September 20, 2023

How to Break Six Figures in Six Months with Hannah Maruyama (DF#115)

How to Break Six Figures in Six Months with Hannah Maruyama

The Power Of Negotiating And Learning New Skills

In this second part of our interview with our co-host, Hannah Maruyama, continues sharing her journey from a Junior Salesforce Developer to becoming a successful business analyst, and then landing her current job as Head of Operations for an AI startup.

Discover how she embraced new opportunities, obtained valuable certifications, and advanced her career to earn a six-figure salary. Hannah also discusses transitioning into product roles and the importance of continuously learning technical skills.

What You’ll Learn:

- Hannah’s progression from a call center job to becoming a business analyst, and now as Head of Operations of an AI Startup
- Breaking six figures in just six months through continuous learning and listening to team advice.
- Gaining certifications, negotiating a six-figure salary, and securing roles as a business analyst and Salesforce admin.
- The importance of reading about others' experiences, learning new skills, and incorporating AI into existing skill sets.
- The correlation between technical skills, career potential, and market demand
- The importance of knowing Excel and leveraging AI tools for job efficiency
- The power of focusing on one skill at a time and taking action to achieve career goals

Dive into this episode of the Degree Free Podcast where Hannah Maruyama shares her journey. Whether you're considering a career in business analysis, looking to enhance your technical skills, or questioning the value of a degree, this episode offers valuable insights and actionable advice.

Don't wait to pursue your dreams, tune in and take the first step towards your successful future!

Enjoy the episode!

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Check out the first part of this episode to learn about how Hannah went from unemployed to landing a Salesforce Admin job!

Links and Notes from the Episode

Episode Transcript
Please enjoy this transcript or our episode!

Please note the transcript may have a few errors. We're human. It can be hard to catch all the errors from a full length conversation. Enjoy!

Hannah Maruyama [00:00:00]:

There came the opportunity for me to work on another team, but they needed a business analyst. And I was not a business analyst, but I said, I can learn it. I can learn it very quickly. And one of my more senior team members pointed out that I already was pretty good, and it came naturally to me. to work with stakeholders and users and to break down how things were working. And so he said we should probably just go learn that skill set. And so I ended up going and getting my PMI PBA, which is professional business analyst certification. And so that is how I became a business analyst.

Ryan Maruyama [00:00:40]:

Hello, folks. And welcome back to degree free where we teach you how to get hired without a college degree. I'm your host, Ryan Maruyama. Before we get into today's episode, if you would like to receive a short weekly email, that goes over different degree free jobs, degree free companies, and how you could get hired without a college degree. Go to degreefree.coforward/newsletter to sign up for our free weekly newsletter. And this week, our guest is Hannah Maruyama. Hannah is the cohost of the degree free podcast. This is a continuation of our interview. Last week, we talked about her being degree free and what it looked like for her to break out of college. And then we got all the way up to her getting her $28,000 a year call center job, getting laid off from there, and then getting her

Hannah Maruyama [00:01:32]:


Ryan Maruyama [00:01:34]:

a year job after that just 45 days later. This week, we talk about everything after that. Coming to the future, her breaking 6 figures within 6 months of her landing that $70,000 a year job and never looking back. This is part 2. If you haven't listened to part 1, I will put in the show notes you can say hi to Hannah at degreefree on TikTok and on LinkedIn Hannah Maruyama. without any further ado, please enjoy my part 2 with Hannah Mariama. Hannah, thank you once again for taking the time to be here. This is 2 weeks in a row.

Hannah Maruyama [00:02:11]:

I am just really excited to be here. You know? And when you do ask me to be here, I make an effort.

Ryan Maruyama [00:02:17]:

Yeah. I am really excited to do this one. This is a degree for you first.

Hannah Maruyama [00:02:22]:

We Harry Potter and the Deathie Hollow, do you guys?

Ryan Maruyama [00:02:24]:


Hannah Maruyama [00:02:25]:

Wait. No. Wait. Is that the last one?

Ryan Maruyama [00:02:28]:

That is the last one. part 1, part 2. Well, I'm not a 100% positive, but I feel like that was one of the first. If not, it was the first. movie to break it up into a part 1 and a part

Hannah Maruyama [00:02:42]:

2. And then a lot of series not worth doing that too.

Ryan Maruyama [00:02:44]:

Did that. Yeah.

Hannah Maruyama [00:02:45]:

because the Hobbit was, like, 3 part

Ryan Maruyama [00:02:47]:

the hobbit was three part.

Hannah Maruyama [00:02:48]:

That was crazy. Yes. Like, what do they think there are lord of the rings? No. You're not.

Ryan Maruyama [00:02:53]:

If anything, it would have made sense if you had broken up each movie into 3 different movies. Right? Like, the fellowship would've could've been 3 movies.

Hannah Maruyama [00:03:03]:

Well, yeah, because they were each a separate book, and they took the hobbit and they're like, one book. three part.

Ryan Maruyama [00:03:08]:

Yeah. No. No. No.

Hannah Maruyama [00:03:08]:

Guys, it doesn't work like that.

Ryan Maruyama [00:03:10]:

To be clear, I'm not advocating that they should have done that. I'm just saying it would have made more sense to make those

Hannah Maruyama [00:03:19]:


Ryan Maruyama [00:03:19]:

movies rather than the Hobbit 3 movies.

Hannah Maruyama [00:03:22]:

I completely agree with you.

