Phil’s guest today is Lorna Mitchell. She has a software engineering background and has worked as a developer advocate for IBM Cloud Data Services. Today, she works for Nexmo as part of the Developer Relations team. Lorna is also the author of two, very well received, books about PHP. She describes herself as being at her happiest when her GitHub graph is green.
(0.99) – Phil asks Lorna to tell the audience a bit more about herself? Lorna replies that Phil has pretty much covered everything with his introduction.
(1.38) – Phil asks Lorna for a unique IT career tip. Lorna says here advice is to write things down. When you write something down, you process it in a different way. If you explain something to someone else you have to gain a deep understanding yourself. When you write a blog post you come to better understand the topic. Plus, once you publish, you get feedback and become known for being interested in that topic. As a result, you learn more. That continues, over the years. People know you are interested in the subject so start to share what they know too. This expands your knowledge even more. Plus, when you publish what you write online, people often leave insightful and helpful comments.
(4.07) – Lorna is asked to share her worst career moment by Phil. Lorna was once fired, which was a horrifying experience. She was left wondering how to pay the bills. Plus, Lorna was already having doubts that a software engineering career was for her. But, at the time, she had no other skills. So, she ended up having to take an IT related job even though she was reluctant to do so. As it turns out, she was very lucky. That job was a stepping stone to great things. It led to her speaking at conferences and becoming recognized for the code that she writes. She came really close to giving up a career that she now loves. Lorna comments that she has noticed a lot of people who are new to the industry wanting to give up. At the start, it is hard to find a company that has the resources and budget to allow you to do a really good job. It is all too easy to become disheartened and give up what is actually a great career once you gain enough experience to move on and secure a role with a good company.
(6.15 – Phil asks Lorna what her best career moment has been. For Lorna, that was getting published by O’Reilly. It gave her an amazing sense of achievement. Plus, people started to listen more to her, which enabled her to help even more people.
(7.29) – Would you write another book? Lorna replied that she definitely will when she can fit it in. Right now, she is working full-time, so that could be tricky. She wrote her other two books when she was a freelancer.
(8.16) – Phil asks what excites Lorna about the future for the IT industry. For Lorna the fact that tech is everywhere and constantly changing is exciting. It means that she is always working on something fresh and new and learning about all kinds of industries.
(9.40) – What drew you to a career in IT? For Lorna, working in IT was not the original plan. She was good at math and physics and has a degree in electronic engineering, so she never saw a future in IT for herself. While studying for her degree, she did a little bit of coding and really enjoyed the experience. So, when someone offered her a job in IT, building games, she took it. From there she was hooked.
(10.40) – What is the best career advice you were given? At one stage, Lorna had an awful job. She knew that potentially she could get out of it by working as a freelancer. But, she was hesitant to take that step. So, a friend, who also worked in IT, said to her “Lorna, what’s the worst that can happen?” When she looked at things from that perspective, she realized it was actually the right move for her and she became a successful freelancer. Now, if she is finding it tough to make a career related decision, she asks herself “What’s the worst that could happen?” This helps her to make up her mind and continue to move forward.
(11.35) – If you were to start your IT career again, now, what would you do? Lorna would not change a lot. She says it is good to take a lot of different jobs to build up your experience and broaden your horizons. However, Lorna wishes she had got involved in open source at an earlier stage. Working on these projects enables you to build a big skill set and do so fast. You will learn everything from coding to project management skills as well as how to interact with and work well with others.
(13.02) – Phil asks Lorna what she is currently focusing on at the moment.
Lorna says for her career objectives are a really difficult thing to think about. She is still progressing by moving from one interesting project to another. It is an approach that seems to work for her.
(14.14) – What is the non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? For Lorna, being able to write well and explain things in writing is an incredibly important skill. She has pretty much always worked remotely, so has needed to be able to explain things in writing and do so in an understandable way. There has rarely been someone available to physically look over her shoulder and spot the problem. So, she has to be able to explain it concisely to them in writing.
