Episode Archives

Better collaboration & performance through diversity and inclusion

In this episode, I talk to Trier Bryant and Kim Scott who co-founded the company Just Work which helps organizations and individuals create more equitable workplaces.

Trier Bryant is a strategic executive leader with distinctive Tech, Wall Street, and military experience spanning over 15 years and the CEO of Just Work. She’s previously worked at Astra, Twitter, Goldman Sachs, and led engineering teams in the United States Air Force, where she already also drove diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

Kim Scott is the author of both successful books: Just Work and Radical Candor. Kim was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other tech companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University and before that led AdSense, YouTube, and DoubleClick teams at Google. 

We talk about:

  • how they both landed in tech
  • their diverse and exciting background
  • how to counter bias, prejudice and bullying in the workplace
  • the framework for diversity and inclusion they developed
  • and how engineering teams can be more inclusive.

Today’s episode is sponsored by CodeSubmit – the best take-home assignments for your tech hiring!

Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Deezer, or via RSS.

Transcript: 

[If you want, you can help make the transcript better, and improve the podcast’s accessibility via Github. I’m happy to lend a hand to help you get started with pull requests, and open source work.]

 

Falling in love with the JavaScript community

In this episode, I talk to Tracy Lee. Tracy is the CEO and co-founder of This Dot Labs, a widely successful dev shop. She is also a speaker, conference organizer, and blogger.

We talk about:

  • how she dared to start her first start-up as soon as right out of college,
  • how she learned to program and fall in love with JavaScript and the community,
  • how she founded a successful development shop,
  • her advice in terms of a marketing-driven versus product-driven startup launch.
Continue reading

Bootstrapping Netlify to a multi-million-dollar company

In this episode, I talk to Matt Biilmann. Matt Matt is the CEO and co-founder of Netlify – the modern platform for high-performance websites and apps. Netlify has around 150 employees and an estimate of over 20 million dollar of annual revenue. Matt also coined the term Jamstack, which stands for JavaScript, APIs, and Markup. 

We talk about:

  • his journey bootstrapping Netlify to a million-dollar company
  • how he got the vision for the JAM-stack,
  • how it feels to grow a company from a two-person adventure to over 150 employees,
  • how he envisions the collaborative software development of the future,
  • and the acquisition of  FeaturePeek.

Today’s episode is sponsored by CodeSubmit – the best take-home assignments for your tech hiring!

Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Deezer, or via RSS.

Transcript: 

[If you want, you can help make the transcript better, and improve the podcast’s accessibility via Github. I’m happy to lend a hand to help you get started with pull requests, and open source work.]

Michaela: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the software engineering unlocked podcast. I’m your host, Dr. McKayla, and today I have the pleasure to talk to Matt Billman.

But before I start, I want to tell you more about CodeSubmit – the best takehome assignment platform to streamline your tech recruiting! Yes, exactly, this amazing start-up is back sponsoring the podcast. And over the last months, they introduced a lot of exciting new features such as live coding – within a full working IDE running directly in your browser. Beginning of the year, when I was hiring engineers for a startup I work with, I used their tool during the interview process for all the candidates and was extremely satisfied. CodeSubmit made it really easy to create custom tasks that reflect the actual work candidates would be assigned to on the job. Their missing: real tasks, not brainteasers, resonance a lot with me. So, I cannot recommend CodeSubmit enough. Please check them out at CodeSubmit.io. That is Codesubmit.io.

But now, back to Matt. Matt is the CEO and co-founder of Netlify, the modern platform for high-performance websites and apps that defy has around 150 employees. But that’s not all: Matt also coined the term JAMstack, which stands for JavaScript, API APIs and markup. Today, JAMstack is even more. It stands for collection of technologies and languages, including web oriented databases, frameworks, like Nuxt and NextJS, and even framework less approaches. So I’m super, super thrilled to have Matt here with me today to talk about his experience founding and running Netlify and also JAMstack and
software engineering practices at Netlify fly. So yeah, I’m super thriller that you’re here. Thank you so much for joining us.

Matt: [00:00:57] Thank you for having me. Yeah,

Michaela: [00:01:00] really, really excited. So how is that? I looked a little bit like a research you obviously a little bit. And so I started it’s around, you know, seven, eight years ago that you, you for aided or you found that and Netlify how, how was that? Is that. Or you have an idea and you do it, or what was the process like?

Matt: [00:01:23] It was a long, it was a long process that, that, that started way before Netlify itself. So. I I’m originally from Denmark, but spent seven years living in, in Spain, in Madrid, where I worked a CTO for a company that built websites for small to medium businesses, but at a very large scale. So we would build something like a hundred websites a week, tens of thousands of sites in total. Right. And in. And I let the whole product and engineering or built the platform that all the designers would do the design with it, all the clients with useful content management that, that powered every single website from brief to production in. And then, then I actually started a CMS startup in, in Madrid together with the founders of that Spanish. Is that up because we had just tried building sort of several iterations of this. Develop a platform in-house and we thought, okay, we can build a cloud hosted multi-tenant version that, that other agencies and other professionals can, can use to get a lot of the same efficiencies when they are building websites for their clients. Anyway, that was sort of the first take on, like, how do you really remove all of that? The friction for web developers in, building deploying operators. With properties, but, but it was built as Hess as a traditional, like monolithic application. Multitenancy Amisu with database and template engine and all of that. And I came to the, to the bay area and the whole tech scene here, working on that. But while working on that, I started getting this sense. But even if it, if it was a product that was, I was very proud of building. It had a lot of like early innovations in it that had serverless functions before. That was the thing you could write, like service side Java script to running in, in this case, within the JVM in isolates and so on. But I got the sense that the fundamental architecture of this. This monolithic approach where data business, logic template language, front end code is all closely tied to gala was just not going to be long-term the real, like the few charts I could take chunks the way. Yeah. I was looking at lot at, at, in, at what was happening in the, in, in, in two different areas. One was like the space of static site generators. Jake hill and middleman were at the time in the other ones, the whole no JSPs ecosystem and Beaufort was having what was happening there in terms of the early built tools and task runners like grunt and gulp, but also. The first sort of real full race into the, in, into the whole world of single page application with originality tools like sprout Cole or Andy and Leyda in birth in angular react to all of that. Right. And I got this sense that. Pretty soon as browsers really started maturing, it would make much more sense to have an architecture where you try to decouple the front end web UI layer completely from the backend business logic, Leah, and the best back in business logic layer would likely Kelly split into all these different API APIs and services where someone to them, of course I, your own in Europe. But a lot of them are other people’s services, like Stripe oil, goldeo Twilio, and the like, and I also saw that if, if you could do that, you could sort of map that whole web UI there. You could map the workflow around that pretty tightly into the get centric workflow that developers were already working on, where in pull request and merchants and so on. Right? Like it was much more straightforward to. Map that whole process on twist StatePlus, UI Leah, then mapping it onto both the UI layer and the whole business logic data layer that tends to require all these kind of migrations and the settings and so on. So I got, I got the sense that that architectural approach would win out, but I could also see that there was just too many too, too much friction. Standing in front of developers that wanted to go that direction and then actually building, deploying and operating with properties like that. So I built a small in VP of like, what’s the smallest thing I can build that that’s sort of. Aims at edit dressing the workflow for those kinds of web developers. And the first MVP was this was a small service called bit balloon, where in the very first version, you could drag a folder with your friend dot com and it would immediately go live on a, on a, on a URL. And then I edited some CLI tooling and some in API tooling around that. And, and quickly saw that it, that it resonated with the right kind of early adopters in the front end space and, and got very validated in the idea that this architectural shift was going to happen. So at that point, I started to talking to one of my best friends back from Denmark, who Chris was my was my co-founder today. Him. He. We we’ve known each other all the way back from, from high school, which is sadly a long, long time ago by now. But while I, I spent seven years in Spain, he had built his own production company back in Denmark is specializing in like in very interactive, often video power websites typically built in flash for some of the largest brands in the world. They won a bunch of international awards for its work there. And then sold that to a full ed foot, to a full service agency where he became the partner and the chief digital officer. And I started talking a lot to him about this architectural shift and what it would mean if you could sort of pre compile the whole UI and put it on a globally distributed network. And then just talk to these different APS and services. How we could really fundamentally solve a lot of the problems around global performance, around scalability, around reliability, around security, in an, and even in the process, potentially really address to develop a practice city. And all of these areas were where areas that, that. Like he, he knew from, from operating across like web properties from, from tons of different companies and running digital strategy for the sort of Walmarts of Scandinavia and the, like how, how big these problems were and how enhanced they were. Like how, how much worse the problems got as, as, as we also started having more and more people using mobile devices for the web and, and expecting a different kind of, of both pace and use experience. But we could also just see again, how much friction there was. If a team wanted to adopt this architecture, suddenly they had to stitch together like CIC CD with object storage, with CDNs. They had to figure out cash perching rules and it’s caching. They had to figure out how to connect to all these different API APIs and services, and typically had to pick out triggering, rebuild swings. Content that data changed and so on. And there was just no viable tool chain for saying like, okay, we’re going to do this. What do we do it with? So that became the core idea. We, we, we sat down and discussed and came up with from fo for Netlify and still the mission we’re we’re still working on, right? Like how can we create a. At cloud platform for the collaborative work, where teams can really operate efficiently, where we can remove all the friction involved in going from pull requests to live code running in, in, in front of a real uses in. And yeah, we, we, we started out just bootstrapping the two of us. Build on top of the, of the product I had already built and turned it into Netlify launched on air show. Heck a news post the in, in March, 2015. In, and by the end of 2015, we were still just two people bootstrapping a company, but we are serving around a quarter billion web requests a month out of our homegrown CDN for customers. Like we work in Sequoia capital and the Molalla foundation and, and was realizing at that point that, okay, now, now we need to raise capital, build a whole team around this and, and really accelerate. Hmm. Ray cell first round of venture capital in the start of 2016 and hired the first engineers in March, 2016. And then, and then it, of course, it’s been a really fast paced growth since then by now we’ve raised about $107 million. From top tier find slack, Andreessen and Kleiner Perkins, Menlo ventures, EQT M we have for you onboarded more than 1.5 million developers onto our platform and, and, and sites are now like just, just the sites and web apps on our platform are reaching the close to 700 million unique visitors every month. It so. So, yeah, it’s, it’s been quite the ride so far. Yeah. Mine’s lowing.

Michaela: [00:11:26] Wow. Yeah. It’s mind blowing. Yeah. And so for me, You were really very, very involved with the technology. And you had like this vision where it’s going to go and it also went there. Right. So it was spot on. Do you feel like that you’re still very connected to that? Like, do you still feel like that you’re so connected to technology or are you now more involved in, you know, you have to see overall. I am now a little bit more away from this technology side. And how is that for you? You, for me now, how you explained it and how much passion I could really see that. Right. I can imagine that you have also like this passion for the role that you have right now. So you’re probably extremely. Business oriented and you know, all these funds and you know, like where to raise money and how to acquire a company and all of that. Are you still very technical? Do you feel like you’re as technical as you have been before?

Matt: [00:12:24] I I’m obviously not as involved in building Nipsey five from writing code perspective at Southwest, right? Like the first version of I built a CDN from there, from the ground up and the CSTD platform and the react UI that powered it and everything. Right. Like, and now I typically don’t like by my working space, now it doesn’t involve writing code file product eight. Like. But in a curious thing about my background is that that while I’ve been programming as a hobby, since I was 10 years old, I studied the musicology and cultural studies in and was always more interested in how humans adopt ideas and make sense of the world and understand things. So, so I think some people are, need to feel very hands-on with the coach to feel that they are doing something. I, I, I get a lot of joy also out of building the culture and the organization and the, and the engine that can build things without me. Right. And trying to understand both how, when we talk about something like the gem stake emerging, for example, and the shifts in technology. There’s always a mixture happening of like the actual sets of technologies involved and, and the specific program languages and API APIs and infrastructure evolutions that we’re seeing. But in the end, technology is adopted by humans, learning about things and building things, right. And you can understand where technology is going, what will happen in an ecosystem? If you don’t understand how humans adopt technology and why developers built with certain technologies at certain points in time and why you’ll sometimes see technologies that are technically better loose out in the marketplace because their adoption path is harder. Right? So for me, it I’ve always been a very curious person and, and, and, and like to understand. Both sides of that spectrum, both the lower details of, of how does technology, like how does that technology work behind the scenes, but also the details of like, how does human beings approach it and understand it and build with it. And of course, as I been building this company and it’s, I am building it right. The layer of where I operate them, we’ll have to keep shifting. Right? Like in the beginning I had to be the one who just sat down and wrote the code. And then I had to be part of a team that wrote the code. And then I had to be more warfare at it, take lead for that team and guide them in the right direction. And so. And now I have to build the right kind of organization and the right kind of organizational structure to allow our company to build the kind of product that. That we think we need to build. And that’s that, that in some cases also requires finding the right partners to build it with in terms of fee investors or, or ecosystem partners in, or finding the right people to join our team and, and help build it.

Michaela: [00:16:01] So, this is really, really super interesting. Is it, is it for you all about the people or is it also about the structures and how people are working together? Do you see it as a system? Or, you know, like, or is it self forming, like is a company self forming or do you give it some structure?

Matt: [00:16:20] No. No, we, you, I believe in, in trying to, to, to. Bring some structure along the way. I think both me and Chris have always fought that did that, that intentionally building structure and organization is really, it’s really important for building a company that can, that, that can scale to, to become a really large company. Right. Like I think. If you, if you try to ignore the structure, you, you will hit a point where, where everything’s that’s is that’s falling apart. And it’s very easy to hit points along the way that feels like that’s happening. Of course, you’re always a bit riding on a rocket that’s slightly out of control. Right. But I think culture and structure and And value is a really important for how a company functions. And then of course, like you can never replace the, like, it’s in the end, it comes down to actual people doing stuff. Right. But the structure is important and it’s important to be intentional about it. I think we’ve seen some companies that tries to build completely like say they built completely flat structures with. In any kind of structure to it. And that, that just means that as a leader, you’re not taking any intentional decisions and route the structure, because your team is still going to have people that have more offices than other people. And they’re still going to have, it’s just going to happen by politics and, and, and sort of maneuvering rather than by any intentional process of like how strict the structure. Do you see

Michaela: [00:17:51] like a parallel between like I texture, like software, I attacked her and technical debt and structures of companies. Like where you say, well, we try to build the best system with the information that we have right now. Obviously also looking into the future, but then, you know, things evolve, things change. So we actually have to go back and change the architecture or change, reverse some decisions, you know? Remove some technical debt. Do you see the same happens in company in your company structure? Or do you feel like, oh, this is for what we have foreseen, but now we actually have to restructure and re refined or redefine ourselves.

Matt: [00:18:31] Yeah. You absolutely see that happening. And of course it could be a useful metaphor too, to compare like your company through to the machine, building the thing and, and, and think of it as an architecture and that point. Just also have to remember that Indian, the pieces of the machine. So not lines of codes that, that are predictable. They are people with goals and dreams and carry ambitions and interpersonal. Characteristics in. So you have to be aware of both, both sides of it.

Michaela: [00:19:07] So you’re what you’re saying is that technical debt is sort of peanuts, right?

Matt: [00:19:12] Complicated. I just, it to deal with, with, with technology. It’s a lot more predictable Indians than people are, but it, yeah, in the same way, it can also be a lot more fun. To deal with, with human beings. Yeah, obviously.

Michaela: [00:19:30] Yeah. Yeah. I’m, I’m super impressed. Like I can’t imagine how much personal growth has to happen on a way from, you know, like bootstrapping something, then getting investors, you know, scaling probably if you get investors, you normally scale really fast really quickly. And yeah. So th that’s.

Matt: [00:19:53] Yeah. And it’s also, I mean, it’s also a choice you take when you go and raise venture capital that, that raising venture capital is only one way of building a business, right? Like the many other approaches to build a business. In, in our case, we felt that there was also the kind of market opportunity, right. Because we really, from the get go belief. That there was a real opportunity to shape how the future of the web is, is going to be built and how it’s going to function. But we could also see that, that making that big of an impact and getting there in time. And so. There was not something we could, we could have done if we had grown just organically based on our revenue. Right? Like, so that’s, that’s why we, we went out and, and, and raised funds to be able to, to scale and grow much faster than we would be able to do organically. Right. And that, of course always didn’t happen. Half the trade-off of like all the older challenges you get when you are trying to scale an organization very fast. And it has like, you have to know what you’re going into as a founder also, right? Like, as you say, of course, it’s a, it’s a learning curve and you have to be very okay with continuously taking things that, that you saw as quarter your role, like writing the code, building the technology. And then have other people come in and do them instead of you and step away from it. Right. But if you do that, you’ll also learn very quickly along the way. The more like that, no matter how much of your job you seem to delegate it at way, you only get more busy somehow.

Michaela: [00:21:39] Yeah. So one thing that that would really interest in me is like you said, you wrote this little first version MVP of, of Netlify and. A lot of people adopted it. So it seems like you didn’t really have to convince people about this solution or that there is a problem because sometimes like founders it’s, it’s hard. Right. You think like, oh, I have this idea. And then is it too early? Do I have to convince people to have to explain it better? Do you have like to, do you think that this is, this is the right mindset or should people step away from something like where we have. Tweak one sentence to be really powerful and express like the pitch. Right. Is that really too important? Or should we read our focus, our energy on finding the thing that people actually want? Even if you write a sloppy sentence about it, you know what I mean?

Matt: [00:22:34] Yeah. I think, I think it it’s never completely one or the Euler in, I think. You have to in like initially for example, the mental model we had around adoption was that for these kinds of technology products, if you’re trying to build something that’s in that the future of how things will be built, you would expect it to sort of grow in concentric circles where you sort of have these very early adopter technologies that are constantly. Joking too, to broaden their horizon, then find new things that work and so on. Right. And, and, and you want this kind of product to resonate with them first, right? Like in the initial stages of this product, you wouldn’t expect someone who was like aids. Are they working in a law long enterprise company? Very focused on solving. Big picture of business problems, insight that for which assisting technologies to even be interested in your product, right? Like it’s just not time, but you would expect like for a product like ours and, and early adopter of JavaScript frameworks or, or site generators to, to get interested in. And then ideally like there’s, there’s two is essentially two different paths to building. Product companies, right? Like one of them is product led growth and the other is sales or marketing led growth. And not, there’s not like one way is the right way for some products. If you have a product that requires in a whole organization to adopted horizontally before it really adds value. Right. Build a product lead motion around that. You have to go build a sales lit motion where you first go and talk to executives and companies and pick out the needs and then solve their needs with a product. But if you have a product that can both be really useful to an individual engineer, into a small teams with engineer to a larger team of engineers into a whole organization, then you have the opportunity of building like a product led growth moment. Motion. Where, the way you get into businesses is by individual users first adopting the product, and then, then it spreads from there. Right? And we saw the opportunity to build that kind of company. And when you built that, then it can’t be like the cost sale doesn’t depend that much. At first, unlike nailing there, the phrase on your marketing site or something like that, it comes on nailing the onboarding experience for how fast. Can you get someone to land on your website and then be inside the product, doing something where they having a hard moment of why? Like, why is this product going to be useful to us? And for us, there was really about like landing on netlify.com and then having a web property running on a custom domain in a shorter time as possible. Right? Like that was sort of the first iteration of, of, of that hard moment. And then knowing that maybe in, in, in 30 seconds, so minutes or something, right. You had gone from nothing to having a globally distributed website, running on a custom domain with a CSED pipeline plug directly into get right. If we could just make that motion, like something you could do in, in, in 30 seconds or minutes at something like. Then then we would drive that, that, that feeling of like, wow, this is, this is another generation of tooling. This, this is, this is just so different from how the world looked before and, and, and then build excitement with developers. But then in parallel with that, we will also positioning ourselves Hindu in, in the midst of like an architectural change of how are we going to build the web in the future. And at the time when we started, there was just a lot of difference. Technologies that was making that happen. There was, as I mentioned, static site generators that were single page applications. There was a lot of talk of the API economy, some talk around like the programmable weapons, but there was no name for this architecture. And that was something that, that, that, that Chris Sue, my co-founder immediately saw from his background. Like we need, if this is going to have him, we need a name for this category and this architecture, because otherwise, again, all of this happens because humans adopt the technology and humans goes in the direction and, and. If you can’t give people the vocabulary to talk about what they’re doing, it becomes very hard for that idea to spread between groups and teams and people. Right? So that’s why we ended up coining the term game stack. And it happened sort of in a very collaborative process with different people in the, in the industry. And so on in an and the term started taking off because it was needed, right. Because it gave me. And nomenclature to start talking about things that before were seen as just separate movements, right? Like, okay. This, something happening about the architecture we use for cell phones, talking to API APIs, there’s something happening or how this whole world of web API is exploding. There’s something happening around single page applications and something else happening around CDNs and site generators and stuff. And suddenly we had a nomenclature to say, oh, it’s an architectural shift. It’s a shift to watch the games deck. And that, that was really important to, to, to build the other part of like on the one hand, the individual product story and the developer story of like finding this product and instantly getting into ha moment and then connect them. To a broader story around like a new architecture for the web emerging and, and the possibilities that that would entail and how not just individual developers, but large organizations could benefit from that change. So both sides are important, but in the end, if you’re building a product led growth company, you have to be really obsessed is obsessive about the product itself and how. That product that attracts Andy and convinces juices to, to, to work with it.

Michaela: [00:29:17] Yeah. The funny thing is that when you described the story off, you know, how a developer, you know, sees your side and tries it out. This is exactly how I felt when I tried it out. I was not an early adopter dough. Right. I try it out somewhere last year, but. It wasn’t exactly like this. I was like, oh, I have to reply this website. And I want to do it quick. And you know, like, let’s, let’s try that out. Right. Everybody is already on it. I’m like the late, late person too late for everything, but I went to it. Right. And obviously at that point it was fully baked fully in, but, you know, I was there and was like, wow. Well, it’s running, right? Like I was like, and as you said, right, this, like you push and then it’s there. I exactly felt what you were saying, but it was like last year. How was Natalie fly when you say, well, let’s go five years back. How was the experience? Was it similar? Like at that point, would you say.

Matt: [00:30:18] Yeah. So, so the expense involved in, and it will continue to evolve it as, as we also go for, broadening the experience and, and telling it different, like as a large and larger story through the product. Right. So the very first story you would see was, was, was in bit balloon the predecessor to Netlify. Land on a website that just immediately on the front page, head like a drop soon in saying drag your web folder here. And there would also be a little download link where if you didn’t have a website handy, you could download one and drop it there. Right. And then you could just drop aside onto bit ballooned at com without even signing up or anything. And it, you didn’t need to sip the files first, anything you just drag the actual folder onto a bit, little.com and boom. Now you would be live. We still have that done. If you go to app.netlify.com/drop, you’ll get the same kind of experience that mimics, like what, what the very first version was like, of course, in the signed by me and not by actual designers. Like it looks like today. So that was like the first simplest motion we could do right in. And then the next step was really to, to start, like after we had, after I had built out that initial version of just getting a site live and, and, and getting a custom domain connected to it, getting SSL set up and so on, then, then it was really the question of okay. This is fine. If you’re really just one developer by yourself, manually deploying, and we added a CLI where you could do the same from like writing it at for spit and native later, just Netlify deploy and immediately from the command line, deploy fault. That’s fine. If you’re really just one individual working, as soon as you’re at team of people, that’s not very useful. Like you, you can’t just random. You have people deployed manually at different time without structure and people get their structure from, from GitHub or GitLab or bit bucket. That’s where developers collaborate on opening new pull requests and building new features. So. The next iteration of that on Netlify was really saying, instead of focusing on you deploying manually from a folder that solves the whole problem of you working in a good provider and getting that live. So the next moment really became that flow of like calming. Tell us you’ll get repository and we’ll try to even guess what tool you have a framework you’re using. And just say, okay, and now you’re done, right? Like now you have something you live in. And, and now of course, with, without acquisition of a feature peak and that whole journey, we are going even deeper into that space of like, this is not just for single developer building. On their own, like real projects, always built by teams with lots of different stakeholders and with several developers and one part of the processes it’s writing the code. But another part of that whole process is that for every release, you have some feedback cycle where you have back and forth with product managers or designers or other developers or other stakeholders. Before you take something live and now we’re really sort of expanding that whole experience to drink fluid, that process and to sure how, how frictionless we can, we can make. The process of a team actually building releases together and taking them to the world.