Ryan Maruyama [00:03:24]:

Anyway, well, the reason why I stopped. It was well, one, we ran way over time that we had allotted to do it. But, also, there was so much more meat on the bone and meat to the story. that I wanted to follow it up. So for those of you that are new listening to the podcast, we did part 1 and that was last week of this interview. in part 1, I'll sum it up for everyone that didn't listen to it, but I definitely suggest that you do go back and listen to it. If you haven't listened to it already, And I'll put links to everything as usual in the show notes through free dotcoforward slash podcast. In part 1, we basically talked about at the beginning of degree free. The first is the beginning of you being degree free. You breaking out of college and what that looked like, what that decision looked like, for you and then what you did after that. And then all the way up to you getting late off from your $28,000 year call center job being unemployed. And then 45 days from when you decided that you were gonna get your Salesforce certification. You then got a job offer making $70,000 a year. So that is where we left off. Like we said in the first episode, it's really neat when you tell your story in a couple of sentences. Right? You went from $28,000 call center job to unemployed 45 days later, 70,000. Within six months, you made a 100,000. You broke 6 figures and you never looked back. Right? Very, very easy, very, very neat. But as somebody who is literally there, there was a lot of ups and downs in all of that. And I know that when other people give their one sentence or 2 sentence introductions, there's a lot of ups and downs in all of that as well. And that's why we have this podcast is to highlight those things and just show that it is possible. So you're working the

Hannah Maruyama [00:05:23]:


Ryan Maruyama [00:05:25]:

a year junior Salesforce dev is actually the title that you have. Yeah. Even though you only have the Salesforce admin, sir, how do you go from

Hannah Maruyama [00:05:35]:

70 $1000

Ryan Maruyama [00:05:37]:

a year to then breaking 6 figures.

Hannah Maruyama [00:05:40]:

The way that worked, I think, was just -- listening to the team around me. I had a good team. A lot of them had quite a bit of experience and They directed me on what to learn and what skills to pick up because I was so new. And I went into the job very enthusiastic, which I always recommend, and being willing to learn whatever was needed. It was a consulting company, and that company worked contracts. So I was not a contract worker. I was a w 2 worker at a contract company. And so, essentially, They were picking up new contracts. And so there came the opportunity for me to work on another team, but they needed a business analyst And I was not a business analyst, but I said I can learn it. I can learn it very quickly. And one of my more senior team members pointed out that I already was pretty good. And it came naturally to me to work with stakeholders and users and to break down how things were working. And so he said, you should probably just go learn that skill set. And so I ended up going and getting my PMI PBA, which is professional business analyst certification. And so that is how I became a business analyst.

Ryan Maruyama [00:06:51]:

Hey there. I hope you're enjoying this episode of the degree free podcast. At degree free, we wanna help everyone thrive and succeed without needing a college degree. And the only way to truly reach everyone is with your help. If you're getting value out of this episode, or if this is your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th episode that you're tuning into, if you could just ship this to a friend, just click that one button and share it with someone in your contacts or on your stories, it would mean the world to us. And more importantly, gets our message out to more people who need help getting out of their current situation. If you could do that right now, that would mean a whole lot. For those that are new to the podcast and did not listen to part 1. The Salesforce admin, sir, you got that in 31 days.

Hannah Maruyama [00:07:37]:


Ryan Maruyama [00:07:39]:

It took you to get it. It is the first certification that you can get from Salesforce. Correct?

Hannah Maruyama [00:07:46]:

Yes. Yeah.

Ryan Maruyama [00:07:46]:

Just to catch everybody up on the story here. What is a business analyst?

Hannah Maruyama [00:07:52]:

So business analysis is a fancy way of saying that you can break down how a business is making money and how the processes inside that business that contribute to them making money work. That's essentially it. A lot of the ways that it's used now is to assess businesses what they need, their requirements, -- for different products that are being built for them. So in this case, it was software. Essentially, what I needed to do was I needed to understand these general principles of how businesses work, risk, looking at how timelines work when you're building something, looking at different project management styles, looking at what the defaults are to talk to people who are gonna use whatever you're gonna make for them, whatever product you're gonna make, and then how to interact with stakeholders, stakeholders, or people that have a stake in your project, but they're not necessarily users of whatever you're building. And a lot of times those are executives or people that have money in and so they care about the outcome of whatever project you're working on or whatever product you're building. And it was just essentially just learning the names of things because -- functionally, it's not that hard. You can identify what those people are, but you just might not call them by the correct fancy business names. And so essentially going through it, I was like, oh, I know all of this. And that was what my team leader told me. He was like, you know all the stuff ready. You you already know this. You just need to go learn the frameworks and stuff. So that's what I did. And I think that that didn't take me long at all. I think 2 weeks, 3 weeks, something like that.

Ryan Maruyama [00:09:21]:

That's one of the biggest things with professional experience is knowing the right words. A lot of times, it's all jargon.

Hannah Maruyama [00:09:31]:

Oh, yeah.

Ryan Maruyama [00:09:31]:

Whatever it is, whatever field you're in, there's just jargon for everything. Unless it's highly, highly technical, you probably know a lot of business processes and a business operations and things that go on within a business, even sales and marketing. All of those types of things, you know, a lot of it just by being in the world and seeing things interacting with different companies and different businesses. You just have to learn the language and learn the lingo.

Hannah Maruyama [00:10:01]:

So a good example of this actually just comes to mind. So this is kind of like Your mother-in-law being involved in your wedding. Your mother-in-law is a stakeholder. She cares about the outcome of this ceremony But she is not directly involved. She's not gonna be using any of it. It's not about her, but she's a stakeholder in this thing. And so once you realize that, like Ryan said, you've observed these principles in a while. You know what that means. Really, you've seen it. And once you realize, oh, it's that. then it's much easier to go, oh, okay. Well, I know what that is. And so I know how to interact with these people too. Right? I know how to talk to them, and I know what the correct steps are to say, hey. Here's how this works. We gotta do this. What do you guys think about this? And there's proper ways to do that within formal business processes. And that's that's pretty much it.

