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Cameron Bardell and Rahat Chowdhury: Mental Health & Tech

Season 1, Episode 5 | February 7, 2021

In this episode, Bekah and Dan talk about mental health with Cameron Bardell, an iOS developer in the healthcare industry, and Rahat Chowdhury, a mental health start-up founder.


Cameron Bardell profile photo
Cameron Bardell

iOS developer in the healthcare industry

Rahat Chowdhury profile photo
Rahat Chowdhury

Mental health start-up founder

Show Notes:

In this episode, Bekah and Dan talk about mental health with Cameron Bardell, an iOS developer in the healthcare industry, and Rahat Chowdhury, a mental health start-up founder. We talk about how sometimes building a product to meet our own needs is a great place to start and the importance of prioritizing mental health, especially in a fast-paced industry like tech. We walk through our own experiences, how mental health recovery isn't linear, and how different approaches to mental health technology create support for more people.

If you or someone else is suffering from mental health issues, you aren't alone. Below are some links to help you find resources or to seek help:

Links:

Cameron:
Rahat:

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Transcript:

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Hello, and welcome to Season One, Episode Five 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 co host, Dan.

Dan Ott:

Thanks, Bekah. Today on this episode, you'll hear from Rahat Chowdhury, and Cameron Bardell. Rahat is a second-career developer mental health advocate, live coding streamer and a rapper. He is also the founder of a mental health startup called Whimser, which is aimed at providing tools to help keep up your mental health. Cameron is an iOS developer in the healthcare industry from Waterloo, Ontario. He is also in the final stages of an undergraduate degree in physics and computer science. In this episode, we talk about building mental health projects balancing mental health with careers and life and how mental health recovery isn't linear.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

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. Today's question is, if you had to choose one song for karaoke, what would it be? Hey, I'm Bekah. I'm a front end developer from a small town in Ohio. And if I could sing one song for karaoke, it would be no time left for you by The Guess Who?

Dan Ott:

Nice. Hi, I'm Dan. I'm a front end developer from Cleveland, Ohio. I would if I could sing any karaoke song. I think anything about cake is like really in my wheelhouse. Both, you know, I like the music and his register kind of matches mine. So I think pretty much anything by cake. And I would just see what they have and pick one.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Hey, I'm Rahat, a software engineer from New York. If I had to pick one song for karaoke, I guess it would be I don't want to miss the thing. Because I am a new dad. And I've been obsessed with my daughter for the past month. So yeah.

Dan Ott:

That's a good one.

Cameron Bardell:

That's better than when I got. I'm Cameron. I'm an iOS developer from Waterloo, Ontario. And my go to karaoke song is smile by uncle cracker.

Dan Ott:

Nice.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Awesome. Well, thank you both for being here. We're very excited to have you on today to talk about mental health tech, both have been working on some really cool projects that we're excited to talk about. But before we get there, I always like to do a little bit of the origin story. And so can you talk about that maybe Cameron, if you want to talk first and tell us how you got into tech and then Rahat. That would be awesome.

Cameron Bardell:

Sure, yeah. I was always like, it's kind of a techie kid. And then, but I didn't do any real programming until I got to high school. So I think it was in about grade 10 when I took my first intro to programming course, which was all in Python. And my, my teacher, that course, who was a really good guy who I still talk to you sometimes he was my computer science and physics teacher in high school. And now I do computer science and physics. So you can see where that came from. He just noticed that I was taking a bit of extra interest in he pulled me aside and said, Would you like to find some extra projects to work on? And I said, Yeah, so he sent me down to the like center for extended learning, I think it was called her high school. And their started got started with a project building. Flash games and action and actions cooked. Educational. Yeah, rip flash educational games and ActionScript students, and that was my first. The first thing I ever programmed that anyone else ever looked at. And you know, I just took it from there.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

That's awesome. I always love those stories when you have good teachers who kind of, you know, notice that in you and, and they're able to cultivate that.

Cameron Bardell:

That's a big thing what he does at that school with me. He always gets kind of identifies the kids who are, you know, do a little extra just because they're interested in any tries to take them under his wing. Just super great.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

So great. All right. Rahat.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah, so I got into tech a little bit later in life, I guess. So I had a built up a career kind of in like customer support. And I was managing customer support teams at different tech startups. And I got to like work with a lot of the engineers just seeing like different bugs kind of get fixed whenever a customer would like complain about things, I guess. And that's what kind of got me interested into the whole thing at first, I wanted to see if I could be the one actually fixing stuff. So my wife is really supportive. She helped me through a lot of things and went to a boot camp and yeah, now I'm doing fixing stuff

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

That is awesome. I love it. And so you both also have different histories with Virtual Coffee, Cameron, I feel like I've known you forever. I remember you first joining Virtual Coffee. But I always like to ask to like, how did you find Virtual Coffee?

Cameron Bardell:

Yeah. So someone retweeted I think it was in June, you guys there in April. Right? Then somebody retweeted your invite link in June. And I think it just replied to the tweet asking you if it was public, or if it was like, kind of close thing? You said, yeah, it's public. Come join. So I did. And I've been coming ever since then. It was probably it was really, you know, in the midst of the pandemic, and, you know, talk to anyone that it wasn't directly related to a month. It was a bit of a Savior for me. And definitely one of the best things I did and all of 2020

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, and now you are, you're growing our iOS or mobile group of developers, because people see, yeah.