(15.17) – Phil asks Lorna to share a final piece of career advice. Where ever you are or whatever you do make sure that you participate. If you attend a conference or working group, ask a question. Hang around afterward for a chat. Get involved. You do not necessarily have to give a speech or write something to be able to participate. In online communities and on blog posts share a comment. This will really help you to find your peer group, to belong and grow.
(3.09) – LORNA – “You should write things down. The rewards and the echoes of that action have been amazing for me in my career.”
(11.57) – LORNA – “I had a variety of different jobs early on. And I think that’s a really good grounding.”
(15.30) – LORNA – “Wherever you are, and whatever you do. My advice is to participate.”
(16.29) – LORNA – “Keep doing what you’re doing and sharing what you do. Choose who you amplify and the content that you share and you will find your peer group.”
Today, Phil’s guest is Vicky Brasseur who is an award-winning open source contributor and author. She has been working in the IT industry for 20+ years. During that time, she has worked on numerous open source projects, which have led to the development of industry-leading software. Work she now combines with her writing, public speaking and consultancy engagements.
(1.16) – So Vicky, can you expand on that summary and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Vicky responds by explaining that for many years she spent a lot of time doing business management stuff. But, today she mostly helps companies to understand how to contribute to and release free and open source software. She shows how to do so in a way that is both good for their bottom line and the community.
(1.45) – Phil asks to share with the audience some of the benefits of using open source. For a company, there are many benefits. It removes the need to continually invent the wheel. There are millions of wheels you can use instead of wasting time and resources writing all of that code yourself. Companies can get up and running much faster using open source.
(2.39) – Phil asks Vicky for a unique IT career tip. Vicky’s advice is to get involved in developing free and open source software. Doing so enables you to gain a lot of new skills and experience. Plus, it greatly improves your public and open portfolio. Importantly, you do not have to be a programmer to get involved in open source. There are many skills required to develop free and open source software, so virtually anyone can make a contribution and benefit by doing so.
(4.53) – Vicky is asked to share her worst IT career moment. That happened when Vicky ended up working for a poorly run startup. Vicky felt she ended up in that position because she had not asked the right questions at the interview stage. It reminded her that finding a new job is a two-way street. A job seeker should be interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Vicky now has a set of questions that she asks every single interviewer. This enables her to compare the companies in a logical way. She finds that the way they respond is very telling. Often, it is what they do not say rather than what they do that is very telling.
(7.25) – Phil asks Vicky what her best career moment was. For Vicky being asked by Pragmatic to write a book about a subject she is really passionate about has been amazing. Getting paid to work on free and open source software is also a highlight. But, the best thing for Vicky is helping companies to see the benefit of bridging the gap between corporate and community interests. To see that it is in everyone’s interest to work in this way.
(8.44) – Can you tell us a little more about your book, “Forge Your Future with Open Source”. Has it been published yet? Vicky says yes, but she has not seen the physical book yet. On the evening of the podcast recording, she was hosting an unboxing party to reveal the book to her friends, colleagues and family. Her book is all about how an individual can contribute to free and open source software. The book explains what it is, why it matters and what copyright is. It covers licensing, intellectual property how to interact with everyone effectively. Plus, more complex issues like how to take something you may have developed in the workplace and legally share it with a wider community.
(11.26) – Phil asks what excites Vicky about the future for the IT industry. Vicky is really pleased to see the IT industry opening up. Over the years, the industry has been too insular. It is great to see more diversity. Diverse teams come up with better ideas and work more efficiently. The fact that IT is becoming more inclusive is exciting and will greatly benefit everyone.
(13.23) – What drew you to a career in IT? Vicky responded by saying “I love pushing buttons,” She loves computers and the process of creating something out of nothing, literally by just pushing the right buttons.
(14.00) – What is the best career advice you were given? Vicky answered by saying “You can get out.” If you are in a bad situation, you don’t have to stay there. Even if you cannot leave immediately, you can start to change your situation. There are tons of people who are going to treat you better and probably pay you better. So, if you are in a bad situation, work to get out of it.
(14.38) – If you were to start your IT career again, now, what would you do? For Vicky that is a hard question to answer. There would be things she could change, but, she is actually pretty happy with how things have gone.
