Phil’s guest on today’s show is Keith Casey. For nearly two decades, he has been working in the IT industry. During that time, he has worked as a systems developer, IT architect, technology officer, principal advisor and senior developer evangelist.
He is now working for Okta as a member of their Platform Team, specifically on Identity and Authentication APIs. Keith is also a well-known public speaker.
(00.57) – So Keith, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Keith explains that his first job, after leaving college, was working at the Library of Congress, helping them to digitize everything. The lengths they go to capture every element of a piece of information is amazing. So, when people ask him how much data is held in the Library of Congress, he finds it impossible to give an accurate answer.
Naturally, at this point, Phil asks him for the figure. Keith’s response is to explain, that when he got started there were no blogs, iTunes or any of the platforms that churn out a huge amount of information every day. Yet, it was estimated that the librarians would have had to catalog around 200 terabytes a day to have been able to keep pace with what was being produced, even back then.
(2.28) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Keith’s top tip is to treat your career as an investment. Think about the long term, in the same way you would if you were investing in shares.
So, when deciding if it is worth learning how to use a tool, think about how it will help you in both the short and the long term. By all means learn the tools you need to be able to do the job you are doing right now. But, make sure that you also pick up skills that you will be able to use for the next 5 to 10 years.
(3.23) Phil agrees. He thinks there is too much short-termism, especially when it comes to learning programming languages. People tend to just learn what they need to get by on their current projects. But, fail to learn and understand the underlying principles.
(3.59) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. For Keith that was when he accidentally corrupted a huge news article database while working on an App for Associated Press, about 15 years ago.
Fortunately, there was a backup. Unfortunately, it was 8 hours old. News happens continuously. So, even after the restoration, there were around 64,000 updates still missing. This was a tough way to learn not to do development work in production.
(5.50) – What was your best career moment? For Keith that happened when he was working as a developer evangelist at Twilio developing the SMS API. As an evangelist, one of his key roles was to get out there and show that their stuff worked. Whenever possible, Keith and his colleagues would do a 5-minute demo in front of an audience. They would open an empty Vim file and build an application right there and then. Then use it to allow the people in the room to send them a text straight away. This demonstrated that their stuff really worked and was super quick and easy to use.
For Keith these presentations gave him a huge lift. Seeing so many people’s eyes light up was amazing.
(7.38) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The pervasiveness of today’s tech is something that Keith finds exciting. It is everywhere and touches every aspect of our lives. No matter what your passion is, you can get involved in tech.
For example, if you are interested in farming, there are self-driving tractors, data analysis, drones and all kinds of other things. Working in tech no longer means sitting behind a screen most of the time. You can go out and touch the real world and see how what you are doing affects everyone.
(8.39) – What drew you to a career in IT? For Keith it was the fact that it is a great way to pay the bills.
Interestingly, his desire to succeed in tech was also partly driven by the fact that he is a theatre geek. He really enjoyed the fact that IT opened up new ways for him to get things done in the theatre.
(9.01) – Can you give us an example of how you used your IT skills in the theatre? Keith explained that using basic trigonometry they were able to set up microphone arrays along the edge of the stage. This enabled them to get the lighting rig to figure out where an actor was on stage and automatically follow them with a spotlight.
(9.29) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Keith says that has to be – “Help good people around you.” Do it without expecting anything back. Just help them because they are fantastic.
Doing that has led to some really great things for Keith. Through this habit, he has developed several important personal and business relationships.
(10.02) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Keith says that he would probably go deeper into security, especially now that IoT is so big. For this to succeed, better security is essential.
(10.32) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Actually, that is connected to what he was saying earlier about building up people around you. He is currently working with an international startup accelerator program called TechStars.
(11.00) – So, what sort of projects are involved in that? Keith explains it could be anything. But, he particularly likes getting involved with the ones that are for industries where the use of tech is still a fairly new thing. His focus tends to be on product market fit, especially for more technical products.
(11.51) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Being able to get up on stage and explain a concept from beginning to end has proved to be very useful. If you can do that, you will win 80% of all conversations, simply because most other people cannot explain in such an effective way. Plus the fact that you are a public speaker means that you automatically get a certain level of respect. Interestingly, Keith learned his presentation skills largely as a result of being a theatre geek.
(12.25) – Is that a skill that has evolved and developed over time? Keith explains that he still actively works at it. In particular, he studies the old school comics like Richard Pryor and Steve Martin. They do the same thing again and again, yet still manage to keep their audiences engaged.
(13.09) – Phil asks Keith to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Keith’s advice is not to be afraid to experiment. You do not necessarily have to restrict yourself to only learning things for which there is a pressing need. Also, Keith says it is a good idea to learn through other people’s experience.
(2.43) KEITH – “Treat your career as an investment.”
(3.25) PHIL –“I think there can be too much short-termism in terms of what people look out.”
(8.26) KEITH – “You don’t have to just be behind a screen 24 seven, figuring how to build things.”
(9.37) KEITH – “Help good people around you. You’ll cross paths with fantastic people.”
(13.33) KEITH – “Just go and learn things you will never be hurt by knowing more.”
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Matt Raible. He is a skilled web developer who has been working in the industry since the early 90s. Matt is also the man behind the open source AppFuse project and the Okta Developer Blog.
Currently, he is working as a Developer Advocate for Okta. He is also a well known public speaker and is deeply involved in the JHipster project. Matt maintains and develops the JHipster Mini-Book and the Ionic JHipster Module.
(1.02) – So Matt, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Matt explains that he has been working as a web developer since the early 90s. He had not planned to have a career in IT.
In the early 2000s, he got into Java. By 2004 he was also involved in public speaking.
(1.44) – So, you obviously enjoy the web aspects of development. Is that something you deliberately pursued as the internet sort of exploded and expanded? Matt says yes, it was. In the early 2000s, he realized that it was best to be the guy who wrote the UI. Simply because that is what people see and are most aware of. He enjoyed doing the demos and getting the accolades, so he ended up focusing on UI development.
(2.25) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Matt’s advice is to create a six-week plan of the things you want to accomplish. He has found following this advice to be very helpful, especially for his work as a developer advocate at Okta.
Putting together a six-week plan keeps you on track and enables you to achieve a lot more. It is far more efficient than simply working week to week. He also finds it useful to do this for his personal life too.
(3.52) – Is it a rolling six-week plan? Matt revisits his plan on a weekly basis. He and his team also summarise what they have actually done each week. This information is published in an internal newsletter.
(4.35) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? Matt says that he has two he wants to share with the audience. Luckily, they are both turned into silver lining moments.
In 2007, he was working for LinkedIn as a contractor. Helping them to select and set up an open source, Java web framework. Things went well and they asked him to create his own team. So, Matt asked some of his friends and former colleagues to join him.
Two months after they started working together they were persuaded to go full-time. Yet, 6 months later they were all laid off. That was in 2008, just as the downturn started.
That time, the silver lining was that nobody was really enjoying the work they were doing because they had been switched from the front end to non-developer roles. Luckily, within a week, they were picked up by another organization where they became front end developers again.
The 2nd moment occurred 5 years ago. For 19 years, Matt had been working as a consultant. During all that time, he never had any trouble in finding full-time work, filling a 40 hour week. Suddenly, he could only find a part-time gig.
