Have you ever wondered what it takes to get involved in software engineering conferences? How much experience do you really have to have to present a talk at a conference? Well, we have the answer for you on this question and many more. Meet Jared Faris, aka Jared the Nerd, software consultant extraordinaire. In episode 16, Jared joins us to talk about how he got his feet wet in software engineering, consulting, and conferences, and more importantly, how you can too. Give us a listen or read through the transcript below to find out more. And, as always, feel free to leave a thought or comment, if you like.
Jared is a Microsoft MVP and the Director of Technology Services at HMB, an IT services company based out of Columbus, OH. His focus is on building great development teams through training, mentoring, and prodigious amounts of caffeine. He’s spent years building web applications with cloud and mobile experience. Jared is a cofounder of the CloudDevelop conference in Columbus, OH and a frequent speaker at regional events.
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Episode Highlights and Show Notes:
Arsalan: Today’s episode features Jared the Nerd, or Jared Faris, a Microsoft MVP and are doing a whole lot of wonderful things in software development. You are a speaker, a conference organizer, and more. How do you see yourself?
Jared: My twitter handle is Jared the Nerd because that’s how I see myself. I’m into board games, video games, gadgetry, and technology. So, nerd things, I guess. I’m not ashamed of that at all. I also see myself as a teacher, a speaker, a mentor. Some of that is professional, but I really enjoy doing that. So, I guess in that sense. I also see myself as a community nerd. I’m definitely someone interested in helping others and learning along the way as well.
Arsalan: Do you remember your first encounter with programming?
Jared: Sort of. I don’t remember specifics, but I had a Commodore 64. I’m probably one of the last generations to program by copying from a book line by line and trying to figure out what I got wrong. That was one of my first experiences. I really got into it more when I started with the web. That was pretty early on with the Internet. Once I realized that I could build websites and share them with others, that’s when I really started going crazy with it.
Arsalan: What motivated you to do that?
Jared: I did play games. I never really got excited about building games. I did try it a couple of times, but I lost interest in it. I think it was the creative aspect of it. It was the fact that I could make something tangible because I also like to do woodworking and other things like that. I like to make stuff and I think it was that I could make something on screen that I could show to others. That was really cool. When I was a kid I didn’t like to go outside much. So, the idea that I can do this inside was nice.
Arsalan: Later on you started working on the web and making websites. What motivated you to do that?
Jared: I think it was still the creative aspect because it was like I was releasing something into the world. The idea that I could build things was the most interesting part. I also had friends who were into that as well. So, there was also competitiveness to it as well when we try to one up each other. When I entered the workforce It was more about building things to solve problems. So it was still similar. It was very creative. It was about making my life better and making the lives of others better as well.
Arsalan: So, you started doing website development and casually started building some websites and doing some programming. But, at some point, you would’ve taken it seriously and decided to start making it a career. Did you decide to go to college to pursue this? Or, did you decide to just get a job? What did you do?
Jared: I went to the University of Toledo. I don’t think I ever considered not going to school. I knew I wanted to go to the University. I just assumed that I would go into computer science because that’s what I was interested in. I just assumed that I would go into computer science because that’s what I was interested in. So, it just seemed like the thing to do. But, I didn’t stick with computer science. I got bored quickly because I was doing a lot of software development on my own and felt like I was going faster than the program. So, I ended up transitioning into math, stats, and Econ. I don’t think I ever really thought of a different path other than going to college.
Arsalan: Okay, so you got a degree in math, stats, and Econ. Those are some pretty hard-core subjects. Those are some pretty hard-core subjects. They have some relevance to programming because of the logic and thinking. Do you think that helped you in any way when you are coding?
Jared: Yes, definitely so. My major was in Econ and I think the reason I went that route was because I met a professor in statistical computing. I did a summer internship writing software to solve Econ problems. I thought it was amazing to be able to solve real problems and I get to develop. I think I probably wrote more software in Econ programs than a lot of other people in computer science did. I spend a lot less time learning the fundamentals, but I built a lot more things in undergrad research. During my first couple of real jobs people were wondering why I didn’t have a computer science degree. I would tell them that and move past that. Then after that point, having the degree didn’t really matter. I think the fact that I was building real-world things and learning how to solve problems and debug things while they were in production was real valuable.
Arsalan: So you are doing all this while you got your degree in Econ. Did you have multiple majors?
Jared: No, I majored in Econ and I had a math statistics minor.
