What you’re about to hear is a series of lightning chats recorded live from All Things Open 2019. How’s this for topic diversity? 👇
A/B testing, finding your tribe, dancing, TikTok, what is happening with front-ends becoming full-stacks, Code the Dream, OSI approved licenses, breaking in to tech, a11y, hiring juniors, whiteboard interviews, better interview practices, JPGs, coding bootcamps, tech re-entry programs, and more.
- Jake Lundberg –
- Amal Hussein – Twitter, GitHub
- Matt Broberg – Twitter, GitHub, LinkedIn, Website
- Crystal Williams-Brown – Twitter, GitHub
- Danese Cooper – Twitter, GitHub, Website
- Mo Hampton – Twitter, GitHub
- Maria Lamardo – Twitter, GitHub
- Eva Howe – Twitter
- Vanessa Alvarez – Twitter, GitHub
- Clinton Dreisbach – Twitter, GitHub
- Henri Helvetica – Twitter
- Jill Burns – LinkedIn
- Jannaee Sick – Twitter, GitHub, Website
- Emma Bostian – Twitter, GitHub, LinkedIn
- Kevin Ball – Twitter, GitHub, LinkedIn, Website
- Jerod Santo – Twitter, GitHub
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Click here to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧
Let’s do it!
Yeah, so I just wanted to continue our chat, I guess, on A/B testing.
Alright, so since this is being recorded and we may put it out, give us the setup. So A/B testing on the client side…
Yeah, so A/B testing uses testing tools like Adobe Target or Optimizely to deliver essentially third-party scripts to a site, modify them in some way, and you can control traffic - so some users get the default site, some users get a different experience, and you can measure the impact, rather than just making a change to the site and hoping for the best.
But with Safari making restrictions [unintelligible 00:03:10.02] CCPA coming out here January 1st… There’s a lot of restrictions coming down. Where do you see the future of A/B testing going?
It’s a great question. I think there’s a number of different things inside that question. We were chatting earlier about client-side versus server-side testing… On the client side I see more and more things (broadly, not just A/B testing) moving to first-party scripts. So I see us hopefully getting away from the “load this tech from this site, and this tech from this site” and the bundle that ends up creating all of these nightmarish long download sites, and tracking from 20 different places… Marketing departments love it, it’s terrible for consumers, and I think we’re finally seeing regulation pushing us in a way that’s gonna say “Hey, that’s not viable anymore.”
[00:04:03.15] So I think for client-side testing we are going to see things moving towards instead of you just drop in a third-party script, you actually have to have an engineer do some work, and you do something that is first-party, so that you have full control over, and is not restricted in the same way. That’s probably a negative for marketing departments…
I was about to say.
…but they’re already feeling some of that pain. It’s really hard to automatically drag and drop with a single-page app. They’re already losing the capabilities, and so this would give us a way to get some of those capabilities back, involving an engineer.
It sounds like a company would be well-served to provide APIs, easy ways for engineers to build first-party without having to maybe host all of the data, or provide their own scaffolding…
That’s been a huge challenge, not having access to APIs, or there just not being APIs available, and we’re scraping pages for limited data. That’s been a big challenge.
Yeah. I think there hasn’t been an incentive to build out, for example, libraries there… Because every company wants to own that experience, so they say “Just drop in our script tag and go. Why would we create an open source library for you to control this stuff? It’s all hidden behind our proprietary area.” If that goes away, suddenly we have much more reason to build out utilities that are gonna be helpful.
I suspect you’ll also end up seeing proxying type stuff, where maybe you have an API over there, but since you don’t wanna touch anything that’s outside of your own domain, you say “Okay, drop this library and put this little proxy in”, it’ll keep all of the user-specific data local and first-party, so you don’t have quite as many restrictions about where you’re sending things, and you don’t have to say “Oh yes, we send your data to X, and Y, and Z.” But then you can off-load the data analysis and processing to somewhere else, because – I mean, with A/B testing you have two big pieces of it. For each individual, you want to assign them something, so that they get a consistent experience, and that is the tracking piece that is increasingly restricted… But then you also have data analysis, which can be anonymized.
You only really need the bulk data to get the analysis piece to understand which is the better solution here or what’s doing better. That could be completely anonymized, that could probably stay as third-party services that provide a bunch of value-add there, so long as you can have that layer in the middle that’s like “Okay, I’m tracking while you’re on the site, so you get a consistent experience, but we’re not sending any of your particular data anywhere; we anonymize it, put it in buckets, and send it off somewhere for processing and visualization.”
Do you foresee adding that additional layer being an additional challenge to accurate analytics tracking? Because there’s already an issue with the analytics not necessarily being 100% accurate. Do you see an extra layer adding to that?
Gotcha. Well, thanks guys. I really appreciate it.
Next up we have Amal Hussein talking about finding your tribe at conferences. Take a listen.
Hi, Jerod and Kevin.
I’m really excited to talk about what I love about going to conferences…
Uuh…! I like this.
For me, it’s an opportunity to find my tribe. I love multi-track conferences especially, because I think you get to find your sub-tribe… And depending on what talks you’re in, which hallway you’re outside when talks get out… It’s just a great place to catch your tribe, and I love that, I love that about conferences.
I like that take. I’ve always been anti multi-track, because I appreciate a shared experience.
Oh, yeah. Same here.
But I like that angle into multi-track - find your sub-tribe.
Yeah, yeah. There’s a wider tribe, and then there’s your sub-tribe. And I’m with you, there’s something about single-track conferences that I think create for richer conversations around everything that we’re all experiencing together…
Yeah, we all saw it, we were all there…
Yeah. There’s power in that. The power of the collective experience.
But you know, there’s something nice about being in a multi-track conference, because you have an opportunity to connect and break the silos within tech. We’re all at All Things Open, and there’s a Dev Ops track, and there’s a Blockchain track… Guess who didn’t go to any blockchain talks…?
It’s me. I didn’t go to any blockchain talks.
Me neither. You, KBall?
#noblockchain. Sorry, everyone.
#noblockchain… I think there’s like 22 tracks.
Yeah, there’s like 22 tracks, and…
…so it’s an opportunity for me to – we all have a shared value here, which is we all are proponents of open source software, and we all leverage open technologies, so we all have those shared values… But now I get to meet someone who’s maybe doing ops work and get to connect with them, with those shared values. So I think it’s a silo-breaking opportunity.
I feel like I’ve been finding my sub-sub-sub-tribe… The people who are techy, but also willing to look goofy on camera and dance a little bit.
Oh yeah, that’s a very small group.
Yeah. There’s like five of us.
A group of one? [laughs]
No, no, no. Tracy is expanding the crowd.
Yeah, she’s expanding that group, she really is.
Tracy has some TikTok going on. Kball, why don’t you tell the people what you’ve been up to?
Um, dancing? I like to dance.
Did you see him dancing? [laughter] …on TikTok.
Oh, my goodness.
Dancing with the TikToks.
I’d never heard of TikTok. I’d sort of heard of it, but I never understood what it is… But apparently it’s the thing for the kids these days. Showing my age.
Yeah. Which means that no kids are now using TikTok. Once we discover it, it’s not cool anymore.
Yeah, they’re basically like on to the next thing.
They’re like, “Oh, this guy’s dancing! Kind cool! Oh, he has grey hair. Uh…”
[laughs] Yeah. “Mom, time to get off TikTok.”
