The Coding Career Handbook: Begin Book Club
Once again we had a great conversation at our second Begin Book Club meet-up with special guest star Shawn (Swyx) Wang the author of The Coding Career Handbook. This time our video/audio recording worked flawlessly which you can enjoy below or skip over the video to read the transcript.
[00:00:00] Simon MacDonald: Let’s get started and other people can join in. Welcome everyone to the second Begin Book Club everyone. We’ll add the canned applause in later. I just want to let everybody know.
[00:00:15] Please feel free to ask questions and get involved in the discussion. This is a stupid question, safe harbor, which is something that Shawn will probably tell you about winter. But please be civil to one another. We are following the architect community code of conduct. And if you are shy and you don’t want to ask a question on video.
[00:00:57] So all of his non-technical writing was put together recently in a book called The Coding Career Handbook, which is a guide from getting from junior to senior. And so now I’ll throw it over to Shawn who can introduce himself and maybe do a short reading from his book.
[00:01:15] Shawn Wang: So thanks very much, Simon. And what else am I supposed to say as an intro after you gave an intro? I guess I dunno. I think I could just go straight into the dramatic reading or something like that. Did we agree on what I would read?
[00:01:22] Simon MacDonald: You can, you can pick anything that you want from the book. It’s whatever appeals to you.
[00:01:34] Shawn Wang: Alright, so I’m going to go right on to the last chapter.
[00:01:59] So, you know, I wrote a book two years ago. Basically. I had made the sort of junior to senior transition. And then I joined AWS and then there was, there was a bit of downtime between jobs and I figured that I would just try to write down what I had thought so far and just try to pass on some advice and also try to make my first dollar online.
[00:02:20] I ended up spending two months writing this thing. It was 600 hours 50,000 words. Okay. And it was, it was just like a really interesting undertaking of just like compiling all the advice that I ever got. So it’s not just for me, it’s when like 1500 resources and links and tweets and blog posts and talks that I had found useful in my own.
[00:02:40] Career journey. So I just compiled it all into a book. It’s a book unlike other books in the sense that it’s more of a compilation than like me saying things. And I think, I think that’s very useful for some people because, and it also helps me because like, I don’t have to be the final authority and things.
[00:02:56] Anyway. So there are 40 chapters, 39 of them are straight advice, or just like, Hey here’s, here’s the typical structure of a tech career. These are things that you might want to investigate. If you haven’t heard of them. And a lot of people have not because they are new to this and they don’t have a guide or a mentor then they have then there are principles which is.
[00:03:14] You know, long-running things that you might want to always have operating there are tactics, which is a short form, things that you might want to take out on occasion and then strategies, which are ways to pick a lane to make choices and closed doors so that you open new ones. But 39 chapters, the 40th chapter is called the operating system of you.
[00:03:35] And it’s kind of the chapter that I realized if I did not write then the preceding 39 chapters were completely useless in the sense that we don’t talk a lot about self-care. We don’t talk a lot about systems of implementation. We just like to talk about new ideas and I think developers and just like knowledge info wars in general, like the new. We like anything fresh and like you know, under discussed and nuanced or anything like that.
[00:04:05] But the basics are so obvious that they don’t get discussed, but when actually they’re responsible for like 80% of. So this is about the basics. Okay. So I’ll read that those are very long intro.
[00:04:20] 'm just, just going to pick a chapter, but also I’ve done this as a longer form talk in, in a couple of other places and especially on my YouTube.
[00:04:39] So chapter 40, the operating system of you, human hardware, doesn’t differ by much. We have mostly the same bodies. We consume and exert, the same amount of energy. 70% of us suppose to have an IQ is between 85 to 115, just the 30 point difference. Therefore, this spectacular variations in human performance, we observed must be due to the software.
[00:05:01] Here’s the kicker software can be upgraded throughout this book. I’ve endeavored to give you the knowledge you need to succeed, but I’ve intentionally structured it in a non-linear fashion. The idea is that throughout your early dev career, you’ll be able to revisit different parts of this book as they become relevant.
[00:05:18] In other words, I have installed 39 new applications into your memory that you can put up and run on demand. I really hope you use them with. Tactics like utilities, you pull them up for a quick reference. We need them drop them again when you’re done strategy. So like big apps, you’ll almost constantly run them and all your data’s in them.
[00:05:34] So you take your time to choose slack or discord notion. The window Figma or sketch principles are like daemons, demons, or services. You should always have them on. They protect you from malware. They prompt you to take action. They help you to handle the thousands of inbound decisions and choices that you make.
[00:05:50] Every. But what about your underlying operating system itself, who is taking care of that? That is where your underlying habits come in. If your principles, strategies and tactics operate at the conscious level, then your habits work on your subconscious. So that, that’s kind of like the end of that intro to that chapter.
[00:06:08] And it actually has a quote from Kent Beck that says “I’m not a great programmer. I’m just a good programmer. With great habits.”
[00:06:16] Simon MacDonald: Yeah, that’s awesome. Shawn. The idea of having all of these different things that you can just plug and play like applications is a pretty powerful way of looking at things. I just worry that some of those things will get old and dusty and not started enough and I’ll need, a reminder to bring them back up to the home screen.