Cameron Bardell:

I was only one for a few months. Now. I think we're up to four or five. Yeah. You know, we're still What is that? 2% of all the people who attend, but still.

Dan Ott:

Also strong member of our Canadian contingent.

Cameron Bardell:

Right? Yeah.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah,

Cameron Bardell:

Like, I'm leaving some niche groups.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

And Rahat. How did you find Virtual Coffee?

Unknown:

Um, I think I've seen it a couple times on Twitter. And I didn't join it first, because I'm 100% know what it was? And then I think it was Andy from protege.dev. He told me a little bit about it. And yeah, joined in into one of the meetups, I guess. And then, yeah, from there just really loved the environment and vibe. So kept going.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, nice. I remember I remember that conversation now. Because we were talking about working on epic react.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

And we have a channel for that, which is not that active.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Come for epic react, stay for everything else.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

But there you go. It's our new tagline. Okay, so both of you have projects using mental health tech, and I'd love to talk a little bit more about those. So can you just kind of give an overview about the projects that you started?

Unknown:

Yeah. So there's a couple, two things that I'm mainly working on. One is an open source project. It's called the Sylar project. So that is sort of like a database of different mental health resources in the US. What I'm hoping is to kind of like, get people to help me add more and more resources to it. And either in their own states or cities. So there could be like more stuff for people to look up. The reason I kind of started it is because, you know, taking that step into, like trying to find help or find resources that will help you is like a pretty big one. And I wanted to make it as easy as possible, like once you did make that step to find something that could be helpful for you. So having it all kind of like in one central place would be, you know, probably ideal for that. So yeah, I'm eventually I'm going to turn it into like an API that other developers can like, build stuff off of. But for now, yeah, it's just kind of a list. The US, hopefully, maybe in more countries soon. And yeah, the thing is a startup, I'm hoping to launch very, very soon. It's called Windsor. And it's all about cognitive behavioral therapy, and kind of like journaling and voice note journaling, and kind of getting reminders of like, the good things that happened over time and challenging those negative thoughts.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

That's awesome. I love that I was working on this postpartum app. And I kind of just went into it, working on it by myself. But I reached out to a group of moms and I said, like, what would you like to see in something like this? And one of the top responses was resources for my area. And I didn't have anything about that there. But also, it was really hard to find that online, too. And so I certainly think that that's really, really valuable. Along with, you know, all of the other things, anything that can benefit mental health is super important.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah, I think there's like a lot of, I guess, niches in mental health that aren't really covered in some of the general labs. So there's definitely a lot of things that we can do in this space.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I feel like I could talk about it for seven hours. So try and stay focused here. Um, Cameron, what about your project?

Cameron Bardell:

Sure. So my project kind of grew out of my own personal journey with mental health, I was doing lots of research on how people track their mental health over time and how you can do, there's various different methods to like check trends and mental health, whether it's like, like CBT, like Rahat said, or just like doing daily journaling, or, and I found that a lot of these clinical studies use these super long surveys that can take up to like, half an hour to complete, and you're supposed to do them every day. And that's exhausting. And it was a time for that. So I dug a little more into that, and found that those studies who use those, I would certainly have their place. And I'm not saying but should be replaced anyway. But they can often get similar results to these other smaller scale studies that use really simple measurement systems and the one I found that I really liked was. So it's just really simple, all you do is you get yourself your mental well being whatever is most important to you, on a scale of one to 10, once in the morning, and once in the evening, and you do that twice. So you do it kind of for your general overall well being, then you pick another thing that's important to you, whether that's, you know, your sleep, or your anxiety or your nutrition, and you rate that in a scale of one to 10 along with your general wellness. So you're basically doing four readings a day two in the morning, two in the afternoon, it's super easy to do you, I, you know, you open after 10 seconds a day and do your reading, and then you go about with your day. So I started building an app for that. And I've had to kind of shell that a little bit because I recently started a new full time job, hoping to get back to it soon. But yeah, I think a lot of the solutions out there really intensive and time consuming. And you're meant to open the app and kind of spend some time in there. But I think, you know, the goal for my app would be to spend as little time in it as possible.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, I like that approach. Some of those you you look at in it's so complicated, in that in, it's an automatic, like I'm done, I'm not gonna sit here and go through all of these things. And watch all of your screens give me messages and positive things like I want to feel

Cameron Bardell:

it feels like you're supposed to live in the app, sometimes, like they have common videos to watch. And you know, like maybe guided meditations, or some of them are like gamified, where you can like earn awards and stuff. And sure, yeah, those work for tons of people get great reviews and works a lot. But it doesn't work for me, I want to you know, I want to spend as little time thinking about it. So, and there was no solution out there. So I built it.

