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Colleen Schnettler -- Tech: It's hard, but it's worth it

Season 1, Episode 7 | February 21, 2021

In this episode, Bekah and Dan are joined by Colleen Schnettler to talk about the challenges women face in the workplace, the benefits of working for yourself, and growing her SaaS business.


Colleen Schnettler's profile photo
Colleen Schnettler

Ruby on Rails consultant at Bitmapped Designs.

Show Notes:

In this episode, we talk to Colleen Schnettler about the challenges of being a woman in the workplace, the benefits of working for yourself, and building her own SaaS business. Colleen is a Ruby on Rails consultant, who recently launched her first product, a career changer, and a mom. Colleen talks about how difficult it is to learn to code; it will take time and commitment, but when you get there, it will all be worth it.

Colleen:

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Transcript:

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Hello, and welcome to season 1, episode 7 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. In this episode, we talked to Colleen Schnettler. Colleen is a Ruby on Rails consultant who recently launched her first product called Simple File Upload. She's also a career changer and a mom. We discussed the challenges of being a woman in the workplace, the benefits of working for yourself, and how difficult it can be to learn to code in the first place. It can take time and commitment, but when you get there, it will all be worth it.

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 what movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of? We hope you enjoy this episode. Hey, I'm Bekah, I'm a front end developer from a small town in Ohio. And if I could watch any movie over and over, it would depend on my mood and the genre. But The Sandlot and The Princess Bride are solid choices.

Dan Ott:

Oh, yeah. Princess Bride, it's really good. Um, I'm not... Sandlot, I've never been a huge fan of. Which is like, I know, I know it's, I know. But it's just like there's a mean dog. And I don't know, it's just too much for me.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

The dog's not really mean. Spoiler alert. (laugh)

Dan Ott:

All right, well, (laugh) maybe I should watch it again. Hi, I'm Dan, I do front end development from Cleveland, Ohio. My movie that I watch, can pretty much watch anytime is The Matrix, I guess. And also, Thor Ragnarok more recently. But I've, that movie came out, what, four years ago? I don't know when it came out exactly. But I think I've watched it like 20 times, so... (laugh) That's, I mean, it's a good, I don't know, like watched every second of it. But I like it.

Colleen Schnettler:

I'm Colleen. I'm a Rails developer. I am right now on the East Coast, but about to move to the West Coast. And a movie I could watch over and over would be Moana. I mean, it's just like the perfect movie. The music is amazing. The story is amazing. It's funny. I know I'm giving myself a way as like having to have watched it a million times. But I never get sick of it.

Dan Ott:

It is the perfect movie. My kids have gotten sick of it. Because I'm, and yeah, we could have a whole podcast about movies that I've unwillingly watched a million times (laugh). That's a whole separate, separate question. But Moana is awesome.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I feel like I need to go back and watch Moana again, coz I think I fell asleep or got bored.

Dan Ott:

It's just so good. And you know, happy and, I don't know. It's good. I like it.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I like the soundtrack. "I am Mo..." Okay. We can cut that. I don't mean, I'm not gonna sing. (laugh) Anyway, thanks for being here, Colleen. We are super happy to have you on the podcast. And, um, when we start off the podcast, we just always like to get the origin story of our guests. So you have quite an origin story. You're a career changer as well. But let's just kind of start there. How'd you get into software engineering?

Colleen Schnettler:

