Episode 62 – Kelly Karsnia and the power of determination

Kelly Karsnia with Mentoring Developers co-host, Sara Ines Calderone

It’s hard to really understand what it’s like to pull grunt work until your fingers mentally bleed (or physically, in some fields) and work your way up the corporate ladder one tiny step at a time until you reach your destination. Yet, if you’ve been there and have gone through every inch of every step yourself, you understand this. It’s not magical. It’s work. In fact, it’s hard work, very hard work. Yet, our next guest has been there. Come push or pull, Kelly Karsnia has climbed that ladder and is here to tell you her story.

Kelly began her career as a customer service representative. She spent time in a call center, seated behind one of a gazillion cubicles answering call after call in technical customer service for a travel and transportation company. While many people in this line of work are happy moving up the corporate ladder to become a call center manager or more, Kelly saw a different path for herself.

Kelly had a strong desire tugging at her heart strings and beckoning her toward the path of software development and the world of technology. Despite having little knowledge in the field, when Kelly saw the possibility of an opportunity open, she jumped and has never looked back or been happier. Now she’s here to tell you how she reached her destination and the struggles she faced along the way. Listen in to episode 62 to hear the interview between special guest Kelly Karsnia and Mentoring Developers co-host, Sara Ines Calderone.

Kelly’s Bio:

Kelly Karsnia is a self-taught mobile developer (iOS and Android), Director of Engineering, and an advocate for underrepresented groups in tech who lives in Austin, Texas. She works with Women Who Code Austin, Lesbians Who Tech Austin and Austin Women in Technology. She has a cute cat named Piper, loves woodworking and kayaking.

Say hello to Kelly on Twitter!

Episode Highlights and Show Notes:

Sara: Hello. My name is Sara Ines Calderon and this is Mentoring Developers. Today, I’m here with Kelly Karsnia, my friend, and also an amazing developer. She is a self-taught mobile engineer and she is here with us today to talk about her career. Thank you so much for joining us, Kelly.

Kelly: Sara, thank you. You are so sweet. Sara is amazing as well and I am delighted to be here with you.

Sara: Thanks so much. I just wanted to start off by asking you to tell us a little about yourself. I met you, was it last year?

Kelly: Yes.

Sara: It seems a lot longer than that. I met you last year at the Google I/O event in Austin, but then we met again at the Women Who Code at Austin Slack and then we became friends because you are helping me with an iOS issue that I was having with Phone Gap. Then, we became friends in real life and that’s why I feel like I’ve known you forever. So, tell us a little about yourself. I know you’re involved with a few organizations, not just Women Who Code Austin. I want to hear all about how you got into software development.

Kelly: My name is Kelly Karsnia. I’m the director of engineering at a company called Tabbed Out. It’s a mature startup here in Austin. As Sara said, I am on the board for Women Who Code Austin. I’m on the board for Lesbians Who Tech Austin. I’m also on the advisory board for Austin Women in Technology. I’m also a kayaking and woodworking enthusiast.

Sara: I’ve seen the woodworking and it’s pretty impressive for the listeners out there who don’t have a visual. That’s awesome. I’m super impressed that you keep up with all of those organizations. I’m impressed because I also know you in real life, but I think everyone who is listening will also be impressed. I hope you guys are ready.

Sara: Kelly has a really great story. She’s one of those people who, if we believe in the term “pull your self up by your bootstraps,” she’s definitely one of those folks. So, I want to hear more about how you parlayed one experience after another into your current role as Dir. of Engineering.

Kelly: I started in a call center for a social science research firm. We were doing transit and travel studies for departments of transportation and councils of government across the country. It was very low-level work, but I saw the direction in the company and started to go with it and worked my way up to corporate. At corporate, I was working in verification and working on some more dead level projects that we had and saw that the company was ramping up their IT department in the direction that I was going. I decided that was the direction I wanted to go in. I didn’t have the qualifications. My degree is in CS. I have my Associates degree in computer aided drafting and design, but I’ll tell you this, I’ve never once used it.