Ryan Maruyama [00:10:46]:

Yeah. Absolutely. And I don't wanna get hung up on operations necessarily, but like I said, there's other departments where that's the case as well. And if you learn the jargon and if you learn the vocabulary, the nomenclature, you're gonna have a much better time and a much easier time learning the things that, you know, matter in that arena.

Hannah Maruyama [00:11:10]:

Yeah. They're all like that. I agree with that. All the job families are like that.

Ryan Maruyama [00:11:14]:

So you have this PMI PBA, the professional business analyst, certification, how do you get this role that pays 6 figures?

Hannah Maruyama [00:11:23]:

This is a good question. So, basically, they asked me if I wanted this role, and I said, I can. They said learn this thing, and then you can have this role. So I would take on a second contract, essentially, within my job. And I wanted to see if I could crack 6 figures. I was like, let me see how far I can take this. Let me see what I can keep doing. And so I got another certification. And then I remember distinctly too, my project manager was studying for his scrum master certification. Scrum is a way to run software development teams. It's a framework for running agile teams. This gets really technical, and it's honestly not super important. But essentially, it's a philosophy on running software development teams. And I got mine before he got his. And so, basically, I just went to them and I whacked them in the face with all additional learning that I had done. And I said, yeah. You know, I'll take that job, but I want 6 figures. And so I gave them that number. And they thought about it, and they're like, okay. We can we can do that. I'm like, okay. Sounds good. And so that was less than 6 months, actually, after I had started.

Ryan Maruyama [00:12:32]:

What did it feel like to break the 6 figure mark because seemingly, it was really quick. But then also, you had been working for a long time before that, just not in that field.

Hannah Maruyama [00:12:45]:

It was pretty surreal. And I think too, what people don't realize is when you are in that position and you suddenly get your first big break, I guess. And then you get your second one. And now you're earning way more than you ever did before. It takes a while for it to sink in. It's pretty surreal. And it doesn't really affect your life much until a few months later, at least, because you don't feel like you have it. It doesn't feel real to you. It feels very strange. Like, even seeing the numbers feels very odd after never having been anywhere near that.

Ryan Maruyama [00:13:18]:

Yeah. Totally. I can totally see that. So you finally broke 6 figures. You are a business analyst in one role. And then, Salesforce admin in another role, but you work at the same company.

Hannah Maruyama [00:13:32]:

Correct. So I had both of these roles simultaneously.

Ryan Maruyama [00:13:34]:

Are you working more hours?

Hannah Maruyama [00:13:36]:

No. Our splitting time.

Ryan Maruyama [00:13:37]:

Got it. So it's not like you went from your 4 day work week. and then work to 5 day work week. It's not like you were working 40 hours, and then now you're working, like, 50 hours. You were still working 40 hours, but it's, like,

Hannah Maruyama [00:13:52]:

20:20. Correct.

Ryan Maruyama [00:13:53]:

Correct. Something like that.

Hannah Maruyama [00:13:55]:

And then when I did go over, I believe I was allowed to charge it. But, yeah, I was working 40 hours and splitting time.

Ryan Maruyama [00:14:00]:

Awesome. Awesome. And you've had a few roles since then. What are the roles that you've had since then?

Hannah Maruyama [00:14:06]:

Yeah. So after I started working as a business analyst, I had the ability to work a little bit in the product space at that same company. It was really good environment actually for somebody in their first tech job because they kinda just let me -- pitch in wherever I was interested and really encouraged that and encouraged me to learn. And so that was really cool and helps me a lot. And so I started doing some product ownership stuff. And then later, I actually did take a role as a product owner. And so I was a product owner for a while. And then I applied as a business analyst to a startup, actually, and ended up getting that role. And I have been at that company ever since, but now I'm the head of operations for this company. It's an AI company, actually.

Ryan Maruyama [00:14:48]:

Awesome. Awesome. And so you kinda glossed over it. You said you went into product after that. What led you to product basically, I'm seeing a theme that you get into your role and then you have the opportunity to learn more Take on more skills, take on more responsibility, and then use that to get your next thing.

Hannah Maruyama [00:15:11]:

It was just a good fit because it was Salesforce product owner. And so I just had the right interest and the right skill set existing. So familiar enough with Salesforce. And then having the business analysis background and certification showed that I knew how to talk to users. And because I was a business analyst, I was conducting AAT, which is user acceptance training, and that basically means you're walking people through an application or a software development product. and you're getting users to accept the thing. And so you spend a lot of time talking to people who are using whatever you just build. And that's important because if you're talking to them, it means you can get feedback from them. And then you can change essentially the it's called the product road map, and it will decide what gets built next, and that is product ownership. And so Product is kind of a new field. It's a new job family, essentially. And so I had the correct experience, actually, for that one at that point. I had just been working and doing that already because I was working on a smaller team from my first job from that initial Salesforce junior dev job. And so it was just a good fit.

Ryan Maruyama [00:16:13]:

Well, when you say new, you mean new to you or new in general?

Hannah Maruyama [00:16:17]:

It's new in general. Like, I think it's the last 10, 15 years. It hasn't been around that long. As far as, like, showing up, though, like, on LinkedIn as a category of jobs you can look at.