[00:06:32] To, you know, to kind of get things started. I’ll ask the first question so that people can get, get into things. And this is from like really early on in your book. So early on that, it might even be the first page in the first chapter and it’s oh, “code will always be the easiest part of a coding career.”
[00:06:50] The quote that you start off with. Did you purposely put the most important piece of advice in the book at the very beginning to hook people in or?
[00:07:00] Shawn Wang: Well, actually, that’s a little bit of a controversial one because some people disagree with that. I don’t know. I think you need to state something controversial and attention-grabbing upfront so that you hook them for the rest of what you’re about to say. So it isn’t necessarily like a hundred percent true or true in all contexts without qualification, but it’s catchy. And I think that it starts to establish something that perhaps, and these at the junior level, people have not given enough thought to, which is that they’re not only defined by their ability to cope.
[00:07:38] Yeah, I can just access that. Not, not just the term.
[00:07:43] Simon MacDonald: Yeah, that totally makes sense. From, my experience in a 25-year long career that that has been the most difficult thing is that objectively you can write code and you can prove that it is correct, and you can have a wealth of evidence that shows that.
[00:08:00] Convincing people that it’s the right thing to do is sometimes the hardest part of anything. So much fun. Does anybody else want to jump in here, or shall I roll along? Feel free to unmute yourself and ask a question.
[00:08:17] Shawn Wang: It can be useful sometimes to have a text chat that goes along with the video.
[00:08:23] Simon MacDonald: There is. I let people know that you know, go ahead and hit me up on, on discord if they’re okay. If they’re too shy to ask questions, but Brian seems to have unveiled it himself. So you want to get in there and ask the question.
[00:08:38] Brian Leroux: Hey Shawn, Hey. Yeah. Love the book, love what it’s doing for devs, bringing them along in their careers. Was wondering if you could chat a little bit about how you’ve applied this stuff and what you’re doing these days with temporal, I’ve been following the temporal story and it sounds pretty exciting.
[00:08:58] To open up about what that’s like and, and how things are changing there and how you’re using, you know, the lessons of coding career over a temporal.
[00:09:08] Shawn Wang: Okay. There’s a lot. That’s a very big, quick.
[00:09:10] Brian Leroux: You can do the simplest thing that works. And so it’s real. It is really fun.
[00:09:15] Shawn Wang: It’s not all some strange to me, but obviously there’s always dirty stuff on behind the scenes. But I would say. So maybe I should just recap what’s in pro is for people. That’s probably a good starting point. So temporal is depending on how you look at it, a workflow engine or a distributed application states manager essentially you use it to farm out long-running jobs, do distributed transaction.
[00:09:40] Queue out, queue up events event-driven architectures. There’s a bunch of different use cases that you could possibly apply them to, and just kind of figuring out how to pitch them because this is a general-purpose technology in much the same way as a search engine is kind of general-purpose.
[00:09:57] A time-series database, it’s a kind of general-purpose. It’s, it’s really up to you once you understand the underlying language to apply it to different use cases. And I think probably the most interesting thing about my journey into Temporal.io is how I came across this because I’m traditionally a front-end and serverless person.
[00:10:14] That was what I was working on at two Sigma Netlify and AWS. And what am I doing in a micro-service? Like I have never touched a single micro-service. I’ve not really done much in the backend and info world. Then now I talk with people who sling, Kubernetes all day long.
[00:10:29] And really, I think for me, it was part of the principles that I talk about in the book, which was that I looked at the serverless environments and I started asking myself, all right, you know, there’s like five, six different companies trying to solve the serverless thing. Begin and architect is a very good abstraction in solving them.
[00:10:47] [00:10:48] Brian Leroux: Pump our tires is totally unnecessary but appreciated.
[00:10:53] Shawn Wang: Yeah, it’s fast. Like it’s an open standard. You can deploy it to your own AWS account. Sorry. I just keep going anyway. One thing that serverless does not do well by definition almost by definition, which is like, kind of not true, but let’s just kind of roll with it as long-running jobs.
[00:11:11] And I was very impressed by Rails. Mike Perham from the Rails ecosystem because I do keep a toe in the indie hacker world. And Sidekiq is the default job runner of Rails. And Mike Perham is the maintainer and he’s a setting solo dude, just working on open source. You know it’s, not super glamorous or anything.
[00:11:32] The guy makes $2 million a year on support contracts for rails for Sidekiq $2 million for a single person. And he’d like, doesn’t market it very hard. Like people know like it’s a very good open-source thing and people know when to upgrade to like the paid thing. And like it’s, it’s really nice thing.
[00:11:47] And I, it, like, I think it really drove home for me. Like when I learned the fact that this could never happen for the front end. I think my interest in the front end died that day. But also it really helped me realize like, okay, there’s serious value in long-running jobs. And in fact, if you take a step back from the dev world and you look at tech is like an economist, might developers derive more value from being able to utilize machines.
[00:12:14] And like the, you know, the more machines that you reeled as a single dev, the more value you abstractly hold. This is not to say to front-end developers. I cannot do that date in front of the fibers. You wield a lot of machines, it’s just machines that they don’t own. So like strategy-wise, which is like part three of the book strategies.
