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Helen Griffin - Multi-passionate in tech

Season 5, Episode 3 | April 7, 2022

In today's episode, Dan and Bekah talk to Helen Griffin about what she’s learned from her journey going from tech to founder and back to tech again.


Helen Griffin

Helen started her career as a web developer. Now, as a full-stack dev & founder, she enjoys helping developers build products & a life they love. Today, she spends her time building developer tools, like State of Developers & Jovial. Helen is on a campaign to help her peers recover from burnout.

Show Notes:

This week Bekah and Dan sat down with Helen Griffin, a full-stack developer and founder, about how the tech industry changed during the time she was a founder, how what she’s learned as a founder has helped her to have a broader perspective about the tech industry, and what she’s doing with her companies Jovial and State of Developers to support developers in their career journeys.

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Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello, and welcome to Season Five, Episode Three of the Virtual Coffee podcast. I'm Bekah. And this is a podcast that features members of the Virtual Coffee community. Virtual Coffee is an intimate group of developers at all stages of their coding journey. And they're here on this podcast, sharing their stories and What they've learned. And we're here to share it with you here with me. Today is my cohost Dan.

Dan:

What up Bek! Uh, we're back! Season...three... No wait...what is this season?

Bekah:

Season five, episode three

Dan:

Episode three. Yeah. Uh, sorry. Nick was a distracted me on slack and side. Uh, Uh, come on. That's not how I live my life, I live my life, one distraction at a time. Anyway, um, today we have a great episode. We talked with Helen Griffin, who is a full-stack developer and a founder. And, um, yeah, we talked about her journey through tech and, um, talked a lot about her experience as a founder of her two companies. Um, Uh, State of Developers and Jovial. And so those two companies concentrate a lot on, um, developer, personal health of developers and that things like burnout and stuff like that. Um, so it was really interesting.

Bekah:

Yeah, I love talking to Helen. She's a lot of fun and I love the idea that she's a multi-passionate person. She's got all of these things that she's doing. She's excited to talk about them and to share what she's doing. And there's so many great moments. This episode, there was one moment. I can't remember which one it was, but I was like taking a sip of coffee and Helen said something. I choked, literally choked on my coffee because I was laughing. And then it took me a solid couple of minutes to get past that. But, uh, she was a lot of fun to have.

Dan:

Yeah, no, I had to actually block your video screen from like looking at it so that we didn't just have a total meltdown in the middle of the episode, but, uh, no, it was fine. We laughed a lot and, um, Helen was great. Uh, so yeah, it was a, it was a good episode and, uh, I think you're going to enjoy it.

Bekah:

We start every episode of the podcast. Like we start every Virtual Coffee. We introduce ourselves with our name, where we're from, what we do and a random check-in question. We hope you enjoy this episode. Today's random question is what is one thing you would like to learn more about, but have no reason to? So my name is Bekah I am a technical community builder from a small town in Ohio. And one thing I would like to learn more about, I don't know, it's either, um, like trees or birds. They're both like very fascinating. What is the eye roll there Dan?

Dan:

You stole mine! That's exactly what I was going to say.

Bekah:

I get to go first. So now you need to think of something else. there's there's a website that has, like, people can submit sounds of birds and where they are hearing those sounds. So there's recording of that and I'm like, there there's, there's a really cool project here, have not, not figured it out yet. So.

Dan:

Um, oh, well, hi, I'm Dan. I do web development in Cleveland, Ohio, and yeah, man, I was going to do, I like knowing about things that I see, you know, it's like, There's like, it's just like really cool to be able to like, look at things and know what they are. Right. It's, it's a strange thing that to say out loud, I guess. But, um, you know, since Bekah stole the, that one from me, I I'll go like, you know, architecture or something like that, you know, being able to like wander around a city and, you know, be like, oh, you know, Thomas Jefferson was drinking something, I don't know, something like that. Yeah. uh, that's going to be that's my second place answer,

Helen:

Okay. Okay. Um, all right. That leaves me. What's up. Y'all I'm Helen. Um, I am a full stack developer. I'm from Midwest. Um, howdy. I think to answer that question, I think I would like to learn about some form of martial art. I have no reason.

Dan:

a good one

Bekah:

Really good one.

Helen:

But I would still like to learn. Some form of martial know. It would be Jiu Ji... Jiu Jitsu I can never pronounce it. So that's probably something I won't learn since I can't pronounce it. So I just stay with karate since I could pronounce that. Um, don't know want to learn it because I'm not flexible. I know. That's it while I work, I don't even stand it. So I breath hard going upstairs. So we see how that works out.

Bekah:

Yeah, that's awesome. I feel

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

been my first answer now that you said that I'm like, yeah, Brazilian, Jiu Jitsu.

Helen:

I just want to, I guess, growing up, I used to watch movies, 80 movies, so they always have some kind of karate scene. I don't care, wherever the fight scene, it always turned into a karate scene I'm like, how are you from Chicago? Are you start karate? I don't... make it make sense.

Bekah:

Okay, so this is great. My brother, my older brothers, I have two brothers, an older one, a younger one. When in that, that nineties era of karate fighting scenes, used to love them and like, especially Chuck Norris movies. And so

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

them on the VCR and then like play them in like slow and mimic the action so he could learn I sit there and watch him the thing.

Helen:

Yes.