Ryan Maruyama [00:16:26]:

Yeah. I think it's in the last 20 years or so. It's not Super new.

Hannah Maruyama [00:16:30]:

Yes. But more fairly recent.

Ryan Maruyama [00:16:32]:

Yes. You definitely see way more product jobs now than you ever have before, but I just wanted to clear that up because it's not

Hannah Maruyama [00:16:41]:

incredibly new. Like, the last couple of years.

Ryan Maruyama [00:16:44]:

I wanted to hone in here on learning skills while you're still at the job using that opportunity to learn new skills, skill up, and then take that somewhere else or move up in your existing organization, which you've done both. Right? And it reminds me of an engineer that we had on Matt Walters. He went from a pool tech to where he is now as an engineer and it all really was just by him learning more and learning on the job. Right? So he was a pool tech And then he got interested in big boilers, how it all operated. And then he went from there, HVAC, and then he kept going and kept going, building maintenance, building engineer. And just by learning on his way up within a few years to completely change his life. Like I said, I mean, he went from a pool tech.

Hannah Maruyama [00:17:40]:

I find that when people express an interest to learn things, especially especially in technical fields, I think it's rare that people are actually curious about how things work and what they can learn. And so a lot of people I found will spend a lot of time blaining complex concepts to you if you ask them what they are, especially if it shows that they have a depth of knowledge on something that they never get to share with anybody. It's all bottled up. Right? They use it for work, but then they don't use it otherwise. And so for them to be able to explain it and show it to somebody's cool for them. And so a lot of people bend over backwards to do so. And I found that just being interested in learning something new, a lot of times people will do anything they can to how help you do that.

Ryan Maruyama [00:18:23]:

Yeah. And for those people listening, learning something new and getting paid to do it is, like, one of the best ways to learn a new skill, right, because your risk profile is really, really good. It's basically nothing. It's usually easier to do that in a smaller company, just by the virtue of small businesses or startups, more people have to wear more hats. And if you show the initiative to go and cross train in this different area, awesome. If you take the initiative to start a whole new thing while you're still doing your thing, Like, you're doing a whole new department that they don't have. Like, say you are currently in customer success and you're doing a good job, but you noticed that your company has, like, a marketing person, but they are only focusing on this one channel. And you are like, well, I'm doing well in my customer success job, and I have a little bit of extra time. I wanna open up our marketing to this other channel I don't really know how to do it, but I'm positive that I can learn what to do and then do it. It is a win win for both sides. because this company is gonna get a new marketing channel, and you're gonna learn a new skill, and you're gonna get them to pay for you learning that new skill Seemingly that new skill usually should be worth more than the skill that you're doing now, but if there's a way that you can find where the intersection of those 2 skills meet and then you go and do that and you pitch that to a different company, or you pitch that to your current company for a new position.

Hannah Maruyama [00:20:11]:

Suddenly, you got more valuable.

Ryan Maruyama [00:20:12]:


Hannah Maruyama [00:20:13]:

And they also see potential in somebody who takes the initiative to do that.

Ryan Maruyama [00:20:16]:

Yeah. it really is powerful, powerful stuff. So you said right now, you're working at an AI company. What are you doing right now?

Hannah Maruyama [00:20:25]:

I'm the head of operations for this company. And, essentially, what the company does is it serves the procurement departments, the software procurement department, of fortune 500 companies. So it's very technical. It's very legalese. It's very it's a lot of that. It's very valuable, though. It's a great, great service, and it has it has a lot to grow for sure. I think that is gonna be very common. in years to come.

Ryan Maruyama [00:20:53]:

Now that we've kind of caught up to where we are, I wanted to talk about, you know, for people listening to this, you know who they are because we talk to them all the time, but they're sitting there thinking to themselves. Well, that's all nice for Hannah to do it. But what about me? And how can I do it quicker? So if you were to go and do it all over again, would you do it the same way?

Hannah Maruyama [00:21:18]:

I think If I could go back, I would bite the bullet and I would learn a more technical skill set First. That's probably what I would do differently. It's hard because it worked out, but if I was trying to maximize the result from concentrated learning like that, that's probably what I would do.

Ryan Maruyama [00:21:40]:

Even with the risk of that taking longer when you are making no money coming in, The reason why I ask that is because that's always the rub. Right? Like, there's always an opportunity cost. You studying all the time means that you're not working. or you studying all the time and and trying to learn this skill means that you're not spending time with your kids. You studying all the time means you're not hanging out with your friends. or doing literally anything else in the world. At the time, you and I didn't have a lot of money At the time, we really, really, really needed that income. Do you really mean that that you would have spent more time learning a more technical skill and what would that technical skill be?

Hannah Maruyama [00:22:25]:

I think I do mean it because if I had done that, it's a heavier lift at the beginning. But it puts you ahead of a lot of other people, and it puts you in an even higher earning bracket And the sooner you get up there, the sooner you're gonna get further there as well. The answer is still yes. I would go back and I would keep studying, and I would keep doing that uncomfortable studying for a couple months more because that, I think, would have had even more outsized returns even faster. As far as what I would have learned, I think that that's constantly changing, and you have to do as much intensive research as I did then in order to find whatever language, whatever technical skill you're gonna pursue because it does change. And so the market value of the skill will change. The demand will change the supply of people able to fill those jobs will change, and you have to know what that looks like. And then you have to be able to estimate roughly how long it's gonna take you. And that's why I read it was actually such a really important resource for me because I was able to see how long people were saying it was taking them to study. And I'm like, if I can just read so many of these accounts, and they're all saying 1 to 6 months, 1 to 3 months, you know, 2 to 4 months. I was like, okay. So it's gotta somewhere in there. You're right. It's gotta be somewhere in the 2 to 6 months. I was like, I gotta be somewhere in there. And so if people are saying it's gonna take you 6 to 8 months to learn a skill. People are saying it's gonna take you 3 to 6 months to learn a skill. You can kind of pinpoint, you know, where you are. And I think that that really helped me a lot, but estimating your time based on other people's experience was the best thing I had available to me. So that's what I did.