Kelly: So, I saw this new direction and I was fascinated by it. So, I started applying for every IT job that my company was posting at the time. The last one that I applied for, the current director of IT who had formerly been the director of the call center that I had worked at called me into her office. She asked me if I knew anyone for that position. I answered yes, me. She laughed and said you’re not going to give up, are you? I said no, absolutely not.

Kelly: From there, she created this technician position within IT so that I could be a liaison between the people that we had just brought in and IT and the rest of the company since it’s very highly specialized. There is a lot of terminology lingo and different aspects that I already knew about and could help relay to the new team. So we started there.

Kelly: As we went along, we did not have any QA for any of the software that we were creating. SO, I talked to her and took it upon myself to implement an entire QA structure for software within the company.

Sara: I think this is really interesting because I think it’s going to come up again and it’s really important for listeners who are probably also trying to advance in their careers. What words do you use? What is the conversation like when you see an opportunity and you notice there is a need and you want to address it? How do you say why not me?  What’s the verbiage that you use to have that conversation?

Kelly: When you see those opportunities and you see the need, read up on what it is you want to implement before you go and talk to anyone. You don’t have to be an expert, but make sure that you can speak intelligently on it because if you were the expert then you would already be in that role. Show them that you have been learning about these things and that you want to learn more. Show them that you were actually capable of doing those things. Go in and be confident. Then go in and have the conversation of “hey, we don’t have anyone specifically in charge of this thing. Here’s why we need it, and how to implement it, and I’m the person for this because I’m the one who’s having a conversation with you that no one else has.” To that aspect, you could say that about anything. At the same time, if you have the sincerity and conviction, it really works for you in a lot of ways.

Kelly: I’ve been called an “atta boy” before. I don’t agree with that at all. I think it’s more of an enthusiasm and a passion for learning and always doing better.

Sara: That’s cool.

Kelly: So, when you are able to show people that, and obviously you can’t do it right off the bat and roll into a new position and a week later say that you want to be director of engineering, that’s typically not going to fly. But, do the best that you can and look for those opportunities where you can be the best fit possible.

Sara: That’s really good advice. Thank you so much. I didn’t want to interrupt your story. You implemented QA from scratch at this research company.

Kelly: Right. It was a lot of learning and research on my own time. It was very time-consuming. However, it was very worth it. I really enjoyed it. It was something that I have really never thought about before. Once I really started getting into it. It fascinated me and once I started, it allowed me to see how our technology was working and really be able to give solid inputs because I had a lot of knowledge in the areas of the software that we were building. So, I really started breaking things.

Sara: In the existing infrastructure.

Kelly: In the in existing infrastructure and as a new QA. I’m not going to lie, I made some new developers cry. I’m not very proud of that. I could’ve done better on that, but that also taught me a very important learning aspect of how to interact with people. You catch more flies with honey, but not all the time. So, I was kind of hard on the developers, to say the least, and I started thinking that maybe it would be better for me to learn how to do these things myself. That’s because they didn’t always have the answers that I wanted to hear when things would break.

Sara: Do you mean like why is this broken? It’s the eternal question.

Kelly: Yes. As an engineer, I now realize that I could’ve done things better. I was talking with my developers and was like I want to understand but I know that you can’t always tell me. I really want to learn. So they set me up with some of our codes that I could play around and learn with on my own time. I didn’t even have my own environment. So I was just playing with codes and going through them and figuring out how everything worked together and using Stack Overflow and Google. I would modify something and it would break. Then I would go and figure out why it broke and how it was fixed.

Kelly: When I was doing that, I was fascinated by it, and I fell in love with writing code. Code to me is a giant puzzle and I played that in a lot of things in my life. Figuring out the puzzle and how it fits together and being able to modify the puzzle yourself is something very special to me. It gave me a new outlook on life and it also gave me a new direction in life on where I wanted to go. So that was really amazing, but I will say that there are limitations when you are learning. For example, I started out with Android because I couldn’t afford a Mac. Yet, Android allowed me to learn the basics of how we were doing mobile development.