Bekah:

100% feel you on

Helen:

my goodness. Yes, I, yeah. I, all of the movies, there was some karate. What's dude that use to be in Dirty Dancing, blonde-haried guy. He passed little while back.

Bekah:

Patrick Swayze.

Helen:

He had a Roadhouse that movie, a lot of karate, how y'all from the south and y'all doing karate? Saying not to be. I'm not trying to be. Any ism, but I'm just saying everybody know how to break out into karate. It's just like a musical Everybody know how to break out into a song.

Bekah:

Oh, my gosh. is so amazing. I'm so glad that this was the random intro question, but I very much appreciate this. Thanks Helen, for being here with us today. Um,

Helen:

I don't got nothing else to do so. appreciate it.

Bekah:

All right, get into your story. We like to get the story everyone that comes the podcast. So what has led you where you are today?

Helen:

Okay. Um, it started off on is snowy winter night in April. What I was, I thought, I don't know. I don't know when.

Bekah:

We're getting the birth stories this season. This is great special episode.

Helen:

no, no. You know, my pop pop raised me up to the sky she said she has borns and no, no, no, no. For real, I guess, I guess to make it, to answer your question, I started off my career as a front end developer. Um, or a web developer at the time, I didn't even know the difference between front end and back end back at the time. So I started as a web developer and got my first corporate gig, um, um, at American greetings. Um, so that was, that was my first corporate gig. Um, and then sells front end developer for quite some times. So a good 10 years. And then, um, I took, I decided to. Start a startup. So I, for the past seven years I've been doing a startup, uh, or several startups or just, but, uh, I guess most of that time, what people don't tell you, like when you launch a startup, uh, you startup before. I never worked in startup before. What that is is it's equivalent to a. Um, it's just an MBA program that you don't get at the end of it. You don't get no certification, no degree. Um, and you spend your own money similar to like an MBA program. You spend your own money, uh, and the tuition always goes up. So, yeah. so that's, that's pretty much was my, the story. I was a front end developer. Um, now I say I'm a full stack developer just based on my experience, you know, just have to learn as a, founder, you have to make things work No. matter what it's all up to you. So you don't have another department or another colleague go and say, Hey, make this word, do your fancy. woo woo You know, you had to go learn it. So I kinda like that. Um, a little bit of backend stuff like that, and that does gain some business acumen well. um, I think the last, last seven years has been less development, the more business development and just learning the business world and that's his own ecosystem. So yeah. So now that I'm kind of. And I don't want to say stepping away from it, but, um, I kinda like, uh, decide to go at a slower pace while my startup, um, and try to return back to the, um, development and land and to see the world, the, the world of frameworks and the role of Jesus, all the frameworks, all the tools, all the expectations. Like I'm going to be the job descriptions. I'm like, oh Lord Jesus. Well, who do you think you have? You know, Um, I'm like, okay, I am, I guess I'm back into, I feel like I'm kinda like at the beginning stages, you know, there's some things I realize where my gaps are. And so I'm trying to fix that up and stuff like that. So that's what I'm doing lately.

Bekah:

Yeah, it's wild because you know, you have that experience of front end or full stack even, and then this pivot. You're focused on this other thing you come back, you know, and there's just so much tech moves so quickly. I just want to take a second talk about, like, why did you jump into the startup life to begin with? Like, what about that was interesting to you?

Helen:

Uh, it wasn't the start of that. Interesting to me, what was interesting was I got tired of getting laid off that that would make anybody pivot. I think I ended up, I was. The I was with um, the organization for like six years get laid off and then it took another year before I get another job got that job. And then, um, and that company, oh my God, that was like, what's that show Housewives Housewives. or whatever that.

Bekah:

oh. Or the real Housewives

Helen:

Housewives. I swear, that was like the real Housewives of executives or something like that, that like we was in a remote team and the amount of mess that was going on with that organization. Like when you find out executives was punching some other executive and that's the great vibe is like, Oh, yeah. I knew I was like, layoffs was coming. I just don't know when I'm just going to collect my check from working with my startup and just, yeah, I knew I, yeah, so. I knew it was coming. I just was like, well, I got laid off before, so we see what happens. Maybe they might change. Maybe they, you know, whatever. But, um, so yeah, I just, I think I got tired of the layoffs and I was like, and I was around, I got exposed to other startup founders. Somehow I went to our event and it was nothing but startup founders. I don't know how I went to this vet. it was it was supposed to be for like developer. And tech people, and I just assumed everybody was developer. And that's when I got exposed to startups and I started to go onto other meetups and stuff like that. And again, this bows and at the time the scenario was, Andy had some accelerators that open up their workspace for people to come and work. And I just, once I found those people, I just kind of like was like white on rice. I just stuck on them. I wouldn't. Just trying to consume as much knowledge as possible. So, yeah. Oh, here's a funny story. This, this is how I was so clueless about business. Um, I was trying, once I found out about this affiliate program, I tried to apply for it. And he was like, and he had no business applying. Cause I didn't know nothing about business. I didn't have no problem. I was trying to solve for nothing. I didn't know nothing, but I still, I was trying to apply for it. And a guy, he was so kind, he just sent me to the side. They tried to explain stuff to me and he was like, product are you building? And that, and I was so lost when he kept saying product. I was like, no, I'm a web developer. Like what you make fun. was like, what you talking about? I'm not trying to open up a small business trying to because to me, I thought products, which is what you see at the retail stores. had to be some kind of hardware or some type of fabric, you know, it wasn't. You know, had to be somebody you get off a shelf or off my hanger. That was a product. didn't realize that, um, a website was a product. I didn't realize I was a product. just like, no, I'm a web developer. So that was funny. So, yeah. Yeah.

