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Heather Downing - The Visible Developer: Why You Shouldn't Blend In - NDC London 2022


Ever wonder how some technical people are recognized and promoted quicker than others with the same skillset? Yes, there is a formula to make it more likely. We will explore the habits of well known developers outside of their coding chops, to identify what additionally allowed them to become a trusted and known voice in their environment. This approach can be a benefit to you, no matter how junior or senior you are.
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Hopefully you all read the descriptions. Yes. Good deal. Now they're on the same page. I just have one more request of you as we talk about this. I want you to put in your mind that we're not going to talk about your skills, that I'm sure each one of you are in the top 10% because you're here and you cared enough to increase your education. So this is not going to be about how much or little you know about a specific framework or architectural style. This is going to be a little bit of a talk about how you can be in the very front of someone's mind when they say, hey, do you know any net developers? Do you know anybody who knows F sharp? Do you know anybody who's really good at leading a team or looking for someone? It needs to be right frame of mind. And luckily for all of us, this is a scientific process. So as a developer, I figured some of this out and I wanted to share it with you. So if you've never met me before, let me introduce myself. My name is Heather Downey. I do lots of things and lots of stuff. See, look, I have lots of words. See, I do all the things. Unfortunately for the human brain, we, especially over the years, have gotten to the point where we need snapshots of information or you just lose us sometimes. Has anybody read a resume that is five pages long? Yeah. When did you check out? Which part did you check out? In stage one? Halfway down. Did you even read the last one? I was notorious for this because I was so insecure that I'm like, I have to put everything once I fixed my grandma's computer this one time, and I would put anything I've done with the community on the last page. So nobody ever looked at that. They never got to that page. Right. And I was called out for exactly what it was, which was information overload. Now, this isn't too bad for you all because you're used to reading docs that are egregiously long, right? So you probably have all read this by now, right? Or did you stop at the first paragraph, second or third? Probably the first, because you're not really interested in all the rest. What you should think about doing are keywords. So when somebody is describing you or thinks about you, they associate you with one word or two words like that. I really interested in innovative tech, so think of innovation. I'm always the one doing something that is not proved out yet. Okay? So that should be the word that's associated with me. Another one I was told is enterprise because, yes, I like making money and I like fixing problems in the world's infrastructure. So that puts me in this camp. Consumer facing this often comes up because they know that I've worked for Disneyland as a jungle cruise skipper, and I also used to work for Merit International for like a decade, so I know a whole lot about how to be in front of people. And they remember that I was a late comer to Tech right around the age of 26 and have been in it ever since then. I'm a speaker. In the circles I'm in, that's usually one of the first things that they say. But if you didn't know I was a speaker and you were in other aspects of my life, that might be what you know. Isn't this a lot more digestible than all the words I just put up before? That's pretty simple, right? I don't like repeating things, but often for being a group of people that absolutely despise writing code twice, have you looked at your resumes? And sometimes when you get to the point where you don't even have a resume, guilty as charged. LinkedIn is wonderful for this, that you can export a profile as a resume. An excellent option, but unfortunately, it follows the same problems that I just discussed before. However much you put on there and repeat of unstructured sentences, that all gets printed up. So just think about really to the point, key ways that you can be memorable. This is the question of the decade, isn't it? What is it that you want? Right now, I would say I'm in a very privileged company, that I know some people who have truly changed the face of technology as we know it. And so the problems that they have are different than the problems of my down the street neighbor who started Tech about five years ago is in that wonderful mid level place. Anybody a mid level developer here? Anybody? A few of you? It gets better. Hang in there. Unfortunately, they were not introduced to the people I was. That's introduced to the people that I was. So what they want is just how to have less pain at their job, and sometimes that's to leave that job. Right now there are lots of jobs, but you may take the pain with you. So you have to ask yourself, what is it that you're really trying to solve by coming to this talk? Or are you just interested in what I have to say? Research confirms that there's a real disconnect between your performance and your job outcomes. So to get into that, we'll dive into how humans perceive each other. So I know you all joined this because you want to become rich and famous developers, but that's going to be like 5% of the time and the other 95% will be talking about human psychology because science, all right, you can drive your perception how people perceive you at your workplace, in your community, and basically how the industry views you will be exploring both sides of this. So we don't want to stick out for the wrong reasons. We don't like being the odd one out. I felt this many times as somebody who got into tech later. I felt like everybody was a lot younger than me and we were right about the same level. So I felt like I was making jokes about Nirvana and they had no idea who Nirvana was. That was a problem I felt like was a problem. But it turned out that that was the first way their brain recalled is that I love all sorts of different cool and weird music was the first thing that they remembered about me. And then it turned into something else later on the line. So you can look at it like you stick out like a black sheep or sort them, or you