I spent a good part of an afternoon on TikTok when I first found it, just trying to figure out what the heck was going on with this thing… And then I uninstalled the app from my phone, and I’m just like “Alright, I get it. I’m moving on with my life.”
It’s a rage uninstall. I’ve done that before, too. Like “I don’t understand this. This is really weird UX. Where are all the buttons? Where’s my navigation tree?”
Right. I felt like I’d seen it all, because of all the other remixes and stuff, and there wasn’t that many people on it then… So it was like the same thing, and it’s funny, funny, funny… And it’s like “Cute. Stupid. Funny.” Then it starts to be like “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid” and you’re like “Uninstall.” There’s like a downward spiral of my opinion. But I’m sure it’s great…
[laughs] I don’t know, apparently Tracy likes it.
I mean, apparently…
Maybe Kball will be like a TikTok star…
She actually made that joke in her keynote yesterday. She’s like “My husband thinks my brain is also shrinking because of it, or something…”
Yup, exactly. I mean, the fun thing is - it is neat to see people who cross worlds. I love the fact that she’s out there, getting people to be uncomfortable… Because as developers, a lot of times we’re not very comfortable putting ourselves out there, shaking our body, moving our body a little bit…
What body? We have a body? I don’t know about that…
I know, we’re just disembodied brains, right?
In the daylight.
But no, it turns out that our bodies are important, and if you treat them well, then you can think better and code better… And you goof off and dance a little bit, and then – I don’t know. You find your tribe…?
27 seconds, do you wanna give any shout-outs?
Shout-out to the conference organizers and all of the keynote speakers and all of the speakers. It’s a lot of work. I did a talk… Hug your speakers, ladies and gentlemen.
Hug your speakers.
Tell them you liked their talk.
Yes. Tell them thank you.
Alright, thanks so much for lightning-chatting with us.
Here’s Matt Broberg asking us some hard questions. This guy might have a future in podcasting.
We have five minutes on the watch here… It’s your show. What do you wanna talk about?
Oh man, I’ve always wanted to run the show for you all. Okay, so Jerod, Kball, I was fascinated by one of the keynotes today that talked about full-stack development.
As was I.
And the career development challenges that are happening, where there’s a consolidation on that end. Can you tell me a little about your personal experiences with breaking into those new boundaries? What do you think is happening there? And then ultimately, how do people that are junior, that are trying to get into this industry - where do they start when it’s such a big ball of things going on these days?
That’s multiple questions… Which one should we tackle first?
Well, I already talked with Matt a little bit about this, so I wanna hear what you have to say.
So where do I fit into the ever-growing front-end…
…the haystack developer? The move of the front-end developer, really the empowerment to a certain degree of the front-end developer to be more full-stack than traditionally we have been - well, I’ve always considered myself relatively full-stack, because I’ve worked on teams of one, sometimes two… So when I’m not full-stack, I’m very much the horse image on the slide that Chris Coyier put up, where I have a very immaculate back-end. I never thought I’d say that about myself.
Yeah, yeah, an immaculate tail.
You have a fancy ass.
I have a fancy ass, and kind of a horseface. [laughter]
This metaphor has gone off the rails, but I hear you… Yeah, so you’re better on one end of it…
I don’t know it’s feeling pretty apropos at this point. So I’ve always been at like a 90% stack. Where I lack a little bit in skills is usually in the CSS domain, where I can hold my own, but I do not feel like an expert. So I’ve always been very proficient at everything else…
So I don’t really know what that means for me… I feel like I’m just doing my thing still. And I was already gonna learn the GraphQL, and do the things… So for me, I never consider myself a front-end engineer, just more of an engineer.
Awesome. Yeah, and that makes sense for you, in your point. So you, for the next question, Kball - what does it look like for junior engineers, for people that are just coming out of bootcamps, just coming out of a degree and they’re pivoting into technology, what does it look like to be in this part of the industry?
Yeah, I think it’s intimidating, because folks see all this stuff going on, and it’s changing, and “I’ve gotta do this, and that, and I’ve gotta do a framework, and I’ve gotta do a back-end, and I’ve gotta do GraphQL, and what’s this serverless, and all of that…?” Honestly, I think as a junior you should pick one thing and focus.
So if you start in React, pick React and get React down. Understand it. Go deep. Try to get as much as you can in that, and really understand it before you start branching out. And I don’t even say that within a specialty. So I’ve talked to folks who were like “Oh, I wanna learn React, and I wanna learn Vue, and I wanna learn Svelte, and I wanna learn Angular”, and they’re trying to learn all these things at once. They have a lot in common; if you go deep on one, you’ll be able to branch out really easily later. But if you try to branch out at the beginning, you’re gonna get overwhelmed and never fully understand what’s going on there. So I would say start one place, go deep.
[00:16:22.12] This actually ends up being played out if you look at published industry career maps. There’s a bunch of companies who have published their career maps of “Oh, here’s what we expect a junior developer, and here’s what we expect a senior developer, and a tech lead”, and going on and on and up into architects, what have you… They have this sort of progression, and in the beginning it’s learn how to learn, and learn one thing deeply. Then as you get up into a senior engineering position, maybe you’re 4-5 years in, now you’re branching out and you’re saying “Okay, I know my deep thing, and now I need to know the things it’s interacting with.” And as you get into the industry for more like 8, 9, 10 years, now you should be able to understand all the pieces and how they’re fitting together, and go further and further.
But when you’re just getting in, learn one thing. Don’t be intimidated by all the stuff and feel like you have to do all that. That’s hype, that’s baloney.
I really like that framing, because it’s a lot about something that we lose in our current education system, which is about like “Well, know everything to a subpar degree, and then graduate and feel inferior in so many ways”, as opposed to what it’s like to actually work in this industry, which is enjoy the path towards mastery, one thing at a time, and build on top of that stack of mastery. Is that what you’re seeing, Jerod?
I agree with that. I think what you find in practice is as you dive into one aspect of the stack and you get to know that really well, you learn the rest tangentially, osmosisly, necessarily, by interacting with folks who happen to know this part really well, or having to interface and connect the Glue Pits together. I didn’t go study DNS. I don’t know if you guys studied DNS… You just kind of like learn how DNS works. “I’ve gotta put my record in. What’s an A record, what’s an MX record…” These are things that I just learned because I was running websites, and I wanted the mail to be delivered. But I studied certain things more deeply. So I think you learn the rest because you have to, and I think that’s a great way to go.
Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.
Wooh! Five minutes ain’t much.
No, man. Lightning-talking with three people…
Crystal Williams-Brown approached the booth right before I was packing up to tell me about Code The Dream.
Crystal, thanks for joining me. What would you like to talk about today?
I would like to talk about Code The Dream. It’s a nonprofit that offers free programming classes to remove some of the barriers that people face when getting into the tech industry, and also provide some work experience, because that’s another barrier for people who just recently have been trained. So they can learn how to make apps for other nonprofits, or socially-conscious businesses.
Okay, Code The Dream… I like that. What are the barriers that are typically there?
The original barrier that they were created to face was part of Uniting NC is helping people with their immigration status, and they discovered these immigrants couldn’t get financial assistance to go to school, and they were having some trouble finding work. So two of the people who worked for Uniting NC, Ramiro and Dan - they both joined together to create Code The Dream, because Ramiro had studied computer programming in school; he has a computer science degree. So he thought “I can teach them what I know, and at least they’ll have that to work with.” And you can get by a little easier in the tech industry, especially now, without having a degree, but just having the training.