Dan:

Well, that, that whole like language barrier is, is true. think of it a lot with development stuff, you know? Uh, but it's true. Any, any, any, like you enter any realm that you haven't been in before and Language different, you know?

Helen:

Oh, yeah.

Dan:

an interesting, like, I dunno, aspect to think about for like, events like that, you know, is like, where do you set that? Where do you set the bar? You know? Um, and like, what's there in a world for so long. You talk, you kind forget that people don't like already know you speak, know?

Helen:

Yeah.

Dan:

think that's easy. Like a lot of people walking into a new, realm, you know, experience that a lot.

Helen:

It is a face. A funny thing I realized just came to realization. Like reading in some docs kept, it was like, you know how you know, word, you know, what a word means? And he kind of. might want to say 70% understand where there, where the president's talking about, but you'd like, there's still a slight un-clarity in You're trying to figure out I kept getting pissed off. Every time I kept reading all these dots,

Bekah:

Yeah.

Helen:

abstract something. I was like, what the heck? And then I realized what they're trying to say is we simplify it. So you don't have to write all this boatload of code. All you got to do is just write this one line of code. was just, I was somebody create tool where you could just do a short command and you could search and copy and retweets, every word let's say abstract, something in these dots. And they say simple. be so much easier.

Bekah:

Yeah. I mean, that's a huge thing. Like we had talked about that at some point. I think there's an issue still up on Virtual Coffees. I'm sorry, repo where they're like a Chrome extension, right? Like if you it's specifically for. Web development docs, you hover over that thing there's a definition for it, right? Like, because there's so many things like exactly what you're saying. Nope. People don't remember them once they're past a certain stage, many people don't. And so there's no definitions and you just kind of have to fill in that education for yourself. And it doesn't matter if you're self-taught or bootcamp or have a degree because. And they gloss over these things and there's so much to learn so quickly that you're not going to remember all of that And so being able to have that quick reference, there's like somebody sent me, um, oh, it's a tech blog and is so, so good. I can't remember what it is right now, but does that you hover over something and gives other links. It might be done in obsidian. So it might be done through obsidian publish. so it takes you to the next thing, if you want to go. so there's like examples, there's definitions. Like this is what documentation should have available because not every. Again, follow that linear documentation structure. It should be like a, choose your own adventure documentation to help you figure out what you need in that moment.

Helen:

Yeah, exactly.

Dan:

uh, a product we're working on right now. Um, there it is that product right on, uh, a web app that we're working on right now. Um, we're trying to deal with that same thing with not inside the code or not developers, but for people who are using it, right. It's like the first time you use it, or first few times he use it, it's all new and probably kind of confusing, but it's meant to be a tool that like you use a lot. Right? And so once you get used to. Uh, we don't want to like up the thing with like tons of help stuff, you know, and trying out what level of like, you know, or like, do we really do it? Just, do we just have a button? Like you're saying this like, show, like explain everything to me, you And then like a button that says, okay, I'm good. I got this now. You know,

Bekah:

Yeah, it's there's a tab or

Dan:

pretty like set that level. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Bekah:

So give me all of the links here

Helen:

Yeah. yeah. I think that people, we, we, we, we need to be like, I understand the idea of you just trying to simplify things. You just trying to give a basic UI so people can just get in there and get work, but you still haven't barrier. Before I begin to work. Get used to this environment. It's just like, Yeah. I'm used to cook in my kitchen, but you throw me in your kitchen. I'm not going to start cooking right away. I still got to go figure out where you put your pet pots and pans where the salt and pepper makes sure you have seasoning, you know, just check out stuff, you know, find where they're at, you know? Um, and it isn't, I'm not going to be able to just get up and just the web up time and gonna be quick. So I think we have to remember that. Beyond the, what? The web app or wherever at we building. There's also another app we got to focus before they even get to get to there. It's called onboarding. That's a whole, it's all on the environment.

Dan:

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Onboarding is like, yeah, we talk about that a lot. Um, we talked about that a lot with Virtual Coffee too is like the community, right? Cause we got a lot of stuff going on the same, same situation, you know? Um, I don't know. I could talk again for a long time about this. There's lot, a lot of, you know, a lot of pieces to that puzzle and it's all kind of interesting and important. Um,

Helen:

Yeah. think it's it's. I think we should treat it just like how some founders, they had to put it in their schedule to go back and their own, Um, apps and web apps and products as if they was a new. So they can see this experience again, because you so much time will go by. Cause you're doing so much other stuff that you forget and you don't know what has broken what got lost in translation. as developers, we should do that to be like, okay, let's pretend I'm, I'm a user. This is my first time in this environment. Or let's pretend I'm a developer. I just graduated. This was my first time. And I'm. You know, just to get an understanding, you know, is equivalent to like how executives to go in and do some manual tasks, just to understand what their teams go through once in a while kind of thing. So.