(15.37) – Phil asks Vicky what she is currently focusing on. Vicky finds freelancing exhausting, so she wants to work for a company that will pay her full-time for her open source related management skills. Lots of companies have open source offices. She is hoping to work for one of those and do so for several years. So that she can get to see some projects through to the end.
(16.36) – What is the non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? For Vicky it is listening, communicating and writing. Documenting how you do things is a force multiplier. When you write things down, you can share it with any number of people. Vicky suggests that the audience check out the writing tips shared at the “All Things Open” conference by Jen Wike Huger from Red Hat. Her speech notes are available here.
(18.06) – Phil asks Vicky to share a final piece of career advice. Don’t rely on your manager to move your career forward. It is something a good manager will help you with, but you cannot rely on them to do so. You need to sit down and think about where you want to go and take steps to get there. Start slow -baby steps are still steps, provided you take the action, you will progress.
(1.45) VICKY – “We get that very good balance and that beneficial cycle of the corporate contributions and the community benefit, all at once.”
(3.39) VICKY – “You can move your career forward by contributing to free and open source software.”
(6.34) PHIL – “When you go for an interview, make sure that you find out as much as you can about that company before you commit to joining them.”
(12.20) VICKY – “The studies show that communities and projects and teams that are more diverse, are also much more innovative.”
(17.28) VICKY –“I can have an idea, and I can tell it to you, and then it disappears. But if I write it down, I can share it with any number of people.”
(18.13) VICKY – “You have the power. It is within your power to move your career forward. But you have to take the time to think about it.”
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Annyce Davis. She has already had a varied career. Annyce spent 7 years working at the Washington Post setting up their online content offering and user re-engagement initiatives. During that time, she used Python, Hive and several other tools to get the job done. She was part of the team that created PostTV Android. Today, she is an Android Google Developer Expert working for the social impact start-up Off Grid Electric. Annyce has also created numerous courses, a teacher and public speaker.
(1.03) – So Annyce, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Annyce explains to Phil that when she is not programming she is busy settling her family into European life. The company that she works for recently moved their headquarters from Tanzania to the Netherlands.
(1.57) – Phil asks Annyce to share a unique IT career tip with the audience. Annyce’s tip is to find a way to teach regardless of what you do within the tech industry. Doing that enables you to make a positive difference in the life of others and “sound down” whatever you teach within yourself.
(2.32) – Phil asks Annyce to share more about what she gets out of teaching. She says it really helps her to hone her own expertise and make things firmer in her own mind. It pushes her to learn more and deepen her own understanding of a subject. If she has a complicated concept, she has to break it down so someone else can understand it too. This requires research, a process that deepens her understanding of the subject.
(3.53) – Annyce is asked to share her worst career moment by Phil. Several years ago, Annyce had just completed a complicated project and was expecting to be promoted. But, that did not happen for her. Yet, other colleagues, some of whom had started after her, were promoted. At the time, she felt very down, but, learned several lessons from the experience. The first was the need to speak up. If you do not do that you can easily be overlooked. Make sure that your manager knows your goals and that you constantly check your progress towards them. Also, remember that “work is not school” you have to “advocate for yourself”. Let everyone know what it is that you contribute to ensure that you advance in your career.
(5.12) – Phil asks how else that experience has changed the way Annyce works. She explains that teaching keeps you visible and helps you to vocalize what it is you know and contribute. It enables you to interact with a lot of people. You become a force for positive change within your own organization and help people across multiple departments. Understanding the need to promote yourself has helped her to understand the value of being a teacher within your organization.
(5.41) – Phil asks Annyce about her best career moment, so far. Annyce said that recording her first LinkedIn Learning course was a big highlight. She recorded in front of a green screen in a real studio. It was surreal and made her feel like a celebrity. Amazingly, it all started with the little step of going online and sharing a few tips. When Phil asked if she gets much feedback from her course, Annyce said yes, loads. She really loves people coming up to her at conferences and thanking her for what she taught them.