can take control of that narrative. Take control of it? Like it or not, you have a brand and you can decide if you want to craft it into something that's helpful for you. So let me think somebody who has an excellent brand. It could be the clothes you wear, it could be a fun hat, it could be the way you talk, especially if you're in a foreign country and they can tell that you're not from there. That's often one way, but you have one ask people how they would describe you to others and make sure that it's honest and it's not just oh yeah, this brilliant developer they know that does all the things. Now how do you remember me? I remember that you're always going to concerts here, or I remember you're always working on this one start up idea. Or I remember that you have twelve children. Whatever it is, whether you like it or not, people have a little bit of a shortcut to jogging their memory about you. So craft it, use it to your benefit, embrace sticking out for good reasons. Which brings me to why others get promoted before you are already going down on that energy already. Here's the truth. Are you ready for the truth? If you're too busy keeping your head down no to the grindstone. It's really hard to see you without an ally or an advocate speaking up for what the heck you've been doing. Whether it's for your own projects or for the company, it doesn't matter if people will never talk to you and never see you, you don't exist. It's great that they have a product that exists, but you don't register. And this is not their fault. They're not trying to ignore you. Oftentimes you're probably one of many people and we can only keep track of so many. I'm trying to remember the exact number of how many people your brain can keep track of, but it's not a lot. So you have to constantly be reminding. And that sounds so egotistical, doesn't it? I always felt like I was just struggling all the time because I was constantly doing all the innovative tech that nobody knew about, so nobody helped me. And I was like, I don't really know why this is broken, why it doesn't work. And I felt like I was just trying to swim, so I didn't have time to think about whether or not people saw I was doing anything. How much the world has changed just in the past four to five years when it comes to being visible. So part of managing yourself and your career trajectory is making it easier for people in opportunities to find you. That's it. That's all you're doing. You're just making it easier for the right things to come to you. Some people call that manifesting. I just call that logic. I mean, if nobody knows that you have a skill, no one's going to come to you with how to fix that problem. So if you get coy or bashful about anything you've accomplished, even if it's small, that doesn't really help you. In fact, it probably hurts you because, let's say, I don't know, we have a big recession and everybody tightens their belts and they let people go. You don't want to be a faceless developer that nobody really knows what they did here. You want to make sure that you are known for what you bring to the table and more importantly, for what you desire to bring to the table. Because that means you have a future, maybe at that company or just in your career in general. So why does the idiot get all responsibility? You're only laughing because you have experienced this before, right? Guess what? You know that idiot you saw it was promoted. That's because he was self promoting shamelessly, loudly and often. Prove me wrong. And you should also be promoting yourself loudly and often. And that is really hard. I was not raised that way and so that's very difficult for me. I was waiting for somebody else to speak for me. Why would you give other humans that much control over how much money you make and what you get to do in this life? Come on. This is something you can take control of. There is a much more refined way of doing it than the idiot that did it, right? You don't need to lose self respect in the process by saying I'm amazing. That's not the goal here. Just remember, the first half of your job is to actually do it. Please code, please help your team and actually do that. But then you got the other half of your job and nobody tells you in school or boot camp, which is how to communicate what it is that you're doing. I feel like all of these science degrees need to come with a hefty amount of human skill training because the breakdowns we often have in tech are not technically related. It's human related has to do with where the human failed. Usually in communicating something was wrong or not right. Sent does not mean receipt. I can send you all the messages. That doesn't mean that they got it. So sometimes half of your job is to reword and check on people to make sure that they understand where you're coming from or what it is you've done. If you do it and I don't hear about it, how do I know what's going on here? You're sitting in your own little world thinking, I'm never recognized stay up really late doing this. I work on a Saturday, don't do that. Work on a Saturday. And I get no recognition. And I get like this tiny little raise of like $5 more. Oh, and then you get resentful. And here's this other person that was your leader or somebody who had at least the ability to influence whether or not you made more money or got more responsibility, isn't even thinking bad things about you at all. They're just juggling all the other 3000 things they have to do. It probably isn't that personal or they only thought about it for five minutes because you didn't make it easy to advocate for you. You didn't make it easy to see what you've done. Please make it easy if you have to ask for more one on one times. And it's not just with the person who has control over your career. It is about the rest of your team. There's something more new that I noticed the companies I worked with that were starting to be done. So please let me know if you're also experiencing this. You get kind of like a rate, your boss and your coworkers, things like, tell me, do you like working with these people? Do you not like working with them? Your opinion matters. Do you anybody else get those kinds of things? It's a little weird because you feel like when you are fighting the good fight together, trying to ship something, you're supposed to suddenly be brutally honest about how well they could be more on time for stand ups and they could be it feels disingenuous because that is how a company forces people to start