an interview to check your online presence.

Good companies should like that you are active in online communities. If they have a problem with it, they probably are not a place you want to work. 

Great Job Hack #2: Maintain work-life balance

If you’ve worked in software for the past two years or plan on doing so in the near future, there’s a good chance you’ll be doing it from the comfort of your home.

While working from home can promote flexibility and productivity, it isn’t without its downsides, one of which is that it becomes harder to separate work life from home life. While the hustle-and-grind culture may bring you short-term gains in your career, it can also quickly lead to burnout and bad health.

For that reason, James is a big proponent of work-life balance; he promptly ends his day at 5 pm to focus on his family and hobbies outside of work. When  requests come in after 5 pm, he holds them until the next day to make self-care a priority.

Corbin added that he was doing double overtime without pay when he first started working in tech because he thought that was what one did to become a successful developer. But promotions were also harder to come by because everyone was working 80 hour weeks. Nobody thought to question the psychological toll this was having on the workforce.

If finding balance is difficult for you and you’re starting to suffer because of it, James offers two pieces of advice:

1. Set up boundaries: If you want people to respect your boundaries, you have to set them up and enforce them. 

2. Look for companies that prioritize work-life balance: This is something you’ll want to ask about during the interview process. Corbin adds that while job hunting can often be anxiety-inducing for people who may desperately need a job, it’s essential to remember that interviewing is a two-way street. 

Great Job Hack #3: Be confident in your skills

The job advice discussion then moved on to something that many new – and even veteran – developers deal with when looking for a new job: confidence in their skills and talent.

There’s a reason the term “imposter syndrome” is thrown around so much these days. Most of us have struggled with the feeling that we weren’t good enough at some point in our careers. 

But there’s a difference between acknowledging your weak points and deprecating all the hard work and experience that got you to where you are today. 

Companies will hire someone who admits they don’t know something but are willing to learn – they’re a lot less likely to hire someone who isn’t confident in themselves and what they do and do not know.

James teaches coding classes with LaunchCode and regularly advises his students to acknowledge the skills and talents that they bring to a job. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get into software development, and you should be proud of that no matter what path you’re taking to get there. 

Another way you can improve your confidence in your skills is to teach someone what you just learned. Not only do you reinforce what you’ve learned, but James often finds that the best teachers are those who just learned a topic, as they know what it’s like to be a fresh learner and can more easily help people who struggle to grasp what’s being taught. 

Before You Go: Databases and Serverless Computing

James and Corbin didn’t limit their discussion to just job advice – they also dove deep into the differences between SQL and NoSQL and touched on the benefits of serverless computing. You can find more on that in the full Twitch stream here