He found this hard. That is until he realized what a glorious thing having 20 spare hours a week was. At that point, he started doing more with his personal life and, as a result, became a happier person.
(6.47) – What did you learn from those experiences? Matt says that the LinkedIn experience taught him not to be afraid to change jobs when he finds himself in a role where he is not using his skills. He really did not enjoy his last few months at LinkedIn because his new boss had moved him away from UI development into a nonproduction position. So, when LinkedIn let him go he was actually relieved.
(7.49) – What was your best career moment? Matt is lucky to have had quite a few career highlights. He particularly enjoyed seeing his open source project AppFuse take off. For about 2 years, he was spending about 30 hours a week interacting with users, learning and seeing hundreds benefit from this project. Unfortunately, there was a downside, his family life suffered as a result.
(9.25) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? Matt is excited by the fact that it is possible to take a relatively small amount of knowledge and do a lot with it. Being able to take something that you have taught yourself and turn it into a good career is fantastic. With IT, you can still do that, even these days.
(10.22) – What drew you to a career in IT? Matt had studied Russian and International Business. But, when he spent the summer working in Russia he realized it was not for him. So, he decided to complete a 5th year and take a finance degree. Unfortunately, again, when it was time to find a job he struggled. There was work, but the pay was not very good.
Around the same time, his friend who was doing a computer science degree was getting amazing offers. Three times what he was could land. So, Matt switched his focus to IT.
(11.37) – Do you think that is still true, today? Matt says things are changing. When it comes to the finance industry, if you excel, you can actually get paid a lot more than you would working in the tech industry.
The cool thing is that if you are curious, you can carry on learning and add to your skills. In time, you will end up earning even more and staying gainfully employed becomes very easy.
(12.18) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Around 2005, Matt was working as a consultant for a startup that was shutting down. While discussing what Matt was going to do next the CEO advised him to double his rate. That is exactly what he did, that year. Each year after that, he added 20% to it.
(13.04) – Phil asked Matt if he was saying that you should make sure that you get paid what you are worth. Matt replies that you should always ask for more, because often you will discover that people are actually prepared to pay a much higher rate.
(13.09) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Matt says that he would not change a thing. His career has enabled him to fulfill his dream of restoring his old Volkswagen bus, which has taken nearly 10 years. He has big plans for that bus.
(14.26) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, Matt is where he wants to be with his career. But, he is working at getting better at drawing, so he can add more hand drawings to his blog. He is also planning to do more videos, screencasts and to get into recording meetups.
(15.02) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? For Matt, the ability to speak publically has proved invaluable.
(15.10) – How did you get into that? In 2004, a friend suggested he speak at ApacheCon. He decided to give it a go.
Surprisingly, within 15-minutes of being on stage, his nerves evaporated and he felt at home. Even today, he gets very nervous before each talk, but once he gets started he feels comfortable, fairly quickly.
The other non-technical thing that helps Matt is being an outdoorsman. Most days, he takes a walk or rides his bike. During these activities, he finds that he automatically settles a lot of things in his mind. Phil agrees that being outdoors is quite therapeutic.
(16.32) – Phil asks Matt to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Matt says – “If you really want to get something done close off your email, you slack. Turn on some music and write some code.” Once you have eliminated distractions, you will be far more productive.
(1.29) MATT – “I started developing web pages in HTML before Netscape even existed”
(2.48) MATT – “Create a six-week plan of the things that you want to accomplish”
(7.44) MATT – “If I’m not utilizing my skills, then maybe it’s time finding another job.”
(12.10) MATT – “If you’re curious, you can keep learning and keep improving yourself and keep gainfully employed.”
(13.15) MATT – “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
(16.34) MATT – “Close your email, close your Slack, turn on some music and write some code.”
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Joe Previte. He is currently working for Digital Air Strike as a Front End Engineer. Previously, he was a Digital Marketing Manager and Web Developer.
(1.03) – So Joe, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Joe explains that when he is not busy working or creating video tutorials he writes articles about coding. For example, he has written articles for Twilio. He is a big fan of this cloud communication platform, which has a great API that enables you to build SMS, voice and messaging solutions.
(1.47) – Can you please share a unique tip with the I.T. career audience? Joe’s unique piece of career advice is not to forget the power of patterns. When he was in college he studied languages and was able to use patterns to help him to quickly learn several of them. For example, 80% of Portuguese grammar is very similar to Spanish.
His advice is to look for patterns when you are trying to learn something new. This particular learning method works really well for programming. Phil agrees taking this approach helps you to tap into the fact that understanding the foundations or the basics of a programming language is pretty much consistent across all the different ones.
When learning Redux, Joe took a piece of code and studying it. He started by changing a few things at a time. In particular, things he was familiar with and thought were likely to be similar to other programs he had already worked with. This enabled him to see how it worked and try out more things that were likely to be the same. Doing this made it easier for him to abstract away the pattern.
(4.16) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. Joe has only been working in the industry for a couple of years. However, he has already been stung by taking someone’s word for something instead of getting it in writing. Someone offered him a front end internship that was supposed to transition into a full-time role. It meant moving from California back to Phoenix.
The guy who ran the company said he could only pay him as a contractor. They agreed he would do 20 hours of paid work and 20 hours as a freelancer. He did this for two months. But, wanted to get an idea of the salary he could expect in the longer term, so asked. His boss said about 50k, which was OK with Joe. The plan was for his boss to put it in writing when he returned from New York. But, when he got back he changed his mind and actually only offered him 30k. For Joe, that was a real low point.
(7.50) – Phil asks Joe to share his career highlight with the audience. Joe is a big fan of Twilio and is active in the community. So, he was delighted when Twilio inducted him into their “Doers Hall of Fame” in 2018. It was great to be recognized by the Twilio team as someone who had made a significant contribution. His Twilio superclass which he ran at a local meetup and online boot camp was very well received by those who took it.
(10.32) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? Even though he is relatively new to the industry Joe is excited by all of the new technologies and languages that are coming through. There is just so much available to learn that it can be hard to know what to study next.
Joe is particularly interested in the potential of GraphQL. He has gone as far as organizing a local meetup group with his co-workers to take full advantage of this data query and manipulation language for APIs.
Phil shares Joe’s enthusiasm for all of these new technologies. He notes that they are providing developers and engineers with the chance to broaden their horizons.
(12.41) – What drew you to a career in IT? For Joe there were two things. He has always had a passion for building things. He would regularly come up with business ideas only to realize that he needed a developer to bring his idea to life. At the time, Joe did not have the necessary skills to do so. In the end he realized that if he wanted to build any of these businesses learning to code himself was the best way to do it. But, training was expensive. So, when he came across a free code camp he jumped at the chance and began his training.
(13.30) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Joe was once told not to tell yourself you are not ready. You should let others do that.
Another way of putting it is ‘don’t self-select’. If you see a job you would love to do, just apply for it. If you do not have all of the qualifications or experience being asked for, do not worry, apply anyway. The worst that can happen is that you do not get the call.
On the other hand, you could get called in for an interview and land your dream job. Joe has got a couple of callbacks and interviews by applying regardless of what is asked for in the job advert.