Dan Ott:

That's awesome. I was going to say something about the Oh, the cognitive therapy yeah Rahat, you had mentioned that with your with your startup that you're working on. The that area of like therapy has been very interesting to me. And at some times, it's been successful, but a lot of it with me personally, I want to share my personal experience. My problem with it is sort of getting myself to do anything about it. And this is sort of applies to what Cameron was saying to you. But like, the exercises that a therapist would would give me would be, you know, these things that I have to both remember how to do remember to do them? And then also, I don't know, do them at the right way, or whatever. Or maybe there isn't like a right way. But it's like there's just full of doubt, you know, like, wondering if I'm doing it the right way or not. So I was I was wondering if there's if you have some plans, with cognitive therapy, like specifically about, you know, I don't know about how to approach like, sort of things like that.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah, I think in our case, probably, cognitive behavioral therapy is probably just kind of in the MVP, or the beginning stages. What kind of planning to do is like, have it be a little bit of a guided sort of prompt thing, but hopefully, with not too many prompts, like Cameron mentioned, which is definitely an issue in a lot of apps. So it's kind of like, choose your emotion. You can write down something, record something and be done with that. Or if you want to, like, get more insight onto things and challenge some of your thoughts. It'll then take you on, like, guided like two more questions like, what's a cognitive, like a cognitive behavioral distortion that you're facing right now. gives you some info about what those are, and asks you to kind of challenge the thought in some way. And, you know, if, and that that journey, I think is more optional. And sort of like, if you just want to record, record yourself just event, it's kind of like that's an option too. And if you do want more, more of that info and more like, I guess more deeper CBT stuff, then it's a little bit guided scope and more questions on that. Our eventual hope is that the app kind of becomes a sort of like a custom journey based on like your work with like your therapist or psychiatrist, whoever. We're hoping that like health professionals can like prescribe a journey for the app that's tailored towards the user.

Dan Ott:

That's really interesting. Yeah, that I hadn't really thought about. I mean, they don't always like, there's a lot of apps out there. But not always connected, you know, to like to therapy, right. And it's kind of okay, therapy is either not doing it for me or, you know, something like that. And people are kind of going on in their own life on to the App Store. You know,

Rahat Chowdhury:

I think CBT definitely doesn't work for everybody. So, yeah, our goal is just to like, while we're starting there, we just want to figure out like, something easy and simple for people to do that is helpful for them. And just based on stuff that an actual therapist would recommend for them to do on their own time.

Cameron Bardell:

Like Rahat said earlier, there's tons of room space very, like very individual responses. I mean, that's the whole problem with mental health. It's the problem. And the solution, I guess, is that it's so varied for an individual for everyone. So yeah, there's just tons of different ways to build tools like this. And you know, part of figuring out how to control your own mental health is you might have to try a lot of these different things, and most of them won't work. And that's really hard and frustrating. But it's part of the journey.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, and I think, you know, they're all valuable, because everybody approaches it a different way. And I think that technology is really changing the face of how we view mental health, I mean, even openness to talking about it, and having these conversations I know, like, in my mental health journey, it would not be nearly as productive as it was, if I didn't talk to other people who I never would have met on if I weren't on Twitter, or online, or whatever, you know. So hearing other people's stories kind of guided my journey and where I was going, but it looks different for every person. And the more we learn about it, I think using technology also helps us better identify the problems and the solutions that will work for different people.

Cameron Bardell:

And the good thing about using technology for that kind of things, it's impartial, like a big part of the reason why I built what I built is that like uncompressing things and graphs and numbers. And so I wanted to see like, kind of the true history of of what I was feeling. And so I looked and when I was doing this research, I found out that there's a lot of studies that show that if you ask people how they're feeling, at a certain time, and on a scale of one to 10, like I said, like say they get a text and they have to save How do I feel right now? And and you do that multiple times, maybe throw it a day throughout the week? And then you ask them later on? Looking back? How did you feel on average, and total, those two numbers almost never lined up? How people say they feel at the moment is not how they say they felt later. So that was one of another one of the reasons I made the thing that you have to do. And what you don't have to you can do it as many times as you want. But you know, ideally twice a day, and you do it right in the moment really quickly. It's just really important to have that kind of self knowledge and be able to look back and see things trending up or down in different directions. Like my app doesn't offer any kind of therapy or any information other than what you give it. It's just, it's just a personal record.

Dan Ott:

That's really cool.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, I Cameron, I wanted to talk about something that you said in slack. The other day, too, I think it was somewhere near you is trying to help people feel connected during the time of the pandemic. And I'm always, you know, found that community is the most important part of growing through mental health challenges. Can you just talk a little bit about what they were doing there? Because I found it like, this really kind of simple, but beautiful way of connecting people.

Cameron Bardell:

Yeah, that was a really interesting project. Um, so it's called, I go to University of Waterloo, which is, like common engineering and science based school in Ontario. And so I just saw on Twitter that a couple of engineering students put together this project, and it's basically a heat map of the university campus and where people report they've cried on campus, which sounds kind of funny, I think it's really interesting because their, their stated goal is just to show people, like when you get, you know, into kind of worked up emotional state like that, I think it's really normal to kind of want to hide yourself, you know, you want to make you want to go be alone somewhere, and you kind of experienced that on your own. But, yeah, they just put together this map just to show that, you know, if you've done it, if you're struggling with it, then someone else's do. And they've got it's a heat map, like I said, and then there's also just kind of some people did more personalized stories. So I thought that was a really interesting project, especially during a pandemic and we're all more isolated than ever.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, that idea of, of connecting people is is really important. I think that, you know, you do sometimes get in that moment where you think like, well, I'm the only one that feels this way, but just like having a simple visual of like, Oh, I cried, but look at somebody right over there did two.