And then they saw people were having a hard time getting hired, because they didn’t have the work experience, so they created Code The Dream Lab, where we can make practice apps, and then make apps for other nonprofits and socially-conscious business.
Actually, I was looking for a way to learn programming for free. I was unemployed. I’d struggled with employment for a while, and I actually do have two degrees, but neither one led to any kind of gainful employment… And I was led through the Iron Yard, oddly enough. I reached out to them and I said I couldn’t afford their classes, but I really wanted to learn, and they said “Well, Code The Dream has free programming classes. You should look into them”, and I was very grateful for that help.
Awesome. For those listening wondering what those loud noises are in the background - we are in the late afternoon, the last day here at All Things Open, and they’re literally closing down shop around us… Crystal, how do people get involved? Who’s the right person…? If they wonder “Is Code The Dream for me? Maybe I can get in on the helping side, versus the receiving side.” Guide us through that.
Well, we have a website that’s very helpful in guiding you in whatever direction you wanna go… Because we do take in volunteers who teach classes, or they can be a mentor for a student, or you can even come in for a small session where you teach one day, just something that you know that could help out the interns that are currently in the program. And if you want to take classes, they have sessions running throughout the year, and they’re in different locations. We’re also branching out, so that you can do it remotely. We have some students who are out in Chicago, and then we’re gonna branch out into more states.
So it doesn’t matter if you live in North Carolina or not.
Okay, you don’t have to be in North Carolina… How long has this been going on?
It started in 2014, which is funnily enough when I was unemployed.
So it worked out really well for me.
So you had free time.
Are you employed now?
I am, I’m employed by Code The Dream.
I’m a full-time developer with them now.
Very cool, very cool! How many people work there?
It grew. It started very small, but a lot of the staff is actually people who have been through the program, and really showed a kind of persistence and eagerness to learn, and also some adeptness at learning… And they gave them more and more responsibilities, and then finally saw if they could bring them on full-time. They like to retain people, and we’re trying to make more in-house apps that we can use to raise money for Code The Dream, so that we’re not so dependent upon grants, and that allows us to hire more people… So you don’t have to worry about looking if you don’t wanna look; you can stay.
You can look, or you can stay, assuming that you guys get that ball rolling. So that’s very cool… We have a few seconds left. Any shout-outs you’d like to give, beyond Code The Dream, or maybe to your partners in crime there?
Well, I am working on an app called Upstate, that tracks bills in North Carolina and alerts people about anything that’s happening with them…
And you can sign up for free. You can also view all the actions that are happening on bills for free. It’s called Upstate, at app.keepupstate.com.
App.keepupstate.com. Awesome, Crystal. Well, thanks for joining us!
Okay, here’s the live show on stage. Please bare with the audio if you can, because we have a lot of great guests that you will not want to miss. Here we go.
Okay, well the sound of those beats means it’s time for JS Party. My name is Jerod Santo, thanks for joining us. I’m joined by Kevin Ball. He goes as Kball. Say hi, Kball.
Hey, I’m Kball! Nice to see you!
And this is Emma Wedekind.
Hi! Can you hear me? I can’t hear me.
We need to get Emma turned up.
Is that better? No? Yeah? Uuh. I can also just talk louder! Cool.
And we’re ready to go. First up, we did have a – we primed the pump a little bit… First of all, I should say this is for everybody to participate in. We were afraid or concerned that perhaps nobody would come up and we’d have not much of a show… So we did prime the pump and I do have a short list of people that we’ve contacted before, that we would love to chat with. As we make it through the list, maybe some people don’t show up, maybe some people do… We’d love to open it up for everybody to come and talk. And then if we run out of time during this session, we are down on the third floor, booth 72, with the mic all set up, and we will continue the lighting chats there if you don’t get a turn here during this session.
The first person we’d like to call up on the stage is Danese Cooper. Danese is happy to join us, but has a flight to catch, so she’s going first… And here comes Danese. A round of applause for Danese!
Hi! Thank you for joining us. Please have a seat.
I’m leaving my purse there.
[laughs] You guys have a watch on it, because I’ll need it to get on the plane.
We’ll keep an eye on it. So the other thing I didn’t say - or maybe I did say it, but I’ll say it again - is that this is a community thing, so we wanna talk about anything that you wanna talk about, Danese. We literally prepared nothing… So please give us a topic, and we’re happy to shout it out with you.
Okay. I normally talk about inner source, but after the keynotes today I think it’s important to talk about corporate responsibility… Because I was really disturbed by the AWS talk. I was disturbed because there was an implication that OSI-approved licensing is somehow optional… And that is not the case. So I called them out, I called Arun out… And you know what, I’m not saying Arun is a bad guy, but I think when you let your customers decide how you’re going to engage with open source, you run the risk of listening to customers that are maybe not so savvy, and think that change is maybe in the air… But it’s not clear to me that change needs to happen to open source. I think we got this far because we’ve made good choices about how to make it last this long. I think we should make changes to the licensing schemes and to the importance of licensing very, very carefully… So that’s what I would like to talk about.
Let’s do that. One thing to point out for those that weren’t at the keynote this morning, listening to the podcast, is that there was a talk from AWS’s Arun Gupta, in which he talked about free credits for open source projects.
Free credits for open source projects, with a set of criteria… And some of those criteria they put preferably, and in some cases I was like “That’s overly restrictive”, and in other cases, like the licensing you brought up, I was wondering “That seems a little…”
It is really dangerous…
So the point that you’d like to highlight is free credits for open source projects, preferably OSI-approved projects…
And that “preferably” has to go away.
Can you explain OSI?
Yeah, sure. I worked on the OSI for ten years, so I’m in a good position to talk about it, I think… I think I might have served longer than almost anybody else. But Michael Tiemann, local god of open source was on that board with me, too.
[00:27:53.05] The OSI decides whether licenses are OSD-compliant. OSD is the Open Source Definition. It’s ten clauses, it’s very straightforward. It’s common right now for people to be suggesting changes to open source that would make it better. We actually got a – a license was submitted this week called the Vaccine License. It has a field of uses restriction that only lets you use this software if you’ve vaccinated your children. People are suggesting really silly field of use restrictions… But some of them are well-intentioned, like “I wish that big corporations would have to pay”, so I wanna put a clause on the license that says that that is a field of use restriction; that automatically disqualifies you from OSI approval, because that clause in the OSD says you cannot do field of use restrictions…
We talked about this a lot 20 years ago. Most of us in those days were libertarians, or at least liberal-leaning, and some of us didn’t want the software to be used for instance for nuclear power, or for weaponry. But we debated it out and realized that we had to set that aside in order to not create the slippery slope of everybody needs a special carve-out. And all through the history of OSI, licenses that aren’t OSD-compliant come from companies that are trying to get a carve-out for their business model, because they don’t have a good, strong understanding that open source is not a business model, and they’re gonna need to change what they do. They can’t have their cake and eat it, too. Either they get the halo effect of open source, or they get to say how they wanna run their business in ways that open source people would not appreciate. But they can’t do both.
We’ve been fighting that fight forever now. It’s really disheartening to see a major venue like AWS, who’s trying to convince us that they’re serious about open source, use the word “preferable” as though there was any other option if you’re actually dealing with open source.
