In this episode, I talk to Suz Hinton, about her transition from Microsoft to Stripe, mentoring and advancing one’s career and live coding.
We talk about:
- her role and responsibilities at Stripe,
- how to understand what customers and users want,
- why she left Microsoft,
- how she now ensures the job and company culture matches her personality,
- and about her style of mentoring junior developers.
- Finally, Suz tells me all there is to know about live coding.
We start the episode by deep diving into Suz’s current role at Stripe (0:35). She explains that she is a developer advocate, working with a lot of different folks at Stripe. She is responsible to make sure the Stripe terminal product is a great experience for the customers. Therefore, she currently works on reducing the time it takes a new customer to use the terminal for the first time as much as possible.
I ask her how she connects with the customers, and she explains that at Stripe, UX teams reach out to customers for different reasons (2:25). For example, the team might reach out when they see the customer is using the software in an interesting way. Then, UX researchers try to understand more about the customer, by booking sessions with them. Other employees at Stripe can participate during such sessions and learn more about the usage of the product and the customers.
This sounds fascinating to me (3:46). Especially the part where Suz explains that customers are quite interested in participating during these sessions. We both think it has to do, that the customer clearly values the product and see that they benefit from making it even better.
In the following minutes, Suz tells me about her positive interview experience at Stripe (7:35). She says Stripe reached out when she just started at Microsoft. But, because she did not want to leave a job just after having started it, they tabled the conversation. But after 2 years working at Microsoft, she was ready and reached out to them again to continue the conversation.
She says it was quite a standard interview process, including coding assignments and a full-day on-site interview (9:11). But all interviews were done in an emphatic way, and she felt she always knew what people are looking for and what is expected of her. Even more, she felt she got a great understanding of how her job will look like through the interview.
We move on to a very interesting, but probably also stressful part of Suz’s life (13:00). Her time at Microsoft. Because I follow Suz already quite some time on Twitter, I also saw a tweet of hers about leaving Microsoft. She said that this job and the team haven’t been a great fit for her.
I was unsure if Suz is ready to share her experience with all of us, but it turns out she is. So, during the next few minutes, we talk about her experience joining Microsoft as a developer advocate.
Suz explains that the organization structure wasn’t very beneficial for the developer relation teams to actually make an impact. Teams weren’t really working with each other. It seemed more like teams were working against each other. The way, the teams interacted with each other, often forced Suz into conflict situations and into disagreements where she had to argue a lot with product teams. She tells me that during this time she became less conflict adverse, but the experience was still far from positive for her.
So, Suz actually moved from the sales organization to the developer division. This way, she hoped to have more impact and fewer conflicts. Still, also this move turned out to not be what Suz expected. Unfortunately, she still experienced a lot of gate-keeping, power struggles and what she calls corporate games.
But Suz is determined to give it a fair shot, so she did not quit, but tried to learn and figure out how she effectively can make an impact. But after ~2 years trying to make it work at Microsoft, Suz was ready to move on.
So, she interviewed with Stripe, and got her next great job (20:00). But this time around, Suz asks though questions during the interview process. She really probes to see if the company culture is a good fit, and isn’t afraid to ask to speak to even more employees before signing on. But getting a new job is a stressful situation for Suz. Similar to when I worked for Microsoft, Suz is on a working visa. This means that she cannot simply quit her job. Instead, she has only a small time window in which she can transition from one job to the other without needing to leave the country.
After that, I wanted to know more about software engineering practices at Stripe, and I start with my favorite topic: code reviews (24:30). Turns out for compliance reasons every line of code is reviewed at Stripe.
The conversation about code reviews naturally brought us to talk about mentoring (28:02). So, Suz explains to me about her experience mentoring junior developers. I ask her how all started and how she engages with her mentees.
We both haven’t had many mentors during our 15+ years of experience in this industry (31:28). So we discuss this a bit and think about how we proactively can seek out mentors or just observe people and learn from people that are ahead of us.
Finally, we move on to live coding – a topic that is super fascinating and also terrifying to me at the same time (42:38). We spend the next 10 minutes deep diving into this topic. Suz explains to me what live coding is all about and how she started. I get all kinds of anxieties when listening to her. She started and overcame anxieties with a lot of practice and preparation at the beginning. And the, she grew into it. Somehow this eases me as well, and who knows, I might try it as well soon.
Suz explains how she uses live coding to build a community and to help people get started with open source (54:00). When she describes it like that, I can see the many benefits this kind of exposure brings. Well, most likely this kind of interaction will become even more powerful in the next years, with a generation that loves watching videos.