Introduce yourself! Who are you? Where do you work?
I’ve been working in the tech industry for well over a decade now. I have a fairly traditional background with a degree in Computer Engineering. I started out doing web development, moved into backend development and then for the past 8 years I’ve been focused on mobile development. I work at a startup called Zola Electric, where we’re focused on providing clean, reliable energy solutions in the world’s most challenging markets. Recently I’ve relocated to Amsterdam from the East Coast of the United States with my family. And I’m adjusting to life here as an expat.
Who or what got you into programming?
I had a knack for math and science as a kid, and a few of my elementary school teachers encouraged me to pursue a field in STEM. And I was finally sold when I learned that I could make games like Number Munchers and Oregon Trail. Sure that dates me a bit :) But at any rate, that’s what really drew me to technology.
How has public speaking had an impact on your career?
Public speaking has allowed me to dramatically expand my network. Although you need to actually be good at your craft to be able to take advantage of opportunities. Having a good network of folks exposes you to those opportunities. It’s very important for your career.
Also, I really love teaching and explaining complex concepts in a way that’s accessible to others. So conference speaking is how I get to combine my love of coding with my desire to teach.
How do you think the tech industry will change over the coming years, and how might that affect your role?
As more and more people turn to boot camps and online training to pursue a career in tech, I feel that the need for Tech Leaders and Engineering Managers will be even more acute. But not just any Tech Lead or EM, ones who can help mentor and bridge the gap between a traditional Computer Science degree and the more hands-on, practical approach used in non-traditional learning environments. I personally see it as a great opportunity to continually improve my management abilities and use my teaching skills to empower others.
How has creating courses had an impact on your career?
Creating courses has been great for me. It really allows me to go deep on a particular subject. If I’m going to create a course about using a certain library, well I read everything I can on it, I create sample projects, I read through the source code. I want to make sure that I own the knowledge before I attempt to share it with someone else. This helps me to learn things quickly and be able to distil it so that someone new can pick it up without going through the same amount of effort that I did. That’s an amazing feeling!
What has been your toughest lesson to learn in your software career so far?
Work is not school, you don’t get an “A” just because you worked hard, you have to advocate for yourself and let everyone know what you contribute to the company. It took me a while to figure it out. I’d say only within the past 4 years or so had I finally learned this lesson. You are responsible for your own career, no one else will do it for you.
What would be your number one piece of advice for a successful software career?
Don’t be a jerk. Really! Software development is a team sport. It’s all about collaboration and communication. Coding is at the end of the pipeline. The rest of the time you’re working to understand the problem, develop strategies, negotiate timelines, etc. If you’ve ever had a jerk on your team, you understand how they can erode productivity and trust. Don’t be that person!
Have you got any hobbies outside of your job? Do you think they help your tech career in any way?
I love to write poetry. In fact, last year I published my first book of poems, Last Leaf of The Fall. Writing poetry is therapy for me. It helps me to own my feelings and express them in a constructive way. When you work with so many different types of people and personalities anything you can do that’s therapeutic is good. In addition, I feel that my ability to understand the nuances of the English language by means of poetry naturally spills into how I express myself in the work-world.
Finally, make your shoutout! What would you like the readers to go have a look at?
I would love for folks to check out my latest LinkedIn Learning course, Being an Effective Technical Communicator. I share my strategies for dealing with many of the common challenges that we encounter as technical professionals. And it’s not just for developers, it’s for anyone who’s part of a software team: product managers, quality assurance engineers, stakeholders, and more. I really hope that it can help others to improve communications on their teams!