Sure. So my background is actually in electrical engineering. So very hard work, hardware focused. And the first half of my career I worked at the shipyard, at a shipyard in Newport News, where we were working on some of the electronic systems surrounding naval aircraft carriers. And I ended up leaving that job to stay home with my children. And then I stayed home with the kids for three or four years. And it was around that time when I was staying home when I was getting ready to go back to work, that I really, really wanted flexible and remote work. And it's so hard to find that. Even with an engineering background. My previous work had been so hands on that there was no opportunity, especially in defense contracting, there was no opportunity for me to do that work remotely. And so I started looking for other opportunities. And I started trying to teach myself to learn to code. I released an iOS app, which I don't know that I've mentioned before, maybe I have. Anyway, in like, 2012, and it was a disaster and like, the thing hardly worked. I mean, you have to pay Apple $100 a month to be in their developer program. So, yeah, right? (laugh) So, it was, um, it didn't work out the way I had hoped. I did everything wrong. Like, I did everything wrong with this iOS app. But what I realized what was, there was a way I could stay in my house and work and get paid. And so the process took many, many, many years to get where I am today, but I just kind of started chipping away at learning web development, because I saw that as an opportunity for flexible remote work.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, that is awesome. I think the first CodeNewbie podcast I ever listened to was your episode. And it was so great, because I was like, okay, like, look, look, she did this. And I don't know, it gave me a lot of confidence to keep moving forward with my journey. So very much appreciate you sharing your story and being willing to talk through that journey.

Colleen Schnettler:

That's awesome. I'm glad you got something out of it.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I also like to ask everybody, their history with Virtual Coffee. So how did you come to Virtual Coffee?

Colleen Schnettler:

So I have forever been looking for a community, with, with people on the internet, right? Like, I'm, I'm not great in big groups. I love people. And I love interacting with people. But like, if you put me in a Zoom room with like, 10 people or more, I'm out. Like, I'm mentally checked out. Like, I just can't really wrap my brain around that. And so I've actually joined several groups. Internet, internet groups, I don't know what you call this (laugh). Community is a better word. I've joined several communities. But the ones I've joined, I've had two really distinct problems. The first problem is that it's just so hard to foster authentic connection on the internet with large groups of people. It just is like, if you don't get to know someone, it's just I really struggle with that. And the second thing is I have joined some paid communities. And they're paid for like, because I'm trying to, I'm starting a business. So I've joined some of those communities. And those are more like highlight reels of everyone's success. So it's almost like people are just like, dropping in to tell you how awesome they are and to promote their product. And, and of course, we're all trying to protect ourselves, right? I get it. But it doesn't, that doesn't do anything for me. I'm sure you're doing great. That's wonderful. But it's hard for me to find, really until I found you guys. You know, it was just, I didn't find a community where people were honest. And I think we have pandemic. We're all at home. We got our kids running around like, we need a space to be honest.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, for sure. And I feel like I also recruited you. I was like, oh, you're super cool.

Colleen Schnettler:

Oh yeah. That's too. You actually did. Like, I hate that I'm so high maintenance that you had to recruit me. Like, like, I saw you on Twitter talking about it. And I was like, I should do that. But like, I was just so overwhelmed by the current demands on my time. Like, it was just like, I cannot, I can't do another, I was like, I can't do another Slack group. I can't do another fake community. No offense. I didn't know at the time, it was like, I can't do another group of people that don't really like, like, connect. And you did. You sent me a message and asked me specifically. So again, I'm sorry, I'm such a pain that you had to told me in. But after you did, it's been really great. And I really appreciate you reaching out and inviting me.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, no, I'm very glad you're here, obviously, because I reached out and made sure that you came because I wanted you here too. So yeah, I'm glad that I did that.

Dan Ott:

That's, that's really interesting. The point you were making about there was the private community where, you know, the highlight real thing, you know, as you termed it, right? The, everybody's always, I don't know, they, motivation for sharing your successes is I suppose fairly clear, you know? But the, you know, I found, I found similar, I've found, I've had similar issues with community, online communities where I've just never really connected, you know, as well. And the highlight real thing is aspect that I, I've never liked, framed it that way. Like the... you want to be able to share your wins, you know, and get high fives or whatever. But, but the fact that like you'd, like being very honest and shared, being able to share, you know, I don't know. I don't like saying failures, you know, but like, not wins, you know? Hardships and struggles, you know, things like that, I see it's something that sort of happened naturally here. But it is, I mean, it is one of the like, things that we, we very much value and I think, really does, you know, make Virtual Coffee unique. (laugh)