Arsalan: After that you would’ve wanted to get a job. Did you try to get a job in the financial industry or did you try to get a job as a programmer?
Jared: I actually started working in desktop support and IT while I was going to school. I got to write some software to solve problems there. Then, I worked for the University full time. There was less friction to stay in software development. So I never thought about getting out of it. The path was always clear to me. So may be inertia kept me in computer science, but it has worked out real well.
Arsalan: So what helped you get your first job? Was it the fact that people knew you on campus? Or did they appreciate your educational background? Or was it through personal contacts?
Jared: Yes, personal contacts and luck have probably accounted for most of my jobs. My roommate and best friend found a job on campus as a desktop support specialist. They had another position that I kind of fell into. He was also the person who mentored me and a lot of the earlier programming. So, there is a lot of luck involved based on who I had roomed with and who I had mentored with. I have three different roles at the University and most of that was through networking. I got to know a lot of people and some opportunity would open and I built the right connections.
Arsalan: You never thought that this would be a detriment to your career. You are not thinking that you needed to work at a cool startup, or other well-known company. Some people would not want to work at a university because they might consider that a dead-end job or a job that they would not be able to roll their career. You were not thinking of these things at that time.
Jared: No, definitely not. I did eventually think of that and that’s why I look later left and went to the private sector, but not when I first took those roles. At one point I had considered going on to work towards a graduate degree. I realized that I would kind of like to be an academic, but then I decided that that was not the course for me. There wasn’t a lot of planning, at that point. There were more random wanderings until I decided what I wanted to do.
Arsalan: Then, you decided later on to expand your career and perhaps make more money. So, you went into the private sector. How did you get that job?
Jared: That’s probably the only job that I ever got via a job board. I think it was through Dice. It wasn’t the money so much, that I was getting frustrated with some of the bureaucracy. So, I put my resume up somewhere and got a call from a small agency. When I first got the call, I told them that I wasn’t interested until two days later when I called them back because I had decided that maybe I really was interested. So that was just something on a general job board. There were no connections, networking, or anything. It turned out to be a great company to work for. They did some enterprise consulting for General Motors and Ford. They also did some agency design work. So, I got to experience a pretty wide variety of software development in a very short period of time.
Arsalan: As you were going through these jobs and establishing yourself as a software engineer, did you have any resistance from anybody? Did you ever feel that you have to prove yourself because you didn’t have the background of the typical software engineer had?
Jared: Maybe a very little at the beginning. Although, when I worked in the University setting, it didn’t matter quite as much. They valued all degrees. Once I left, the first couple of interviews that followed were kind of quote why are we talking to you because you don’t have a computer science background ”. After I got that first job with a company called Thread, it wasn’t really a problem so much because I think the job experience mattered more. I think the degree mattered more for the first role because I needed to learn to talk intelligently about the things I had done and what I was interested in really took over.
Arsalan: At that time were you trying to see the technology landscape and trying to figure out what you need to pursue and planning ahead. Were you using .Net at the time?
Jared: I was using some .Net. I had supported some ColdFusion. I did some Flash. So I did a variety of things. I would say .Net was the main thing that I was interested in.
Arsalan: During the first five years of your career, did you ever want to take a step back to see what you should learn and which direction you should go in?
Jared: I should have been, but I didn’t start thinking about the big picture until later. I think I was still learning how software got built. I got to be a project manager for a little bit and do some analyst work. So I was a little more in the discovery phase. I wasn’t at a point where I was thinking about where I would fit in and add a lot of value yet. I was in the mode of trying to learn as much as I could. So, there was no long-term planning. At that point, I think that started when I moved to Columbus. I think it was when I decided to get out of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. When I moved to Columbus, that’s when I started networking and meeting a lot of people as well. That was a major change for me.
Arsalan: If you were to start over, would you go down the same path again? Or, would you change how you went about things during the first few years of your career?
Jared: That’s a tough question. It worked out really well, so I don’t think that there would be a lot of things that I would want to change. I joke and tell people that the only thing that I would do differently would be to move to Columbus sooner and start networking. I wish I would’ve understood the value of networking sooner and meeting people and building relationships. But, things didn’t turn out badly for me the way they occurred either. Some of the things that I missed when I left the computer science program were a lot of the fundamentals like theory. It was a lot harder to pick that up later. One thing I wish I would’ve done differently was to get the fundamentals. While I was also doing applied programming. I don’t know that I would want to go back and get that degree, but rather just get some of the skills that I had missed.