Ryan Maruyama [00:24:04]:

Perfect. I wanna go back to what you were talking about about picking the skill and, you know, how that's gonna be different for everybody depending on when you're listening to this right now. And depending on what you wanna do and what your situation is, that is great advice, and I love it. Garrett Graves, who is a engineer at Twitch, came on, and he focuses on web RTC. which is real time communication. So it's gonna be the things that Switch does. Like, basically, like, Zoom calls that type of stuff. He says when picking a project, when you're first starting to learn how to code, he says that you should do cool things with technology that's in demand.

Hannah Maruyama [00:24:45]:

Great advice.

Ryan Maruyama [00:24:46]:

Yes. Exactly. I thought so as well. And that's how he chose WebRTC. And now we never talk about exactly how much he makes, but he makes well over 6 figures. Yeah. Please listen to the episode. I'll put links in the show notes, degree free dot seal. forward slash podcast, and you can check out that episode. It was a great episode. That framework of thinking about what to learn is really useful, and it's not only useful for technical skills. It's not just useful for coding even though he was talking about coding.

Hannah Maruyama [00:25:22]:

No. It was useful for anything. I mean, off the top of your head, right, like doing with AI, doing copywriting with AI. Why? because people are interested in that right

Ryan Maruyama [00:25:29]:

now. Exactly. And those aren't technical things. Not really. I mean, it's technical to maybe extremely nontechnical people, but if you're just using one of these AI, especially, like, one of these rappers is what I'll call it that basically uses chatgbt or open ai's API. and puts a front end on it to do cool stuff with technology that's in demand. Right? So you're still using AI but it's all abstracted away from you. But you understand how to use these new tools. And so when a new tool comes up for whatever market that you're in, for whatever industry that you're in, you can then just be like, okay. I've seen this before. I know what to do, and then you can just execute on it. And then you can bring immediate value to your team in that way.

Hannah Maruyama [00:26:17]:

Yes. I agree with that 100%. Because this isn't just a bicycle run to every single new thing, but it is advice about understanding when you enter the market and what skills are available and what skills are needed and what skills are valued by the market because that's gonna dictate how much you can make.

Ryan Maruyama [00:26:32]:

I did wanna talk about the looking things up on Reddit to know how long to study for the exams. That is extremely extremely useful. but I do want to tell people that just because you read it on Reddit doesn't mean that it's true. These are just rough estimates These are the timelines that other people had and what other people did. But just because it took them 3 to 6 months and you're seeing everybody else, take 3 to 6 months doesn't mean that it's gonna take 3 to 6 months for you. Or you

Hannah Maruyama [00:27:02]:

could do it slower?

Ryan Maruyama [00:27:03]:

It's just a rough estimate. Right? 3 to 6 months when I was looking at one of these certifications to get, just because I wanted to get one of these certifications, I went and I got the PMP. the project management professional certification. I went to our PMP, right, sub reddit PMP, and looked up, like, oh, how long is this gonna take me? And everybody's like, oh, it's gonna take 8 months. It's gonna take 6 months. I got that thing in 21 days. I went from not knowing. Literally never heard of it ever in my life to then sat and took it and got the certification 21 days later. So it's just a guideline for you. You're like, okay. Well, 6 months, maybe. I can do it within 6 months. The magical thing about deadlines is that it's Parkinson's law, which Parkinson's law is like, I love it because it's my life to a tee, which is the work inflates to the size of time allotted. And so if I give myself a deadline 6 months out, it is gonna take 6 months to get there. Doesn't matter if I can get it done tomorrow. It is gonna take me 6 months to do.

Hannah Maruyama [00:28:15]:

That's not just you. That's everybody. Right. I

Ryan Maruyama [00:28:18]:

just wanted to bring that up because it is, very real thing and Reddit's really good. for that crowdsource information, but just because it says whatever that time is, doesn't mean that that has to be the time.

Hannah Maruyama [00:28:34]:

Yeah. It's not gospel truth. This is a benchmark that you can use to kinda give yourself some context and some estimates as opposed to just not knowing at all.

Ryan Maruyama [00:28:41]:

When You see people that are breaking into your industry. And I'll and I'll broadly say your industry. You can take this question, however you want it. It could be about product. It could be about operations. It could be about Salesforce admin. What are some of the skills that you see these people lacking.

Hannah Maruyama [00:29:02]:

Using Microsoft Excel is the number one most lacking skill. I think of anybody that's going into a technical field. I will say this until I'm blue in the face. People are so tired of me saying this. It runs everything. It still does. And people need to know how to use it. I say that not talking to just everybody else, but also to myself because it's just one of those things that you can limp around -- halfway knowing how to use it and buy halfway. I mean, you know how rows and columns work and you can pin a header. And it's one of those things you can limp around knowing, but if you do know how to use it, It's super powerful, and it can make you look so attractive to potential employers as well. Knowing how to do that, it allows you to showcase your competence for doing that, but also as data gets more important and you're gonna be asked to do more tasks that interact with it. No matter what your job is because that's where I think the AI is gonna create a lot of jobs, but that means that a lot of the jobs are gonna change, and it's gonna be a lot of us interacting with data. that we get from AI. And so you're gonna have to learn how to use it, parse it, look at it, wrangle it. That's what one of my team leads recently said is, like, The future needs to be data wranglers because you need to know how to use this stuff. And so that is the number one skill I see that people need.