(14.40) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Joe explains that he would take a different approach to learning how to program.
He would focus more on building projects instead of switching between resources or tutorials. The real learning happens when you apply what you have learned when you build a project that you care about. When you hit roadblocks you are motivated to push through them. This ensures that you learn more and take yourself to the next level.
(15.22) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, Joe’s main focus is trying to do more developer relations. He wants to create more of a name for himself within the community. Joe wants to get as many people as possible excited about learning new technologies and helping more of them to find the right resources.
He would like to be a general tech developer evangelist. His aim is to be like Wes Bos or someone similar. Joe wants to become a content creator/teacher/educator over the course of the next 5 to 10 years.
(16.27) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? In all the jobs Joe has done so far, good communication skills have proved invaluable.
He also says it is important to learn to speak up sooner rather than later. For example, if you get stuck on a project the sooner you say so and explain the situation the faster you get unstuck and get things finished.
(17.31) – Phil asks Joe to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Joe’s career advice is to help others. Tell others on social media that your door is always open and be there to answer people’s questions. Doing this benefits you as well as those who you are giving guidance to. You will be surprised by how much you learn along the way when trying to help others.
(2.40) JOE– “When you are learning something new, look for the patterns.”
(9.58) PHIL– “Being recognized by another group or individual is always a great thing.”
(13.49) JOE– “Don’t close doors before they have been opened.”
(15.09) JOE– “The real learning happens when you’re building a project that you care about.”
(14.42) JOE– “When you are learning to code, focus more on building projects rather than switching between resources or tutorials”
(16.17) PHIL – “The ability to then teach other people actually helps you yourself in terms of the way you learn.”
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Julie Lerman. She has had a long IT career, of more than 30 years, during which she has worked as a coder and coach. Since 1989, she has worked as an independent consultant.
Over the years, she has led software teams in many different countries. She specializes in guiding teams towards re-thinking their software architecture and adapting it to fit in with modern practices.
Julie has worked hard to share her knowledge with a wider audience. She has created in-depth training in the Pluralsight library and has written 4 highly acclaimed books about Entity Framework. Her blog, thedatafarm is also a great source of information for developers.
(00.58) – So Julie, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Julie explains that she spent the first 4 or 5 years of her career working mainly as a programmer for employers. But, about 30 years ago, she decided to go it alone.
These days, she focuses mainly on coaching, consulting and mentoring. She uses her decades of IT experience to help all kinds of IT teams to progress.
(2.26) – How did you get into coaching, Julie? It is something that just evolved. For many years, she had been teaching people through her sites, books and conference speeches.
After a while, people asked her to provide training for their teams. She really enjoyed the process of sitting down with companies and going through their issues and working out how to address them. It is much more effective than public training. However, she does encourage the companies to go through her PluralSight videos, first. If, after doing that, they still have problems or concerns she sits down and helps them to solve their more complex issues.
(3.43) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Julie’s most important piece of advice is to take responsibility for your career and further learning.
Too many people get stuck in a rut. They just carry on doing the work they are familiar with. Over time, they end up being unaware of what is going on in the wider world. They have very little understanding of the new technologies and how they are being applied. You have to keep up with new developments to be able to make the most of your career.
Phil reminds the audience that the company you are working for will only assist you in learning new skills, up to a point. Typically, they will only help you to take your career in a direction that suits the needs of the business.
(5.14) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? For Julie her two worst career moments came when it was time for her to move on to bigger and better things. In both cases, her employers got very angry with her.
They both tried to persuade her to stay by offering her a little extra money or the promotion she should have already earned, but not been given. In both cases, she felt that what they were offering was ‘too little, too late’. So, she said thank you, but no. That is when they got really angry and aggressive. In both cases, she had to deal with the men who had been almost father figures to her losing their tempers and berating her just for leaving. For someone in their 20s this was an extremely unpleasant situation.
(7.21) – Did you take anything away from that experience, in particular? Julie says that it taught her to trust her instincts. These experiences also made her realize that she had more gumption than she thought. She just stood there and sucked it up, did not argue back and moved peacefully on into a better role.
(8.28) – Phil asks Julie about her best career moment, her greatest success. The moment Julie’s first book was delivered to her home and she held it in her hands was a highlight. She felt so proud of what she had achieved.
But, Julie is lucky enough to regularly experience smaller moments that also make her feel proud. For example, when she is able to help a developer to understand something they have struggled with. Another example is when she suggests a little tweak that ends up making a tremendous difference and benefiting lots of people.
(9.58) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that things are so open-ended right now is something that excites Julie about the IT industry.
Things are opening up in new directions all of the time. Thanks to IoT, machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data. The easy availability and effectiveness of this tech are freeing people up to use their talents in new and exciting ways.
You no longer have to worry about a long list of little details, when developing. Now, you can focus on the code knowing that the deployment and infrastructure is not an issue. Cloud computing has made things so much easier. It is just one example of how new technology is freeing up developers to achieve more.
(12.24) – What drew you to a career in IT? Julie fell into her IT career by accident. When she started college, her plan was to become a chemical engineer. While there she took a programming class. She realized she was something of a natural, so got involved in IT instead of chemistry.
(12.59) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Someone once told her to “praise publically, criticize privately”, which is advice that Julie is careful to follow.
(13.23) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? That is something that Julie has never really thought about before. It is not really in her nature to plan like that. But, she does wish that she had more time to get more deeply involved in machine learning. She also knows that she would still want to be involved in the back end.
(14.17) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, Julie is focused on continuing to learn, to make sure that she stays relevant. She is working to make sure that she pushes herself out of her comfort zone without constantly jumping from one thing to another. Looking for opportunities to share what she learns is helping to do this and cement her knowledge.
(15.42) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Julie says that her liberal arts degree has proved to be surprisingly helpful. Taking the course, gave her a head for broad thinking and thinking outside the box. It helped her to develop her creative thinking. These are skills that she has found invaluable during her IT career.
(16.19) – Phil asks Julie to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. If you find yourself stuck on a problem, walk away from your computer. Take the dog for a walk or something similar to break the negative cycle. When you do that you can be lucky and find that the solution has been there all the time floating around your head.
You mentally go through everything again. Usually, that is when you work out what it is you have missed or a few other things you can do to fix the problem. All you need to do is to give your brain a chance to relax to get a fresh perspective.
(4.14) JULIE – “Take responsibility for your own career and further learning.”
(10.16) JULIE – “Things are really opening up in new directions, with IoT, machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data.”
(11.49) JULIE – “Cloud platforms are enabling developers to do that much more and explore that much further.”
(14.43) JULIE – “It’s really important for me to stay relevant. In order to do that, I need to keep learning”
(16.41) JULIE – “When I am really stuck on a problem, I find walking away from the computer helps so much.”
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Lauren Lee. Lauren started her IT career later than most. After spending 7 years working as a teacher she secured a place at the Ada Developers Academy. From there she has gone on to work for Amazon as a software development engineer and secure her current role at GoDaddy as a technical product manager.
(00.59) – So, Lauren, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Lauren explains that for 7 years she was a teacher. But, she quit her job and attended a coding program at Ada Developers Academy.