Arsalan: Do you ever go back and wonder what it would be like if you hadn’t gone to college and instead just started your job and had the four extra years of experience? Do you ever wonder if you would have been better off doing it that way?
Jared: I had thought of that, but I think I would’ve been worse off, although not for the same reasons that you might think. In retrospect, some of the most valuable things that I learned at the University were not related to my degree at all. It was the number of people that I met from all over the world. It was the classes that I took on history and film and things like that. They were areas that I weren’t super excited about, but that I was exposed to regardless. The exposure to all these different types of thinking was really valuable, but that exposure doesn’t have to come from college. Yet, you wouldn’t get that kind of exposure if you went full on into just technical things.
Arsalan: So, gave you a different perspective on things?
Arsalan: So, I want to grill you a little bit more on this. For someone in high school right now and struggling with finances, they might believe that a college degree is superfluous. Other people believe it is necessary. So, convince me that I should go to college.
Jared: I don’t know that I can. I can say that for me. It was the right choice. I hadn’t been exposed to a big world before. I had a pretty lucky upbringing and a pretty easy childhood. So, that exposure to me was pretty valuable. That’s not the case for everyone. A lot of people are less fortunate and have more challenges than I had. They might not need the same set of exposures that I needed. I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all answer. No one is worse off to being exposed to a lot of different ideas, but if you can’t afford it, then you can’t afford it. There may be other ways that you can find those experiences. People who have had the luxury of travel as a child, get tons of experiences. I would imagine that if you grew up in a big city that you would have exposure to that as well. For me, the technical skills alone would have been insufficient. When I look at what I have to do day today.
Arsalan: That’s an interesting comment. That’s because you would not learn some of the skills needed to deal with people, which is something that you can’t avoid in any career. Why else is it important?
Jared: Empathy is huge. It’s good to know that people have different mindsets. The right solution that you see may not be the right solution. In reality, because there may be other factors that you’re not aware of. You have to be challenged by adversity at some point. I had some classes that I didn’t do particularly well in and having that experience was valuable because you learned that not everything is easy all the time. I did really well in high school and wasn’t challenged until I took differential equations and almost failed. So, if you could find another proxy for that than I think that would be equally valuable and may be a lot cheaper.
Arsalan: Have you considered the new code schools that are out now? They are teaching people how to do specific things for maybe 10 weeks and then after that you supposedly have the skills to get your first job. I know the in your organization you have some training as well. Talk to us about that and tell us whether you think that these types of coding schools could be an effective alternative to a four-year degree in computer science.
Jared: I have mixed feelings about them. Part of it might be that I have an ingrained suspicion to for-profit teaching, so that might not be fair. They still could be doing good work, even though they are a for-profit company. Maybe it’s because I worked for State University for a while that I have a bill in suspicion of that. I’ve worked with some people who have gone through some of those academies. And, I’d say the ones who had been very successful had work experience before that. So, they had learned technical skills, but before that they had professional skills. They learned the things they needed to know to be able to navigate a business environment with a lot of people trying to accomplish a lot of different things. So, bolting on the technical skills later made a lot of good sense.
Jared: There is a college or university in Columbus with an accelerated computer science program. It’s for someone who already has a degree, so you have all of your liberal arts and everything and you go for a year or two and get the equivalent of a four-year computer science degree. They just teach you the computer science side of things because you’ve already received the liberal arts side of things. The person who I worked with who did that has also been very successful. I think they might be a good place to start for someone who needs mentoring and guidance while learning the technical side of things.
Jared: There’s a steep learning curve for getting into development because it’s like magic to the outside world. I remember for me that there was a certain point when programming just clicked. I could solve problems because I knew how to think about things and what to question. Before that I was copying things out of a book, but had no idea how they were working. I think that if a program like that helps get people through the technical aspect until it clicks, and gives them support they need to get their feet under them, then the program could be very valuable.
Arsalan: Do you have any personal experience mentoring somebody? Or, do you have any experience with somebody mentoring you?
Jared: Both, and ongoing. I mentioned earlier when I was working desktop support at the University, I was building some applications that were aimed at some business function. One of my coworkers really understood software development and helped me out. He was about my age, so he was still pretty new in the profession. The people that we worked with in the department had been in the industry a much longer time and had a lot of different skills. They served as great role models on how to treat customers well and how to deal with frustrations. That doesn’t change. I have people who report to me on paper, but who I also go to for other things because they have some skills that I don’t have, and a different way of looking at things. We have a formal mentoring program, but mentoring happens all the time. When you have people who are struggling with something or people who are new to their career and need a little extra help, I think it’s really important to have a company with a good culture of mentoring. Everyone should be sharing to help level up everyone else all the time.
