Kate Martin: [00:00:00] Welcome to the apprenticeship.io podcast, where we gather the courageous leaders, the tech industry needs to talk about education, equity, job hunts, hiring in tech and you guessed it apprenticeships, whether you're considering a career switch to tech, currently studying, or working and leading in tech, we hope to show you stories, ideas, and tactics to inspire you and equip you to make the tech industry, and our future together, a more equitable place for all of us. Let's get to know today's guest.
[00:00:50]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:00:50] Today's guest is Sandy Cao. Sandy became an Apprentice Software Engineer at Twitter after attending Rithm School in San Francisco in 2019. Before transitioning into software engineering, Sandy was an urban planner, a business analyst and a content planner. Sandy holds double majors from Rutgers in art and urban planning. She loves the computer game RuneScape, world travel, and a good laugh. Due to references about pernicious lies adults tell children, this episode is not recommended for young ears.
[00:01:19]This interview is originally recorded in January of 2021.
[00:01:22] Welcome to the podcast, Sandy. It's great to have you.
[00:01:25]Sandy Cao: [00:01:25] Well, it's great to be here. Thanks Kam.
[00:01:28]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:01:28] So I ask everybody the same question to get started, and that is about the educational upbringing of your childhood?
[00:01:36]Sandy Cao: [00:01:36] I don't know if I was always a learner. I think in my childhood, I would say school for me was not my favorite place to be, so learning happened outside of that. I found myself mostly learning things through PBS shows as a kid and playing a lot of RuneScape. I don't know if people know that is, but it's an MMO RPG. You just get thrown into this world and you have to figure things out and there's all these skills you can build and all these quests you can do. I dove really deep into that world. I would say learning for me was always tied to this sense of community building and being in a world where I could just go as deep as I wanted to go with no adults.
[00:02:19] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:02:20] I love that. So what I thought of was Sims. I spent a lot of my childhood playing Sims. Is it like that?
[00:02:25]Sandy Cao: [00:02:25] It is very similar. I also played some Sims. I think if you played Sims before, you know exactly what RuneScape is, you can just get lost in there for hours and you're like, "wait, what did I just do? But I built this cool house."
[00:02:38]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:02:38] Were there any people who really inspired you when you were a kid?
[00:02:41]Sandy Cao: [00:02:41] No, I was a really emo kid. I don't think I romantically looked up to anybody. What I took from my angsty teenage years was I learned that adults are fallible, and that gave me a lot of confidence to just believe in myself. Before that, I just thought everything that an adult said would be truth, and I would just follow it. I realized that adults can make mistakes too. They're not perfect. I realized, "Oh, that means that I could also a make mistakes and be okay." Also, I can be right. Sometimes maybe you are more smart than adult in some areas. That gave me a lot of confidence to just believe in myself.
[00:03:21] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:03:21] I think I had a similar reaction. This is crazy. I'll add a kids should not listen to this podcast. I learned about Santa Claus, not being real at a late age.
[00:03:31]Sandy Cao: [00:03:31] Oh my gosh. Yes.
[00:03:32]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:03:32] As an only child. I was livid. My mom remembers to this day, the tantrum that was thrown, how pissed I was, and you have moments like that, you just really start to realize " Oh, life is something made up, but also I have to take accountability for it."
[00:03:46]Sandy Cao: [00:03:46] Absolutely.
[00:03:47] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:03:47] I can't rely on others necessarily.
[00:03:50]Sandy Cao: [00:03:50] It all started with Santa Claus.
[00:03:51] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:03:51] I'm curious for the folks who are listening, who maybe are like trying to reverse engineer, deconstruct your journey to figure out how they can apply things you've learned or things you've done into their own life. Is there anything they're not going to see online that you think is important that they should know about you?
[00:04:11]Sandy Cao: [00:04:11] I would say one thing that they should know about me is that I don't know what I'm doing ever. I'm just making it up as I go. If you're listening to this podcast and you feel like maybe you're going to get some nuggets of wisdom out of this, maybe you won't, but maybe you will. I just want you to know that I don't have any idea how my life will turn out and I don't really have concrete plans for where I'm taking it, but I'm just putting one foot in front of the other and going day by day and seeing how that feels. So I guess that's just basically me giving you permission to like YOLO.
[00:04:44]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:04:44] I love it. It's super honest of you too. We're all figuring it out, if we're actually honest. It's very relatable. Let's jump into your career timeline and start with college. I noticed immediately from your LinkedIn that you are what I used to call an involved person.
[00:05:01] And I love it because I was that person also. Curious the things that you did or experienced at Rutgers that you feel like prepared you really well for your career today?