talking about it. But that seems really fake. So if things are already naturally or naturally checking on each other and seeing how you need to communicate differently to each person, which feels exhausting, but it really isn't bad once you set it in place, then you won't ever have those problems. You won't be asked those kinds of silly things because it will be very obvious where the team is going, where the individual is going. So all that lovely amount of speaking that I did comes down to this do things and tell people that's your slide. Thank you for coming. My Ted Talk. No, we just miss out when we wrongly assume that other people will know about our great work without having to tell them. Remember, the human machine is followable, so please help. So part of the way that I discovered was super helpful. To have good opportunities come my way is to do something anyway, even if it wasn't in my company. I was really interested for a while in Voice, a lot of work with Alexa and Google Assistant. I was interested in that stuff, and I was definitely working for an insurance company, so it was not really like an alignment there. But I still wanted to do it anyway just because I was interested. So I took the time on my own to just kind of discover a little bit about it. And because I was chatting with somebody else, that was like, hey, you should present that at a user group. I'm like, no, because I do not work for Google or Amazon, and I do not want to say the wrong thing about this process. Why don't you just be the Alice in the Wonderland? Just explain to us what you've seen so far. You don't have to have all of the end result. You can just say, this is what I learned so far that I think is pretty cool. And I felt like, all right, that's cool. Fast forward. I was working at another company in a pretty hardcore dev team, and because my manager was searching for how to integrate something with a Voice API, he stumbled upon a post I made on my own blog and came to me saying, hey, we're actually thinking about doing this for a whole another team, another project. Do you want to work on this? I'm like, what? Yes. I would love to do that. And remember, I didn't have to advocate inside of my company. They just stumbled upon the fact that I was doing this, and then it just kind of naturally progressed. Because sometimes you need to not ask permission to show what you're capable of. You just need to put it out there and trust that the right people and opportunities will find you as long as you put it out there. Right. Because the reality is that working hard and doing a good job is insufficient for a career trajectory. I'm sorry. Because there's just a lot there's a lot of us, and it doesn't mean that we don't need more. We totally do. But if you want to not be stuck perpetually where you are, you have to make sure that you are seen. And if you can't get seen inside of your company, make sure you're seen out of it. But I would argue you should go outside regardless, because leading by example externally can demonstrate that ability, like what I just went through. Just make it easy for people to find and endorse you. That's it. Which is another reason why you should network. Thank you for coming to a place where you can network. I appreciate that having a large and valuable network is a fantastic asset for advancing your career and your life in general, but it doesn't mean what you think it means. I really hated that work because I watched a lot of television shows about networking and how disingenuous it felt like, hi, I need to use you in the future for some reason. So here's my card. It felt really weird. I had gone to several business networking events, and it was overwhelming. I felt like I was in a car sales convention. I didn't like it. I just wanted to kind of work and do my own thing. But that's because I'm a natural introvert, and I've had to practice doing this in front of you all. Like, I don't naturally want to do that. I tend to stay in my own corner with my own people that I know. So when most programmers ask me about networking, what they're really asking about is how they can use people to advance in their career. Okay? And I'm not about that at all. So in my personal philosophy and the one I firmly believe is to figure out how you can give as many other people as possible what they want or even better, what they need. So I'm always checking friends, like, hey, how are you doing for this? How are you doing for that? Someone knew. I'm like, great, what it is you're interested in? So that if I know somebody that would be good to connect with you, I can the current job that I have was because someone knew me. Like, oh, we knew that. We needed somebody who knew community and was not afraid to get up a stage. I said. Okay, here I am. Let's do it. But that's because they knew me. So if you think about it, in the reverse, it becomes much more selfless. You need to put out and ask what other people are needing, because there's also a wrong way to network, right? Usually people only network when they need a new job. That's the only time they do it, because they have to. They have to do it. Hey, I'm interested. I'm open. You can pretend like you're not looking at all. You're like, oh, you know, I'm just casually baby in the future someday, and they kind of drop that. They hit like a shoe, right? But that is the absolute worst time and the wrong way to build your network. People won't trust you. Building a network takes a lot of time. Trying to rush that process and do it quickly reeks of desperation. So please don't do that. A recruiter by, I don't know, comparison would be something I would call a temporary relationship, okay? It's really there to further their monetary gain and your monetary gain for both parties. So you're like, hey, you and I both want to make money. Let's find you a job. That's not networking. That's somebody whose job it is to literally place you. So they make money, and they're often not in your best interest, because they just want to place somebody so they get that. Okay? So you have to advocate the right way. It doesn't mean you can't work with recruiters. I have lots of people I can refer you to if you want to know which recruiters are great. But you might find you won't even need recruiters in the future because you're starting to network with the right people anyway. So remember, recruiters will work with you regardless of your networking skills and that is not an accurate representation of what networking is. Fair? So