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 Chris Keathley

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 Anna Neyzberg

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Episode Transcript

 

Amos: Welcome to Elixir Outlaws the hallway track of the Elixir community.

Chris: Hey.

Anna: How’s it going?

Chris: Good. How was your trip?

Anna: It was awesome.

Chris: When’d you get back?

Anna: Uh, last week? Um, last Thurs? Um, how are you doing?

Chris: I’m good. I’m good.

Anna: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah. We’ve all been sick. So that’s been annoying.

Anna: Oh no! I’m sorry.

Chris: It’s fine. It is what it is.

Anna: Are you excited about Lonestar?

Chris: Yeah. We’ll see. My travel is still ambiguous.

Anna: Oh really?

Chris: Yeah. At the moment, which is to say I don’t have it booked at the moment. Well cause, yeah, it’s complicated. anyway.

Anna: Isn’t it soon?

Chris: Yeah its very soon. Are you ready for your talk? No?

Anna: Not even a little bit? Probably shouldn’t say that out loud. I will be by Thursday.

Chris: That’s good. That’s when you need to be ready by. So should be fine.

Anna: Totally. Always. I mean, I have, like, I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I’ve started to put stuff together and I think it will be okay. Um, but am I ready? No. And I’m opening, so it’s not like I’ll have time to, you know, work on it.

Chris: Yeah. Well, I mean, but then it’s also over, so that feels good.

Anna: It’s true. I think it’ll be good. I think this trip was actually really good timing because it gave me some time to like step away and think about things and like have some downtime.

Chris: Process it, all that kinda stuff.

Anna: Yeah, and just like being in nature and you know, being disconnected, not having cell phone service is healthy for a few days.

Chris: Oh yeah, for sure.

Anna: So yeah, I’m excited. I think it’ll be fun. I don’t, I have other things occupying my mind. I probably shouldn’t say that either. Maybe I shouldn’t be recording this, but I think it’ll be fun. I think I’m spending the next, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s just a matter of like putting it together and I think the thoughts are finally starting to come together.

Chris: Right.

Anna: Yeah. That’s all, nothing else new and exciting going on in my world. People have been asking about Elixir Bridge. So trying to maybe get that up and running again.

Chris: That’d be cool.

Anna: Yeah. I think Mariam is doing a bunch of stuff around that kind of stuff. Um, I’m excited to get up and running. I think I needed the break. I think I was feeling very burnt out on all community things, having been doing them nonstop for like five years. And so I think I’m excited to get that going again.

Chris: I feel like the breaks in between that stuff are really key. It’s become a theme. Have you talked about this- talked about this with Amos, like two weeks in a row.

Anna: Oh yeah?

Chris: Just about the ideas of like, well, just like saying no to stuff and walking away from things for a while and like figuring out like what your, what you allow to take up the maximum room in your head. And it’s good. It’s good to get like perspective and back away from stuff and

Anna: But it’s also hard, right? Cause like, I feel like it’s super important to step away and sometimes finding the time to step away is super hard. Or feeling like, you and I have talked about this before. Like feeling like an obligation to like keep something going or keep it existing when really it’s like, it’s fine. Like the world will keep turning. Like yeah, you can stop.

Chris: Right? Yeah.

Anna: So yeah. It’s been, it’s been good. I mean, I think I’m hoping to like spin it up and then see if other folks are interested in keeping it going so that I can kind of shift my focus a little bit onto some other things that I’m interested in doing, but yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know. What else do you have going on? Anything exciting?

Chris: Uh, exciting. No, not exciting. Nothing exciting.

Anna: You’ve been social media-ing more, I see.

Chris: Yeah. Well, uh, I’m very, um, I mean more than normal, which is to say barely at all, but here’s the thing. All I did, I just wrote a blog post. That was the sum total of what I did. I wrote a blog post and I no, no like actually go, go, like you can view, this is like verifiable, right. What I did was wrote a blog post and wrote and like said on Twitter, like I wrote a blog post and then I, and then I just dip back into the shadows, like a bat in the belfry. Like I just, I just like, I’m like Batman, I just am gone when you turn it around. And then it just happens to be a blog post that people resonated with, I guess. I don’t know.

Anna: Um, yeah, got a lot of attention.

Chris: Oh my gosh. It’s easily the most popular thing I’ve ever contributed to Elixir. Based on my like anecdotal statistics gathering. And it’s very disappointing because I consider it one of the worst pieces of writing that I’ve produced in the last probably the last 10 years, if I’m being honest,

Anna: Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter.

Chris: So I’ve go- clearly it doesn’t matter clearly that is, that does not matter.

Anna: But people seem to agree with what you have to say

Chris: Or something. I don’t know. It hit, it, hit that the right moment or something like that. I’m, I’m deeply flattered by how much that post is been helpful for people or it got sort of mentioned a lot. So that’s great. Um, you know, that’s, that’s awesome. That’s the reason to do it, I suppose, is to contribute something and help people out.