It was an intensive tuition-free course that takes 11 months to complete. Students spend 6 months in the classroom, followed by a 5-month paid industry internship. The academy specializes in helping women and gender diverse people to start a successful career in the tech industry.
From there, she became a software engineer at Amazon and has recently transitioned to a technical product management role with GoDaddy. Lauren describes her main function as being to act as a bridge between the engineer, designers, marketers and the end users.
(1.52) – Phil asks Lauren how she ended up working for GoDaddy. Lauren explained that they are a sponsor company for the developer’s academy. Everyone Lauren knew that worked for them said that they were excellent employers that offered a truly inclusive culture. So, when she needed a job she chose to interview with them.
Right now, Lauren is working on the website building side of things, helping small business owners to succeed.
(2.58) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Lauren says it is important to understand the power of communication and be an empathetic educator.
Her work as a teacher demonstrated to her that people communicate in different ways. Lauren has found that bearing this in mind has also helped her to be more effective in her IT career.
As a teacher, she learned to be an empathetic educator who adapted the way she taught to the needs of her students. Today, it is not hard for her to adapt her way of communicating to suit the audience she is speaking to. Getting into the mindset of the people you are talking to is a good habit. It helps you to think about things from different perspectives.
(5.12) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. For Lauren that was when, during a whiteboarding interview, a tear ran down her face. It was a humbling moment, despite the fact that she did in fact land the job.
So, Lauren is pleased to see companies trying to move away from relying on whiteboarding interviews. They are beginning to realize that not everyone does well when asked to explain things using a whiteboard. Some freeze up, others get flustered and virtually everyone feels nervous when put in that situation. As a result, it is very easy to dismiss someone who actually does have the talent and skills that your organization needs.
Phil finds this point particularly interesting because very few people talk about the interview part of landing an IT job. He has noticed that when it comes to interviews most of us create a lot of extra stress for ourselves. We turn the interview into the be all and end all. When, in fact, it is just a one-off event.
(8.05) – Phil asks Lauren what her best career moment was. For Lauren, that was getting into the Ada Developer Academy. She was particularly proud to make it through the tough selection process. The moment she pushed her first feature into production is another highlight that springs to mind.
However, for her speaking at conferences has become her real passion. She started out small, but has now graduated to the larger events. Lauren particularly enjoys being involved in these collaborative learning experiences. She loves finding new ways to engage with and help these larger technical communities through her work as a presenter.
(9.56) – How did you get into conference speaking? As a student, Lauren attended a Ruby conference. It was a great experience, so very quickly she decided to put herself out there and start speaking and contributing.
(10.29) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? Lauren is excited by the fact that there are now so many opportunities for women within this industry. The industry is definitely becoming more inclusive and moving towards a point where everyone is represented and can be successful working in IT. But, it is important that each of us plays our part in pushing this process along. We all need to become mentors, advocates and allies.
There are some great organizations out there that are doing exactly that. Ada is just one example. There is also Chick Tech and Girls Who Code. Importantly, other underrepresented groups are now also getting help. For example, organizations like Unloop are helping ex-prisoners to get involved in the IT industry.
(13.09) – What first attracted you to a career in IT? Lauren was partly drawn to the industry because she wanted to play a part in bridging the gender gap that exists in IT. She also wanted her students to see her taking a risk and succeeding at changing her life drastically.
The fact that you have to be a continuous learner to keep pace with the rate of change is also something that drew her to the IT industry. She enjoys being continually pushed her to continually improve.
(14.20) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Know when to walk away from the bug in your code. If you are blocked you will just get frustrated and in all likelihood not solve the problem either.
Stepping away for a bit enables you to approach the problem from a different angle. It is important not to let the imposter syndrome creep in. Self-doubt can end up paralyzing you completely.
The truth is that, in time, you will learn to solve your problem. You will get there. Problems are learning experiences.
(15.54) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Lauren says she probably would not do anything differently. She does not regret the fact that she spent 7 years teaching before starting her IT career. It has enabled her to bring something a little different to the table.
(17.10) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, Lauren is focusing on creation over consumption. She has stopped scrolling through Twitter and other platforms berating herself about all the stuff she does not know. Instead, she is being selective and purposeful about what she consumes and how she spends her time.
(18.04) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Having a growth mindset has really helped Lauren to move her career forward. Not knowing everything does not intimidate her. It inspires her to dive in and learn. She also sees these situations as opportunities to reach out to others, learn from and connect with them
Phil agrees that mindset is a healthy one for IT professionals to have. After all, everyone has been in a position where they do not know something, at some point in their careers.
(19.07) – Phil asks Lauren to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Lauren’s advice is to those who are new to the industry is to attend meetups. Lean into the things you do not understand, get a mentor, study hard and continue to do so until it makes sense.
For those who have been working in the industry for a long time, her advice is to tap into the power of volunteering. She finishes her response by urging everyone to be advocates for those that are underrepresented in the IT industry.
(3.56) LAUREN – “People learn and communicate in a myriad of different ways.”
(4.03) LAUREN – “There’s so much value in thinking about problems from creative and new perspectives”
(7.34) PHIL – “Often, for interviews, you create the stress yourself by putting too much expectation on yourself”
(9.11) LAUREN – “Conferences offer that opportunity to bring individuals together to participate in collaborative learning and foster a greater sense of community”
(14.28) LAUREN – “Sometimes you’ve got to walk away from the bug in your code, or whatever problem you have, especially if you are blocked.”
(18.16) LAUREN – “I’m not intimidated by not knowing everything.”
Ali Spittel is Phil’s guest on today’s show. In Jan 2019, she became a Software Engineer and Developer Advocate for the DEV Community. Prior to this, she spent nearly 2 years teaching others to code as a Lead Instructor for General Assembly DC. Ali started her IT career working as a software engineer. Currently, she is Director of the DC Chapter of Women Who Code.
(1.00) – So Ali, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Ali explains that she started her career as a software engineer, focusing on the stack. Mostly working on data visualization and processing applications. Later, she became a full-time coding teacher at General Assembly. Recently, she has taken on a new hybrid role as a software engineer developer advocate for Dev.to.
(1.52) Phil asked her how she had ended up in that particular role. For Ali landing the role was a natural progression. She was already well known within the community, had experience of teaching, public speaking and writing. She had also worked as a software developer.
So, when the role came up she realized that she ticked all of the boxes and tried to land the job. The fact that, for a while, she had been an active member on the platform and was good friends with some of the DEV people also helped.
Interestingly, much of the material she published on Dev.to came from her blog. Cross-posting like this enabled her blog to gain traction and led to the DEV team to work on special projects with them.
(1.52) – Phil asks Ali how she ended up teaching code. Ali explains that she was a guest lecturer at the General Assembly. She was also heavily involved with the coding community. Plus, even in college she had written a lot of content. A habit that gets you used to crunching down what you are learning and representing it in a way that is easier for others to understand. Basically, teaching, so for her becoming an actual teacher was natural.
(3.24) Phil asks Ali how her new role came about. Again, that happened largely because she had decided to share what she was learning. She did that mainly through her blog, which she had never thought would amount to much.
At one point she stumbled upon the DEV website and started to cross-post her work. Gradually, her blog posts gained traction. She also did a couple of one-off projects for DEV and some workshops. So, when a position came along she was a natural fit.