[00:12:31] Why is it suddenly clicked that like there was a, there’s a gap in the market. This is an extremely valuable gap. So I started writing about it. I wrote a blog post that I was very ashamed of. I was so ashamed to write about it, that I did not post it on my blog. To this day it’s not on my blog. It’s a GitHub gist and then I tweeted about it and some people read it and it was, it was actually the VC who funded temporal who got me basically read a comment, hired a guy from my comment, and that guy turned around and hired me.
[00:12:58] So out of one blog post, those two jobs came. And I think it’s, it’s a, it’s very typical, “learn in public” story of like the kind of luck that you can generate for yourself. If you just focus on the hardest problem in your field and just talk. And, and you attract people who think the same way, and then you work together on it.
[00:13:16] As a result, you join these kinds of companies before they make the first dollar of revenue. And you get to shape it before people really know it’s a thing. And I think that’s, that’s a lot of the message of the book as well, which is like, you know, a lot of like there’s a, there’s a lot of.
[00:13:31] I was going to say like the mainstream way to, to get jobs is, you know, to figure out that you need a job and then you go out on job sites and job boards and stuff like that. Probably the sort of big brain, 120 IQ way is to know about jobs before they’re listed or, or have people create jobs for you, which is what happened for me.
[00:13:48] So that’s awesome. Okay. Yeah. So I mean, that’s career strategy-wise. I think that that’s the kind of story that’s happening here. I think that not enough people talk about this stuff basically because it’s extremely hard to teach. You kind of have to have a lot of initiative and a lot of luck and a lot of talent.
[00:14:07] But I think that more people should apply themselves to this because it really makes for. More fun career, a job. Isn’t a job. Now the job is kind of like a part of a journey that you’re trying to establish for yourself. And I really like the bringing in lessons from the business world and, you know, I did.
[00:14:24] I did my first career in finance and investment banking before I came to tech. So I like bringing those, those lessons in and try to think, trying to think about it from an investment lens, from an economic perspective and even like So so I studied some marketing as well. I think DevRel was a little bit marketing.
[00:14:40] One of the biggest revolutions in the marketing world is HubSpot that invented, which basically created a category of inbound marketing versus outbound. I know David Wells knows a lot more about that than I do. But I think basically learning in public is inbound marketing for you. And a lot of people, when they, when it comes to their career, they do outbound marketing, which is they, they w when I need a job, I will go out there and tell people that about what I do.
[00:15:03] And I’ll look at, I’ll look at job opportunities that are listed, and then I’ll try to see if I fit into their criteria. When you flip it around when you do inbound marketing “You” if I advertise what you’re about, and people come to you with a “You” shaped hole in there. In your team. And I think it’s just I think it leads to much better job satisfaction and hopefully success in that job.
[00:15:23] I’ll stop there.
[00:15:24] Simon MacDonald: Since you’re on the topic of DevRel and marketing, there’s, there’s one thing I wanted to bring up and it’s like, where do you think DevRel fits should be reporting up through product teams marketing? Or should it be in its own complete organization?
[00:15:37] Brian Leroux: Spicy? Yeah, I see stuff right here.
[00:15:42] Shawn Wang: Yeah. DevRel was traditionally a second-class citizen or even third class.
[00:15:47] I’m not necessarily opposed to it. I think it’s basically, it’s, it’s going to be the annoying answer of it depends. Basically, it depends on not to put it too, bluntly like the power of the person leading that their role function and whether or not they can shoulder. What can we scope? We can show them.
[00:16:00] So let’s, let’s say that. And Netlify DevRel was maybe unofficially under marketing. There was no marketing function when I started out And then Sarah Drasner came along and she was, she became a VP. So she reported directly to the CEO. But then in AWS DevRel reports to product. In Temporal, DevRel reports, I know that if you, if you other places there are reports to marketing and that’s just how they kind of apportioned budgets.
[00:16:26] I think that’s a very practical need of like, alright, right. DevRel costs money. Like where is the bucket of money that we’re going to put this under? Personal opinion, I think the DevRel will probably become its own thing as more leaders kind of come up in this space and prove that they know how to drive results and the executives and work with the other teams.
[00:16:46] Because it’s a little bit product, it’s a little bit marketing. It’s a little bit engineering. So it’s hard because it’s kind of like a. You’re, you’re not the main owner of every role but you’re an extremely important contributor to each, each site. Each function.
[00:17:00] Simon MacDonald: In DevRel, you’re kind of cutting across a whole bunch of different silos, which makes answering that question really hard.
[00:17:06] But I like your initial thing, which is just saying it depends because that proves that you’re a senior developer because asking your developer a question and they say, oh, it depends.
[00:17:18] Shawn Wang: I mean, I will try to have strong opinions when I can, because I, I hate the lazy. So I always like to elaborate. I hate, I hate, I hate when people say independence, they stop.
[00:17:27] They’re like they’re so wise and smart for saying,
[00:17:29] Simon MacDonald: yeah, no, that that’s not good. I, you have to enumerate the different scenarios in which you would pick different options. Taylor, did you want to jump in with a question?