(7.27) – Phil asks what excites Annyce about the future for the IT industry and careers in IT, in particular. She is both excited by and worried about how reliant we are on Open Source software. Not that long ago, most companies would not let you use Open Source code. Now, we actively look for it before we build something from scratch. It is exciting because you can get things done quickly. But, it is scary too. If it breaks there is not always an easy path to resolution.
(8.28) – Do you see opportunities maybe evolving as a result of open source? Yes, definitely. It does not matter where you are in the world you can work with so many smart people and learn from them.
(9.07) – What drew you to a career in IT, Annyce? One day, Annyce was playing with her favorite game, when her teacher told her that if she became a programmer, she could make games too. She did, in fact, create a word game for Android.
(9.50) – What is the best career advice you were given? Annyce’s unofficial mentor told her about “the rule of thirds”. Basically, whatever you put out into the world falls into one of 3 buckets. One-third of people will appreciate it, one third will ignore it and one third will totally ignore it. You need to take whatever feedback you get and put it in one of those three buckets. Doing this ensures you do not become distracted and can continue to move forward and achieve your goals. Phil agrees and shares the fact that he has also received similar advice.
(10.48) – If you were to start your IT career again, now, what would you do? Annyce says she would change jobs every three years. She is very loyal to her current company, but also realizes that staying in one place is potentially holding her back, in some ways. In tech, there is always another challenge in another place.
(11.19) – Phil asks Annyce what she is currently focusing on at the moment. Annyce is currently building a small team. She is focusing on being a great manager, who programs. Rather than a great programmer who manages, so she is focusing on improving her management skills.
(11.49) – What is the non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Being able to explain complex things in simple terms, it is a skill that helps you to work with all kinds of people.
(12.09) – Do you vary the way you communicate depending on who you are talking to? Yes, absolutely. While teaching middle school for a year, she learned different teaching methods. Now, Annyce definitely considers her audience when she teaches.
(12.58) – Phil asks Annyce to share a final piece of career advice. Annyce says, just teach, and share what you know. Start small and watch your career grow as you help others to learn.
(2.13) ANNYCE – “Whatever you do in the tech industry, you should try to find a way to teach it.”
(4.57) ANNYCE – “Work is not school. So, you don’t just get an A, because you worked hard, you have to really advocate for yourself.”
(5.28) ANNYCE – “Be seen, be vocal be visible, and to share what you know, with the community, because it also helps people internally in your own company.”
(13.02) ANNYCE – “Share what you know with others and just watch your career grow.”
The guest on today’s show is Chris Wahl who has been working in the IT industry for over two decades. He is the host of the Datanauts podcast and the author of the Wahl Network Blog, both of which have won awards. His focus is on using his experience to give others the expertise they need to create the data centers of the future. Chris specializes in workflow automation and building operational excellence and the successful adoption and integration of new technology.
(1.07) – So Chris, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Chris said that he spent most of his career rising through the ranks. Three years ago, he set up Rubrik, which is already a market leader in Cloud Data Management. He now runs a fairly large team. The change from individual contributor to a full-time kind of manager has been a blast.
(1.45) – Did you make the decision to change in terms of moving more into a management role? Chris said, yes, kind of. But, he tends to gravitate towards new things that push him to learn. For him, it is an effective way of managing the “imposter syndrome” that most of us experience. He also realized that if he continued to work as an individual how much he could achieve would be limited. On your own you can only get so much done. With a team you can build in more capacity to get things done, move the technology forwards and complete large projects. Chris has found that creating a team has enabled him to pursue some passion projects.
(2.34) – Phil asks Chris for a unique IT career tip. Chris explains that it is important to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It ensures you continue to learn to keep up with the fast pace of technology. Chris has what he calls a “fear compass”. When he finds something that makes him go wow and take a step back initially, he usually dives in instead of backing away. You cannot afford to become stagnant or stale.
(4.18) – Chris is asked to share his worst career moment. For Chris that happened early on. He was working for an IT shop that had a call center type of operation to assist customers and keep the business running. One day Chris did an update and rolled it out without thoroughly testing it. Unfortunately, he had accidentally put a wild card in the script which nuked everyone’s system 32 folders. Leading to the operating system failing. On that day, 200 terminals went down. Chris could have tried to sweep his mistake under the carpet. But, he didn’t. Instead he was transparent, which enabled him and his team to get things back up and running as normal, very quickly. He felt really guilty about it. But, since then he has never broken the “test first” rule, which has helped him to deliver excellent solutions and propel his career forwards.