let's talk about the right way. Just like romantic relationships, real business and professional relationships cannot be rushed because you spend just as much time as your coworkers as you do your family. So imagine if you met a person that you like to pursue a romantic relationship with and on the first date you asked them to marry you. I guess some movies have been made about that, right? That probably wouldn't go over too well though, because many software developers want to approach networking in exactly that manner. Instead, think about the long game. Think about networking as planting a large number of little seeds that you're going to water and nurture until they grow into large plants that eventually will produce fruit for you. But it's going to be a long game, right? You can't rush that process and you have to be very deliberate about that. You can't just hang out and hope it goes well. You should be deliberate about saying I'm somebody who's interested in this in my future. It also, remember, makes it easier for others to help you because they know you have a concrete idea of the kinds of places you want to go in life. So remember, the best way to plan to nurture the seeds of networking is to give first and ask others first and then you will generate some good will and that will naturally occur. Notice I'm not telling you to manipulate anybody. This is just offer and that will generate goodwill. Networking person hooray we get to do this again, right? So where do you actually go to do that? The short answer is everywhere. And today you've chosen NDC. London. Well done. You should always be networking if you can. The easiest and best thing to do in this case is to find a group of people who are interested in what you're interested in. If you don't have any conferences near you, please go to like is a good one. I'm sure that you'll hear through the great finds from others other places to go. And even though software development conferences can be a little expensive, they're also great places to meet new people and pick up some training as well. If you do a workshop, sometimes you'll work at a good company that will pay for you to go, which is always good because when you're there, remember to walk around and talk to people, attend different sessions and talk to the speakers. We don't bite. We will talk to you. Promise. Go up to the speaker of the session that you watched afterwards or later when you see them and thank them for their presentation and give them lots of good compliments because you know that they are really stressed out when they present for you. I don't really say that for me, I'm totally fine. But I do know speakers who slaved away for weeks on their presentation and no one ever talks to them after. And that's hard, right? So remember that giving first to say hey, I really appreciate this, thank you. And tell them why if you retained any of their sessions and consider what is my favorite part of a conference, which is the hallway track. So, besides eating a delicious lunch, did anybody actually talk to somebody they've never met before between sessions? Anybody? Yeah. Okay, so about half of you, that's good. The other half of you have an assignment. It doesn't even matter if you know what they do, just say hi, I'm excited to be here. What do you do? Why are you here? That's a good question. Why are you here? That's your ice breaker for today. Also go to any after parties or dinners that they have. That's often when people will really get and dig into how life is truly going, the projected path of technology and things are truly passionate about, come out usually after the conference, during a dinner or beverages later. That's when I find the really great deeply felt conversations are had. I've heard it said that your network is your net worth. OK, I guess I found that statement to be true more often than most people would imagine. And that also kind of leads me into how false it can feel. If you know somebody that knows you, then suddenly you have a lot more doors and you can be envious of those people who have those doors or you can go get some doors, right? How do you get doors? This is everybody's favorite subject. Regardless of what you personally believe about social media, you need to use it so that you're not out of sight and out of mind and you can schedule things. I promise, as long as you keep one thing in mind, it shouldn't be a crazy terrible experience and that is to be your honest self, but be kind about it. So when it comes to creating an authentic personal brand and I hate talking like a marketer, but guess what? It's real. That means you have to share the good, the bad and the real with your followers. Aspirational is great, but being relatable is actually what creates connections. For example, if you were to scroll back on my Twitter a few weeks, I was like oh, this is great. BitLocker locked me out of my entire drive. I guess I get to recently start over again because somebody lost the password and here we are. And that started a whole conversation. Yes. I should know better. Yes, I shouldn't have had that. But I have had that computer for like seven years and forgot completely about any of this best practice stuff when I set it up right. But it's okay because that pain is like, oh, I feel that pain, too. I understand. So you can definitely be a little bit more genuine with your content but also still help. I think it's important to throw in that I'm very human. See, here's something I learned that I think is cool so that you don't have to feel that pain. That's usually the best mix. I've studied a lot of people before where I work now. I worked for a worldwide marketing company as our innovation engineer. And let me tell you, I subconsciously picked up a whole lot about what humans like online as a good persona. In the United States, there is a brand of hamburgers called Wendy's. Has anybody ever heard of this? Go look at their twitter. It's hilarious. And they somehow have managed to strike the balance between kind of teasing other brands like McDonald's or something online. And they were almost the original creator of how to roast people but do it in a way that people weren't angry about it because it wasn't mean spirit. It was just fun. And I got to sit next to the person who helped create their persona when I was at my job, and I was like, how do you think about these things? He's like, because the truth is so hilarious. He says we can just put it in a creative way, but the truth is really funny. The