Sara: So, you were working at this research company and you were talking to the developers and you were doing QA and decided that it would be interesting and worthwhile for you to learn how to write code. Then, you didn’t have a Mac, so you decided to start with Android. So, they were doing mobile apps? Were you doing QA for mobile apps?

Kelly: Correct. We were just starting to foray into the mobile app world. This was about seven years ago when the government research sector was a little more behind the times. So, it was kind of a tough sell.

Sara: Wow. So then you started doing Android development, which is awesome. So, what did you do then? You started doing Android, but we know that you’re a bilingual developer. What happened after you started learning Android development?

Kelly: I started working on Android and I reached a point with a simpler survey application that was pre-built out that I had been playing with and learning. We needed a modification on that. So, I went to my director who gave me my shots and believed in me and allowed me to do the QA and all the stuff. She knew that I was learning on my own. I went inside and said that we don’t need to hire a third party. I can do this. So she agreed. She trusted me and believed in me. She said that if at any point, I feel that I can’t do this, tell her and they would get someone else. Project deadlines are very important. There’s ego and then there is the reality. You always have to keep in line with reality and don’t think back because it will look bad on you if you try. Always be realistic with what you can do and what you can’t especially when you are self-taught. That’s very important.

Kelly: So, I had two weeks, and I made all of the modifications. It was the first time that I had ever seen my code go into production.

Sara: Because you QA’d it to?

Kelly: Actually, yes they did. Don’t ever do that, but they did have me QA my own code. I did ask some other devs to check it for me as well. They did, but it was more of a walking through and making sure that nothing in the service level was broken.

Sara: Wow.

Kelly: There is still a very special place in my heart for transit and travel. So from there, I expressed interest in learning iOS. They agreed and asked what I needed. They went out that day and bought me a math book. They told me that when I got up to speed on that and started feeling comfortable with it, to let them know.

Sara: That was still on your own time though?

Kelly: Yes, it was still on my own time. I had some company time to do it while I was doing QA and more Android code. It was vicious, but I loved it. I knew that the opportunity was not once-in-a-lifetime but at that time, was what I wanted. So, I put my nose to the grind again and within four months. I went to them, we were scoping something else, and I asked for my first shot at this. I built my first iOS app scratch along with an Android app from scratch at the same time.

Sara: Wow.

Kelly: It was pretty intense with the transit and travel industry making these apps, there are a lot of location service aspects involved. There are very calculated things that you have to do to be in compliance with what departments of transportation and councils of government consider acceptable data. So I was really focused on, not just from a QA aspect, but also from a data aspect, of understanding this industry on how to collect that data. They did some really interesting things that I had to explain to the Apple store, but at the end of the day they ended up being okay with it.

Sara: Wow. That’s awesome. So, then you became a fully-fledged mobile engineer.

Kelly: Yes, I was hooked at that point. It was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but the payoff and the way that I felt after each of these was more than worth it.

Sara: Yes. So, then you’d did do different types of contract work if I recall correctly. You worked at different companies after this place, all in mobile development, before you landed in your current position. So, do you want to tell me a little about how that went for you and how you mentored or were mentored along the way?

Kelly: Sure. Mentorship played a role in my career from the aforementioned director who gave me my shot, Miss Saundra. She was the director of IT. She had actually migrated from the director of the call center to director of IT without knowing much about IT. She was a very good director. She was always my cheerleader. She showed me that as long as I worked hard and acted with ambition, I could achieve goals that seemed far-fetched and almost fantasy. This was really great for my start in IT and I’ve carried it throughout my entire career. So, that was always very special to me. All it takes is one person.

Kelly: I’ve had mentors along the way, but we’re still in touch. Every mentor that I’ve had, I am still in touch with. They’ve boosted me to where I am now and that is invaluable.

Sara: That is so cool.

Kelly: You never forget those people.

Sara: Yeah, definitely. So, tell me a little bit about how you found these organizations that you’re involved in like Women Who Code Austin, Lesbians Who Tech Austin, and Austin Women in Technology and how those are opportunities for you to either continue to be mentored or for you to mentor others, and how you think that is important.