Ryan Maruyama [00:30:17]:

Just for clarification, you said the number one skill you you see for technical roles. As I understand it, none of your roles were technical. Right?

Hannah Maruyama [00:30:25]:

No. I think for any role at all, that's working anywhere remotely near any technical or business thing is Excel. Non technical roles on tech teams too, but nontechnical roles at companies in general. Everybody needs to know how to use Excel. Cause if you do, it's just like a shortcut to life.

Ryan Maruyama [00:30:40]:

Yeah. I agree with you. I agree with you. Totally. One of the interesting conversations that I've had with one of my engineering friends, he's an engineer. He works at a big blue chip company, and he talks about the new engineers that are coming into his industry. He's not a software engineer. He's an engineer engineer. He's a process engineer. One of the things that he sees lacking from the people that are coming into his industry is Excel. He's like, these guys don't know anything about Excel, which is pretty mind blowing when you think about it.

Hannah Maruyama [00:31:11]:

For engineers of that type, especially.

Ryan Maruyama [00:31:13]:

Especially for when his job is. It's a process engineer. And so all it is is looking at inputs and looking at out puts, looking at data, and then making a decision based off of the discrepancies of data and figuring out where the cause is, making changes. Like, that's his whole job.

Hannah Maruyama [00:31:33]:


Ryan Maruyama [00:31:33]:

Right? And so being able to look at and manipulate data is really, really useful. And, yeah, I will corroborate that in saying that even in other fields that aren't around technology, but they're in mortgages they're in finance, in sales. All of these businesses use Excel and knowing how to use Excel, is basically, like, a superpower. Yep. What's so crazy about it to me is that you really don't have to be that good at Excel to be better than most people.

Hannah Maruyama [00:32:12]:

You need to know, like, 10 to 20% to be better than most people. It's crazy.

Ryan Maruyama [00:32:16]:

Right. Exactly. If you just know what a pivot table is, You now know more than, like, 50% of the people that have ever touched Excel. Yes. What I did wanna say about AI and Excel is that with AI, a lot of the manual formulation for the majority of people that are listening to this, a lot of that's gonna go away.

Hannah Maruyama [00:32:39]:


Ryan Maruyama [00:32:40]:

The need to have to remember exactly how to do it equals whatever the function is. And then you however many parentheses that you need, that's all gonna go away pretty much. But what will not go away is the logic needed for you to do that because you're still going to have to prompt the AI at least in the short term. Right? In the long term, you can just have a dev or somebody else set it all up so that when you put all your data in, it it all does it for you. But in the short term, while you're manipulating this data, you're still going to have to know how you want this parsed and what you want it to do. And then you need to know the capabilities of the program itself.

Hannah Maruyama [00:33:30]:


Ryan Maruyama [00:33:31]:

So, you know, it can do this. It can't do that. So for example, they can separate the names after the comma, but it can't separate the names after whatever. Right? Like, I'm just making something up right here. I'm just making, like, a use case up. But as long as you know that, okay. Then you can just prompt the AI to do it for you. But, yeah, I don't wanna take up your whole day. I do have a few more questions before we get out of here. Now that we're talking about AI, you know, I wanted to talk about the future that you see in your industry and how people can prepare their own careers now. So for all those people that are where you were 3 years ago, for all those people that are working the equivalent of your

Hannah Maruyama [00:34:19]:


Ryan Maruyama [00:34:21]:

a year call center job, and they're looking for a way out of it, or they're looking for their next step, but they don't know where to start. And they wanted to do something like you've what you've done. What do you see and what can they do to kind of prepare their own careers?

Hannah Maruyama [00:34:37]:

That's a pretty good question because a lot of people too, I think, are selling a lot of, AI fear mongering, which is AI is gonna put us all out of business. We all would need UBI now people should stop learning how to be software developers because it's not gonna matter. And all that's crap, it's not really unusual. In fact, there's actually more need now than ever. There's one software developer for every 5 jobs currently open for software developers. So that's not a problem that we need to worry about right now. The problem you need to worry about is you need to learn how to use AI tools in order to do those jobs more efficiently. So the answer is not to -- throw up your hands, not learning any technical skills because AI is gonna take them from you. The ideal situation is you learn those technical skills and you learn, as you said, How to use AI in those jobs. And this is even true for soft skills jobs. You learn how to be a public speaker and you learn how to use AI to do that or who learn how to use public speaking. Same thing. You just layer it on top of your existing skill set. You do not stop learning your existing skill set because AI is gonna take your job from you. That's a really terrible that's a really terrible advice that I have seen circulating.

Ryan Maruyama [00:35:44]:

Yeah. It's come up on this podcast before with AI, and I've talked about it with a lot of guests on this show. And from all of those things, and I've said it before, from all of those conversations, I am convinced that the way that you become valuable in your company and the way that you use AI to become valuable in your company is by putting your company's data or your department's data, whatever it is into AI, and then having it do whatever. Because the use cases right now that you've seen so far that's prevalent. Like, oh, look at this picture that I made. Oh, so cool. or look at this recipe that I got or look at this letter that I wrote grandma or whatever. All of those things are awesome, but it's not gonna be the use case, at least not professionally. The use case is putting in your company's data and then getting useful information back. And whatever your department is, whatever your industry is, it is still relevant. Now you'll have security concerns. So don't just, like, start going to chat GPT and, like, putting all of your company sensitive data in there because Ryan told you to do so. That's a really terrible idea.