Colleen Schnettler:

Well, I think the thing that's, that's important to remember is it's because of the leadership team. Which is you guys. I mean, Bekah'll drop in some like super personal stuff. And I'm like, whoa, like your midweek check-in, it was like a couple months ago, you like drop this, like, super personal midweek check-in. And I was like, oh, like, this is a real midweek check-in like, we're actually gonna be honest. Okay, I can do that. But I'm just not, I think guys, too, for me, like, I've been a woman in engineering for like, 20 years now. Minus the four years I was home. And so I am super, super, because the way I've been treated in the past, like, just honestly, I'm super protective of myself and my abilities. And I think that mostly I, because of that, I always try to present myself a very specific way, because I feel so judged all the time. And that's just a culmination of 10 years working in an office and just having to deal with that. And so I have this really like, I don't know if you say chip on my shoulder, I'd rather say defense mechanism. But I have this like, really serious shield in front of me. So I'm not going to go into a group. And these groups I'm in are all men, too, mostly. Like the paid community I'm in (laugh), there's like, maybe five other women. And so, you know, I really always have those shields up, because I feel like I'm just judged differently. Whether it's true or not, I don't know. But it's just my perception.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

No, I feel that so much. And I think it, for me, this is (laugh) a very new experience sharing very open things about myself. Because I spent a lot of years like with the shield up and doing exactly what you're saying. And then at one point, I just, I couldn't anymore because of what I had gone through, like it was a breaking point. And so I was like, well, you know, I went from sharing nothing to like, here, here is everything, like, I will just hand you my heart and do what you want with it. And I'm gonna keep moving on. But, you know, you said something too about, like, communities can be really exhausting online as well, right? Like it's one more thing to do, right? And I think that you find the good community when you are like, okay, this isn't. These are, these are people who support me as a person. And they, they are interested in me as a human being not as like a possible consumer, or, you know, as this, this one thing that separates you from your humanity. And it's really hard to find, but really great when you do find it. That kind of like you touched on some of the things I wanted to get started with, too. It's like the, you're doing a lot of things, right? You are an independent contractor, you're a podcaster, you're building this, this tool. You're a career changer, you're a mom, like, first of all, that's amazing. Second of all, how do you stay motivated to do all of these things?

Colleen Schnettler:

Uh, I don't know. Honestly, I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. Like, I wonder about it all the time. A different community I'm in, which is has been great as a group of consultants. And we talked about this a lot, because there's a lot of consultants who have moved to full time employment, because I'm sure you guys have had this experience as well, like you contract for someone, and then they offer you a job. And every time, I'm like, do I want to take it or not want to take it like it just seems so comfortable to have a regular job, and then I'm like, oh, but flexibility. And so I, you know, I do question these decisions. I think about a year ago, I really got focused on trying to figure out what I wanted, like long term. What do I want? Not what do I want next year, but like what do I want for the rest of my life as a career. And when I go back to wanting that flexible remote work, the real reason I started coding, flexible, remote work, obviously, but I've always wanted my own business. Like I've always wanted to be completely independent. So the, starting a product is really hard because it's slow and you don't know what you're doing and like, it's just a whole thing (laugh). So I have one...

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

So you have a podcast on it.

Colleen Schnettler:

Literally, the reason we started the podcast was so I would not quit. Like (laugh), that's the only reason. But that's always been my goal and I know why I want that. And once I was able to really define for myself what my goal was, it made staying motivated so much easier. Because before my goal was kind of nebulous, it was like, oh, I just want to work flexibly and remote. Okay. And then it was like, oh, I just want to, you know, make money. And something Saron Yitbarek, the founder of CodeNewbie, said to me once was what are you optimizing for? And that's my favorite question. Because like, long term, this is our life. So what are you optimizing for? So I know that my goal is to get a product off the ground. I know the only way to get a product off the ground is to do all these things. I mean, obviously it'll be great if my product made enough money, I didn't have to consult. But that's like many years off. So (laugh), you know, just trying to get through it.