Anna: What inspired the writing of the blog post?

Chris: Oh, I don’t know. Some amount of boredom and anger. Like that’s, that’s typically the it’s that’s the combination typically is like some combination of boredom and, uh, frustration or something like that.

Anna: That’s what- your motivating factor.

Chris: Yeah. Almost always is like frustration, you know, it’s like if I think I was like dealing with yet another thing where I had to like go in and either fix a library or fork a library for work purposes or whatever that, you know, isn’t re wasn’t reusable. Like wasn’t, wasn’t easily reusable. We couldn’t have like five of them running or whatever. And so I was like, I think just that and I had some downtime and then I just like jammed it out. Cause I was like, this is, this is, this has to stop this, this can’t go on. This has to end.

Anna: Like downtime for you is dangerous.

Chris: Yeah, it is. It really is. And in as much as like that’s typically when I have my best ideas and then.

Anna: I mean I’m teasing you.

Chris: And by best, I mean, well, but by best it’s like, it’s, it’s when I have the ideas that I’m like, I should just do this. And then I like go on a tear and actually do it. But that’s hard. It’s hard to like build that time into your life.

Anna: I’m trying to do more of that. I mean, I feel like one of the, and I have, this is such a privilege. Like I feel like from a really privileged perspective, being able to have that much downtime, I’m like, what am I spending my time doing? Like, and what do I, what am I spending my time, like, what do I want to be doing? And like, why am I not doing the things that I want to be doing? That seems silly because I’m in a super privileged position where like, I can just do the things I want to be doing, right. Like I don’t have any serious, uh, familial obligations or, you know, external obligations on my time. So that was an interesting thing to think about.

Chris: Yeah, no, I totally feel that.

Anna: And I’m like, I don’t know, I didn’t come up with any new answers. Like I still feel really strongly about like, how do we, how do we help the industry become like more inclusive, right? Like how do we deal with some of these biases and how do we like actually not suck? Um, and like, we’ve been trying, like, it feels like similar things have been tried for a long time. And I don’t, the problem is, is that like, as I’m doing reading and as I’m trying to figure out new stuff, like I don’t, I haven’t come up with any new, good ideas of things to try. And so I don’t know how to get there yet.

Chris: I think a big part of that is just that it’s like there isn’t probably going to be, you know, there’s like, I don’t think you’re under any illusions that there’s going to be like the one thing, right. But the, the real cold hard is it’s probably like, there’s probably not even like a 20 step program. You know what I mean? It’s like, it’s like these things move over generations, you know? And so it’s like, that’s, that’s kind of why you do it. I don’t know. I think about this a lot with, um, oh man, now we’re really getting into it. I think about this a lot with like climate change.

Anna: Yeah! I’ve been thinking about that a lot. It was sixty five degrees in Antarctica last week! I’m just going to put that out there.

Chris: Yeah. I mean, it’s real bad. It’s not good gang. It’s not good. Uh, we’re in, we’re in real dire straits here. Uh, but you know, and it’s one, but all that to say without getting too depressed, um, you know, something Andrea and I talk about a lot is like, it feels really like insurmountable in the sense that like the two of us and our three kids cannot make a real difference when it comes to that. Like, it doesn’t matter, no matter what we do, all of the sinecures that are out there about, you know, reuse and all these kinds of things that like, you know, and there’s all like the turns out gotcha podcasts on like, why none of that really works and blah, blah, blah, and all this crap.

Anna: Cause these wild claims, right.

Chris: Right. And at the end of the day, it’s like, we have all these, there’s like so many other, and like, and like people eat beef. Like what do you, you know, it’s like, that’s, that’s basically, it’s like, we can’t do anything about that. And at the same time, it doesn’t change our behavior. Like we still choose to, to make, we’re not perfect. We’re not, and I’m not here to like, pretend to be perfect or good at this, but it’s something we care about. And so we, we spend some time and we spend money and we spend energy to try to live a sustainable semi reusable life. Right. Like, that’s, we just, that’s another thing we attempt to do. We, you know, and it’s because it’s important to us and we do it for no other reason than it’s important to us. And like, that’s the model that we want to like set for our kids and like the view we want to have in the world. And I think it’s easier in some ways it’s easier with something like that because there’s sort of a moral high ground you can stand upon and you’re not really going to be faced with any sort of, um, real backlash about that. Like if you choose to do that, um, especially if you don’t take it to like extremes, but you know, I think, I think that’s how you have to look at those things, which is like, you do it knowing full well that it may not, it may not matter, but you do it anyway and you do it because it’s important to you and you do it because it’s like, well, this is just like what, this is the model I want to see in the world.

Anna: That’s true. I mean that’s true. That is why you do it.