[00:05:14] Sandy Cao: [00:05:14] Yeah. I think in college, the way that I looked at it for me in my life was basically college was my first time away from my super controlling strict parents would never let me go sleep over anywhere. I didn't get a car ever, and I didn't get a cell phone until the last month of my senior year in high school, so I was like super uncool. That's hence also why played a lot of RuneScape. The thing about college for me was freedom. I could just go do whatever I wanted to do and be whoever I wanted to be. The first week of college, I decided I was going to go run for the president of my getting hall and I think I did it because of all of the pent up anger. I was like, I'm ready to go, and everyone else is just like trying to, I dunno, get their lava lamps set up and decorate their dorm, and here I am trying to like, make campaign posters, be friends with everybody. I was probably overly aggressive and I guess that's okay because I moved on from that. I won by default. I think I might've been the only person running, but that's okay.
[00:06:20] Anyways, I really enjoyed just being able to spread my wings. I used college as my playground, sandbox, if you will, to to grow my life in a way that like I wasn't allowed to grow before. I also wanted to prove to myself that I was something more than an artist because I graduated high school voted the senior superlative of the most artistic. I was really resentful of that because I'm like, I'm more than just an artist. I really wanted to go prove myself. I went all gung-ho with a pre-med track, but then I dropped out because I'm like, "Oh no, I just like barely passed chem. I can't do organic chemistry. This is not going to work out." My GPA was really low. I resolved to just coasting by college as an art major and urban planning major. I'm trying to just graduate college, but emphasize my ability to grow in like that social way. That's why I joined a sorority. That's why I got four part-time jobs, became an RA. I would say that it probably just gave me a lot more confidence to be totally okay with changing up my personality. People who knew me from high school, and after they saw me at Rutgers, they were like, Sandy. I got to tell you that, to be honest, you were a Debbie Downer in high school. You were no fun to be around, but now you're cool. Like I like you now. I was like, "Oh, thanks. I guess that's a compliment."
[00:07:41]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:07:41] You were intentionally experimenting with areas and interests in your life to see where you might thrive. I feel like that will resonate with a lot of people, not only for college, but for other experiences in life as well, just learning more about yourself and where you are ultimately going to be able to belong, feel appreciated. Let's talk more about this pivot from med school and urban planning. I definitely empathize deeply. I primarily didn't get into my dream school because of GPA and then had a similar experience in college where I was like both super angry about GPA then also like still deeply sensitive to my GPA has to be amazing. The idea that you switched your major to keep your GPA, that totally resonates with me because I pretty much did the same thing, and now I regret not choosing a more technical major. At the same time, I've recognized very fully that if I was in that position again, I probably would make the same decision just because the technical requirements of some of those majors are not even relevant to the careers that you do in some instances. Like computer science, for example, it's a very math, rigorous major. That's the one that I regret not doing, and then I think about doing it and I'm like, "yeah, but would you want to do it?" I think you'd want an art version of programming, and some schools actually now have some really interesting, less math focused computer science degrees, but it is interesting how, like the academic design in college affects how we think about a subject or how we think about our belonging in a subject.
[00:09:19]Sandy Cao: [00:09:19] Exactly. I think to take a summary from both yours and my perspective is you don't have to stick with what you chose originally. If you didn't like something in the beginning, I didn't like my typecasting as an artist, I was like, let me fix that real quick. Let me just go become a med student, and then I failed at that, but that's okay, I ended up fixing it with urban planning. I don't know if that was like advice or wisdom. Or nothing at all, but...
[00:09:47]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:09:47] It's on the listener. They've got to figure it out.
[00:09:50] It's on you. It's not on me.
[00:09:55] I love it. What were you imagining yourself doing career wise?
[00:09:59]Sandy Cao: [00:09:59] I don't think I had much of a future plan actually. I was like the type of chess player that would be like checkmated in two moves because I wasn't really looking out for the end goal. I need to save my GPA, cause I have to graduate with a 3.5 or higher. I don't know why I told myself that, but that was like, Sandy back then. So then I graduate and everyone else is either accepted into grad school or applied for a full-time job last fall and already got accepted. They're starting their jobs, and I'm sitting here, I have no idea where I want to take my career. This is a theme of my life. I just did what felt right at that time. What felt right right after college was just to get a job.
[00:10:38]I wanted to see money coming in and the first job I got was at Rutgers, so at the university I attended at the urban planning department. It's very meta. I studied there and now I get to contribute to the university itself, and their actual physical plan.