Michaela: [00:34:21] So with, with this acquisition, somehow you have like this deploy previews feature. Yeah. You know, my, my favorite thing are code reviews. Is that something that you think is part of the programming part or is it part of deploy? Is it, is it part of something that should be, should code reviews be somewhere in that picture or how do you see it?

Matt: [00:34:45] I mean, code code reviews are really important, but then there’s also the, the step ahead that’s like viewing their outcome of, of, of your current code. Right? Like being able to just open a pull request and having that pull request running in the full production environment. Exactly. As it would look like if you were. That’s that’s really like, it doesn’t replace the code review. Right? Like the developers should still work on the code review tools to make sure that the quality of the code behind that it’s up to scratch and so on. Right. But it does make the, the review, especially from. It QA testers, product managers to designers and marketeers to content editors or anyone else that’s involved that will want to review what the output looks like. Hmm. It makes that process in much simpler. Right. And what we were seeing, like w w like we launched deploy previews in 2016, a long time ago, and we’ve of course been very big consumers of that whole workflow internally, ever since then. netlify.com runs. And Netlify Natalie find that conference and identify all of our web properties up easily run on Netlify. And in that process of deployment, Completely essential to how our web teams work. We’re constantly sharing URLs and so on. But the one thing we saw also when talking to clients and so on, was that when you share that URL, then. The feedback cycle spec to the developers that happens all over the place. Some of it happens you’re shared in slack and there’s feedback in slack and more people open issues and get up or in JIRA, or they will piece two screenshots into documents and sent them back and forward for, at the mess attachments. And, and for developers like the, the process. The process of, of that is as fragmented as the process of code reviews was before tools like get help and get lab integrated into the workflow. Right? Like before that happened, like there was no. You, you would sometimes have specific tools for code review, but mostly it would be processes of sending back and forth emails around the code, or simply just having to sit down at a laptop together or at, at this top bank at the time, and look at the code and talk through it. Right. And get up with the pull request. Functionality really gave her home. For court reviews, right? Like in the game of place where, where now you no longer have to wonder, like where is it happening? And people commenting in all kinds of places and so on. Right. So what we’re trying to do with collaborative deploy previews is in a similar way to give it a form for the, feedback, not on the, on the input, which is the code, but on the output, which is the reason. And make sure also that since every deployed review, it’s a different URL. We don’t, we didn’t want to have a system where every deploy preview now has its own. Like you have to know it exists and go there and look at the feedback in order to take part in that process. Because like we had some initial prototypes integrating with tools like that, and it just attracted from the process because now. Apart from checking the pull request to end a slack messages and the emails also I had to continuously try to figure out is people, are people now also commenting on the deployed from you? Yeah. So it’s really important to make each deploy from URL. Okay. At checkpoint that that makes information flow into the original places. So feedback that stakeholders make on the deployment of the will, will flow back into the poll requests. They’ll take part in the comments there, or they can open tickets in whatever project tracking software you’re using related to get Harper linear clubhouse for the like, and now it’s really important for us. Right. But again, it was this sense of like, Now when a developer, she is that deployed preview URL, the Isles are sharing how to give feedback and how that whole process operates. And we hope that can really, as I said, do do for this process, what, what pull requests themselves fit for them? For the code review process

Michaela: [00:39:23] feature peak, which basically is part of what you’re just describing right. Of the functionality that you’re describing. As I understand it. Is it a company that you acquired? So I would like to understand the process around that a little bit. So you have this vision, obviously you seem very vision driven, right? So you have this vision and then you see that there is no place for that. But how does that work? Like, and then you find a company or, you know, like it, because you’re, you’re obviously. Yeah. Having your eyes out on the space and under companies, and then you see a company that works in that space and you think, oh, they’re going to the right direction. And then you contact them. Or how does that, like how, how can it be such a good match and why not do that? In-house and you know, like how does this whole process wig? And what’s your, what’s your mental model behind it?

Matt: [00:40:12] Yeah, let me, let me tell them, so let me take a step first bank and just to the listeners shit like yesterday, we announced a big feature for us called collaborative deploy previews that allow other stakeholders to give feedback in the process of, of, of reusing and going from pull requests to release. And behind that feature launch was an acquisition of. Affair venture funded company called feature peak that was backed by Y Combinator and matrix venture in that joint Netlify and integrated that product into the core of our product. And the whole, the whole process started in a way back into, in our all hands meeting at the very start of 2020, where in memory. So was a UX researcher on, on, on our team. Yeah. Brought up the, it like brought up the initial idea that take it. It would really add so much value to the other stakeholders. If there was a way of bringing feedback and commenting to to deploy previews. And based on that, we started at first in prototyping with a couple of different tools that already existed in the space for. Full commenting and annotating on websites. So we integrated one of those tools through it, built, pluck in and started testing it out internally. And we learned there that if the commenting was something external to the current process, our developers cut more frustrated than helped by it. Like they quickly felt like, okay, now, now I’m just getting. At pod from all the meals and slack messages in this year’s I get, I’m also now getting comments in a different place. Right. So after testing that for a while, we found out that, okay, that’s that’s not going to be the right approach. It’s the right idea. It’s the right problem with tackling, but it’s not the right solution in. So we think it, that, that we would have to do something that tied into the process that developers will already working in. And that tied into the pull request process. And we did start in building our own. We built first, a quick prototype that I went to celebrate experienced team built in. To be able to take that to our user researcher and then put it in front of a bunch of our clients talk through like, what would this do for their workflow? What are they currently doing for their workflow? And started all to really understanding like the set of tools that, that our customers were working with and how they were already solving this problem. Because obviously like, It’s not like this is something that everybody already doing in some way. No, no one are building software just by having developers write the code and then launch it. Right? Like there’s always a process of write the code, show the output, talk through it, do testing, validate the result, give feedback, iterate on it. And then you launch it. Right. But often that process is just a lot of screenshots and PowerPoints and emails and slack messages and stuff. And we could see that, that, that if we could make that flow back into the poll requests, that would help. But it wouldn’t be enough. Like when we tried just that with our first prototype, we saw like just full requests, comments. It’s not enough. Like people are also using is your track or some project management software. And we had to figure out how can we integrate into those pieces as well? So this was a long process and we built several internal prototypes and did some. Kicked off some real development. And in the process we kept looking at, in any, any company, they was trying to take a listen to the market. The end, the one of them that started to really stand out was, was west feature peak. So we reached out to them and, and asked to meet. And they came to us and, and had at the time actually started working on it on a nearly fight integration through our built plugins layer and. Yeah. I was in Nicole together with a, with, Jessica, one of product managers with the two founders of feature peak. They gave us a demo of, of what they had been working on in the integration. And as the demo progressed, I would say like our jobs got closer and closer to the, to the flow of because yeah, it, was really far ahead of anything else within this space. And more than that, It, it was as if they had been reading all of our use of research, like building exactly the kind of product that, that I wanted to build in that we were dreaming about. Right. So we very quickly figured out that, that, between us and, and the, and the Fiji peak founders, we really shed a vision of like, what can you do in this space? And what can you build in? They had already built a product that, gets a lot of things. But we could also like, just, just talking through food, future potential. We could see that we were so aligned in like, what could this turn into? And as we started to talk more, it was also pretty obvious that they could build a great integration on top of Netlify and here’s how our integration layer for that. But it would still just be an add-on. It would still just feel. Like something you could add and that would be bolted on, right. It would have its own like separate sort of dashboard and lock in. And the integrations would be only on there and not on our end and so on. That would not really be a good way to integrate the whole feedback cycle as a first-class citizen throughout our whole product journey. It would be feeling like it just, to pluck in just an add on, right. And we felt. Between all of us that if we really wanted to do this, integration had to be much deeper. It heads to be much tighter. And we would only really be able to do that if we were one company. So then we started talking about what if we joined forces? What if we, what if we built something together, then build something in, in two different silos ended and ended up agreeing that, that that was the right way to go.

Michaela: [00:46:35] And so now, You acquired them this week. And are you going to develop something now or is it already developed or, you know, like how does that person?

Matt: [00:46:46] So, , we did the acquisition in about three months echo and behind the scenes that their whole team and our team have been. Working really hard on, on, on integrating their technology really deeply into Netlify. So Netflix too. So yesterday we didn’t just announce the acquisition. We also announced the full product launch with with all of these collaborative features now available to all Netlify users from Friday.

Michaela: [00:47:19] Yeah, very cool. So you took the D the code base that they had, and then it w it’s not a complete rewrite, it’s just that you blacked in what they had, you know, got rid of some, you know, functionality because it was a plugin first and now it’s, you know, it’s part of Natalie fly. So you, part of the code base and integrate the data. How does

Matt: [00:47:40] that. The team that has like they both whom re rewrote parts of their code base to integrate it into our code base directly for, for the whole coy API functionality. I think our team together with their team built the. Three new microservices to power, like identity for cross integrations, for uploads and so on in. And and they updated the whole UI to be in line with how we built Netlify UI and to feel integrated into, into that process. Eh, But if, but I have to say an incredible job from, the whole team, executing that in just three months in and taking it to them.

Michaela: [00:48:29] Yeah, I can imagine. Yeah. Yeah. Well, it did. So I have 1000 more questions, but we are on time. So I will just, I would just say thank you so much for sharing everything with me and Medalla, you know, with the listeners and with, with, with us, it’s like, yeah. As I said, I just have so many more questions. I could talk for hours, but you maybe I’m inviting you again. Maybe you have time to spend a little bit more talking with me about all of those things. Yeah. Can you have more questions, but yeah, it’s, it’s, I’m really impressed. It’s a, it sounds really fascinating and really cool. Is there something from your side that you want to share, like with my listeners that you want to give them on the way I will obviously link everything in the show notes, but is there something that you want, especially for people that are, you know, like love technology, software engineering, and also maybe want to become founders or, you know, do their own thing.

Matt: [00:49:28] In. Yeah. I mean the first thing I would say, if you think all of this sound sounds, sound interesting and, and you would like to read the part of it. We are very actively hiring. So check out our careers page and if you don’t find anyone, anything there. Think you could be a great part, then we always have at your dream job position that you can write in for in. So that would be the first part. And do the other part, I would say is that it S this whole sheet. From big monolithic applications having to to, to modern architecture with it, decoupled front end and all these different APIs and services. There’s also a lot of opportunity for founders to, to build new, interesting, newer, interesting pieces that, that fits into that developer workflow. And I’m always happy to. To, to, to spend time with founders in that space that are building something new or interesting. So it feel free to reach out or Twitter or email or the like,

Michaela: [00:50:36] wow. That sounds really nice. Cool. Thank you so much, Matt. For, for being on my show. It was really a pleasure.

Matt: [00:50:43] Thank you for having me. Bye.

 

 

Responsibilities of a Chief Data Officer

In this episode, I talk to Patrick Wagstrom. Patrick is the Chief Data Officer at Brightcove. Before that Patrick was the director of emerging technology at Verizon, meaning that he leveraged AI/ML, augmented reality, blockchain, IoT, quantum computing, and even 5G.  Before that, he was a senior director of data science at Capital One. Even before that, he was a “research nerd”(his own term) at IBM working on the Watson project.

We talk about:

  • his role and responsibilities as a chief data officer,
  • the difference between building systems that support machine learning and systems that don’t,
  • distributed software engineering,
  • data governance and GDPR,
  • and how to make sure your AI model is unbiased.

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Links:

Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Deezer, or via RSS.

Transcript:

 Coming soon…

Using Entrepreneurship 101 to Build a New Profitable Business

In this episode, I talk to Karls Hughes. Karl is a software engineer who turned into an entrepreneur in the midst of the pandemic last year. His start-up draft.dev creates content that reaches software engineers – which means he combined his two passions, development and content creation.

We talk about:

  • his transition from developer to CTO, and then to the business owner,
  • value-based pricing and how to focus on the customer segment that gets the most value out of your product,
  • how to scale as a bootstrapped business,
  •  why blogging is such a career changer for developers.

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The Secret To High-Quality Code with Dr. Michaela Greiler and Liran Haimovitch

In this episode, I talk to Liran Haimovitch, CTO of Rookout – an effortless debugging tool, about how to get to high-quality code.

We talk about:

  • what are the challenges of moving fast
  • what does productivity mean
  • a lot about code reviews
  • and I also give you a glimpse of the research I’m currently doing.

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Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Deezer, or via RSS.

Transcript:

[If you want, you can help make the transcript better, and improve the podcast’s accessibility via Github. I’m happy to lend a hand to help you get started with pull requests, and open source work.]

 

Michaela: Hello and welcome to the software engineering unlocked podcast. I’m your host dr. Michaela and today I have a special episode for you. Two weeks ago I talked with Liran haimovitch,the CTO of Rookout – an effortless debugging tool. Our conversation was so much fun and somebody on Twitter asked me if I could make it an episode on, and i thought, that’s a brilliant idea. So, today I’m sharing my talk with Liran on the challenges and strategies for getting to high-quality software. Enjoy.

maror:[00:00:00] Um, hi everyone. And welcome to our webinar today on the secret to high quality code. We’re really excited to have you all here with us. Uh, so let me introduce you to Dr. McKayla and the stars of today’s webinar. Dr. McKayla has been helping software teams build high quality software in an efficient and effective way for 10 years. And her mission is to lead teams. So I’m up there full potential through company workshops and team coaching sessions. Leanne is the co-founder and CTO of workout, which is a live data collection and debugging platform. He’s an advocate of modern software methodologies like agile lean and DevOps, and his passion is to understand how software actually works. So when he’s not thinking of code, which is rarely usually diving, hiking, or writing a new workout blog. Um, and so before we get started, I just want to remind you all that we do have time for questions at the end of the webinar. So please don’t hesitate to leave questions in the question box and this will be recorded and we will be sending you the recording at the end. So. You’re on and McKayla, please take it away.

michaela: [00:01:02] Thank you so much for your really nice and kind introduction. I’m really excited to talk with Liren today about, um, high quality code and get his whole perspective on this topic and pick his brain. So yeah, I’m really thrilled to be here. It’s

liran:[00:01:19] great to be here with you discuss so many interesting topics.

michaela:[00:01:24] Yeah, really cool. So in, in the beginning we discussed a little bit, like what should this webinar be about? And we thought like, let’s come up with this idea that we are asking each other a little bit questions that, you know, are burning questions for ourselves or that we very often, you know, encounter. And, um, so I want to start with that theme and I want to ask you about. The challenge that you see, or the challenges that you see that, uh, engineering teams face nowadays, but really moving fast. Right? So there’s like this accelerate the book, for example, there, the Durham metrics are many other metrics around code velocity. So it’s apparently something that we want to do, right. We want to move fast. We want to be productive, but what are the challenges and how can we actually achieve that? So

liran:[00:02:12] I can say from my personal experience as well from pretty much everything I read on the topic, the best way to move faster is to work in smaller units. You mentioned Dora, the Dora metrics and accelerate, and they’re constantly about, you know, roundtrip time for new features and the amount of new features that are being released. And how can we build in it? How can we work in smaller unit to Falk? And the reason for that is because smaller units of work allow for much faster Predix cycles that allow you to learn much more. You get more feedback, you get, you learn every step of the way you learn more often, and you also get delivered more value to the cost, to the end customer on a more frequent basis. And in a way that’s actually driving a lot more value. I guess the biggest challenge is actually, how, how do you do that? How can you keep moving ever faster? How can you deliver in smaller units while still keeping delivery efficient? And I found that one of the best way, the best way to start is quite often culture. And we talked a bit about you, eh, doing some rich recent research for that. So I would love to hear about. What do you think about how best to build a better culture and how to promote a culture that deliver faster and deliver in smaller units folk?

michaela:[00:03:34] Um, I’m a big advocate for, for great, uh, culture, right? Who isn’t somehow everybody wants to work at the company that has a great culture, but unfortunately not everybody is I’m currently actually doing a research project that I that’s. The one that I talked with you about a little bit is on productivity and work culture and the experiences of developers at their companies. And so I’m, I’m doing right now, a qualitative study, a grounded theory study where I’m really. Trying to deeply understand how are people experiencing their work place and what factors are influencing their satisfaction, their happiness, their productivity, and what, what enables them to move fast, as you said, to be productive, to be the best selves. And, you know, there are some factors around obviously release, for example, is one that’s also covered by the Dora metric. Um, how has the release experience? And here I’m not only talking about metrics because. I think on one hand, I’m extremely data-driven. Um, whenever I was working with teams or am working with teams, um, also at Microsoft, we did a lot of the research was very data-driven, but it was also, and this was very, very important for me, always. Um, Kwon qualitative as well. Right? So not only you’re looking at the data, which gives you a very include complete picture, but you’re understanding, trying to understand the whole experience. And so this research study is really looking at the whole lift experience of developers. So on one hand we have like metrics like, um, you know, release cadence or from time to commit or from time to merge and so on. So what what’s very quantitative quantifiable, but on the other hand, you have. Um, the impressions and the perceptions of people around that. Right? So are you feeling better with it are, um, are they feeling worse and the same is true for code reviews and so. A lot of the things can really back to culture and culture is somehow enabler here, right? So we have like this practices around those areas, let’s say release. These feedback loops that we have released is actually a feedback loop. Code reviews are a feedback loop, right? Talking with product management is a feedback loop. How, how seamless, how smooth can we make them? And culture is really an enabler for that. Why is it an enabler? Because if I’m allowed to say, if something is wrong or if I’m allowed to experiment, even experimented with some failures, right? Like I try something out, I try to work different with product management. It doesn’t work out what happens, right? What are the consequences of that? And. And that’s why culture is so important because if people feel that they can experiment, if they feel that they can also express their opinion on it, they will drive more improvement. Right. Um, the research is really a lot about improvement. How, how much improvement can people. Um, drive and they normally know what’s good. Right. They know what’s going bad. Um, or what’s good. And so it’s really about enabling them to act upon that. And that has a lot to do in here. The funny thing here is that metrics are really important to want on one hand, to enable people that we see and that we make it visible that there are problems. But on the other hand, metrics often also hold people back. Because if I’m, if I measured. By one metric. Right? Um, it means that if I’m trying something else, something new, that’s not covered by this metric. It very well, it could very well be that I’m actually slowing down or I’m. The metrics outcomes going down while I’m trying something out. Right. And so the question is really about culture here. Again, how are people handling that? Right? Do I always have to perform to my OKR or KPIs or whatnot, right. The metrics and the goals that set around, or am I actually allowed to experie experiment here with things that might slow us down for a short time when I’m doing the improvements, because improvements are really hard to do without. Short term slowing down, right? Technical debt. How are you going to work on technical debt and still keep the features going? Right? Yeah. So this is what I am seeing here

liran:[00:07:41] that actually brings to mind the analogy from lean production, where you stop the line. When you see something is wrong and you say you have the, you give a individual engineers or individual employees, the. The permission to call it, to stop the line and spend the time and efforts to improve things, even at the cost of lost productivity in the short term, because it allows for continuous improvement.

michaela:[00:08:09] Yeah, exactly. It’s a really good analogy. Yeah. I

liran:[00:08:13] think it’s so important to create. Um, I remember I talked a lot about feedback, but you’re right. It’s critical that it’s not just enough to have feedback, but it’s super critical that the feedback experience is going to be positive. Even if this feedback is negative, it’s important for people to be able to experience. Getting feedback, something positive and in a way that if they’re changing something or developing something, or if it’s a bad product idea that the negative feedback should be, you know, about the, the, the feature about the, the task that this feature was bad, but the person who came up with it wasn’t bad and they didn’t necessarily make a bad choice by, uh, you know, going after this feature. And. People should be glad about getting those so-called negative feedbacks and not attribute them personally. And that’s super important to the culture, to the experience, kind of, how do you go about creating that? How do you go about building that environment where you get continuous feedback and experience is good.

michaela:[00:09:23] Yeah. I mean, I’m, I’m, I’m thinking a lot about culture nowadays and, you know, to. The common sense is always all countries so hard, right? It’s so hard to change. And if I’m in a, in a bad place, you know, it’s a bad place. Um, and I think on one hand, that’s probably true, but I don’t hand now that I’m confronted. So, so a lot with that, and I’m really working a lot with organizations and that they in displaced, I’m thinking about the small things that you can do. And culture really begins now really coming back to something very concrete. Um, I’m all about code review. So culture begins already in cultural views and for example, code root feedback. And to, in my workshop, what I do, I work with people on how to give respectful feedback. And very often everybody thinks like, Oh, but I’m doing this right? Like we are not fighting in the code reviews or whatnot, or, you know, or it’s only instances of that where we are mean, but it’s more, it’s about the collective awareness of not only do I fight with somebody or, you know, is it an unrespectful, but really. Uh, is my mind about value? The value that I can provide to others is the, is my mind about how can I actually, you know, improve the experience of my peers here. And I think this is something that’s often not done, and this is something very small where a team can really. Start actively being more aware of that, more deliberate, more conscious about this. Um, and it starts already by understanding code is really, really hard and everybody has, um, everybody has a time pressure and you know, wants to deliver the features. And a lot of engineers say, well, you know, code review is good, but, uh, I actually have to deliver feature. So what’s about the time that I have to spend on the code review. Somehow it’s missing from my feature work and so on. And so having really empathy around that and the experience of myself, but also off my, off my team, that’s already creating culture, um, and being extremely, um, it bear that feedback, even if it comes from a good colleague that you think like, we are all, you know, good friends and we are really on the same page that we still really take. And this is now again, you know, slowing down, right. It’s slowing down to make sure that I’m phrasing this feedback in a very respectful way, because we know that feedback can sting. Right. Um, and it can be misinterpreted. A lot of the feedback comes through a tool, which means it’s an automated tool. I’m not directly talking to a person. So sometimes I forget it. And we are in this automated way of. Um, you know, looking through the algorithms, finding, you know, let’s say edge cases or whatnot, finding problems. And so if you are in a very technical state of mind, and then we are hammering in our feedback and say, Oh, Variable name is wrong or, you know, or should be different. And then going, you know, taking one step back and thinking, is that creating a good culture? Or can I take this, you know, two more minutes and say, Oh, you know, what about, um, renaming this and even giving an explanation, you know, w really expressing your, your mind. I think. Driving cultural change is definitely hard and, um, comes often also from the top, but there is a lot that teams can do for themselves. And even engineers themselves can ask themselves every day, like, what did I do positive today? Like I’m not only going somewhere in and they’re expecting that culture would be great, but am I actually contributing to, to making a good culture here? Hmm.

liran:[00:12:49] I think it’s so much more critical today as well, working remotely, because as you mentioned, we’re often in that technical state of mind, whether it’s on GitHub doing code review or on Slack or wherever, but behind what’s actually happening is we’re communicating with other human beings. We’re not just no analyzing code and the testing stuff we’re communicating to other human beings. And as we were, many of us are working remotely quite often, or most of the time. We can often forget there is a person on the other, on the other side of it. And sometimes we kind of forget to act with empathy, with compassion, and while we may be factually, correct. We’re not creating a good experience for the person on the other side of that communication.

michaela:[00:13:35] Yeah. And actually about the factually correct thing. I have learned over my, you know, my time in the industry that at seldom leader, Kate seldom Livia are very, very active, you know? And I think sometimes you forget about that and, and this is two perspectives. Cultural views are a place where two perspectives really are, you know, they are, they are the benefit of it. And there are also the problem, right? That you are constantly having somebody that looks at the same thing and say, well, but I’m seeing something else, right? Like I’m seeing technical debt and you say, but it’s fine. You know,

liran:[00:14:15] the thing is engineers so often feel like they’re factually correct. Even whether it’s or not, it’s the case. I just, and quite often we’re not actually factually correct. There is some degree of, eh, you know, afraid. Of common sense and various options. And w there is not one single truth out there, but even if there is even if you there is, and you’re convinced that there is in your, on that single spruce, it’s still communication. And you must not forget that there are other things beyond fact, too, and more often than not, there are actually no facts. And it’s just your opinion, which might be very good and professional, but it’s just an opinion.