Dan:

Yeah, That is like good advice for not just like the owners, you know, but everybody that's doing it. It's so easy to get caught when you're like caught in the weeds, you know, like when you're living and breathing a project for a long time, you know, you lose sight of. Like beginning. I don't even know what the login or not the login, but like the new user screen looks like on this app that I work on every day, you know, because I haven't looked at it for

Helen:

Yeah.

Dan:

a long, long time. Um, and it's it's yeah, that's, of very good advice.

Bekah:

Well, like going back to what you said about onboarding to it's part of that, you know, because I think that it doesn't matter what stage you're at when you join a new company. I just joined company a month ago and I've felt very comfortable to give feedback like, Hey, this is, this is what I thought when I read this. And so maybe we can add clearer documentation here, right.

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

everybody that's coming new into a company, almost everybody is going to have that new experience and be able to more clearly point out those things make sure that, you know, you, you have the most up-to-date information, but sometimes like you have to invite people to do that. Right.

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

if they feel like, oh, you're just supposed to rush through this thing not. Please feel free to give us your feedback on it, then you're you're losing out on all of the value that a new employee brings to a position.

Helen:

Yeah. Yeah. Especially, they feel like you don't want to hear it, then you definitely screwed, you know?

Bekah:

Like, oh, that takes too much time. Like, we don't want to have to do that.

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

Okay, so Lee, I want to talk a little bit about, so first of all, I've been super impressed with all of the stuff that you're doing and you're always, I feel like you're always on a drive to learn and that's, what's so great because I think that's the mindset that everybody really should have app. Asking questions and talking about these things. And so like, what you think that you've learned from your past that you're bringing with you to, I feel like this is kind of like the new stage of hell and you're like moving into this new thing

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

time other places. Do you have thoughts on that?

Helen:

Um, yeah, I get thoughts on that. Um, let me think about it. Uh, no, I do have thoughts. Uh, as I say, one thing I learned my whole experience is that, um, life is hard. But a lot of times you end up choosing your struggles that? you're in so many things are happening to you, which is true. But then sometimes it's like, you could have, you have, um, you have a point where you can make a choice, be like, okay, no more, you know, and just figure out some way to get out of it or, um, Oh, even less than the pain, if you can't get out of it, because there there's some problems that are just huge. Um, also mostly know, most importantly, my past experience, I learned that to learn how to invest in you so many times had to, um, to, especially by being a startup founder, I had believe in myself try and do something. Even was not qualified, when I was complete ignorant about something. Um, and then most important, I didn't have the resources or the capital, you know, or the network to educate me on something. I had to go learn it figure out what I didn't know. And then go find out where I can learn or get what I need to know. Um, I think the first time I had to drop $1,500 on to invest in myself was like, okay, If we go and do this, I know you just got laid off. We go and do this. We can do this. This is going to give you closer to being a startup founder. This is going to have you close it to this person. So this, you know, some people be like, why would you do that? That's not guaranteed.

Bekah:

Yeah.

Helen:

guaranteeing, which is true. There's No, guarantee whether you're going to, there's going to be success after your tasks. You've complete it. And there's no, guarantee that you even got to complete the task, which is funny too, but you still had to, I still have to learn to invest in myself. now when now, it's much easier to make decisions. You know, cause I done that. I made so many decisions, both small and big. So it's like, okay, what's my values while I'm trying to attain. Now, this align to, what I trying to do? Is this a compromise or is this a trade off is or sacrifice? know, so it's much easier make these mini choices that we make every day kind of thing people might prolong for months on.

Bekah:

Yeah.

Helen:

Yeah, and didn't make me make y'all depressed.

Dan:

no,

Helen:

I got quiet real quick. I'm sorry.

Dan:

I was, I was trying to process what you said. I think that's, I think that was all great. Um, I think one of those, know, you talked, um, at the beginning about how. You know, doing the startup process or whatever, like an MBA, you know, this cost money and all this stuff. And I think re like framing it like that as a, as an investment in yourself is, is great. You know, it was a really healthy way to look at it. And it's true too. Right. And that's just like this, this like decision framework that you just described, even if you don't like call it a framework in your head. Right. But like, just like muscle memory almost, you know, you practice it. And so you get good at it. And being able to. Do that where you, where you're looking at a decision and, um, know how to it apart and like figure out what you're looking at. Right. Just exactly, like you said, like a, is this sacrifice? Is this, you know, sort of compromise, like, I don't know, it's such a valuable tool, um, or skill. Um, and that's really cool and it's my silence finished documents I was to process that. Cause, um, it was, uh, I don't know, it was quiet and it was really well put, I thought,

Bekah:

Yeah.

Helen:

Thanks.

Bekah:

Like I remember when I was coming into tech a couple of years ago, we didn't have much money. I've got four kids. And somebody said, Hey, like, meet you at Starbucks a half an hour away. And like, for me, it was that same thing. Like I had to go through my head and think about like, there's there's money. There's a cost to drive there. There's I had a Starbucks card. So I was like, I can use my Starbucks card. I don't have to worry about that. But like, even that little bit of gas money there. Required me to think about like, am I investing in? And, and ultimately, like I was investing in myself and retrospectively, I can see that, like, this

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

being able to meet somebody because that led me to the support system that got me through learning how to code, but

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

hard in that moment

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

to think like, okay, you know, there's money that I can spend here is that money worth it? And like right. Nothing is guaranteed there. But, you know, think about what the long-term investment is and, and where that can take you. It's hard.