Kelly: Well, as you said, I initially met you at Google I/O Extended. Sara gave me her card and we were both front and center and ready to go.

Sara: I was there with Women Who Code Austin. That’s how I got there.

Kelly: I was there for my current company. They got me in and I was front and center and ready to go and I was actually getting ready to do my first live tweeting session. I was super excited. I had just gotten into Twitter and I was ready and that I meet this amazing woman, Sara, who gives me her card. And I was like oh wow, Women Who Code.

Kelly: We go through the thing and we touched base a little bit after, but were all amped up from Android and Google. I mentioned to one of my buddies at Lesbians Who Tech that I had met Sara and that I thought she was amazing. You and I got back in touch.

Sara: You were mentoring me and iOS on Slack. Why is this broken?

Kelly: It was an experience, I will say. Never be afraid to ask for help because you never know who’s going to be your salvation and it was great because Sara and I talked through this. I don’t know if I was the ultimate solution, but I gave advice on different things and I sent articles and documentation just to make sure. This probably didn’t take more than over the course of three days. It was like two hours of my time spread out.

Sara: From my perspective, honestly, even you just saying that that had happened to you before made me feel that I wasn’t stupid.

Kelly: then we were making jokes with each other about different aspects of iOS that could be better.

Sara: Now, I’m a mobile developer.

Kelly: This girl’s amazing; I mean I’m in the presence of greatness now. I am basking in this glow coming from her right now.

Sara: So, we met at Google I/O and then we were talking about Lesbians Who Tech here in Austin.

Kelly: At that time, I was just going to different meet ups and happy hours. I started being around all of these amazing women in tech who were incredibly inspirational to me with who they are and what they do to boost women in tech as a whole. So, I decided that I wanted to join these amazing women and I started really getting involved with these organizations that go beyond meet ups and happy hours. I was finding ways where I could be a benefit as a mobile developer because there’s so few of us, to begin with, and there’s even fewer between the Android and iOS specialized areas.

Kelly: So, I dug in and started to talk to more people and Sara and I reconnected and I believe you asked me if I wanted to, was it Country Girls Can Code?

Sara: probably, yeah. So, we had an event. It’s not my event Women Who Code works with women, but through Women Who Code and yoga I became connected with a really cool group here in Austin. Techs4Tex organized the event during the last two years. It’s called Country Girls Can Code and they bring rural high school girls from parts of East, Central, and South Texas to Manor, Texas for a day of coding. So, I was volunteered to help organize this event and it’s always really great to see the young ladies. It was the first time that they’ve ever built a whole thing. Most of the time they would’ve done a bit from Minecraft or a little bit of this and that but I’ve never built anything like this from scratch. So, that’s always cool.

Sara: This year we had them all make GitHub accounts and they pushed up all their code and we showed them how to use the command line a.k.a. we did the command line for them and they watched. I wish somebody would’ve done that for me.

Kelly: A.k.a., we all googled syntax, or at least I did.

Sara: Why is it broken? But yeah, so through Women Who Code and Udemy, I won a scholarship to do an iOS class. So I started doing an iOS class and my first app was a Hello World app. I thought this is a really cool tutorial. So, I asked Kelly if she wanted to teach the children iOS. So, long story short, Kelly taught the children the iOS tutorial.

Kelly: So, I led the tutorial and sorrow kept me and the young ladies on task and on a timeline because I wanted to help everybody. Sometimes, you just gotta get up there and lead.

Sara: There were 50 of them there, by the way.

Kelly: There were 52.

Sara: 52 high school girls. That’s a lot of girls.

Kelly: One of my favorite stories was this. After we got through the tutorials, there was an HTML component for the web that they were learning; we split them up into two groups. Half of them were doing HTML and CSS, and half of them were with me. Then, they switched with me and Sara. We got through that and then we allowed them enough time to come back and ask questions and finish up.