michaela:[00:14:59] Yeah, very true. And a lot of the time it’s about strategies. And about the unknowns that you know, that the unknowns unknowns that we actually make guesses and decision and B we don’t know if they are the best ones. And we even in hindsight, we cannot decide like if we could have, you know, if you would have done it differently, would we have a better outcome? We don’t know. Right. So, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s really dealing with that and, and embracing that and maybe reminding maybe something that we can do also, always over time to build this culture is reminding us of that. Right. It’s a little bit like we have to remind ourselves of the central things. We have to remind also ourselves that we are dealing with so many unknowns and that on one hand, you know, we are, I think at, at one point we have to go and say, Well, we don’t know better. And maybe some people disagree here, but now is the time that we are, you know, buying in and going this way together. And I think this is also important for engineering teams, right? So in one of my country workshops last week, for example, I give them a code base and it was, um, it seeded with errors, right? So it has issues and they asked the team to, to find those issues. And there are, you know, they are. Issues about readability, maintainability of the code, but there are also security issues. And so then we had a discussion about, you know, um, so there are a lot of issues. So how are you going to communicate to the person that wrote that code about those issues? Are you going to tell them all of them at once? You know, do we make like a plan around what should be, um, worked on first? And there was, for example, this discussion then between two senior engineers and they were saying, well, once by saying. Yeah. Um, so everybody agreed that, you know, sending them 300, 300 problems at one point is not the right thing to work with this junior. So, um, they were thinking, well, let’s do it in, in phases, but it didn’t, they couldn’t agree. Like if security issues are more important than readability issues or not only readability, but making the code work. Right. So there was this discussion that, well, this is early stage, so it’s, it’s probably a prototype, so we should have to, you know, show. So let’s do it. Make it correct first that it works and then work on the security issues that they had, like they had, there were injection box and cross site scripting products and so on. Right. But in the end, you know, like the whole team was discussing it. They couldn’t really find a way forward. Right. There was one side that was very convinced that, well, these are really critical security packs and they were really critical. And the other was like, well, but it’s, you know, we use it internally right now. It’s a prototype. So let’s make the functionality work first. And so what, there was a back and forth, and I think this was a really nice example of, I couldn’t tell, like, I couldn’t say like they wanted me to be now the referee and say, Oh, you win. Right? Like the security team, Vince, we first do a security or we first do inability, but there is no right or wrong answer. It’s just the strategy that you’re going to do. And probably that you’re not doing, you know, again, not sending all the issues at one is a good one. Um, but then in the end, it doesn’t matter if you do one or the other, as long as the security backs are not coming out right. In, in production. Um, yeah. And, and I think here it’s really important to step back from this discussion at one point and say it’s actually a nonsense discussion. Let’s, you know, flip a coin and do one or the other. Um, yeah, this is what I think about this. So a lot of the things is really. It really depends. And then we have to make a decision and if we made the decision, this is the important thing. And then everybody has to buy in and not like, keep this resentment and say, Oh, the security or pre approach first. Right. And I think it’s stupid. And so that’s why I’m blocking here, which is culture. I think.

liran:[00:18:49] Yeah. So actually it’s not, it’s interesting that you mentioned that because it’s such a big topic. And I mean, so much effort goes into code reviews and often becoming the button neck, both for whoever has to do the code review. And, you know, spend the time and walk and provided feedback in both wherever need, wants to get, just to get this code out there. And they’re just trying to, and, you know, they’ve just finished developing the feature. They just want to check off the it’s been called of you and send it out there. So kind of what strategies should company follow to speed up their code reviews?

michaela:[00:19:27] So, um, I totally agree that code reviews can become a bottleneck and they’re coming with a lot of pain points, but I think especially this. This mindset of, you know, cultivate is just another hurdle. Um, that’s something that people have to work on. Right. So, um, we really have to understand and carve out also, what’s the benefit of the code view? Why do we do it even here? Right. And if the feeling of the engineering as well, I just wants, uh, I want to look good to me and that’s it. Um, then obviously it’s a delay and it’s a bottleneck and you know, the value. Probably isn’t that high because even if the person gets good feedback, you know, if the person that receives it, doesn’t actually want it, you know, what’s the value of that. So I think that a lot of those is really for an organization and for a team to think about what do we want to get out of contribution? And there is a lot of imperative studies also that really show that the benefits like. Um, improved code base, readability, maintainability, um, less, you know, less issues, less facts, defects in posts and pre-releases, um, all of those are happening. Culture-based, there’s a lot of mentoring and learning happening. There is advantage knowledge sharing, but it’s only if I’m open to it. And if I’m very clear about what I want to get out of here, because if I want. Let’s say if I want to find it back, it would be the best to ask a person that’s familiar with the code to be on this code review and not, you know, a junior, but if I want to have this learning expect more in, in, you know, in the center, then obviously I ask somebody that maybe hasn’t seen that code part before, so that they get familiar, that I have knowledge dissemination that I have more people that are familiar about this code base. And I think most organizations. They’re not real bear. They, they hopped on this code review bag and because the hopped on, you know, to pull request, model to development and pull requests and code reviews are not the same. And so suddenly they wrote a pull request and they felt like, Oh, before I pull it in and look at the code and because I’m looking at the code, it’s already a code review. And so now I’m doing code reviews and I want all of these benefits without actually investing I’m investing. And then here it comes back to this slow down. Right. So I have to probably slow down first. Really find out with my team, what is it that we want to get out of code reviews? How are we structuring our processes, our practices, and this has to do a lot, right? Like, depending on the risk profile of this code review, who should be on the code review would ask for feedback, how long should it take them? What issues are they looking for? All of that can actually be designed and very deliberately made. And then you’re getting really a lot of benefits out. But if you’re not doing that, yeah. Then you’re in this state where. He just wanted, it looks good to me. Right? The other person knows you just want that, but still feel a little bit pressure, um, that they have to look at it because if it goes in, they’re also responsible. And so there’s this delay, um, and you don’t want to spend time for it, but you have to, you know, and then you having an, I actually have a, if you look on my website, there’s the code through your quadrant. Um, and this means like it’s, it’s, you have to access and it’s the speed of the process and the value. And this means that you often have them. Organizations that are slowing speed. And low in value. Right? So they are low in, in speed. They’re very slow. They’re bottlenecks and they don’t get value out or that they’re fight fast because they’re just giving out. Looks good to me, but they’re not getting value out of this. Right. But even if you’re waiting for look good to me, Like say half an hour or an hour or four hours, it’s still slowing down your process. And the question is, was it worth it right? If people are not really taking the time to review. So in the end for me, it was probably a very long answer to your question, but it really comes down to what, why do you do code reviews? Right. And do you have to have an answer for that? And probably depending on the code change, the risk profile of the code change and the code change, you will have different answers to that, or this code review. I want that, you know, my junior engineer knows how that works. And so I’m sending it over or this, this code changes about how we are doing the checkout. So I definitely want, you know, two more eyes, um, to make sure that there are no, no defects going out. Right?

liran:[00:23:47] Yeah. I mean, that sounds so complex. Can’t we just automate this and install some tool and get it over with.

michaela:[00:23:55] I definitely parts of it. And I think that a lot of people are, are, are doing stuff that tools should do for them. Right? So they, they, they are mocking on, you know, style issues they are talking about, you know, some, some things that actually study analysis tools could find. Um, or automated code review tools, whatever you want to call them. Uh, in the end it’s, it’s, linters that checkers steady analysis tools. Right. And they are actually much better than, than people. To find certain, certain errors and certain problems with your code, they can actually, you know, they can walk through your code and really find out, you know, if they’re, if, if some code paths are not called and tell you, Oh, this is actually not going to call it. Or, you know, really also back study analysis backs, but they are limited. So it’s, it’s not something, you know, they are not, you cannot comply, uh, replace the, the manual review. But you can replace a lot of that, you know, nitpicking, which is very unproductive and code reviews. Um, it doesn’t matter. Like why would you have an engineer spend time on finding certain types of errors? If a tool could do it automatically? I’m I’m all for automation. I think it’s so important to automate whatever you can automate here. Yeah. Are you using, are you using some automated tools in your pipeline?

liran:[00:25:15] So yeah, we actually adopted a GitHub advanced security. A few months ago at lookout. And it was actually a pretty good tool for us. It allowed us to gain some insights, actually both brought us a lot of insights into some of the other code that broke out and kind of knowing where we might’ve pitfalls, but it also managed ha ha is helping us moving forward, knowing that it could work coder pushing through discussed meeting there. No style checks and best practices, especially when it goes to more junior engineers or engineers or working in environments that are not a strength. Let’s say, I know most of our full stack engineers spend most of their days between a, you know, react and node JS, but occasionally they dive into Golang. And then all of a sudden, they’re not as fluent in, you know, what can go wrong and how should the code views. And some of those arrows can easily be caught by those automated static analysis tools. Also, it’s a very useful tool personally, we’ve, we’ve recently developed support for Ruby and surely within that skeleton of project, we started with Robocop, which is a very, very strict, eh, who bill inter. And that’s actually provided us with a lot of insight and kind of kept us very honest as we were developing the code, keeping functions, very short, creating a very orderly and well structured code. And that’s kind of something that it’s always a dilemma for me when starting a new project. Do you go ahead and spend a lot of time building the skeleton, building the CACD building, building linting. At the beginning of the, you wait for it later on, because you know that later on, doesn’t always get by. And if you’re adding a linter to an existing project, and then all of a sudden you’re getting, you know, dozens of errors, then you might not be, get going around to fix them because it’s too much work and that’s always kind of a dilemma. But for that project, it was a very good experience for us in developing high-quality code.

michaela:[00:27:25] Yeah, that’s really nice. Yeah. There’s also my experience. Like if you, if you add that to an already existing, quite substantial code base, right. It’s just out of hands, right. You will have like all these red flags, orange, whatever, you know, depending on the tool that you have, like different severities of issues. And I always feel really bad because. I know that I’m not going to be able, like to go back and, you know, redo the past. Um, you can do it slowly by slowly, right? Like I’ll voice called removal or at five by refactoring where you say, well, if I’m touching this code, I make it nice again or make it better and you can do it ongoing. Um, but yeah, I also feel like for, for existing code, it somehow has this, you failed here. Um, um, Psychological, uh, you know, by byproduct, but you’d be like, Oh, now I’m seeing what’s all messy and you cannot really do it. Um, yeah. But yeah, it’s good that it worked out. So apparently you could, could you remove all of the issues? Could you work through all of them?

liran:[00:28:26] So we got through, and I think 95% of them ere, there were some, a few areas where we decided that. That code is not going to be the nicest code in the project. And that’s okay. This code is mostly, you know, four, it wasn’t was low maintenance, low complexity, just a lot of, you know, lung functions doing boring stuff. And we said, that’s something we can live with without spending too much engineering efforts, kind of fixing it up and making it look the best.

michaela:[00:28:59] Yeah. So in the interview and the research interviews that I’m doing right now, we talk a lot about technical debt as well, and how people deal with technical debt. And I’m asking different organizations, different teams, their strategies for technical debt. What are your strategies? We have like some, you know, some amount per sprint that you can use on that, or how do you, how do you even. Um, assess the value of working on this, uh, you know, technical, then you were talking like, Oh, we already okay with this part of the code base, but how do you assess that? And on a more strategical, systematic level, right?

liran:[00:29:34] Yeah. So I guess that’s a two part question. And on the one part, we do have a strategy and I can talk about it a bit, but I think it goes beyond that. I found that for you, you mentioned actually early on that nothing in very literal in tech is factual and most of it is opinions. And I think that’s doubly true for a tech debt. And quite often one engineer joins a project and they decide that what’s happening. Much of, many of the decisions have been taken before they joined our tech that there have been wrong. And I would wager basic statement that it’s. Probably the other way around. I mean, if the project is live, if it’s generating value, if that piece of code was walking from when it was written up until now, then chances are the decision to, to do it. That way was actually correct. Or at least descent. And engineers often jump to say to, you know, define tech that because something is not in the latest design pattern or something is using an older technology or paradigm, or maybe simply because they don’t understand something. So often the first thing you have to do when you think of tech that is actually understand what’s going on and truly think for yourself. I truly think about it. Is this truly affected? Oh, is this something you lack an understanding? And actually that’s something we were seeing within Rueckert and with our customers that shook out is quite often used for once you have a better understanding of the code, because you can see how it’s working and you can see inside of it, then you quite often realize that’s not actually that that’s the, I just didn’t understand how it was working. And once you get gain a better picture of how is it working, why is it working that way? And none of the sudden then it makes perfect sense. But obviously sometimes there is real product that there is real tech that they, for the most part, we kind of manage tech debt on a, you know, quarterly on a quarterly roadmap. We have a very. Agile flexible quarterly roadmap while we manage our roadmap, eh, usual, all the rollout. And you also kind of add, you know, a handful of tasks for each team and full of mid-level mid large tasks for each team where they can, whether they should strive for a tech that. And obviously, you know, like that usually comes last in priorities priorities. So it doesn’t always get executed a lot. Depends on the roadmap progress in general and especially on a. Eh, eh, new tasks that get pushed in from the sales team as well, working with customers. And there are always new requirements for improving performance, for a meeting new criteria for giving the best experience with possibly can for our customers. And those often override some of other stuff we have on the roadmap, but we do try to get at least some of the tech that cleared every quarter, just to get a few low hanging fruits with high impact stuff. That’s been bothering us, that’s bothering the team. And also we find that having those, you know, tasks in the queue engineers kind of find time in way to get to them, to get it out of the way.

michaela:[00:32:56] Yeah. So what, what reminds me and what I wanted to ask you in that context is that the original or one of the very early on definitions of tech dad was code that didn’t have tests right from my Confederacy would say, well, it’s tech that if you don’t have tests, because then you really have a hard time refactoring and often, you know, There’s also this new, I was actually, I did a podcast with him, uh, recently on, on, on my podcast and we were talking about it and then he, and he also sat like tech tech. That is the code that has been outlived, but a person that. Wrote it right. And that in our days in our, in our, um, very fast pace or, you know, um, take industry where people will stay two years, maybe at the company, they write code and they actually never really see it in the maintainance pace. Right. So do you see it when they’re writing it? Maybe when you’re releasing it. And so a lot of the, you know, like a lot of the, the. Code becomes tech deck, because the knowledge is actually gone from the organization that, you know, wrote that that code or, you know, can maintain or understand it. What’s your perspective on that?

liran:[00:34:07] So there’s actually a truck out we’ve kind of we’ve wrote and talked a lot about understandability. It’s exactly what you mentioned. It’s about knowledge it’s about if you’re able to understand the software, the code fairly well, then. You’re the new C you can do a lot. I mean, you can get stuff done. I mean, I think the most obvious example of that is, you know, those simple exercises you get on introduction to computer sciences file from disk, Salton array, eh, those kinds of stuff. And you know, those exercises you can usually do right now as a senior engineer in 10 minutes, 20 minutes. And you’re done, but if you were to get the same task within the context of a very large system, especially one you’re not intimately familiar with, then all of the sudden the same tasks can take you weeks. And then you’re going to start complaining about tech debt and lack of knowledge and documentation. And if at the same time, or to give that same task to the two, a person who was one of the founding team of that system, they’re still going to get it done in, I know maybe not 10 minutes, but 30 minutes. And preserving knowledge is super critical. And at the same time, we need better tooling. We need better tooling that would allow us to work with systems that are complex, that we’re not intimately familiar with. Obviously testing is there, as you mentioned, testing is a form of tech that because testing is a Godwin. That allows it to operate in a, in an area where you’re not familiar with. It allows you to easily debug the code that I, you to see it in action. Even though it’s a developing environment, you can see the code running, you could see it in action. You can make changes in a control mirror. We know what you’re changing, you know what you’re going to impact, but that’s at the same time, I think tests can be incredibly expensive. Even more so if you’re not already familiar with the code, so it’s kind of, you know, a conundrum you’re saying the code is not very good because it’s effective because it doesn’t have any tests and it doesn’t understand it, but then it’s going to be very hard for you to add tests to the code. You’re not honest. You don’t understand. I think observability tools, by the way, can provide you with some insights into how the code is walking. Right. Eh, but at the end of the day, nothing beats just debugging the code, stepping through it, see what, see the actual types and values of variables, seeing the inputs and outputs of the system and seeing it in action. That’s the best way to understand the code.

michaela:[00:36:45] Yeah. I think the too, when I was at the university of Victoria in Canada, um, I was doing a research as a bicycle there. And they, they developed a tool. I think at that point was called driver. You will not find it because it was a research tool, right. Not really popular and bad. The tool itself was really cool because it helped you understand cold. Um, my, my research area was called comprehension. And so really helping teams and engineers understand code. And so this tool was made in a way that you could Deepak and it showed, you know, the traces and the values as you just described. Right. But this is like, 15 years back pretty long time. So it was very novel at that point. Right. And so this was really used to understand coach. I think debugging is definitely one of the ways how we understand code, right. That we really go through it and try to understand what’s going on a really interesting resource maybe in that, um, in that regard is also a book that’s coming out from a friend of mine, for the Hermanns it’s called. The program has brain and it talks a lot about cognitive load and code reading. Um, there’s actually a workshop that I’m going to attend today about code reading, um, from her. And, um, yeah, and I think this is really, this is really interesting because it again goes into these different versions of cognitive load and also confusion that you have with code and confusion can come, come from different sources. One is lack. Of your own knowledge, right? So being a junior or, you know, being a senior engineer, you have a different knowledge base. So you can actually go back to your longterm memory and quickly access how to load the file, or you know, how to save a file, how to close a file and so on. And then as a junior, you have to really think actively think about this with means that you’re. Your, your processing power more or less, right? It’s reduced because you have activity after actively think about this. And we can think around four to seven things. So if you’re already thinking about those things, you know, there are only two more things that you can add. And as a senior example, you, you. You have that in your long-term memory. So you have seven things that you can think about. And the interesting aspect here is also the same with what you said about the code base. If I’m familiar with the code base, I can load parts of that from my long-term memory. And I don’t have to use my short term memory. I don’t have to use the processor for that. Right. Um, and so there’s definitely, there’s exactly what you’re seeing here. Um, maybe something else that I want to add here is you said knowledge dissemination. And code reviews are really good for that. Right? So that’s why I’m saying the organization has to understand the benefits as a whole, right? And suddenly if you understand that, well, if I can actually have, have a, a larger part of my team, be more familiar with a larger part of the code base, that’s actually extremely valuable and it will. You know, it will speed up your development process quite a bit. And there are also studies on that around code reviews where we really see that, um, it teams that have code reviews in place. They already have a Vitor understanding of the code base than teams that don’t have. Right. They’re only known only know what they’re working on. Um, and so why it’s slowing you down to do the reviews. It really speeds you up. Once you have to work in this pace, right. Or in this place off the copies, or if somebody leaves, you have other engineers that are also familiar with. With that. And so I think there are other benefits that are really, really, um, really important here. Yeah.

liran:[00:40:19] Yeah. I mean, I’m hearing here speak, it’s obvious. You’re an advocate of code reviews and you’re passionate about it and you’re making great, great arguments about why it’s so important and how the part, the value fit. But don’t people ever come to you and say, I don’t know, it’s slowing me down. It’s making stuff complex. I mean, I don’t want to do pull quest. I don’t want to do code reviews. I just want to skip the whole things and kind of what do you send them?

michaela:[00:40:50] So, honestly, I don’t, I don’t have a lot of people that have this complete mindset. I have a lot of people that would say I really would like to skip code reviews because I don’t have time to do them because my reward system around my recognition and what I’m expected to do is something completely else. And then I have to look at code reviews and, and this is not part of it. Right. So I recall one person, I was just talking with them. Like we could go around that. Right. It was part of the research again, and they were talking about it. How, how is it? It’s really difficult. They actually laugh code reviews and they learn quite a lot and they would have much more, um, much more benefit and would feel better about them. If this would be actively part of their job description and their expectations. But it’s in very many, many organization. It’s. It’s window dressing. It’s like, yeah, we want you to do code reviews and it’s really mandatory and they have to do them. But on the other hand, there is no time to actually do them. Right. And I think that’s, that’s what I see very often. I definitely see people that haven’t had good experience with code reviews that don’t maybe see the benefits out of that. But I also have, on the other hand, I think this is why I’m such a strong advocate for that. I have people, really, a lot of people that have seen the benefits and that have done code reviews in the right way. And, and, you know, with good processes around and with a good culture around that, that they say I would never, ever work anywhere else without code reviews, because it’s a, it’s a mentoring tool. It’s a learning tool. I’m learning so much more. I’m so connected to my team. Right. And not working in a silo anymore, but this needs a certain time of code reviews. You cannot like work on a feature for a month and then throw over like thousands of lines of code or whatever volunteers look at it and give me feedback, right? Like this is not gonna work, right. This is, uh, this is definitely a frustrating experience for everybody. And in this case, I say, get rid of it. You’re not getting anything out of it other than frustration. Um, but also be honest to yourself that you’re actually not really doing code reviews, right? You’re throwing pieces of understandable codes to somebody else that can spend maybe half an hour, an hour to look through thousand lines of code. What are they going to say to you? Nothing. Right. And so maybe it’s really to be about, be honest and say, if I want that, I need to slow down, understand how to design the process. Um, maybe even get help for doing that. Right. And then, and then really do it right. And have so many people that really love code reviews and so many teams that are striving through that. Um, and yeah, so definitely if you know, if they don’t bring any value, then it’s really, I think it’s very often the process that’s just completely screwed up and the culture around it.

liran:[00:43:39] Yeah. And do you find that companies struggled to understand which public was deserved called the abuse versus which, what policies did they have in place to know to solve them out? Sometimes I know sometimes just adding a log line and then you need to go through the same code of your process, or at least by definition, it’s the same workflow as if you’re adding a big feature. So kind of how the companies go around managing the different kind of pollute quests.

michaela:[00:44:08] So I think this is really a part of, I cannot generalize, um, because for some organization it’s definitely valuable to go. Through a pull request or a code review for every line of code that they’re doing, even if it’s a lock line. Right. Um, but then this is a certain type of company and they have certain goals around it and it’s beneficial. I definitely see also, um, you know, organizations that have some code review guidelines in place and it says we have to look at every line and it’s a log line. It makes no sense here. Um, very often here, people haven’t thought about again, you know, what are our goals with cultural views? And if you think about the goals and it’s a logline in, you know, Yvette Yvette site that I can update within minutes because I have a fast pipeline, why would I go through a code review here? Right? Why would I slow that down? What’s the benefit here? Um, so I think that organizations that are more vague about their contribution to practices and process, and really take the time they understand that. Um, and it has to do with risk profiles. Can engineers, do they have like guidelines to work around? Have we thought about this as an engineering team? What are our values? Um, when I was working with Microsoft, we had like, there were, there’s not one code review. Policy, right. It really depends. Office has a different policy than windows. And then even in, in office, you have like different teams that have different policies and so on. And so the teams really thought about, um, some teams would say, well, for us, every line is reviewed. And then other teams would say, uh, well, vs keeping, for example, refactorings if you do a refactoring and you can show it, it’s, uh, uh, And refactoring that has no side effects, then you can just put it in or some teams would do the review after they’ve pushed it, for example. Right. So after, after committed, after pushing and after merging, they’re doing the so. The, the policies really differ. And I’m not saying that, you know, even if the differ for some teams, they were really good for some teams do or not. Um, it really depends how, how honest and how in there and reflected people were around their cultural views. Um, but you can definitely be design and, you know, even have automatic things that help you to decide whether or not something should have a code review. Right. You could buy somebody if you think about conventional commits. Where you have certain aspects in the commit message even right? Even those systems are in place. If you, that you could do here, where it could incorporate some of the risk of something, or you have against that again, as it tools around somehow assess the risk. And that helps you to decide whether or not you need a code review or in what depth you need a code review here, how many people should be under code review. Right. So, so many questions, uh, yeah. Yeah. Touch on what you meant.

liran:[00:47:07] Uh, that’s. Exactly. Yeah. That’s that’s perfect. I think we’re almost running out of time here. So maybe Mo join us, throwing a few questions

michaela:[00:47:16] from the audience.

maror:[00:47:17] Okay. So actually, a few questions did come up. If you guys are ready for it, um, McKayla, we’ll start with you. Can peer programming, replace code

michaela:[00:47:26] reviews. Okay. Um, pair programming. So I, yeah, this is a, this is a very often, uh, asked question and my answer is no, it’s very similar to, you know, can automated contributes, replaced code reviews. I think they are very complimentary here again. So if you have peer programming, um, You’d probably have different cultural view practices again. Right. So very often we talk about code reviews and then code reviews are that thing that everybody does the same, which is completely not true, could be, it can be so many things, right. If I’m looking over the shoulder with somebody and looking at the code at the same time, it’s an over shoulder over the shoulder code review. And so peer programming could actually be one kind of code review, but then you have to ask your, you know, for yourself or your organization again, Do we need more? Do we need like some gatekeeping around that so that we have another person do we need in fairness right around that? If I have two people that are pairing very often, then you have like this knowledge silo, again, that those two people know about the code, but maybe I want other people in that, so we’ll add them. So, um, code review can be, uh, a complimentary strategy to pairing, but I definitely say it should look different, right? For team, the task pairing code review should look different than for a team that desk. Does know Perry. Yeah. Okay.