Helen:

Yeah. I Al I always share this with people. I was like, the struggle is, well, I'm not going to even try to downplay that soccer. The struggles will, but even when you, when there's no guarantees and there's a high probability that you will lose, quote, unquote, lose whatever, try to have a backup Like if you can obtain the thing that you're get, what else can help you support you to get you closer to the thing you're trying to get? Right. So, Um, so a lot of times meeting up with these people, like, cause you have to eat there. Time is money. have to be very cautious on your time You know, you got to make sure you're leveraging your skills and your time appropriately, but you also want to make sure that you get something out of it where you can, um, that were be beneficial, not to be sounds or selfish, but also, but still get the support. Right. So, so a lot of times when I meet people and w I learned to not accept a meeting or do a meeting where there no agenda, was no goal. I had to that out. I wasn't with, for the longest time, I was wait for them to figure out the agenda, but like, no, no, no, no, baby, no, no, no, no. figure out what you need. A lot of times people have not even take the moment to figure out what they need and what they want. Um, unfortunately people will wait until they hit a Crow crossroad. generally when some type of life transition or crap happened to you, which was sucks. it's better to use your make, take a Saturday and a month. And you use those times to have those life choice, moments, get some coffee or tea and brunch, you know, and just figure out and, and journal and just write some stuff down or even using no pat on your phone. If you don't want to write. Oh, a voice and just trust are asking those small questions like questions, you know, like having a little Oprah was that, so Sunday we'll have your own soul Sunday and figured this stuff out if you don't figure that out, trust me, somebody's going to figure it out for you. So.

Bekah:

I love that because it is, you know, if you're, if you're not doing that consistently or not taking that time out, then, then it just like keeps coming. Right. It

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

it never stops because there will continually be asks of you or things that you need to figure out for yourself. So if you know, like this is what I'm going to figure it out, then it feels less overwhelming the other three weeks or, you know, other six days of the week, however you decide to plan it. So

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

that. I know I'm going to make decisions on this day and then you can do that without having to worry. Hopefully.

Helen:

Have you ever, I'm not sure if it's me, but I have noticed for my, in my own personal life, that lessons that you thought you had. We'll revisit your revisit you to try you out. It's like if it's like, w like, walk up today and chose violence was going to let know what thing you thought you, you learned. Let's try it again, you know? So it just come in a different form.

Bekah:

it's like, oh yeah. I said that I had mastered this thing. And then it's like, you, uh, no, no, I didn't. I didn't master anything.

Helen:

Yeah.

Dan:

Uh, man. Yep. No, that's, that's interesting though, because that sort of thing is like, you know, you can process something after and identify where made a mistake or what you could do different, but you probably made those mistakes or did things that maybe weren't good the moment because the. Well, how you think when you're stressed is different than how you think when you're relaxed, right? How you

Helen:

Yeah.

Dan:

you're upset is different than how you think when you're happy. Right.

Helen:

Yeah.

Dan:

think that can go along, like, uh, back to your or your idea of having a plan like that. And, um, if you have something like that to fall back on a goal or a whatever, or, you know, these lessons that you've learned, but, um, when things are bad, you know, how. Thinking. Okay. Does this help my further, my goal, you know, instead of just reacting, know, just reacting to, as, as it comes, you know, like it's kind of all ties in together is really cool.

Helen:

Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Dan:

really good way to be.

Bekah:

Yeah. So this ties back into like the things that you've been doing. Cause you're doing a lot of like really great things to help people. And you've got this, um, state of developers and you've got Right. And so, do you want to introduce what those things are to our listeners? And then we'll kind of talk about like how you're supporting people through this.

Helen:

Yeah. Yeah. Thanks. for bringing it up. Um, so, uh, state of developers is a, um, industry survey that I launch right before Christmas, where I'm trying to survey developers, um, on burnout and their experience burnout, anxiety, and depression. Um, So it's, I'm asking it's premium Lutz, a holistic view on it because I realized that, you know, when you're at work, you bring your whole self to work. Um, so whatever, all the crap you had to deal with at home that comes to work with you, AI it carpools with you. Um, and whatever happens at work carpools with you.

Bekah:

take the carpool lane then

Helen:

And you could try, you could try. I think the PoPo gonna be like, ah, uh, so yeah, I, I, cause I noticed that, um, there was something I struggled with a lot and I noticed that it wasn't a very high priority in business world. You know? Um, this is always falls under the. The wellness, whatever will, we time doing, doing, dowel months. We can focus on that, you know, but we have to focus on these OKR as our objectives or KPIs or key performance indicators, whatever. Um, and I, and I, I always won't allow myself to focus too much on it because. Like I wanted to create a product or app to help me with this, but because I knew it wasn't high priority, busy in a business world, I was like, that's another way for me to be broke. And Helen, you already have bad ideas. I never allow myself, but I started noticing that I was like, if I'm burnout and I had some, some dark moments. I know someone else has some dark moments. I know if somebody else is struggling with coding and like, and trying to balance life, life, me, my current, um, life situation, I'm trying to, uh, come up from shutting down a startup, trying to reenter the market, you know, trying to learn some new skills on top of that. I got an elderly paradigm helping cold characters. You know, um, all of that is a lot of stress. I'm not going to be talking about trying to do chores. John, trying to do the job, honey that's in itself is a whole day's work and that, so I have less several full-time jobs throughout throughout the day. So was like, if I'm struggling, you had to be somebody else struggling. And, and this is too important to keep pushing as a low priority. You know, this guy, the impact, the bottom line somehow, you know, and I start, I start, Um, asking developers and tech founders for any of those. Dan was one of them. So he gracefully didn't want with me and just ask him a series of questions. And then, and the, the mother stuff people was telling me, I was like, oh shit, this is something okay. We need to get math numbers for people to realize, no, this is something serious. Okay. You think. This is not important. Like there's one insight. I don't want to quite share yet that across the board, depending on the developer and the amount of privilege they have, I was like in managers knew they was making they decisions like this. were freaked

Bekah:

Yeah.