Now, you’d be told that OSI doesn’t own that trademark to the term “open source.” Nobody owns that trademark, because the trademark office decided that it wasn’t trademarkable. But they do own OSI-approved license, which tells you that that license fits within the OSD, therefore it doesn’t do anything to harm the open source movement.
Examples of recent things that were problematic - Facebook a few months or a year ago now put a license on React that included an extra patent clause… And Apache said – a lot of people tried to talk them out of it. They were sure they had to do it to fend off piracy. I said “Look, you’ve got deep pockets. Your job is to engage those pirates and take them to the mat. Look at Visio is doing. That’s what you should be doing as a deep pocket, not trying to write your way around it.” But in the meantime Apache is gonna say no to that; it’s an additional obligation. And as soon as Apache started stripping out React code, they shifted their program. That is how we have been enforcing for the last 20 years. It’s not ideal, but it’s what we’ve done.
Alright, everybody, a round of applause for Danese!
Speaker number one! [applause]
Alright. We thought that buzzer would be fun. It turns out it’s kind of rude… [laughter] So I apologize for that. I could just hop into the code and change it, but let’s not do that. Let’s not go there. Okay, is Mo Hampton here? Oh, he’s here! A round of applause for Mo! [applause] Come on down!
I feel like we need the entrance music.
We probably do.
We do need entrance music. We’ll just beatbox it, right?
Oh, you don’t have entrance music…? That’s okay though. I’m okay. I had it in my head.
Let’s play this game - if you had to pick some intro music for yourself, what would you have picked?
Livin’ My Life Like It’s Golden, Jill Scott. [song sample]
Alright, Mo, thanks for joining us. Five minutes on the clock, we’d love to chat with you.
What do you wanna talk about?
[00:31:55.12] For me, something dear to my hear is just breaking into tech. I’ve done that transition about three years ago, and I love what I do. There’s no other job out there for me. I’m a software engineer right now…
…for Defense. I’m a government contractor… But the thing that I think about a lot is those that have non-traditional CS backgrounds, and that come in. There’s some that back from like chemistry, or some people that have something biology that come in, or even people with marketing and advertising. I know it’s possible, but I don’t know how others feel working with somebody who’s non-CS on the team. So I guess I can open that up… Like, how do you guys feel when we come into your space?
You’re one of me. [laughs]
First of all, you’re not coming into our space. It’s all of our space.
That’s true. That’s a very non-inclusive word to say.
So I think we need to change the paradigm, what it means to become a developer… Because I have a CS degree, and that did put me in advantage, I’m not gonna lie about that; I do feel like that was a privilege. That being said, in terms of the things that I had to learn, I had to work hard to learn those skills, and to see people coming from non-traditional backgrounds - I love working with them. I feel like they bring the vantage point that I have not thought about before. I don’t know how to formulate my thoughts right now…
I 100% agree.
They give you a different point of view than somebody who’s been traditionally through a certain pipeline, and hitting certain classes. They give you a different worldview on things.
Yeah. I think it may be slightly harder to break in, but honestly, having a more diverse background gives you an advantage once you’re in the game. This may be tooting my own horn, because I’m not a CS background, but I feel like if you go through a CS program - yes, you understand a little bit more of a lot of the fundamental stuff, but you actually don’t have that much of a perspective of how the rest of the world works. And if you’re coming from another background, especially if you’re coming from another professional background - that synergy of skills, of “I understand how this world works, and now I understand the code”, that’s an incredible advantage, because you can link between those things.
One place where we as coders often fall down is in communication with people outside of the software world, but we’re building tools for humans. We need to talk to those people.
Yeah. I feel like because I went the CS route, I was very tunnel-vision. And when I got to my first job, I did terribly. I thought I was gonna quit or get fired, because all I knew was that Bubble sort was worse at runtime than Merge Sort. I didn’t understand the practicalities of working in our environment… So people who come from alternative backgrounds to get into this role, I think a) they’re used to working harder than we are… Because unfortunately, they feel like they have to prove themselves more, and unfortunately that is the case; I would love to change that. But I also feel like if you come from a bootcamp, you’re better prepared practicality-wise to get into development, than a CS background… At least in my experience.
That’s true. That’s a good point to bring up. And I was just thinking – you were saying about people that come from different professional backgrounds… For me, I’m a veteran, so I will look at a problem set differently, and kind of charge forward; I don’t know if that’s the right way to do things… I’ll go head first, and then figure out the collateral damage later, but… It’s a different aspect that we all bring to the table, and I hope that people are more open towards it… But sometimes you do feel as if you have to prove yourself more.
Right. Well, degrees does not equate to your intelligence. I think IBM just recently started doing apprenticeships – not apprenticeships, but like trials for bootcamp attendees, where they would bring them in, hire them for a year, and help them grow. So even if you didn’t feel like you were prepared, they would try to coach you along and help you. I think what’s important is potential and willingness to learn, as opposed to the piece of paper that you would get if you graduated.
[00:36:06.17] And I think it’s good also because we have – say for me, I’m stronger probably in my soft skills than I am in my skills of software engineering, but I do have the people that have that background education to bridge that gap. So it’s very good as long as we know our skillsets and we know the gaps. We come together and try to help each other out.
I’m glad you guys can talk to me about that.
Oh, yeah. And let’s get rid of the word “soft skills.” They’re human skills. This is how we interact with humans, and that is the end goal of what we’re trying to do. We’re building things for people.
Oh, it looks like there’s ten seconds left, right?
Can I get the outro music then?
Give a shout-out. Do you have a shout-out you wanna give? You have five seconds.
Oh, shout-out to everybody at All Things Open. You guys are amazing for showing up!
Let’s hear it for Mo!
Alright, thank you.
Thank you. Alright… How about Maria Lamardo?
There she comes!
What’s your intro music? [Kball beatboxing]
I’m not singing…
I’m not singing…
Please don’t give Kball intro music.
…nobody wants to hear that.
Well, when you sit down, you can tell me if I pronounced your name correctly, or you can chide me if I did not. Please, we’d love to call you by name.
That is beautiful.
I cannot say that well, but I will do my best. What would you like to talk about today?
I’m very passionate about web accessibility and building communities.
Okay. Do you wanna do both of those? We’ve got five minutes. Do you wanna do accessibility?
Accessibility sounds great.
Okay, very good.
What got you into it? What inspired you to…
Yeah, so I come from a non-conventional background; I’m actually a behavioral analyst. I provided behavioral therapy for people with developmental disabilities for eight years before I switched into development… And while I was learning how to program, I was so happy when I discovered web accessibility. I was like “Oh yes, this is for me!” After that I just kind of went all-in on web accessibility.
I think what’s interesting is that we hear web accessibility, and my first thought goes to screen reader compliance, and keyboard navigation, all these things… I also feel like accessibility is broadened to thinking about who’s consuming your applications and your websites… So we are in a place of privilege where we have high-speed internet in this country. But if your app is being consumed by people with lower-speed internet, we need to be mindful of that. We shouldn’t be shipping all of this really heavy stuff.