Dan Ott:

That, that idea of optimizing, thinking about things in that, in that framework, is something that I came across, I don't know, a while ago. But it helped me the same way. I've been independent for a long time. And there have been times, there have been times where I've considered either applying or taking jobs. And it's the same thing. I'm not optimized for making money. You know, like, for instance, right? That is not my main, I need to make money, like, I need to support my family, you know? Or help, you know, help support my family, and I need to pay bills, and things like that. But, but the, the main thing I'm optimizing for, is that making money, right? Otherwise, there's other decisions, you know, I could have made, right? And there was, there came a time in my, I think, in my mid-, late 20s, or something where I had one of those, what am I doing with my life, you know? What am I doing with my career moments? And I think that, that question helped me a lot to help me become comfortable with staying independent, you know, keeping the flexibility. I like, the flexibility and the, you know, both in, in time and allow me to follow my nose, sort of (laugh)? Sort of a strange phrase, but like, you know... Uh, I lost track of what I was saying, the, what are you optimizing for is a great question to ask yourself though, in pretty much any, any decision you're trying to make. I think it's a great way to think about it.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

So that's where I'm going to be the rest of the day trying to figure out what I'm optimizing for (laugh). Like, what am I doing? Can we even do the rest of the podcast now? The other thing, too, about being independent is it allows you to avoid some, so many workplace challenges, right? Like, I don't know, I don't really like playing politics in the office. That's been a challenge for me in past jobs. And it's been nice to not have to deal with that kind of stuff. So have you found that as a perk?

Colleen Schnettler:

Oh, yeah, I have so much to say about this. Okay. I promise I won't (laugh), I won't go too long. But, so when I was young, so I'm at a college, you know, I'm the only woman working at this company, I learned quickly that at, at any big business, this was a fortune 500 company, so a big business. There are people who get the good work, and people who get the crappy work. And the people who get the good work are typically the people who are in the in-crowd, right? There's all, there's all this, like the in-crowd of the smart people, and then the hanger-oners. So I quickly learned, like, the way to get into the in-crowd is to be liked. And this ended up serving me poorly for like the next 10 years. Because somehow throughout my career, I learned, okay, so my goal is to get in the in-crowd, so I get the good work. But there was a lot of other weirdness that came with that being the only woman on my team. Just a lot of weird, you know, uncomfortable things that came with that. Trying to always be nice. And trying to laugh at like the microaggression. I didn't even know those were microaggressions. I don't think we had a word for it 15 years ago. But like, just so much of that. And what I didn't realize while I was going through this, like playing work politics, trying to be like, laughing at the jokes that, you know, about some woman who got promoted, cuz she was a woman. Like, what I didn't realize is that was slowly chipping away at like my self-worth. And I didn't, I didn't even realize that until, until now. Like, looking back like 15 years later, right? And so I really think I hate office politics (laugh). I mean like, so I'm out. Like, I'm not doing that anymore. If I went back to a job, like, I would never put up with that now, right? Like, I would never laugh at those jokes. I would never, like, take, not respond to some of the ways I was treated. Now, you know, in my late 30s, but in my 20s I just didn't know. So this combination of like office politics and gender politics is like oh, it was awful. And I hope it's better. But I think it probably depends on where you work, you know, in terms of how that how that goes.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Oh, for sure (laugh). Got so much to say about that too. But that is, you know, that's super frustrating, and too, you're younger coming into this industry as well. And I know like, that was also an issue. Being a young woman in an industry, it can be really challenging. I don't know how many times I got comments that were super inappropriate. You wouldn't say to a man in that same situation. But I always had to deal with, you know, me being young and me being a woman. And that was just, for a long time it was well, that's just the way things are so you do kind of laugh it off or whatever. But now, yeah, there's, there's no way that I stand for that now. But also, I've been through enough situations where I feel like, you know what? I don't care what happens if I respond to this strongly because I'm done. And it, and it doesn't matter. But certainly 10 years ago, that's, I was not nearly in this place.