Chris: That’s weirdly comforting to me when I tell myself that in a way that I don’t quite understand. In a way that I think is fairly irrational, but also like make sense to my fairly irrational brain.

Anna: Well we’re all irrational.

Chris: Yeah. But I just mean like, even in general, like in terms of like, uh, what’s the, what’s the stupid, like, are you thinking or feeling or whatever, you know, like Myers Briggs-y type way of thinking about it. Like, I am a hundred percent like feely and even, and so for whatever reason that that kind of comforts me. And I think that that’s the only place that you can derive that comfort from. Like, you can’t derive it from external factors. You have to derive it like intrinsically as part of the thing that you care about.

Anna: Oh, totally, totally. Um, I think, I mean, I think you’re not wrong. I think that’s why I keep doing this stuff. And I think like, as you said, change happens very slowly over time and maybe it’s just like the small, I mean, and again, this is kind of alluding to what I’m going to talk a little bit about or what I am going to talk about at the conference. It’s like, kind of one of the themes is like, and I talked to you about this before, right? Like the small things end up being the big things, right. You just don’t see them in the moment, but it is like the thing that happens over time, that ends up being the thing that matters. But you can’t necessarily see the steps leading up to it on the way there. Right. You can only see the steps making sense on the way back. Um, and so similarly it’s like, well, especially with all of this stuff, that’s like more ambiguous and like the community stuff, it’s like, well, you just keep doing the things that you’re doing because you think they matter. And maybe somebody finds them important and maybe they give somebody else the motivation to either stay in the industry or get into the industry or whatever. But you can’t see that until much later

Chris: Or you may never see it,.

Anna: Or you may never see it.

Chris: You may literally never see it. It may, it may, you may never actually see, you know, the,-

Anna: But that’s not why you’re doing it, right. You’re doing it because it’s important because you think important.

Chris: It can’t be why you do it.

Anna: No it can’t be. That the motivation has to be- I mean that’s just for humans in general, right. Like the motivation, I feel like generally all the things I do, the motivation has to be internal, external validation is like a, you’re going to be disappointed.

Chris: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s like chasing money, right. It’s like, there’s always more, you could have, like, you know, and so like, if you’re end goal is like something nebulous like that, you know, you become.

Anna: It’s going to be very unclear.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and you become sort of like, yeah. I mean, you become beholden to it. You’re always chasing like the next high.

Anna: Anyway. That’s kind of where I am. We’ll see. I’m excited to kind of get it started again. I have a couple other things I want to work on. And so hopefully somebody else is going to want to take, take some time to keep working on it. Um, I don’t know. We’ll see.

Chris: That’s a hard thing, uh, finding sort of like champions for that stuff. And then like championing the champions. This is something I’ve been as I’ve, I’m, I’m approaching my 10th year in this industry. Like the end of this year will basically be like my 10th year as like a professional programmer, more or less as how many years I’ve been programming, maybe give or take like one or two. Um, and as I’ve grown in that, you know, people talk a lot about, you know, like senior developers need to be better mentors. And like, I don’t disagree with that. I’ve also come to the realization that like, that’s super, it’s like an easy thing to sort of like toss out at people. Like, but like, I think I’m a terrible mentor, all things considered. Like I do not =.

Anna: Why do you think that?

Chris: I, so this, this kind of gets in this, this kind of dovetails back into, into some stuff you were talking about, or at least things that were on my mind. But, um, for a bunch of reasons, I think I have a really hard time at this point in my life and in my career, not empathizing with people, but definitely putting myself in their shoes and thinking about the things that they may or may not understand and figuring out how much, how much guidance to give people versus like how much sort of more hands-on instruction. Like, like do you let people sort of struggle and fight on their own and provide like higher level guidance or, and like allow them to like go through that pain or like, you know, how do you get involved when that’s not working out? And like, I think there’s, you know, there’s a certain class of people, not a class, that’s the wrong way to say it. There’s a certain class in like a, in a mathematical sense. This is like a certain group of people, right-

Anna: Nice, Nice.

Chris: Who are like, um, uh, I’m not, I don’t mean to ascribe like a hierarchy, to things, but just, I mean that, there’s a certain type of person who is easy for me to mentor. And that person is basically people who are like me. Right? And, and by like me, I don’t mean like in the sort of like trappings of me, like white dudes. I mean like people who are like me in the sense that they’re like super excited about programming and like super excited about learning stuff and just want to absorb all of it. Like just like want to, like, people who just want to learn and whatever you’re willing to teach them, right. Because at the end of the day, like, and this, this is part of my struggle is like, this is what I do. This is what I love doing. And this is, this is more than a job to me. Like, you know, I write about this stuff and I write code on the weekends because like, I derive tons of self-satisfying enjoyment from that. And I don’t think that’s right for everybody. And I don’t want to prescribe that lifestyle on everybody. I also can’t help, but be in the position where like, you know, we were talking about this at work the other day, somebody, somebody was like, how do you get any of this done? Because I was showing them stuff I had written or whatever. And I was like, well, do you know how you go out on Friday night and like go have a life and go have friends and hang out with people and stuff like that. I don’t do that. It’s like, I don’t have those things, like in the sense that like, I have friends, but I, that’s not our, our jam. You know, we’re not gonna, we don’t all go do that all the time. You know, or my wife goes out cause she’s like a normal human who has real human friends, like, uh, and I enjoy-

Anna: As opposed to like your internet friends? You have friends.

