006: How to Level Up - Communication, Catalytic Skills & More
Hey everybody look how smart I am! (╭ರᴥ•́)
Welcome to Remotely Interesting brought to you by Netlify.
People who were remotely interesting:
People who were remotely interesting:
In this episode, we attempt to give you as much advice as we can muster about great ways to help you level up and what we've learned at different companies and roles. Let's jump right in.
Communicate, communicate, Cat
Communicate, communicate, Cat
- Communication verbally and in writing, being able to communicate what code does, what you want to do in your career, what your team does etc
- large company communication, required long texts or keeping people's attention with concise 1-pagers
- talking & listening & remote positions
- everybody's an idiot except Jason...or how empathy help you become a better developer, contributor, and teammate
- mining for conflict & being comfortable with confrontations
- imposter syndrome vs imposter experiences
- separating yourself from your job & how to teach this
- look what the cat dragged in: Phil
How We've Learned
- strategies to continue learning
- learning by copying
TidBits & ThoughtThings
- job experience that has lead to gaining unexpected skills
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:00:00] Previously on Remotely interesting.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:00:00] Previously on Remotely interesting.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:00:04] Now I'm the only one who hasn't made a joke pun.
Cassidy Williams: [00:00:08] Hello, and welcome to Remotely interesting.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:00:11] This is remotely interesting.
Divya Tagtachian: [00:00:13] Seems a little presumptuous.
Sarah Drasner: [00:00:15] None. No, that's the name of the show?
Jason Lengstorf: [00:00:25] Hey everyone. And welcome to another episode of remotely. Interesting. A question that we get asked a lot is how do I level up? How do I get to the next level in my career? And so we wanted to take a little time today to talk about some of the strategies that we've used and some of the specific skills that we've used that have helped us to do that.
Cassidy, I feel like this is a question that you get asked all the time, so maybe you would be good to lead off here. is there anything that you've seen that is like consistently applicable?
Cassidy Williams: [00:00:52] honestly, communication in general, especially at remote companies and especially during a pandemic and stuff, but being able to communicate what your code does, what you want to do in your career, what your team is doing, what you want to do on your team, all kinds of things.
If you can communicate what you want to do in writing and verbally that it has been just a consistent need and every single job I've had, because if you can't do that, then. Suddenly you aren't getting the projects that you wanted to do and you aren't getting the code reviews that you want because certain things are undocumented or unclear, or you aren't able to do what you want on a particular
Jason Lengstorf: [00:01:35] I was going to say, look, what I've noticed is that like being a good developer is what gets you. In the door and like what gets you through the first level? And then everything that happens after that is not really about your ability to program anymore. Like you're going to get better at programming, just by getting the reps in.
You're going to continue to build stuff every day and you'll learn more and more. But how you actually start to progress is when you start to move outside of your own skillset and you start thinking in the context of a team or in a company. And that points back to what you were saying about communication.
Like you have to be able to not just have an idea and build it, but have an idea and tell it to someone and convince them that it's the right thing. And then guide them through building it with you so that you're working as a unit and not a lot of individuals working like loosely in the same direction.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:02:24] One of the things that we had talked about when thinking of this topic is the fact of like the experiences at different level companies. So with that in mind, have you seen different strategies or different, like ways that we're best to communicate based on the different size of company you are at?
Cassidy Williams: [00:02:42] I feel like at larger companies I've been, I've had to write down everything a lot more. Because I'm going to be right at writing it down for a much broader group of people. where, when I was at very big, large company X, whenever I would want to propose a feature or a new project or something, they said, okay, you have to write a docket, At least six pages long that answers every question, but he could ever have about this project. And we actually had to take writing classes internally to be able to communicate. Properly, the X company way, for housing, for how to. Propose a project for how to explain something that's already been worked on and about to be released.
Every single doc was at least six pages long single-spaced one inch margins. It was a lot
Jason Lengstorf: [00:03:34] that's, it's funny that you say that because that's actually something that I've noticed going the opposite direction is like when I've had to communicate in written format. I used to write these really long proposals where I would, I explain all the details, all the contexts, everything that would be required and send that to somebody and then expect them to like, read it, digest it and make their decisions.
But what I noticed when I was at like, when I was at IBM and since joining is that. The people who make those decisions get tons and tons of documents and proposals. And they just, even if they tried, wouldn't be able to read all of that material. So one of the skills that I've been working on and, like a really good tip that I got from Sarah Drasner is you should be able to communicate your whole idea compellingly in one page.
Like how can you give somebody a one sheet that they can look at that will give them. What the thing is, what the benefits are. If there are trade offs and like a recommendation, so they can look at it and say, this makes sense go. cause I don't think you can keep an executives attention longer than about one page, unless you're able to corner them in a room and have a conversation.
so I think being like ultra descriptive in your writing, so you can get to the point clearly and include necessary details. Skip unnecessary details. make, make a recommendation and an ask so they know why they're looking at the document. those are really critical skills that I think I didn't realize how much of an impact they were playing until I got called out for not having them in previous roles.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:05:08] And bullet points are so clutch
Cassidy Williams: [00:05:11] love my bullet points.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:05:13] So it's funny. So one of the things we also touched on is the point of looking at catalytic skills. and this is like a huge thing that, That April Wenzel talks about his catalytic skills. And so we're already talking about one with communication, but, it's interesting because I think a big part of the communication part that we underestimate is the listening part of it too.
and especially now a days where, we've all done remote jobs for some time, but a lot of people are putting themselves into remote positions with the, with what's going on nowadays. What have you seen? Like how do you find it best to talk and listen now, with this being remote or what have you learned from your remote positions of how to,
Cassidy Williams: [00:05:58] it sounds really silly, but I need to do something with my hands when I'm in a really intense.