maror:[00:48:50] Very cool. Um, Leon, I think this one’s for you, what’s the relevance of code reviews for compliance.

liran:[00:48:58] So I think we found that there are a few, few key elements in that I think compliance kind of often requires that, eh, some peer reviews, every change, and I think it goes back to what said about the purpose of code reviews. And compliance for the most part would be focusing on first and foremost general security review, but even more. So it’s an often a question of trust and governance that you essentially know what code is going into the system in a way. I think it’s very different from most of America is been talking about today, about, you know, in depth review, understanding the code and. Eh, me ensuring that you have all the right pieces in place. It’s more about cursory examination that you make sure that you’re not, you’re not changing anything. You shouldn’t be changing that the person is making that commit within the assigned task is working on and within the assigned scope, if there are any changes to security, sensitive area that you go through additional scrutiny. But if those are eh, you know, It’s more about ensuring that whoever is made the task, did what he was supposed to do rather than the quality of the work he did. So that’s a very different thing. And it’s very important again, to kind of. Define the purpose of the code review. Is it just about understanding the scope of the task and the scope of the change, or is it about deeply evaluating it? Giving feedback, mentoring, sharing, knowledge and so on and so forth.

michaela:[00:50:43] Okay.

maror:[00:50:44] Um, and Mikayla, if people wanted to learn more about code reviews, where, where would they be able to

michaela:[00:50:50] go to do that? Okay. Yeah. Um, obviously I can see my website, right? I’m writing quite a bit about code reviews, which would be awesome. Code reviews.com. Or you can also go through my, my link. That’s my name, Kayla gala.com, which is a little bit more difficult for me. We can put it somewhere, but I’m awesome. Code reviews, dot com should have them work as well. And, um, yeah, I also have like a GitHub. A project that’s about code reviews, um, where I’m listing a lot of different resources that I find on the web. So it’s not only from me, but also what I started recently doing is best practices from different organizations. So there are articles where you see like how, um, You know, for example, the Google desk cultivators, or how is, you know, VMware doing code reviews and other, um, resources that I found really valuable as well. I also have like code review checklist there on my guitar profile. Um, so it it’s, uh, the guitar thing. And then my, my handle is M and then Kyla, G R E I L E R. And so, yeah, there, you can find also quite some stuff, um, that, um, that comes from everywhere that I found this valuable.

maror:[00:52:03] That is a wealth of information that everyone should definitely take advantage of. Um, and I will make sure to send out your Twitter handle for them too, so they get it. Um, and on the topic of learning more in the event, where can you learn more

michaela:[00:52:17] about lookout?

liran:[00:52:19] So you can learn more about first and foremost, that’s roka.com, which is our awesome website. We’ve just launched a new website. And so feel free to check it out. Also, you can reach out to me on Twitter at
other school last, and I’ll be happy to chat with you and share more about what

michaela:[00:52:36] we’re doing.

maror:[00:52:39] Amazing. Okay. So then we have one last question here, um, and it looks McKayla like it’s for you. The question is, do we need additional manual reviews or testing if we have a study analysis tools or is

michaela:[00:52:52] that enough? Okay. Um, I think I touched it a little bit on that. So I definitely think it’s complimentary again. Right. So if you have, like, I definitely recommend to have studying analysis, test tools, have static analysis tools, security tools, because they are much more systematic and they they’re defining more issues. They are less error prone. You’re not overlooking something, right. Especially for things that are systematic. As I said, Um, for example, security testing tools are really good or, you know, security analysis tools are really good for injection box, um, where, you know, people would have a hard time and it’s just unproductive for them to look at that. Um, you know, in, in the, in terms of what a tool could do here, but then for example, broken off, um, authentication or just the flow of things that is really beyond the scope of tools right now. Right. So if you’re, for example, sending out. Let’s say that you’re somebody is requesting a password reset, right? So the whole, uh, workflows through dat can be very, very broken and there are no tools that, right. An alpha example can check for that. So that definitely has to be done manually by, by person and very similar in the cultural sense. Right. So, um, there are really good static analysis tools, but there’s always things that just the tool cannot do for you. So they are complimentary, I would say. Okay,

maror:[00:54:18] thanks. So that’s all we have time for today, unfortunately. Um, but hopefully we can also down again cause it’s been great. Um, so thank you everyone for joining us, we will be sending a follow-up email with the recording and McKayla and Leon’s contact information for whoever wants to get in touch with them. And thank you McKayla. And thank you again.

michaela:[00:54:38] Yeah. Thank you so much. Let’s refund.

liran:[00:54:41] Thank you. Thank you.

Book your awesomecodereview.com workshop! Secure Code Review Workshops are coming soon too!

Getting ready to build a billion-dollar business

In this episode, I talk to Max Stoiber. Max is a JavaScript Engineer that is in love with React and Node, and also a fellow Austrian. He has a track record in the open-source world, worked for Gatsby, and Github, and also is a successful entrepreneur. 

We talk about:

  • what he learned about software engineering best practices at GitHub,
  • why he started his newest side-project bedrock,
  • why building an indie or small lifestyle businesses is not his thing anymore,
  • and how he prepares to build a billion-dollar business.

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Transcript: Getting ready for a billion-dollar business

[If you want, you can help make the transcript better, and improve the podcast’s accessibility via Github. I’m happy to lend a hand to help you get started with pull requests, and open source work.]

Michaela: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the software engineering unlocked podcast. I’m your host dr. mckayla and today I have the pleasure to talk to Max Stoiber.

But before I start, I wanted to update you a bit on what I’ve been up to lately. Over the last few months, I have been quite heads-down with some new exciting productivity research. Mainly investigating what makes developers happy, productive and successful. I’m planning on wrapping up this research soon, so I hope I can share more about the findings in near future.

Another thing I have been up to is preparing a secure code review workshop. I plan to release this worksop this fall. It will focus on secure coding practices, and shows you what to look out for when inspecting code for security vulnerabilities. If this sounds interesting to you, hope over to https://awesomecoderviews.com and either book a workshop or hop on my waiting list. But now, back to Max.

Max is not only a JavaScript engineer that is in love with reactive note, but also a fellow Austrian. He has a track record in the open source world and worked for Gatsby and get up. And he’s also a successful entrepreneur. Max built, for example, a community platform called spectrum. It became so successful. It was a quiet, but GitHub. And now he’s again, working on a new startup idea. So I’m super excited to talk with max about all of that. I’m super thrilled that he’s here. Welcome to the show,

Max: [00:00:39] max. I am super excited to be here as well. I’m a big fan. We’ve obviously spoken before. I’m really happy that I get to be here too. Yeah, I’m

Michaela: [00:00:47] really, really excited. Thank you so much for joining. So I want to start with something that I wanted to ask you a couple of times already, and that is you build this really amazing community platform spectrum. And I recently looked on their website and I see that I’m in the forums. There are several forums where people in communities where people are talking with each other and it seems really lively. Like when I went there, they were like 50 people online in that community and 60 people in that community and so on. Right. So it really seems like a big success, but on the other hand, there is the announcement that. It will be read only, right. It will not survive for me. It looks like it’s shut down. Is that, is that true? And if it’s, so how do you feel about that?

Max: [00:01:33] It makes me very sad to be honest. Whenever I build a product that they’re sort of like my, my babies, right? I want them to be successful. I want them to succeed. I want people to like them. And the spectrum no longer existing or, or only existing in an archive format is, is quite sad, honestly. But at the same time, the spirit lives on in GitHub as gets up, discussions gets up originally bald spectrum with the intention to eventually shut down the platform itself, integrated into, gets up. And that’s what, that’s what they’ve done. And so that was part of the plan. And I’m, I’m happy that that plan is being followed so closely, but of course I would much rather spectrum stayed around and lived on as its own thing, but that’s not the way it’s going. And we’ve, we’ve actually, I talk, I’ve talked quite frequently to my other co-founders Mike’s, co-founders about doing the same thing again, because with the, with the benefit of hindsight, there’s so many things we would have done differently or we would like to do differently. We have so many ideas about how we could have built spectrum better, but of course it’s all just wishful thinking. We’re very unlikely that we’re going to do that, but it isn’t fun. A fun thing to dream about.

Michaela: [00:02:41] Yeah. I mean, community is such a interesting topic and I mean, it’s so powerful and it’s so important and communities are, I mean, people are here for communities, right. We need communities to strive. So I actually also playing a little bit with the idea of building some community, but I feel also very overwhelmed at the same time, how to do that. but it’s just a fascinating topic. Right. And just having people around and I mean, a community can be also like five people or, you know, two people, three, two people. Right. So spectrum is on the very other end, right. There are like hundreds of peoples or thousands of peoples. But so I think community is really important. So, but you were saying that when GitHub bought spectrum, you already knew that they are going to shut it down. So you, you knew that that could be one of the paths or this could be leading towards that shut down off the platform.

Max: [00:03:33] Yeah, absolutely. Spectrum itself, technically just wasn’t architected well enough to SU to sort of sustain get-ups load. And it was clear from the very beginning that it would be a lot more work to make spectrum work at Kitsap, stay at scale, rather than trying to rebuild the parts of spectrum that we liked within GitHub. And so very quickly, we just arrived at the conclusion that we’re going to have to shut spectrum down as a platform. Sort of build that integration and gets up completely from scratch and separately because GitHub has so much tooling internally. And that, that helps it handle the scale it’s at, right. We’re talking hundreds of millions of developers, which is very different from scale. That spectrum is that spectrum as a couple of hundreds of thousands monthly active users, which is a lot, but it’s not by far, not as much as schizopath. And so it was clear from the beginning that we would either need to rebuild spectrum. I mean, it was clear that we would have to rebuild spectrum. The question was rested. We rebuild it as spectrum, or do we rebuild it in GitHub? And since we were already rebuilding it, we might as well just rebuild and get up. And that’s what discussion came from eventually.

Michaela: [00:04:32] Which

Max: [00:04:32] again, makes me a little bit sad because I would like spectrum to still exist, but that’s the way it is. And discussions actually turned out really well. I’m really excited about it.

Michaela: [00:04:39] But so for our community, there are two parts to it, right? So there’s the tech around, it enables people to meet in an online space and talk and, you know, like, you know, write or have chat or whatnot. Right. So there’s the tech around, but then there are also the communities itself, which are really, really valuable, right? So that hundreds of people come together on that place, like type in that URL, for example, and then meet at that forum or, you know, that, that place, that community place. So is that my graded are people migrating or is that as easy? Because I feel like there might be people that say, well, I’m on spectrum. I’m going to this community on that. You’re out, but I’m actually not on GitHub in, you know, in that space, which I think, you know, on one hand it feels like, well, what’s the difference here, but I can imagine that it’s not that easy. Right? So there’s like the tech around the community, but then the real heart of the community is the people that choose to be there to go there every day and, you know, provide benefit or value to other members. How is that what, what, what do you think about that? Spectrum

Max: [00:05:43] was always mainly used by developers. A large percentage of our users already authenticated with Kitsap even before we were bought by Gates. And most of the communities were around open source projects, or we also had some design communities. Those are gonna have a harder time migrating somewhere else. But most of them were open source communities, definitely the most active ones. And so I think those will migrate just fine. I think get up discussions is a great fit for that since it is based on a repository and GitHub and open source projects are just repositories, don’t get up. Right. And so having that community right there will actually be huge for the vibrancy for those communities and enable a lot more open source projects to build communities around their projects. I actually think that part of our fundamental assumptions about spectrum were, or parts of our fundamental assumptions were incorrect. We wanted to build a space where large communities do the order of magnitude of tens of thousands of people could communicate and connect with each other. But actually that doesn’t work super well. When you have 10,000 people in a community, you don’t really feel connected to any person anymore, right? Connection happens at much smaller, much, much smaller scales. And which you can see by the sort of prevalence of group chats now, right? Like you have telegram, you’re signaling for WhatsApp and within those chat messaging platforms, everybody’s a part of 20 groups, right? And you feel connected to each and every single one of those groups, but they’re much smaller in scope. They’re much more specific which allows much more of a community feel to build much more of a sense of community, much more of a connection to build. And so I think actually there is probably a way where you can scale that sense of community up to a larger scale, that you can definitely have a community of thousands of people I think that’s possible. But there has to be much more of a mechanism of sub groups within that. Right. I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like. Somebody who’s going to figure this out eventually. But if you think about, for example, football fans, right? If you look at Liverpool, they have a. Fan base of, I don’t know how many hundreds of millions probably. Right. And they’re spread all around the world, but within that massive group of fans within that massive community, there’s these tiny subgroups of the fan club in Vienna, the fan club in Istanbul, the fan club in wherever. Right. And then even within that, there could be even smaller subgroups. Right. You could have your friend group of the fan, a fan group of Vienna, right. And so then that’s the 10 to 20 people you feel directly connected to, but yet you’re still part of this bigger community. And so in real life, it kind of already works that way. The online platforms just haven’t really been able to mirror that real, real life engagement. I would say if that makes any sense. I don’t think any online community necessarily has figured out how to represent both the large groups as well as the small groups. I think actually the one that’s the very closest is Facebook groups. I actually think Facebook groups for what it’s, I mean, it’s on Facebook, which kind of limits its usefulness, but actually Facebook groups works really well. And a lot of people are in very many different groups and sort of feel connected to many different communities through Facebook, which is very fascinating. But other than that, no, one’s really figured out how to make the, how to scale online communities beyond a couple of hundred members of most.

Michaela: [00:08:40] Yeah. And so when you build spectrum, was it mainly about the task and then you were all thinking of, you know, how many people do you want to allow in a student. Group and what interactions you’re facilitating and all of that. But did you also see the community itself? So how did you get the first people using your product? What were some of the strategies that you had there? Spectrum came to

Max: [00:09:03] be because my two co-founders Brian Levin and Bryn Jackson have a podcast called design details and they actually started a podcast network around that podcast that at the end, I think contained eight or nine podcasts. And it was all design and development focused podcast. And they created a Slack community for this network and where they want it to connect to all of the listeners together. They wanted to answer questions that they want people to chat with each other, basically build a community around that network. And eventually that’s like group that Slack workspace grew to eight or 9,000 members. And then Slack came to them and said, Hey, it’s really cool what you’re doing here, but either pay us or go leave somewhere else. And I think it’s Slack costs $5 per member. So they were looking at a bill of $45,000 a month for a free community that they were running, which is obviously not something they can pay. And so they looked around and they didn’t find anything that would sort of. That fit their niche, right? They, they wanted the community to Republic. They want people to be able to read the content, even when they’re not a member, but also they wanted it to be real time chats. They wanted it to be, to feel like the multiple people were there and talking at the same time with each other. And so they started building spectrum just for their own podcast network, which is where the name actually comes from because their podcast network was called spec FM. And so spectrum was sort of perspective and community platform. And interestingly enough, they had a problem. They, they were using one of my open source projects, style components, and they reached out to me from via Twitter because they were having an issue with it. They found the bug and I knew of Brian Levin and Bryn Jackson, but I’d never met them in person. I talked to them before. So I, I was a big fan of their podcasts and their work. And so I said, look, you have a problem. Don’t worry. Just give me access to the repo. And I’ll, I’ll take a look and fix it. And they gave me access to the spectrum reap, and I looked at it and I told them, Hey, I need this. Like, this is the platform I need for my open source projects. Right. I’d been building communities around my open-source projects for a lot, for awhile, but none of the platforms for that were very nice, like get like basically there was, gets her or gets up issues, but get the issues there for problems. And it gets, there was just one massive chat room, which doesn’t scale beyond 10 members. And so I said, look, forget about whatever I’m working on. I want to work on this and I want to make it more general. And so that’s where spectrum was born. And that’s also how we seeded it. We built the initial version and then immediately onboard at the eight or 9,000 members at a time of spec of him onto the platform, and immediately had that first community there, which was huge for us because that kicked up the flywheel of people joining over time. Because those people in those old spectrums, awesome. I’m going to create my own community there. Right. And invite my own people there. And so that’s sort of how it started growing and that’s why it really grew in the design and the tech communities. And why there was so many open source projects using. Yeah.

Michaela: [00:11:39] Very, very cool. And so spectrum itself, is it open

Max: [00:11:42] source? Yes. Then we asked her about a year of working on it, but we open source the entire copays. If he goes to getup.com/with spectrum you can look at it. It’s, it’s one big Monterey pro basically that contains all of our servers, all of our clients, everything we ever built. It’s all completely open source. It’s terrible code, please. Don’t look at it too, too closely. I love product what we did cause we did a lot of shipping and not a lot of cleaning up, but it works and it’s open social people to look at. It’s a, it’s quite funny because I think spectrum is quite a messy copays personally. Like it’s not, it’s not the nicest code I’ve ever written. I didn’t have as much experience then as I do now. And, and also we were just trying to ship as much as possible. I’m trying to figure out, trying to find product market fit and then eventually the business market fit And it’s funny because sometimes I see tweets of people saying, Oh, if you want to see a really well architect, the copays, go look at spectrum. And every single time I see that I like please, please. Don’t like, that’s not, it’s not that well, I can think of, it’s kind of a pain to work with. I don’t know. Yeah,

Michaela: [00:12:37] I know you cannot respond to every tweet like that. Like

Max: [00:12:41] exactly. Yeah. I can’t really be like, ah, hello. Yeah, please. Don’t look at my work. It’s really bad. That’s not a good idea. I can’t really do that. But it is, it was very interesting. I do think spectrum helped a lot of people think about how they build apps, right. And it has a lot of people to learn and it was quite fascinating to open source it and see how many people actually cared. Because there is so few food products out there that are open source, right? Usually when something’s open source is either a toy product, the toy project that somebody builds, or it’s a library that’s very encapsulated, very small, but very few people open source, entire apps, right. Century being one of the many, many exceptions and one of the most famous ones or ghost, for example, but there’s only like a handful of those. And so adding to that list was quite interesting how much people responded to that and how much they liked it.

Michaela: [00:13:27] Yeah, because I mean, I think so I’m a, for example, I’m learning Peyton things two years now. And I’m also a little bit struggling with, how should I actually go about learning Peyton. Right. And that, that has to do that while I’m not employed as a heightened developer right now. Right. Which also limits, you know, the. The amount that I can actually spend on it or that I spend on it. It also means that I don’t have like a network of people around me that I can learn from, right. Like code reviews that you have. If I would be a Putin developer right now, I would have like my colleagues also writing Python code and I can learn from them. Right. And so open source is definitely something that I’m also sometimes doing. Right. I go and look at Ida patent application to just understand, you know, how ID architecting something, because these are the questions that I still have. Right. I don’t have the question on which type to use or how to do it area or how to do a list, sorta whatnot. Right. So I know those things already from my other programming adventures that I did, but I’m more interested in, Oh, I’m coming from the job are object oriented C-sharp world. Right. So how do you do that in Piketon and, and how would you, you know, structured applications and open source is something that sometimes helps me, but it’s very hard to find like either like a good application again, because sometimes you find application and I’m looking at it. And even though I don’t feel like I’m the expert for piping, I can say, Oh, I shouldn’t call it. What’s going on here. Right. And then it’s big enough that it’s interesting to look at and has, you know, good quality and you can learn something from it. I think it’s very, very valuable. I can totally see how people are. Yeah. Interested in, in doing that and learning more about it. So, but now you, you build spectrum and then it was actually acquired by GitHub. Right. And so you’d done because it was acquired, you worked at guitar building, you know, GitHub or spectrum into get-ups right. And get into YouTube. How did their view changed on software engineering practices on good code? Did you experience something like that that suddenly you were in a team and they are all, you know, like working together and you can learn you know, you can improve your skillset, sat there with, with the input of your peers or how, how was that for you?

Max: [00:15:36] Because we very quickly realized that spectrum just wasn’t built well enough to run a Kitsap scale. It was very fascinating to learn how Kitsap scaled itself, because obviously when they started building gets up 10 years ago or however long that was, they also didn’t build it to handle the amount of traffic that it has now, because GitHub is massive. It’s one of the, I think, 10 biggest websites on the planet, maybe 15 biggest websites on the planet. It’s, it’s massive. It, it gets absurdly much traffic. And so it was very fascinating to be at Kitsap and to see How careful they are about the code they write and how many conventions and constraints they built into their systems, particularly for the developers. So that any code that that is that is written is good enough to run at that scale because most people have never worked at that scale before, unless you’ve worked at Kitsap before, or one of the other 15 companies, that’s this big, you have no idea how to work with that scale. Right? And so a lot of the work that many teams that get to did was building tools for other developers that gets hub to guide them towards success and to avoid expensive database queries, to detect them, to warn people when they were writing them, stuff like that, where they built a lot of internal tooling to make sure that they could run at scale and that they could continue scaling into the future. And I actually think a lot of what I, what I learned there was how important constraints are with programming. You have all the options, you have all the possibilities, you can do whatever you want, but a lot of what it means to be a senior or an experienced developer is knowing which 90% of those options are actually trash. And you probably shouldn’t do them because you’re going to run into problems. Right? A lot of the choices that experience developers make are based on experience and I’m talking to other experience developers and they avoid future problems, right. By, by making good decisions. Now you avoid a lot of future problems and sort of. Avoid running into troubles down the line. And that’s something I’d never done before with spectrum. And so with spectrum, we actually had a lot of scaling problems when there’s this sort of rule of thumb that started people say where every single time you get a new order of magnitude of users, you run into new scaling problems. And for us, it happened like that, like clockwork. When we ran from zero to a thousand users at the, when we onboarded our first community, we immediately hit scaling issues. We immediately had to move away from Firebase, build our own backend because Firebase was couldn’t sustain the load anymore. Then when we went from 1000 to 10,000 people, we hit the next set of scaling problems. As soon as basically as soon as the 10,000 persons joined almost to the day we started having server issues. And so we had to resolve those, then everything went fine. We’re going, we doubled, we tripled, we quadrupled. We went from 10,000 to 9,000 people. No problem. And then as soon as we hit the a hundred thousand monthly active users, the next set up problems, they didn’t get in with them releasing our server. Our servers were crashing constantly. And it was very fascinating how these, this sort of order of magnitude step change of traffic really impacted our stability. And so get ups really focused on making sure no one that gets up some writes code that doesn’t run it, their order of line of traffic, that no one, there can even commit something to the code base, no matter how inexperienced they are or how much they fork rails, for example, that could break their systems. And then when something breaks, they have a lot of infrastructure, of course, around that, to monitor, to fix those issues, to roll back deploys so that when problems do arise, they don’t impact many users. And it was fascinating to see that and to see how many constraints. They put on people, but they were very productive constraints as a developer. They made me free to build the stuff that I wanted to build without having to worry about scaling, because I knew if I did something that was bad, there would be an Arizona. Right. See, I would throw an error. There would be a winter error. There will be a test error, right. Like somewhere, somebody somewhere would catch my stupidity and tell me to do it differently. And so that was actually really fascinating. And they learned a lot about scaling engineering and then organizations there.

Michaela: [00:19:31] Yeah. And so it seems that this is also very specific. So some of the engineering practices, some of the tools, some of the processes are really made for the scale there. But now if you’re going back and I know you’re now building a new startup, so what do you take away from that? What do you say? Well, you know, this is overkill not needed for me right now in my next startup. Right. And what are some of the, the, the practices the knowledge that you acquired your thing? Well, I’m going to build that in from the start and get go, because I don’t want to run into issues. Long-term with maintainability, readability of the code base, many things.