(4.45) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the audience? Ali’s advice is to find ways to teach others what you are learning. Doing so benefits you and others in many different ways.
Firstly, you become a resource for others. You also make some great connections and really bond with those who are learning from you. Later, you are able to learn from them and ask them from advice about areas you have yet to explore.
Teaching enables you to establish yourself as an expert in your field. This in turn increases the rate at which your content is shared and makes it far easier to find work.
Working out how to explain something to others is also a great way to solidify your own knowledge. It was especially helpful for Ali because she was largely self-taught. She knew what to do, but, not necessarily why it had to be done that way. Repeatedly, going over the curriculum deepened her own IT knowledge.
She also found that her students came up with questions that made her think about things in different ways. This drives you on and pushes you to dig deep.
There are so many different ways to teach. It is not just about standing up in a classroom. These days, you end up doing it through public speaking, online, as a mentor, in the workplace and in many other ways.
(7.28) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? Ali’s worst moment actually happened while she was still studying. She fell in love with coding and decided to take a double major in computer science.
But, for some reason, when she started taking the C++ course, things did not gel for her. It did not matter how many hours she worked at it she just could not get good results. After struggling through for a long time, she admitted defeat and gave up, which was a real low point for her.
Luckily, she ended up falling back into it about six or seven months later. It turned out that taking a break was what she had needed. When she came back to coding again it all clicked and she was able to pursue a career that she really enjoys.
That experience taught her that learning is a roller coaster. There are peaks and valleys, sometimes the valleys seem to go on forever. When that happens, it is important not to become disheartened. Instead, take a short break and come back to it with a fresh perspective.
(9.44) – Phil asks Ali about her best career moment. For Ali, seeing her students succeed is what she enjoys the most. She knows that, over the years, she has helped thousands of people to learn what they need to know to build cool things.
(10.44) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that what we can build using tech is limitless is very cool and exciting. Programming touches everything we touch. It really is a part of every aspect of our lives.
(12.10) – What drew you to a career in IT? Really, this happened by accident when she ended up taking a computer science class as an extra credit hour. She loved it, got hooked on Python and went from there.
(12.55) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Always be learning. Keep staying on top of all of the new things that are coming out. Also, don’t be afraid of breaking things, that is inevitable when you are learning.
(13.34) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Ali says that she really wishes she had been introduced to programming earlier and in a fun way. It would have been really cool to learn how to code in a low-pressure environment instead of an academic setting.
(14.16) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Ali’s new role means that she will need to get back into coding. Moving back into writing production code is going to be a big transition for her. She will also need to step up her public speaking and writing and get more involved in community outreach. So, right now, most of her energy is focused on settling into her new role and excelling at it.
(14.58) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Ali has found that having strong people skills has really helped her to progress.
For example, having good relationships with others in the industry has made finding work far easier for her. Often, she has been able to land jobs without having to go a formal application process. This is part of the reason she recommends that people take the time to attend a range of events. Doing so develops your people skills and makes it really easy to connect with others.
(16.31) – Phil asks Ali to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Ali says her advice is– start teaching. Just start off in a small way and go from there.
Speak at a meetup, write one blog post or send out a tweet that teaches people something. It does not matter what it is, just get started.
(5.40) ALI – “When you teach, people start looking at your content and sharing it and seeing you as somebody that is really knowledgeable”
(6.44) ALI – “Teaching has been incredibly pivotal for me, career-wise, for so many reasons.”
(9.29) ALI – “Learning is such a roller coaster. There are so many peaks and valleys in it”
(11.39) PHIL – “As the industry matures, even more, the problems that we are able to solve are much more complex”
(13.03) ALI – “It’s so important in our field in general, to always be furthering your own knowledge, and staying on top of the new things.”
(1.00) – So Chris, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Chris starts off by explaining that he did not take the normal route into an IT career. He did not go to university.
His IT journey started with him writing games for the Commodore 64 and other early computers. After leaving school, he became a journalist and newscaster.
In 1986, he discovered the internet and was immediately hooked. Fairly quickly, he was able to bring his two passions of tech and journalism together. Almost immediately, Chris could see the internet was going to help him and his colleagues to easily publish on a worldwide. He says that he was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
(2.25) – So, presumably your background in journalism has helped you in terms of other things you have done. For example, writing your books and public speaking. Chris agrees, he says his journalism skills were a great help when he started blogging. He found that his experience of writing for radio translated particularly well when writing for an online audience.
When writing for the radio you have to ensure that every sentence makes perfect sense. Usually, people are doing other things while listening to the radio, for example, driving. So, they cannot focus 100% on what you are saying. The clearer you are the more likely you are to keep their attention and really get through to them. It is the same when people are reading your stuff online. You rarely have their full attention. We all tend to skim through things, so every sentence has to clearly make its point.
This ability to make a point effectively and hold the attention of the audience has also been very useful when it comes to public speaking. His work as a journalist also helped Chris to adapt his message to suit the audience.
(3.14) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Chris says that being flexible is vital. He has moved to several different countries to pursue his career. If you are willing and able to be flexible there are a lot of opportunities available in the IT world. For example,
You need to be prepared to work at strange hours sometimes. Doing so opens up the opportunity to collaborate with people from across the world. Being flexible enables you to put yourself in the right place at the right time, more often.
Chris also thinks it is important to be prepared to physically travel so that you can work with others from across the world. Even though we have the internet you tend to get far more done when you spend time working with people face to face.
(5.05) – Can you tell us what your worst career moment was? And what you learned from that experience. For Chris, his worse career moment was when the UK office of a company he was working for was shut. When that happened, basically, all of the talented people they had pulled together over 10 years were scattered to the winds.
The team he was working with was very talented and worked quickly. They achieved more than the Silicon Valley team did in far less time.
Yet, they still closed the office and asked everyone to move to the USA. Some people went and just stayed with the firm for the 2 years they needed for the visa. Then, naturally, they left for better offers. Chris felt that this action showed an incredible lack of insight on the part of the company. It led to all of that talent being lost just because they were geographically in the wrong place.
Plus, naturally, a lot of the people were bitter. Many left in anger, which is a bad idea, especially in IT. Even today, it is quite a small world.
Chris says that the best approach is to take the high ground. Don’t bad mouth the company to others. The chances are you are going to come across these people again, in the future.
(7.00) – Phil asks Chris about their best career moment was. Chris has had lots of great moments.
He really enjoys the fact that a small change on the front end can make such a huge positive difference for users. It is also nice when you build up your reputation to the point where finding a new job becomes almost automatic. Chris also gets pleasure from seeing the careers of others he has worked with flourish.
(9.18) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that computers are taking over more is something that really excites Chris. This is despite the fact that AI is set to cut into the amount of work that will be available for him.
Currently, he sees too many security issues slipping through the net because the code has been written by people who are basically bored with their job. In the future, much of that boring work will be done by computers.
AI machines will be great at finding and fixing malicious code and debugging. They will be far faster at it than humans are. This will free developers up to become even more creative and innovative.
However, for this to happen quickly the industry needs more data scientists. We need people who can see the patterns and teach machines to recognize them too.
He points out that a lot of code has been written already. It is just that much of it has not been shared yet. The open source movement is helping to sort that out. As a result we are now moving forward at a far faster rate.