Meeting, especially if it's remote because nobody is around me. And that I am just looking at a screen, even though there are faces in front of me, I have to do something like that. Doodle or play 20, 48 or even just I have a fidget spinner that I play with regularly and just having something to do with my hands.
So that way I'm still like, Paying attention to the screen in front of me, it having something physical almost reminds me of this is an in person meeting and I'm talking to real people because I'm doing something physically and I'm not just looking at a screen in
Jason Lengstorf: [00:06:37] front of me.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:06:38] I honestly think that's really clutch, as YouTube now I crossed itch when I'm in meetings that I have to listen to, that I have to listen to.
But it's it's so easy because you're on a computer. When you're in these meetings that you're supposed to be listening to, when you're talking with teammates, just, you need to be paying attention, but it's so easy to get a notification about something that's it happened on Twitter or something that happened in Slack.
And so that's my way that really keeps me focused with listening. And it's, it is a huge aspect of communication, which is again, a big aspect of doing. Doing your best at company, whichever company you're at while we're on the topic, I should explain to you what it has as her definition of catalytic skills, the fundamental human skills that help us acquire other skills and engage more effectively with the world.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:07:36] No,
Cassidy Williams: [00:07:38] feeding's hard.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:07:39] Is reading a level of skill that we need. I hope now. No,
Jason Lengstorf: [00:07:42] I didn't. No. So w I also think, like we talked a little bit about, listening and what that means, but if it, one of the things that I've noticed about a lot of these types of conversations is it when you're doing something that feels like programming work, like you're trying to work as a developer and you've got an idea.
A tool is something that you want to use. a lot of times I have felt in my career, like I'm having an argument with somebody about the tools. and as I've gotten better at listening and gotten better at it, trying to be empathetic, like why is somebody arguing with this? Why is somebody pushing back against this change?
Because. What I am, what I'm thinking. And the reason that I brought this idea over is because I looked at our, I looked at our goals. I looked at our restrictions, I assess some technologies and I have a whole bunch of contexts that led to me making what I feel to be is a perfectly reasonable, logical decision.
And then I bring it to somebody and say, Hey, let's make this change. And then they pushed back. and my first instinct when I was like a younger, hotter headed programmer was to be like, clearly everybody's an idiot, but me and I just have to keep telling them how right I am until they understand.
and as you can imagine, this one really poorly for me. And it led to a lot of like heated conversations and me yelling at people. and as I got coaching from people who were more empathetic, who were better at listening and better at team communication, I started to understand that the pushback isn't because.
They disagree with me or that they don't like that tool it's because they have their own context and their own concerns that they're trying to accomplish. And like a lot of times that comes, maybe it's a team that's been building something a certain way. They're worried that you're going to break their system, or maybe it's a completely different department.
Like the marketing team is worried that if we use this tool, instead of that tool, they're not going to have access to the things they need to do their job. And so if we're listening and if we're thinking empathetically, we can understand not that somebody is disagreeing with us, but that somebody has a concern.
And if we dig into what that concern is and what their goal is, then we can change the conversation. So instead of saying, I'm writing you're wrong, we can say, ah, I understand where you're coming from. You want to accomplish this. Here's how the solution I'm proposing will accomplish your goal. And it leads to these meetings that are so much less.
Contentious and so they're, they become collaborative. And so instead of me trying to win you over. I am. I'm just taking you with, I'm getting you to come with me because I understand what you need. I've thought about your needs. I'm trying to accommodate those. And I'm trying to get as many people as far as I can with this proposal, as opposed to being like, Hey, everybody, look how smart I am.
Let's do it my way. And I think that you also do. sometimes,
but I do think that is, that I would say is the most effective catalytic skill that I've learned is trying to frame my goal or my solutions, my proposals through the lens of what other people are trying to accomplish. And not just through my own like logical deduction of this is correct.
I think a big
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:10:44] thing of that too, is I, we have this big thing on general, what we call mining for conflict, where. It sounds aggressive, but when it took me a little while to be okay with it because I hate conflict. but the thing about it is, like when somebody is asking you these questions about what you're proposing, you're trying to uncover as much as you can before you make that actionable item.
And I think that's a, it's a big thing for leveling up that. You won that, that you can contribute, you feel, and that you can contribute some change to some something in the company's product or the way the company is. He does things. Are you able to communicate that well, receive that, mine for conflict to make sure that everybody is on the same page about things and that everything gets covered.
And then, can you. Mediate through that conversation so that if that change is good for the company, you can make it happen. there's these steps. And I feel like definitely like throughout my career, especially with imposter syndrome, I couldn't help, but be like, Hey, I have this idea.
And they'd be like, but why? And I'd be like, fine. No, nevermind. I don't want to do it either. And it's just okay. I had, I also had to take these steps where I'm just like, they're not attacking you. They're saying, let's figure out every way that we can, make this structure like sound and get rid of any bugs before we even start making the steps towards it end.