[00:10:56]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:10:56] That's a good use of your degree though. A lot of people don't use their degree after, so you were actually doing urban planning for the university itself. Super cool. What does that look like? What were some of your projects?
[00:11:07]Sandy Cao: [00:11:07] I would say the project that I worked on was called a master plan, and that is essentially blueprint of where money will be going for infrastructure improvements in the next 10 years, and that gets signed off by whoever the president of the university is at the time, and then gets passed to contractors and construction people to build it. I was working with a lot of architects and being the go between between the university's architects and some private architects that we hired. It was really interesting work, but also slow, painful and political. I needed to get out of there. I was like the annoying squeaky wheel because I always wanted to do more and learn more. And they're like, it took me 25 years to get to this position. You have time. Just wait. And like 25 years nah, I'm not doing this for 25 more years just so I can get promoted once. I knew right away that I needed to get out of there.
[00:12:04]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:12:04] That makes sense. I had similar endeavors at UC Irvine where I went, where I wanted to stick around and was very aware of the bureaucracy and the politics of the university. I empathize with that a lot. You stuck around in New Jersey after that working. Was it just like a local company? How was that?
[00:12:24]Sandy Cao: [00:12:24] So that was like my first quarter-life crisis. I had a couple of them like one year out of college. I knew I didn't want to be in the job or career that I chose for myself anymore and that was really defeating. I felt really defeated because I spent four years of my life working up to this degree and then spend a lot of energy at this job, and I felt like I just ruined my life.
[00:12:49] I don't know what I'm going to do. I have no idea who on earth is going to want to hire me. I started to just go to career fairs that my university had. And mind you, this is me. As a person who is like one to two years out of university. So I felt really awkward going back to the campus because I'm like, Oh, I'm older than this. I'm like so grown. Like I'm so above this. I have to suck it up, and looking back at it now, it's not even that big of a deal. I think I just talked to my way into a job with With a software company that sells life insurance software and boom, then, like I got a 20 grand pay raise, just switching over to a different industry.
[00:13:31]They're like, yeah, we'll teach you everything you need to know, so that was really cool.
[00:13:35]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:13:35] Yeah, that sounds like a super great moment. Just switching careers, getting raise, and this was just based off of you being unhappy in the role that you had, you just started exploring.
[00:13:48] Sandy Cao: [00:13:48] Yep. I was just so unhappy that I knew I couldn't be where I was. As they say, you're sick and tired of being sick and tired. My boyfriend back then I would literally just cry every day and I'm like, I need to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life. There's all this like crisis energy happening. It just resolved itself once I got another job. It felt a lot better after that.
[00:14:11] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:14:11] Do you still have that expectation for yourself that you need to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life or have you released that expectation? Hard, right?
[00:14:20]Sandy Cao: [00:14:20] I think that expectation just has a way of creeping up on everybody when you're not focusing on it. It's whack-a-mole. You like whack it once or twice in your twenties. And then you're like, Oh, I'm coasting. And maybe in your forties, you're like, nah, I got to quit everything and go become a doctor, start fresh. I've that a couple of times in my life so far. I think I'll probably face it again in the future. I wouldn't be surprised.
[00:14:43]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:14:43] Yeah, it sounds like you were able to create your own luck and really lean into the serendipity on that one though. So came out the other side on top. That's awesome.
[00:14:53]Sandy Cao: [00:14:53] Yeah, the universe is on your side, baby.
[00:14:56]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:14:56] What brought you to San Francisco?
[00:14:58]Sandy Cao: [00:14:58] Oh so, after I quit my job at the tech company for two and a half years, I got burnt out and just did the little eat, pray, love tour of Southeast Asian South America for two years. So to recap, what I mean is I spent two and a half years working and then I saved up all this money so that I could hit the eject button and like basically bounce around from hostel to hostel in Southeast Asia and South America for two years, and then when I had only $3,000 left in my bank account, I was like, all right, fun times over I have to go find a job now. I was in Mexico at that time trying to decide okay, what job do I want now? So this is again when the career thing comes knocking. And I I made a decision based on like where my $3,000 could take me the furthest. I knew that everywhere else in the U.S. requires a car to get around.
[00:15:50]I decided on San Francisco because it was like one of the two places that I could use public transportation and walking and biking, and the alternative being New York. I'm from the East coast, so New York wasn't really all cool or anything to me. I have never worked or lived in the West Coast, but I have been to San Francisco before, so that's how I ended up in SF. I just came here without a job, no friends and $3,000.
[00:16:19] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:16:19] Oh, my God. Okay. We have to put a pin in, discuss your, did you call it a sabbatical? See, this is a great example of I should a hundred percent catch that there is a two year gap there and I just did not even pay attention whatsoever.