truth is, as a net developer, I am so overwhelmed with the amount of versions we've had in the past three years. I'm like, whoa, that's just a lot. So I can talk about how excited I am about the new thing while also acknowledging that too many versions also, what is naming happening at all? I don't know. We've decided it's going to be this now. We're not going to go in any sort of order. It's just going to be this now. And I can laugh about that because it's true. And that will probably get a lot of engagement online. Your goal is not to become a marketer for yourself. Your goal is to just put little thoughts out there so that you're in front of people more often. And if you don't like thinking about that and checking in on social media on a daily basis, which I totally understand, then schedule it, please. But when you schedule something to post, post a purpose. Avoid filler content because it doesn't connect with people. And people can smell that out, especially you all because you're all very smart. I used to stress out if I didn't share something with my online audience every day or I would search for something, anything that might keep the engagement going and share that link right. With no commentary. Here's more stuff. Notice me. That's what it felt like. But that wasn't giving my audience the best. View of me, and I didn't come across as authentic or genuine, which, if you ever meet me, I'm pretty down to earth. So I didn't want it to feel like a different person. I wanted to feel like me. And it came off as filler. Don't do filler content. Don't do filler content. Okay, so now before you post online, ask yourself, what purpose does this message serve regardless of where you post it? And how am I connecting to my audience? And does this contribute to my personal brand? Remember, you have personal brand, whether you like it or not. Your personal brand means how others see you. How do you want others to see you? How do you want to present? A good way to do that is to speak like a human being. We are notorious for jargon. We're not as bad as some academics, though. There is definitely some academics out there, but we are notorious for jargon. I didn't even know what Kubernetes was for the first two years, was that I didn't care because I'm like, I don't know what that is, whatever. And then I had it explained to me like a human being. I was like, oh, that's pretty good idea. That sounds good. My advice for developing your tone of voice is simple. Just don't ever think it and speak to your audience like you would a friend. Informal and kind of upbeat if you can, unless you're just angry at life. Maybe you should not be posting online. Just because the question is, what value are you bringing to the audience if all you're doing is complaining? Like, I'm laughing a little bit about the version joke for net, but I also deeply appreciate how much more stable net is than the other things I have tried. Right? So I'm just poking a little bit of fun at it so I don't take it too seriously. But that's different than just always raining. Okay? If you're going to say something is not right, provide a solution or how you would do it. You never know who might be watching your tweet. Could be somebody who actually would take that advice and does implement it. That's pretty cool. So try to be moderately responsive. I'm so bad at this. People will comment and I will have thought that I've read something and then I thought it would have responded. But I don't do that with my text, too. Oh, yeah, I will respond later. Never silence it's because I've looked at it. Therefore, my brain automatically thinks of the response. But if I don't bring it to fruition, then it's like a check mark that has gone off in the list in my head. Right? So leave things on read until you can actually get to them. And it should only take you, like, a minute to respond, if possible. Social media has the word social in it for a reason. So in order to grow your personal brand, you need to nurture a community and respect your readers the same way you would want to be respected online and create conversations, answer questions and ask them. That's one of my favorite things to do. I don't know the answer, but I can bring it out. I can ask a question, and then all of a sudden, all these people will have an idea about what the answer is. And that also starts a discussion. I'm good at starting discussions. Occasionally I'm good at giving an opinion. But it really is about the exchange that happens with more than one person. If you're thinking about where to go, that changes. For a while, it was Facebook. That's where all the developers were. Reddit has been around forever. Twitter is obviously where a lot of tech people are, but I'm finding it isn't just stack overflow now, it's different places. And you can ask others where they would go to get the latest information about tutorials or just to talk to people about the state of tech. And that does change. So you have to kind of just be aware that it may change. I'm having the time of my life creating a bunch of content for TikTok right now, and it sounds like you're just going to roll your eyes. But I watched exactly one video from a developer who did a super cool shortcut, and they showed it in ten to 30 seconds. And I was like, that's amazing. I want to do that kind of stuff because I can pay attention that long. 30 seconds is good. All right, let's do that. And you can think of what you will about the platform. But the reason that Tik Tok is popular and YouTube shorts are popular is because we have lost a lot of our ability to concentrate for long amounts of time. So you can decide if you're going to create a YouTube video that is 2 hours long or 20 minutes long or maybe two minutes long, and what kind of value you would put in there. You don't need to engage every second of every day. Just do with a small amount of consistency so you don't miss any engagement opportunities. Because if you're not online, you're out of sight. True story. That doesn't mean that you aren't good at what you're doing. I'm not arguing that at all. But remember, you need to be at the frontal cortex right when someone said, who is good in destech ops? And I'm like, oh, this person, because I just saw them at a conference, or because I just watched one of their videos, or I just read a blog post. That's all this is about. So be consistent, because if it's too old and you haven't done things in a long time, the same thing happens. You just aren't in front. And