Cameron Bardell:

I'm looking at the map right now and I'm like, Oh, look at the engineering building. I've had long nights there too.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, I think that's really, really great. Okay, so I would love you talked a little bit about, you know how you kind of got into pursuing these. So it sounds like for both of you, there's some type of personal component to this. And I'd love to know, or if you are up for talking a little bit more about, like the inspiration behind this. And if you learned anything new about yourself, or, you know, what you were doing through through this journey, that would be awesome.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah, I think, for me, so the idea for this client came out of like, my own personal experiences, going to therapy, trying to take care of my own mental health and all that. And, like, the, one of the main things was like, therapy is helpful. But it's only 45 minutes, once or twice a month, or every other week, or something like that. And there's all this other time in between, where just like, I, I'm not sure, sometimes, like, I guess, how to take care of myself for, you know, try to, I guess, make my mental health better in some way. So that was like a large part of the conversation that I was having with my therapist. And she would give me like different prompts and stuff. And like, sort of like CBT based things to try out on my own, is writing stuff out. And it was pretty helpful. And the thing that I realized was really helpful for me was like, when I in those moments, when I was able to remember back to like, a positive thing, kind of related to whatever I was doing. Like, if, like, if I was having a crappy day at work, but then thinking about another time where, you know, something went right at work, that was sometimes pretty helpful. So that was kind of like a lot of the basis for the app itself of like, having some positive reinforcement in those negative times.

Dan Ott:

Yeah, that's really cool. I have I also have trouble with it the connection between like, different appointments and and just sort of everything, it seems to make sense, you know, when you walk out of an appointment, and then a week later, you're like, I don't? I don't know. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't you know, like, all the all that stuff. I guess a place where like technology can, you know, like, really shine? I think if you know, if applied correctly.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Cameron, I don't know, if you want to share, you don't have to, but

Cameron Bardell:

yeah, no, totally. Yeah, part of my like, journey with personal mental health, I guess I started struggling with anxiety in my pre early teens, and kind of kept them to myself for a long time. So like, I feel like most of the last several years, for me has been a process of opening it up to slowly, like, wider and wider circle of people. So it started eventually, like, you know, talking to my parents, and then they helped me a lot. And then you know, from there, I was like, okay, that worked out pretty well. And then I, you know, started talking to a doctor, and then I'll do more, as well, this seems to be a trend. So then, you know, you start opening up to a wider circle of people. So my friends, you know, you guys eventually. And now here I am on a podcast talking about it. That's been a really important part of the process. For me, we have a Slack channel in, in Virtual Coffee, where we talk about these sorts of things. And, you know, people have been, you know, pretty open. And, you know, not everyone has to be open, and just something that happens to me personally, I would never say that, like, I don't even know how to phrase this. Like, I would never tell anyone that they should go and talk about their experiences, because it will definitely help. You know, it might not depends, it just happened out for me. And I only came to that realization after like several years of struggling. So yeah, that's, that's kind of been an ongoing thing for me.

Dan Ott:

Yeah, that's actually been a trend we've noticed with Virtual Coffee. And not just with mental health, although definitely with mental health, and even just being becoming a developer or learning, finding, you know, finding a job, all of these things that over and over again, we have people that come in or just feel alone in our field, like they're the only ones are feeling something's wrong with them that because they are struggling finding a job or struggling learning, you know, anything, learning anything in tech and is or struggling with, you know, mental things and finding other people that are also, you know, going through a lot of the same

Cameron Bardell:

And I would encourage you to say like you things. don't even have to say anything, when you're in these spaces, like you can just go and be a lurker until you feel comfortable. I mean, you'll never feel comfortable sharing yourself that you can go and see what other people are saying. And maybe that's something that could help like that includes like you know, mental stuff in the job search and I know Bekah's been and several other people in the Slack've been leading the way on like a neuro-diversity channel, which is really great to see. So all those kinds of things you can you can reach out and find these spaces and you don't have to be sure if it's right for you to share. You can definitely kind of hang out for a while and it's take your bearings, and maybe just It's not for you. And that's okay, too. But yeah, you don't have to feel pressured to say anything.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah, I think a pretty good other benefit that comes from that is like, just knowing that you're not alone, sort of. There's other people kind of like going through similar stuff. I think there's definitely just like power and let's like not feeling as alone. Like, for me, especially when I started doing talks on it, and kind of like openly talking about it. And so like, other people responding by like, Hey, you know, I go through this kind of similar stuff, too. It's just like, it was kind of, maybe not, I don't know, good is the right where to save, but more like, just, it doesn't feel as bad going through it, knowing that you're not going to be by yourself.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