[00:17:43] Taylor Beseda: That’s fine. Sorry. I have to juggle my unmute with the recording to Shawn as a prolific link collector myself, I just like the bookmarks and you should see my bookmarks. I was curious in your chapter 36 is about preparing to write and you titled that Mise en place, and you mentioned some tools that you like to use.
[00:18:04] Do you have any updates to those tools? What are, what are your favorite things right now to prep for writing and collecting those resources?
[00:18:10] Shawn Wang: I have one minor update. I have posted it on my blog which is I moved my sort of note space from Notion slash simple note to Obsidian. But that’s about it.
[00:18:20] That’s the only change that’s been, that’s been done. I still have like nine simultaneous drafts ongoing of things that I’m thinking about writing. I still have a long backlog of ideas that I, you know, I groom them occasionally. I think I’m pretty simple on tools. I would really like to make my tool one day because I think, you know, like how there’s all these like writing advice on, you know the 1, 3, 1 opener.
[00:18:44] Why do you guys know about the 1, 3, 1 opener open with a single sentence that really captures attention then three sentences that give the meat of the argument that you’re about to make. And then one, one sentence to close off the opener to really Impress and tie up the conclusion you know, stuff like that.
[00:19:02] There are suggestions and formats that you can adopt to help you break past your writing block. I’d really like to make a tool like that someday. Especially even to detect run-on sentences. Grammarly does a decent job at that. I never use it because I don’t like its suggestions. So I want to make my own tool. Tools-wise, not that much, I’m pretty a low-fidelity person.
[00:19:22] I think that Excalidrawn is actually an underappreciated writing tool in the sense that pictures speak a thousand words. And if you can visualize your essay, you will probably get more reach out about it. Yeah. Probably like a good, solid belief that I had. And I may actually have ongoing artists collaborator that I can work with, which is for me a big milestone because I think people can draw people and get their ideas.
[00:19:50] Just communicate so much clearer and get so much more.
[00:19:58] Simon MacDonald: Yeah, it is a bit of a cliche, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Yeah, just, I mean, was it understanding comics by Scott McCloud talks about how, you know, people have been doing this for like tens of thousands of years of combining pictures and, and words together and how it gets the point across a lot better.
Start “mise en place” digression
Photo by Rudy Issa on Unsplash
[00:20:15] Simon MacDonald: But I’m Canadian, so I just have to bring this up “mise en place”. That’s not how it is said. It’s “mitzi place” I’m sorry that’s just the way that every English-speaking person in Canada pronounces it. So just wanted to get that across as the unofficially bilingual attendee.
Taylor, I’m joking it’s “mise en place”.
[00:20:34] It’s all good.
[00:20:38] Shawn Wang: Is it really? Cause like, I mean, when it, next time I see it, I want to see it right.
[00:20:43] Simon MacDonald: Oh, okay. So this is me being truthful “mise en place”. That is how you pronounce it.
[00:20:49] Shawn Wang: You just messing with him.
[00:20:50] Simon MacDonald: Yeah. I’m just messing with him.
[00:20:51] Brian Leroux: I assure you as, no matter how you try to pronounce it, a French person will say you did it wrong anyway,
[00:20:57] Simon MacDonald: That is also correct.
[00:20:59] But Long story short. I have a chef in the family and they say “mise en place”, as “mitzi place” as a joke every time. So it’s now stuck in my head. For those of you that are joining late, we’re just having an informal conversation here. If you want to jump in with a question, please go ahead.
[00:21:15] Or if you’re, you know, a little shy, just jump onto the text portion of the voice chat and ask your question there. Yeah, Alex, you’ve, you’ve gone off. You’ve done your cameras.
[00:21:26] Alex DeBrie: Yeah, great conversation so far. Thanks for the clarification on the “mise en place”. Otherwise, I would have taken that back then and
[00:21:31] Shawn Wang: I know, yeah, it looks so serious.
[00:21:33] You’d dip it.
[00:21:34] Simon MacDonald: Oh man. Now I want a time machine to go back and just leave it as it was.
End “mise en place” digression
[00:21:41] Alex DeBrie: Oh man. That’d be great. All right. Two questions for you. You said you have a bunch of stuff in the backlog, like would you ever do another book? Are you talking about just like blog posts and then.
[00:21:55] But just blog posts. Would you ever do another book?
[00:21:57] Shawn Wang: No. I want to work on one book for 10 years.
[00:21:59] Alex DeBrie: Thanks. Okay. Yeah, like this book,
[00:22:02] Shawn Wang: I continue to update it. Yeah.
[00:22:04] Alex DeBrie: Okay. Yeah, I get cool. Second question. I had like talking about career strategy and, and your journey and going from investment banking, finance to dev, and then even just different positions, you know, within dev at, at now five AWS temporal.
[00:22:19] How did, how do you think about those sort of transitions and making big switches? Wait, what are you considered there?
[00:22:27] Shawn Wang: I mean, it’s not like I have done it a lot. I did one big career switch, the whole thing end to end, probably took like two years because yeah, I was very, I mean, I was giving up, I should say that like you know, in a hedge fund you make decent money.