remember, you think about things every day. Just take a little bit of that, like, oh, that might be good to share and write it down and share it. What I like to do is automate my own thought stream. That's really helpful. So I use something called hootsuite. Has anybody else used hootsuite? Nobody? Haha. You've all become much more powerful networkers now. Hootsuite is great because while I'm here at a conference I heard people say things that made me think of like something that would be very quotable, like oh, you should always be learning or whatever. Something that is inspirational. But also hey, we are not a completely mature industry yet. Like somebody who's in plumbing or is certified to do stuff. We're still a very young industry and to keep in mind that we are trying to build things while the train is on the track. And I thought that was a cool thought so I wrote that down. I now have a list of like ten different things I can send out and I schedule them to go out every few days. So that means I don't need to come up with these things for like three weeks or two weeks or whatever. And that way it makes you feel like you can take advantage of your time. If anybody has experienced like bouts of total brilliance followed by I don't want to get out of bed, those are good times to be like oh, I feel super. I'm going to write down a bunch of stuff and at least while I don't feel like tweeting or doing something, it will at least be going out on a scheduled basis, right? Pretty cool. Consistency is great, visibility is good. But consistency is great because then you're always brought to the forefront where we are not perfectly on time machines to automate that communication, to take that pressure off. This one I didn't think I'd have to do. But the amount of people have asked me for help in the past three weeks alone needs that own dedicated slide. And that is please make sure you have a website that works and is dedicated to what your works are. I know it feels old fashioned but please put everything in a box to make it easier for them to say don't make me go through every single social profile you have in order to find out information. Every single GitHub you have, put it all in one place and then connect those so that I know where to go. That's all it is. It's pretty simple. Please do that. I can help you. Talk to me after you need. I believe skills can be taught but attitude cannot. People decide if they like you in the first five to 7 seconds they meet you because of this thing right here. You really should have met me early in my tech career I was not a friendly person. I left hotels in eleven years working on the industry because I hated people. I did not want to work there. I just wanted to fix problems and stop saying I'm sorry. This is broken. We'll try to get someone to fix it, but not be able to actually fix the problem. It drove me nuts because I wanted to actually fix problems. So I got into text so I could fix problems and I didn't really want people to talk to me, so it was rough. I definitely squandered some excellent opportunities early on because I didn't put myself in the right mindset. So put yourself in the right mindset. If you're not in the right mindset, get some therapy. It works. It's awesome because all you're going to do is stand in the way of all the amazing things you're capable of and can accomplish. Don't you feel better about yourself then? Life isn't fair. And that always really hurt me. I felt like if I worked really hard that I would get recognized and I would go. But it turns out I had a terrible attitude that people just didn't want to work with me. That's the true story. The day I learned to accept the fact that as hard as I may try, some things were still out of my control was difficult. I felt like I couldn't overcome some systemic problems that were in our industry and I couldn't overcome certain aspects. Everything was just against me. That is the wrong way to look at it. Even if part of it is true, it is not a fair setup. We are not equal in almost any way because the way you were born and sorry, who you're born to, where you were born, all this stuff will play in to how you function as an adult. So just by that nature, some people are going to be better at executing certain aspects of software development than others. It doesn't mean you can't overcome certain things. But I've discovered that what I really needed to do is change my attitude because it wasn't helping. So please, if you want to become a runner, don't shoot yourself in the foot, please. So after I discovered that I was a mess and I needed to fix it, I started looking at the developers I actually liked outside of my company that were visible online and at a conference. Right. And I started asking them questions. Over the course of five years, I put together a list because remember, I like being scientific like this, put together a list that were habits of well known developers, and I'd love to share that. The good news is, becoming a super employee well known developer is not some rare secret at all. It's a combination of skill set and mindset that you can develop for yourself based on these key habits. The first one is pay attention to what other people value. Super employees are studying the preferences and goals of their direct supervisors, their supervisors, supervisors and their managers, supervisors and everybody on the chain and all the way up to what the company does at large. They're doing things above and beyond what other employees are doing because they're showing interest. They're just interested even if they're not doing it yet. They were showing interest to people above them. They're motivated and showing what they want to learn and that they want to go become a top level person. The result of paying attention is being able to discern what probably needs to be done and take action on it without being asked. Every time I've talked to somebody who is super respective industry, it's always because they said this really needs to be done. And I know the goal is this overall, so I bet you this would help further that goal. I'm going to just do it and then show what I did and see if I can get anybody else on board with this idea. Almost every time. That's what it was. I could name so many of the familiar faces in this room that have done that exact thing. The other thing that they do is they choose the right place for their talents. It's hard to be a super employee if a company's needs are very different than your abilities, talents