For sure,

Cameron Bardell:

like, it kind of shows that like, the progress isn't linear, either. Like it's normal And honestly in some ways, kind of important to have back slides. And then and then show yourself that you can get through them. You know, if you feel like you've made progress, and then you revert back for a little bit, that's a normal part of the process. And you shouldn't, you know, something that I like to say is you shouldn't feel bad about feeling bad. Like, you don't have to beat yourself up over your lack of progress or any of these areas. So again, it's the recovery, like showing you that you have shown yourself that you have the strength to recover from something like that is really important as well.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, I um, So my journey into tech started with a trauma that I went through. And so I talked a lot about it about having anxiety, depression, PTSD, but like one of the most pivotal moments for me was when I was in boot camp, my educational coach, who was assigned to me and she said, Hey, can I share a story with you? I said, Sure. And she said, I went through trauma, too, I was run over by a semi truck. And that was the first person I had ever talked to you about trauma. And our traumas are very, very different. But all of the words that she were saying, they were the words that had gone through my head so many times. And I finally realized that I wasn't alone. So I had spent so much time alone in in that, that that just moment of connection was enough to like, give me hope to keep going. And that was my trauma was four years ago. And I gave a talk about it the other day, told the story many, many times. And I just started crying and I don't ever cry, sorry, on a screen full of people just crying couldn't get it couldn't get it together. And it was that feeling of like being super frustrated at myself, like why? Why is this happening now? And a talk that's recorded, that's gonna be on YouTube, right. And so I wrote a little post on my trauma blog about it. And somebody messaged me, and she said, This is what I needed to hear in this moment, because she had also gone through a trauma and a couple of years ago, and suddenly, she was like, hit with that moment, too. And just felt like very frustrated with herself. And so it exactly what you're saying, Cameron, it's like, it's not linear, right? Like, there's gonna be waves and somebody wants said, like, it doesn't go away, but it gets different. And I think that, you know, that might be specific to trauma. But, you know, we find these moments in our lives, where we're like, man, I really thought that I was past this. And that can be hard. But when you connect with somebody else, and you can kind of talk about it together, then you realize, like, okay, you know, like, we we've got this together.

Cameron Bardell:

It can be helpful, too, if you've been, like you said, you have your own words in your head so much. And maybe you don't know if it makes sense. Because these things can often be really hard to put words to because it's not something that necessarily has like a physical analogy for everyone. So if you can, like kind of, say these words out loud, and someone says, Yeah, no, that makes sense. That makes you feel a little less lost sometimes.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, also, I think, you know, if we're talking technology, too, sometimes. Sometimes you can deny things to yourself, right? But if the data is in front of you, like, okay, I've been tracking my mood for this long for the last, however much time, maybe maybe I'm not being honest with myself about how bad I feel right now. Or good. Maybe you feel good, hopefully.

Cameron Bardell:

People aren't good at, um like, I don't know, maybe you're not it's not that you're not being honest with yourself. People just aren't really not good at self evaluation. We human brains work. It's not. It's not necessarily like intentional or otherwise, like deluding yourself or lying to yourself, or whatever you want to call it. It's just not an easy, normal thing to do.

Dan Ott:

Mm hmm. Yeah. And that kind of circles back to some of the cognitive behavioral therapy stuff is your brain like, will actually actively lie to you about things? is, yeah, well, like we said at the beginning, we could probably all talk about this for A long, long, long time, kind of moving moving on. So you're both pretty busy, you have a lot of side projects going on and along with, you know, career stuff and family stuff, school. So we were wondering how each of you sort of balance your, your own mental health, like with with work and the side projects and everything else that goes along with being, you know, a human in the, you know, in 2021, Rahat, we'll start with you yet at a talk, one of our lightning talks last year was sort of about some of this. So, I start with you, and see what your thoughts were.

Rahat Chowdhury:

yeah, for me, I tend to forget a lot of times to really stop and just like, not work on all the different things I'm working on for a little bit. So the way I've recently been managing it is just like, trying to remember that, you know, I have a daughter, now I need some time for her, I need some time for myself, I need some time to just like unwind from everything, because there is a ton of stuff I'm doing right now. And it took it takes a lot of work for me to like, get past my own, I guess, self imposed deadlines on things that don't actually mean anything. And the way I had sort of tried to accept a little exercise I do just in my head is like pretend that like I'm a stakeholder in a meeting, and I'm like pushing the state back a little bit like, Hey, we don't need it till this time. That's something that kind of works for me a little bit. And then those moments, I'll try to like go and like just take a walk or play some video games, or anything like that, and just try to get away from what I'm working on. And just like, also trying to remind myself that if I want to work quickly through things, then I need to take a break. Because I've like gone through burnout before, like, not being able to do something for a couple months. And just kind of like to me that in my head of like, if I don't stop sometimes, and just like take a breath. I won't be able to continue doing as much stuff as I hope to do.

Dan Ott:

Yeah, totally. I think that's, I mean, we've sort of talked about this before, but I think that that's like a great. A great thing to do consciously is sort of try to jam, like not jam those breaks into your schedule, but like actually schedule, you know, breaks in and make sure you're taking care of them. Cameron, do you have anything like, I don't know, specific that you do to try to, you know, take care of yourself all, you know, getting everything done. And you know,

Cameron Bardell:

I guess I'm coming out with a bit of a period where I've like been bouncing around on a lot of different things. Because about a year ago, for a long time, I was kind of torn between whether I would do like science and research or just go into tech. And about a year ago, I finally decided, Okay, texts can be the thing. So at that point, I started doing like a bunch more freelancing and did a couple internships and side projects and stuff sounds like, okay, here's what I need to do to get into the tech industry. And then, you know, a couple weeks ago, I just got hired full time. So then that period of like doing a whole bunch of stuff and bouncing around is kind of settling down now. So in back, it's like reevaluating and focusing on Okay, here's the main things I need to do. Like, I need to do like this much. Well, I need to work, you know, 40 hours a week, and I need to do this much school, and then he also needs to exercise. So I've been coming out of kind of a chaotic period and settling into more of a routine the past few weeks, which isn't really nice. Yeah, but I still think that that period of working hard was important, because I ended up in a place that I really wanted to get and yeah, it was hard for a while. But here I am.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I think too, when you can see, this isn't a forever thing there, this is going to end then it makes it feel a little bit more doable. But there's also this, like natural tendency in tech. I think tech just moves so quickly, right? That people feel this, this need to hustle all the time. And that's like, I can't stand that word, hustle. But like to continue to keep doing stuff all the time. And I find that as much as I don't like that word. I have a really hard time turning off my brain when there's always something to be done because, you know, like, tech moves fast and so do people so