Max: [00:20:08] We, we made many, many mistakes, or I should say I made many of those mistakes as the main technical person, that spectrum, I made many tech choices, mistakes. And one of the main things I really learned is that. Using technology that’s widely used is a very good idea. There’s a reason people use Maya’s quail or now Postgres, right? It’s because those two databases, they run and they keep running no matter what scaling crap, right? Like it’s a famously uses my SQL and is the 15th biggest website on the planet. And I think they’re now starting to hit the limits of that. And they’re starting to have to really work around a lot of these problems. But they managed to become the 15th biggest website on the planet with my SQL. So why would you use anything else? And I’ll be like, there’s no reason to choose anything that is less battle-tested because, you know, if, because if you end up being the 15th biggest website on the planet, you can fix my SQL. If you don’t end up being the 15th biggest website on the planet, it doesn’t matter. Right. It it’ll still work. And at spectrum we chose a database that was a lot less populated. What’s called rethink to be the company behind a shutdown because they weren’t financially successful. And the database system just wasn’t as well built as my, as going reading be. And we ran into a lot of scaling troubles because of our database choice or because of the database choice I made. And so I learned to rely on battle, test that technology, even if it’s under equals boring, even if it’s something that a lot of people use, that’s a good thing, because that means it’ll scale with you. And if you have a problem, you can Google it right with rethink to be almost nobody used it. And so when we ran into problems with our careers, when we ran into problems with the database engine, we Googled them and we found nothing. There were, there was no information, which is very different if you’re using MySQL or Postgres, if you Google any problem, I guarantee you you’ll find 10 pages of Google results with people explaining different solutions to the problem, how they approached it, how they fixed it, how it held up over time, right. And that that sort of Corpus of knowledge and that Corpus of experience is incredibly valuable when evaluating technology choices. That’s really one of the main things I learned, which is obvious in hindsight and is, it’s a common thing to say. Don’t use boring technology, use things that are proven to scale. But it’s really hard to keep that in mind when you’re using technology, because you will, you’ll see something that’s fancy and new and you’re going to want to use it. And it’s, it’s cool and everybody’s using it. And you feel like everybody in Twitter is talking about it, but if nobody’s used it at scale before, you’ve no idea if it works out right. And you can only, I think there’s often these tools have upsides, but the trade off of the missing community, the missing usage, the missing scalability, isn’t worth, there’s some tools where that isn’t the case. So I would still evaluate that sort of as a trader. Right. Does this tool make me so much more productive that I can handle production problems? Is it, is it production critical at all? So there’s like, there’s, you have to think about that, but always err, on the side of choosing boring technology, that’s proven to scale.

Michaela: [00:22:52] Yeah, I think that’s a, that’s such a good advice. And I also ran into dad when I was I was choosing which, you know, static site generator to use. And like, they’re, they’re the ones that, you know, right. Like Gatsby or Jacquelyn, I think like this. And then there are a lot of others, like tiny ones. And I was like, Oh, this is one that nobody knows over there seems really promising and interesting and you know, like shine in you. And I think it was also curiosity. Right? I think that a lot of engineers are very curious. I am curious. So I went with that one. But what I forgot to calculate is how much time I’m actually spending, building my website with that acquiring knowledge, then knowing how to use that thing, but also at the same time, learning that there is not enough support information around to, to get me out of errors that I run into, or maybe it’s even, you know, like the thing itself it’s broken. Right. And it also reminds me of, I actually tweeted, I think recently about this where some tools make me cry. And it was like when we, when I was at Microsoft and I had to use some internal tooling, that was really new and we just build it until we were doc fooding it. And we were forced sort of like to use that new thing, which is it’s a good thing. Right. But on the other hand, I couldn’t just go and search for the problems that I run into because it wasn’t even existing outside. And so internally people were building it, they weren’t really like, you know, supporting others or writing blog posts. So it was really a bad experience and something that made me think a lot about so important that if you’re stuck, that you can find information that gets you out of this, that gets you unstuck, it gets you out of this, you know, stuck situation and maturity of software projects and community and livelihood. Right. It’s definitely something that’s, that’s important here.

Max: [00:24:43] Absolutely. I think this is. Even more critical in areas where you don’t have a lot of experience that the less, you know, about a problem, the more you shouldn’t rely on boring existing solutions. I know nothing about databases, so I should probably use my SQL and Postgres because I know that those are gonna work. And any problem I have, I can find a solution for, I know a lot about react. And so I can, I know I can, for example, use Preact instead of react, because I understand very deeply how react and Preact work and I can debug my own problems. Right. And so a lot of this also has to do, like you said, with familiarity, right? If I’m familiar with, with a certain problem space, if I’m familiar with the tools within the problem space, I have a lot more leeway to use cutting-edge solutions. If I’m in a problem space where I have a NOAA experience where I don’t know how anything works, if that doesn’t make sense to be on the cutting edge, because I’m not gonna be able to resolve my own problems. And so I think, like I said, that that really ties into it, that sort of familiarity that understanding of the ecosystem is really critical. If you’re using something on the cutting edge.

Michaela: [00:25:39] Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And so maybe, I mean, what me too is very often startup founders, especially ones that are new and maybe they don’t even have a tech background. Right. They’re like what tech stack should I use? Grade one? What what languages and so on, should I build up? And most of the time the answer is, well, the ones that you’re mostly familiar with, right? So if you are a Python developer, probably just stick with Python. If you’re a Perl developer, maybe it makes sense, you know, to update your texts. Most of the time you’re like, Peyton is just fine or Ruby is just fine. Right? You don’t have to have, like, you don’t have to learn JavaScript and react if that’s not where you’re coming from. But so now for your new startup, I want to talk a little bit about the app. So you’re going to do something new. How are you going to, you know, how are you going to come up with the idea? And maybe with ties in a little bit here, it’s like bedrock. So recently you released a new product called bedrock and that’s like everything you need to know or everything you need to have to build SAS apps. Right. So it would be authentication. It would be emailing a little bit community subscription payments and all of that. Right? So sort of the pilot plate code of SAS applications that people can use. And when I saw it, I mean, it, it got really viral on Twitter. So people were really like, very happy to get that. And and I think it’s one of those problems that you see people running into. And so how was that for you? I mean, it looked like super popular. Was it also from the sales perspective, was it as successful as you hoped and, and will the next product that you’re working on being that space or will you go somewhere completely Allison? How are you going to, to tackle the next problem? How did you come up with this idea?

Max: [00:27:27] Sure. So I’ll start from the beginning. I I’ve spent the past, basically all of my career building JavaScript tooling. I’m sort of, I would say mainly well known for making a bunch of open-source projects, like react polo plate and style components that are cutting edge, new ways of doing things right. And I have a very deep understanding of react and JavaScript tooling and to have a good overview of the ecosystem. And I know how things work at a very deep level. And particularly at Gatsby now over the past year, I really dove deep into that because Gatsby basically is just a bunch of open source 20 combined in a very nice way. And what I realized was that I kept building SAS products on the sides, but I kept doing the same setup every single time. And every single time, it kind of sucked. Like I have enough experience to know, like I said, to avoid 90% of the bad choices, but in the JavaScript ecosystem, it can sometimes feel like 99% of the choices are bad. And you have to just make that 1% of choices to make all of the tools that you use work really well together. And making all those choices right, is really, really, really difficult and takes a very long time. When I set up my last, my last sort of SAS product feedback Fisher, I probably spent at least a week just setting up the boilerplate code, right. Just setting up TypeScript, prettier easily in payments, authentication database, a GraphQL API, graphical client, all of those stuff, all of that stuff. So that it works well together and sort of is easily usable. And doesn’t just break down after a while. It’s actually really difficult. And even after a week, I wasn’t happy with where I was at, but we just kind of have to build our product at that point. Right. Like you can only spend so much time setting up. And so after that, I actually took what I had after a week. And I said, okay, I’m going to sit down and I’m going to make this as nice as possible. And I spent at least three weeks of evenings and weekends just building Building a boilerplate really like I just plugged together glucose, right? Like it’s basically a bunch of configuration and glucose so that everything just works really well together. And now it’s at a point where, for example, if you change, if you add a required field in the database, your seat data for your end-to-end test is going to throw an error that, that the required field doesn’t exist. And the entire thing from tobacco just works really well together from testing over client, over backend, over everything you need just works really, really well together. And I had that, I had that boiler plate and I was like, well, this is kind of nice. Like, this actually feels really fantastic to work with just yesterday. I set up a new version of change feed one of my SAS apps. Cause we were we, we kind of need to rebuild it because it takes stack. Isn’t very nice that we chose there and slowing us down a lot. And so I basically rebuild all of the core functionality in an hour. Right. I took bedrock. I added a bunch of stuff to the API. I added some fields to the client and it’s ugly as hell. Like the client, doesn’t it it’s completely front-end list. So the client looks likely to sell, but everything works. And that only took me an hour. And of course there’s a lot of stuff to make it production ready into, add to make the build the client of course, make everything nice at onboarding, whatever, but it works right. And it has everything I sort of need. And so long story short, that’s why I thought about selling it. Right. And I was like, well, if I think this is nice and it’s, if it took me, somebody who really understands this problem very deeply into really understands that ecosystem deeply. If it takes me four weeks to set up something that’s good, that that’s really good. And that, that that sort of saves people time and is better than what they could do themselves. Then maybe it’s we are selling that, that sort of knowledge and that experience to people as a boilerplate and people were kind of excited about it. Then I think by now I have about a hundred pre-orders somewhere in that order of magnitude, 105, I think, which is really exciting to see. It’s kind of funny. I, I honestly didn’t expect to get a hundred pre-orders because there, there isn’t even a demo on the landing page. It’s just a landing page to explain what I want to do. It doesn’t even show anything yet. And yet people, a hundred people pre-order, which tells me two things. One, the community really trusts me, which is fricking scary. Like that is very scary to, for me because now I have to deliver and I have to deliver something. That’s actually as good as I promised, which I think I can do, but it’s a lot of pressure. And then secondly, there’s a, there’s a need for this, right. People struggle with setting up JavaScript project very well. And they’re willing to pay for a solution to that problem. And so that’s exciting to see, I don’t think I’m going to make this, my next startup per se, but it’s a really nice product to work on. And it’s just something that I personally really care about and I really enjoy doing. And so it was just like a fun, fun project, if that makes sense. Yeah. When I

Michaela: [00:31:46] started tweet was like, wow, that’s such a great idea because I was exactly imagining something like this that you run into the problem over and over again, you have this expertise, you have the wig Dan sort of, right. So you’re there, there’s obviously more work that you probably could in now to make this even better than what we would do for yourself. But in general, there’s like this foundation. And I mean, especially if people want to start a SARS app or, you know, do their own startup, I hope that they’re smart enough to realize that, you know, I think right now you’re selling it for 150 or 149 bucks. And later it’s like 200. I mean that this is like a bargain, right? Because I mean, if I’m spending a month, I could do. And as you said, they probably spend two months. They could really think about their, their solution. They could talk to customers, they could, you know, find out which problems to solve instead of doing that work for you. So I think it’s really a fantastic idea to, to go that route and do that. And it’s also great to see that people are backing you up. I think, I mean, obviously it’s frightening, right? If you have like, you have a platform, you have like a community around, but it also see you also, I think it’s also really beautiful to see that. They are people who care about what you’re doing and who trust, you know, you and I experienced you as a very authentic, very honest person. Right. So it’s not like, Oh, I’m doing everything that I do is really cool, but like, Oh, I’m making mistakes, but I’m learning from it and I’m sharing it here. Right. And so I think this is definitely something that people can, they realize, and, and this is why they are there right beside you. Right. And so but now we’re coming, you said, this is probably not what you’re going to do for your, for your new startup. So how, how is that? No, dis tricky, first part, like we have this idea, you want to do something and now you have to start in one direction. Right. And so how are you going to tackle that problem? And, and yeah. How do you think that you can set yourself up for success in the right direction? I think,

Max: [00:33:48] Multiple, multiple things. One is being very clear about what I want to accomplish. I want to build a billion dollar startup in my life. That is sort of the thing I want to try next. I’m not right now. I don’t want to build a, a indie hacker business. Right. I don’t want to build something on my own and I I’m perfectly happy to do that. Right. But right now at the life stage, I’m at, I don’t have kids. I’m relatively young, still. I don’t have a lot of commitments. I have the opportunity to try and really build something that changes the world. And so I want to try doing that. And that immediately already tells you a lot about the problems I can tackle, right? There’s problems I can tackle with that, that are big enough. Like the, basically the promise has to be big enough to eventually be worth a billion dollars. Right. They have to be really big problems. If you’re solving something that’s a small problem. It’s never going to be a billion dollar startup. It might be a nice indie hacker product business, but it’s never going to be a billion dollar startup. And so I know that that already deletes 80% of the ideas I have probably if not even 90%. And then the other, the other fundamental assumption, or, or axial I have is that I want to build something that I use, that I need myself. And that doesn’t necessarily mean a problem that I have myself right now, but something that we’re, if it exists, I’m an, I’m a user. Right. And I can think about what I needed and talk to my customers and figure out what they need and sort of reconcile that with my own needs, for the product. I don’t, I’m not very good at building stuff for other people. I would say, like, I, I’m fine at doing that, but I’m much better and much more motivated if it’s something that I want to use myself and that I want to make better for myself, where I see, ah, This part of the app kind of sucks, right? Like I want to fix this NAF part because it’s really confusing. Right. And no one needs to tell me that. I just feel it because I use the thing every single day. And so again, that restricts the problems based on a lot, right? There’s only so many things I know so many problems I care about. And so immediately that restricts the problems I can tackle a lot. And where exactly that Venn diagram of big problems that I have sort of overlaps. And then ideally that the other part of this is that I want to solve something that businesses are willing to pay for it because we spectrum, we had, we built a product that many people found valuable in that many communities found valuable, but we never managed to get anyone to pay for it. We never made any money. And so that’s why eventually we just had to sell because we ran out of money and our server costs were exploding, but we didn’t, we that doesn’t correlate to an increase in income. And so now I want to build something that businesses are actually willing to pay for it that solves a problem for them that they’re willing to pay for. And so again, that restricts the progress based on even more. Right. And so the more of these sort of axioms, I add the more of these properties I want to have in my idea, or in the problem that I want to solve really that the smaller, the space of possible problems kits. And I have no idea what I’m going to build. I have a couple ideas that that I want to maybe explore. We’ll see. But right now I think. The main thing I’m doing is talking to people. Right. And I’m doing a lot of customer research. I’m talking to people I’m talking many to developers because I kind of want to build something for developers, not for again, I want to solve my problem. Right. And so talking to a lot of developers about what they struggled with day to day, what their work life looks like and thinking about how one could make that easier. And we’ll see where that leads. I have no idea. It’s very scary. It’s sort of a pretty scary time in my life right now because I have no idea what I’m going to do. But it’s fun. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m really excited to be back in sort of back in the trenches of trying to figure out how to leave my stamp on the world, if that makes any sense. Yeah. Yeah.

Michaela: [00:37:19] It definitely makes sense. And I mean, I think we are in very different situations, as you said, right? You’re looking at your own situation, do you think? Well, right now I’m really free and I want to tackle this 1 billion thing. And for me it was more like, well, I’m completely not free. Sorry, I’m competing. I have my two kids and I want to spend a lot of time with them. But on the other hand, I want to go. And for me the thing, he was more, how can I use the time that I have right now to set myself up for success in two, three years, right? When my kids are a little bit more grown up. And I think that I’m getting closer and closer to that clip where I feel like, well, maybe, you know, my time to build something really cool will start soon. And And so, yeah, I think this, this all, I, it really resonates with me, like thinking about, you know, what can I actually tackle? What do I want to do? Right. What is really my, my ambition to, to do here and then trying to figure out. But I still think that even if you take this Venn diagram, it’s a huge problem space still, right? So there are so many things that you could tackle. And so if you do something like, do you try to get now this idea by talking to people, or are you going to build a little bit and testing the waters? So, so what will be the next steps to really understand if there is there’s a market for it? Or, or do you say, well, I’m completely committed. This is the idea I’m completely committed. I’m going to build it. I give it a year. Or is it like tiny bats that you do? Like, Oh this week I’m trying out, you know, I’m sending a tweet and see if people respond or I’m building like this little email list about something. How do you, how do you see that? I do all of

Max: [00:38:57] those things. It sort of depends on how serious I am about an idea and how much I believe in it, myself. Right. There’s thanks to my audience. There’s a lot of things I can validate just by tweeting. Like you said, particularly if I’m building something for developers, I can tweet, does anyone else else have this problem? And then I will feel the resonance or not. Right. Maybe nobody will respond or maybe a thousand people respond. Right. And sort of in that spectrum, I can tell how much that problem resonates with people. And then I can think about how would I approach solving that? There’s a, there’s a little validation that happens that way. And then the other thing is that I. Just ping friends and colleagues that I’ve worked with before or people that I know are using certain technologies. And I talk to them about how they’re using them and what they’re struggling with. And usually I go into those calls with some sort of hypothesis, right. I think maybe there’s this problem that maybe I could solve this way. Let’s see if they have the problem. And if you ask people straight up, do you have this problem? Would you pay for a solution if they’re friends of yours? They’re probably just going to say yes. Right. Because they’re friends of yours. They’re like, they’re probably not going to pay for it, but they’re still going to say yes. And so I actually go into those conversations and don’t even talk about my idea of what I want to do. I asked them what their problems are and then I look and listen and see if they even think about that problem at all. Right. And if they sort of stumble upon it themselves, and if they, if they’re annoyed by it, if it’s grinds their dead, their gears, right. Like the sand in the gears that grinds and it’s been really fascinating. It’s helped me invalidate a lot of ideas and, and tell me that people probably wouldn’t really care about them. Which has been really fascinating to do. I learned that from a great book called the mom test. I highly, yeah, I know that one.

Michaela: [00:40:22] Yeah. When you said that, I was thinking I should have mentioned it, but

Max: [00:40:29] it’s really well, it it’s helped me invalidate a lot of ideas. I have very, very quickly by just talking to someone for five minutes and being like, Hey, you know, what are your problems? What are you struggling with right now? What do you care about? And that very simple approach would be to the tests. We do daycare about your. Problem. And then could your solution solve that problem or not? And it also helps us cover other problems, right? Like I’ve discovered other problems that people have. And now I’ve talked to, I don’t know, 10 to 20 people and I’m starting to see patterns. Right. I’m starting to see, Oh yeah. A lot of people care about this one problem. I wonder if we could maybe solve something there, maybe there’s a solution for that. Right. And so that, that process is very, it’s very fun right now.

Michaela: [00:41:02] Yeah. That’s so smart. It’s so smart because it’s not like just, Oh, I’m going to build this and then you build it. Right. And you’re spending so much time doing it. Then I think it felt, feels maybe a little bit slow. And because you’re not really building something, which I think everybody wants to fill it, rightly we want to do, and we want to make progress. And if you just, just talk to people, it doesn’t feel like progress. It feels like, Oh, I’m still, you know, even before my idea phase, but this can pay off. So I mean, tremendously, if you’re studying and you’re going the wrong direction, I actually tweeted recently about that the tiny steps actually bring you the big success and, and, and do you have to be in the right direction? And this is also what I, I try to be very patient with myself thinking, well, you know, my steps are tiny right now, but as long as they are going in the right direction that I want to go and, you know, have a go completely straight. Right. So you, you learn and you bounce back and you think well, but if you’re open enough to see, well, this is the wrong direction. Now I have to go the other way around. And you know, even six sucking your way to success. I think this is so important and I see that. Yeah. I think you will be very successful. I can can see that. And so I’m definitely going to invite you again. Yeah. In, in a couple of years, right? I know we talk about like how it went

Max: [00:42:19] there. Yeah. We should

Michaela: [00:42:22] do that. Like we do that like in a year, maybe we do it, like go on a journey. Right. So in a year we talk again and then in a year we talk again and look how it goes.

Max: [00:42:34] Exactly. Yeah. I do think one of the things you, you said is really important is, is realizing when you’re doing something that’s wrong when you’re building a company or when you’re building a product, you’re so enamored with that product that you forget to think about. Am I even building the right thing in general? Right? You’re so in the deep, in the specifics you’re showing, Oh, which button do we put? Where, what feature do we build next? What features should we not build? What is more important? What do our users care about? Then you stop to think about the higher level. Does it, is this even a problem we’re solving, right. Is this even something that people care about at all? Or should I do something else entirely? Right. And I see a lot of startup founders particularly end up with problems or solutions to problems that no one cares about. And they never stopped to sort of reflect on, am I even working on the right. Thing right now, like, am I even doing something that anyone’s going to care about? And there’s, there’s sort of different there’s different problems to solve, right? Some are more immediate, some are problems that are problems right now. And people try to solve them right now. And then you very quickly learn whether it’s something that people very much care about or don’t care about whether you have product market fit or you don’t, if you sort of want to talk in the startup lingo. But then there’s sometimes there’s founders that are working on stuff that is way in the future, right. They have an idea of how the world should look like in 10 years and they want to help people get there. And that is really, really hard because at that point right now, no, one’s going to care, but maybe in 10 years, people care and you have to have a lot of conviction to sort of stay on your path, stick true to your values and goal the 10 years to see if that’s actually the future. That’s something I’m way too scared to do, right? Like I, I don’t have time to wait 10 years. I only have very limited time on this earth. And I know a lot of funders that are doing that and I respect the hell out of it. Right. But I’m, I’m way too scared of that. I would much rather solve an immediate problem right now where I know that people care about it rather than trying to do something so big. And so future that it would take decades to realize. Does that make sense?

Michaela: [00:44:38] Yeah, I think it’s, it’s painful. I mean, it’s painful to look at what you have invested in what you have spent your time on and to say. Honestly, I have to do something else here. Right. It’s it’s like I was standing, so I was, I was studying in London and then there was this really cool discotheque where you can go in the night. Right. I think it was called February or something like that. I forgot. And so we got a ticket there and we went there probably at, I don’t know, maybe it was like one in the morning or something or 12. And there was a line around like one of these huge buildings and we really wanted to go in, first of all, the ticket was expensive. Right. And say, if we wanted to see it and experience it. And so we stand in line and we stand in line for an hour and I say, you know, we didn’t even come, you know, like sit around. So what are we going to do? But then, because you’re already standing in our, like, it feels like, Oh, any minute, anyway, we stood actually three and a half hours and it wasn’t a morning when we could enter it. Right. And so it, and it was really this problem off, you know, like you’re standing already in line, so are you going away now? Or, and you leave all this waiting time for nothing. I was really horrible. And I think that this happens also to, to pounders. I mean, it, it also happens to me that you feel like, and, and it’s, it’s a blurry line. Like it’s, Oh, is there not traction because I’m doing it wrong? You know, is there not traction because I don’t have an audience yet? Or, you know, nobody goes to, I mean, there’s also build it and they will come if it’s not true. Right. So. It’s a little bit different, I think for especially people that don’t have like a platform and an audience yet to say, well, I’m tweeting about this amazing thing. And it could be that I am getting zero likes. So one like, and it doesn’t green really mean that, that what you’re building is not interesting. And so, you know, it’s not always easy to really understand is that the wrong direction or is it not? And then to be as honest to you and take this pain to say, well, I think it’s the wrong direction. Let’s do something else. Let’s start over. Yeah. So, so what I try to do is I try to have my, my activities always have one purpose that I know it will definitely work out. Right? So I’m doing this stuff and maybe the whole idea of turns out, but at least I know that whatever happens, there are three steps that are going into the right direction, right. Is it building an audience or, you know, building a community or learning something about the tech that I know I will use. Right. So I have, I have a couple of different goals around something where I say, well, maybe it doesn’t completely work out, but I can for sure say that those three checkpoints that are on my way to success, those three are going to work out. Right. I don’t know if that’s something, how you think about things, but this is, this is really my salt pattern pattern for everything I do. And very often it’s just learning right? Learning about. You know how to blog or how to do a podcast or, you know, something like this, which brings me to the right, you know, brings me closer to where I actually want to want to go. And then I know I have it. I have control over that.

Max: [00:47:49] Absolutely. That’s one of the big reasons I joined spectrum was because I said, there’s no downside, right? I get to work with two fantastic designers that I know online that are very famous for their great work. I get to watch them close and learn about design myself. I get to be a technical co-founder, even though I had no idea how to do that, I could learn how to do that through spectrum. And then you worst case scenario, if it doesn’t work out at all in one and a half, two years, I’ve made two new friends, at least if not many more and learned a ton about how to build a startup and what that even means. Right. And so really even if the product itself had gone in a completely mood, I knew there was no, like, I wouldn’t have any regrets about it, but I knew it could only work out and any success at the proton on top of that was just a bonus. Right. There’s the fact that we got acquired, but gets up is just a bonus, right? Like that’s sort of like that happened and it’s fantastic. And it was a great experience, but it’s not something that was required for it to be a success in my mind. Right. It was always already a success just by the fact of me doing it. And I, I think very much in the same way that you do where I sort of consider the, the whole, the, the implication of everything that I do on a sort of broader scale, right. It’s not just, I’m building a startup, is it going to be a success or not? And that sort of binary, the outcome is good or bad, but it’s. How much do I learn? Who do I get to know? What do I, what do I do? Do I enjoy my life? Do I have fun? Right? Like all these things can tie into it and can make something a success. Even if maybe directly it isn’t the success. If that makes any sense.

