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How the Insane Pressure of Classical Music Prepared Jessica Wilkins for Tech


How the Insane Pressure of Classical Music Prepared Jessica Wilkins for Tech

On this week’s episode of the podcast, I interview orchestral musician-turned software engineer Jessica Wilkins.

Jessica found success in the extremely competitive field of classical music, playing the Oboe in orchestras, recording sessions, and even at major events such as the NFL awards on national television.

She started her own business – a sheet music e-commerce website. This not only helped her survive in the high cost of living city of Los Angeles – it also helped her learn web development.

During the pandemic, many of her performance and recording gigs were cancelled. This inspired her to dive much deeper into coding. She now works as a software engineer at freeCodeCamp, and has contributed substantially to freeCodeCamp’s core curriculum. Also, her many freeCodeCamp tutorial articles have more than 400,000 readers each month.

During our conversation, Jessica talks about the insane pressure she faced as a musician, where standards are incredibly high. So many people want to be professional musicians, and there is so little money in the industry. Jessica was a rare case of finding success. But even that success could not dissuade her from diving into software development.

This is a long, intimate conversation with one of the sharpest minds behind freeCodeCamp.org. It was a blast talking with Jessica for more than two hours. I think you’ll dig it.

Here are some timestamps in case you want to skip some our lengthy discussion about music education and the music industry:

  • 0:00:00 My bass intro. See if you can guess this 1970 classic bassline.
  • 0:01:00 Our discussion of Jessica’s upbringing by a school teacher and single mom, and her journey into classical music
  • 1:07:00 Jessica Learns to code and builds a profitable sheet music e-commerce business
  • 1:35:00 Jessica’s decision to go all in on software development
  • 1:44:00 Contract work and thoughts on what caused recent tech layoffs

You can watch this interview on YouTube:

Or you can listen to the podcast in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. You can also listen to the podcast below, right in your browser:

Links we talk about during the interview:

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