Arsalan: How do you ensure that you maintain an environment that is a good and safe place for mentoring other people? Is that something that’s organized or is it just organic?
Jared: It existed before I got here and it was really healthy, which is one of the reasons that I wanted to join the company where I’m at now. Once you have a culture of mentoring and teaching, you get more people interested in mentoring and teaching and it probably self perpetuates. There are some formal sides to it. We make sure that a new hire has a mentor are assigned whose job is to guide them through learning about the company, making connections within the company, who to talk to for help, they know who’s strong in certain areas. So, in that way, It’s kind of like an ambassadorship. They are also responsible for being there advocate if they need anything. There’s also a lot of informal mentoring as well. If you are starting from scratch and didn’t have that, I don’t know how you would build that. I think it’s important to let people know that we either succeed or fail as a team. It’s a team effort. That is something you can instill in others. Some of it is also just surrounding yourself with people who value that. I don’t know if you can make it from scratch, but you can make it better by making it a priority.
Arsalan: How do you rate your training or mentorship program on whether or not it is working out really well?
Jared: It works out well, but I think we could do a lot better. I think we do a pretty good job of helping people get their feet under them when they get started, but word constantly trying to improve. There are times when we definitely mess up. There are times when someone is struggling, but no one knows. I’d love to have a roadmap where we could say this is how we do mentoring and this is how we would know and here are the key metrics that it’s been successful. But, I just don’t know if that exists.
Arsalan: Is it organized? Is there a process when somebody comes in when they have a little bit of experience but not a deep experience? Perhaps they go this through a curriculum every day, or week, or every month when they do certain things? There’s someone assigned to them who reviews their work. Then, they graduate and get on a project? Or, is it something that’s on the side where if you start working on a project and you need help then you go to that person?
Jared: It’s sort of both. We have someone who is generally not on your project team who is formally assigned to check in on you and make sure you’re doing well. That can be really useful if there are problems on the project team. Our people work on different projects and they move from client to client. It’s good to have a person who works with them weekly or monthly to check in on them and see how they’re doing. Perhaps they get lunch with them once a month, but check in with them regularly by email. That’s valuable because it’s consistent over time. Team leads also have a responsibility to mentor people as well. There’s not a specific formal mentoring program for that. But, we do attack it from different angles. If someone is struggling then we determined on a case-by-case basis what their needs are. We provide them with the training and support that they need based on what their challenges are. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation.
Arsalan: It’s kind of tough because this is a consulting environment and people need to be billable. The time that spent on mentoring someone that’s not billable has to be built into the compensation somehow. Do you think as part of an organization that this is worth it?
Jared: Yes, and I’ll give you an example. We hire college grads that are brand-new in their career. They may have had some work experience through an internship or something else. We’re a consulting company so we like to be on-site with the clients because that’s we like to get our paychecks too. For the first three weeks. The college grads will go through a kind of boot camp with us because they’re so new. We will have senior people across the organization teaching classes, some of them technical, some of them about soft skills or professionalism. The sales team even talks about how we sell software. They go through effectively 12 hour days for the first three weeks. It really floods them with information. At the end of that, we don’t expect them to be an expert in anything, technical or not. But, we expose them to so many different concepts that when they run into something they may have seen it before and may know what questions to ask. They know our priorities well and they know how to treat the customers properly. So, we flood them with information first. Then, we nurture them as they get their feet wet. From a business perspective, it’s expensive because were pulling people off of their teams to do training classes, but it’s worth it. It doesn’t end there either. You have to learn about the organization as well. Everyone needs some mentoring, someone to check in on them as well.
Arsalan: Other companies have this type of training program as well. In your opinion, do you think that every company has a period where you have someone to hold your hand for a little bit, or do you think that your company is an outlier?
Jared: I don’t think it’s on either end of the spectrum. Even some of our competitors do a really good job of that. There are definitely companies out there that don’t. I don’t think it’s unique to our industry. I think you have some places who have that nurturing culture and other places who don’t. You can be successful even if you’re just thrown into the pit, but it’s a lot harder for you to do so.