and values, isn't it? A 2015 research report by the Sister Group found that one of the most important factors in employees that consistently produce great work was just recognition that they were doing good work. And 37% of respondents said that being recognized by their manager or by the company was the most important driver in continually producing great work. So choosing where you work and where you can work where you are valued is very important. But you don't know that. You get like three dates with your employer and then you get hired, right? It's a little weird. You don't get to talk about what kind of kids you want to raise or if you even want kids and all these things. You don't get to really deep dive unless you come prepared with those questions. Where is this company really going? Like, what do you think about micromanagement? What do you think about these things? Asking good questions, ask better questions before you bury the company around, right. They also focus on big picture thinking, these exceptional performers, right. They're able to maintain a dual focus on both the task in hand as well as how it fits into that picture, which I was envied. I was really into the minutiae. I love the little individual pieces coming together. But the why unfortunately, some companies can take advantage of this and you work on that minutiae and that becomes interesting to you and not that you are furthering a company that is maybe kind of evil, right? I've talked to many developers who've worked at some of those evil corporations and I loved them. They were actually these cool people that truly were just trying to solve this really interesting scaling issue, right? Unfortunately, what they were scaling is not a good company. Right. But that doesn't mean that what they were doing was not valuable. It just means go where your values align and where what you bring to the table is obviously valuable to them. Okay. These exceptional performers, if they don't understand something, then they get the information they need to make it importance clear. They just don't wait for someone to bring it to them. They don't complain that somebody hasn't brought it. They just go get it. They just go find the answer. Ask the right person. I believe in no hierarchy. I know that it exists. I understand at the caveman level that we have hierarchy. I get that. But if your goal is to actually help your project get to a certain place and your heart is in the right place and your head is in the right place. You saying. Hey. I'm just going to skip right. The four levels up and talk to the person who's making a decision about this and ask them if this is really where they want to go. Or show them a different option. It's always rewarded. I've never seen where it wasn't. If you're just trying to skip level so that you can become powerful and in control, that's probably the wrong thing. If you're like, hey, a lot of this red tape is in the way. I just need to know if this is truly the right kind of architecture for this. And I'm not really getting anywhere with my team. So go to the person who's making that decision and they will see that you care, that you are demonstrating that you understand that big picture. Right. In addition, these people are able to prioritize so that their activities and energy are focused of where they are of most value to the company. Has anybody ever heard of the spoon analogy? How many spoons you have? A couple of you? Yeah. Okay. For those of you who have not, the idea is that energy for many people, including myself, is that you have a finite amount of spoons. And every time you have to do something or somebody needs something from you, you give out a spoon. But you only have so many spoons, right? And so sometimes you've given out a lot and they just don't have any more energy to do the same. So the only way that you consistently do good work is that you look at all the things you have to do today and say, if I dropped everything except for one, which one of these spoons is the most valuable to deliver today? Or to the company or to yourself? And then if you don't get to all that other stuff, that sucks. But you still got that main important spoon done. That has completely changed how I handle being overwhelmed at work with a lot of different things to do. I'm like, well, if I can at least do this thing or at least do that thing, I've done something today that was valuable to them and is valuable to me. But that brings me to another one, which is most of these super performers are comfortable with being uncomfortable, and I felt like that wasn't me. I really wanted to feel like everything was going to be okay all the time. You have to be working on things that are difficult for you. Something I famously say is that if it scares me, I'm going to run towards it, because that means I probably don't understand it, and I need to understand it all right. Even if you are distraction free and getting a lot of coding hours in, if you're just building the same really simple app over and over, that is not necessarily stretching the boundaries of your skills. But you will totally get paid for it, and that's okay. But we're talking about exceptional performers, right? These stupid people, this is what they do. If you're not deliberately stretching the boundaries of your skills, you may not be trying to structure skills in a direction that will actually help you grow as a technical contributor. If you do the same thing, even though it's comfortable to write an API in the way I have, and you realize that lots of people are moving in a different direction, you may get lots of high paying jobs to deal with legacy code, and that's totally important. But if you are wondering why you're not given more opportunities to new companies, could be because you are still doing the same framework in the same way that you've been doing it for ten years. And that's totally okay as long as you understand that is what you've chosen to do. You're not growing in your career because you've chosen to basically dock in a port with your ship. Okay, that's totally fine. But don't wonder why you're not getting paid more money and why you're not getting more responsibility. These exceptional performers like their colleagues, I know they must be lucky. That's why they're there. Part of that is true. High performers are in tune with the people around them, and they can sense when they need something. So most of these people perform soft skills like empathy and are able to relate well