Michaela: [00:49:14] Yeah. That’s exactly how I approach things in life. So I think I’m fairly new. I’m happy that I got some confirmation bias here.

Max: [00:49:26] yeah, maybe. Yeah. I have no idea.

Michaela: [00:49:30] Yeah. We can see, maybe people can reply to this episode on Twitter and tell us if they are the same pattern.

Max: [00:49:37] I really curious if anybody else thinks that thinks that way. Yeah, absolutely. Please let us know. I’m I’m I’m super curious. I only start

Michaela: [00:49:43] things where I know it can, can only be a success and it can be a bigger success. Right. But it’s sort of the things that I’m doing are already success, right? Independent of how it turns out. I mean, yeah. So, well, I took already much more time than we actually that I actually set out to talk with you. So I already stolen a little bit of your day-to-day, so I I’m going to end it here, but we did promise that in a year I’m going to schedule again and then in a year we are going to talk again because I really enjoy it. I could talk on and on. And so I’m really curious where your journey goes and how, you know, how you think about the things that we talked about today in a year from now and 10 years from now. So thank you so much, max, for being on my show today, talking with me about all. All these really interesting topics and getting, picking your brain and getting a little bit an idea of how you approach things. I think this was so valuable, at least for me, I hope for my listeners as well.

Max: [00:50:39] Thank you for having me. I hope it was interesting were valuable or at least the pertaining, I hope it was at least entertaining. And I can’t wait to be back in a year and see, I, I honestly can’t wait to listen to myself. Talk about what I’ve just done for the past year. Cause I’m really curious to see where I live.

Michaela: [00:50:55] Cool. Yeah. Okay. So I will link everything in the show notes like bedrock and your Twitter profile. Is there something else that you think my listeners should know or, you know, they should check out that that’s important to you?

Max: [00:51:09] No, I think that’s it. If by then I’ll have a, start-up maybe link that to but I don’t know what that is yet. So cuddly can either yet.

Michaela: [00:51:18] Thank you so much for taking the time and enjoy your Sunday and talk to you in a year on this podcast again, hopefully. Yeah.

 

Episode 39: From designer to web developer

In this episode, I talk to Annie Liew, who works as a web developer at a startup called Pastel. She transitioned from Design to Engineering, and I want to know how she experienced this.  

We talk about:

  • about her experience transitioning from Designer to Engineer, 
  • the role her Juno Web Development Bootcamp (formerly HackerYou),
  • her new role as the first engineering hire at a startup,
  • her drive to learn and level up in public,
  • and how she managed to build a large Twitter following.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Botany.io – Botany is a virtual coach for software engineers that unblocks essential teamwork and levels up careers!

Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Deezer, or via RSS.

Transcript: From designer to web developer

Michaela: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the software engineering unlocked podcast. I’m your host, Dr. McKayla, and today I have the pleasure to talk to Annie Liew. But before I start, let me tell you about botnay.io, yho sponsors today’s episode. Botany is a virtual assistant and personal coach for engineers. It helps you adopt better habits, improve your skills or automate your workflows. So how does that work, you ask. Well, great question. Botany connects to the tools that your team uses and crunches through the data to find opportunities for you and your team to improve your skills, strengths, and collaboration, and improve processes and automate workflows. By gently and smartly nudging or reminding you, you stay on top of open tasks and learning and growth opportunities. In this way, Botany smoothly drives your new skill and habit acquisition. I love how it makes code reviews, and giving and receiving feedback a better experience for the whole team. But I guess it’s best you try it out for yourself. For that hop over to botany.io to request access to the tool. So that is botany.io, but now back to Annie.

Annie is a designer who transitioned into software development. I want to talk with her about how she got her first engineering job and how she now build soften his startup as the first engineering hire. So I’m super excited to have any year with me Annie, like come to the show.

Annie: [00:01:27]Thank you so much so happy to be here.

Michaela: [00:01:30] Yeah. I’m really, really glad that you joined. So you have been a designer and then one day you wake up and you say, I now want to be an engineer, or how, how did that happen? And what did you do about transitioning from design to engineering?

Annie: [00:01:47] Yeah. So it’s a bit of a long winded process. To be honest, I studied multimedia design at university and I worked for several years as a designer in Australia and in England. And after that I decided, okay, I wanted to change a pace. I really wanted to move to Japan because traveling is something that I really enjoy. And so I actually went from design to being an English teacher for several years and then decided, okay, I’m going to move to. To Canada and try to get back into design, but because the landscape had changed so much, it was a real struggle. And I didn’t know anybody in Toronto as well. So I basically was in this position where I was just like freelancing on the side, like trying to get my design hustle going. But I was also lot working a bunch of minimal low low-paid jobs to kind of pay the bills at the same time. So I was kind of in this place where I was like, okay, this is not where I want to be. What can I do? How can I level up, how can I get the skills that I needed? And I looked into something called bootcamp. At the beginning, I looked into a lot of UX boot camps, and then I found a school called hacker youth. They’re called Juno now. But at the time, the only. The only boot camp that they offered was a front end web development boot camp. But I really, really liked the community that they built around it. So, you know, I’ve, I’ve built websites in the past before, and it wasn’t something that I really enjoyed. I really enjoyed the designing part of things, but I was always happy to hand off the coding. You know, part two, the developers, however, I did have to build websites and when I did them, I didn’t enjoy at the time, but this time I thought, okay, let’s try again. Let’s see if something has changed. And so I started attending. Small kind of little free, not seminars workshops around the Toronto area. And I was like, okay, what is this? Flexbox what is this? And everything had changed. And so I started getting really curious about it. And so I remember it was really interesting because I never, never thought that I’d be interested in code. But after doing the workshops, I was like, okay, maybe I can do this. And so I applied for the bootcamp afterwards, got a subdued. And as they say, the rest of the street,

Michaela: [00:04:10] Okay. Okay. And so you said you were mainly interested by the community. How did you, was it an online community or was it an offline community and how did you get in touch with the community? How have you, you know, like, I imagine that you get access to the community after you joined, but it seems like you have, you knew the community exists even before you joined this particular

Annie: [00:04:33] bootcamp. Yeah, that’s a really, really great question. And that was a reason why I joined the community. I always have this idea that it’s less about what you do and more about who you do it with. I really, really liked this idea. And so the way like the hacker U has a really strong junior college has a really strong community because there’s a lot of past alumni who shared about the journey. So I, I started contacting them and say, and asking them. Hey, how was your experience? Would you meet up for like a coffee so I could talk to you about it. And I, and I went to several events and talk to a lot of them and every single one of them said, this was something that I don’t regret. I a hundred percent recommended it. This was pre COVID. So the bootcamp was an in-person boot camp as well. So it was nine weeks of 10 to six. And then on top of that, you have your assignments and classes. So it was just like a full-time in-person bootcamp.

Michaela: [00:05:30] Okay, so it’s nine weeks. So you make a commitment for nine weeks. You leave everything other aside, right. And you just go and do your work there. And I don’t know. Do you have homework then? Or is that, do you do everything in class and then you go home and then that’s it the next day you do it again.

Annie: [00:05:48] Yeah, well, it started easy, like off pretty, you know, easy where it was just like the 10 to six, but there’s so much work. And the way that works is that you’re, you’re constantly building, um, projects. So there was no way that you would have been able to do everything just in the 10 to six. There’s been like, it’s, it’s such a fun little, like, it’s almost like a summer camp experience because we all had access to the school basically. And there’ll be nights when it’s like midnight and there’s like all my classmates around me and we’re all just working hard and we have like pizza coming and it’s just a really fun. And that’s what I mean about community as well as it has a really fun atmosphere where you’re doing something difficult. You’re trying to transition into this new career. But they’re doing their best to, you know, support you along the way and make it fun. And, yeah, so it was, I don’t think I actually went to the grocery store for about eight weeks because, and I’m really lucky to have a partner who could do that, but it was just so intense, like the work that I was doing, the purchase that I was doing and what I was learning, I just really didn’t have time. And a lot of people just didn’t really have time to do other things. And

Michaela: [00:06:58] so do you still have contact with a few of those people that you met

Annie: [00:07:02] there? Yes. Yes I do. Yeah. And there’s still a very strong alumni network as well. There’s like a Slack alumni network. I Stu. Do some mentoring and I go back and help, like, you know, current students and I’ve spoken on some panels with them as well for people trying to get their first jobs. So yeah, I’m still an active part of the community. And that’s something I like about the school is that a lot of us alumni are still very active. Yeah.

Michaela: [00:07:31] That’s really nice. And so this thing had helped you also get your first job or how did you make that transition now from, okay. You’re doing this nine weeks and then what happens then?

Annie: [00:07:41] Yeah, definitely. It helped me to get a good job because the school has a lot of industry contacts. And one of the things that they did was that we had an industry day where they invited a lot of potential employee years to a. An industry day where we all kind of showcased our work. It kind of almost works like a blind date. If you think about it, where we all the students were sitting around tables and we had like a, a minute to give out pitch and to talk about ourselves and to share a project that we’ve really proud of. And then the bell rings and then they kind of let go to the next student. So it’s like speed dating. Yeah, it was completely like speed dating, but for employers versus, you know, and like potential employees. So it was really, it was like very stressful because all of us were trying to like practice our speeches and our pitches and, you know, like try to finalize the work that we wanted to show. But as a result of the industry day, I got invited to, to. Interviews with some companies. And I ended up getting an offer, which I accepted a week later. So I was actually the first person from my cohort to accept the job.

Michaela: [00:08:52] Yeah. Very cool. Very cool. And so how long has that a goal?

Annie: [00:08:57] That was, I graduated in summer of 2019 and I started in August. Yep.

Michaela: [00:09:03] And then you worked at that company as a software engineer. Front-end software engineer.

Annie: [00:09:09] Yes. So I was hired as a front end developer and I was there for a year and a year and a quarter. Was

Michaela: [00:09:17] that experience, was that good? Did you feel like now you deepening your, your knowledge or did you learn a lot?

Annie: [00:09:26] So the, the first job I had as a software developer basically was a, I worked for an agency. And what that gave me was a lot of structure around things that you don’t learn in bootcamp. So I got introduced to like agile methodology and stand up and the process of, you know, tickets and JIRA and a lot of soft skills that not soft skills, but a lot of processes, internal company processes that don’t. That you can’t really learn in a bootcamp, but you have to learn them on the job. I also got exposure to one of the very big things was I got exposure to a lot of big, large code bases, some with legacy code, and I also had to build architect sites from. Like the ground-up. So, and I work with so many different websites. It was a, they are a WordPress, VIP partner. So all our sites were done in WordPress, but I was doing like the architecture and, you know, like patient, most CSS and some Jacory as well. But because I had exposure to so many different types of websites and processes, it was a really big, yeah. It was a really big boost I would say, and definitely helped me to get my next job for sure.

Michaela: [00:10:38] And so is the next job that you done accepted? Is that the one that you’re currently at is that the startup that you’re working

Annie: [00:10:44] for? That’s correct. I’ve been there about four months.

Michaela: [00:10:48] And so how does that happen? Like why did you change and why, why did you go from an agency to a startup? What was, what was the interest for you?

Annie: [00:11:02] so I was. I’d been working at the agency for quite a while. And because I was doing a lot of the same type of work, I wasn’t feeling that I was starting to feel like I wasn’t growing anymore. And I was also quite worried about my JavaScript skills in particular, because I was so comfortable doing all the site architecture in patient mode, CSS. And I would basically get, like, I was basically lead in a lot of those. You know, for those projects that came up, but I wasn’t really practicing my JavaScript or react skills. And those are things that we had learned in bootcamp. So it was, I was, I’m going to say that I’m really, really fortunate because Twitter actually played a big part in. How I got this job or this offer, they, the company is called pesto and they were looking for a first hire someone to basically take over the front end. And they had a list of potential people that they wanted to reach out to and interview and invite them to go to the interview process. And I was one of them. So. I didn’t actually apply for this job, but the CTO reached out to me and said, Hey, I’m really like what you’re doing. Sort of some of your work that you’ve shared, and we have this position coming up. Would you be interested in applying for it or going through the process? So I looked at the stack, it was next JS was reacting, was TypeScript. It was all the kind of modern technologies that I really wanted to learn. And so I thought, okay, let’s give this a go. And I did. And I went through like the interview process. I did a coding challenge, which was a take-home challenge for a week. I’d built an entire app for that. It was very stressful. I hadn’t touched react for so long by that point. So it was a lot of learning. I was still working and then trying to do this on the side. Yeah. It was a very, very stressful week. I remembered that, but it was definitely worth it.

Michaela: [00:12:58] So now you are working in that startup and what are your responsibilities?

Annie: [00:13:05] So because they, when they hired me, they, I knew that my JavaScript side of skills, weren’t amazing. And I told them I was very honest with them at the beginning. I said, I’m not going to be like a JavaScript Ninja from the get go, because I haven’t worked professionally with JavaScript for so long. And David very aware of that. So they knew my abilities from the start. And one of my main responsibilities at this moment is just to. Basically level up as fast as I can to get myself to a point where I can just do it really well and eventually be responsible for the entire front end. The other thing I do as well is I build features. We have like a roadmap where we, you know, Look at all the features that we have coming up and I get, and I work on an, on building. Those features. Occasionally we have front end bugs come in as well, which I work on, but the two main things are the side that I am responsible for right now is building features and just like learning as fast as I can to get myself to a spot where I can be super comfortable.

Michaela: [00:14:10] Yeah, I think that sounds like really good next step for you and the ability that you can grow in that role so much, how old is the startup and you know, how does that work? A startup I imagine, right. Like extremely stressful and a lot of pressure or we have to ship. So how does that work in a startup that there’s so much time for you to learn things and how, you know, Is everything actually running smoothly. And so it just doesn’t need that. There’s not too much presser pressure or how does it work?

Annie: [00:14:43] Yeah, that’s a great question. So this startup actually started in March, 2017 and I got hired and started in October, October last year, October, 2020. So they have been going strong for just over four, almost four years, by that point that they hired me and they were. Basically profitable at that point. So they decided to, you know, start growing and becoming like an actual company. So just to give you a bit of context, there’s actually just three people in the startup. Before I got hired, it was the CTO and the CEO and the product guy. So a designer and engineer and operations. So. As they were growing, they realized they needed more help. And that’s kind of what I got hired for, because we’re profitable at the moment. And we have a, our motto of, we have a SAS product that is a subscription model. We know that the money is coming in all the time. So while there is a bit of pressure to ship features and I definitely feel it, I think a lot of the pressure is more the internal pressure that I feel too. Kind of validate that I belong here by shipping features, but I’ve had a lot of discussions with my, my CTO. And basically he said, one of the things that is important is that I’m able to learn to like, basically start slow to speed up later. So. They understand the importance of learning and growing as a junior developer was someone very early on in their career. And they’re thinking the long-term game it’s, you know, I can like probably like try and just like really hustle and ship a lot of features, but would they be like really good features? Well, I actually learned the things I need to learn so that I can do it a lot better. You know, like later on for the company, I think it’s like for everyone involved is really important that we have like a strong foundation built first so that we are able to then, you know, become a lot better and faster later on, I really

Michaela: [00:16:49] liked this long-term vision and long-term thinking it’s something that I think is quite the rare. Even for large corporation that could definitely, you know, invest into their employees. There’s often, you know, a very shortsighted action that I, that I feel like you have to provide value and you have to provide it now. But there are companies that I, that I hear really provide value also to the employees, like for example, automatic and all from several peoples that work there, they have also, for example, I think a really great place to work because. When employees are in trouble, I always heard like they are there, right? Like they give you paid time off or like some time to breathe and to think and so on. And so I really liked that mindset as well, that, you know, they are getting someone on the team and they’re investing in the person and I think. I don’t know about you, but probably it also makes you very loyal to that, to that

Annie: [00:17:46] company. What you said about investment, because that was basically in some of my discussions with my CTO. They are definitely investing in me. So when I got hired, they knew that I had the skills coming in from as a designer and. You know, they didn’t, they wanted someone who could basically have ownership of the front end and not have to worry about, Oh, can you move this pixel here? Can you move that? The light that’s all taken care of. I’m very, very pedantic about those details and let the UX and UI or things. They don’t have to worry about that at all. So he says it’s a lot easier to teach someone to code than to actually care about the product and how it looks and how it feels. So, yeah, totally resonated with everything that you said there. Yeah.

Michaela: [00:18:29] Yeah. And I think this is a really good perspective as well. Right? So you want action to the right people that are caring. And I think also people that feel cared for, and at least from what you’re telling me here, it feels like you, you feel cared for which I think trans translates back. Right. So it’s, it’s like giving and taking. So one thing that I’m super interested in as well is how do you experience. Developing software in a startup, like, what are the processes there? Is it very flexible? Do you have like mentorship? Do you have like code reviews? What about testing? You know, like what you’re telling me, it’s like two people, right? So it’s the CTO and you, so how do you do that? How much, how much formality is there and, and, and who takes over what.

Annie: [00:19:18] Something that we discussed at the very beginning is that with processes, we don’t have processes for processes sake. So that’s because as a startup, we want to basically move fast and iterate on things and be able to push things up. We basically follow a, although not formally, we follow an agile process where we have stand-ups, we do the sprints and we do retroactive at the end of the week to see what has gone well, what could be improved and then kind of reiterate on that. In terms of the, the product development process. We basically have roadmap meetings, roadmap, plannings, every one or two months, basically when we kind of look at the roadmap that we’re building and seeing what features need to be built. And the way we decide what features need to be built is based on the kind of two ideas. The first idea is a, is it something that has been requested? Is it something that customers have requested or is it something that we have some data around how customers are using our app? Is that something that they’re doing often enough? And then the second part of that is what is the potential impact of this feature? So for example, like maybe customers like request something and they requested a few times, but is that going to have a big impact on the company on like the usability of the, uh, like, will it help us to get more potential clients or, you know, so kind of those two things are two things that we think about when we, when we plan out our roadmap and look at all the features that we have available and we didn’t do like a kind of one. One, usually a one month plan where we work on, we prioritize the features that we’re going to work on, and then we just basically go for it. In terms of mentorship, I have a very close relationship. I would say with my CTO slash manager, we do our one-on-ones. We talk very, very openly about things like imposter syndrome, how we want to shape the, the culture of the company, what kind of company that they want to be. One of the things that really impressed me from the beginning was that they said, okay, and this was during the interview process. They said, we are very keen on building a great company culture. They’re kind of the kind of company that people want to come and stay, but we don’t want to have like high turnover. We want our people to feel valued and we want them to have autonomy over their workflow and the things that they do. And we want them to have an impact, but you can definitely, definitely make an impact in our startup. So the TIFA. Management style that they have here is very, very suitable for me because I tend to get bored easily, but in a startup because I’m doing so many different things and have such a, I guess like impact or influence or ownership over the product is I feel very invested in the job and in the company.

Michaela: [00:22:08] When, when I actually started out of university, I thought like, what kind of company do I want to work for? And I was very impressed by these large corporations, but I think it was more the names than everything else. Right. And now over the time, I think my view shifted quite a bit because at a startup you can maybe make the whole, the whole half of the product, right. Or maybe the whole product. There’s definitely something there, which also right now fascinates me more like having more impact, having more, you know, like. Yeah, contributing more and also maybe different heads. That’s something that I liked a lot. Actually, when I was working at Microsoft, I wasn’t a very specific position. Right. It was in the tool engineering teams. And so there, there was a lot of research, a lot of innovation, and that also had like a lot of hats, a lot of flexibility and a lot of impact, to be honest. But then when I wanted to transition, I looked at other teams and said, Oh, I don’t know. I, this is a little bit too restrictive for me. How is that for you? Do you have like several hats while do you have like probably designer hat, then you have maybe the developer hat, but other, other hats, I don’t know, responsibilities that you take over in the

Annie: [00:23:24] company? I wouldn’t say that I have like responsibilities per se, but I would say that I have the flexibility to kind of shape the role that I’m in and. Look into things that I’m interested in. So for example, one of the things that I did probably in the first couple of months is that I joined because with our clients, with our CEO, so that I could like talk to the client specifically and ask them questions about how they’re using the product, how they like it. And so that gave me a lot of. I guess empathy for our users and how they’re using the product. And actually this product is something that I use myself. So I is like, I am the user at the same time as something that I’m building for myself. So it’s interesting, but I also. Yeah. Like, because it’s such a small company, we do a lot of different things. For example, I don’t have to do this. My core responsibility is to build features and like be in engineering. But one of the things that I also do is that. I, you know, sometimes I’ll reach out to people. I think that we get a benefit from, from using pastel. And so that’s something that I do as well. It’s very, very, very, very flexible. It’s I’ve actually never worked in a company that has been so flexible before, like that, like any hierarchy, like structure is like quite flat. So everyone’s just going responsible for everything we have. Like, we communicate very openly and discuss things and it’s very much a process where it’s very collaborative. We all work together. And we’re very intentional about the things that we do that would move the company or move the product forward. So, and also just going back to what you said about mentorship, and one of the things that. Attracted me, I guess, about large companies was the idea of mentorship. And because like, traditionally we feel like large companies have very formal processes in place for mentoring younger developers. So it was something that I was very, very worried about when I first, when I was talking to the CTO, because there is no formal processes. It’s a bit, it’s a bit chaotic in many ways. So I. Asked him about that and we have code reviews. So I think maybe you’re familiar with the idea that code reviews are in many ways, a form of mentorship anyway, because you know, you’re getting your coffee with you. You’re getting a lot of feedback. He’s very good at the feedback as well. He just, he doesn’t tell me, just do this. He tells me the why. And yeah, it’s like very, very detailed and it’s, it’s really helpful. But the other thing that we do very consistently, at least twice a week, if not more, is that we pair on a very regular basis. And that’s been an immense source of mentorship as well.

Michaela: [00:26:04] Yeah, I think to be honest in a company like that’s that small, right? And you have like the CTO as the main engineering person, you have excess. To the CTO, right? I mean, it means that it’s the person that shaped the whole product that knows the architecture. So which means in another company, there will be several layers that you have maybe to go through, or people are really busy maybe also, and here, because there is an investment from the CTO also in you. Right. It’s in both interests to be like pairing and exchanging ideas and learning. And so, yeah, I can imagine that this is actually a really good spot to be in and have like. Almost like, like a really personal mentorship, you know, th there are mentorship programs in larger organizations, but I don’t think that people are that invested right in their mentees. Then probably your CTO is in you. Right. Because there is like higher stakes to make it work for that person. Right. So. One thing that I wanted to touch base, which is a little bit out of context, but you mentioned it at the beginning. And I think it’s interesting for a lot of people that are looking for jobs maybe that are coming out of would come, you know, coming or transitioning or coming out of college or whatnot. Right. And getting a foot into Tash, you said, well, actually by Twitter was super helpful. So. How, how, how are you using your Twitter or how are you building your following? What’s the value that you get out of Twitter and how can you, you know, how can others maybe also benefit from that and let it help them also a little bit in there in the job search.

Annie: [00:27:46] It’s interesting because I was never really a social media person. I had to open our, my Twitter account because my bootcamp made us open the account. And I remember in the very early days, I had no idea how to use Twitter. I was like, okay, I have to tweet something. What do I talk about? How do I connect with people? It was a very confusing kind of landscape for me because it was just a platform that I wasn’t familiar with. And I hadn’t used it before. When it started to change was when I, when the pandemic started and I’d been in my job for awhile and I was very comfortable with what I was doing, but I really wanted to level up. So I joined a hundred days of code and I started sharing my process on, on Twitter. And that was when I started to meet more people, build a community and. Basically, that was how, like my following grow. I, I guess it was very unexpected. I wasn’t expecting it. And it was very intimidating at the beginning, but in terms of why our boot camp made us open a Twitter account, it was because they knew the value of having a online, personal brand. And your Twitter account or any other, like your LinkedIn and stuff, your website is all part of that overarching idea of your personal brand. And it’s really helpful because a lot of companies do checks on you to see what kind of person you are outside of just the code that you do. And people hire other people for soft skills, not just, you know, like they can like, do like a for-loop and stuff, but it’s actually like what, what you bring to the company and. Twitter as is a way to not only kind of show the projects that you’re working on, which I was doing. I was like doing a lot of projects and just showing them, or freely on Twitter and on cold pen as well. But it’s also a chance for them to see who you are as a person. And I think that is the value of like Twitter or some of the other. Um, social sharing social networks as well. Yeah.