Kelly: One of these young ladies was having a tough time when she came back for the Q and A. I’ll never forget her face or the frustration on it. She said, “My code is failing, just like I am.” So, I said, “No, absolutely not. If I run code for 20 minutes and do not fail at something, I’d be like what is going on here. Xcode is not this nice to me ever.” So, is really special for me to be able to connect with her and she laughed and was like “really?” One thing that was also cool was during both of the tutorials that I did. There were build issues that I was able to highlight and show them how to work through. One of the most maddening parts of being able to teach yourself is getting frustrated with IDEs and product set up, and how to actually work through those and do all that. You look around you all the time at these companies and you don’t see the struggle on everyone’s face.

Sara: Sure.

Kelly: So, it’s important to make this struggle apparent and I feel that’s important because a part of mentoring is allowing people to understand that there are going to be frustrations and the frustrations that you have are along the lines of the same frustrations that they have. It’s okay because you can work Passed this. If you can get through this, you can get through anything.

Sara: Sure.

Kelly: That was something that was ingrained in me from the start. Keep fighting and if you don’t give up on yourself that no one else can give up on you. I mean they can, but you’ll keep going because you never gave up on yourself. There are pitfalls. There is quicksand that you’re going to hit. There’s all that but never stop. Allow yourself to have some kind of mentorship ability and even when you don’t have it, work your way up there. Even if you think that you’re not going to be a good mentor, you will probably surprise yourself.

Kelly: I had a company once told me that I wasn’t good for a job because I only had three faces.

Sara: That’s because they were judging the facial expressions you made.

Kelly: Right. They were judging the faces that I made.

Sara: Man, that’s crazy. That’s very professional. So that’s nice.

Kelly: Those were not any of my mentors.

Kelly: I think that’s a really great thing to highlight and I think you and I had conversations about this too. If you don’t decide at some point that you are going to make this happen, you are going to be a developer, you are going to be a QA, or whatever it is you are going to be, I think that inspires even mentors to take confidence in you. So, obviously, you can’t just get a mentor by conjuring one up. You have to keep working even if you don’t have those mentors in place and kind of mentor yourself or find mentors through organizations. When I met you, when we really started communicating on Slack, I was like “why is Phone Gap the worst thing ever? Will someone help me?” For those who were wondering, the answer to my problems was that it wasn’t broken in Xcode only in Phone Gap.

Kelly: Exactly, because we talked about that. You were like no, it’s just broken here.

Sara: It’s not actually broken.

Kelly: You know what; I don’t have the most robust experience in Phone Gap. But, what I was able to do since I’m self-taught and know all this; I hit Stack Overflow and Google. I researched all the knowledge that I do already have it and was able to piece some things together and send it over to you. I will say this, in terms of being an unexpected mentor and not even knowing it, I had been in the Women Who Code Slack for maybe a month or two and I had been waiting for someone to just ask a question about mobile. Finally, Sara asked the question and I’m like “I’m right here. I’m right here. What do you need?”

Sara: That is so funny.

Kelly: Will work through this together. I’m just so happy that there’s some solidarity here and something that I can provide value in because that makes me feel good as a person to spread the knowledge of what I’ve learned over time and to allow other people to understand that there are struggles that we all go through. Also, they are not the only one struggling. There are other people who have been there before them.

Sara: So, thank you. I love that. You tell the best stories. One of the things that I want to talk about now is, and this is something that we were talking about earlier, though not on the podcast, that I volunteer a lot of my time to Women Who Code Austin.

Kelly: Yes you do and thank you for that.

Sara: But you also volunteer a lot of time to Women Who Code Austin, Austin Women of Technology, and to Lesbians Who Tech Austin. What is the value of mentorship? I mean, these are advocacy organizations in one definition of what they do. So, how do you feel mentorship can change technology and change the space for women, for the LGBTQ community for people who are “underrepresented” in technology? I think, fundamentally, that it can because otherwise, we wouldn’t be volunteering all this time.