to other people because they take the time and make the effort to try to understand them. All of them, all of the colleagues that they work with on a regular basis. Even the jerk? Yes. A high performer will put the human first and seek that connection. Only then can there be trust. I love this quote. I think it's awesome because every person needs to be seen, understood, and validated or appreciated in some way. You can dismiss someone who disagrees with you, or you can try to figure out why they say what they say and do what they do. This is really hard right now on Twitter. So I'm saying that empathy is very much it seems like a dying art, but it grants you so much value in your life. Try to get some get some empathy. That's how you become a trusted voice. Because people will trust that you're doing things for the right reasons. Because you are listening and you are applying what you're hearing and you're reflecting. So that puts you in a camp of being much more authentic and not just smoothing, okay, I don't want you to become that. Just break down to the very lowest of the things that we have in common as humans. I remember I was told by my manager, you need to start getting along with an Android developer because I'm tired of hearing you guys fight. I was like, but he doesn't understand the way that you guys blah, blah, blah. And I was tired of it. And I felt like he was just disrespecting me. It was a whole mess. He says, well, maybe get some empathy because maybe he has problems with you. And I'm like, what? I'm awesome. What are you talking about? And that was hard. That was really difficult because I do feel like he was on purpose trying. He wanted to fight all the time. He wanted a reason to shout his opinion from the heavens, right? So instead of that being what we did is I finally was like, okay, what does he do well? What does he do well? I don't think talking to people is one of them. So what are the other things that he do well? And I found some things, and I came at him later on saying, hey, I know that you know this part really well or better than me. Why don't you make this tell us where we need to do what we need to do with this situation? And it totally softened everything he said after, because then he felt like he was already validated and understood. He didn't have to prove himself every 2 seconds. To me, it's difficult because I was back in API engineer. And so he felt like, I understand how all architecture works. I think we should do this. Even though I probably could have overridden him because I have that experience, that was the wrong call because he's not bought into what we're going to do. And that makes the whole thing painful. So I needed to dig way down and find something that he did well and lead with it. And it already immediately softened him to it. So he was much more willing to listen to me. Sometimes you got to just let me the first one I read a fantastic book called Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Fabulous. So if you see in that book, you will recognize this quadrant. Basically, to me, when I think of Radical Candor, it's like, if you do this for others, be willing to encourage them to do this back to you. Yes. So let's talk about the first one, the top left ruinous empathy. There is a television show that I often watch when I was much younger in the States called Friends, and there was a particular episode that I think calls us out perfectly. And it goes like this. There was a character that decided that they wanted to learn how to play the piano and sing. And of course their friend was like, oh, that's great. You should keep doing that very much and over encourage her. Like it was great. He played clearly offkey, clearly not doing well. That's okay. She didn't want to discourage. So she over encouraged. And she encouraged and said, oh my God. It was amazing all the time, so much that he booked a gig to perform in front of people because of that. And so what happened is that amazing amount of encouragement turned into kind of like an untruth in his head. Like, oh, I must be really good at this, so I'm going to stick myself out there. It didn't go well and he wasn't asked back for his gig. And he came home like, I suck. Why did you tell me I sucked? And I remember that I was like, oh, because I think you can do anything you want to do and I just wanted to encourage you. You told me it was really awesome. You didn't say, hey, you're improving. You said I was really amazing. I am guilty of this one because I have had so much unkindness in my life, I want to over correct for others. I will say this. If you're not doing something well, we probably need to call it out. But you have to kind of go through the stages of this first. So when you first meet someone that you don't know super well or you're afraid of all conflict, this is where you go, is that you over encourage the point of its kind of ruinous for their career because they'll bite off more than they can truly chew at that time anyway. And then the whole ship goes down, right. Which leads to manipulative insincerity. The best example I have of this is when somebody is in charge of you, it doesn't really know what you do. I mean, they know what your job title is and they know you deliver stuff, but they could not do your job. You're part of them. So let's say things aren't going well. You don't know that they're not going well, but they're not going well because you don't ever have one on ones. Why would you ever have that? But you get calls in the office at one point in time or saying, hey, let's just do a quick chat. I really dislike this approach. It's very corporate, but it happens to small dev teams as well. The best example I had was, hey, we just want to write down all the things you've done this year and have you sign off on that. Just document it. We're going to do this. Oh my gosh, we're going to do this with everybody. Just write down the things that you understand what you've done already and what the job is. Just sign off on that. Really what they're doing is leading you on so that they can document you, to fire you, but they're not telling you that that's what's going to happen. They just say, oh, no, we're doing this for everybody. It's manipulative and sincerity. Don't do this one. So don't speak to someone in the way that you think that they need to be spoken to in order to hurt them in some way. Attention, please. Attention, please. A fire has been reported within the building. Please leave the building immediately.