[00:22:42] And and I worked very hard to, to get to where I got But I think ultimately like, you know, life is long and when you realize that you’re not a fit for something you, you just kind of have to take the leap. And for me, particularly, it helped that I had a standing offer to go back to a previous job that I had because you know, I did really well there and it would really to be, I still like them a lot.
[00:23:01] And so it wasn’t. A one-way door where the failure case was catastrophic. The failure case was I just go back to an old job and that was fine. So took the leap in and it ended up working out, I think. You know, the one-way door two-way door decision is a really good framework that came from Bezos.
[00:23:20] Bezos has, is famous for another decision-making framework. That is absolutely horrible. Which people love to quote this. So they call it the regret minimization framework. They’re like, what, what path are you going to most likely regret not taking should take that one. Terrible, because it means that you should just maximum taking the riskiest options at all times.
[00:23:41] I think it’s a little bit more nuanced than that or that it, I mean, that, that should that rule just like. I’m making it that way you will. But Alex, I want to talk about the book thing, cause you also have a book out there. I love your book by the way. And like it’s so like I think so you stretch the possibility of.
[00:24:03] What a technical book can do with yours by like building all these apps by, you know, getting people to really think through like their, their schema and the, their modeling. And then like having just an overwhelming amount of resources in the back of it to really sort of drive home the thoughts.
[00:24:20] And I think like books are evolving, like the O’Reilly and the. I don’t know what other brands are out there. Like dead tree books,
[00:24:31] Brian Leroux: Pragmatic Programmer. Yeah. I agree. I think Alex is booked. Definitely not new ground. Yeah. So the best docs for DynamoDB. Yeah, exactly. The weight of a trillion-dollar company behind it, which is hilarious actually,
[00:24:48] Shawn Wang: Right and like getting Rick Houlihan to endorse it. I mean, the whole animal.
[00:24:54] Fantastic. I’m also doing something different with my book, right? My book has 1500 links interspersed throughout the whole thing, so it’s not meant to be printed out. And then it has, it comes with a community, which is like 90% of the value and not the book.
[00:25:08] Right? Like, so people come in there and chat about stuff with me. I have a weekly discussion session where I lead discussion topics. And then you know, we just have a lot of ongoing material. That’s what fits a career book. Like it’s not a one-point single point in time.
[00:25:24] It’s something that you practice over years and people dip in and out of based on life situations. And that’s fine. I think people should innovate more like books because a book is almost like trying to do, and you can, you can have a lot of impact there. So I really like that idea. I will say so regarding blogging and drafts I think that personal blogs are a really good starting point because if there’s one thing that you cannot leave behind, it’s your name?
[00:25:49] The problem is people have no idea what to expect when they described to you. Right? If I subscribe to the I mean, your blog was kind of like the proto blog for your book. There’s no personal stuff in there. Like there’s no like random reflections, like blogging in the old days used to be personal used to be like, Hey, like I watched this movie.
[00:26:06] It was awesome. I’m just gonna tell you about it. It’s not on brand. It’s not like whatever. It’s just like, oh, you can rant about food, politics, whatever blogging that kind of blogging is, has kind of died. I feel kind of sad about it. I’m thinking that I would want to separate my professional blogging from my personal blogging and spin the professional, blogging out to like a CSS-Tricks.
[00:26:33] Right. Chris Coyier has a personal blog and he has a CSS-Tricks and it’s pretty clear what goes, where and I like that. I think that anyone who has figured out the content has idea generation or idea of velocity, We can talk more about the hedge fund versus dev content creation, similarity.
[00:26:52] If you figure that out and you have the volume to do professional/personal, then you should split it out. And then once you create the professional why keep it to yourself? Why not make it an industry blog, because then it becomes a destination site for that field. And I really liked that.
[00:27:07] And it’s funny. That it can only come from an individual because this thing is an extremely thing. It’s really a valuable thing for a company to make. But companies typically don’t have the cultural space to let that happen. Sorry, that’s a ramble, but like, this is what’s going on right now.
[00:27:24] I think you and I have been talking about.
[00:27:26] Alex DeBrie: Yeah, that was great. That’s all the good stuff. And I agree with, with a lot of it. So that’s cool. What about I don’t want to monopolize, but like I know you’re like a, a long-form blogging guy book, obviously. Are you still bought in, on like written content primarily?
[00:27:42] Where are you on video-type stuff or other forms? You know, whether that’s you personally or in your role as Head of DevRel at Temporal.
[00:27:52] Shawn Wang: We post at least a video a week and temporal and I have just lined up six videos going out in the next two weeks.
[00:27:59] Video is extremely complicated. If you’re looking for a single video to go viral, you probably need to spend a lot of time on it and a lot of money. But if you’re going for long-tail, you probably can just like throw up a live stream. And the 10 people in the world that need that content that’s in there.
[00:28:20] They’ll watch it because they need it. And that’s actually fine. But like, I think the traditional conception that video is that expensive and, it goes outdated and you can’t change and therefore it’s a poor investment I think is true, but also. High bandwidth. And it’s easy to produce because we’re in zoom chats all the time.