Chris is also excited by the fact that new roles are constantly being created within the IT industry. There are dozens of exciting and interesting jobs that simply did not exist a few years ago.
(12.20) – What drew you to a career in IT? Chris explains that he has always loved computers, so when he saw the chance to make working with them a part of his daily life he leapt at it. He was also drawn to the sector because he realized he would be able to help people to overcome their fear of working with computers. His work on the front end was helping people to tap into this new technology and achieve more, something he really enjoyed doing.
(12.51) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? That was – don’t forget to network within your company, especially when you first join. Get to know the people and their problems.
Help others and do everything you can to get departments to talk to each other. Get to know other communicators within that business. Doing all of this helps you to understand your company and find your place within it.
Taking this approach ensures that you will always have a backup plan. If your fantastic boss suddenly leaves and your new one is awful, you will be able to quickly move to another job.
Plus, when you play a role in getting something difficult fixed you are going to quickly be seen as a valuable employee. So, staying there long-term becomes a viable option. Provided, of course, that is what you want to do.
(14.31) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Nowadays, having a proper IT degree is a good thing. Chris knows that he was lucky to end up working in the IT field without a relevant degree. He says that the degree he would take now would be data science.
Chris also thinks he would start out by working for smaller startups. He says that this enables you to focus on one project and see it through. This hones your skills and helps you to learn how to turn what you are working on into a success.
He also says that he would not go into gaming. It is really hard to become successful in that field now.
Nowadays, there is a huge pool or pre-done stuff you can draw upon to get things done quickly. You no longer need to know how to code everything from scratch. So, Chris would also focus on maximizing the potential of this. He would familiarize himself with the various components and frameworks that are available and learn how to use them to get things done fast.
(16.49) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, Chris’ main objective is to move up and start building a team again. He wants to have team members who can replicate what he is doing right now, so he can focus on working with just a few clients.
(17.48) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Chris finds that he uses his communication skills a lot. It is important to know how to talk to people. It also helps you to recognize when not to pursue something. Just because you have identified the perfect solution does not mean that you should insist on developing it right there and then. Sometimes you have to think of the needs of the project, chunk up your knowledge and put together something that works for now, to move things forward. Then, perhaps circle back later to push your idea and get it implemented.
(18.59) – Phil asks Chris to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Make sure you stay interested in the job you are doing. Don’t do a boring job or one that you do not like, just for the money. If you do that, you are setting yourself up for failure. You have to find something that challenges you as well.
If you are hiring people, always hire someone who is better than you. When you do, you open up the opportunity for you to delegate to them. They get to develop and you are freed up to do something else. In time, they become able to replace you, by which point you will be ready to move on, anyway. You should not be afraid of the people that work for you.
(3.57) CHRIS – “Being flexible in your time and being flexible to actually work across the world is something that a lot of people still have problems with. IT is not a 9 to 5 job.”
(9.26) CHRIS – “I’m actually very excited that computers are taking over more and more.”
(9.54) CHRIS – “We should not be bored by writing software. Computers should actually be good enough to write most of the code for themselves.”
(13.00) CHRIS – “When you join a new company network inside the company.”
(16.47) CHRIS – “We are reusing 90% of the time what other people have been doing.”
Jennifer Bland is Phil’s guest on today’s show. She is one of Google’s Web Technologies Developers Experts, who has had a long tech career. Over the years, she has been a developer, consultant and project manager.
Now she works as a senior software engineer for Stanley Black and Decker. But, Jennifer also spends a lot of time and energy working in the community enabling under-represented groups to become successful in IT.
(1.06) – So Jennifer, can I ask you to expand on that brief intro and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Jennifer starts by explaining that she is, currently, a senior software engineer for Stanley Black and Decker in Atlanta. She is very proud of being a member of one of the most active Women Who Code chapters in the world. Fairly recently, Jennifer has started to provide technical training for others.
(1.55) – How did you get involved with Women Who Code? Jennifer discovered them while preparing to attend her first coding boot camp. In preparation, she needed to complete 6 weeks of pre-course material. To get the work done she attended one of Women Who Code’s Coding Jams. From then on she just kept attending their events and meetings. Today, she is on the Leadership Committee for Women Who Code Atlanta.
(2.57) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Jenifer says that is – “create a public presence”, something that is really easy to do using the internet. It could be as simple as creating your own twitter account and tweeting about tech.
Blogging, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook can all work too. Attending meetups and conferences is a good idea too. You can easily record a few videos while you are there and post them. When you do that, people will start seeking you out at these events. Normally, you will also start to be invited to speak.
(4.48) – You mentioned Twitter, are there any other platforms you would recommend? – LinkedIn is an important one. It creates an opportunity for you to write articles and share them worldwide. Pinterest and Instagram can also work although they are more geared towards sharing content via pictures. YouTube is excellent too.
(5.39) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. For Jennifer it was not a single moment. It was a 6-month process that she went through. Basically, she had joined a company without working out what the work environment would be first.
The company had reached out to her as a result of her public presence and offered her a great salary and benefits package. Initially, she said no. But, a few months later they asked again and she said yes. That meant leaving a company she was happy working at.
Unfortunately, that was a big mistake. The work environment at her new firm was incredibly poor for the entire 6 months she stayed there.
(7.18) how do you go about assessing the work environment in advance? Jennifer starts simply by googling them and talking to people who are already working there. She also tries to reach out and find out what their turnover rate is like. High turnover is a big red flag.
(8.09) – Phil asks Jennifer what her best career moment was. Jennifer says that it was becoming a Google Developers expert, at the end of last year. Being one of the few picked out of a field of hundreds of thousands of developers was a huge achievement. To gain the award you genuinely have to be an industry leader and someone who contributes significantly to the community.
Plus, to apply someone who is already a Google Developer expert has to nominate you. Then you go through multiple layers of interviews.
Here in the USA, there are only 16 Web Technologies Google Developers. So, it feels especially good to be one of them.
(10.11) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? Jennifer finds the pace of change to be very exciting. She reflects on the fact that she graduated before IBM introduced the PC and got her MBA before the internet became available. So, she has seen huge changes.
This frenetic pace of change means that new doors are opening, all the time. As a result, an IT career is highly rewarding.
(11.20) – Phil shares her enthusiasm for the rate of change. He goes on to ask Jennifer what she feels about the way in which the devices and software we are using is evolving so much. Jennifer agrees this is exciting too. In fact, the thirst for new devices is helping to drive change within the industry. The fact that people want Alexa style devices to do more, self-driving cars and other devices are pushing developers into new territory.
(12.35) – What drew you to a career in IT? Jennifer explained that the first time she was drawn to an IT career it was using the Commodore 64 that piqued her interest. She spent months putting it together and learning how to do it. That is what got her into programming.
(14.19) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? For Jennifer, that was, invest in yourself. In particular, invest in learning the skills that enable you to continually learn new things.
The world of tech changes at a very fast pace, which means that you have to keep up. You need to be able to learn new languages fast, and be able to adapt to fresh implementation and working methods. You need to be able to ride the waves of change.