(7.95) – Phil asks Chris what his best career moment was. Chris says that moment goes in tandem with his worst IT experience. On another job, a client asks him to do an upgrade at 11 am on a Wednesday. One of the busiest times of the week, so he warns them this is not a good idea and documents the fact. Yet, they insist he does it and everything goes down. Immediately, Chris was surrounded by the whole team, very upset and all panicking. Despite the pressure Chris was able to remain cool and quickly solve the problem. His worst career moment had helped him to understand the importance of remaining calm at moments of crisis and give him the chance to practice that skill. So, he was ready and able to deliver his best career moment.
(9.26) – Phil wants to know what excites Chris about the future of the IT industry. Chris says the fact that the way we deal with IT is changing to a more collaborative way of working is exciting and important. Chris calls it the DevOps blend. He also likes the fact that everything is becoming more workflow and process driven. It is also good to see automation being utilized more.
(11.19) – Phil asks Chris what drew you to a career in IT. Chris was only about 3 or 4 when he started playing computer games. He was programming by the time he was 8. He said that IT chose him rather than him choosing it.
(12.18) – What is the best career advice you have been given? Surround yourself with the right people and success will follow. Positive people who challenge you and are great to work with will always drive you forwards.
(13.04) – Phil asks Chris if he has ever been involved in Masterminds. Chris says not exactly. But, whether he is working on a project, attending a conference or something else he always seeks out the experts. Often, he ends up working collaboratively with them.
(13.47) – If you were to start your IT career again, what would you do? Chris jokes that he would have invested heavily in Apple stock. Refreshingly, Chris does not think he would change much in the way he approaches his career decisions.
(14.30) – Phil asks Chris what he is currently focusing on in his career. Chris is no longer getting heavily involved in the engineering aspect of IT. Instead, he is now focusing more on what the greater architecture of IT looks like. He is working to understand how to make this technology more accessible, so normal people can deliver this stuff. So, recently, he has been attending a lot of Gartner events and analyst conferences.
(16.22) – What would you consider to be your most important non-technical skill, Chris? Writing, the ability to take something that is complicated and make it simple enough for most people to understand is a great skill. Communication is key. There is no point in producing something fantastic, if you unable to share it with others.
(17.19) – Phil asks Chris to share a few final words of IT career advice. Don’t focus too much on the details, if you do you will just spin your wheels. Stop fixating on which cloud to learn, get your feet wet, learn and pivot later if you need to.
(3.41) CHRIS – “Standing still means you’re just gonna be brought down. You have to constantly keep moving and finding that fear factor.”
(3.47) PHIL – “It’s a case of challenging yourself to be able to grow and move forward”
(10.21) CHRIS – “I really liked that we’re blending those two worlds and gathering a lot of the great practices that the dev world has done and applying that to ops.”
(12.25) CHRIS – “Surround yourself with great people, and successfully follow.”
(16.31) CHRIS – “As I’ve grown my career, I’ve realized that everything boils down to communication.”
(17.11) CHRIS – “Learning how to extract ideas from your head and put it into a consumable format is such a huge skill”
Today, Phil’s guest is Denise Jacobs. She has been working in the IT industry since 1996. Over that time, she has been a developer, designer, writer, speaker and mentor. Right now her focus is on teaching, in particular helping others to recognize and overcome self-doubt. A positive step that frees developers and programmers to be more creative and excel at what they do.
(1.08) – So Denise, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Denise explained that she started web design when the web was really young in 1996. She worked for Microsoft and several other companies. In the end, she realized that what she really liked doing was teaching. So, she started teaching web design and development at Seattle Central Community College. When she moved to Miami she worked at a software company that produced a CMS. That experience made her realize she really wanted to work for herself. She also started speaking at conferences. Around the same time, in 2009, she was asked to write a book. The CSS Detective Guide was a big success. Writing it and speaking about it got Denise more interested in the creative process. So she started to talk publicly about that side of IT work. Her latest book is about silencing your inner critic, so you can unlock your creativity and get into a flow state so that you can do your best work.