[00:28:36] So, here’s a stat. Okay. So I’m taking us on a small digression in our company. Smaller question. 23% of the US population uses Twitter. approximately 25% use LinkedIn 21% uses TikTok. Those are the rough figures that have come out. However, 81% use YouTube. It is so massive. I’m like,
[00:29:06] well, is it because YouTube is so diverse and varied. And you know, you can find really good stuff and really terrible stuff. It is just much better at being a platform. However, it is like you got recommendations, you got social proof and there is a lot of it.
[00:29:20] But ultimately I think video is, is a very core part of the stack, particularly for DevRel. Maybe if you want to do personal media as well. I think it’s pretty relevant. I haven’t figured out the code but I still dabble because I think it’s so that’s a very long-form answer. So I think, people should do more YouTube.
[00:29:38] I personally haven’t really cracked it. I don’t like seeing myself on camera, but you don’t have to write one of the biggest videos. Simon what are you talking about you look great on camera and your background is great too.
[00:29:52] Simon MacDonald: And that’s it. A great background. It’s the face that I worry about, right?
[00:29:58] Shawn Wang: No, you’re fine. So anyway, one of the biggest developer YouTubes Fireship, nobody knows what he looks like. Fantastic. He just, he just, he just spends a lot, but a lot of time on after effects. And then he makes really concise videos and drivers.
[00:30:15] I think it takes all forms and we haven’t really, I almost don’t care. Like I almost want to default to open. One of the companies I’m very inspired by is GitLab, I mean, they are open to it to a fault, but something that people don’t know is that they live stream almost every, meeting in the company.
[00:30:37] There’s a YouTube channel called GitLab Unfiltered where you can tune in on people meeting and talking about stuff and wasting time. And as long as it’s not sensitive, just pulls it up which is super open. I mean, I’m not sure but people want some level of curation versus quantity.
[00:30:52] GitLab has definitely gone to like zero curation and in maximum quantity. But I think, it takes all sorts. So, I don’t know if I specifically answered your question. I’m not really sure. If the question had had a focus, those are my general thoughts on it.
[00:31:06] Alex DeBrie: Cool. Yeah, that was great. Just, just riffing on that. That was useful for me. So thank you. I’ll go there.
[00:31:11] Shawn Wang: There’s an interesting sort of side thing with podcasts. Should we do a podcast? It is super small. Nobody has time for a podcast. Essentially, as much as I listen to a fair amount of podcasts it’s super tiny.
[00:31:23] And then you’re like, maybe, you should do like YouTube plus audio podcasts, you know, just driving record the same. Then strip out the audio and all that. But then most video versions of podcasts are abysmal. Like they don’t perform. And then some do really well. The Lex Friedman of the world, there are YouTube first Joe Rogan was YouTube first.
[00:31:45] But even the All-In Podcast with like Jason Calacanis off, like they’re also like their YouTube is also so I think like a decent amount of production. There’s a table-stakes production quality you got to reach. And then you just have to get real chemistry. And like, that is the, almost the cheapest form of content creation versus engagement, which is an ongoing podcast with a rotating panel or persistent panel, instead of having to constantly try to teach you more about, they’re just discussing the news of a group of people that kind of are social. And I think that makes a lot of sense.
[00:32:25] Alex DeBrie: Yep. I like that. I also think just like the depth of being in someone’s ears and they get to know your personality and know your voice. There’s like a depth of connection that you can’t get from writing, but it is much more anyway, I will actually go off now at other people. Ask question. Thank you.
[00:32:38] Simon MacDonald: So I wanted to make one comment for both Shawn and Alex, I love the idea of your books being living documents, and you’re working on them over 10 years, but if you ever switch it, so that Han shot first, I will never forgive you.
There was a question that KJ had and it kind of dovetails into something that I was wondering about as well.
[00:32:58] How do you balance chasing all of the shiny new things? Versus getting things of substance done. But the second part of that question is also how do you prevent yourself from becoming “I’m a framework developer” and therefore the entire lens of what I see and all the problems that I solve or are just using that framework.
[00:33:21] Hopefully, that made some sort of sense.
[00:33:26] Shawn Wang: I’m going to do this in reverse order. So the framework one is a common question. So my answer to that is, first of all, asking the question means you already know the answer. Second of all, the realization should be that frameworks will, never outlive the problems they solve.
[00:33:42] Problem will always be there. Problem will always have deeper and deeper levels to get into where the framework becomes insufficient and you’d start having to roll your own solution. Your study of the framework should deepen your relationship with the underlying problem. You can, you can evaluate other frameworks on how well you understand the problem.
[00:34:01] And that knowledge will last as compared to your pride over knowing the latest API. So always the short form of this juniors focus on solutions, seniors focus on problems. That’s a nice little couplets quote. And I think that’s just true. I think that this also often shows itself in the form of framework authors of competing frameworks.
[00:34:27] Being actually closer friends, than the people who use their favorites frameworks because people use their frameworks to define themselves as you know, I’m of that tribe. Whereas the framework authors are just trying to solve the same problems with like different approaches. And yeah, I just think that’s a fundamental fact.