So I, yeah, I think that's a really great point.
Cassidy Williams: [00:12:21] Yeah. I've worked at places where people don't like conflict at all, where the managers don't like conflict. And so when something starts to go bad, they would literally just not come to meetings because they were nervous about arguing about it. And. You got to embrace it sometimes it's, even though it's, it can be uncomfortable.
It's important to be able to uncover all of this and talk about it. Cause otherwise you'll end up dealing with forced problems down the line
Jason Lengstorf: [00:12:50] for sure.
Cassidy Williams: [00:12:51] You mentioned imposter syndrome. And one thing that I read recently, and I wish I remember who wrote it, but they were saying how it's not so much imposter syndrome, but imposter experiences that we have, because it's not something and that's innately a part of us.
and, with calling it imposter syndrome, you start to think, I will always be this imposter in the workplace, and I will always feel this way. But when you have these imposter experiences, then you can. Isolate them a bit more and think about it. Okay. Okay. Why did I feel this way? Or why is that this person feeling this way, that they don't deserve this position that they're in and how can you address it specifically around that?
And then it allows you to communicate a little bit that are about how, for instance, if someone gets a new job and they're just like, I don't know how I got this job. There's no way I deserve this. You can say you did deserve it because you pass this interview. You got it past all of these rounds.
You. Got the job and being able to isolate things to imposter experiences, I think is really good for communicating, both how to get rid of them. And, but also just to assure people that they'll do
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:14:00] wherever they're at,
Jason Lengstorf: [00:14:01] even if it's, I think that's something that, that I've heard from like various.
Psychology publications and stuff. Is this idea of changing experiences from being like innate personality traits into fleeting happenings, that you're a part of. and so instead of saying, I'm an angry person, you say I am angry right now. so it's the way we treat hunger.
Hunger is transitive. I'm hungry. Now, if I eat something, I won't be hungry anymore. Whereas if you say something like I am stupid, Then it's not like that doesn't feel transitive. That doesn't feel like something that you will not be later after you've learned a thing. And so it, it's a way of changing our language toward ourselves so that we're more forgiving and not like telling ourselves the story that it feels forever.
I, that always bums me out. When you hear somebody say something like, I'll never be that. And it's No, but that attitude,
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:14:54] yeah. It makes you more flexible. It's funny that they teach you that with a lot of like child psychology things too. there are no bad children, just bad actions.
and yeah. You can easily separate yourself from an action that you did instead of saying Oh, why are you so bad? why are you a devil child? like I tell my son all the time,
Jason Lengstorf: [00:15:13] I'm just getting parenting tips from taro.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:15:16] Really good to think. Cause a lot of things just in general, Thinking about it in the workplace, is, you shouldn't treat yourself differently in the workplace that you, then you would, in another scenario, like you don't dog yourself all the time. It's easy to really beat yourself up on where things like you could go and you could mess up a meal, Oh, I added too much salt to that.
Oh, next time I will be better about salt instead of being, I don't know how to code. I'm a sucky coder. I couldn't make this thing, do what I wanted it to do. I'm a failure as a coder where it's just Oh, now I know next time I should read the docs more thoroughly at this point, it's it's easy to not be as forgiving in your work scenario, which could be not good.
Cassidy Williams: [00:15:59] think that is also something that there's something about development. People attach themselves so deeply to their jobs. and whether it's the framework that they're using or the company that they work for, or the role that they have, it's something I think we've all noticed in the tech industry where people will start arguing is reactor view better or something.
And they can do a lot of the exact same things, but people like will attach their identity to it. And so when something goes wrong, they freak out and when something goes, they end up just. Celebrating them and attaching their self worth to it and which can lead to weird work stuff.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:16:42] So I actually, I suspect that this is not necessarily because of tech, but because of the way that tech has manifested on the internet, because I think that everybody attaches like outsized importance to their livelihood.
you always I have nothing at stake when I try a hobby or if I, if I try to draw a picture, nobody cares. If I do a good job, nobody cares. If I, if I do it poorly, it's not like I don't get a paycheck or I don't get to eat tonight. Just, Oh, I drew a crappy picture and nobody, nobody would look at that.
Oh, but if I was doing that for a living, if I have to draw this picture and if my client doesn't like it, I don't get a paycheck, which means I don't eat. I'm going to put a lot of my personal value in whether or not somebody is willing to give me money for that drawing. and I think that's how development is for a lot of people.
and what I think is interesting about tech and, design Twitter's the same way and any particularly online industry. Is that we're not just doing this work for clients or employers. We're also doing it performatively for our peers. So because there is a tech Twitter, where we talk about what we do, our choices are not just under scrutiny by if you're a plumber, you go do your job and then you go home.
There's nobody, who's also a plumber watching you do your job saying, Oh, I would have used a different wrench for that, And then you have to defend your rent, my dad,
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:18:03] and a plumber.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:18:06] But I do wonder, like if there was a plumber, Twitter, would we see the same type of Identity bound up in what you do for a living there where the arguments would be over the tools or the right fittings, or, I've run out of words that I know about plumbing, so
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:18:25] begin
Cassidy Williams: [00:18:26] pumping.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:18:28] but, so I guess all of that is to say, I think that one of the most beneficial things that I've learned. Is to remember that my value as a human is not related to my value to my employer. because if if I stop getting a paycheck today, that doesn't mean that I'm not worthy of being who I am.