Colleen Schnettler:

Yeah.

Dan Ott:

Yeah. That, the, the question of, like, how to respond with things like that, what I was gonna say was the advice, like, if you have advice for somebody who is young, new career and can't afford to maybe burn bridges, not burn bridges, but can't afford to just quit their job, right? Because they're supporting their family or their, you know, the only one making money, you know, with their family and stuff like that, like, what... How do you, how would you try to give your past selves advice, I guess, maybe in this, in this situation? Or how would you give somebody who is coming out of college, and joining the industry here, or coming out of high school even, you know, as a young woman, like entering this? And if they have these... If they end up having experiences like this, you know, because I'm sure that plenty of women still are, I know that plenty of women still are, what would you tell, like, what would be your advice to, to somebody who's found themselves in a situation like that, as a young, as a young developer? If anything (laugh).

Colleen Schnettler:

I don't really know, honestly. Which is terrible. Like, you know, I just feel like, my thoughts are, if I could go back and talk to myself, right? It's like, you think it's okay, like you think these are small, but like these, these microaggressions, like they compound, and they will impact you long term so much more than you can realize now at 22/23 years old. So, you know, you're not going to get fired for standing up to that person. It could end, I mean, it could not, it might not end great for you. I ended up in one job with a company I won't name. I complained about my mentor, mentor who was treating me poorly. And I got reassigned, and he got promoted. Like, it was terrible (laugh). So, you know, when I finally stood up for myself, that's what happened. And so that obviously left a terrible taste in my mouth. But I would, I would also say that like you think it's okay to let them go, don't, don't let it go. Because it's gonna compound and it's gonna come back to bite you and you're not gonna get fired. Like, you might have something like happen to me where you might get reassigned. Look for a new job, like, keep looking, like, don't give up. And just, just fight back because that BS is exhausting. And it will just, it will just eat it you over time.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, for sure. I would, I totally agree with that. And I think that, you know, that look for a new job thing is super important. Because I know people that, well, it wasn't that big of a deal, or these other things about this company are good, or it's hard to find work. But like, the minute that something like that happens, and if you reported to HR to a supervisor, and they blow you off, then you know what kind of company you're working for, right? It's not just one thing. This is a company culture. And so it is definitely time to start looking for something new. And I don't, I think I have a couple of thoughts too. But, um, one is having somebody who is an ally or a support person at your company can be really useful. So, you know, I was on this committee and I, every time I spoke, I was interrupted by one of the older men in the meeting. It was frequently happened. And I didn't even realize that it was happening. And then somebody else pointed out to me that, hey, he doesn't interrupt any of the men when they speak. He only interrupts you and the other women. And having the, the man who pointed this out to me, say something. Then it was recognized, right? And it's a shame. It should not have to happen that way. But definitely having like allies who can stand up for you and say, like, let's not do this is really, really important too.

Dan Ott:

So you have been... I'm sorry. Can you remind me how long you've been, you've been independent now for...

Colleen Schnettler:

Four years.

Dan Ott:

Four years now? Have you run into any, like similar issues since you've been independent? Or...

Colleen Schnettler:

Nope. So, one thing I have to say... That is awesome, yeah. I have had no problems working for myself. I think it's a combination of a few things. I think, you know, the world and the conversation is changing around this issue. I'm in the Rails community. And I can't speak to the other communities, but like the Ruby and the Rails community is spectacular. Just the most inclusive, welcoming community. I mean, I will never forget. I went to my first Rails meetup several years ago. And the guy who was running the meetup is like a super senior developer. And I was coming off of my previous experience, so that story I told you about the guy getting promoted and me getting reassigned, that's when I quit my job to stay home with my kids (laugh). Cuz I was like, I'm done. I can't do this anymore. So I'm coming off of, you know, that bad work experience, I was coming off of being a stay at home mom, I was really like, just struggling. I didn't know what I was doing. Self teaching is hard. And I remember I met him and he's like, super senior, like, kind of well known in the community. And like, he treated me like an equal. And that hadn't happened to me in so long. And then people just kept doing that to me. Like, they just treated me like a human. And it was this, it was, it was like, it was amazing. Like, it was just so amazing. And that community is amazing. And I think also being independent. Like, I don't have to work on your team if I don't like you. So (laugh) that's been really great too. So yeah.