Helen:

Right. And I saw, I did like last I. Or damn some energy engineer managers. And I asked them, I didn't out, nobody. I just say, have you lost because of this reason, age one, I'm saying, no, no, no, no, no. I'm like really Cause I, I changed the way I questioned that. I said, Hey, have you lost talent because of this reason. Um, and if not, and if not, tell me your secret and people would just start us blaming their way. Being mindful and having their own wellness programs and stuff like that. And then there's some that some men are just like, well, I'm not sure, but this is how my people are struggling. Or this is how I'm trying to prevent my people from struggling. And they even know that it's the workload, but like one per one managers, like, like he said, if I didn't have the authority to push back, I would even quit. That's his whole. That's this whole guy, the jail free card, his bike is the push mat kind of thing. So, Yeah. So, so that's what state of the developer is. It's just, it's a holistic survey. I'm trying to, I have to, um, have them been promoting it this month because I'm trying to shorten it. I've been, that's the number one feedback I get from the developers in the last.

Bekah:

Yeah.

Helen:

right now, I'm just trying to, I'm trying to get con um, condense it, you know, Mert some of the questions and stuff like that and make it simpler. Uh, so, but I'm going to relaunch it, um, um, March and try to get more people to, um, fill it. Um, and I, hopefully I can be with a, share the resorts results in, um, this summer, because the goal was, I just didn't want to just. Do a survey and we say, Yeah. everybody's up because we are tired and we broke and we tired. We mentally broke. We just, so, you know, that's why you got these crappy products, you know, but I wanted to also provide, like, some of the questions is asking people how they cope, how did they deal with, how did they help diddly manage it? You know, kind of thing. So. Um, compile a list of resources so people can try the south. Cause this one, the thing about burnout,

Bekah:

Yup.

Helen:

many factors contribute to it and, and it's just like productivity, um, is it's it's not like one, it's not a one solution is really up to the person what's in the context of their life. Are there variables they have to deal with? So. So that's where instead of developers. Sorry, ask that now. So go ahead.

Dan:

no, not at all. I think it's great. I think it's, I think it's very cool. And I, I think maybe walk into this, but the Jovial is, it is sort of. About framing it, not for like the individual. Right. But for the company who has developers as employees. Right.

Helen:

Yeah.

Dan:

how to this is, this is like the. This is one of the parts that's like re very interesting to me, right. Is, is like that turning Cause cause company, most companies don't like hire developers and say, I'm going to burn these people out. Right. You know? so they don't like, uh, that it's probably, don't realize it, you know, or don't mean to. so, uh, I was just wondering, you know, what, like what are ways after it, you know, after information all of developers is, uh, if you. Are thinking more as a manager or something like that. Like what are, what are like some ways to support your developers and, and like watch for stuff like this and prevent it from happening, things like

Helen:

Yeah. Yeah. So, So. just, just for disclaimer. Shelby has gone through like his own, um, evolution kind of thing. Um, because the, solution that I was trying to propose as to solving this problem, didn't pan out, right? That's one thing about startup world. So I wasn't sold on, I'm not married to that solution. married to trying to figure out how hell then don't be. This time next year, That's what I'm sold on too. So, um, right now Jovial is the whole goal is definitely is more, um, helping teams, um, to manage the burnout. Um, and it's, it's not just also just identifying signals, but I'm thinking of more of Craney a developer tool where, um, it allows both parties the, before. Right about the issue. And that's really meaning being transparent about different things about your own goals. Because a lot of times people won't say something because you know, that might go against company policy, or they might, that might that developer, the manager might not want to tell the developer does the developer just want to call and he, the manager might need him to step up or her to step up and take a leadership role is it's just like, like how Can we help each other along. Our goals and help help each other instead of sabotage each other's success kind of thing. So, um, right now Jovial is looking like, um, while I'm trying to, I guess this is my first time me just sharing it and trying to, um, see if giving, um, developers like an NPS tool, kind of like an NPS score, like on on like how, like, when.

Bekah:

you pause for a second? What is NPS? I'm sorry, I don't

Helen:

So I, so NPS is like a net promoter score. You usually, get them as a customer, like, let's say you bought, like, I bought KFC the other day and I on my receipt. You go to the website, they was like, how likely are you to. How buyers buy this chicken sandwich is again, how do I get for employees? They normally get NPS score that say, how lucky are you to invite your developer buddies to platform job here. trying to gauge how much and how much you don't kind of thing with whoever you're working with. So mostly it's like, it's like, why don't we have an MPS score on just really gauge how much. This task or how much this woke is,

Bekah:

Yeah.