Arsalan: Some people will succeed and some people will struggle and then eventually succeed. Do they need to struggle to the degree that they do? Maybe there’s a better way. I think what you’re describing is a better way of on boarding a new employee. Some people need more guidance than others.
Jared: Not every company has a culture of mentoring, but every company should. We set expectations within the team as well. We don’t want you to bang your head against the wall for two hours trying to figure something out. My rule of thumb is if you spend more than 15 minutes trying to figure something out without making any progress, then you need to ask someone for help. When your new and fresh out of college, you may not want to ask for help, possibly due to imposter syndrome or the fear of looking dumb. But we tell our Jr. developers that we don’t expect them to know everything. We expect them to be asking questions and if they don’t, then it’s a problem. We try to break that fear of asking for help by letting them know what our expectations are and that there is help for them.
Arsalan: One of the worst things people can do is set unrealistic expectations for themselves. You should not compare yourself to others, especially to someone who’s had more experience than you. They are skills may be similar to yours. But this is especially important for people who may be suffering from lack of self-esteem. It’s also important for those who may be on bordering new employees to make them feel valued. If you got hired, then you are good enough.
Jared: A dirty little secret in the IT world has to do with the people who are presenting at conferences. The people that get up there on the stage don’t know everything about everything. They know a lot about things that they are talking about and they may be good at those things, but they may also be bad at many other things. I did the same thing. I talk about the things that I’m really good at and I don’t talk about the things that I’m particularly bad at. We have junior people at our company who are subject matter experts in their own areas. Maybe there two or three years have been focused on one particular thing and they are better at that one thing than anyone else in the company. Compared with people who have 20 years of experience in a lot of different areas, we still know who the subject matter experts are for a particular area and it doesn’t matter if there are two year employee or 20 year employee. You’ll see that our senior people can generally solve problems faster, but that’s because they have more experience and may have run into that particular problem or something similar in the past. They know how to look at it and what questions to ask. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It just comes along with doing more stuff and learning more stuff. We’re all a team and if anyone on the team knows the answer to a problem that we can share that knowledge.
Arsalan: I want to talk to you about your idea of software development as a career. You had exposure to Econ and math and probably considered other career options. Someone who might be considering going into software development right now may have other choices available to them. What would be your advice to them concerning how you rate software development as a career option?
Jared: I think it’s a nice mix of creativity and science. If you like creating things and having those things live on after you’re done with them, then it might be a good choice for you. If you like problem-solving and puzzles then it might be a good fit for you as well. You get treated pretty well, you get compensated well, plus there are all the other benefits. It’s challenging, but at the end of the day you’ve made something. There’s something really fulfilling about that. The downside is that at least in the beginning there is a steep learning curve. One way or another, you need to get the help you need to get yourself through that until programming clicks. Find mentors to help you get started.
Arsalan: How do you find mentors? Let’s say you live in a rural area and there are no companies or places where you can readily obtain a mentor from. How do you find that mentor? Is there a place that you can go to find a mentor? Is there a way to observe somebody without physically, actually being there?
Jared: Today’s technology could definitely make that happen. There may be user groups within your community that you don’t know about. But, that’s a really good question and I don’t know the answer to it. There are a lot of good resources on the Internet. There are places like PluralSight. But, if you’re really starting out, then you may not know about those places either. I don’t know that I have an answer to that.
Arsalan: If you’re new developer or you want to be a new developer than the first thing I would suggest is that you go to MeetUp.com. Go to your location and then type “programming, technology, software,” into the search box and see what shows up. Invariably, you’ll see a few meetup groups that focus on technology. It may be different technologies. It may not be the type of technologies you’re interested in, but it may provide some basic programming experience. If you do not find one, then perhaps you could start one on your own. Over time, you can build a network by meeting one person and then another person and asking them the same questions about what you should do.
Jared: The hardest part is probably getting that first person on your network. But, once you have that first person, then you can ask them how they learned. It could grow explosively after that. MeetUp is awesome. Columbus is lucky in the number of people we have organizing events. There are probably fewer in rural parts of Ohio. Even a general computer made up might be a good place to start to find someone who knows some programming.
Arsalan: It’s also a good idea to have a good profile posted on LinkedIn. It’s very easy to add new people. Look for people you know. Look at the people that they know. And, look for people who are doing the things that you want to be doing. A lot of these people will happily accept a connection request. Once you are connected to them, you can send them a email to their inbox. You have to get started somewhere. You can learn a lot of these tips and tricks along the way.