[00:34:43] And once you realize it, you stopped giving a crap about defining yourself as a loyal or. Tribal to one particular framework, unless it’s really, really good, then you can just be like a ridiculous pro at it. And it’s fine.
[00:34:57] Brian Leroux: Cold fusions fusebox. Oh yeah. You probably never heard of it, but I’m telling you it is a game-changer.
[00:35:07] Shawn Wang: I like it. I love people who are just unqualified, like all about the thing. But because they have the goods to back it up, right. Because they can then can substantiate it. Not because they hide behind platitudes, like its job, like no one ever got fired for picking the React.
[00:35:24] Like those are, those are just terrible.
[00:35:31] But yeah, studying the problem probably always goes deeper. And that’s something I like, I think the more I understand frameworks, the more I understand, they are like a bundle of packaged solutions to like an 80% problem. Sometimes you need to recognize if you’re no longer in the 80%, you shouldn’t pick our Framework.
[00:35:49] And again, that’s more of a general insight about having worked on a few frameworks that you only get to after realizing that sometimes frameworks are not the solution or the cause of your problems as well. It’s going to be what was the first question? The first question was about choice, a choice in.
[00:36:07] What to focus on.
[00:36:08] Simon MacDonald: Do you chase, the shiny new framework, because a new one is coming out literally every day or, and how do you balance trying the new things versus building like products of substance?
[00:36:20] Shawn Wang: So it sounds like I have conflicting advice because my chapter 12 I’ll specialize in the new.
[00:36:26] That’s a principle that I have specialized in the new thing and yet, you should not specialize in everything new. It’s a specialized in something new. So that’s attention that we should set it up. I think fundamentally this has to do with what you think is important, what you’ve decided to focus your career reputation and skills on, and having a small focus.
[00:36:47] So I really liked the framework. I think he comes from Steve Covey the locus of concern versus locus of control. Something like those things that you are interested in versus things that you actually have through impacted having a very broad interest, being a super general, probably a waste of time, because you’re never going to be able to be in any field.
[00:37:07] And you’re just repeating headline after headline. Whereas having a very clear idea of where the locus of control is, means that everything that happens in that field, you should be. Like just, just know everything, try, out everything. Know, the authors read the source code, read the docs know the diffs you know, stuff like that and just be the world expert in it.
[00:37:23] And I think picking the right one is probably like 80% of the battle. And that is the entire topic of tech strategy and like having a theory of value, theory of value of like, okay. Out of like the nine announcements on HackerNews. These two are valuable because I have a thesis that you know, time-series databases or serverless is going to keep growing.
[00:37:48] It’s like 50% of Amazon now. It will be being more bullish than existing bulls is also positive. So like, I mean, I think that’s, that’s really good. So in other words, like have a filter based on yours. And then they treat everything else. That’s entertainment. I was like on the level of like sports news, celebrity gossip, like politics, insider stuff.
[00:38:08] I guess fun to talk about it at a barbecue, but like not really interfering with your life. As trauma, I would say it’s below my bar. But otherwise, choosing to specialize in something new actually really helps. It’s almost like a career hack because of a few things. First of all, it’s new, so there’s not much.
[00:38:22] Can you get back up relatively quickly? It’s new. So like other people who are busy with their day jobs, don’t have much time to look into it. So you get, you get a smaller space to be an expert on it. And once you give feedback to the people, to the authors yeah. Have a much quicker path to become their collaborator than someone who is just kind of focused on something old.
[00:38:44] So that’s what specialized in the new is about. It’s not specialized in everything new is based on the selected new thing, which you think has, has some theory of value.
[00:38:58] Simon MacDonald: Cool. We did have a question from the audience and it is from the unpronounceable regex username. And this is for you, Shawn and Alex, you can probably chime in on this as well, but like, what is the best platform or best place that you can sell your book on? And since both of you are, apparently the username I can’t pronounce is ASCII bear.
[00:39:16] Shawn Wang: All right. Good to know. I actually don’t know what platform Alex uses.
[00:39:24] Alex DeBrie: Yeah, I’m on Gumroad, which I would say is just extremely low maintenance. If that’s all you want, like, all I want is to bring in some of my book and that’s it, it takes payments. It’s super easy. It hosts the PDF. Yeah, exactly.
[00:39:35] Like all my, all my sort of like inbound comes from other places and it’s just like, Hey when someone wants to buy that’s when they go to Gumroad. Gumroad takes the payment, sends it to me. It works really great for that. You know, they’re always talking about new features. They’re fine. I don’t use any of them.
[00:39:49] I just use a sort of taking payments and delivering PDFs.
[00:39:53] Shawn Wang: So appreciate that. Yeah. I mean, you know the author is a little bit, I mean, the founder of Gumroad is a little bit controversial, they tried a couple of times to cancel him, but like ultimately fairly commoditized. I would say I started with Gumroad day one of announcing my book.
[00:40:13] I put up an empty PDF and then I switched to Podia which is run by Spencer Fry, Podia has more of an all-in-one. It has got a UI builder. It’s got a community it’s got their own support chat where you can sort of hang out in there. And but it being all in one and then being team, they’re kind of like crappy versions of every. The design’s not great. The features are not really fleshed out. So I don’t know, but I mean, I’ll say that it is good enough for people like Ali Abdaal. Who’s a YouTuber who makes like $2 million a year on Podia.