(4.47) – Do you feel that writing the original book was that reason for getting into this more creative area? Denise explained that it was really the catalyst. The process of writing the book made Denise realize that she had crippling self-doubt. She was always seeking validation, questioning her developer and writing ability. Worrying about how she was perceived. Writing the book got Denise to the stage where she finally felt comfortable with her work.
(7.48) – Phil asks Denise for a unique IT career tip. Denise’s advice is to “be your brilliance” – tune into what you do well and focus on that. Unfortunately, we rarely recognize that we are good at something, especially if it is really easy for us to do. She gave the example of a gymnast. They will think nothing of balancing on a beam and not really think about the fact that doing that requires a good sense of balance. Yet, the fact is that they have an excellent sense of balance, something which is obvious to everyone else. To identify their brilliance, Denise advises people to – “think back to the last time that you did something that was so enjoyable that you lost time.” If you were so consumed that you forgot to eat or use the bathroom you were, likely, in a flow state and working in one of your areas of brilliance.
(9.50) – Denise is asked to share her worst career moment by Phil. In one job Denise was singled out by one of her managers for “special treatment”, but, not in a good way. The company had a flexible working policy. Yet, her manager bullied her into coming in before 9 am and staying late. For Denise it was an awful time. It did not matter how many sacrifices she made her efforts were not recognized. Instead, she was demeaned. For example, one of her project managers was an introvert, so she ended up picking up the slack quite a bit. Effectively she became the de-facto manager. Despite assuming all of the stress and much of the physical work, when presents were handed out to everyone all she got was a joke gift of a date ball. That was it; Denise saw the light and took a step back.
(14.08) – Phil asks Denise what her best career moment was. For Denise becoming a public speaker has turned out to be a highlight. It has opened up a whole new world for her and enabled her to meet and help so many wonderful people.
(15.36) – Phil asks Denise what excites her about the future of the IT careers. The opportunities are huge. Recently, an HR manager told her that a lot of positions are going unfilled. So, there is plenty of work available. More importantly, there is room for innovation and creativity. The possibilities and opportunities are huge.
(16.32) – What drew you to a career in IT? Actually, Denise fell into an IT career by accident. While working at the University of Washington, she realized that the website was not getting updated. So, she sought out the person who was responsible for the website and discovered they were no longer keen to work on it. So, Denise learned HTML and a few other skills and took over. That was the beginning of her IT career.
(18.10) – What is the best career advice you have been given? Denise says it is important to surround yourself with people who are ahead of you. She called them “opportunity models”, people that can help you to recognize the possibilities and opportunities.
(18.42) – If you were to start your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Denise said that she would still focus on learning and teaching what she knows. She believes that is the fastest way to learn more and grow your community.
(19.17) – Phil asks Denise what she is currently focusing on. Right now, Denise is working to grow her reach and provide value. She has a lot of information to share that she has been too busy to get out there. So, over the next year, her plan is to share a lot more content.
(20.08) – What would you consider to be your most important non-technical skill? Denise picked out two things. Firstly, being able to write well and communicate effectively. Secondly, her design skills, which enables her to make her content visually appealing and engaging.
(20.43) – Phil asks Denise to share a few final words of advice with the IT Career Energizer audience. Denise says it is vital not to let your self-doubt get in your way. You need to be able to identify when you are suffering from imposter syndrome, procrastinating, worrying about being judged or doubting yourself. That is the first step to breaking through those negative thoughts and dealing effectively with them. There are tools you can use to hack your thought patterns, so you stop holding yourself back.
(4.25) DENISE – “It’s about silencing the voice of self-doubt, so that you can actually unlock your creativity and then get to the point where you’re doing your best work.”
(7.16) DENISE – “Negative self-talk is the number one barrier to success.”
(7.35) DENISE – “Creativity is really just about solving problems.”