Cameron Bardell:

I really kind of like it's kind of a strong word, but I kind of detest that part of Twitter's like, I don't know Silicon Valley like VC hustle porn kind of like if you're not working you're losing money. Everyone should be the founder kind of thing which is not true. Not everyone should be a founder, being a founder kind of sucks Yeah, and yeah, I don't know. I just like it. What you said about having a deadline was was really stood out to me because yeah, like I had so when I made the decision to go into tech, I had a year and a half left in my degree. Okay, so I'm going to work really hard for this next year and a half, and then I'm going to be settled into a career hopefully. And having that deadline really helped. And then when I got hired full time, I had four months left in my undergrad degree. So just to make the full time work, I stretched that out into eight months. So starting in August, I'll be done with school and just working. And then I feel like then, you know, like I said, Even now, I'm working less hard than it was three or four months ago, but even past the summer, I'll be pretty fully settled in just having that in mind really helps.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, and I know Rahat too, you have been working on a book. And at some point, you tweeted that you were talking about like building a mental health breaks, which I just really loved that idea. Because we're always focusing on like, you've got to learn, you've got to learn fast boot camps are moving people through quickly, everybody's looking for jobs. And that idea of like, okay, you can learn, but let's pause and take care of you. And I just found that concept really, really fascinating. Are you is that make it does it? Did it make a place? And does it have a place? Does that have that can't do it?

Dan Ott:

Is that in your book?

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yes, I've definitely built it into Cypress I've been writing recently. Like at the end, depending on like what subject I cover in that specific chapter, like, there's one where talking about like, trying to find other people similar, like in the same journey as you are going into tech and seeing like, you know, if you can band together to work on some stuff. And at the end, I kind of like, I want to have like a sort of like a normal, kind of like an alert box type thing at the end of like, Hey, you know, reaching out to people can be hard. talking to people is pretty hard. Especially if you're like me have some social anxiety and stuff. And, you know, if you've talked to a couple people, great, you don't have to keep doing it. Take a break, just remember to take care of yourself stuff like that. And that there's a little like alerts, like at the end of each chapter like that, based on whatever we covered. It's just like, it's awesome that you're doing this, but you should also be taking care of yourself as well.

Dan Ott:

That's really cool.

Cameron Bardell:

Like I said, Sorry, just to jump in quick. I guess I like these boot camps and online, different online. learning platforms, whether it's Udemy, or like something self directed like that, they kind of try to push you through, like you said, and finish quickly. And that's they present it in ways if that's good for you, and it's not as good for them, then they can get more people in charge more people more money. So yeah, of course, they have to present that in a way that makes it seem like it's for you.

Dan Ott:

Yeah, it seems that's actually that's an interesting point. And in the boot camps, from what I've heard, it seems like they're either in a like, kind of class, like they're where people are pushing and pushing, or it's either that or you're in the self guided path. And it from what I've heard, and I don't have full experience with this, but from what I've heard, it's sort of like very much on your own point, you know, and so you can go try to go faster, or you go slow, or you lost or whatever, but you're sort of like drifting off on your own. I think, yeah, getting getting some, some of that thought into learning, like learning materials and learning, you know, courses and programs. It seems very important. A lot, a lot of people struggling in boot camps. From what I've learned over the last over the last year.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah, that's definitely like a culture and a lot of boot camps that needs to change. Because, yeah, we're just kind of pushing and pushing and not reminding people to just take a break. Like, I also do, I'm a TA at a boot camp part time. And like, one of my students was asking me, like, how do I get better JavaScript? How do I like, do more stuff to, you know, keep, keep building. I tried to work on things every single day, for X amount of hours. And I'm just like, take a break sometimes, and just let the information kind of sink in. Because sometimes you just need to walk away from it to like, let yourself absorb it. Sometimes just like walking away is like one of the best things you can do to like, solve a problem. Like there's countless Simon I think a lot of people talking about it of like, you know, you're going through trying to fix a bug. You don't know what's going on, you walk away, you come back and you know what's going on now? Because you need to refresh or you need to just like step away sometimes.

Dan Ott:

Absolutely.

Cameron Bardell:

Yeah. Motivation is like a finite resource.

Dan Ott:

Yeah, yeah. I feel like that. The go take a walk is it's gotta be like, when people are having a, you know, when people are like, I can't figure this thing out. You know, it's like, when you're doing tech support, you know, the first question is, why did you turn it off and turn it back on again? Right. And so when you do like bug support, you're like, Okay, did you did you take a walk? Have you stepped away from the computer, yet? Separate from the computer and come back. And then let's see if you're still having the same problem.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

It's so hard to I think in boot camps, there's that sense of loneliness and lack of community, especially for online boot camps with self paced students that don't prioritize community. And then you you find that problem. So you can take a walk and come back and have nobody to ask, right. And so it's like, Boot Camps come with built in loneliness, like, I don't know, that needs to be advertised or something.