Hannah Maruyama [00:37:04]:

Don't do that.

Ryan Maruyama [00:37:07]:

I've had engineers on here and Drake Porter from Meta who were talking that they can't use chatgbt on their company computers be due to security concerns, which makes sense because everything they put in there, it's getting ingested by the data model by the large language model.

Hannah Maruyama [00:37:26]:

This happens a lot with actually this privacy information stuff happens kind of a lot with what we do. And that it comes up a lot. So I have to know quite a bit about it. And so I realize how flippant people are with the private and personal information of the companies that they work for. Folks can't just be putting that everywhere. You gotta you can't you can't use that publicly or it can get you fired.

Ryan Maruyama [00:37:47]:

Yeah. So you gotta go to your, you know, data team You have to go to your security officers and your tech team, your tech leads, make sure that you have the okay to do so. But then once you get the okay to do so, if you can figure out a way to make it useful for your company, I mean, that's huge right there. you know, that's immediately adding value. And that is how at least in this iteration of AI, you are gonna be the most useful. no matter if you're in a technical role or if you're in a nontechnical role, doesn't matter. And I did wanna switch gears a little bit and talk about degree free about this. about what we're doing right now.

Hannah Maruyama [00:38:27]:

I'd love to.

Ryan Maruyama [00:38:29]:

Why did we start this?

Hannah Maruyama [00:38:31]:

We started degree free because you and I could not shut up about this. Degree free was something that was in you and I before we ever started it. We would sit people down and have this conversation with them unsolicited of Hey. You don't have to go to college. You don't have to spend this money. You don't have to waste this time. You can do anything you want. And we would try to have that conversation with anyone and everyone who would listen, people who hadn't yet started buying degrees, people who were in the middle flying their 3rd degree. And it became very obvious that we needed to do something with it because everybody was tired of us seeing people down and having this conversation with them. And that's why we started it because it was something that you and I, we would spend hours alone talking about it. And we'd talk about it constantly. It was something that we were always reading about it, talking about it, thinking about it, and then telling people about it. And those are the hallmarks of something you need to do more with.

Ryan Maruyama [00:39:31]:

Totally. You know what's hilarious about the whole thing that that you just said? about we were talking to people about being degree free before we ever had the words degree free before we ever came up with that. We were talking about this two people 4 years prior to this. What's funny about that is that was before Either one of us was successful. In any way, we were still working industry jobs, or, I mean, I was in and out of office work. You were too. And then we always went back to the industry, you know, that's bartending and and serving for those people listening. And it was funny because even though we had those jobs and it's not like we had a crazy track record at the time, We were still, like, you don't have to go to college because you don't have to spend that time or spend that money. I knew personally from myself because I have a college degree, as I say, pretty much every episode on this show. And, I mean, look where it got me. Right? I mean, it got me the same job that you had without a college degree. So, like, that right there for me was a extremely humbling. Right. I had graduated, and then I was surrounded by people because Yes. I did get a job, but I hated it. I spent 11 months there, 12 months there, whatever it was, 13 months there. And I quit because I absolutely hate it. I was basically a monkey with a headset. and then I was full time again, bartending. And I was surrounded by people that were either degree free or they -- On a master's degree. They, yeah, they had a bachelor's degree, or they had a master's degree, or they had a PhD.

Hannah Maruyama [00:41:17]:

It's when you start questioning the matrix, though, because you're looking at the outcomes, and they can tell you all day. Oh, well, you, you know, if you buy a degree, you're gonna get everything you want. You're gonna get great job. But then you start looking around and you start the narrative really starts to fall apart if you open your eyes.

Ryan Maruyama [00:41:31]:

For me, that really changed everything. When I really started to, like, look at it, and be like, man, I spent four and a half years for me. That's what it took me to graduate. I spent four and a half years all that time, all that money to graduate, and to be in a job like this with everybody else around me that either is on the same field with me that has a degree. It just doesn't matter. What the heck? And then I went on and got other jobs, and they didn't care about my degree. They just cared that I could do the work. Right. Right. Like, that's what they cared about. They cared that I sold myself enough. You know, maybe a different time. I'll tell my own story, and and we'll get into it. But, yeah, you know, it's something that we were very passionate about, and we just were like, well, we have to do something. And we started this as a podcast. There's a TikTok without ever knowing anything. We didn't know anything. We didn't know what we were doing. We're just talking into the ethersphere. And that's why I can remain consistent when I tell other people when people are asking, like, how I get out of the situation that I'm in, and it's like, you just gotta start doing things. Right? And one of the keys that I always talk about is doing things in public. And that's what this podcast was for us is we there was a plan for this. At the time, we were running a successful business, the tattoo shop that you mentioned, I'm not sure if it was this episode or or last week's episode, but, you know, we were running a successful tattoo shop. I was a firefighter, You were working your job. I think you were making 6 figures already at the time. So why did we start this?

Hannah Maruyama [00:43:02]:

because we're having these conversations all the time. And so we just decided to start them in public.

Ryan Maruyama [00:43:07]:

Exactly. Exactly. And it changed our lives.

Hannah Maruyama [00:43:10]:

Yeah. And I think it's changed other people's lives too.