It just means I need to find another one, a way to get a paycheck and that, there's something to learn and there's something to improve, but that doesn't mean that I am inherently worthless. You know what I mean? I think that we have a tendency to tie. How much money we get paid per hour to how much value we have per pound as a person.
You know what I mean?
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:19:09] Pound value,
Jason Lengstorf: [00:19:10] kilogram, whatever. Yeah. Sorry. I should have used the metric system for international viewers,
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:19:16] but I do think that in reference to like how to level up. that is something, an experience that is good to learn for the fact that you feel more freedom and less fear to be able to contribute and to be able to, add what you would consider value to the product or to the team.
How would you teach somebody that, how would you like to have somebody learn that skill or. Undertake that kind of mindset.
Cassidy Williams: [00:19:46] It's hard to think about that because I know that mentors of mine, managers of mine, people tried to teach me this and I didn't listen for a very long time. Like I know for a fact there are people saying it's just a job.
If things aren't going well, you can get another job. this isn't who you are. And I'd be like,
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:20:03] but it is.
Cassidy Williams: [00:20:05] And just wouldn't listen. And so I admit, I have no idea how I would. Tell someone like me that you don't have to attach your identity to your job besides just repeating that
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:20:21] Ticketek
Cassidy Williams: [00:20:22] Oh yeah.
I can make a tech talk about it. I'm sure the youths would love that.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:20:28] I have to, I should probably qualify everything. I'm about to say with I am a white dude with a social support network. So if I make a mistake and things go wrong, I can still move in with my parents. So I have to like, let's just acknowledge the privilege and then I'll give this advice.
but what has been really helpful for me with decoupling my identity from my job has been making small mistakes. so like when I have an idea and people go, I don't like that idea. It doesn't mean they don't like me. And so being able to just propose a small thing and get shot down. and I, and like in personal life and in professional life, that's been really valuable.
there's a whole like game built around this. That is the worst game in the world, but it's called rejection therapy. And the idea is that you get a pack of cards. And each card is a thing that you're supposed to do and get rejected. So it's go to a gas station and ask a complete stranger to drive you two and a half hours away.
And because of course, they're going to say no, and then you just get this, you get this, you get crushed by rejection and then you realize that life goes on and it's, it's going to continue. and in doing that, you start to realize that rejection is not tied to your value.
And it starts to decouple the two experiences, so you can have value and also be wrong. And the, and that's actually a really good thing because being wrong means that you're thinking and trying, and then you learn things from being wrong.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:21:53] I think that one of the big things in aiding with somebody's growth in this area is to be an ally.
So being able to not only be in meetings with someone that like. You can say, Oh, I see where they're coming from with this idea. For some reason, it gets bogged down, but also I feel like. Like Sarah on our team does a good job with this, like meeting with us beforehand. If we're going to bring it something to the table, to, stakeholders or what not to say.
Okay. What do you mean? I was planning on presenting. Let me make sure, you feel comfortable saying that, like, how are you going to present it? and giving tips to people, beforehand and letting them air out what they're going to say. Because a lot of times, you're so worried.
About what you're going to say, and you haven't delivered it yet. And being able to air that at first, but speaking of rejection, it seems that feeling it's on with us now, too.
Cassidy Williams: [00:22:50] The cat dragged in.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:22:55] Oh, are we ready to start?
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:23:01] Okay. We are in fact almost ready to end.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:23:05] I was. I don't know if it's appropriate. Would you mind, I could just go and listen to the recording of this, but would you just mind saying everything again from the start?
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:23:14] You did the intro. So as you start and then. Perfect.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:23:21] We talked to, so we've talked so far about the skills of listening, of being able to reframe the way that you present ideas, being able to communicate clearly both in written and spoken format.
one thing that I think would be really interesting to talk about, and I think that this will be a good place to bring in Phil as well is how like. Outside of just learning to talk to your team and we do have to improve, right? So what are you doing or learning? Like, how do you continue learning?
Cassidy Williams: [00:23:50] That's actually why I started my weekly newsletter. Cause I would be pulling links and constantly just having tons and tons of tabs, but I would never actually read the articles in there. And so I started my newsletter so that I could actually read the articles and if I liked it, I would put it in my newsletter for other people to read, because it forces me to read them every week and it's helped me.
Keep up skills and build up skills and stuff while also trying to help others read
Cassidy Williams: [00:24:34] There's one 25th, I think sometimes
One mistake that I made when I first started going into different jobs is I didn't read the whole website, like back to front, the company's complete website, which sounds like such. It is it equally sounds like a no brainer and a like really hard task that seems. Not that important, but one of the best things you can do at a company is know about that company.
And it's especially when you're going into an interview, there's so much that people have put into not only what is on the website, as far as what they're talking about, but the content and how they speak to their product, that you can to learn so much about the company. and so just very niche sector of this, but learning as far as the company that you want to work for in the future or that you work for, that's a great way to learn.
They put so much time in deciding what's going on their website, Just back to front, read every single page.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:25:50] What about your fellow? What are you doing for continued learning?