Chris: Yeah. I mean, kinda, but like, I mean, I can’t fly to Portland and go hang out with Lance. Like, you know what I mean?

Anna: Right.

Chris: Like, what am I going to do? So I just mean that like, and even the people I do hang out with locally, we almost entirely talk about programming. It’s like almost entirely based around computers, you know, and, and building systems and stuff like that. And so I don’t know that that’s healthy. I’m not here to say that it is healthy, but I think it makes me a bad mentor because I have a hard time putting myself in the position of somebody who isn’t like that because that’s all I’ve ever known.

Anna: Right. Well and like-

Chris: Which is privileged.

Anna: I was going to say, it takes a certain amount of privilege to be able to do that.

Chris: Right. And you have to have tons of downtime to be able to pursue that stuff. And you have to be willing to like, or even if you don’t, it’s like, you have to be willing to walk away. That just may not be your, even if you have all the same privileges, right. That just may not be your priorities, right. And that’s fine. There should, there should be no, there should not be any requirements that, that, that, that is your priority. But I have a harder time mentoring people when I also feel like I have to sort of teach them how to learn stuff about how to learn stuff about computers. Like when the job becomes a meta job about how to teach people, how to like discover things on their own, because that’s really like what, the trick, right? Like, you get good at this by like, figuring out you don’t know anything and then figuring out the few things you might know a little bit about, and then figuring out how to like build connections off of those things.

Anna: But that’s the heart that’s that, that, that, that is it, right? Like, if you can learn how to teach that, then you can teach anybody, right. Like, that’s, that is the hard piece. Like teaching somebody how to learn is the thing. Programming itself, like for the most part after a while, not completely pattern matching, but you know what I mean? Right. Like you’ve been doing it long enough. Like, it doesn’t really matter. You’re like, oh, well, I don’t know this language, but does this language have this abstraction? And can I do this thing that I’ve done a million times in this other language? Right. Or this framework is new, but like, so what doesn’t matter, right. After a while it’s like, it’s all a series of abstractions. It’s more the learning how to learn a thing and how to think about a thing you don’t know and how to like, know when you’re like oh, that’s a rabbit hole. Let me back out of that. I don’t need to do that. Or like, this is way harder than it’ should- like, it’s like the things that feel less intuitive. You’re like, this is way harder than it should be. There must be a simpler way. Let me stop and think about this for a second. Instead of pushing through, right. Like things that you don’t, that aren’t specifically programming related. Right.

Chris: Right.

Anna: And I get, I totally understand where you’re coming from, but like, that’s actually the, I don’t know when I, when I’m teaching, like, that’s the thing that’s interesting because then that’s the thing that’s most powerful. Right. Because if somebody is engaged, excited, and motivated, like they’re going to learn it, it’s fine. If you can help someone learn how to learn, like then you’ve done your job. Right. Then the programming stuff will happen. But it is, but it is the harder thing to do.

Chris: Right. And if that, and if it is one of those things, like if that person’s sort of already there, then they’d be come like the easy in the sense that like, they’re just down. They’re down to learn whatever. Right. Like somebody, um, one of our, like more junior people came to me the day and she was like, how do I, how do I do like a rebase with like squashing and like fix ups and all this stuff. And I was like, we’re going to go for a ride. This is going to be fun. And it was like over Slack too.

Anna: Oh cool!

Chris: Um, so, you know, but like she was game, like, she just wanted to go for it. Like they just got in there and just like, did it right. And like, you know, that’s already like 90% of it, maybe more 95, like, and then like the cause of the rest of it’s like tutelage, and like linking to docs and stuff. And like, that’s chill.

Anna: Well, and the rest of it is kind of like, I don’t know, you have been programming longer than I have, but the rest of it is like, starting to feel like it’s, there’s a certain, and especially when you’re working on a project at a company on a timeline, right. There’s a certain level of like bias, not bias, but like opinion. Right. Where like someone’s written code and it’s, after a certain point, like the code is fine. It’s readable, it’s clean. It may not be the way you had done it. You might not agree with every decision that’s made, but like there’s no one way to do it. Right. Like there’s no perfect. Right. Someone is going to disagree potentially like someone is going to be like, no. And so like, those things, like all of that feels less important after, after a certain level of like ability. Right. But the ability to like figure out the complicated problems and predict like, again, the learning how to learn, like that’s, that’s the job, that’s the hard part.