Cameron Bardell:

Yeah. In our slack at VC Meg was talking about that. She's doing the self guided boot camp. And she can't do it as fast as some of her peers because she's working at the same time. So she's kind of fell behind like the people she started with just for lack of time. And then I think that contributed to some of your dissatisfaction.

Dan Ott:

Yeah, absolutely. Um, she's one of the people I was thinking about. Marie was, while she was on the podcast a couple episodes ago, but was talking about, she did a, like the scheduled one, right, but they didn't have a lot of support. And she was struggling. And so she basically strong armchair class into doing study groups, and they all found it, you know, I mean, they all found it very valuable, you know, but it was not a program thing. You know, it was it was Marie, doing it, because she wanted the support. And it turned out other people, you know, found it valuable, too.

Cameron Bardell:

It's the same way I pass like undergrad, just having groups of people to study with, um, you know, that went away for a lot of people in the pandemic, and I can't imagine what it would have been like, as the first thing you're going to do that. And the only way I passed, you know, second year calculus is because I was doing it with a group of friends. So yeah, I definitely feel bad for those people.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I was talking to a mom recently, and I cannot remember she's going through a boot camp or a self taught, she's doing like a guided. Can't talk today. Can't remember if she is self taught or doing a boot camp, but one of the things she was saying was, it's just so hard to find time, you know, a lot of moms are at home with kids right now, because of the pandemic, and there's not childcare. And so she's saying, Yeah, you know, like, I guide, my students do their schoolwork all day, and then I say, up from like, 1230 until 330. And then I've got to get up at seven, you know, and it's like, okay, let, let's break this down a little bit and figure out something that's, that's doable, and maintainable. And that allows you to get rest, because a rested brain is going to absorb the material more, but, you know, there's this pressure to continue to go all the time, despite everything else. And you I don't know, you can't really strong arm your way through. Well, I was gonna say through through lack of sleep, but parenthood kind of makes you do that. So maybe you can

Dan Ott:

also, you know, confirms that it's not a good idea, by the end of the choices you're making, after four weeks of not sleeping, you can just see. It's good stuff.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

So I've been doing like a deep dive into deep learning and mental health. And I've been like, very, very fascinated by all of the different ways that they are approaching mental health with technology and how I think that's gonna provide more individualistic care for four people and a dress, like I think, you know, really understanding what mental health looks like. And so I think that that's really exciting. But I also feel like, you know, there's this this tendency, like, I'm so excited about this thing, but you're gonna have to wait forever for it to come out and to apply to apply it to your own life. But I think that, you know, all of these little things that bring us hope can be really useful. I don't know if there's anything that you found that you're like, yes, this is really helpful, whether it's for you, or someone you know, or for your projects in terms of tech and mental health, but I'd love to hear about it.

Cameron Bardell:

don't have anything, you know, anything like deep learning or AI or anything like that, I did take some of my own trend data and kind of feed it into a prediction engine in a classification engine, just to see if we can find anything. I didn't find anything that useful, mostly because my dad is like, pretty one dimensional. But yeah, nothing that I've used, personally comes right to mind. But like you said, you know, we're kind of using our own experiences to look at these things. And you said, Well, maybe it'll take a long time for these to come out and be available to use ourselves but or we could use our experiences to build them for the next group of people. And they can improve upon what we build. I think that's kind of the dream of the tech industry is that things keep improving. Hopefully we'll see how it goes.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah, deep learning stuff is cool. We actually, like one component of our app is like the whole reminder of something, you know, relevant to what you're going through right now. And we're building this with like, AWS amplify, which gives us access to a couple cool, like machine learning stuff that they have kind of built in. And right now, we're kind of like trying to figure out the best way to kind of compare one entry, that you're not having a good day on to something that's like, relevant, but you did have a good day on to remind you of stuff. So while we're kind of like using that, I guess API for now, what we kind of want to do eventually is probably build something of our own based on like, what our users are actually going through. So we have someone on board who's kind of like leading that a little bit. And, yeah, I think there's a lot of room to do some cool stuff with deep learning and mental health.

Dan Ott:

That's pretty interesting. I know, I keep coming back to the cognitive therapy stuff, but like yet, like adding that little aspect into it. And you're saying, like, for example, you're like, you're really upset, because you feel like you can't do a thing or something. And then the app can be like, Well, here, actually, here's proof that you have done a similar thing. You know, like six times in the past, like, since we've started, you know, working together, or something like that, that could be really, really valuable.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah, definitely.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Always, um, you know, like, after I finally felt like I was a, I had my trauma under control, I always would talk to people about this idea of like, having this experience in your back pocket, like, Look, I was able to make it through this. And it was really challenging for a period of time, but I've developed these tools, or like, I know that I need community, or I know that this is going to be a trigger for me to predict some of those things. But at the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself again, frustrated with myself, because I thought, you know, so much of what I feel like I'm going through, like, I lost my job, my kids were at home, and I was supervising their schooling. And I just felt like really isolated and alone. I'm like, I have navigated through this before. But I'm crying every single night. Like, what, what, why, why can't I make it through this and, and like, ultimately, what I remembered was, hey, unity plays a really big role in that, right. And so that's, that's how Virtual Coffee was started. Because I was like, hey, anyone want to get together because I feel really lonely. But then also, recognizing that I wasn't the only one going through the experience of the pandemic, and the effects of it, like, everybody was experiencing it. And that's very different from navigating your own situation. And so, you know, I think, for me, at least, I have this tendency to be really frustrated with myself when I think like, I should have the skills or the tools or whatever to make it through this, but also, not every experience is the same. And that's gonna vary from time to time. So there's learning new things, and there's growing as a person. And I think that, you know, being able to share those things, and the first couple Virtual Coffee, that's what they were, it was like, I'm frustrated, there's a pandemic, and I'm very sad about it right now. But that's what creates that like closeness and that ability for vulnerability and, you know, for for other people to be able to share their stories as well.