(15.42) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Jennifer says she would focus on honing her ability to learn tech skills as fast as possible. Coding boot camps are an excellent way to do exactly that. You can learn to code in 3 to 6 months instead of spending 4 years getting a college degree.
Taking the boot camp route also means that you avoid building up 50 to 100K in student debts. After just 6 months of participating in a camp you can get a job. Within a year, you will have created a brand new career and be about 3 years ahead of your peers.
(17.14) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, Jennifer is focusing on try to get as many women and underrepresented groups into tech over the next 4 years, or so. Then she thinks she will retire again.
She wants to help these groups of people to have the skills to earn good money. Working in IT makes it easy to find relatively secure employment, something that these demographic groups desperately need.
(18.11) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? For Jennifer that is easy. The ability to network easily has helped her enormously. It has opened many doors for her, which has, in turn, enabled her to open doors for many others.
For example, she was able to give the resume of a lady she met at Women Who Code to her manager. That woman still works there today. That networking moment benefited everyone involved, for many years.
(19.38) – Phil asks Jennifer to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Jennifer says that if you want to work in the IT industry, you have to accept the fact that you are going to have to change jobs a lot. Very few successful IT professionals stay in a role for more than 5 years. To progress, you need to create the opportunities, which, most of the time means being willing to move to another company.
(3.24) JENNIFER – “Take the time to create your own public presence. It will benefit you so much in the long run.”
(14.23) JENNIFER – “Invest in learning the skills that will allow you to learn these new technologies that are coming out.”
(15.21) JENNIFER – “Invest in yourself, this will enable you to ride the waves of change to new and secure better opportunities for yourself.”
(16.32) JENNIFER – “If you complete a six-month coding boot camp, you can get a job.”
(17.07) JENNIFER – “I would definitely focus on learning tech skills as quickly and efficiently as I possibly could.”
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Jen Bunk. Her path into the world of IT was a long one. She started out working in the academic world.
Today, she helps tech managers to upgrade their careers. She teaches them how to share what they are doing and the value that adds effectively. That is in a way that quickly leads to promotion, bigger paychecks and a better work-life balance. Her advice is tailored to fit in with the career objectives of each of the people she helps.
Jen is the host of the People Stack podcast for which she interviews career coaches, authors and tech leaders, from around the globe.
(0.56) – So Jen, can I ask you to expand on that brief intro and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Jen starts by saying how cool it is for her to be interviewed rather than being the one doing the interviewing. She explains that she is a career coach for technical managers. That means that she helps engineering managers, IT managers, technical project and product managers and others. Occasionally, she will work with data analytics specialists or science team leaders too.
She helps these people to upgrade their careers. To get a promotion, move fields get a raise and a lot more besides. Her aim is to help them to do this without having to work ridiculously long hours to achieve this.
(2.46) – Do the people you work with have different career objectives? Jen says yes, everyone has a unique story. So, they have different goals and career paths that they want to follow.
But, there is one thing that ties them all together. They all feel that they are stuck in their career. Usually, they have worked hard to try to progress, but not been able to do so. Others are doing OK, but are having to work ridiculous hours to achieve what they want or stay in their roles.
Most of her clients are middle management. Typically, she is working with the people who directly lead the tech teams.
(4.03) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? If you want to upgrade your career, it is not enough to be excellent, and strive to be the best and continually add value. That is only part of it.
You need to evangelize that excellence; essentially you have to become good at self-promotion. Jen calls it self promotion on steroids. You need to let others know what you are doing and how it is benefiting the organization you work for.
(5.13) – So, do you have any specific suggestions of how people should go about doing that themselves? Jen says that this type of self-promotion has to be done carefully.
First, you have to get comfortable with the fact that you are going to have to promote yourself. Self-promotion is something that makes a lot of people squirm.
What you need to do to get started depends on the circumstances you are in. If you are not doing any self-promoting you need to ask yourself why that is and work out how to get started.
Whereas, if you are already doing it and it is not working you would need to take a different approach. Perhaps you would need to communicate more clearly or share what you are doing in other arenas. There is no one size fits all answer.
(6.29) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. Jen explains that in her former life, she was a college professor. About 10 years into her career, she applied for promotion and tenure. A move that is not uncommon, often, the two go hand in hand.
The process of gaining tenure and getting promoted is a long one that typically takes about a year. It involves working with and being assessed by various departments at different levels. For example, working with the Dean of the College, as you go through each level you are assessed.
This process starts at the department level. So, initially it is your colleagues, people you work with every day that consider your applications. Unfortunately, at this stage, the department committee told her they were happy to support her for tenure, but not for promotion.
Naturally, Jen was shocked and angry. It was a real ‘what just happened to me moment?’ Getting through the meeting was a trial. She could not work out why her colleagues had made that decision.
In the end, both the Dean and the provost supported and recommended her. So, ultimately she got tenure and promotion.
It was not a great experience, but it was one that Jen learned from. Only then did she realize that the Dean knew what she was doing so could understand the value she was adding. But, importantly, the people she worked with every day did not. The result of that situation was nearly disastrous.
(10.03) – Presumably you have taken what you learned from that experience and applied it to your coaching career. Jen says yes definitely. That is where her ‘evangelizing your excellence’ message came from. Her anger at her colleagues turned to understanding when she realized she had not made sure they knew what she was contributing. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a learning moment that means she can be very effective at stopping others from continuing to make a similar mistake.
(11.20) – Phil asks Jen what their best career moment was. For Jen, that has been being able to grow her coaching business at an astonishing rate. After just 3 years in business, they reached the 6 figure turnover point. This was a huge achievement in an industry where most coaches typically turnover between $30,000 and $40,000 per annum.
It is an achievement that shows what they are doing is effective. Her clients are getting amazing results.
(12.20) – Phil says I assume you get some great career stories from the people you are working with. Jen agrees and explains that she is now sharing more of them. At first it felt a little weird, after all these are personal stories. But, she has found that when people are doing great they really want to share their experience with others.
(13.00) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact it is always changing is what excites Jen the most about the industry. The other day, her husband was talking to their nine-year-old son about what he wants to do when he is older. He ended up explaining that neither of the jobs his parents do now and love doing did not even exist when they were kids.
Within the IT industry, new careers are constantly emerging. Phil agrees and reminds the audience that this ever-changing landscape means that there are always plenty of opportunities for progress.
(14.25) – What drew you to a career in IT? Even in the 80s, Jen loved tech. Her brother got a computer for Christmas. Jen wanted to play on it all the time. So, now she works in the industry she feels like she has come home somehow.
(15.12) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? That would be – take extreme ownership of your career. Make sure you are always in the driver’s seat. Phil agrees the days where the firm you worked for automatically helped you to learn more and progress your career are long gone.
(15.42) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Interestingly, Jen would not do anything differently. She has enjoyed everything she has done, so would do it all again.
(16.11) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? In terms of her own career, Jen is building a million dollar business. To do this she will be pulling in other entrepreneur friends. The foundations of this have already been laid with the formation of the Two Comma Club.
So, she is switching from fulfilling day to day functions and taking on more of a CEO role. Being the person who sets the strategic vision and leading the way. But, she still plans to do some coaching. Jen wants to continue to have direct access to clients.
Phil summarizes this as becoming the person who works on the business rather than in the business.