So accessibility is not just about what we traditionally think of as accessibility, but also can people access your application from…
Right. Like different hardware, or…
The network speed is a huge one. I have T-mobile, which is great, because they give you internet access anywhere you go, pretty much. They have 200 countries, or – there aren’t even that many countries, but essentially, anywhere you go, you’re gonna have internet access, but it’s at 2G speeds. And if you ever try to access the websites you’re used to accessing from your desktop or your laptop, even over Wi-Fi, at 2G speeds on a phone from somewhere halfway across the world, it is painful. And many of - as Emma highlights - the same practices that are going to make your application accessible to folks here who have assistive software, or things like that, are the same things that are gonna make it accessible to folks who have really poor internet connections.
Yeah. Even thinking about creating progressive web apps, where you could just launch right off your home screen, and it’s just that much easier, once that launched. And even if you don’t have great connectivity… So it’s very important.
[00:39:53.10] Playing off of what Mo was saying, coming from a different background really gave me a new perspective, because I already had the experience from all the users who were struggling interacting with these applications… And I just didn’t know that a world existed for coding such things. So now coming into it, it’s like “Well, I know exactly where all the pain points are” and “What can we do to fix it?”
So I do think that it’s super-advantageous to come in with that fresh perspective, and never let your different background be a negative thing. I think it’s always a good thing.
To your point about having seen the users - I wish every developer went and looked at the users of your application and watched them use it.
Like, stare at them through their window, or what do you mean?
Bring in folks who have never used your application, but are in your target audience, or who do use your application every day, and just watch them use it… Because your mind will be blown. We have these models of how our stuff works, and other people - normal people out in the world don’t have those models. Every time I’ve ever watched somebody use something I build, I’m flabbergasted. Like, “You do what? You do how?!”
Yeah. It’s humbling, because you realize how much your stuff sucks… [laughter] Like, “I thought this was really good. Then I watched you try to use it, and that’s not good. It’s not good.”
We make assumptions that users use our products the way we use them.
The way we would.
Yeah. And we’re stuck seeing them every day as we build on them, so to us it’s like “Oh, well, we’ve definitely improved it, and now it’s perfect.” Then somebody’s coming into it brand new, and it’s like “Well, none of these make sense.”
Yeah. Is there any real low-hanging fruit of accessibility, or a gripe? Like, “Why does everybody get this wrong…?”
Use buttons for buttons, links for links, don’t take [unintelligible 00:41:37.11] Please, just don’t do it.
Yes. And if you are gonna create custom elements, like custom dropdowns, in instances where you can’t use the native semantic HTML elements, you still have to make concerns such that it functions the same way a native input would.
Yeah, absolutely. I would always say, whether you’re considering accessibility or not, just put your mouse away, try to navigate your entire application with the keyboard only, even if you are not turning on the screen reader. Just go through that basic navigation with your keyboard, and you should be able to access everything. And if you can’t, then there’s something wrong. So try to figure that out.
Thanks, Maria. Let’s hear it for her! [applause]
Thank you, Maria.
Did Brian Douglas make it? How about Eva Howe?
There she is! Come on down. Let’s hear it for her! [applause]
As Eva is walking up, since so many people no-showed, that is an opportunity for everyone here who has a topic they wanna talk about… So have that in your head, “What would I talk about if I was on stage?” so when Jerod opens the door, you’re up, you’re ready.
Is it Eva or Ava?
Eva. Very good. Eva, thanks so much for joining us on stage here. We’re happy to hear what you’re up to. What you’d like to talk about?
I work for a company called This Dot Labs, and we have an apprentice program where one of our big passion projects is getting more women into tech. Our founder is a woman, we have a lot of women on board… So what we do is we take women who are coming out of bootcamp and we pair them with a mentor. And then we’re a consultancy, so we contract them out together, with the idea being that the woman gets the mentorship that she needs.
We’ve heard a lot of companies say they don’t like to hire junior developers, because they’ve gotta deal with the mentorship aspect… So we provide that by pairing them up, and the company gets 40 hours of the junior and 20 hours of the senior. Then at the end of the contract, the company has the ability to hire the woman.
That is awesome!
It sounds very cool. How does it work in terms of if you’re interested in getting involved, or…?
You can come by our booth. We have one literally outside this door. Or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:43:55.17] How does the mentorship aspect of that work?
It varies from woman to woman. It depends on the contract too, but the idea is that the mentor is there to help unblock the woman, to check PRs so that she’s not crashing anything when she merges… And then also just to help navigate being on the technical team, especially in a sense where she may be the only woman on the team. That gets a little bit more tricky, because a lot of times the senior developer will be male, and that’s hard to have that do… But in that case we like to try to plug her into her local community, where she can find more mentors that are female too, even if they’re not working on that particular project.
What’s the biggest challenge that you face with that?
Getting companies to put their money where their mouth is. Everybody is out there talking about diversity, inclusion… I live in Silicon Valley. Everybody knows that 25% of incoming software engineers are women. We’ve done huge, huge pushes on this, and I get calls, and people are super-excited, and “This is a wonderful program, and we really wanna do this!” and I write back and I get radio silence. So I feel a little bit frustrated in that aspect, that people are very willing to talk about it, but not willing to do anything.
Do the women come to your first, and then you match them with a mentor and a company, or do they go to the company…?
So we partner with bootcamps all around the country, and we get the women applicants mainly from the bootcamps; somewhat through just Twitter outreach and our website… And then the idea is that we – it’s kind of a couple of moving pieces. Obviously, we wanna pair the women up with the company in that she has some bases in the technologies that they’re using, and that there’s a good fit with the mentor. Obviously, there’s personalities there, too… And then fit them with the company. It kind of goes back and forth to make sure that everybody is a good working fit.
I love this idea of an apprenticeship. I feel like this is something that – I mean, it is definitely important and helpful on the folks coming in from untraditional backgrounds, bootcamps, women who are at a disadvantage, other under-represented minorities who are at a disadvantage… Broadly, we as an industry suck at training people. We are terrible… I mean, bootcamps have somewhat solved the getting in; I get the first step, and then what? What do I do? Every company I talk to is like “Do you have seniors? Do you have seniors? Do you have senior folks?”
Nobody is training senior folks. Everyone’s trying to hire senior folks, but we don’t have this pipeline for how do I get from “I just got into the industry” to “I’m able to lead a team, or be a senior” or something like that. So props to you all for doing that. That’s great. I think the diversity aspect is a key and important step, but I’d love to see this everywhere.
I completely agree, because I think it’s really hard for juniors to get the on-the-job mentorship that they need, and so many companies, for whatever reason, just aren’t willing to take that on, and hire juniors. I think a lot of times either their senior engineers are not positioned to do it, they don’t wanna take the extra financial burden of it… There’s a lot of different reasons for it. But in our case, this is a way of us taking that out of the equation.
Does that typically bypass the typical whiteboarding interview as well?
We do do code exercises, but it’s not a whiteboard interview. We’re actually a fully remote company, so it’d be a little bit difficult to do a whiteboard interview… And we do other ways of measuring where she is, and what technology she’s good at. But no, no whiteboard interviews.
I like that.
Thank you. [laughs]
Is it code schools only, or can you be from a different background and still apply?
You can be from whatever background you want to apply. We focus mainly on bootcamps, just because that’s where the majority of our applicants are from. [timer alert]
Sorry about that.
[00:48:02.19] Alright, let’s hear it for Eva. [applause] We talked of Vanessa. Is Vanessa here? There is Vanessa! Come on down…
Vanessa Alvarez… Give her a hand. [applause]
Is that the end of your list? Because…
It is the end of the list…
Y’all better get ready…
Y’all be ready.