Chris: Right. Well, and a lot, basically the conversation shifted from like, how do I do this mechanical thing? Which was like, whatever, like that, that’s going to take no time at all. And it became much more about like experience stuff. And like, that’s what I crave as someone who wants to be mentored still, you know, I want to osmosis learn from people’s experiences. And that’s really what the conversation they just asked me, like, when do I do this? And like, in what scenario do I squash versus fix up or like leave commits or rearrange things or whatever. Um, and that’s like a more interesting discussion. Like that’s because like the mechanical bits are just the mechanical bits. Like, I mean, whatever. But the interesting things are, like how you put this stuff together and what scenarios and all that kind of stuff. But I don’t know. I have a hard time teaching that. And I think that’s part of why I don’t feel very good. Like I, it’s something I’m actively trying to get better at, but I’m also, I just feel like I’m just bad generally as a mentor,

Anna: I feel like that’s probably not true. Knowing you. I feel like that’s not true. And I feel like you probably are better at it than you think. Cause a lot of, I don’t know. I mean, I’m, I’m not, I’m not claiming to necessarily be good at it, but I feel like, so , I’m learning that a big part of it is like just being willing to ask the questions and provide support and motivation, right. Cause when someone’s new and they’re still trying to learn how to learn, like it’s really easy to get frustrated and it’s really easy to feel like you’re stupid. And it’s really easy to feel like this isn’t the right thing. Right. And so like, even I feel like even though it seems trite, like the positive feedback and asking the right questions that somebody doesn’t know to ask, but they’ll probably remember to ask next time, right, is like, is a big part of helping somebody learn how to learn, right. And it doesn’t feel like you’re doing very much necessarily, but I feel like that’s a really big part of it.

Chris: Yeah. I think that’s a huge part of it. Just being, just sort of being available.

Anna: Well, exactly right. And I don’t know, I had a thing yesterday where I did some refactoring and someone’s like, that seems a little weird to me. I disagree. And I’m like, well, I did this for these reasons. And they’re like, well, that seems okay. I’m like, I’m happy to change. They’re like, I actually don’t care that much. I’m like, that’s fine. Like, I think it’s a lot clearer now. Like you want me to change it? I will. But I think also there’s a lot more of a conversation. I think people think when you’re starting out or when you’re like, when you’re, especially when you’re like, more junior, right, it’s like, there’s one way to do things. And it has to be that way because everybody else seems to have so many opinions. Cause we all have so many opinions, but like-

Chris: Right, Right.

Anna: Most of those-

Chris: That’s what we get paid for. To justify the ludicrous salary that you’re being paid or whatever, relative to what value you deliver in the world.

Anna: Right! Um, but it’s mostly like, it’s mostly just having somebody, helping someone frame their thinking. Um, and providing them the space to do that, right. Not telling them how to think, but like helping someone figure out how to frame that thinking, which takes time, right. Which is why like, I mean programming, like any other like trade, right? Like you develop expertise over time because after you’ve seen enough things, you’re like, oh, I, you know, you’ve figured out how to pattern, match your thinking, right. Like my mom’s been at the same company for 20 years still works in assembly.

Chris: That’s so hardcore. That’s so metal.

Anna: Uh, well she works with, she’s at Visa, right. It’s just a lot of like implementing it, their like payment systems. Like she, her projects, aren’t like, let’s release this AP. Her projects are like, let’s implement Visa in China or Chile, or right. Like slightly different scale.

Chris: Yeah, no. That stuff’s rad.

Anna: And so, but you know, talking to, and she’s like, you know, at first was just like at first I was super like stressful and whatever, whatever. But she’s like now yeah. People come to me, they’re like, how do you know this? I’m like, well, I’ve been working on these applications for 15 years. Like it’s –

Chris: How could I not know them at this point?

Anna: And that’s the thing. Right. It’s she’s like, you will, she says she has a couple people that are like young and working for her. She was like, you’re really good. You’re doing an excellent job. She’s like, unfortunately some of this is just going to take a little bit more time because these applications, like the learning curve on some of these applications is a few years. Just because a large portions of this code was written in the seventies and eighties. So take that for what it’s worth. And it’s complicated, but doesn’t mean you can’t learn it, right. Like, and I think just also reminding folks that it’s doable, right. Sometimes I’m working with people, who’ve been doing this for like 20 years and I’m like, they’re so much faster and they’re so much, and I’m like, wait, they’ve been doing this for 20 years. If I did this day in and day out for 20 years, I would be better than I am now.

Chris: Right. Yeah. You get your 10,000 hours, Malcolm Gladwell style.

Anna: Right, so I would hope so in 20 years, right. Yeah. But I don’t, I think we forget those pieces. I think those pieces are just as important as like the helping people figure out how to solve the problem is reminding people that like reminding people of the process, right. Like, you know, more now than you did 10 years ago.