(17.38) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Being a good writer has proved important. But, for Jen her most important non-technical skill has been good time management. It has enabled her to be as effective as possible.
(17.45) – Phil asks Jen to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. If you want to progress your career, you have to take true ownership of it.
When it comes to our careers many of us act like we are the pawns in a game of chess rather than the player. All too often we sit there waiting for opportunities to come along. Instead we should be acting like the player and be the one who makes things happen. You can, and should, be the one to move the pieces around the board.
A client once told her that he felt like he was wearing a pair of golden handcuffs. He was making a lot of money and a great position, but, he did not really like where he worked. Plus, he was working 60 hours a week.
So, Jen asked him – who put those golden handcuffs on? Of course, it was him, which was great news because it meant that he could take them off.
Phil says that is a great analogy. All you need to do to take them off is to realize that you have the key.
(4.17) JEN – “It’s not enough to simply be excellent, and strive to be the best and continually add value.”
(4.58) JEN – “Building the excellence and the evangelist excellence coming together is what leads to career upgrading.”
(15.16) JEN – “Take extreme ownership, it’s your career. It’s no one else’s. You’re in the driver’s seat.”
(18.19) JEN – “I like to make sure that every moment is used as effectively and efficiently as possible”
(19.49) JEN – “It can be really hard to realize that I’m the one who put myself in this situation. But I can get myself out because I’m the player, not just a pawn.”
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Antonio Leiva. He started his IT career as a software developer. Fairly quickly he focused on Android development. When JetBrains released their Java replacement Kotlin to the open-source community, Antonio saw the potential and immersed himself in the new language.
Today, he is a well known Kotlin specialist and teacher. His book “Kotlin for Android Developers” is a go-to resource for many. To date, around 7,000 copies have sold. Antonio offers certificated Kotlin training for Android developers and engineers. He is also now offering a hands-on mentoring service.
(0.45) – So Antonio, can I ask you to expand on that brief intro and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Antonio starts by explaining that he has been working as a software developer for more than 10 years. A lot of that time has been spent working with Android. For the last 4 years, he has been learning about and using Kotlin, which has been designed and developed by JetBrains and open-source contributors.
This very new language enabled Android developers to overcome the issue of having to work with a very old version of Java. Antonio got involved during the very early developments stages.
Once he understood the value of Kotlin, he decided to write a book about it. This was despite the fact that, at the time, it was still not clear whether the language would succeed or not. His gamble paid off. Today, Kotlin is an official language.
Nowadays, his main goal is to help Android developers to boost their careers. But, he is also heavily involved in helping companies to migrate from Java to Kotlin.
(2.48) – Is Kotlin a language that is growing in popularity? Antonio says yes it is. The language was designed by JetBrains who had already successfully launched dozens of other programming languages and tool, including IntelliJ IDEA. They are very successful, but they were becoming frustrated with Java. It was just no longer powerful enough to enable them to do what they needed to do and push things forward. So, they designed Kotlin, to solve this problem.
The fact that Kotlin is open-source has really helped it to develop and grow in popularity fast, especially within the Android community. Plus, Google decided a couple of years ago to support it as a separate language for developing Android apps. That made a big difference to how popular it was.
(4.12) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Antonio’s advice is to remember that you do not necessarily follow what others are doing. You need to sit down, work out what you want, identify your values and what is important to you and make a plan that fits in with that. If you want to be close to your family, it might be beneficial to seek out employment that allows you to work from home.
There is a tendency for young developers to work hard to emulate their heroes who work at places like Facebook and Google. They assume that is what they want, only to find, after a lot of hard work, that is not the case. You need to follow a career path that fits in with you and who you are.
(5.51) At this point, Phil points out the importance of regularly reviewing that plan to make sure that it is a good fit.
(6.11) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. So far, Antonio has not had any terrible moments in his career. He has only experienced the usual blips, the two or three things that happen to everyone, for example, releasing something that won’t run.
However, there was an incident that did have a negative impact on Antonio. The fact that English is not his first language has made things more difficult for him. He has missed out on some opportunities. On one occasion it got in the way of him landing a job that he was a perfect fit for.
That really knocked his confidence and he began to really suffer from the imposter syndrome. He even thought about stopping the work he was doing in English and changing to only helping developers in his mother tongue, Spanish. Luckily, Antonio realized that doing that would stop him from achieving his goal of helping as many people as possible to move their careers forward.
(7.45) – Phil asks Antonio what his best career moment has been, so far. Antonio thinks that was deciding to write his book. That decision has led to some amazing things.
It has opened doors for him, created opportunities. Most importantly, it has helped him to build a community around himself.
Publishing his book has freed him up to work on his own projects and create his own business. In addition, writing that book has exposed his knowledge to the world and given him a special place in the community.
Plus, as many others have said before him, “teaching others is the best way to learn”. It forces you to truly master a subject.
(9.13) – Phil asks Antonio how many copies of Kotlin For Android Developers have been sold or circulated, so far. Antonio thinks between 6 and 7,000 copies.
(9.31) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? Antonio enjoys the fact that we cannot really tell what is going to happen in the next 5 to 10 years. That pushes us to continually learn and develop, which is great for self-improvement. It forces you out of your comfort zone every few years. So, working in IT is never boring, it is exciting.
(10.27) – Phil asks Antonio if there is anything specific in the mobile field that Antonio sees changing or something that particularly interests him. Antonio believes that soon, we will be able to write something once and be able to publish it to everyone regardless of the platform they are on, at the touch of a button.
(11.23) – What drew you to a career in IT? Antonio got involved in the world of IT largely by accident. He had no idea what degree he wanted to take, so he decided to try computer science. Despite never having written a line of code in his life, he enjoyed it.
(12.03) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? His mentor recently reminded him that when you choose your career you do it so that you can live the life you want. Therefore, you should not be continuously looking at how others are managing their careers and try to copy them exactly. It is important to be your own person. You have different needs and priorities, so you may need to take a different path than others have.
(13.17) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Antonio says that from the very start he would blog and network. He knows if he had done so from the moment he started studying for his degree he would have ramped up his understanding of the subject.
(13.53) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, Antonio’s main focus is growing his business and turning his project into a success. He is also planning some new training to turn Android developers into engineers.
(14.36) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Antonio believes that knowing himself well has really helped him to progress HHHYYY. He says that knowing what your fears and strengths are and what holds you back will enable you to unleash your power. Learning to feel happy with his life no matter what, without worrying about what others think or needing their approval has also helped Antonio. But, that is something that did not come naturally for him.
(15.28) – Phil asks Antonio to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Antonio’s advice is not to push yourself too hard, so that you can enjoy the journey. Help and learn from everyone, doing so will make it far easier for you to find your way.
(02.13) Antonio – “My main goal nowadays is to help other Android developers to boost their careers.”
(5.25) Antonio – “Think about your future, about what you really want to achieve, and then build up a plan based on that. Check your values and what is most important to you.”
(8.51) Antonio – “Teaching others is the best way to learn.”
(9.53) Antonio – “The only thing we know for sure is that we need to learn new things and to adapt to new circumstances. That is really great for self-improvement.”
(15.37) Antonio – “Don’t push yourself too hard and enjoy the journey. Try to help and learn from everyone.”