Phil Hawkworth: [00:25:53] To be honest, I think there's a lot to be said for mercilessly copying the things that you observe and you wish you were doing yourself.
It's tempting to think that's cheating. It's if someone around you is doing something that's impressive and you noticed it's a good thing to emulate, And I don't mean just like taking their work and stealing it and publishing it as your own. if you're noticing good habits from people or things that around people around you have done, you think, Oh, they've done it again.
I wish I'd done that. I'll be very honest. I occasionally fall into the trap of feeling a little envious around some of the things that people around me do, I think, Oh, I wish I'd done that. It's a great way to take inspiration for that and say, I'll not just look at what the output is, but what took them there?
what's, what techniques did they use to. Get them there. So whether it's Cassidy being, very succinct in her newsletters and being able to distill a lot of things down to something that's not intimidating to be able to consume, which by the way, is a ridiculous skill that I wish I had to be able to write fewer words.
I would love to be better at that. or, or if it's. And like Jason being able to, excuse me, it sounds like I'm getting emotional, but it's just a frog in my throat.
I know that Jason is very good at being able to build one thing and then being able to say, out of This demo that I'm going to make, I'm going to create all of these different, like bits of content or it'll serve like a dozen different purposes, all that kind of thing.
There are loads of examples like that, where you look around the company, terrorists get very good at wearing wigs on Wednesday. I would borrow from seeing that, seeing what people do and think, Oh, I wish I'd done that. It's fine to borrow and try and absorb some of those things. And. it's not a very concrete answer, but I like to observe the things that I wish I'd done and try and just emulate those a little bit.
so it's always nice. If you can give a little nod to that along the way as well, but, but yeah, I think there's no shame in mercilessly copying the things that are successful that you admire.
Cassidy Williams: [00:27:55] Let's give a talk called learning by copying and what I didn't realize until at the. Very end of the event was that it was a grand majority designers of the audience.
And a lot of them came up to me afterwards. And they're just like, what's funny about this is every single one of us learned by copying because that's what you have to do for art. And everything, and it's great seeing that other fields do this too, because that's how you grow because you can see how other people do it and then take your own twist on it and run with it.
And, I think learning by copying is how you can do so many things, not just building up certain skills or learning how to draw something. But Even just writing jokes and, figuring out how did this person do that? Okay. I'm going to twist this so that way I can figure out how to implement something well or write something better or something.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:28:46] And I think that's a, that moment of how do I twist this, is really important. how do I make this my own now? we're not all, we don't all have the same. Skills and the same kind of strengths. And so just flat trying to copy. Yeah, verbatim the way that someone does something is not always gonna work.
Sometimes you need to make it your own. so that you're just not aping. something that someone else does that really suits bad, that kind of style. If you like. it's, again, it's an easy trap to fall into to say, Oh, I like that. I'll do that. if you're not, if you're not just, if you don't have just done a little bit of self awareness to realize that, you can't always present it in exactly the same way, you could still use the same kind of techniques or the same, drive for it.
But if you try and make it exactly the same style, sometimes that can fall flat. So just being aware of what your own particular style is and play to those strengths, I think is a really important detail in that journey.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:29:42] Yeah. I think like the idea of, copying as a way of learning.
I also think that one of the things that I've really liked in my career is whenever I wanted to level up on a certain thing, usually what I would do is I would take whatever was considered to be like the, quintessential example of that thing. And I would look at the source code and I would build it myself by looking at the source code.
And I didn't do that because I was going to publish it. I did that because I wanted to see how things connected and like it's the same reason. I always encourage people to hand copy code instead of copy pasting from examples is because when you write it yourself, You get to see the different dots connect in real time.
as I pace, as I like write this thing and I run it, I see this works, but this part's broken. and now I start to see why. and I've noticed that to be true about writing. Like I've, I've just straight up copied pages, like chapters out of books. I was like, Oh, I want to get better at writing tersely.
And so I would just copy Hemingway and think about why. You left words out of these sentences.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:30:45] I thought your last strappy blog posts.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:30:48] Yeah. It was, it actually wasn't about strappy at all. It was just chapter three of old man in the seat.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:30:56] I'm going to have to give that another reason
Cassidy Williams: [00:31:00] what happens when you don't actually review the blog post before approving.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:31:04] But I think that's the, but like that whole idea I think is so good. And I also think to your point. Cassidy about figuring out how to twist it. You have to understand something before you can remix it.
if you, if I told you I'm going to put my spin on an Apple pie, I can't do that because I don't know how to make an Apple pie. Like I would, if I start remixing a recipe that I don't know, then I'm going to just this is how my mom cooks. My mom will get a recipe.
And she'll decide that she's going to change it before she knows what it's supposed to taste like. And then she'll complain that the recipe is not good. And I'm like, mom, what did you change? He's I didn't want it to be like all gall gluteny. so I took the flour out and I substituted cornflakes and I'm like, that's why it sucks.
you didn't understand what this thing was supposed to be. So you substituted something at random with no understanding. And now you're dealing with something that you're confused by. and so the copying lays the groundwork for the growth and the remixing. And I think that's a really important thing.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:31:57] I can't believe that some. We're talking about copying as a way of learning and it didn't occur to me that's exactly why I fell in love with web development. Just the fact that view source was there didn't occur to me instantly till you started down that whole Avenue that everything I've enjoyed about getting started with web development and probably the thing that's kept me going is viewing source and then learning how to tinker around and emulating it.
yeah. Yeah. That's that passed me by when I started down that ticket driving you. I'm glad you, I'm glad you mentioned that to you.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:32:29] and then think about like again, on the topic of leveling up as a programmer at a company. Especially the bigger company you go to, you're not going to be writing your own code.