Michaela: [00:29:46] Okay, cool. So any, thank you so much for taking the time talking with me. Maybe I want to use the last few minutes to just catch up with things that you wanted to say to my listener, or, you know, like something that you want to leave. People were, I think especially people that are coming from bootcamps would be interested, people that are transitioning. Right. What is your advice for them? What do you think? What should they, yeah. What, how do you think that they could make themselves successful? I set them up for success.

Annie: [00:30:21] One of the things that I heard over and over again was that your network is so important and I really, it was something I really, really. Um, felt when I started to get into coding because when I came to Toronto and I didn’t have a network, it was extremely difficult for me to get into design. I didn’t know anybody. And once I tapped into a network and a community, everything became so much easier. So there is a lot of value in reaching out to people, because at the end of the day, you do the things that you do, you don’t. Build features and products and cold by yourself. You build it in a team with other people and having mentorship and a mentor can also be just someone like who’s a little bit ahead of you. If you can look on your current journey and give you advice on what you can do and just talk to them and kind of encourage you as well, having that kind of connection with someone who is already in the field or with a larger community, I think has a really large impact on, I would say a developer’s career. Something that I heard from somebody I remember this very clearly was that he said that the most successful developers, uh, people who have a large network to draw from, and also they’re not kind of tied into one specific like technology or something. They’re always kind of learning. They’re always open to hearing about like more things and they have like a large depth or breadth of knowledge and. They’re successful because they can draw from all districts areas. And I think that’s, that was like something that had always stuck with me. So. Yeah, like reaching, reach out to people, get involved in community, but also actually do work. The only reason that I was able to probably attract the attention of my current employee was because I was like really, really putting into putting in the hours of all the projects I was doing. And I think it shows as well, like the kind of work that I was sharing. Like I had spent hours and hours on them and just kind of refining my skills, getting better and improving each time. So. Those are things that come across when you’re sharing. And it’s very easy for people, I guess, like as new devs to become very discouraged. When, you know, you’re looking for your first job and you get a lot of rejections and it’s like, it’s really hard. It’s like so crushing, but you kind of have to understand that rejection is not. It’s not personal. It might be just that the company didn’t, it’s not the right fit at the right time, or there’s a lot of different factors and it’s not like really personal and cut you kind of, kind of help you to get over that hump is just to do work that you want to be hired for, or you want other people to see. And I think being able to show and share your work and show that you’re passionate about what you do and that you’re willing to learn is very, is very important.

Michaela: [00:33:24] And so was that work that you showed and that you did, was that outside of work or were you able to showcase the work that you did for work?

Annie: [00:33:34] It was outside of work and that was because the work that I was doing at work belongs to the company and. I was comfortable with the job that I was doing this. So I wanted to learn other skills beyond the work that I was doing at work. And actually this brings out a really good point because something that, that maybe like you kind of feel, feel this as well, like tech is one of those industries where there’s almost an expectation to work outside your job. And I just want to clarify and say like, that is not expected and you definitely shouldn’t do it because like a doctor doesn’t, you know, practice like operations in like his or her free time. And like, I don’t like the feeling that I have to, you know, work outside of my job, but it was something that I wanted to do personally to kind of level up because I wasn’t getting the kind of skills I needed. At my current job at that time. So that was the reason why I did it.

Michaela: [00:34:35] I also think like building up those profiles, then we just touched on before, right. Is something that’s really hard if you’re employed, because most of the time the code doesn’t belong to you. Right. And it’s not something that you can easily share and say, Oh, look at my guitar. There’s my code that I write for my employer. That’s confidential. Right. So if you want to fill your GitHub with nice stuff, it somehow. It means that you are doing stuff outside of work, but yeah, we have to be ready. The realistic that a lot of people are not, you know, they don’t have the position to do because they have like a full-time job they have to care for. Right. So, yeah, I think I understand. And they understand that this probably has a big impact, but it’s also. I also, as you said, I’m not advocating or at all right. That people should, should need to do it, but it’s, it’s definitely interesting to, to hear that that’s the way how you grow your following, how you grow your skills, right. So there is a trade-off that you have to make and, you know, if you’re in a position to do it, then that’s great. And I think it’s okay. Also not good to forbid people to do something outside. Right. I mean, sometimes it’s what you have to do. That’s how it is.

Annie: [00:35:48] Right. And in lieu of that as well. I also think that’s why having a network is so important because that’s how you can get your next job without having to do all the extra work of learning outside of your full time job. Yeah,

Michaela: [00:36:00] exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Any, thank you so much for taking the time and talking with me today, it was really a pleasure to have you. I wish you all the best for your job and that you learn a lot and I will. Continue following you on Twitter and see what you’re doing. And I’m really excited for you. Thank you so much for being on my show.

Annie: [00:36:20] Thank you for having

Michaela: [00:36:20] me. Yeah, it was my pleasure. Okay,

Annie: [00:36:23] bye.

Michaela: [00:36:26] I hope you enjoyed another episode after sup engineering unlocked podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe and I’d talk to you again in two weeks. Bye.

Episode 38: Legacy code and what to do with it – With Michael Feathers

In this episode, I talk to Michael Feathers. Michael is the author of the super-popular book “working effectively with legacy code”. He is also the founder and director of R7K Research and Conveyance, a company that helps engineering teams with their software and organization design. Recently, Michael also joined Globant as Chief Architect.

We talk about:

  • legacy code and how to deal with it
  • how systems almost feel like living organisms
  • how we are on a journey with our code, and why it’s so important to care for it,
  • how legacy code is the result of an organization where engineers turn faster (leave the company/team) than the code churns.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Botany.io – Botany is a virtual coach for software engineers that unblocks essential teamwork and levels up careers!

Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Deezer, or via RSS.

Transcript: Legacy code is a living organism – With Michael Feathers

[If you want, you can help make the transcript better, and improve the podcast’s accessibility via Github. I’m happy to lend a hand to help you get started with pull requests, and open source work.]

Michaela: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Software Engineering Unlocked podcast. I’m your host, Dr. McKayla and today I have the pleasure to talk to Michael Feathers.

Michael is the author of the super popular book “working effectively with legacy code”. He’s also the founder and director of
7K Research & conveyance, a company that helps engineering teams with the software on organization design.

Recently, Michael joined Global as a chief architect. Since I have been at university reading his amazing book, I always wanted to pick his brain. So I’m super excited to have Michael here with me today. Michael, welcome to the show.

Michael Feathers: So glad to be here.

Michaela: Yeah, it’s my pleasure. I’m really, really excited. Michael, you have been probably working more than 20 years with engineers, with software companies from all over the world. This is so, so fascinating to me. I’m super curious about how different organizations develop software. I’m always asking the questions. What makes teams and organization more effective than others? What’s up engineering practices. Do we have, I’m a big fan of code reviews. And so I want to know from your experience, are there best practices? Can you make out best practices that really lead to success for engineering teams where you say, well, if they follow that, right, they will be very successful versus factors that you think they are definitely bad and lead to a lot of troubles.

Michael Feathers:[00:01:23] The question. And it’s interesting too, because like the practice space is very interesting, but I think a lot of it really comes down to organizational culture, you know? And it’s, you know, if you have a good culture, then basically like the practices will develop almost invariably, right. Or you’ll at least be open to going in and exploring different practices and things along those lines. I think, you know, for the thing that I have gotten called into organizations for quite often, you know, legacy code, the thing I kind of noticed over and over again is that. What is missing sometimes is really a very Frank conversation about the quality of the stuff that people are working on. Right. And in the worst cases, it’s kind of like a. It’s like everybody is told, you know, you must write code and you must design this thing and create it, but nobody’s really paying attention to it. And sort of like, you know, thinking about it as being significant, you know, quite often there’s like a task focus rather than focusing on the quality of the thing that you’re producing, that kind of thing. So I, you know, I wouldn’t really know how to go and actually sort of say, what are the best practices? I think that so many of the things that we basically do. In the industry now regarding testing and pairing and mobbing and you know, the way that we allocate work and stuff like that, a lot of those things really kind of help. So.

Michaela:: [00:02:38] Yeah. So one thing that I thought about is engineering values versus practices, right? So I think that engineering values and developing dos is a team. And not a lot of people are talking about it. Unfortunately I think much more people should talk about values. The engineering values that we have. And not the practices because practices can change and they should change. Right. They should change over time. And with technology changes and with our, how our society changes, the practices should change and somebody comes out and has a new idea. Right. And th they try something, they fail maybe 10 times, and then suddenly they found a new thing. . But the values, I think, for example, what about our. Code health. Right? I wanted the quality of the code that we are expecting how we are developing software, how we are talking about the things I think those values are really important. Is that something that you have more and more teams do or, you know, successful teams do.

Michael Feathers:[00:03:28] Yeah, definitely. I think it’s yeah, it’s a lot of, it really comes down to taking the work seriously. I think, you know, in a way, and in terms of values, it’s, it’s, it’s funny with this too, because you know, there are many different, like, you know May different ways. We can look at, you know, values across organizations and different frames we can use. But I think that actually going and seeing the systems themselves as valuable is like a rather important thing to do as well. Right. And that’s a little piece that tends to be missing at times. One things that’s kind of been striking to me across. You know, my career is basically noticing that in the very beginning back in the 1990s, it seemed like there was this thing of kind of like, well, we’re all kind of like disposable and as engineers, you’re just basically there just to do the work and then basically go home or go bowling or whatever it is you want to do in the evenings. Right. So going and recognizing that we can become more whole people at work and basically valuing our own development and valuing our communication, our relations with our coworkers. And I think that’s a great thing, but then there’s also this other thing too, of like valuing the thing that we do and looking at the things that we create as being significant and having their own intrinsic qualities that we can kind of like, you know pay attention to and kind of foster over time. So yeah, I think one of the things I’ve been coming back to over and over again within my career is just this notion of thinking about the systems that we create as if they were like alive in a way. Right. And we get to care about them. Right. And it’s kind of like this way of going, like applying like this anthropomorphic frame to the things that we’re working with. And some people might say, well, that isn’t like a it isn’t like a good thing or it isn’t a realistic thing, but I find it very useful to come and sort of think of them. Think of the systems we work of is basically things that we can foster and care for. You know, I think that helps us become better engineers.

Michaela:: [00:05:17] When I was preparing for this interview, I read through the things that you write on your website on the RS seven K website. And this is something that I read. I was really fascinated by it. Like. That the code is in living organism. Right. Sort of, and, and I thought, well, this, this is true. Right. It evolves, it changes. People come in and the levels are their think of Prince there. Right? So coded I right. Looks probably quite different than code that you write. And even if you have engineering values around that, and even if you have coding standards, you probably can tell, you know, sometimes the boundaries of this is where one engineering team or engineer work. Then this is where another engineering team works. And you also talked about your, how actually Cultures and the organizational structure shape our code, which is one of those laws that we have been seeing and studying for for many years. Right. Where we see that actually. Yeah, exactly. Right. But you see that you have the organization and the boundaries and how you structure and the design, your organization will reflect in the architecture of the system, which also shows that somehow it’s, it’s living with the organization and growing and, you know, Aging and getting to a legacy when the, also the structures of the organization change. And it probably it’s even harder to change the code per se, when you’re changing the organization. Right. So people change organizations all the time. They’re reorgs in large organization. They’re reorgs all the time, but we’re not reordering the code in the same capacity. . So what is your thought on that, especially about technical debt, for example, Then he called that, that cumulates over time. How should we deal with that? And how should we integrate that in our day to day work life?

Michael Feathers:[00:07:01] The, the main thing I keep coming back to us, like the frame. For this, you know, it’s kind of funny. We can talk about this being like a metaphor that basically code is like biology, but I think just about anything that kind of grows incrementally, where it’s easier to add new things than to change existing things tends to go and sort of have like these hallmarks of organic growth in a way. Right? Like I used to say to people, like, if you, if there’s like a young tree and you kind of like kick it and it kind of like falls over a little bit, it’s kind of like, it’s not going to upright itself. It’s going to basically continue to grow. You know, upward, but from the direction you kicked it out. Right. And in much the same way that kind of thing happens with our code is that the things that we do tend to basically leave their Mark upon the structure of the code. Sometimes in complexity theory, this is called path dependence. It’s kind of like that basically. You’re dealing with something that has a memory and basically what’s possible with it depends upon what happened previously. Right. So I think that the main thing is to kind of like, just sort of like recognize this, recognize that that this is part of the character of, of code itself and that we don’t really ever get to go and sort of like say I’m going to build a brand new system. Like the complete rewrite, that’s going to go and be shiny and, and perfect. You know, that’s going to go and serve. I solve all of our problems that, you know, the, the code that we create, basically we’re on a journey with it and it’s going to basically take time for it to go and react to the new situations in this environment. And those new situations are how our organization is structured. What new features we need within the system. And it’s just going to be like this slow process of change. I think the interesting thing with this in terms of practicality is that. It does mean that sometimes it’s easier to go and create new systems than to go and sort of modify existing ones. And we should be a bit more proactive about doing that. Sometimes we’re basically like you know, if we have particular products and an organization think about creating new products sometimes rather than trying to burden existing products with new features that may not quite fit for instance. So, you know, that’s. It’s a rather abstract answer. I’m sorry, but it’s kind of like, you know, I think that basically this frame that we have of looking at software in this way can help us make some of these decisions a bit better, but they don’t like sort of solve all the problems necessarily in there.

Michaela:: [00:09:21] I heard you say a couple of things, especially before where you said, well, we have to take the quality of the system more seriously. We, you know, we have to be more careful. In my experience. I see, I see several camps, right? So there are the, really the, the engineers that, you know, they love high quality code. They, they learned a lot about how to create high quality code and they really do and nurture the systems quite a bit. Then you have like some tension between business goals here because as long as it works right, and it fits the business goal, there’s like this tension and this, this pull towards, well it’s good enough. Let it. Be please don’t make it nicer or more elegant and more inspiring. Just let it work. And then you have also very pragmatic developers that are maybe, you know, they’re not, they’re not into elegant code so much. I haven’t seen many of those, but they are. And I think a lot of more people become, especially like people that are creating software because they want to create something, right. They want to do products. So we have like a new wave of engineers. I think, especially when I studied a lot of people studied really for software engineering, but they were not entrepreneurs. Are, are only a couple of them were right. And now I see there’s like a huge mass of people that are also. Engineers, because they want to be entrepreneurs. They want to create products. And I think they’re coming a little bit with a different mindset into the whole you know, why are we using code and using code and code is just a means to an end, whereby I don’t know when, when I was in university, it was not a means to an end. It was the end, right? Like, this is why we are here. This is, it was not, it was a product focused. I had not. Lecture about product. I had only lectures about code and what is good code and what are good, you know development practices. And I also studied computer science. So a lot of computer and computer systems and system architecture and so on. But no product, right there was not all, how do we position that product or what makes a good product, not even product management, which probably should be there with it anyway. So I’m saying. I think there are more people now with a more pragmatic view on software than maybe 10 years ago. That’s at least my experience. So how do we balance that? And is that a good thing? You know, is it a bad thing? Can we even say, you know, it’s good or bad? Is it binary?

Michael Feathers:[00:11:46] Yeah, we can, we can basically have like a very instrumental view of code and systems and say they’re there. To serve us. Right. And that’s a frame, which like you say, can basically help you out if you’re an entrepreneur. And you’re just trying to get something to market very quickly. But you know, it’s a story which is, you know, just, you know, an age old story that essentially it’s like people get to market and then they discover they can’t change anything because they’ve created such a brutal system that it’s impossible to work with. So you’re always going to have like a mix of people they’re pragmatic and people that are idealistic, I guess, the. The important thing culturally is getting them to be able to talk to each other and see each other’s point of view and recognize that sometimes you have to be in it for the long haul and you have to be able to make trade-offs that sometimes it’s good to be opportunistic and do something very quick and dirty and disposable. And other times you want to go in like really invest in a particular thing, because it’s important to you. One thing that is weird about this is that I think. If we look at code as being just this mechanical thing or this thing, which is like over there someplace, or the thing that we mess with, you know, when in between our business conversations, which are really more important, you know, then we we aren’t paying attention to it enough. To basically understand when it can get in our way sometimes. There’s a guy I know Colin Brecht who basically started doing this thing called quality views. So it’s an idea that I had years ago and he was doing this within his organization and it’s a really, really cool tool for going in, dealing with technical debt. And I really want, that’s a great thing to go and talk about. It seems like with technical debt, we always go and we ask like the business side for like, Time to go and like go back and fix things. Right. And it’s kind of like, that’s always like a tough sell and it’s also kind of like people say, what am I going to get for that? Right. But the technique around this is to go and say, let’s take a look at our systems. And kind of like make a little pictorial representation of that. Maybe like if you have a big system, maybe it’s like five boxes of things, right. And then when we’re discussing the features, we want to add to the system, we can go and say, okay, well this particular feature touches these three boxes and this other one touches these two boxes. And what you do is you put colors on these boxes to indicate their level of health. Okay. And what happens is that color gradation is going to change over time. Right. And you just basically don’t use that as a basis for conversation with the people who aren’t looking at the code all day. Right. And the neat thing about this is that without talking about technical debt at all, it starts to become like this feeling within the system, within the organization that, you know, the code is a real thing and it has a particular qualities. And those things can either help us or get in the way, depending on how healthy it happens to be. Right. So it’s not uncommon to go and do this and have somebody go and say, gee, you know, this one area of the system is very red and it seems like every time we ask for features to touch this area, you know, it’s going to take a long time. Can we do anything about that? And then you actually have the business going and asking for system’s health. . Whereas before it would be completely invisible to them. . So I think that stuff like this is kind of like the path forward in a way is to basically sort of make. The systems are real to people within an organization. And, you know, sometimes the choice is going to be to do something very pragmatic that might actually go and sort of hurt things for a period of time temporarily. And you might just need to do that for the business, but you’ll at least understand what the consequences are of longer term.

Michaela:: [00:15:07] Yeah. I liked that. I liked that idea a lot, because if you think about a business and it has a building and it is in the building, like, and the building just rots right. Buildings wrong. Right. So they. They get older. The forsake is not nice anymore. The entrance is maybe not nice the floor, right. Ceiling and so on, but people it’s very visible to people and you think like, well, it’s good enough still it’s good enough. But there comes a point where you think, well, we cannot have this entrance. It’s still functioning. Right. It opens the door, but it makes them noise. Right. And it looks horrible. So you don’t want to Valcom your, your people there and, you know, At one point, there is no, you know, no way back to repair it, right? So then you have a big disaster, but this is very visible. So I liked this idea that you actually, you show it, you help people imagine what actually the system looks like, right? So there’s some visibility and transparency in it, which I think is very often missing. And I think that this, this missing visibility and transparency is also something that makes our, our lives so hard as engineers. Right? We are in front of the computer.

Michael Feathers:[00:16:10] It’s completely invisible to people. Right. All they see is people looking at monitors and it’s like, who, you know, they look at us looking at monitors and they’re like, Oh, what are these people looking at? Right. So it’s rough.

Michaela:: [00:16:20] And, and you also, you don’t see, the work and the quality of the work. Right. Do you see a button and one engineer can create a button and another engineer can create a button, but you don’t see what’s behind it. You know, like how is the backend integrated? Is that button actually really usable for another button? The CSS come, you know, from a class or is it just. Do you know, hand drawn into in, in lane style or something, right.

Michael Feathers:[00:16:41] I think it’s almost it’s beyond metaphor in a way, is that I think it really is true that software’s physical in a way, you know, it really is. Now, when you think about object orientation, it’s like objects are meant to represent things or to basically be things that, you know, have cohesion and coupling and can communicate with other things. You know, all of these things live in this virtual space, but it’s like they still. Obey some laws of physics in a way it’s kind of like modularity is like when something grows too big to basically fit in our heads, we basically want to keep it smaller. Right? So you can see that as being just like objects in the world. Some things are just ungraspable because they’re so huge and software can be like that too. So we want to go and keep it smaller like that. So I think, you know, we can use the real world as like a decent, you know, framing device for going and understanding these things and helping us make better decisions.

Michaela:: [00:17:32] Yeah. So I’m interviewing and talking to a lot of people right now, engineers, and I’m talking a lot about, you know, their values and also the code based health and what makes them happy, what makes them productive. And one thing that I hear over and over, and again, is that. You know, you have your engineering heart, right. So good code, good quality makes you happy. That’s definitely something that I see for, for many, many people, not everybody, but a lot of engineers, but then you have all these system constraints and now the system is an organization, right? So you also have, you have to fulfill. Your duties, you have to do what you’re supposed to do, and knowing that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, it makes you also happy. It makes you more excited. Right? So if you know that you’re actually working on something that you’re not supposed to work on, it makes you unhappy. And, and it’s also risky to take on the task, right? So there’s this, there’s this productivity then there’s this code health and they’re all some how intertwined. Right? So people want to work on, for example, technical death is something that people, a lot of engineers would say. Well, it’s a challenging problem. I like to tinker with Dakota, like to make it nicer. I like to make it more, you know, reusable, more maintainable and so on. But on the other hand, there is business constraints and business needs. And my manager, you know regards me, or also evaluates me based on the features that I’m delivering. So I actually cannot take on. Technical debt. And very often I hear also people talk about the commitment is too big, right? So it’s not only that it’s a single engineer that cannot take on the technical debt. Even the team mission is not aligned with, you know, getting rid of technical SRE. They will work a little bit on technical debt a little bit here, but then the. They’re getting more, accumulating, more technical that overall. So they are actually not, you know, they don’t feel that they can really do a big thing. And I think you probably people will call you when there is like, when you have a problem. Right. So it’s too far. So how are you going to change the mindset? How you’re going to work with the people?

Michael Feathers:[00:19:32] People usually call me once they recognize that they actually have a problem, you know?

Michaela:: [00:19:36] Yeah, it’s very late, right?

Michael Feathers:[00:19:37] And I think that’s the bigger thing too, is just as developers, when we’re working in an organization, it’s a bit of work to go and actually go and convince people that actually some investments in going reducing technical debt gives you a payoff. Right. I think the most important thing to go and recognize this, that like there’s almost like this 80 20 rule that basically goes and happens with code change. And I, you know, I haven’t really seen research around this, but it seems to ring true. Maybe you have, I know you have a. We have a research background, but it seems like there are hot spots in code systems where basically there a lot of change tends to gravitate towards them. They can shift over time. Right. So the thing is, it’s kind of like as a developer, if you’re going and looking at something that’s pretty messy and then you look back and you basically see that that area had like, Thousands of commits made against it. One thing is you can pretty much count on us, any little thing that you do to go and make things better. There is probably going to go and give you a bit of a payoff, you know, going forward because of the fact that it’s a hot area of the system that goes and gets a lot of change, right. And I’m getting, you know, in the organization, just, you know, we should never look at technical debt as being like this thing, which is a uniform across an entire code base. I mean, it is in a way, but it’s like in terms of the value of technical debt, It’s wildly different in different areas of the code. Some areas are more mission critical in your code base than others are. And if you can at least have different say, rules of engagement for the system and go and say, you know, we know we don’t have very much time, but you know what, whenever we touch this particular part of the system, we’re going to be really careful about this. And we removed. Technical debt because we know that it’s critical for our business and we’ve changed it a lot. Just getting simple agreements about that, going forward, give you almost like a bit of a foot in the door in your organization to go and have this conversations about how quality impacts things. So yeah, it’s never like this thing of like, Hey, let’s go install technical debt. It’s more like let’s find out where it really pays off and then go and use that as a way of going in sort of like surfacing the conversation and doing something about it. Cause that’s gonna be a smaller investment.