(8.01) DENISE – “Be your brilliance. Tune into what it is that you do well and really do that.”
(15.43) DENISE – “The number of positions that go unfilled is ridiculously high because there aren’t enough people who actually have the skills.”
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Randall Hunt. Randall started his career working as a physicist for NASA and SpaceX. He is now working at Amazon Web Services.
His favorite programming language is Python, but he also works with C++. Over the years, he has worked in several different verticals, so he has a lot of business and technical experience. Randall helps developers to maximize their productivity in the cloud, especially at conferences and similar events.
(1.16) – So Randall, can you expand on that summary and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Randall studied physics and a little computer science at Western Carolina University. He did a kind of internship at NASA and whilst there realized that software engineers earned a lot more than physicists. So, he switched careers. Randall had been programming as a side hustle since he was about 12 or 13. But, he only officially started his IT career in 2010.
(2.15) – Phil asks Randall for a unique IT career tip. Randall has worked for a lot of startups. He said that he definitely left a lot of money on the table with his first few jobs because of 90-day expiration window clauses. So, he recommends that people learn about contracts, so that they can make an informed decision before signing one.
(3.00) – Randall can you tell us about your worst IT career moment and what you learned from it. Randall answered this by sharing a particularly frustrating experience with the audience. It happened while he was working at SpaceX. The launch process involved the system going through a series of checks prior to the launch. But, there was an outage. Randall and the other engineers knew the cause of the issue and how to fix it, but the stakeholders took a lot of convincing. It taught Randall the importance of earning the trust of the stakeholders and the need to communicate effectively.
(6.53) – Phil asks Randall what his best career moment was. Randall enjoys the AWS re:Invent event. Every year, it gets better. For him it is great to see how customers are using the technology to do everything from cure cancer to build electric scooters. There is a huge range of really interesting and cool things going on.
(8.20) – Phil asks Randall what excites him about the future of the IT industry. AI is going to have a big impact on how we code. Intellisense style autocomplete features in IDEs are already available. So, we are not far off the point where you will be able to ask your computer to build a simulation using a simple command and a few basic parameters. Then, just leave it to “intuit the program”, including any of the defaults or variables. There will be savvy business folks who will learn just enough code to be able to use these systems. Many of the mundane tasks will disappear, leaving people free to focus on more exciting differentiated stuff. That is part of what the SaaS movement is all about. Businesses that use it are freed up to focus on innovating and growing.
(10.06) – What drew you to a career in IT? For Randall it was the money. When he saw an intern earning 9k a month Randall was stunned and realized that a career in IT was the way to go.
(10.30) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? “Think about where you want to be in five years and work backwards.”
(10.56) – If you were to start your IT career again, right, now, what would you do? Randall said he would get involved in AI and study it academically and pragmatically.
(11.16) – Phil asks what career objectives are you currently focusing on? Randall would like to do more live coding and live streaming on Twitch. He wants to focus on sharing his expertise and making it more accessible for everyone. Randall is also planning to scale up his outreach, so that he can take on more speaking engagements, which he will record. He wants them to be more accessible and interactive.
(11.55) – What would you consider to be your most important non-technical skill? Randall has an understanding of how startups and convertible notes work. This gives him a better understanding of what the stakeholders are trying to achieve and how they are getting it done. Being able to read profit and loss statements and understand what resources are available really helps you to make viable decisions. Having a little bit of business savvy is a very useful skill.
(12.37) – Phil asks Randall to share a few final words of career advice. He responds by saying “Ignore that 90-day exercise window in any start-up contract that you sign.”
(2.48) RANDALL – “I definitely left a lot of money on the table… because I had no idea how to do contracts”
(5.42) RANDALL – “The only reason we write code is to communicate.”
(6.06) PHIL – “The other important thing about communications, is making sure that you tailor it for the person who’s receiving it.”
(10.34) RANDALL – “Think about where you want to be in five years and work backwards.”
(10.49) RANDALL – “Don’t focus on short-term gains, you know, use long-term thinking.”