Kelly: Yeah, I agree with that. How I feel about that is that there is so much solidarity when you’re mentoring and when you’re being mentored because you have someone who is literally there and you are not alone. Whether you are there for someone else or someone else is there for you, you have at least one person either way. Neither of you is alone in that. You see this community as a whole where we are all there for each other and we all have solidarity with each other. So, when you’re having your loneliest day or that moment when your code is broken and you don’t know why, or, you are that project manager and nothing is going as well as you thought you have a community around you or people who you can talk to about this. That’s why we are mentors and mentees.

Kelly: This is the important aspect. You don’t just celebrate when something goes right. You talk to people when things go right and celebrate it. You talk to people when things go wrong and when you fix it, you can celebrate together. Mentoring not only helped me to become the person who I am today through being continually mentored, but it also helped me in furthering myself through mentoring others. When you are mentoring others, you get a much better grasp of the field around you and the people coming into your field, which is monumental.

Sara: Yeah, that makes sense.

Kelly: Right now there is a director hiring junior developers. I don’t necessarily look for people who know the lingo. I look for people who have the will to learn. I am looking for the people who have something to offer who I can work with. I am looking for the people who have the ability to just get after it and better themselves. That’s important to me because when I mentor, I see that and I know that from being mentored that is important.

Kelly: I wouldn’t be where I am today if my mentors thought because I didn’t know everything, every acronym, every single piece of tech jargon out there, that I wasn’t worthy of the job. So, that really changed me and it also allowed me to get a better understanding of not just coworkers or people in my field but friends, family, coworkers, and everyone in between. You start looking at things differently because you experience different things while working with people hearing other people’s experiences and sharing yours. I never thought I’d be on this podcast speaking intelligently about this or that anyone would care.

Sara: Yeah, they care.

Kelly: Thank you, Sara. It means the world to me. I hope you can tell that even through this podcast, the way that Sara and I lift each other up. This is not fake. This is genuine.

Sara: This is totally real.

Kelly: This is what we do with each other as friends.

Sara: It is way too late on a Tuesday to be lying.

Kelly: It is. It is way too late on a Tuesday to be lying. It’s been a long day for both of us, but we’re here and we’re doing this because we care about each other and we care about the community. It brings so much solidarity and understanding to the community. I’ll say that mentoring in general. The side you’re on doesn’t matter. It will make you a better person as long as the person you were working with on both sides of the fence is someone who is accepting of feedback and also the way that things are working around you. I’ve talked a lot about my first mentor, Saundra. I had lunch with her the other day and she still lifted me up.

Sara: That’s cool.

Kelly: I really believe in people.

Sara: Sure.

Kelly: That’s what we were able to provide to each other. There’s also knowledge transfer and there’s also teaching each other and ensuring that we all know that we can do this. We know that we can do this because we have each other’s backs. It is really vital to the industry because otherwise, you’re going to feel very alone. When I first began teaching myself how to write code, even when I began learning things in the made-up tech position, it was very intimidating, but I had people who surrounded me that reassured me. I taught them things about the company and they taught me things about tech. They didn’t treat me any different just because I didn’t know SQL at the time.

Kelly: We all have to start somewhere and I firmly believe that college is great, but it’s not for everyone. It wasn’t for me and my mentors understood that. That’s something that I tried to pass along when I come across women on an almost mentees basis who have not gone to school for CS or who have but don’t know where they want to go. I try to help them find what they actually want to do.

Sara: That’s so interesting to be in a position where you are talking to CS majors and you’re like it doesn’t matter because they don’t teach what you need to know in college.

Kelly: Right. So, all of those tutorials that you followed in all of those things; you’re going to get hit hard with curveballs left and right. You’re going to get handed code sets that don’t make any sense. You’re going to get handed feature changes that you will realize, once you look at even your own code set, that your code set doesn’t make sense. Programming and tech, in general, are tough pills to swallow sometimes. As long as you can have your community around you and you can have your base and these people who you can go to and you can be that person for other people, it’s invaluable.