Chris: Oh right, yeah.

Anna: You think differently now than you did 10 years ago. But on teams, right? Like the day-to-day stuff that you deal with, like with people, like it’s easy to just be like, yeah, oh, well that should be easy, or like- and like that kind of stuff, like people do that. I’m like, ugh, guys. Like, I dunno. I think it goes back to like also framing your interactions, your own interactions with people, right? Like in the language that you’re using, like, and then this goes back to like, sometimes it is hard to empathize where somebody is coming from, but I think that’s really that. And then that goes back to like helping them frame their thinking. Like that’s where it becomes really important. I don’t know.

Chris: No, I think that’s, I think that’s accurate. I think like you, yeah. Having, like having a broader, like the thing that you’re actually really bringing to the table is just like having a broader set of experiences

Anna: Well, and allowing somebody to feel like those experiences are achievable, right. And that, it’s just a matter of like, I mean, not everyone, like, I don’t think I’ll ever be like the most genius programmer in the world, but like, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be an incredibly strong contributor on a team, right. Like I’m not going to invent the next Linux, but, right, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t write solid code and do good work.

Chris: Well, I can’t even write solid code at this point. So I’m still working on that part of it.

Anna: That’s not true.

Chris: I program through sheer brute force.

Anna: That is not true.

Chris: No, really.

Chris: That’s not true. You are so fast. I’ve worked with you. Well, not directly, but like I’ve seen you work before.

Chris: Yeah. It’s just a lot of typing practice. It’s the mechanical keyboard really.

Anna: That’s what makes you sound super-efficient.

Chris: Yup, exactly. I’ve also been thinking about something that you were talking about specifically that that kind of like clued me or like that got me thinking about this is like the idea of like finding of like championing champions for stuff. Like, I think you should run this and here’s why, and I will like support you to do that. Um, and that’s been something that like I’ve been attempting to do or rather like I’ve been attempting to create the opportunities for like, at work, finding things that I think ought to be worked on. And instead of just doing them, which would typically be my mode of operation, like it’s really hard to slip out of this, this thinking, I see like the pro, like, you know, I’ve done this for too long now. It’s like, I see the problem, like I’m just gonna fix it. And then like, it might, if, if I fix it, like that means it’ll be done. And like, I’ll just put it on my plate and just do it. But finding those things and then figuring out ways to sort of provide those as opportunities for other people to own that stuff. And the thing I struggle with that is like, figuring out the level of like, figuring out the balance between providing an opportunity for somebody and then like making it someone else’s problem and like giving them too much, like, like, like essentially asking them to take on too much or like putting them in a situation that like they’re out of their element on. Like providing like the proper support, right. Like I don’t think he, like, I don’t think it’s fair to like go to like a junior person and say, here’s this problem that I see. It’s like this big kind of like, we all experience it. It’s like across engineering, across all the backend services and I want you to solve it. And like, I’ll support you in that. And here’s like the, and talk about it and all that. But then, and then like, not even ask them if they want to do that. Right. Like to like make it their problem before like giving them the opportunity to sort of sign up. But at the same time, like, so it’s like, it’s a fine balance in my mind. Like I’m very cognizant of like, I’m very cognizant of the fact that, um, I may or may not scare people when I talk to them. Like, you know, in the sense of like, why is this person asking me to do this stuff? And like, can I really say no? And like, but I don’t really want to work on this, but I also, but you know, it’s like, I worry about that a lot in terms of perception, but I also worry about it in terms of, you know, like I also want to provide these opportunities and I want to provide them like in somewhat specific ways. It’s an interesting balance.

Anna: Yeah. I mean, it is an interesting balance. I totally agree with you. I think if you are legitimately, like, I think people, if you have a strong enough and this goes back to like the small things, right? Like if you have a strong enough relationship with the people that you’re asking, it makes it easier, right? Like if you don’t, it’s harder because you don’t, there’s not enough trust necessarily for them to maybe feel like they can say no or be honest. Um, so I think that that does play into it. And I totally appreciate that you are cognizant of that balance, but I do think it’s super, like the fact that you’re thinking about that is super important, because like I’ve seen it a lot, you know, in my work where like, if you have principal or senior people on projects and they’re just like doing all the work, like, and the project goes well, even if you have somebody who’s more junior and who’s like knocking it out of the park, they don’t get the visibility because people more senior are doing all things. And so like, and they’re not necessarily cognizant of like, well, maybe I shouldn’t just like, maybe I should let somebody else do that thing or like slow down and give somebody else that opportunity. So I think that’s like, that’s huge. And like, here’s the thing I don’t understand in the industry in general, it seems like, like, I mean, like that’s how, that’s how you grow, right? Like stretchwork, getting out of your comfort zone, like taking on new challenges. Like that’s how you actually get better. And it’s hard to do that, also, I think, without any kind of mentorship. So if somebody has somebody like you in that position who is able to like, with experience, help them a little, help support them. That’s huge. I also don’t know- I was thinking on this a lot of like, this is a little bit of a tangent, but like in like promotion structure or whatever, like why don’t we promote people into roles? Like if we’re really paying attention, why don’t we promote people into roles like slightly before they’re ready for the role. Just slightly, right. Like not after they’ve knocked it out of the park and been doing the work for six months, which seems to be what the industry does, but like right before they’re ready. And so like , it provides them a little bit of a stretch goal, which people tend to like in their work and like from a retention standpoint, right? Like you’re giving somebody an opportunity. So.