I was thinking about talking about changing careers in the tech industry… But then the other person was talking and had a good idea about whiteboard, and I just wanna heat about what type of interview process you guys do at your current companies. Because I don’t like whiteboarding…
Oh, no one likes whiteboarding interviews…
I like whiteboarding interviews as a taker. I hate it as a way to find good people.
And you would prefer the whiteboard?
I didn’t say I’d prefer it… It’s fun. It’s fun for me because I love goofing off… So I’ll get up with folks, and like – whiteboarding, you get to… I like whiteboards in general. That’s how I brainstorm; that’s how I do whatever.
Just a fan of whiteboards over here…
I have whiteboards in my office… It’s a terrible way to interview people.
It’s absolutely terrible.
You should have led with that.
I think it’s fun. It’s terrible.
Can you enumerate why it’s terrible?
It’s because it’s testing completely different things than what you care about for a candidate. Whiteboarding is testing how well do you improvise on the spot, in front of people that you don’t know, with a marker in your hand.
And communicate with people you don’t know. Communication - that part is actually in my opinion kind of valid, because I think it’s important that engineers can communicate…
No, that’s valid, but in terms of being able to eloquently communicate.
On the spot, under pressure, in front of people you don’t know, oftentimes with folks who are not the kindest of interviewers…
Yeah, it’s setting folks up for failure, unless they’re skilled in things that are not actually helpful for their job.
Yeah. I had a – it was a good experience, but it really frustrated me because it was an interview for a UX engineering role, building design systems with React. And two out of the four interviews were about algorithms, so I had to code binary trees on a whiteboard, and find the broken edge… And I’m like “How is this relevant to the job I’m gonna be doing?” It’s not.
And that is so unfair, to so many candidates… Going back to the whole “What if I’m not from a traditional CS background?” how is that testing anyone’s ability to deduce information and problem-solve? To a certain extent it’s not.
What if English isn’t my first language?
I know. Yeah, exactly.
So what would you suggest the appropriate –
Yeah, what’s better?
What would be better instead of the whiteboard?
I like the take-home exam. I had a really great interview with Gatsby. They gave me three questions and they said “Answer whichever one you feel comfortable answering.” To give options to your candidates is incredible. That whole interview process was seamless. The take-home assessment - first of all, they were gonna pay you for it, which is amazing, because often these companies put you through the wringer within the interviews, and it’s unpaid.
The second piece of that is to do the tasks that you would be doing on the job. a) It’s practical. b) You get to see if you even wanna do this job in the first place. So I think sticking to practical things that are also manageable - because a lot of us have families and other obligations - we can’t give up time to go on-site and give up a full day of work…
And applying is almost like a full-time job.
It is, it is.
Something interesting that we’ve been doing in my company - we stopped whiteboarding, and right now what we’re doing is basically we have a bunch of functions, and then we tell the person like “Hey, just pretend that we’re working together, we’re collaborating, just like a normal day, and just tell us what is this function doing.” Then we start talking. We want that engagement and we like that conversation happening… We’re testing not so much their technical skills - those too, partly - but more about collaboration. We wanna know if this person will reach to us if they have any questions. It has worked for us very well.
[00:52:27.14] It’s like less of a test and more of a collaboration.
Right. So it’s like “Did you read and understand this function?” “Yes.” “Okay, awesome.” And if they get stuck, “What are you thinking about? Tell us.” “Oh, this is what’s going through my mind.” That has worked better, and we have gotten them to be not so nervous, and it has helped us a lot.
Yeah. I also think it takes a lot of skill to be a good interviewer.
Yeah, absolutely. That’s another thing, yeah.
I was just gonna say, as the last point, please don’t try to trick your candidates and show who’s smarter in the room. That’s not a good approach.
The closer you can get to it being “what it’s like to actually work here”, the better of a tell you’re gonna be able to get. And you do want to scope that within the bounds of what’s possible for that person. My favorite - both as an interviewer and as an interviewee - way to interview someone is to do a scoped, paid project.
I love that.
Yeah, it’s great.
Now, that is not always possible. If you have a full-time job and you have family obligations, you may not be able to take another project like that. So you need to be accomodating. But the more you can get to “This is exactly what it’s actually gonna be like working in this environment”, the better chance you both have of being able to tell “Is this gonna be a good fit?”
Well, that’s our time. Vanessa, thanks so much for sitting down.
Thank you. [applause]
Okay, audience, if you have a project that you’ve been working on and you wanna tell the world, if you have a passion that you care about and you’d like to chat with us, if you have a hand and you’d like to raise it high in the air… A heartbeat…
Either one, we’ll line them up here.
Yaay! Awesome! Come on down!
Let’s hear it for the nice man who’s running…
We need the Price is Right music.
We do. Come on down…!
If I knew it, I would sing it.
Thanks for joining us.
Hey, guys. I’m Clinton Dreisbach.
Hey, Clinton. Nice to meet you.
I keep hearing talking about bootcamps up here, and I decided to run up, because I co-founded one, and I teach at one… So I thought it would be interesting to talk.
Tell us about that!
Yeah, a bunch of my students are here; they’re all in the audience, which is awesome. I hope one of them runs up here.
What’s the bootcamp called?
It’s called Momentum. It’s local, it’s just in Durham, North Carolina. My and a co-founder, Jessica Mitch, we formed it after our former bootcamp closed down… And we knew what we were doing, and loved it, so… Yeah, it’s the most fulfilling and awesome thing to get to see new developers go from nothing to full, awesome developers. But yeah, all the problems that people are talking about, with not hiring junior developers - I get to see this up close and personal every day. That’s the most disheartening thing, seeing people say “Oh, we only hire senior developers”, because the people that I see every day grow as developers are gonna be the most amazing developers you’ve ever met, they’re just not quite there yet… But they’re getting there. But yeah, it’s such a cool thing. I can answer any questions…
How do we bridge that gap? There’s obviously a problem, but there don’t seem to be any obvious solutions to that problem.
The easiest way I’ve seen so far - and this just takes time - is helping companies learn that hiring junior developers and training them is pretty much the best investment they can have. Our industry people change jobs so quickly… But you bring someone in early, and you help train them, and they become a really loyal, really amazing employee, that knows what’s going on there as well as anyone.
[00:55:59.07] The risk is that the loyalty doesn’t actually stick, because people do move around so much that if I’m gonna invest three years in a person and then they’re gonna go upgrade to a different job, to me that’s a loss.
Well, I think to both of your points - you have to think about it as an investment. Investments have risks. But if we’re willing to put in thousands of dollars to recruiting, we should be willing to put in half of that amount to training the people we already have.
I mean, frankly, I’d say twice that amount. If it costs you $10,000 to recruit a new senior developer and you have someone who is already contributing, but you can spend $10,000 to upgrade them to a senior developer - it’s a no-brainer.
There’s an old saying that I’ll butcher, talking about investing in training their engineers - what if we spend all this money training them and then they leave? And then the response is “What if we don’t spend it and then they stay?” They’re gonna suck forever… No, they won’t. They’ll still get better, but you can see that point there.
And the other thing past loyalty is I think there’s no better way for your senior developers to get better at being senior developers than to train junior developers. [unintelligible 00:57:08.21] if you have no one you’re teaching?
People ask me all the time, like “Oh, do you get bored teaching the same thing over and over?” You have no idea. I learn something every single day teaching new developers.