Kelly: I will say this, though, I love going to my mentors, and I love talking to them, I still go to them for things occasionally. I talked to one of them several times a week. He’s a very good friend. He’s a mentor who taught me a lot about tax but also taught me how to breathe in tech. He taught me how to take a break and walk away and move around and to try to forget about it for a moment. That was also monumental. So, I talked to him quite a bit and he still helps me be able to do those things and he helps me to pass that knowledge on to other people. Sometimes you’ve just got to get away. Sometimes the fix will be right in front of you. I would literally dream of fixes before. I’m not going to lie. I’ve gotten up at 3 AM after a dream. I fixed it and it worked.

Kelly: So, a mentor is not just about how to write code. A mentor is how you handle the aspects around it. Hopefully, it’s not just going to be one mentor. Hopefully, you will find several. Then, hopefully, you will find several other people who you can be a mentor for in their life. The people who I’ve mentored in my life and the people, who I continue to mentor, continue to change my life in these positive ways. Like I’ve said before, they give me different outlooks on things.

Sara: That’s awesome. I think we’re going to wrap it up here because it’s Tuesday night and it’s late in the night.

Kelly: Yes, it is taco Tuesday.

Sara: We have both had long days, but I do want to leave our listeners with some more of your knowledge. So, I want to ask two questions, but it’s the same question. What two tips would you have for someone who is trying to be mentored or trying to learn the software? What two tips would you have for someone who’s trying to groom or mentor or bring people up in technology?

Kelly: For someone who’s trying to learn, find out what technical resources you have within your community and if you can’t make it to these things, find the Women Who Code Slack team where you can jump on and get on their even if you have zero tech experience, but you want to get into tech. Find resources like that out there.

Kelly: Obviously, if you’re going into tech, you’re going to have access to the Internet at some point. If you’re going to try to Google things, Google, the city you’re in. If you’re a woman, try to Google Women Who Code in your city and hit them up. Even if you’re not in a city that has that, I would recommend hitting up the Women Who Code Austin Slack team because it is seriously the most amazing resource for women in tech as a whole that I have ever come across. It is amazing. That’s not me doing shameless self-promotion. It really is legitimate.

Kelly: Find your community. Find what you like to do. Go to meet ups. Talk to people. Find the person who you would like to be mentored by because there are different personalities out there and there are different ways that people learn. Everyone has some learning disabilities. There are certain ways that I learned and there are certain ways that I don’t. So, full disclosure. I have adult ADD and adult ADHD and a tendency towards dyslexia. So, I have people who understand these things about me. It allows them to tailor things to my specific criteria when they’re talking with me.

Sara: it’s as though they want you to be successful.

Kelly: Yes, exactly. See, I couldn’t even find the words for that and Sara came right in because she knows because little does she know that she’s one of my mentors. So there’s that, and also pick your battles with the mentor because it’s going to be frustrating. There are going to be times when you want to cry and there are going to be times when you want to scream.

Sara: Yeah, that’s a good one. Try to be as open as you can.

Kelly: Yeah, try to be as open as you can about what’s going on. Talk to them because they are people too. This is why it’s important to pick a mentor who is good for you and who can work at your level. Someone can be the most brilliant Python developer, but if they can’t relate to you on your level, you’re not going to write very good Python because you’re going to feel like you have to venture up to them. That’s not okay and that’s not acceptable as a mentor. A mentor should always be able to speak to you on your level and if they can’t, please find a new mentor.

Kelly: Be open but understand that the mentors that you pick, a mentor should not be singling you out against your will, I’ve seen that happen before and it’s totally weird and uncomfortable, be open and honest and understand that your mentors are there to help you. If you are feeling frustrated, communicate that with them and they will help you through it.

Sara: Yeah, be nice and respectful and professional.

Kelly: Yes.

Sara: So, if you are a mentor, and I know that you are a mentor and not just to the children because you were at a hack-a-thon this last weekend and you’ve been a judge at hacker funds, what is your advice to people who are mentoring?

Kelly: This will be everything that I’ve said on the other side of the fence about what being a mentor should be. Be understanding with your mentees. They don’t know everything that’s why you are there to help them. Also, don’t be opposed to learning from your mentees because I have learned from my mentees very valuable points that I didn’t realize or didn’t know how to work with people. Be open. Be understanding. Treat them with tender loving care because we’ve all been there before and we all know how it feels. Explain what acronyms are.