[00:16:36] Oh, no, that was meant to trick your eyes. My resume is it worked. It worked, my resume is definitely meant to like if you're just like not paying attention, you wouldn't notice the two year gap in my work history.
[00:16:52]Ooh. Okay. So now we know a skill of yours. So how did you do that? I'm also curious how you talk about? It sounds like you don't have to talk about it. Is that the case? I think a lot of people are worried about their gaps and I think they're overly worried about them.
[00:17:07]In my Twitter interview it has come up. They're very thorough with their interview. They ask very deep questions. There's nothing they won't know almost. It's best, I think, just to be honest. So for gap stuff in case anyone is like nervous that their gap year may be seen one way or another, or you're nervous for even embarking on one because you're afraid that maybe you won't be able to find a job afterwards, I don't think that's true because I have a job, but, people surprisingly are very supportive of those decisions. It's a lot about the delivery of how you talk about it. I'm not saying you should lie or anything, but just be honest and say, "Hey, yeah, I was actually super disconnected from the work that I was doing. I wanted to reset. I spent some time focusing on my own, like hobbies and pursuits, and that included traveling. Once I realize I wanted to get back into the swing of things, I came back."
[00:18:04]I love that. And we got to put that back in the story now that you're making it with your role at Twitter and stuff. This whole concept of making it is invented. I shouldn't even say it, but nonetheless, that's such a cool story. We have it in common and I didn't know that you had traveled around South America and all of that. So where did you go specifically? Also, two years is a long time. Do you dress up the way that you talk about it? Like for example, with Twitter, or I'm curious if you can show us behind the scenes of how would you talk about it to an employer?
[00:18:34]Sandy Cao: [00:18:34] Yeah. Okay. If an employer asked me what did you do during those two years? I'd probably say something similar to what I'm about to tell you now, which is very close to the truth. I didn't know what I was doing. All I knew is that I just needed a break from working and I tried to start a couple of things. I tried to start my own graphic design company, and I realized that being a freelance graphic designer is a lot of work and not a lot of pay, and then I got discouraged from doing that. I spent an spend some time licking my wounds, and while I was doing that I met a bunch of really good friends who all happened to be developers who were working abroad, and I was like, wait, these people are so cool, and they're so comfortable because they have a full-time job and they're able to work wherever they want, and they were the ones who first planted the seed that I could be an engineer for real. At my old job, I was working at a tech company and I did try to switch into a tech role, but I just faced so much sexism ingrained that they would not allow me to move away from my people facing position, quote unquote, and move into more technical role, so that was a non-starter. But these people who I met in Bali, these were like the people who were like, "Sandy, I see you as an engineer." And I'm like, "what? No way." I've never seen myself as an engineer before, so that was really life-changing for me. I would definitely talk about that, because I think it's important. Women do have a different experience going through the tech industry. When people don't believe in you, it's hard to believe in yourself.
[00:20:07]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:20:07] Absolutely. That's such a common thread across a lot of the interviews that I've done, and a lot of the people who I've met, who come from underrepresented groups is how big of a difference it makes when someone encourages you or believes in you just period. It's awesome that it happened while you were on this soul searching journey. Were you doing anything that would have made it obvious that you should be an engineer or they just intuited that was something kind of latent inside you?
[00:20:32]Sandy Cao: [00:20:32] I don't think I was doing anything obvious. We were playing a lot of Catan. If you like to play Catan, you're an engineer apparently.
[00:20:39]Oh, God, I love it. I will say you're also very funny. I assume in interviews, you are also funny and so that I'm taking that away from this conversation. If you can make people laugh with your stories and you can talk about just about anything, probably you can be whatever you want to be.
[00:20:57] You can choose your own career, as long as your first career is standup comedy. Shitty life advice.
[00:21:03]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:21:03] Humor is derived so much from truth and saying things that people are often too afraid to say. The instances where I've just been honest about what I experienced or what I was going through, people get humor out of it. Usually either you'll find out that you have it in common, like whatever it is that you're being vulnerable about, it they'll be like, Oh my God. Yes. What just happened for us? I've lived in Bali too. That might happen in an interview, or you'll uncover the fact, and this has happened to me in interviews is like, Oh my God, they want to do it. They're fantasizing about doing the thing I'm afraid of talking about. Yeah. Yes. Either way. It's a good way to connect with people. How did you end up making your way into the coding bootcamp world?