[00:40:50] So like, if it’s good enough for him, who are you to, to disagree? So I’ll say. Yeah. So I just did not, I didn’t like Spencer. I did not like the design of Podia. I was selling a premium book. The look of the site just was not premium. So I went to my own custom design front ends on Begin, then the fulfillment is done through Stripe checkout which is which I was an early adopter of.
[00:41:16] The Stripe program. And then it redirects the community platform circle which I’m a generalist. And for me, the community part is a key part. I wanted private video hosting and I wanted email summaries because like a community is a complicated beast. But you need people to have a forum for the highly engaged.
[00:41:37] My discord, then the moderately engaged group is, which is the circle forum. And then the most distantly engaged group, which is the monthly kind of goes out somebody. So that’s kind of how I think about the paid community.
[00:41:53] Simon MacDonald: Cool. We’re getting close to the top of the hour here, but Paulo did have a question and I think the cheeky answer is well buy the book, but the question is how can I plan my career to make sure that it’s always progressing?
[00:42:08] Shawn Wang: Wow.
[00:42:09] Simon MacDonald: And if you can get that done in the next minute,
[00:42:12] Shawn Wang: if you also want to say, like, it’s not possible, you know people talk about like instead of a career ladder is more like you make, you make steps up and steps down.
[00:42:22] And you’re just kinda sitting around, like, sometimes you have bad luck, lots of times you have great luck. You need to take it in your stride, almost like don’t. Like just like, okay, can you keep working on yourself and in, you know, where you want to go, your, your vision of where you went and the clearer you have that everything else will happen to you.
[00:42:41] You know, I think adopt a stoic philosophy, right? Try to work on the things that you can control and everything else that you can’t control. Take it as they come.
[00:42:54] Simon MacDonald: Yeah, I think that’s really good advice, especially you’re not always going to win. Life is not about winning every day. You’re going to have setbacks. Things are going to happen, whether they’re in your career or in your personal life. So you just have to accept that that’s going to happen and just try to keep moving forward and get a little bit better every day.
[00:43:13] Shawn Wang: I’ll even go so far to say, yeah, you’re going to lose out. If you only make choices where you’re. Do you know what I mean? Like you never take a risk, you never have a chance of trying to work, so I’m not going to do it. And like, if you, if you want that, like, I don’t know, go get a, like a government job is to stay in there.
[00:43:32] And that’s, that’s very fairly risk-free like something that’s, you know, hard to be fired from. Like, you know, there’s a lot of upside that you miss because you don’t take risks.
[00:43:42] Simon MacDonald: Totally. Yeah. I, I once joined a startup and things were going amazingly well and no, I’m not talking about Begin. Is this a previous one? And we were doing great up until the point that Google Sherlocked us by announcing our product for free. So there’s, there’s no way that we could have, you know guarded against that.
[00:44:01] Shawn Wang: Is this the screen share?
[00:44:03] Simon MacDonald: No, it was a multi-user Android on phones and tablets, and then Google just gave the feature away for free. So that was that’s neither here nor there. So yeah, it just got to accept the ups with the downs. And one, one more last question from the audience before we start to wrap things up Luis was wondering about advice for people who want to become staff engineers.
[00:44:24] One resource that I could point him to is Will Larson’s new book called Staff Engineer. It’s really good. Yeah. So, Shawn, do you have any advice for Luis?
[00:44:35] Shawn Wang: No, I never formally hit staff. I’m now head of it, which is like not a thing. So I don’t know. I, I try to keep within my lane of junior to senior because I think that it’s the under-served part of the market.
[00:44:46] If you want to hit staff look at your career ladder, see what’s out there. Don’t forget to market yourself and your skills
[00:44:51] Simon MacDonald: Cool. I hope that was helpful for Luis. As I said, that book by will, Larson is great. So bad news, everyone we’re coming up to the top of the hour, and we’re going to have to let Shawn go. But some good news. If you did like today’s discussion with Shawn, he’s currently hosting weekly question and answer sessions for the coding career community.
[00:45:08] Join the discord community and keep the conversation going. If you’re looking for the book, if you haven’t already got it if you go to learninginpublic.org, you’ll be able to find out how to buy it. Shawn, anything else that you want to promote?
[00:45:22] Shawn Wang: No. I hope people out there just take a more conscious approach to their careers.
[00:45:31] Simon MacDonald: Awesome. Well, we really enjoyed having you here and thank you so much for spending the past hour with us and for folks in the community here. Our next book club meeting will be in May. We’re taking April off. But in May, we’ll be talking to Ray Camden and Brian Rinaldi on their book, The JAMstack Book.
[00:45:49] Yeah. And you’re probably wondering. Why is the company that builds dynamic websites on AWS talking about the JAMstack? It should be a good conversation. Right. So hopefully we’ll see you all in May. All right. Take care, everyone.
[00:46:03] Shawn Wang: Bye. Thanks for having me.
[00:46:05] Simon MacDonald: Thanks, Shawn.
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