They ask questions that I would have never thought of, there’s new technologies that I have to learn… I’ve grown as a developer more teaching than I ever did previously, and I think that’s gonna be true in any company if you have your senior developers actively working to mentor people.
What does your curriculum include?
And how long is it?
It’s 12 weeks.
Full immersion, or part-time?
It’s full immersion, so it’s all day long, 9 to 5, 4 hours of lecture, and who knows how many hours of projects every day. I kind of burn them out a little bit. We try and keep it to 60 hours a week.
The folks back there know how many hours, and they’re going “Uh…!”
Yeah… So they’re getting a break right now, because we got to come out here and see this. But I thought it was so cool to have them immersed in the industry. I love [unintelligible 00:58:14.23]
Also, the fact that you brought them here is super-cool, because – I didn’t get to go to conferences until I was well into my first job, so… That’s great.
Yeah. It’s cool.
So do you feel pressure to constantly be updating that curriculum, especially with how fast the industry moves?
Yeah. I mean, for multiple reasons. I always want them to have the very best of content… And also, for me and the other instructors - it sharpens our skills to constantly be revisiting what we’re doing, making sure we’re doing it right. But every class there’s stuff that people get stuck on, and I go “Oh, I know a better way to teach that, or a better way to learn that.”
Yeah, so… There’s some pressure, but it’s fun to do. I think teaching is hard, but if you have the bug, you never wanna stop doing it.
How can people apply?
Well, they can go to momentumlearn.com if they’re interested, or you can just find me or anyone else around here.
Thank you so much.
Thank you so much! [applause]
Come on down…
Come on down… To Chinatown.
Well, I was singing the theme earlier, but no one seemed to understand it.
That’s what we’re gonna do. For our next lightning chat session we’re gonna get the theme song to play as you come down.
Hi, what’s your name.
Good afternoon. My name is Henri. Henry in French.
Merci bien! Is that all you have? [laughter] I’m waiting, I’m like “Yeah… And? And…?”
You’ve reached the end of what he has.
You actually speak French.
Oui, le français est ma langue maternelle. I just said “French is my mother tongue.”
I have no idea what you’ve just said. [laughter]
I said “I’m Canadian and I live in Toronto.”
Okay, very cool.
I mean, is this a translation podcast?
It’s gonna have to be.
We can go to Spanish, we can go to German…
Okay, un poquitio, un poquito…
Puedo hablar español si quieres, pero…
Alright, let’s go… I mean, we just flipped the podcast. Okay, so we started? Oh, man, we’ve just started.
We’re wasting your time here. What do you wanna talk about?
Okay, so I tend to hang out in the web performance space… So I was like “Oh man, I think people are gonna be bored”, but I’m here to talk about something that’s being worked on right now, which is the JPEG Excel, so kind of a new format.
For all the web developers out there, images are a huge problem on the web… In fact, actually, for the person who talked about accessibility - the number two issue in accessibility is through images, which is alt text. So images are a problem through and through.
With the JPEG Excel, basically what’s gonna happen is – well, essentially what happened… Let me back-track a couple years ago… Is my time up?
No, that’s the light going crazy… Just keep going.
Okay, a couple years ago, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the JPEG, the Joint Photographic Experts Group put out a CFP, because jpeg is a format that’s kind of always being worked on… So they receive seven submissions, and two are picked. Basically, they’re trying to see how we can go about an improve the jpeg as a format. Essentially, what happened is two were selected. To take the best of both - one is the (I’m gonna pronounce it improperly) FUIF, which is the Free Universal Image Format, which was being developed by Cloudinary, and the second was PIK, which was another format that was being experimented with by the people at Google.
So the two - the best of both - are gonna be used to make the way to this new format, which is gonna be called the JPEG Excel.
And what are the advantages of JPEG Excel?
Essentially, with any recent format you’re gonna get some improved encoding, for sure… But things like responsive web design has been a huge burden on the web, simply because a lot of people just do not get it right, so you end up having a lot of data waste being sent down the pipe to users… And actually by corporations as well, because you get that wrong - that’s a service that you have to pump the resources down.
That, and obviously, you’re gonna have animation, which is also a bit of an issue on the web, because a lot of people do fall back to the grossly oversized gif… [laughter] Yes, I said gif. And so that encoding is gonna be improved… Obviously, we’re gonna have alpha channels, we’re gonna have adaptive compression, so essentially parts of the images are gonna be compressed a little better than the others, the ones that need it anyhow…
And obviously, it’s most likely gonna be mostly lossy, but with the best encoding possible at the time… So you have this sort of like cvasi-lossless thing going on.
Those are a lot of words that I don’t know that much about, but I’m intrigued.
Okay, well – I mean, there’s information online, for sure, if you go to (I believe) jpeg.org, but at the end of the day I think most people know images, and most web developers certainly need to work with images. You talked about having constricted data, or…
…networks and whatnot…
One hundred percent.
Exactly. If you don’t handle images properly, this is where you’re gonna feel it the most.
Your question is probably more pertinent than mine [unintelligible 01:04:11.16]
Yeah, yeah. All of you. [laughter]
So the question I had, actually - you brought up accessibility…
And one of the things that I have seen bandied around is embedding some of that alternate text in the images, so that it’s not dependent on the web developer and it can actually be encoded. Is that something that’s included in this?
That’s actually separate. It’s funny you should say that, because I’m preparing a project talk on that… There is a push towards automation of alt text. This is completely separate, but Instagram/Facebook has been doing it for a while. Chrome, in Canary, as an experiment - you can actually get that done right now, as we speak… It’s behind a flag, but again, that has less to do with performance, unfortunately.
Yeah. That feels like something where machine learning image recognition…
Oh, it’s happening.
…is gonna be super-powerful and helpful.
It’s happening as we speak.
Thank you so much.
We appreciate it.
Awesome, thank you. [applause]
[intro song sample]
Come on down… [unintelligible 01:05:22.06] We have a few more slots after this one if you’d like. If you’re interested, come close, so we have less awkward stalling. Hello! What’s your name and what would you like to talk about?
Hi, my name is Jill Burns, and first of all, I love your podcast.
Well, thank you.
Great to meet you guys.
We appreciate that.
I wanted to just mention that I came into coding years ago, but re-entered recently [unintelligible 01:05:48.23] I had 18 years as a computer programmer/software engineer…
…took ten years off, raised kids…
Yeah… And moved three times. And then came back in as a software developer again. So the senior – we had an apprenticeship, I had a mentor which was crucial to the program… But I think it’s another way to bring women in, that have had experience… And you know, we’ve done our learning at one point…
…and then just have the opportunity. I’m so excited to be back in the field, actually.
That’s beautiful. What’s changed the most from your first time to now?
I think that the database work, for me.
It’s way easier now? Way harder? Way different?
I mean, relational databases into the NoSQL was probably my biggest leap. When I left, I was doing Java and web services, and now it’s Node.js, cloud and NoSQL, so… A couple of different jumps. But I started in the mainframe, so going from Fortran in high school, Pascal in college… [unintelligible 01:07:18.21]
Alright, history… I was in scientific computing back in the day.
There you go… [laughs]
What hasn’t changed then? You come back and you’re like “What’s the same?”
Exactly. I’ve seen it change a number of times.
But what hasn’t changed? Oh, you’re saying everything has changed…
Has everything not changed?