[00:21:46]Sandy Cao: [00:21:46] I was flailing after I landed in San Francisco basically living out of Airbnb hostile situation and I just needed money. I started working part-time jobs at these brand ambassador roles, serving as like signage, basically human signage for big tech conferences, and it paid really well. I was getting like $25 an hour just to stand and smile. I felt really great and I got free t-shirts. Because I was really nervous about my career, I actually did hire a career coach with one of the last $3,000 I had and the career coach basically pulled it out of me.
[00:22:22] Like from deep within me, somewhere in there was like a little engineer and my career coach was follow me. I will bring you to the light. And she basically guided me to start applying for coding bootcamps. I would definitely not have done that on my own because I used to be so afraid of engineering that if I were to say my own name and engineer in the same sentence, I would throw up a little bit in my mouth.
[00:22:49]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:22:49] That sounds like a great hustle to do while you're trying to find your full-time engineering job. Let's document those resources.
[00:22:55]Sandy Cao: [00:22:55] Hell yes. This definitely works a lot better if you are not in a pandemic. But if you're a people person and you like to travel and see things and go to parties and stuff, definitely consider becoming a brand ambassador in the SF Bay area, you don't need a car. You basically just need like a pair of jeans and sneakers and like a headshot or two. There's all these agencies that will hire you for one time gigs. Some cool gigs I've been to are like Google, Facebook YouTube's holiday parties. Zenefits holiday party, that was wild.
[00:23:32]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:23:32] I've encouraged folks in my career coaching to do UX feedback. You can make a lot of money online when tech companies are making small changes to their UX, they'll often use interviews. When the pandemic is over, we definitely got to get folks. Yeah. Because they need to be at them. Anyway. Thanks kindly. No brainer. I love that.
[00:23:57]Sandy Cao: [00:23:57] I'd be happy to like, share my resources on that. If anyone in the future like wants to reach out, I'm happy to point you in the right direction to get that started.
[00:24:06]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:24:06] It's so funny too, that you were hanging out at tech conferences and then it took your coach for you to really think about, "No, this is where you belong. You're already there."
[00:24:14]Sandy Cao: [00:24:14] Exactly. Sometimes we just need someone else to just point out the obvious even if I'm surrounded by it and I'm jamming with it. I still can't get over my negative self-talk and the throw up part of me that can not associate myself with anything technical. That part needs to be like coached.
[00:24:52] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:24:52] It was always just " Oh, they're doing that, and I'm bringing the pizza." And I look back like, wow, the internalized sexism was fraught.
[00:25:00] Sandy Cao: [00:25:00] Oh my gosh. I'm getting goosebumps listening to you say that.
[00:25:03] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:25:03] You don't even k now how many women I've talked to in the tech industry who are like, I coded HTML and CSS on MySpace for hours, and no one ever told me that this could be a job. I've heard it from so many women now to the point that I'm just like it is so important that a) we see other women who are software engineers, like yourself, seeing that you can do it and then b) when you do see someone who should be an engineer, telling them, believing in them. I know for me, I have a lot of vivid memories of learning to code. And so I was curious, what are your, we don't have to say fond
[00:25:40] You already know where this is going,
[00:25:45]bashing your head against the wall, trying to understand git.
[00:25:50]Sandy Cao: [00:25:50] I definitely feel a chill come over my body. Cause I used to do a lot of coding at my part-time job at General Assembly in the evenings when they were turning off the heat on the weekends. I would just be there by myself, white boarding and trying to learn how to solve, LeetCode problems and end up only solving one for the three hours that I spent there. But I would do that every week. And it was very lonely. And it was very cold. But there was something just nice about it, where you're like alone with your craft and you're honing your skills. You feel better just by doing the thing. I noted at that point, I get intrinsic value from solving these coding challenges.
[00:26:34] I double fist pump every single time I get tests to pass. I think this is an awesome job to have just because, if you strip everything else away, I still enjoy doing the thing. That's magic.
[00:26:45]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:26:45] I was sitting here just " Oh, I want to feel that." Sometimes it doesn't feel like that right, Sandy?
[00:26:51]Sandy Cao: [00:26:51] When you're actually doing it, it doesn't feel like that at all. But yeah, I'm chasing the double fist pump. You know what I mean? And after the light bulb moment. Oh, the computer is doing the thing I asked it to do. Exactly.
[00:27:05] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:27:05] That's amazing. A lot of non-traditional engineers, I chat with have these experiences where coding reminds them of something else in their life. I find it really beautiful. Because again, we have this like very, in my opinion, monolithic idea of what programming is like in the movies that looks like, someone just like pushing the keyboard buttons really fast and the green text is coming up. This very limited view of what programming looks like, but I think for people it feels very different. I'm wondering if for you there's any similarities in other experiences of your life, for what coding feels like or what the experience of coding is for you?