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Stefan Tilkov who is a co-founder of, and the principal consultant, at INNOQ, a leading technology consulting company. Stefan and his team design large-scale distributed systems. Over the years, he has worked with numerous programming languages including C++ and CORBA over J2EE/Java EE and Web Services to REST and Ruby on Rail and several others. He is also a published writer who frequently speaks at conferences across the world.
(1.00) – So Stefan, you can I ask you to expand on that brief summary and tell us a little bit about yourself? Stefan said that Phil had covered what he had done over most of the past 20 years. Today, Stefan rarely gets the chance to program anymore. But he does get the chance to do many other things that he enjoys. Particularly, consulting with clients and talking to them about architecture and the design of systems. A lot of his time is also taken up with the company management stuff. When he can, he still does some of the technical work.
(1.54) – Phil asks Stefan for a unique IT career tip. Quite early in his career Stefan started public speaking. He feels that doing this has benefitted him greatly. It has helped him with client engagement, with meetings and with negotiations. The fact that he is very used to talking to people in his career makes all of these situations far easier.
(3.38) – Stefan is asked to share his worst career moment by Phil. Interestingly, it is related to public speaking. Early in his career he was working on a project where C++ was used. Things had worked out so that he was the only one on the team who knew anything about that language. So, when the project manager was unable to make a client meeting, Stefan was the only person with enough knowledge to be able to make the presentation. But he was very new to the world of work and had not had any time to prepare. Unsurprisingly, he completely “bombed” and felt really awful about it for quite a few days.
(5.09) – So, moving away from your worst moment, can you maybe talk about your IT career highlight or greatest success. Strangely, that happened when Stefan was working on a project that went completely wrong. It was a disaster on every level. Everybody had given up a little on the project. But various members of the business, including Stefan, pulled together and were able to turn the project around. The client was surprised they had managed to do so and went on to use it for a decade or so. Stefan felt better about this project than ones he has worked on where everything has gone smoothly from the start.
(7.09) – Phil asks Stefan what it is about the future of the IT industry that excites him. Stefan says there has never been a better time to be involved in IT. Since around 2008/9 the industry has gotten progressively more interesting. Technology now touches and influences every part of your life. Everyone is talking about it and understands how important it is. Right now, IT professionals influence so many things and are able to work in a much more connected fashion. Stefan would not trade his IT job for any other.
(8.59) – What first attracted you to a career in IT? Stefan said it was the amazing discovery that he was able to tell the machine what to do. He started using computers at age 10 or 11. At the time, computers were very rudimentary. Stefan loved the challenge of having to figure absolutely everything out from scratch. For him learning new things was like a detective story. Phil commented that he often forgets that, in the early 90s, when you bought a computer, there was nothing on it.
(10.43) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Early on someone encouraged Stefan to write documentation, proposals and to explain what he was doing in writing. Later he went on to write articles and books. Writing is an important piece of the puzzle. Being able to express your thoughts clearly is vital.
(11.35) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Stefan said I would look for fun stuff to play with. Building things is fun, so, if you have the time, play and learn. Use your skills to do things for yourself, friends, your community and maybe help society or do some open source work. Not everything you work on needs to be commercial and about making money.
(12.40) – Phil asks Stefan what career objectives he is currently focusing on. Right now Stefan is focused on the company. Along with his colleagues he is working to maintain a healthy company culture as the company continues to grow at a fast rate.
(13.24) – What would you consider to be your most important non-technical skill? Being able to speak English and communicate effectively in that language has helped Stefan in his career.
(14.26) – Phil asks Stefan to share a few final words of career advice. Stefan says to make sure that you are having fun. The IT industry is one of the few in which you can have fun, so if you are not enjoying your job, look for a new one.
(2.56) STEFAN – “Try to get into speaking and then getting yourself into situations that may feel uncomfortable at first, but actually help you a lot in getting your ideas across.”
(7.19) STEFAN – “There’s never been a better time to be in this industry.”
(12.08) STEFAN – “Start playing out, playing with stuff and build things for your own purposes, for your friends, for your community, maybe do some open source stuff.”
(14.52) STEFAN – “If you’re in this industry and are not having fun, then you should probably switch your job.”