Chris: Yeah. I mean, in terms of the why, I think it’s just because people suck at- well, people suck. But also I think like, I think like it’s really hard, like that stuff’s hard in the sense that like, people are bad at picking up on those things. I think it’s, I don’t know, the thing- I, um, Hm. I’m gonna get in trouble saying this. I think that, I think this comes up a lot with programmers. Like I’m not sure the rest of the industry, I’m not sure the rest of the world. My only other experience is basically like factory work and working in a restaurant. And in neither of those scenarios, does anyone care about you. Like, you know what I mean? So like your feelings do not matter. Like, so that’s my only other bi- That’s like, that’s my only other experience like outside of like just manual labor jobs, right. But I do think programmers are kind of, this is so much projection. I think programmers have a really hard time talking about like, like, like showing the work they’re doing, right. And when it does get shown, what tends to happen is like, it becomes rich get richer, which is like, I’ve done one project. It went really well. And like, it was a last-minute thing. And like, they, you know, it’s like, you know, you get ringers, right. You get these like heavy hitters who like are known as heavy hitters regardless of whatever that means. And like, they become the people to go in and like, you know, just like crush a project or whatever, because, and, but like they continue to get praised for it, right. Going back to the thing you were talking about, because like, they’re the senior person who did it the one time and now they see like, they keep getting every opportunity to do it again and again. I also think there’s a certain amount of like, the people, the people I’ve worked with, who I consider to be some of the best people are also tend to be the quietest people. Like, you know, just like rolling with the punches, getting stuff done, putting their heads down, like doing really good work, just unflappable people, right. And those people tend to not get a ton of credit because like, they’re not good at it. They’re not good at like showcasing to some degree, like the, you know, putting a portfolio together. And so like-

Anna: Or like shop-somebody was telling me this like, well, who was telling me this? Somebody was telling you this about like how, like your job is like 40% doing the work and 60% sharing and like marketing the work that you’ve done.

Chris: Right. Exactly. Well, and I think that that’s, I don’t know, I’m not here to defend managers either. Like right. And like hiring and, and, and

Anna: No, it’s hard, it’s like super hard. Yeah.

Chris: I think in the, I think if you’re in the best position in the world, right? Like if you’re in the perfect ideal manager, they still are going to have a hard time, essentially rewarding you for your, for your work, if you have not shown them what work you’ve done.

Anna: Right? It’s true.

Chris: And you can make an argument that managers like need to understand that stuff. But I think that’s hard on them too. Like that’s a two-way street to some degree, even if the street needs to push like one, even if the street flows one, one way more than the other, like -but I think, I mean, I think like the idea of like putting people in a position that’s slightly outside their comfort zone with like proper safety and like all that kind of stuff. And like, I think that’s amazing if you can do that. I don’t know how to do that. And I guess that’s kind of maybe like the root of the question, right. Is like, you know, I don’t necessarily know the right ways to like help champion people other than by creating opportunities for like essentially self-starting people, if that’s a term. I’m not sure if that’s a, it seems like a real thing. Like, you know, people who are like want to market themselves, you know, allowing them to like step up and do that, right. Like then that’s, that’s kinda where I’m at being more intentional seems good.

Anna: Yeah. I’m not saying I have the answers. I just think like, it’s interesting that like, yeah, I’m not saying I have the answer, but I think like we often, and this again goes back to the small things, not the big things, right? Like this theme, like we ignore a lot of the like small things that end up being the big things, right? Like where, like, like you said, like one person gets credit for this like thing, but like really, if you look back at like how the project was put together and who did the, and I’m not saying it happens everywhere and all the time, but I think like we tend to pay attention to like the big successes. But those are made up of many small successes that are never one person.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. Well, and you’ll never get promoted for showing up every day on time and doing your job.

Anna: Exactly.