[00:27:43]Sandy Cao: [00:27:43] Yeah, I think that's a really good question. I think coding is an unforgiving problem solving situation. If you were to go about, I don't know, planning for Thanksgiving, you would have to figure out the recipes that you want to make, are you would have to figure out who to invite and based on who you invite, like what their preferences are for food, if they have any dietary restrictions and then after you do that, then you figure out, okay, like when can I go to the grocery store? What do I need? What do I already have? All of this stuff is a problem solving adventure and and coding is very similar to that. You want to get all of your information upfront and then you make some decisions before you even touch the code. You do a lot of research and sometimes you fail a little bit, you burn the turkey and then you try again, and then you succeed eventually, and you feel really good about it.
[00:28:36]I would say coding is very much similar to that. I come from a world where people used to always want to put me in a box where, " Hey, you're a people person go do people, person things," but I don't like solving people problems as much as I like solving coding problems.
[00:28:50]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:28:50] I like that. I love that you've owned it now.
[00:28:53] Sandy Cao: [00:28:53] Yeah. I'm like, don't make me solve people problems please. Thanks.
[00:28:58] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:28:58] I love it. I need to own that for myself.
[00:29:01]Sandy Cao: [00:29:01] I encourage you to do it. Yeah, I see. I see the engineer in you.
[00:29:04]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:29:04] That's awesome. And I didn't actually ask when you mentioned art earlier, your medium, or what kind of art you made or make? Are there any connections there between the art that you make?
[00:29:20]I did a lot of painting and drawing when I was younger. I think what it taught me for sure is just some things take a long time, don't beat yourself up. If you can't make a React app in 30 minutes, I know some bootcamps out there, hold that as a standard, but nobody in real life is going to actually time you and see if you can pass specs, like that is false. Coding's similar to art in that way where really quality code will come out of lots and lots of iterations and lots of like deep consideration for your craft. I keep on saying craft because that's how I like always perceived my relationship with art. These are my tools. I have paint, brushes, canvas paint. I need a quiet space. I need my music. I just zone out. The same thing happens for coding for me, like I get my noise canceling headphones, I play some lo-fi hip hop, I got my double monitors set up. I'm ergo, I'm all those things. I'm just like in the zone and prepared to do my craft. So I think like when you think of it you're like this, cool Guild member. Oh my gosh. Everything relates back to RuneScape. When you look at it, you're a master of your craft, it gets to be a cool job title.
[00:30:31]Yeah. And that's why we need more apprenticeships.
[00:30:33] Sandy Cao: [00:30:33] Yeah, apprenticeship.io, I like let's go.
[00:30:40] I know we've got to get more apprenticeships for everybody. I totally agree with you. It should be about honing your craft and mastery. You conjured up such a beautiful image there of how you approach art and how you approach coding as well. I feel similarly, that's how I experience it as well.
[00:30:56] So hopefully it invites others to. Join us
[00:31:03] if we haven't lost the listeners. They're definitely like, Oh, they're out.
[00:31:12] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:31:12] Awesome. Also putting a pin in the fact that you just talked about having two screens. I obviously living abroad and don't have two screens. So just, I'm also fantasizing about your multi-screen situation. But let's talk about the shitty days. Cause the shitty days exists too. So I know I have a ritual for dealing with the feels or the rejection or the guilt of not being as productive. Even today I was laying in bed in the morning just like, why am I not more productive? It's not useful either. I usually will take a shower. My ritual is take a shower, even like a scrub. Usually like I have new skin, fresh skin.
[00:31:53]Sandy Cao: [00:31:53] Completely new skin. You're like a snake.
[00:31:58] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:31:58] I can just ...if it was possible, I would do it. Metaphor that tends to help me. Do you have rituals or practices that you do when you need either reset or just to get back into the zone?
[00:32:14]Sandy Cao: [00:32:14] Yeah. I think there's two types. For like many resets or like just, I need to shake off whatever vibe is like haunting me, I will go for a walk with my dog. If you don't have a dog, that's cool. Go for a walk. I try to just look at trees or focus on nature. Because there's something magical about nature. I don't know what, but when you take it in, when you breathe it in, when you look at it, stare at it, sit with it, it starts to heal you. It just goes into your soul and is gives you a hug and then you feel really good, and then you go back inside and you're like, wow, that feels really great. Sometimes that doesn't happen for me, and in those cases I just watch YouTube. I dunno. Sometimes it's not always helpful, but the other thing I was going to say is there's sometimes bigger life Kind of gotchas obstacles that come up for people that are really showstoppers.