Like we're going to be spending hours, just reading code, just understanding what's happening inside there. So the best way to preface to do that with other like open source projects that you can dig into their code. And that's the best way to contribute to open source projects too, is, going through.
Seeing what is there, how they made things work and then being able to understand it well enough that you can refactor it. You can make it better, you contribute in some ways. it's, I think that was a big, a huge thing that they did not teach me at university was that like every time we made a project, we were making a brand new project from scratch.
And then I went to my first job and they're like, here's our code base. Learn it. And I was like, Oh, Okay, here we go and swim. You just spend so much time reading through code and saying, okay, this is this function that gets made here, that calls this thing, and you have to make that mind map of things that already exist.
So the best way that you can really learn from that is like trying to copy it, trying to emulate what's happening there in order to make changes. That makes sense.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:33:48] Do you, just, slight tangent, but do you all refactoring just to hearing terror, just talk through, I exploring someone's code base and do you love it or is
Cassidy Williams: [00:33:58] it's really fun?
I think, especially like, when you're just like, okay, I have to figure out how to reduce this giant file of code that I don't fully understand, but I get what it does to like. 10 lines of code. I don't know, something like that. Just ripping and deleting code out and making it more efficient. I think that's so fun.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:34:17] There's this fantastic feeling of when you make something new that does what you want it to do, but there's something that's so much sweeter about going in, looking at code, knowing that you can make it more succinct, that you can make it more readable, that you can make it function better. And like putting in your new changes to it and having it work perfectly, that's just I don't know.
It's like walking a red carpet. Amazing. There
Cassidy Williams: [00:34:47] it's like rehabbing a house or something. it's still working the way it should, but it's
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:34:53] better. I did that.
Cassidy Williams: [00:34:56] That's great,
Jason Lengstorf: [00:34:57] Jason. No. So what I like about refactoring is trying to find the right balance of I want things to be understandable by other people and I want them to be terse.
So like how much should I refactor down so that this is compact, but draw the line so that it's not so compact that I've basically minified my code. and so it's not like it's not like code golf where you're just trying to get this done in as few lines as possible, but it's also not what's that called, literate, coding, or literate programming where you're like writing a novel and inside the novel is some code, like where's the happy place in the middle where someone can open this and understand it.
But also it's not 10,000 lines of code. and I really, that to me is You can feel it when it works, right? When you use an API and you like open up the code and you go, Oh my God, I understand this immediately. Like you have an intuitive understanding of it and you don't have to do any chores to make it work.
Like it's as little code as it can be and still you get it. And it's like immediately. I love that, getting that right is great.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:35:58] I think there's a extra layer of satisfaction as well. If you're refactoring some of your own code that you wrote a year ago. Yeah. Cause you can write something that you're proud of and you think, yeah, look how clever I am and look how beautiful this is.
And then you leave it for a year. And hopefully when you come back to it, you do understand what's going on and you just think which. Idiot did this.
Exactly. Yeah. But yeah, if you see it and you think, Oh wait, I could do this now. And then you gleefully remove some lines of code and change a few things and just think, look, how look, how much I've developed. I find that particularly satisfying. Sorry. I took us down a bit.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:36:37] Oh no. But I was just going to say, I feel like we could talk about this stuff for days, and this is why we.
Or thinking to maybe have a whole, topic that we repeat called, how to level up. but we would love to hear feedback from, all four of our listeners, to tell us, hopefully I'm than four, eventually
Cassidy Williams: [00:36:55] this podcast listening.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:36:57] Exactly. maybe our moms too. but, it feedback from everybody to let us know if you have any questions for us.
especially on the topic of how to level up or like skills. but I do want to end on one very random question, to each of us of what is the oddest or most unexpected skill that you gained on a job? I like, I feel like I have like odd ones. Like I learned how to caffeine nap, where it's you drink like an espresso or something and you immediately go to sleep, which role.
Take about 15 minutes to go through your system so that you wake up wired, but then you get a 15 minute nap, which is greening rule. But one that like my favorite is I, and it's because I, Speak, I now am really great at it. Very uncomfortable, awkward situations, like having a tech fail and or just like having some super big blender that you're in front of.
So many people and something messes up my body has become much more comfortable with these situations, which has led me. To be able to handle much more uncomfortable situations in my life. Yeah. I used to not, I don't think many people would expect this of me. I used to not be able to go and talk to strangers, and now I can talk to anybody because I'm like, what's the worst that can happen.
Like what they're going to be like, no, I don't want to talk to you and be like, cool onto the next one, or say a really bad joke and then go onto the next
Phil Hawkworth: [00:38:31] that's sequel. Parting shots. Somebody says, I'm sorry, I don't want to talk to you.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:38:39] Please don't talk to me. And I was like, what do you get when you cross it elephant. And it right now, Ella find out
Cassidy Williams: [00:38:49] that's
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:38:49] a that's.