Helen:

impacting you and also impacting the company. Because one of the things I've learned through the survey is that a lot of developers don't know if they're making an impact. I was like, how do you measure your progress? How do you measure your impact daily? Even know if they, they make, have an impact, they only have, like most of the developers don't even have metrics. They to judge. Or they're worth, not even

Bekah:

Yeah.

Helen:

goals or metrics for themselves, from the company. Right. it's just more of like right now, I'm just, I'm researching it and I'm trying to figure out how can help developers to really, um, measure, uh, what they done and measure. Um, Like the conversation, like, did they get the feedback or the support that they need? Um, cause one thing when I did, I did like a self-assessment, last week on my own personal experience with burnout. And once I realized that. my main problem was I wouldn't speak up about my own needs and concerns. Like I would suffer through like the whole month of February. was me suffering through trying to relearn something. And learn a new technology, whatever try to. I got past a technical interview, but I didn't tell my family, I even had the interview because I didn't want them to feel anxious about it because we were kind of going through some stuff financially. And I didn't want that burden of pressure. Just in case I don't get the interview and which happened, I didn't get the third interview. Right. So I kept this to myself. So. But I have an elegant parent and she's waking up early. So she started kind of like interfere little bit on my time when I was using to study. that made me wake up three hours earlier. So that's. like, I'm up five in the morning, you know, trying to do this stuff, but could have like really saved myself some of this agony, if I just shared this information where my family says, Hey, I got this really hard thing I'm trying to do. why little. And that is, I didn't want share because I didn't want to disappoint. And also it was just hard because I'm still learning, trying to figure out the language. use with my family to describe what the hell I do for a living. Like, I, I can't figure it out. Every word it's just like, you know, the Charlie brown, um, TV show, the parents. I was like, mama. Why, why, why watch? That's how family. Why, why, why, why? So, yeah, so that's where I'm at. I'm looking at. Like really like trying to figure out a way where people can be transparent and just open in their communication, you know? So I thought the best way is just really just the score. It score it for yourself. And if you willing, you can share next person, but at least help you break down and identify and pinpoint some issues. So you can bring it up to the right place. So, I'm not sure if I confuse you or not. I'm still learning.

Bekah:

We're also like, for so important because those conversations are super hard to initiate and to talk about. And last week, and one of my Virtual Coffee breakout rooms, we talked about, um, like what have you taken from a past experience? That was good, but you know, your new work experience. And for me, that was like, A really important topic because I I've been very transparent about I'm going through. And I've talked about the PTSD that I've my life and Tasha, like the last four months. Well, it's like clockwork, like every two weeks, here's something new to trigger you. Like not stopping now. I'm like, I don't know, right before this call, I got a call about my mom had heart problems and a procedure and stuff and it was like, You know, like what do you do in those situations? And for me, because of my past experience, I'm like able go to boss now and say like, Hey, listen, this is what's going on in my life. I'm to try but I'm canceling my meetings for today

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

that's going to be okay. But like, I don't know that know for sure that there out there that would not feel confident doing that thing. Right.

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

and so if you, if you have something that that open conversation, like I am all for that, because the more that we can like we can, we can be transparent with each. Well, exactly. I love so much what you said about like, you bring all of your experience to table and that's been my. Talk for the last year I've been talking about the person centered approach to tech. It's like, we're not, we're not developers, we're human beings. And have we have responsibilities, we have these things outside of tech and that comes, that comes with us. it, if people don't acknowledge that, then you're setting us up for failure. And so I just really love that idea that. Working on helping to support the issues of the whole people, the whole person that comes to your team.

Helen:

Yeah, Yeah, exactly is. And it helps the managers too. Like I'm not a manager, but, well, I am because as a startup founder, I had learn how to manage three people and the man is the developer. And the men, that's the founder Hela and add the man has done invest in Helen because she was pissed off because she wasn't getting her money back. So that was a whole nother management style I had to learn. Um, but I think at the end of the day, we're just trying to reduce the amount of risk we're trying to make the worst case scenario, the less worse, you know, if it happens, it's like, it's just like, I guess that's why I'm looking at. Cause I think one thing about burnout. Um, and the issue is about tackling it and trying to get support around tagging them. It is because people was, is like, awesome. Nice to have the tack tackle it. NOLA is nice. Just like it's, it's, like it's worst case scenario. It is the Murphy's law.

Bekah:

Yeah.

Helen:

You know what I'm saying? So, but for me personally, I even, I had to get, buy in to tackle it because I always pushed it to the side because it, to me, there was always something more poor and more grants bigger I had to go fight and save kind of thing. But at the same time it was making life worse. Right. So it's like, if you want life to be a little bit easier, go tackle some of those demons. I'm telling you be a ghost Buster, figured it out.

Bekah:

It's valuable, super valuable advice. Cause I think that, you know, we always want to do is do things in detriment of ourselves. Like, everybody else going forward. And we, we don't take care of like what we need. And it's a thing. Somebody told me somebody DME, and they were like, you're the one that said you should put the oxygen mask on first. So why don't you do it? I'm like, I I should do the things that I say

Helen:

Yeah, no practice. What you preach is so hard to do. Yeah. It's just like, cause at the end of the day, we trying to manage things, you know? Um, and we dealing with re reaction. So when you don't say nothing. And you do something, people going to react. Like I will, the reason I was waking up early, because I just found like, this is the quiet as my house is it is once, once one person up everybody's up, you know? So my mom saw that and she was like, okay, I'm gonna wake up with, you know, I need, I love you, but no,

Bekah:

Yes. I feel, I feel that hardcore, my

Helen:

Yeah.