[00:33:08]I'd like to describe that for myself, with an example. So after my coding bootcamp, the coding boot camps always say you got to hit the ground running. Now's when your skills are the hottest. Go. I just couldn't go anymore. I'd spent four months, like day in, day out nonstop coding.
[00:33:24]And I was so burnt out and I needed to refresh. I actually went on a two week road trip. Thought that the traveling would really help me in getting into nature. But I came back like still super, super down and It was so down, like I just started having really bad thoughts and trigger warning for anyone. Like I was like really in a bad place. So for the first time in my life, I had decided I wanted to go get a medical diagnosis. I knew I had depression for a long time, but I never allowed myself to get any help for it, with, for it. I had no job at the time.
[00:33:59]I was on the Medi-Cal. I went to the hospital, got like a doctor and started telling him all about my depression. He got me on some medication and I was really excited about that. While I was going to these more frequent doctor's appointments, I did notice a lump in my breast, and I was like, "Hey, can you check this out for me?" while I'm healing my depression with these meds I'm also starting to worry about this lump. This is all happening like a month or two after I graduated the bootcamp and I'm applying to jobs again. I get the result of my biopsy on that lump the day before my onsite at Twitter. This is a Monday, I get diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, and then Tuesday, I have my in-person onsite at Twitter. I just remember, I was holding my friend's hand at the time, when the doctor told me, and I couldn't think of anything other than LeetCode problems.
[00:34:52]I was like, " Oh my God. How do I, how do I do BFS, DFS?" I'm in crisis mode, basically, I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I like have this very important day tomorrow and I have this very important news that I just received, and I like needed to process those things separately." But I basically said to myself, I'm like, " Do this for yourself, you would as do this as if you would do this without that news, just do the best you can."
[00:35:21]I walked in there pretended as if nothing had happened, and on Friday I got the result and I got the job and I'm like, "Oh my goodness thing, thank God. I have like quality insurance now, I can accept Twitter's offer." The diagnosis allowed me to breathe easier as well because the recovery for stage two breast cancer is 95% success. That was a number that I really held on to. I was like, you know what, like 95%, I like those odds. I would play the lottery with those odds. I would say when shit hits the fan like that my philosophy is strange. Maybe it's not strange, but I leaned into a lot of stoicism.
[00:36:02]I try to really focus on the things that I can control versus the things that I cannot control. In the 24 hours between when I got the diagnosis and when I had to do the in person interview, I don't think it would have helped me to look up all of the different things that I'd had to go through for like chemo and stuff that wasn't going to help me.
[00:36:21]I knew like the thing that I can control is how well I do on this interview. I spent all my time focusing on that instead. I'm really glad I did, because it prevented me from doing this thing where like I spiral and keep on thinking about the negative thought, and I think that kind of mentality has gotten me through this past year.
[00:36:39] So long story short, I am cancer free. Now I did all my chemo and radiation, during the first year of my apprenticeship. Big shout out to my team if they ever listened to this. Thank you so much to my team. I love you all. Everyone was super supportive. I like to keep it quiet. I was wearing a wig at the time, so no one else outside my team had any idea. I really loved them. They were just always there for me and always so kind, even though I had doctor's appointments like pretty much every day.
[00:37:10] My gosh, I am just sitting here just... first of all, the story you told about the cadence of how the events unfolded with your interviews and finding out when you got diagnosed, that was a movie.
[00:37:25]My dog is playing with an egg.
[00:37:32] We love that.
[00:37:33]This is not what we're doing. Sandy just told us she had breast cancer. Oh my gosh, okay, so you have super powers in terms of focus and performance anxiety, and directing your energy in ways that will benefit you. You're basically a stoic master. I am so amazed, impressed.
[00:37:58]I'm imagining how stressed and just so many people would crumble under those circumstances and it sounds like you rose amidst incredible uncertainty and just stress. That's an incredible story, man. Thank you.
[00:38:15]I wouldn't wish this upon anyone. I don't think. I don't think you need stress to become Zen or anything, and I don't think I'm completely Zen. But I would say that stoic philosophy has helped me tremendously. If not equal to, or more than the Zoloft that I'm on. I think just the framing of problems. If you can look at it from a perspective of what can I control? It becomes so liberating.