Jared: Once you find someone that you want to meet, if you have a friend who already knows them, it’s not hard to ask your friend to make the introduction. I’ve had people help me. I had an instance, at one point where a friend of a friend of a friend spent half an hour on a phone call blocking me through how to do something. They didn’t owe me or anything. I just asked politely if I could get some help, and they volunteer their time. People are really receptive and open to connecting and sharing if you know where to find them and if you can work up the courage to ask.
Arsalan: Jared, do you hang out with a lot of people who are famous in our circles? Do you ever suffer from imposter syndrome?
Jared: I definitely did at one point. Before I started speaking at events, I definitely had moments when I felt like I was the dumbest person on the team. I think I still frequently am, but I’m not scared of it anymore. Once I started speaking I realize that other people who were speaking at the same thoughts, feelings and fears as I did. The imposter syndrome eventually went away. Once I realize that everyone else has the same challenges and the same fears, it reduced my stress levels quite a bit.
Arsalan: Let’s talk about promoting yourself. A lot of people don’t like the word self promotion. But, let’s say I am a new developer or an aspiring developer, and I got in touch with some other developers and formed the network. Perhaps I start working on projects whether it’s sample projects, or open source or something. Now, I’m coding. Do you think it would be a good idea for me to publicize what I’m doing? Should I promote myself and let people know what I’m working on?
Jared: I don’t think of it in terms of promotion. I think of it in terms of sharing your strengths. It’s never a bad thing to talk about successes either. You do want to come off as genuine. You don’t want to come off as someone who is just marketing themselves. I see nothing wrong with celebrating your successes or sharing your strengths, especially if you’re helping others in the process. Letting people know that you have certain strengths and that they can come to you is also valuable. The key is to be genuine and to do things that help other people to be better off as well.
Arsalan: How do you keep your skills up today? I know that’s a constant problem with me and I’m sure it’s also a problem with you.
Jared: My joking answer to that is that I commit to talk at user groups and conferences and then I have deadlines to learn new things. There’s a little truth to that. There’s an infinite breadth you of technologies that are out there. You’re not going to be an expert in all of them. So, I do a couple of things. The areas of client side services and web development is an area that I really interested in and where I want my strengths to be. I read a lot. I listen to some podcasts. I prototype and build a lot of old things. I’m interested in this new thing and I spent a little bit of time getting exposure to it. One of the reasons why I like podcasts is because I can get exposure to a lot of different trends. I know what’s going on and I know where to get started if I need to. I’d like to think that if someone comes to me with a problem that I’ve never tackled before that I will have had enough exposure that I can figure out where to start. In the client side of things, I spend a lot of time building and that’s what I give talks on. Having to teach others helps reinforce things in me. I need to really understand them before I can teach them. People asked tough questions and I figure the answers out. That’s what help keeps my specialty sharp. You’re never going to be an expert in all of them so I just try to sample them here and there.
Arsalan: You mentioned that you listen to podcasts. Do you have any podcast that you want to recommend to people?
Jared: There are quite a few that I could recommend although they are not all technical. I like .Net Rocks! I also listen to podcasts that aren’t technology. I listen to news as well. If there’s a blog that you follow then you might be interested in their podcast as well if they have one.
Arsalan: Okay, let’s talk about blogs. What are the blogs that you follow?
Arsalan: What do you think about screencasts or conference videos? Some people are curating this conference videos like Reuven Lerner and I wanted to know if you thought these were valuable resources for people?
Jared: I have two parts to this answer. I think they are very valuable to a lot of people. We use Plural Sight and a lot of people on our team have Plural Sight subscriptions. They are super valuable to a lot of people, but they are not particularly valuable to me. If they have a transcript, I’d much rather read the transcript. Video content for me is not great. I always prefer to read the blog or the transcript of something. But, I think I’m probably an outlier because everyone else I’ve talked to love them. That might also just be my preference of reading over watching.
Arsalan: Is that because you read them? I’m wondering if you doing control of searches.
Jared: No, I read through a lot of technical blogs and samples. I also follow along. But, I think I can parse the content faster. Maybe it’s easier for me to follow along inside Video CD or something else. I think it’s just my preferred learning style, more than any of the content. I really enjoy conference talks when I’m there and I’m more physically engaged when I’m in the room rather than when I’m watching a recorded version of it later.