Cassidy Williams: [00:38:50] I think mine is similar where, because I've spoken for my job and stuff. This is probably not a skill that people should have, but I've gotten really good at just. Talking about things without preparing at all. and so it's almost there's pros and cons to this, but now I can go into a talk and sale, do a talk and pretty much not prepared at all.
And still be able to talk about a topic for 30 to 40 minutes. No problem. And that's, it's a fun skill to be able to have because it's much less stressful when I say, sure, I'll do a talk. But it's probably not a skill I should have because practices a good thing to do. Generally speaking.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:39:35] Yeah. It's easily to accidentally become really nonchalant.
If you've got that skill, it's eh, it'll be fine. Do you still have, I'm sure you're far too professional to ever really engage in this particular practice, but if you did find yourself, I haven't really prepared and it's coming up tomorrow. do you still have the anxiety that would normally come home?
Are you like,
Cassidy Williams: [00:39:55] or maybe the five minutes before the talk and that's what I'm just like, okay, here it comes. Let's do this, but like the night before the hour before, I'm just yeah, I'm giving a talk should be good. and
Phil Hawkworth: [00:40:09] I wonder what I'll say.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:40:13] It'll be
Cassidy Williams: [00:40:13] fun. Yeah. Way too many talks where on.
The drive there. I'm writing the talk just it's again. Good and bad. I shouldn't have this skill, but give me a topic and I'll give you a speech on it in half hour. Just let me know.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:40:32] You're going to get so many top boxes. So deep.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:40:46] Phil, what about you?
Phil Hawkworth: [00:40:47] There's a couple that spring to mind. One of them is a little bit on the same vein of, I used to be terrified about not knowing what I was going to say in front of people. And now if things go wrong and I'm. On the stage, talking to people. I, that doesn't phase me quite so much as it used to, to the point that if someone needs to get pardon, so needs to go and fail.
I'm that wasn't delivered. I'm sorry, I just couldn't. Course, correct. I'm quite happy just to stand and waffle in front of big crowds of people, which is not something I ever expected and that seems to work out. Okay. But the more you said the oddest skill, or just an unexpected, th I think the oddest skill, I think the thing that I learned is I know how to fit one ton of manure into a half ton bucket.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:41:35] Okay.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:41:37] Feeling
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:41:39] like you just put Jason in the bucket, but I'm
Phil Hawkworth: [00:41:50] going to cry on
Cassidy Williams: [00:41:51] this call.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:41:53] Wait, why did, why and how did you learn?
Phil Hawkworth: [00:41:56] w so I grew up in a fairly agricultural area in the UK. And so I had a, as a teenager, I had a job working on a mushroom farm, and, mushrooms grow in manure.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:42:07] I'm not gonna lie. I really thought that this was like a metaphorical skill that you were referencing.
Cassidy Williams: [00:42:12] I was hoping it was going to be real. So I'm pleased. It's real
Phil Hawkworth: [00:42:16] could not be more literal about this girl. I wasn't starting to insult anyone. They no clever metaphors. No, one's going to learn anything from this story. Other than the fact, other than the fact that as a teenage boy, I worked in a mushroom farm and they, I discovered that they load up these big kind of beds that the mushrooms grow in by dumping menu or into this big kind of hopper that spreads all the manure on these beds.
And the bucket that they drop the manure into is half a Tod in capacity. And the bucket on the tractor that dumps it in there is yeah. Ton in capacity. So the way that they fit the ton into the half ton bucket is they. Hire a young puny teenage boy, give him a good pitch for, and they stand in underneath the bucket next to their bucket and he catches whatever overflow he can find and shovels it in, hoping that none of these goes up his sleeves.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:43:18] Oh, hi.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:43:19] It was the, my most glamorous role ever. but yeah, I learned that you could catch more than you did about gender and kind of steer it into the buckets. any other questions about that and anything
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:43:28] else, steer it into the bucket also upon his account. Anyway,
Phil Hawkworth: [00:43:34] if only I were that clever
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:43:38] bucket filler field,
Cassidy Williams: [00:43:39] we know that Phil's code is full of
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:43:42] crap,
Phil Hawkworth: [00:43:47] booty. Sorry. that's. And so that's the most unexpected. That's hilarious.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:43:52] That's amazing. Follow that, Jason,
Jason Lengstorf: [00:43:56] I don't know if I can. I guess I could tell about my worst jobs, but that doesn't seem, that doesn't seem relevant. no, I think so. the thing that I've the most unexpected skill that I've picked up from my career has been the, like the fix it mentality.
Like I in multiple jobs have migrated into a role of fixer. I used to joke when I was a Gatsby that my job title was human ducks tape because I didn't really do one thing. I did whatever needed to be done. So one day I'd be working on marketing one day, I'd be in product one day. It'd be endeavor all another day.
I'd be writing a press release. And it was always like just going into something. I had no business doing. It was like, okay, this is the thing that needs to be done. And there's no one to do it. What are we going to do? and, so my skillset is being able to do anything at 60% good, because I've learned to very quickly review how people do it well and get just enough that I can squeak by and look competent, even if I didn't do a great job.
and I think that has been, it's like, it's weird, but as a result of this, I have now, managed to you, run yeah. A V for an event. When I have no business doing that, I've learned how to light, a, like a studio set up. I've learned how to manage like a remote conference event or to order a tee shirt sizes for like various swag things or how to manufacture a rubber duck.