[00:38:43]I'll give you another example. Like with the cancer, there's a part where like you have to come to the conclusion that you're going to have to lose your hair. I was dreading that moment. I was talking to my therapist about it at the time, and she was like, I've had like other patients do a hair funeral and that's all she needed to say. I was like, "yup, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to take charge of this moment because I can, that's something I can do. And I'm going to flip it." Instead of hanging onto my hair for dear life and hoping it doesn't fall out, I know it's going to fall out and I'm going to shave it. I'm going to get ahead of it. I'm going to invite every single person I know and love to this event so that they can support me. I said, "Hey, everyone wear black, as if you're going to a funeral," and we all showed up at the hair salon. Funny enough, everyone at the hair salon who works there was also wearing all black.
[00:39:29]They buzzed all my hair off and it was a happy celebratory moment. We were all so excited. I did my makeup. I dressed up cute and I was rocking it I'm like, this is the new me. I'm super excited to see what I look like without hair. This is cool. Goodbye hair. We were all sad that the hair is now gone. That's what you do at funerals. It almost felt appropriate to mourn because we're all wearing black. We're all looking cute.
[00:39:54]it's amazing with a good ritual and community care, what they're capable of dealing with or overcoming or turning into something. It sounds like you guys had a lot of joy even in the grief.
[00:40:08]Absolutely. It means so much to me that like my friend just says, " you look good," even if I don't look good, but it just means so much to me to hear it from I could have done that, like privately in a closet and not tell anyone and then throw on a wig afterwards, but it felt so cathartic to have my friends hold me in that way.
[00:40:27] I am so amazed. At some point, I would love if you are open to the idea of documenting the story in greater detail, I'm a bit of a writing nerd. I know we're doing a podcast, but that story you just told sounds like it should... to me, it's such a story of like triumph and focus. I feel like there are probably a much larger number of people out there who have also gotten terrible news or had to deal with very human things during interview processes. I don't know if it would help you to know that you weren't alone, but, it's just I'm in awe.
[00:41:09] Yeah. People go through so many real situations that I don't think are mentioned very much in like the blog articles that I've read. When I was first starting out as an engineer and, I stopped all of the articles I could find about other apprentices and trust me there weren't a lot. And I'm like, " wow, I just want to know that someone else like me has done this," so I really appreciate what you're doing for the community.
[00:41:33]Kamrin Klauschie: [00:41:33] Yay. Thank you.
[00:41:34] Sandy Cao: [00:41:34] Thank you, Kam. You're doing a really good job, too. I used to interview people for one of my jobs and like you were 10 times more organized than I was.
[00:41:42]My God, it's it's been... yeah, we can talk about the shit show that is interviewing and all of this... I'm actually release transparency reports. I think one of the goals behind this, like the financial transparency, the logistical and administrative transparency as well, because I thought it would just be like, Oh, me and my microphone, like just hanging out and getting people on the internet to join me and there's, it's not just like the editing process. It's a lot. Yeah. You gotta pay for hosting and like software and services.
[00:42:14]By the way, I'd be happy to adopt one of your bills, I would love to do that. Oh, that's amazing.
[00:42:20] Kamrin Klauschie: [00:42:20] So I'm getting our nonprofit side is set up. That's a whole thing. Other like side tangent we can talk about, but it's coming. And what's nice about it is that it'll be a tax write-off and thanks for asking. That's really, that made my day, actually, it just had a really hard time doing this unpaid.
[00:42:40]So anyway that was a lot off topic for sure. Do you have any last tips, tricks, advice that you would want to give to other non-traditional engineers out there before we close up?
[00:42:53]Sandy Cao: [00:42:53] I would say the most important thing to do is to surround yourself with people who will catch you if you fall. This doesn't have to be people who are in the engineering world or in the tech world at all. This could be your mom. It could be your cousin, whoever you're close with. For me, I lived with a rowdy bunch of like people in Soma, cause I lived in a little co-living space to save money and those people held me my entire way. It was only because we laughed so hard in between all the moments of trying that I was able to get through that moment in my life. I would encourage you to find your tribe.
[00:43:32]Thank you so much Kam. It was really such a pleasure to talk to you.
[00:43:35]Yay. Thank you. I enjoyed this so much. You're amazing, Sandy. I have so much admiration for you. You're going to continue doing amazing things in the industry.
[00:43:44] The admiration goes both ways, Kam. Oh my gosh. I'm so excited to see what comes of apprenticeship.io too. Yay. Thank you.
[00:43:53]Kate Martin: [00:43:53] Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the apprenticeship.io podcast. You can learn more about apprenticeships and find us online at www.apprenticeship.io. Don't forget to follow us on Spotify, and subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
[00:44:10] Want to get a shout out on the podcast or support our work? Become a patron at www.patreon.com/apprenticeshipio.
[00:44:19] Until next time, we're rooting for you.