Bekah:

you wake me up at five? No,

Helen:

you know, so it's, so as a manager is like, if you're trying to support your team, trying to China, manage stakeholders and stuff like that, you, your worst enemy, your nemesis is that unknown variable. Right? So why don't you. The so easy and comfortable for people to be open, you know? Yes. He might hear something. He might not lie, but even if let's say, let's say you hear a developer, he's have M they're ambitious and they want to have they own startups. And you know, there are way to thinking one foot out the door. Don't think that way. Okay. What can you align? What kind of projects can you align with them? You know, to help them with their go, but also help the company reach their goals. You know, granted you got competitive NDAs, all that stuff. I get that. Yeah. Don't, developer's going to be an ad in that Sesame street. Don't be, don't be mean bad and naughty go against your company, you know, you know, you know, just try to align goals, like, like I'm ambitious too, but I'm also looking for a job, but I said, okay, Don't apply for any job that, that kind of like into your competition world. know, flat for jobs you will want company to be your. So your last dead there, you're, we're selling branding our new relationship, right. Kind of thing, where you want to invest in those relationships at that company. So you don't want to screw over people or burn bridges. You trying to have strong ties. You're trying to make sure that people hit goals because at the end of the day, get chance to hit yo goals. So looking at it like that. So a lot of times I really encourage managers and both the talent to look at in that way. At it more mutual benefiting because every relationship have is lifecycle. Just like every product have is life cycle, development have his life cycle. So of us like it's not there, just being more, um, uh, um, be, just be more, um, uh, intense, uh, thoughtful, thoughtful,

Dan:

I love that. I like, I really like the framing of, you know, aligning goals, um, for, for this sort of thing. So it's not like it gives you a good, uh, Tool to conversation, you know, starter, you know what I mean? So if you go into your manager or whatever, and you want to talk about this, you don't just have to say I'm tired or whatever, you know, I have too much work or whatever, like saying let's have a conversation where we like work together and align our goals together. I think that it's, it's just, like you said, mutually beneficial. I think that's, I think that's great advice.

Helen:

Yeah. Cause I talked to my manager last week and it was like, yeah, I had one person. Um, last one because they were so tired, they was like, but they also had another start-up and they didn't tell nobody about it. And also my, how can I help you? You know? that's all on that person a little bit. You're right. So, you know,

Bekah:

Well, I think like back to what you were saying about acknowledging people where they're at, like there are companies that make you afraid to be doing your own projects or like want to claim your own projects, right? Like, no I've been doing this thing on my own time. Like this does not belong to you. And so having that transparency and that clarity is super important making sure that everybody succeeds, not just, you know, the company or the person, like everybody succeeds when you're trans.

Helen:

Yeah, you got to remember, companies are just like people. I mean, you got mean people, you got nice people, you got good people. You got, you know how Holly that I, people you get all sorts of kinds of people and you got that with companies. So if you decide to go with a company, you know, they're very strict about that. You're making the decision be like, okay, I gotta be in the closet. Um, I go and I can't wait my flag and be proud about this, you know, kind of thing. You, you make those choices, right. you could find companies where, and you can do your own, um, D uh, diligent research and see, do they have entrepreneurial people? Is there anybody that work here and also have their own side project or they own start up and they are, they open about it? Do they have in their bio? I'm a founder of this and. Or do they just say, I work at enterprise company, you know what I'm saying? They had this incognito kind of phrases. So well, my views are not my own. I seen so many of those in the engineering manager, Twitter, Twitter, bio. I'm like, wow. You know, there's some companies like that, you know, you know, so you know, your own personality, you know, what kind of, um, you know, whether you're. You know, whether a company profile is going to have you, um, filling out some kind of facade or just living your own life, living your own truth. So some companies I know I'll have to put on a facade. If I say I have to, right. My views are my own. I know I'm screwed, you know?

Bekah:

I feel that 100%. And I just want to say, thank you so much, Helen, for being here with us today, like this was an absolute delight of a conversation, and I know we all learn so much from what you said. So thank you for sharing with us.

Helen:

Uh, no,

Dan:

Yeah.

Helen:

for inviting me. I'm glad I didn't bore you. So that was my fear. do not bore these

Bekah:

I don't know. I don't feel like you could ever bore anyone.

Dan:

no,

Bekah:

are fantastic.

Dan:

I had talked to you in the past. I was not worried about that even a little bit. And I just said, am I thanks to you? I really liked the work you're doing and, um, I appreciate your time. I appreciate coming on.

Helen:

Oh, thank you guys. And thanks. And good luck everybody in the, in the webs that are listening, you can it.

Dan:

All right. Bye Helen. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel. If you have questions or comments you can hit us up on Twitter at VirtualCoffeeIO, or email us at podcast@virtualcoffee.io. You can find the show notes, sign up for the newsletter, check out any of our other resources on our website VirtualCoffee.io. If you're interested in sponsoring virtual coffee you can find out more information on our website at VirtualCoffee.io/sponsorship. Please subscribe to our podcast and be sure to leave us a review. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next week!


The Virtual Coffee Podcast is produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel and edited by Andy Bonjour at GoodDay Communications.