All of these things are things that I know now. for no reason other than it was a thing that needed to be done and I needed to, and like someone needed to figure it out and I volunteered. so that's been a fun skill.
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:45:38] That's actually a huge point for how to level up too, is the recognition of being able to pivot.
Like I wasn't, I. I was a backend engineer. That's what I went to school for. That's what my first career was like. And then they just didn't have someone to speak at it. We were very small company. They didn't have someone to speak about their product and they got a really great speaking opportunity. And I think it was at node interactive and they were like, Tara can use words at her mouth sometimes.
And so they put me on stage and I remember I went right after Scott Hanselman. Who's a very well known speaker and as a cool,
Jason Lengstorf: [00:46:16] great
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:46:17] fan. Fantastic. And my whole talk was called deeply for dogs and it was gifts of my own dog playing on the computer, alongside the code present. And like it was, the speaking part was fine, but the fact of being able to be a point person.
For people in the community had questions about that. The code base that I built, felt so rewarding that they were like, I was confused on how to do this part. I was like, I made that system, let me show you how it works, felt so great that they started leading me into more community work, which then led me into more of a dev realm that then led me to dev experience.
Yeah. Just knowing that like the surrounding skills that your job asks for, you may seem odd at times, but they could lead you to a different career pivot that is I love my job. So I think it's a good thing to keep in mind.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:47:10] It's interesting. Cause I think that all of us have. Whatever, however, bizarrely, some of us have answered that question.
there's a common, there's a common theme to all of them, which I think is a really nice takeaway. And that's the, being comfortable with being out of your comfort zone. being like ha being able to do 60% good enough, all of these different things that you've never encountered before, or, take on giving that talk that you would never have wanted to do.
And all of those. All of those things just require that bit of growth and being able to say, I don't know how I'll do that yet, but I feel if I'm responsible for our I'll get there and being comfortable with that, which is, which is uncomfortable. It's an uncomfortable situation to be in, but you can get used to it.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:47:52] Yeah,
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:47:52] like shoveling manure.
Cassidy Williams: [00:47:54] Yeah,
Phil Hawkworth: [00:47:55] exactly. I got it was the long road round, but
Jason Lengstorf: [00:47:58] but I think like I, I draw this, this bend diagram and a talk that I've given about careers where, it starts with the expectation, which is I work in human resources, the overlap between my human resources job and a like design job is zero is what you might expect.
But then when you actually start looking at what the skillset is, There's a huge amount of overlap. You're going to be dealing with coworkers. You're going to be sending emails. You're going to be writing reports and communicating and doing all of these things. And the only thing that's really different is like on this side, your specialty is design.
And on this side, your specialty is like actual staffing and human resources. But in the middle, the vast majority of your day to day work is the same. And so what I think has been really helpful, and it sounds like all of us have experienced this to certain degrees. Is that are, you said you get comfortable being out of your comfort zone.
I would actually argue that the comfort zone just gets much bigger. Cause you realize that you're not stepping out of your comfort zone. You're doing the same thing that you do all the time in a slightly, at a slightly different angle. and that I think is that was what made me feel really empowered to try this stuff is I realized that I'm not learning a full skillset from scratch.
I'm applying a lot of stuff that I've learned from a lot of weird odd jobs. To a new thing that is 99%, the same as everything else that I've done with a novel angle.
Cassidy Williams: [00:49:18] My son's manure your way. You have to angle your shovel differently and then
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:49:25] you have to maneuver your shovel. Okay. Do it again now with
Cassidy Williams: [00:49:30] Mindy.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:49:33] Okay. But I love that. it is like the, it's what if you speak to a good cyclist or a good runner and you say, Oh, does it ever get any easier? And they say, no, it doesn't ever get any easier. Just the distances get longer. And you just, I always assumed that one day I'll be good at cycling and then it won't hurt me.
But no, you just go further.
Cassidy Williams: [00:49:52] Yeah. Yeah. I've been, I've seen that even with regards to coding, like it never gets any easier. You just know more solutions to a given problem.
Phil Hawkworth: [00:50:02] So that was remotely interesting. Thanks so much for listening. We hope you join us again. Next time when we're going to be talking about, wow.
The JAMstack can do that. We're going to delve into what is going on in the JAMstack ecosystem. So we'll be chatting all about that until the next time you've been listening to me, Phil button Hawksworth
Cassidy Williams: [00:50:22] and I've been Cassidy portabello.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:50:24] I'm Jason Wood ear Lang store,
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:50:27] and I'm Tara Shantrelle Minnick.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:50:32] Do it next time.
Cassidy Williams: [00:50:44] what are you a virus?
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:50:47] The virus on the brain? No, I don't. I'm
Cassidy Williams: [00:50:49] healthy
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:50:50] with the world. Was that good? Was that good? That's great.
Jason Lengstorf: [00:50:54] That's so good.
Cassidy Williams: [00:50:55] I'm sorry, Chris,
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:50:57] do I need to do it again?
Phil Hawkworth: [00:50:59] Hope that was remotely interesting. we are, we'll be back again. That was, can I do that again? Cause I don't
Jason Lengstorf: [00:51:04] know,
Tara Z. Manicsic: [00:51:08] keep it like that. Chris, make him look a fool.