Ryan Maruyama [00:43:13]:

Right. Exactly. I just wanted to kind of bring us to where we are now, catch us up to where we are now in the degree free story. I am very grateful that we ended up doing all of this. One of the things that I love about YouTube or podcast or any of these platform TikTok is a little difficult because it's just there's just so much content, but especially for this podcast, this is gonna be like a episode 100 and I don't know. But that's not that many episodes. It's it's not that many for you to scroll through. I suggest right after this, if you haven't listened to the part 1 of this interview with you with Hannah Mariama, definitely go listen to part 1, but after you're done with that, go back to the very first episode of this show. Episode 1 and listen to how different the show is and listen to

Hannah Maruyama [00:44:06]:

how new we sound.

Ryan Maruyama [00:44:07]:

Exactly. I don't even know if I edited that show. I'm pretty sure I did. and I listen to a very small snippet of it the other day. And I am, like, shaking in my boots, which is Interesting for me, because I'm

Hannah Maruyama [00:44:24]:

-- You're not like that. Yeah.

Ryan Maruyama [00:44:26]:

And I have always been around cameras, But even in our business, I wasn't really the person in front of the camera. I was always the person behind the camera. I was always the person miking people up. And so to be in front of the camera and doing this for the first time and basically taking a stand for something and doing things in public and just saying, like, hey, you don't need it agreed to be successful in life. Whatever success means to you, you probably don't need it unless you want to be in one of these very, very specific industries or one of these very, very specific jobs. I just wanted to say for those people listening who are just like, I don't know how to get out of what I'm doing now. You know, what do I do? You know, do cool things with technology that's in demand. That's a really good framework. That's a really good saying. You know, you could start there. Look up skills that you think that you can acquire in the time that you have to acquire it. It's all good and dandy if you can sit down and learn to do all of these 17 different skills, but it's gonna take you 40 years of your life. And then for those 4 years, you're not gonna earn any money, and then you're not gonna get loans from a college if if you're attending college. Okay. That'd be great. If you can for 4 years not take a salary and just do that every single day, or you can do it on weekends or nights, then do that. Sure. But if you've only got a few weeks or whatever your time is, establish what that time is

Hannah Maruyama [00:46:02]:


Ryan Maruyama [00:46:02]:

Pick one thing. Exactly. Pick one thing And then go and learn that thing.

Hannah Maruyama [00:46:06]:

Yeah. One thing. You do not need multiple things at first. You need one thing. I do find that's really common with people who are very schooled and very tapered is they feel like, oh, I can't apply until I've got this and this and this. I'm like, no. No. No. No. You need 30% of that first thing. That's it.

Ryan Maruyama [00:46:25]:

I saw this when we were doing the career change crash course. I see this when people do the job change accelerator. which is, of course, you can go to degree free dotcoforward slash job change if you wanna check that out. But when we do the how to find a job backwards and we're looking at skills, the biggest biggest mistake that people do is that they look at the entire job description and then they make a laundry list of different things to learn, and then they go and learn every single thing. And then they apply to the job, and that is completely wrong. What you're looking for is you're looking for the highest leverage skill to learn in the time that you need to learn it. Learn that skill become proficient enough to get interviews for that job and then start in those roles and then gain experience. And then what's crazy about it is once you start in those roles, the next skill might not be anything on that laundry list because you already got that job. Now, you're looking at other jobs and then you have to go and learn that skill. And if you had learned the 16 other skills, you would have wasted the 16 times, however long that took to learn each skill. So I definitely wanna say you know, it's possible and you just gotta get started. And if you don't know what to do, and you're just like, well, I kinda wanna make content. I kinda wanna learn about this. And so just do things in public.

Hannah Maruyama [00:47:49]:

Yeah. Where people can see it.

Ryan Maruyama [00:47:51]:

Yeah. And if you're not technical and you don't have a project, you can start a podcast about something that you're interested in it. start documenting your learning process. Right? Start saying, okay. I'm gonna learn how to do marketing. and then I'm gonna and then just start documenting your learning process. That's great advice. And before we go, two questions that I ask every guest 1, where can people go to find out more about you and follow along in your career journey to say hi?

Hannah Maruyama [00:48:19]:

They can go to If they wanna check us out, they can also go to at degree free on TikTok. That is where we are the most active. And then they can also add me on LinkedIn. I'm Hannah Mariama. It'll be in the show notes. Please do add me. Drop me a note.

Ryan Maruyama [00:48:34]:

Yeah. Awesome. And last, but definitely not least, Is there any final thoughts, piece of advice, anything that you wanna say to the listeners before you go?

Hannah Maruyama [00:48:48]:

Yeah. I do. And that is that whatever change you are looking to make, you can make. It is not going to be easy. What you need to do is probably very simple, and that's why it's so hard to start doing it. But what I want to say to you is that you absolutely can do it. You need to think about why you wanna make this change, and then that why needs to be big enough for you to buckle down -- and do the simple, boring, hard things that you gotta do every day for the next amount of days that you gotta do to learn whatever skill it is to apply for that job you're trying to get to make change you're trying to make in your life, but you can do it. You can absolutely do it.

Ryan Maruyama [00:49:26]:

Awesome. And Hannah, thank you so much for taking the time to not only do this episode. but to do last week's interview as well. Thank you.

Hannah Maruyama [00:49:35]:

Yeah. And thanks thanks to all of you for for listening.

Ryan Maruyama [00:49:38]:

And for everybody listening, if you want the show notes, that can be found at degreefree.coforward/ podcast. You can go there for the show notes and links to everything that we talk about. And once again, if you haven't already, you can go to degreefree.coforward/newsletter to sign up for free weekly newsletter that goes over different degree free jobs, degree free companies, and tips on how you can get hired without a college degree. And that's pretty much it for this week, guys, along.

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