Michaela:: [00:21:36] Yeah, hotspots is definitely something that we saw in many different empirical studies as well. Right. So that problems accumulate in different areas more than others. And there’s clusters that around that and so on. So it is definitely. Rings true for me from, from this perspective as well. And I like what you said, well, technical debt, you don’t have to work on every technical debt unit code base. Right? Some of that, it doesn’t even interest you because you’re not touching it. The system runs, there’s not, I think a lot of much it backs you has to do with how often you’re changing the parts, that there is a lot of technical debt, right. So if you’re not changing the parts who cares, right. Probably I don’t

Michael Feathers:[00:22:17] And, and really, I think, I think that’s one of the things I like in my book. I talked about this a bit in terms of writing tests, like going and breaking dependencies and writing tests for particular areas of the system is that because there’s this kind of like power lodge, predo distribution of code change that if you take the time to break dependencies around a huge class and write tests for it, chances are, you know, you’re going to come back to that relatively soon and basically go ahead and discover that that work has already that hard work has been done. And you’re going to be able to take the benefit of that work. Right. So it’s kind of like, it’s, it’s weird because like that power Lalish growth goes and leads to some chaos and systems, but it would also helps us in terms of going and sort of focusing our, when we focus our energy, we get payback for it also. So it’s like a place where we get a virtuous cycle that goes into Alliance with the psychotic cost of the problem, you know, so we can sort of. Leverage it to go and solve the problem as well. Like, I’m not sure I can put words better yet, but.

Michaela:: [00:23:15] No, it sounds, it sounds good. Yeah. . So you were talking about testing and in your book, and this was also a good question and it was actually asked on Twitter, right? And your book, there was this really strong connection with legacy code and the. Lack of tests, for example, because if you don’t have tests, tests, somehow are also a means to an end. Right? Did they give you confidence that when you are making changes, the system is still very similar to what work, what it was before, right? So you’re not introducing anything. Box, hopefully. Right. And so the better, the better the test, the better your confidence. And so you’re, you’re actually able to do changes without any tests you don’t know, like, are you messing up completely here or, you know, are you introducing a lot of side-effects and so on? Is that still in definition that holds true for you today? Or would you say that over time, the definition of, you know, what legacy code is changed for you?

Michael Feathers:[00:24:09] Well, I think any definition like this. And instrumental. I was actually the time I came up with us working with a team and I sort of just got angry and I said, you know, people, weren’t writing tests. I’m kind of like, you know, it’s kind of like, you know, this is legacy code because it’s code without tests. And I started ranting a little bit right in front of mine, says, you know, you should write that down. I’m like, okay. So I did. But the, the reason why I really was trying to press that point is because it was like really obvious to me through my experience at that time that. There’s a real strong, qualitative difference between code that has test coverage and code that doesn’t in the sense that if you don’t have test coverage, quite often, you’re scared of making changes and you can be much more conservative about how you, you know, do things you may not refactor as much. And you know, just, you, you have like a, a greater sense of ease working in code that has decent cusp test coverage. And I thought that qualitative difference is just so high. That’s worth going in highlighting that and basically going and tying that into a definition of legacy code. But then, you know, there’s the thing of kind of like there’s many different definitions of what legacy code is, and, and they’re all useful to some degree and that’s fine, but you know, I think for people that need to hear it, that’s the one I still use just because it’s, you know it helps people go and it’s, it’s a definition which kind of points to the solution, which I think is useful for us. If we’re trying to go and galvanize attention towards better practice.

Michaela:: [00:25:32] So on your head you also wrote. What we call legacy code is exactly what you would expect when developers turn over his I fast error, dent code turnover. Right. So for me to seems very much it, legacy code has to do with the loss of the knowledge about the code base. Right? So if you’re, and this sometimes has to do with the technology as well. Right? So if you think about systems, you know, written in some languages, Well, we just have really only a few people that are still familiar with this code it’s legacy code, right. Or if you’re having a code base and people leave, even it’s written in reacted, she’s now, you know, modern and that everybody knows it. People don’t have knowledge about the code base. So it’s legacy code. Is that something that you think also rings true for you?

Michael Feathers:[00:26:18] You know, I kind of like somebody offered that as like a an alternative definition is that, you know, legacy code is the product of, you know, it’s when your team turns over faster than your code turns over. Right. That kind of thing. And I think it’s important to go and basically see that system dynamic because it really affects. A lot of the decisions we make about process and team structure and all these things going forward within our organizations. I remember, I try to remember which tool this was. So I won’t mention the name because I’ll probably get it wrong, but there was like a tool that’s widespreadly used within the industry of database technology. And my understanding is it’s actually done only by two or three people. And they’ve been working on it for decades and it’s kind of like their life work is basically going to supporting this particular piece of software. Right. And to me, that’s almost like the ultimate fantasy in a way. It’s like, Oh, you know, have this house that you live in, that you basically sort of like remodel, continuously accepted this code. And then basically, you know, it so intimately that you’re. In this space where basically it’s never really legacy to you because you’re constantly able to go and improve it and add to it and stuff along those lines. Right. And it should never be something which is too big, where it’s too big, then, you know, It’s so big that a couple people can’t work on it together, you know, that you need an entire team. But it’s interesting without to go notice that that’s almost like an idealistic situation of having something that’s durational, the people are going to be with it. Long-term, it’s relatively small and you can basically do a lot of really great practice with it. But the thing is, it’s kind of like in. The typical development that happens to these days that never really quite happens. The software tends to grow up, grow bigger than us bigger than what will fit in like two people’s heads, for instance. Right. And beyond that people will basically leave and go to other jobs and other people will come in and stuff like that. And it’s these things that happen, which go in, tend to go in. Cause you know, the, these issues that we tend to have, and then we have to go and introduce practices like, you know, extensive testing. You want to make sure that we can. Detect when something goes wrong in this thing that we don’t quite understand when we make changes to it. Right? All these things are almost like props that we use to go and basically deal with this fundamental mismatch between the lifetime of the team, the lifetime of the code. And I think it’s kind of a fascinating thing to go and recognize that those tensions are inherent in what we do. And it’s not that we’re bad programmers. We’re just dealing with a pretty hard problem that we have this, this lack of alignment between team and, you know, piece of code that we’re working on.

Michaela:: [00:28:44] Yeah, exactly. And I think it has also to do with, I mean, there are so many factors that influence that. So for example, in our industry, people that are, you know, five year in one company, this is like, Five years. How could you say that long? Right. Like people are turning over really quickly also for various reasons. Very often also because they want to level up. And because there is, or yeah, because there is a lot of opportunity out there, right. So people can choose, pick and choose, be quite choosy. But on the other hand, as you said, well, people are leaving and they’re with them. A lot of knowledge is leaving, which I think sometimes organizations still don’t recognize the value of the, just the knowledge that people have in their head that they accumulate. Right. Because, and we see that and you know, that I’m a big fan of code reviews, for example. And I did a lot of research on cultural reason. What we see for example is that. The person who has seen fight at least once this is the big zero to one, right. Has seen the file, the, the code that you’re asking them to review, at least once, then it will give much better feedback than before. Right? So if you look for example, usefulness of feedback, and so how many of the code review comments are useful? We see that if they haven’t seen the file before the code, before the code base, before this part of the code base, before they give around three. Out of 10 useful code comments, right? So only 30% of their comments is really useful to the author. But if they have seen it, at least once it, grows from 30 to 70%. Right. So this is a big jump, but then you only see incrementally, like until five times, then it doesn’t matter anymore. Right. So if a person has seen the code five times, then it’s plateauing the usefulness of the comments that they are giving. Right. So, but culturally is in general. I think it’s a really, it’s a good practice if it’s done right. To help that more people are familiar with the code. So for example, if you have at least two people or three people that have seen the code base, or know a little bit of what’s going on there, they don’t have to be in a, like the author of it. But I think they are quite intimate, familiar with the code base because of the cultural reason we see that. Knowledge really increases that we can measure, even at the knowledge of the code base increases for teams that are doing code reviews versus with teams that are not doing code reviews. How is your experience with that? Is that something that you recommend that you recognize as important and so on?

Michael Feathers:[00:31:08] Yeah, no, I think it is. And it’s, it’s funny with this too, because I kind of come, you know, at least I’m gonna become a consultant. I really got embedded, like in the extreme programming and agile communities. And so we had like pair programming in the very beginning and we would basically use that as like a. A way of going and trying to go and arrive at like continuous code review. And then more recently you have mob programming and ensemble programming as well. And it’s kind of weird about this because it feels wrong in a way to go and have five people working on the same piece of code at once, right. In a group. But I can’t. You know, the more I reasoned about it from first principles, I think it’s actually a pretty decent thing to do, right? If knowledge loss is one of the main things we we deal with over time within an organization and basically making sure that everybody’s involved in the decisions and those, the code intimately, it’s probably a decent investment for an organization to make. It’s a hard sell. I’m sure you know, many organizations, but it’s, it’s also something which is kind of fascinating. I think one things that’s kind of funny with this. I know that like, this is like, Knowing this pod, you’re kind of like asking me a bunch of questions, but with your background in code review, the thing that I kind of noticed, and I’m wondering if there’s any research around this is that sometimes there’s this issue of like, whether people will really be forthright about their criticism of a piece of code. And if they’re not, do we basically just sort of like let quality deteriorate because nobody really wants to step up and say, there might be an issue here, you know, is that a thing which happens in code review that you’re.

Michaela:: [00:32:34] This is definitely something that happens and it happens for various reason, right? It could happen for example, because people know that even if they are criticizing it. The team and the organization, how it’s structured and how, you know, incentives work and all of that. Right. So there’s a lot of that behind the theme thing. It’s too late. Right? So most of the time the criticism that’s not sad is because it’s too late. So even if I would say it right now, we are not going to, you know, change it. We are too far in it. Right. So this is, this is one, one part where this happens quite a bit and it’s really sad. And you know, this is also a planning issue, right? It’s the ticket to big when are we involving people to give feedback? And so, you know, people have worked like a month. On something. And then you’re, it goes higher up and people say, well, this is from an actual perspective. It’s horrible, but it cannot even say it anymore. Right. They cannot change you’re too far in. And then obviously there are also hierarchy issues, right? So is a, is somebody allowed to say something? Is it even hurt when you’re saying something? . People learn if the, Code review feedback is not perceived or not received and not changed people that also learned that this doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t make sense. So this is definitely something that happens. There’s also something called, you know the priming bias. So if you see that other people already looked through the code you’re also primed for their answers. So the best thing would be that people are looking through the code without looking how others responded and say, well, it looks good to me, or, you know,

Michael Feathers:[00:34:05] Yeah. And we’re talking to somebody, an organization, a very big software development organization, and they were saying, we know we hire great engineers. But the one thing that we kind of noticed is that essentially we can see through the metrics that the code quality is deteriorating, but nobody on the team knows because they’re just so used to looking at the same code all the time. They just kind of understand what’s going on with things. So the newcomer. Would be completely, you know, I’m surprised by so one things I kind of wonder about all the time. It’s like, can we basically get new people on the team, people visiting that we’ll be able to basically say, well, you know, you’re saying this is great, but I don’t understand it. And then sometimes I might be like a, like a jolt to go and say, it’s like, wow. You know, it’s like, are we building a silo of understanding here that basically is disconnected from understanding of the world. Might be a possibility with that too, you know, to go and sort of like try to mix things up a bit to the point where the teams don’t become stale in their understanding.

Michaela:: [00:34:57] Then, for example, culture feedback, right? So I’m working also a lot of very often with people or teams on how to give feedback so that others even can, you know, receive it. And very often there is like, Oh, but in our team, we understand when we are talking very harshly with each other or whatnot, right. But this is also a sort of blindness, which I think is very similar to the blindness for your code that you say, well, if you have to be very intimate with your team and know that this is actually not a harsh comment, but it’s a joke for you. Then first of all, it’s not coming to others. It’s not something that you want to leave on because in two years, your team is not a team anymore than it is today. Right? So if somebody looks at this code comment they will not understand. Right. And it’s also, as you said, it’s something that you’re building up where. It’s not conforming to what we were expecting outside. Right. So it’s really something that’s very, it’s a very narrow, very blind view on your system. Right.

Michael Feathers:[00:35:49] Yeah. Yeah, no, it’s, yeah. There’s a lot of really interesting dynamics around all this stuff. I find it really fascinating. It’s funny. Conway’s law, you know, we’re Conway’s laws, you know, saying that the code structure is gonna end up going in, mirroring the structure of the teams to kind of like, you know, look at that at a very deep level and go and say the same thing is true with quality. If the coast starts to be kind of messed up at probably in the case, there’s communication problems within the team, in terms of nobody’s able to go with, stand up and say, there’s something wrong here. Maybe, you know, I mean, it seems like that kind of effect can occur as well.

Michaela:: [00:36:25] Lot of different issues behind why quality deteriorates. Right. So what I also often see you and I mean, It really breaks my heart is that if people want to, but they’re just really, they can’t or they feel that they can’t. Right. And this is very often from an organizational perspective. So one question that I had for you is when you were coming in, I think there’s a lot of buy-in from a path, right? So there’s a lot of top down. Understanding suddenly, Oh, this is important. Whereby teams are dealing with this bottom up, you know approach really have to see, well, I see this is a problem. We feel this is a problem. We don’t have enough time to do it. You know, there’s a lot of deadlines and so on and they would have to communicate up to which I often feel. This is really, really hard. And if you don’t have commitment, this is also what developers say, right. If I don’t have to commitment, I just can’t fix it. It doesn’t matter if I find it important or not.

Michael Feathers:[00:37:19] The advice that might be kind of seen as like problematic in a way. Right. But the thing is, I think sometimes with a good team, If you can find other people on the team that care about co quality issues, the way that you do just form a little bit conspiracy with them. It’s kind of like, you’re not going to ask for permission. You’re just going to make things better silently and just not really talk about it with the rest of the team until they start to notice just like through osmosis, that this is a better way of doing things, right. One of the worst things you can do as a developer is try to lecture your other developers on the team. Right? Nobody likes that. Right. And you know, if you have. Some respect already that you’re able to go in sort of like say, you know, you should really do things this way and it works. You know, communication wise. That’s great. But if you don’t have that, you know, it just doesn’t go all that far. But I think, you know, the, the main thing is the programming can be very fun and cleaning things up can be very fun also. Right. And if, you know, you can develop that kind of culture internally within the team. That’s great. And worked with a team a long time ago that really had this interesting thing. They did great work, but part of it was also a feeling that every other team in the organization was a bunch of idiots. In a way. So it’s kind of like this thing of going and saying, like us versus them and it formed like this cohesive group with them. The thing is they were all smart enough to go and recognize that, you know, that was like not the truth. It was just like this little story they told themselves to basically sort of like say. Yeah. Yeah, we’re doing this great thing. And it’s like, who cares if nobody else really uses it? You know, that way that we intended, it’s like, it’s still okay. I think we can basically play those emotional games a little bit to sort of like not hurt anybody, but also kind of bolster ourselves up as we try to do things. It’s funny, cause I’ve mentioned this a couple of times in interviews and stuff that I really feel that I missed an opportunity with the legacy code book to basically give it a positive frame because even though it can be kind of treacherous to go and deal with legacy code, it can also be like, And adventure, if you basically sort of frame it that way, you know, it can kind of let go and say, look, you know, you’re kind of like going through this crazy jungle and you’re learning things and you’re picking things up and making things better as you go. And that can be a decent way of going and motivating yourself and people around you to go and do some cool things.

Michaela:: [00:39:26] I think that a lot of engineers actually like cleaning up, right. It’s like, If you have like a kitchen sink and it’s, it’s dirty and then you swipe over it and it’s nice. Right? And so I think a lot people also recognize that and it’s, it’s a hard problem, right? It’s on one hand they had problem. There’s a lot of architecture thinking about it. So sometimes maybe people don’t even have the possibility to be involved in such. Higher decisions or impactful decisions. And suddenly with refactoring, all those decisions are actually at your fingertips that you can actually change something and make it better. And, and, you know, it’s in the small, but it can have a lot of ripple effects and all of that. Right. So to think about that, I think can be very challenging and.

Michael Feathers:[00:40:07] Too, when people are talking about what good design is, it’s kind of like, you know, if you give anybody a blank piece of paper and tell them to design something, they can usually do something really cool. But the real skill in design is working with stuff that’s already there, right? Because the number of constraints that you have basically go into sort of like help you exercise your design skill in a way, because you have to go and sort of like work around them and work with them. At least to deeper design insight, working with things where you have, where your environment is a bit more constrained than than you might hope it to be.

Michaela:: [00:40:36] Yeah. So there were a couple of questions on Twitter as well that I want to be even a little bit. So I was thinking about best practices again. So people were thinking about how can we, you know, show best practices. I asked you that at the beginning as well about best practices. And we talked a little bit about transparency and in my recent discussions, I’m discussing a lot with engineers right now. We also talked about transparency and how cool it would actually be. Okay. In an organization or outside of an organization to see, you know, what are people doing and then also seeing the impact, right? So you can pick and choose. And there is also, this is also something that we are lacking a little bit different transparency of best practices. Well, even if practices, right, it doesn’t have to be the best practice, but the practice. How, how is that team doing? How is this team to doing and similar to what you said too, when I’m working with larger organization, we also see that all there’s this division and that division and the third division. And then they think that this division is actually doing the best. Right. And so they’re really proud of their Practices and the other are doing like really bad work. And suddenly you see that people are working and there are constraints. Right? So because one is like the driver division. Yeah. Which is a very different kind of a beach. And if you’re working on the website side of things right. Where you can update things much easier, but it would be really cool to see a little bit. How are people working and H how could you do that in an organization? Is there something that you learned. Where organizations surface that and show what are good practices that other teams should adopt.

Michael Feathers:[00:42:07] Yeah. Typically with organizations that worked with them, I had them kind of like moving too. Like this show and tell mode where like, you know, once every couple of weeks or something like that, people from different groups will present what they’ve done and kind of like just make that available for people to go and see, you know, where the other possibilities are, you know? And it’s, it really does. You know, a lot of it does come down to what you were saying earlier is that some practices might be better in certain types of development than others. But the thing is, you know, you get to raise the consciousness of those things and it’s. Creating forums for those particular things. And the cool thing with that, as you get developers real used to going and doing a little bit more, like say public speaking, even though it’s internally within the company to go and describe, you know, the various things that they happen to be working on and doing. Right. Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know that there’s anything that’s really like, you know, it’s just doing that. Sorry.

Michaela:: [00:42:54] Yeah, communication, right? Brown bags, for example, that you

Michael Feathers:[00:42:57] Yeah, I think, you know, nothing. I would go and add to that too. Is that even though transparency like that as a good, I think it’s one of those things where it has to be discretionary rather than we’re completely transparent all the time. Right. Within an organization. I think one things that’s kind of cool is that when you have. Different groups of people within an organization working on different things, they can incubate something and basically not worry about somebody going in saying, well, maybe that’s not a good idea. It’s like, no, we’re going to try this for a while. And we’re going to go and see what works with that. Then basically go and give you results. Once we feel more comfortable with that. And then you get like the enhanced. You get enhanced psychological safety within that cloister in a way because you don’t, you know, everybody’s kind of got the buy-in and the relationship with each other. And that’s just a natural part of being human, right. To be able to come and sort of like, you know, grow things in a safe environment and then present them out into the world a little bit. But you know, a lot of this really comes down to leadership really within your organization. Can you basically go and sort of like, make it. You know okay. For things to be, not to be okay. Not be okay sometimes. Right. And just sort of like, make people feel safe to go and communicate back and forth, then, you know, do the things they need to do. So, yeah. Culture again, you know, I think I said.

Michaela:: [00:44:07] That’s true. Yeah. I, this really resonates a lot with me. So maybe the last question that I want to ask you, and it’s a little bit connected to the Twitter. Things is about testing. So I made a study, actually. I think it’s. I dunno how many years ago? A couple of years, eight years, 10 years, 10 years time flies. And I was looking at unit tests versus integration tests and system tests. And at that time, people were all over unit tests, like unit tests, you know, is, is the bullet that brings you joy and happiness. And I, I feel that this shifted a lot over the last year. So right now people are more into integration, testing, more into systems testing. What’s your thought about that? And especially in connection with legacy code, are we still because legacy costs, I think a lot of things were still unit tests, right? So we are connecting, having unit tests and having tests in general around the system to make changes. Has that shifted as well? What do you think about system tests?

Michael Feathers:[00:45:00] Yeah, I think, I think it’s shifted a lot with service orientation, right? When we’re doing like microservices and stuff along those lines, the there’s like a, you know, We talked about like code being alive, right? There’s this great talk from Alan Kay at oops, look basically in the 1990s where he basically goes and draws a parallel between code and biology. And he talks about, you know, his original conception of object orientation being kind of like cells communicating with each other through messages, by chemical messages. And it’s kind of funny because when you send messages from one cell to another via chemicals, it’s asynchronous and it made me kind of realize it’s kind of like, you know, Well, we wanted Ohio to be Israeli. What services are in a way it’s like you can send a synchronous messages notifications across these services and they can be really very well decoupled from each other. Right. So basically going and testing things at a service level is a very decent thing to be able to do. The unit testing thing was really very proud, met pragmatic. When it comes down to, if you’re making a change to a particular piece of code, you want to be able to go and get close to it. And if you can basically go and write tests, like at the class level around it, then you’re in a situation where you can go and get immediate feedback about what you’re happened to be doing. And so it’s like this way of going and sort of like building. You know, building like this assurance as you basically go and make changes that you really are doing the right thing. So unit, it seems like units in object orientation tend to align around classes or aggregates of classes. And so I tend to see those as being a unit in a way and that wrong. And it’s really all about going and making it possible to go and get that feedback and, and build, you know A knowledge-based through tests that basically can go and find out very quickly by running whether things are working or not. One of the things I’ve been kind of throwing around is as a frame recently as that essentially test determined where your unit in a way that if you can basically go and get an area of code. And it’s easy to go and basically test it. Then that’s a decent, decent definition of unit as you can ever get. And for you, a unit might be a service where it might be a class, but it’s the point at which the testing comes to difficult that you basically know that you’ve got a modularity boundary, that isn’t all that great. And it’s just, you know, like a way of going and looking at things in that realm. So yeah, I don’t, I don’t really, I think as long as people go and understand that tests and modularity kind of. Work together in a very interesting way. It doesn’t matter to me whether you call it unit tests or systems tests the test will give you feedback about your modularity and that’s a cool thing to know.

Michaela:: [00:47:26] Yeah. Yeah. Like the, like the frame so well, Michael I think we are at the end of this show, I’m really happy that I could pick your brains for so long. Is there something that you wanted to let my listeners know before we are ending? And I will definitely link a couple of things down there in the show notes, but is there something that you, you know, that you’ll want to end the show with?

Michael Feathers: [00:47:48] Yeah, I guess just basically going in saying that we’re all part of one, we are part of the system as humans working in software development, and we need to basically take the systems that we work on seriously. And, you know, I think that seriousness for us means kind of like looking at them as entities that have their own qualities and we can make them better. You know, the thing about this, that. I think it’s kind of fascinating is that if we are going from job to job and place to place, and these systems remain behind, you know, it’s good for us to go and actually exercise enough care that we leave the place, leave the system better for the next people, because you know, that’s just what empathy is all about.

Michaela:: [00:48:26] So you show your empathy through your code, right? In the quality that you leave for the people that have to deal with it.

Michael Feathers:[00:48:34] like a couple of years ago. It’s like code is the way you treat your coworkers. Right. And it’s kind of like, it’s true. You’re not really us. So

Michaela:: [00:48:41] Yeah. Yeah. I like that end note. Thank you so much. Um, was a very inspiring talk. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Michael Feathers:[00:48:48] Excellent. Thanks.

Michaela:: [00:48:49] Okay. Bye.https://grain.co/highlight/lUGaWr1iPs39D4HeOqszHXnglk9i9tIRzcy6wk52

 

Episode 37: Underrepresented, Underpaid & Undervalued – Having to change jobs to advance your career

In this episode, I talk to Jenn Creighton. Jenn is a Senior Staff Engineer at Apollo. Jenn specialized in frontend-end development is currently working on the open-source work for  Apollo GraphQL.
She also is a frequent conference speaker, an authoritative voice in tech, and recently started her own podcast called single-threaded

We talk about:

  • what a senior staff engineer does, and which responsibilities this title entail, 
  • why she needed to frequently change her job in order to advance her career,
  • how gaslighting, bias, and being underrepresented, underpaid, undervalued is part of her decades long experience as a developer
  • and how she makes sure she is helping others to enter tech and have a better experience.
Continue reading