Sara: Yeah, that’s really good practical advice.

Kelly: It really is.

Sara: I just have to say for everyone earlier who doesn’t know what an IDE is, it’s an integrated development environment, a.k.a. a program. It’s like Visual Studio code, Sublime, or Atom, Xcode.

Kelly: Explain the difference between a text editor and an IDE.

Sara: I agree with you. I love that because when I started working, I was like “I’m so stupid. What’s a CLI?”

Kelly: Also, if you’re just throwing words out there common to the industry, like Jenkins. The first time that I ever heard of Jenkins, I had no clue what it was.

Sara: Well, that makes sense because when I talk to people I always ask if they know what that is. If they say no then I say that’s okay because when I first started. I didn’t know what it was either and then I explain it. It’s just faster that way.

Kelly: Yes, just be careful in your explanations. Allow them to feel that the information that they get from you is digestible.

Sara: Are there any closing thoughts? I think we’re going to wrap up here, but I really appreciate it. Thanks for being on Mentoring Developers, Kelly. You’re the best.

Kelly: Yes, Sara. I would like to close with everyone out there, be awesome. Each and every one of us is doing this. If you’re doing this, you’re awesome. You want to be at that next level. Keep pushing added. The only limitation that you have in life, not the only but a major limitation that you can have in coding is thinking that you can’t. Always push for the next and never plateau. You can always be more awesome than you are. You can plateau for a little bit, but don’t forget to be awesome and don’t forget to be yourself. It’s going to be frustrating and it’s going to be hard but, I’m seriously going to say this from the bottom of my heart, I may not know any of you, but I’m proud of each and every one of you.

Sara: She totally means it. I know her.

Kelly: I’m not going to tear up right now.

Sara: No, she’s not going to tear up.

Kelly: I hope that I’ve been as amazing as Sara, and Sara I would like to thank you for having me on the podcast. You are an inspiration to me and you are one of my mentors, and this means a lot. High-five, people!

Sara: If you want to follow, Kelly, because she’s amazing, on social media, her handle is…

Kelly: @therockynash on Twitter and Rocky Nash on Facebook. You can’t miss me. I’m wearing a ‘Bring A Lesbian to Work Day’ shirt for my profile picture for Facebook.

Sara: That’s a really good picture. I know that picture.

Kelly: Sara took that picture.

Sara: And if you want to follow Mentoring Developers, I think its @MentoringDevs on Twitter. Don’t forget to subscribe to us on iTunes, and you can share us with any newbies that you may know. You can reach out to me if you know someone who would be interesting.  All of my social media is @sarachicad. Like I said, follow @mentoringdevs on Twitter or Mentoring Developers on Facebook. We’re going to wind this down, but we’ll talk to you again next week. Thank you!

Important Links

Thanks for Listening!

Do you have some feedback or some advice for us or our audience? Please give us a review on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher and share your thoughts.

If you found this episode useful, please go ahead and share it with your friends and family. You can also listen directly and give your feedback on the website.

You can subscribe to Mentoring Developers via iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, or Google Podcasts

Join the discussion

More from this show

Episode 96

Stan’s Bio: “Stan boasts extensive experience with Agile/Scrum since 2006, taking on roles like Agile Coach, Solution Architect, and...

Episode 95

Episode 95

[sha  Guy Royse is a software developer with more than 25 years of programming experience and has been a part of a government program to...

Episode 94

INTRO  “Richard Campbell spanned the computing industry both on the hardware and software sides, development, and operations. He was a co...

Episode 93

“Shady Selim is the first Android Software Advocate in the Middle East. He is a Leading Mobile Developer of Android. He is a Google Speaker...

Episode 92

Guy Royse is a software developer with more than 25 years of programming experience and has been a part of a government program to teach...

Episode 91

Greg started his career in data science after not getting a proper job with his Ph.D. degree in physics. He joined a Data Science bootcamp...

Recent posts