I get it.
What hasn’t changed…
Truly there’s some constants… Change is the only constant, right?
Jerod gives me this look, like “You’re gonna back me up here, right?”
I just blew up his mind. Did your mind explode?
[laughs] I’m not sure there are any constants… I mean, there are a lot of similarities; I will say there are a lot of similarities. But the basis of who I’m working with is getting a lot more diverse than historically. I draw on a lot of my knowledge from other programming languages and databases…
[01:08:09.26] How did you get up to speed when you came back in?
Well, you know what - I attended conferences like this. While I was out I did attend conferences. I listened to podcasts…
…and I did online training when I could, because it was still a full-time job raising kids.
So yeah, that was it. And then when I started, it was a 12-week apprenticeship, with the option of - on both sides - being hired or not at the end. So that was my 12-week of “Okay, here’s your project.”
Yeah, that is the best way…
If you can make that happen… I mean, if I’m looking for a job, that’s my favorite way to interview, because it’s how you learn what this place is gonna be like to work with. Because folks will put on their happy face when they’re interviewing you, and you work with them for a while and you discover it is a cesspit. Or other folks, who are not super-jazzed at interviews and don’t do it very well, but then you work there and it’s the best place ever.
That’s how Europe does it. When I moved to Germany, they were like “Oh, you’re on probation for six months”, and I was like “What do you mean?” And they’re like “No, it’s a standard.” Everyone who generally joins, they’re on probation for six months. At the end, either party can walk away. That’s a good amount of time to get your…
Yeah. We should standardize that.
It’s kind of a cool idea.
We absolutely should.
Oh, you liked that.
Yeah, I got the three questions…
I think the both sides is key, too.
If it’s instituted as a company power play, it’s terrible. Like “Oh, we’re gonna be watching you for this first 3 months, or 6 months, and then we decide…”
“Probation” is a weird word for me.
But if you come in with it saying like – I do it as a consultant, I do it if I’m looking for a job… Like, “I wanna do a test run, and I wanna figure out, by working with you, is this a good place or not?” And it’s my decision to walk away. And yeah, you could decide if you want me to go too, but you won’t. It’s my decision.
“But you won’t…” [laughter] That confidence… Yeah, there you go.
Jill, thanks so much for joining us, thanks for listening to the show, and welcome back to the community after all those years.
Yeah, welcome back. [applause]
Okay, I did see another hand poke up, and then it dropped immediately. I’m hoping that hand will go back up again… Oh, here it is right here.
Yes, yes, yes…
Yay. I can’t sing anymore.
Oh… Pointing fingers… Go Emma, sing! Alright, here she comes!
What’s your name?
Jannaee. Nice to meet you, Jannaee.
Nice to meet you!
Thanks for coming up on stage with us. What would you like to talk about?
I wanted to answer Vanessa’s question about whiteboarding - alternatives to whiteboarding…
…and what other companies are doing.
I guess, briefly, my background is graphic design. I went to school for design. There are a lot of people I know who are making that jump from design into development. It’s kind of natural, right? You’re already on the computer…
Exactly. People are gonna ask you to do a little HTML here and there, and next thing you know, you’re full-on in development.
Yes. [laughter] So I actually took a career break, and I came back and found out everything changed, and had to quickly get up to speed on how to code… And I end up doing a lot of job hunting… And one of the places that I interviewed at was Red Ventures, and they had a booth here at ATO last year. I met a guy who remembered my name, and when they came out looking for someone to hire, they reached out to me and said “We really liked you. We don’t really have a role in particular, but we’d like to talk with you.”
[01:12:06.13] So they brought me in to do one of those “meet ten people for six hours”, it was one of those big interviews… I did have to do whiteboarding, but I sat on a panel for a couple hours and they just asked like “Explain what are you good at” and “Why are you here?”, and just really try to get an understanding of where my strengths are, and my interests… And then they were able to manipulate the interview to see exactly how I would fit in.
So I did do a whiteboard, I really sucked at it, but they were like “We don’t expect you to be good. We know you’re gonna be sweatin’, and we just wanna hear how you think. You did well, even though you feel like you did poorly.”
So they were very interested, and… I did end up passing on that opportunity, and recently I got employed at another company called MedThink, and then I did another career jump… So I’ll be starting at IBM.
Thanks! Yeah, it’s been a long journey.
Do you know what team, or what area of focus?
Under the cognitive applications as the larger department, and then I’ll be doing front-end development for them.
Cool! Awesome! What do you think of that interview?
It was so cool… It was very cool. At first I thought – I’d applied a couple of times before and I failed, and I was like “I’m not gonna do this again… I’m just so tired.” But a recruiter found me on LinkedIn, and it was a take-home application. What was cool was that they didn’t have a particular goal. They basically gave you a very open-ended task, and they wanted to see how you thought, all the way from the wireframe, UX/UI strategy, into development.
To me, it felt like a personal pet project, so I already went in not having that pressure… And I just went to town on it. I threw in all my XD skills, and my wireframe [unintelligible 01:14:04.13] UX, and then into my front-end development, and then even tried to do a little back-end with some Express, which… You know, I was afraid I wasn’t gonna get it. But when I had the chance to come in and just tell the team - because you have to sit with two or three developers - I got to explain my whole process, and what I was thinking, and why I did it, and just go through all the things that I was really strong about, all the things that I was pretty good in…
And then I think they also kind of stepped back and thought “Okay, she’s pretty good with this, but probably not as strong here…” But I didn’t feel that pressure. No binary tree searches – because I have gone through that. That was ridiculous. Fibonacci… I am a designer first, and then developer, so I can draw you a tree, but I [unintelligible 01:14:52.01] [laughter]
[01:14:55.11] I feel like one of the things that you’re highlighting here is this should not be – if you’re looking at your hiring process as an employer, this should not be a judging process. This is dating. I don’t go on a date – I mean, I haven’t been on a date in 20 years, but I don’t go on a date and be like “Alright, you’re 7 out of 10 on this, and a 9 out of 10 on that…” It’s looking for compatibility, it’s looking for like “Are you the type of person that I want to work with? Are you gonna fit well in our team?”
Right. And I think that’s probably how you can retain talent. Because if I’m coming in knowing I’m going to be looked on, like they’re expecting me to do well at what I’m doing well already, then you’re just gonna start from a point where you’re gonna excel. So that’s how I feel… I’m pretty excited.
13 seconds left…
Do you wanna give a shout-out?
Anybody you like.
My son. I’m gonna do a talk tomorrow, and he’s gonna be here. He’s three, and we’re gonna do a talk about bringing minority children into STEM.
I love that!
When and where is that talk?
Yay! Everyone go watch your talk tomorrow! [laughter]
Okay. You heard it here.
Thank you so much!
Okay, that is our time. That being said, if you have a lighting chat you would like to perform – or is it a performance? I don’t know; if you’d like to chat with us, we will be down in the main floor, booth 72. We’re mic’ed up, we’re ready to continue these conversations, we’ll get the timer going, and everything. Any final words from my esteemed colleagues up here?
I just wanna say thank you to everyone that came up here and put themselves on the spot. I think it sparked some really interesting conversations.
Y’all rock! But I want more dancing.
We all rock… But more dancing. Okay, that’s our show, that’s JS Party. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next week, I probably should see. That’s weird though… We’ll see you next time! [applause]
Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