Dan Ott:

Yeah, just another, another bonus for being independent, right?

Colleen Schnettler:

Yeah, you have so much freedom. You can pick your clients, you can pick your teams. I mean, I've worked on some spectacular teams. And it's because I have a lot of choice. I can hire people or I can work with my friends who are hiring people, like it's a win-win.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, so you mentioned Saron earlier, and I had a tweet from her pulled up, because she said something... She tweeted this recently on February 1st, but she said, I was reflecting on my experience. I shouldn't even read this aloud because she's got such a great voice. And I hear it in my head, and I'm gonna read it. Anyway (laugh). I'm not gonna read them to summarize. She was reflecting on her experience in tech and saying how positive it's been, right? And she knows that there's toxicity and problems out there. And then she realized, I've spent most of my career working for myself is what she said. And I think it does make a huge difference. Because you, you don't have to play those, those politics. You have the ability to be flexible and to change things. And, I don't know. I, I have this feeling when something is unfair or unjust at this point in my life, I like to just like yell about it really loud until like, somebody responds to me. And I know people feel weird, like, well, you shouldn't name names or whatever, like... I have the, I have the ability to name names. And, and I will, you know? It's not, and I think that also, you know, people who have that ability and can do that that's also really helpful for everybody else trying to, you know, make their way and falling into these situations.

Colleen Schnettler:

Yeah.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

So I think, can we just jump back a little bit to your career? So you've worked into male dominated industries. And that's got to be a challenge. Like, did you think about that at all, when you were moving from engineering to tech? Like, oh well, I'm moving from this industry, and maybe the experience will be similar in this other one?

Colleen Schnettler:

So there is no other job where you can make the kind of money we can make. I mean, think of what we do, Guys. We have paid like a kind of absurd amount of money to like work six hours a day in our home office, you know? Like when you hit this point, it is just like, I cannot, I remember trying to build... So I tried, I didn't ever get a job. So I was self-taught. I applied for that Flatiron scholarship like three years in a row. I never got it. I still love you, Bekah. Even though you got my scholarship, it's fine (laugh). It worked out.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Sorry (laugh).

Colleen Schnettler:

I remember when I was trying to get started, it was just so hard. And then I remember talking to people and they were like, you should get a job before you go independent. And they were totally right. My advice would be whether you're a bootcamp student, or you are self-taught, your number one goal should be to get like a real, a real job. Get a full time job. Because that's how you're going to get the growth and the mentorship. But I was never in a position to do that. Like, my husband's gone all the time, I had three little kids, like I have to be, I have to be available. I didn't have 40 hours a week to work. So trying to like build, build this business to where I am now, like, was so hard. And if I look back to like five years ago, like, I literally cannot even imagine myself in this position. But despite it being a male dominated field and like it, you know, I like men just fine. Like, I don't mean to like hate on men, I've just had some really bad experiences. I mean, our job is amazing. Like we, we can work from home, we get paid really well, we do things that like, like impact the entire world. Like, not to sound cheesy, but like the internet runs the world and we control the internet. It's amazing (laugh). Oh my gosh, I showed like, so, my family is not at all excited about web development. I don't know why. But I showed, I showed them the other day, like, one of their, one of their friends was having a problem with his like, e-commerce site or something. And I like, I just pulled up a console and change the CSS, like in the console so they could see it live. And they were just like, oh my gosh, this is amazing! (laugh) I was like, you're welcome. Like, this is fun. (laugh)

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I felt like I made it once when my dad called me and he was like, is this the expected behavior of this form? (laugh) That is not, that should not be happening. It's validated. (laugh) Um, yeah. Okay. So you have this really long process that you've gone through. And it sounds like you're, you're, you're happy with where you are. But, you know, is it worth it for such a long process to get there?