Chris: And like that sucks. I also it’s, it’s also like, it’s really hard to give advice about this stuff. Like I talked to, I talked to some college grads or like almost college grads the other day. And they were like, what should I do? And I was like, well, here’s what you actually should do. This all sucks. But this is like what you’re just going to have to do. And it was things like, I was like put a bunch of code on GitHub because like, it doesn’t matter if it’s crap, like just put code on GitHub. Write or read me for all of it. Like, make it look nice. But like, who cares about what’s inside of it? Because all you’re trying to do is pass a filter and the filter is like, are they going to go look at my GitHub? Whether you like it or not, whether you want to GitHub to be the new resume or not, like people are going to do it. So just like have it there, you know? And, and like with your resume, basically take anything off your resume that makes you look bad. Like, even if it feels like lying, like, you know, it’s like, it’s like crap like that, right. Where you have to work the system.

Anna: Well yeah, it’s all about perception. I mean, like, that’s the thing is like, this is what, this is the thing that’s interesting. It’s like, all of it is about perception, right? Because human beings are not good at making decisions. And we rely on our, like, we think we are, we it’s all about like your individual branding and perception, whether you like it or not, right.

Chris: Yeah. Well, and like prep for whiteboard interviews and like brush up on some data structures. Cause here’s the thing, those all suck, but you don’t have enough political clout right now to say no to them. Like, you know, you can’t just walk out if they give you a whiteboard interview. You need a job. So like, let’s get good at whiteboard interviews. And it’s, that feels like being part of the problem. But it’s also like, well, we need a lot of people who think that’s crap to be in these jobs so that we should maybe change that.

Anna: Well, yeah. I mean, it’s like, it’s like working within the system so that you figure out how to change it, right? Um, I mean, I think that’s totally, I mean, I took, my first job was terrible. It was a garbage fire, but I needed the job.

Chris: Right. Yeah. You gotta get paid.

Anna: And the experience I couldn’t quit. Like I couldn’t just be like, oh, this sucks I’m leaving because I needed the experience.

Chris: Right. Yeah, exactly. No, I, I feel that, yeah. I took my first programming job was basically the one job offer I got. And I was like, this is not where I want to go work, but I’m going because I got to make money. That’s the scenario that we’re in. So yeah.

Anna: Anyway, I don’t know that we reached any real conclusions, but this was an interesting thought exercise. Um, but I think, I think a lot of what you’re saying about mentoring is really important and it’s about, and this is actually really, really, really key. Like I think, I think it’s hard to level up with programming after a certain point, if you do not have people that are more senior than you to work with. And I think it’s really hard to level up if you are not given opportunities that stretch your skills. I think it’ll just take long, take longer.

Chris: There’s also, I think that is also partially why the whole notion of like the self-starters like works out for them. Right. It does tend to happen that people who are like motivated by whatever means and ability that they have like to just do more work or not do more work, but like do work that is outside of their comfort zone. Turns out that that does tend to like work out for them, at least in some respect, right. And that’s why.

Anna: Totally. Yes. But also I think, I wonder like how much of that is like feeling like they can and feeling like it’s appropriate and feeling like they’re not going to get in trouble for, you know what I mean? Like there’s a lot of like-

Chris: Oh no, for sure. But like, if you’re senior and you know, and you have all these like privileges of like comfort and like job security, if you have a little bit of a brand and all this kind of stuff, like where you’re like, I can just go get another job. Like I got a safety net. I could like coast for a couple of months and then I’ll go get a job when I need to, you know what I mean? It’s like, if you have all that, like that, you’re already in talking about like a different life, like a life where like, you can’t make the same, you’re making different decisions than anyone else.

Anna: And you feel a lot more comfortable being like, this is crap. We should fix this or I’m going to go work on this thing cause it’s totally broke. You know what I mean? Like it’s just-

Chris: Right. Yeah. And because you know that it’s like, what’s the worst, the worst case scenario is they fire me and that’s not even that bad, right? Where that’s like a, that’s a ridiculous statement, right. You know what I mean?

Anna: For most people, right-like.

Chris: For humans, just in general, like across the world, that’s a ridiculous thing.

Anna: Exactly.

Chris: So you work, you know, it’s like, I’ll just go do whatever, you know, I’ll just go fix it because you’re in a position to be able to do that, which isn’t necessarily fair and giving people agency and that’s hard.

Anna: Yeah. But I think figuring out how is it really important,

Chris: Right? Yeah. Well the, how is the, is the part that I, I can, I feel like it’s hard.

Anna: It is.

Chris: Like doing it in a way that’s like not going to get them into trouble.

Anna: Yes.

Chris: It has to be throughout- you have, that has to be respected throughout the whole ecosystem.

Anna: Agreed. Anyway, food for thought. Um, I’ve been thinking about a lot of these things, as I’m figuring out, you know.

Chris: It’s gonna be exciting. It’s fun.

Anna: It’ll be fun. Yeah, we’ll see.

Chris: It’ll be good.

Anna: It’ll be good. It’ll be fun. All right. I should probably get going.

Chris: Yeah. I need to go eat lunch.

Anna: All right.

Chris: All right. Talk to you later.

Anna: Bye.