Dan Ott:

Word.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Sorry, I feel like I did a monologue. You can cut that.

Cameron Bardell:

No, don't cut that!

Rahat Chowdhury:

That was awesome.

Dan Ott:

No, I think it was great. I just didn't have anything really to add.

Rahat Chowdhury:

I'm not sad. Yeah.

Dan Ott:

Okay, so wrapping up. I guess just the last question that is a little more general. We, in Virtual Coffee, talk a lot about you know, finding teams and you know, finding jobs and stuff like that. So when you're thinking about either joining a company or creating a team to work on a project, what is what is like a characteristic what just just like pick one, but what is one characteristic that you value in people and the people you work with? We'll start with Rahat.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah, I mean, I've been recently applying for jobs and stuff. So one thing I've been kind of like, asking a lot about is like, how the culture is in terms of like pair programming. I love like learning things from like my experience steps. So if there's like a environment for that, that's definitely something super important to me. I've had a couple of companies Tell me straight up that Yeah, we don't really have time for that, like, probably don't want to continue with you then. So, yeah, I mean, I feel like that kind of like, shows you a little bit about how, you know, senior devs kind of like support, the more junior ones. And I guess the overall team dynamic of like, having that willingness to just like hop on a call or something with somebody and help them through a problem.

Dan Ott:

Yeah, absolutely. I found pair programming, too, it's, it's sometimes it's a top down issue, right, you know, so. So like, you could have a senior developer, be willing, or you know, willing to talk and willing to do stuff like that. But when you phrase it as like pair programming, then management gets jumpy, because two people and two people are working on the same problem or whatever. So yeah, I think that's, that's really important to think about when you're finding people to work with. Cameron, what about you?

Cameron Bardell:

Yeah, that was a good one. One thing I noticed, I was doing a bunch of interviewing, I interviewed a lot of places, even something like that, I was pretty sure I would take a job just to kind of find out what the tech industry was like, because I didn't really know. And one thing I noticed was, that kind of stood out to me with some places don't ever talk about like, the products they're building. And if you can't really tell if they care about what they're building, or if they want to feel good. And yeah, I just really wanted to build something where like, everybody wanted to actually make it good. You know, even if it was something that would just be an internal tool, or you know, something that's in kind of like a boring industry, like, I still want to make something that's nice to use and looks good, and sports accessibility and all these things. See, I kind of I was definitely more willing to talk to people who seem to care and know a lot about the product and want to continually improve it instead of just make it good enough.

Dan Ott:

Yeah, I think that's I think that's great. I feel like that's usually a good sign that like, people are invested in it, too. And don't have a lot of turnover. You know, if you have a new new people that are coming and going all the time, then you can't like build any connection to it. Right. So

Cameron Bardell:

yeah. Especially a lot of the startups was working at I thought do it all, like, deeply care about, like the thing that we're building, but they didn't.

Dan Ott:

They deep, deeply? Yeah. Maybe

Cameron Bardell:

the money they were making? Yeah, right.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Awesome. Thanks for being here. We really enjoyed having this conversation. But before we leave, can you let us know if there's anything you're up to? Or how our listeners can find you?

Cameron Bardell:

Sure, yeah, you can always you can find me at Virtual Coffee, obviously, twice a week. You can find me on Twitter, at @cameronbardell. And that's where you can see me doing most of my stuff, kind of, I don't have a lot of time for doing like open source work right now. But I hope to get started back up in the next few months. So yeah.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Yeah. You can also find me on Virtual Coffee. I usually come to the afternoon meetings. And yeah, I'm on Twitter @rahatcodes. And if you're into open source and stuff definitely come from our contributors to my Men's Health project. So definitely check that out.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Awesome.

Dan Ott:

That's awesome. Well, obviously the link of that in the show notes. Okay, well, thank you both for joining us. And we will catch up with you guys and, and Virtual Coffee.

Cameron Bardell:

Thanks, guys. Always great.

Rahat Chowdhury:

Thank you.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel, and edited by Dan Ott. If you have questions or comments, you can hit us up on Twitter @VirtualCoffeeIO. Or you can email us at podcast@virtualcoffee.io. You can find the show notes. Plus you can sign up for our newsletter to find out what Virtual Coffee has been up to on our website at virtualcoffee.io.

Dan Ott:

Please subscribe to our podcast and write a review. Next week we'll have Drew Clements on the podcast to talk about building a career and a community. Thanks for listening everyone.


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