Arsalan: You’re involved in conference organizations as well. How did you get involved in organizing conferences?
Jared: The first conference that I got involved in was a Cloud conference. I was volunteering at mobile conference. As for how I started volunteering, I think I was just a friend of a friend who needed help. I was talking to some of the other volunteers and discovered there were a lot of cloud computing things coming out. We were both interested in this and thought that we should start a conference. We were really lucky. Brian Prince who is the president of Code National volunteered some of his time to advise us on how to get started. So, someone who knew how things worked gave us a lot of input. We were interested in a particular technology and decided to do this. So it was more like a couple of people who shared interest and being at the right place at the right time. So it was a couple of people who shared interests and being at the right place at the right time. Once you build up skills like anything else, the skills you learn in organizing events you can offer to provide those skills to other people and help them out. The next thing you know I’m involved in two or three different conferences. So it was a little bit of luck in the beginning and as I gained experience I was willing to share that.
Arsalan: Do you think that organizing conferences and becoming involved in conferences is reserved only for people who have 10 to 20 years of experience, or more? Or, is it something that new developers can also aspire toward?
Jared: You don’t have to have 20 years of experience to be qualified to talk about a particular subject. There are a lot of emerging things. They are some emerging technologies that I talk about. These are things that no one has any real experience with yet. I spent a lot of time reading about them and playing with them in a sandbox environment, but no one has shipped them in the wild yet. I don’t think it’s reserved for those who have been around for a long time and are seasoned. Maybe they are the ones who are low more comfortable on stage, but I have seen people who are in the first year of their career travel to conferences and give talks. I do think there’s a lot of fear. It’s really intimidating. The first time you’re in front of a group of people or even friends. I don’t think there’s anything stopping it, but I do think there’s a little bit of fear that you have to get over.
Arsalan: I think the only way to get over that fear is to do it again and again and again. After a while it just becomes one of the things that you do.
Jared: It is a skill and you build it, but every time you take it to the next level, the fear kicks in. I’ve done conference talks with a few hundred people and I love it now. Three years ago at Code Mash. They have these talks that are at dinner and you sit in front of 1500 people. I had been doing talks, and I think I spoke that year at Code Mash. I got on stage and I was physically shaking because it was the biggest room I had ever spoken in and I was in front of the huge mass of people. It was terrifying. A user group of 20 people is now no stress whatsoever.
Arsalan: Okay, we are coming to the end of our show and I want to ask you a few quick questions. What’s the best advice you can give to software shops, people who are in positions to hire people, organizations, managers, and so on? If they want to hire new developers, what’s your best advice to them?
Jared: Don’t just hire purely on technical ability because so much of what we do is interpersonal and how we work with each other. Hire people who are going to be good to work with who have some of the social skills or can learn them. They might be shy at first but so much of what we do is non-technical. It’s about helping people solve problems and you need people who can think in those terms. Don’t hire for the skills that they have now. Hire for the skills that they can grow into.
Arsalan: That is really good advice. Aptitude is important here. What’s your best advice for the new developer or the inspiring developer?
Jared: Learn as much as you can. Expose yourself to as many technologies as possible. If you can, go to user groups for things that you don’t work in so that you can learn. You won’t be an expert but you’ll have a good solid foundation of what’s possible and what’s out there. Meet as many people as possible and build your network. Don’t be afraid of asking for help when you need it. Even if it’s someone you don’t know real well, people are surprisingly willing to help, especially when you’re first starting out.
Arsalan: There are a lot of people who are seeking junior people to help out and we don’t have a way of reaching out to them. One of the messages of this podcast is that it is okay to reach out. It’s also okay for senior developers to reach out to newbies and new developers. We have a deep need in this community to reach out across different technologies. What are you working on these days? Is there anything that you’d like to tell us about?
Arsalan: The key take away advice is that software engineering or software development is a great career choice for new people. We should build this nurturing atmosphere where new people can come in and thrive and they’re not left behind.
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- Twitter: @Jaredthenerd 0:38
- Dice 12:01
- PluralSight 45:27
- MeetUp 45:47
- .Net Rocks! Blog 54:26
- Quirks Mode Blog 55:00
- Chrome Blog 55:11
- Edge Blog 55:12
- Firefox Blog 55:12
- Quirks Mode/CSS Hacks 55:19
- Scott Hanselman Blog 55:25
- CloudDevelop 57:55
- Code Mash 1:01:15
- Jaredthenerd.com 106:15
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