Colleen Schnettler:

I just wish... Okay. So my thoughts on this, I just wish the messaging was better on how to become a software developer. I think that I'm going through the same thing now that I'm trying to start a software business, like the messaging is just bad on the internet. And I feel like, five years ago, like it was the same way when you're trying to learn to code. So yes. The answer, the TL;DR is yes. It's 100% worth it. But it is a slog. Like when you are either working full time, or whatever you're doing, like, especially if you have kids at home, and of course, we're in a pandemic, so that makes it all the more complicated, it's just a slog. I used to have this process where while I was doing the dishes, I would listen to the CodeNewbie podcasts, like to get me pumped to go work all night, right? To try to learn something. And I, like I was trying to learn something. And, you know, I thought I was good enough. And then I tried to do open source, and I realized that I was not good enough. And you know, what happened to me is I just like, there was this one issue I could not sorted out and I probably just, just like sat on it for like six months. Like, I just stopped and like, didn't, you know, it's open source. No one's asking me. And this guy, like, who was one of the maintainers just all he did was send me like an email. And he was like, hey, do you need some help on this issue? And that? That changed everything for me. Like one person reach out, I would not have made it. Like I was, I was out. Like one person reaching out, like, change the trajectory of my whole life. Like, it's so cool. So, I'm ranting a little bit, (laugh) but I guess my, what I'm trying to say here is like, it's a slog. So don't believe... There's so many stories on the internet that are like, I learned to code in six months, and now I make $130,000 a year. No. Lies. It's lies. Like, no. It's a slog. It takes a long time. But when you are on the other side, like, it's amazing. Because we are, we have, I can work from home, I can back when there was a bus, I could take my kids to the bus, like, I can pick them up, like, I can do all those things. And, you know, you're gonna make pretty good money doing it. So absolutely worth it. But be prepared for it to take years.

Dan Ott:

Yeah. Yeah, that's, I mean, the, the self-taught path, you know... That's always, the one when I say to you, it's really hard to say, I think, out loud. It's nice to hear you say that. It is hard. It's hard, no matter what path you're taking, and if you're not doing it full time, like, you know, if you have kids or another job you trying to change. It does. It takes a long time, but you'll get there and then it's like, once you get to, I don't know, as I imagined the time is different. But there's, I feel like one spot when you're becoming a web, or a developer, I guess, where everything else becomes much easier. Like, it's like, there's this thought process, you have to, like, change your brain to like, learn how to code almost. And that's like, hard. And I think it's, it doesn't really matter what language you pick, or what, you know, if it's web, or probably the same for (laugh) not web stuff, I don't know. I can't even think of, oh, C++. That was what I learned C++ in college for a little bit before I dropped out. But once we learn how to become a developer, you know, then maybe I'm making this up. But I feel like everything else becomes ease, like, it becomes easier to jump, like from different languages, you know, the, if you're moving, you know, if you're moving from JavaScript to Ruby, you know, that there's going to be like, a bunch of differences, you'll be confused for a second, for a little bit. But like, it'll, it'll click a lot faster, you know? You'll ask the right questions, you like, okay, I know how to do this. And, you know, I know how I would do this. But that approach doesn't seem to work, you know, in Rails. So here's, you know, okay, well, I can Google for that. And probably there'll be an answer, you know, like, that kind of thing. The, the hard part, the beginning is just like, I don't know, re-, I don't know, resetting all the, you know, the paths in your brain, you know? I feel like...

Colleen Schnettler:

Yeah, and I think once we've come through it, it's hard to remember how hard it was. Like, now, it's like, like you said, Dan, like taking on a new language. Yeah, it's kind of hard. And it's like, I gotta learn all this new stuff. But you mostly get it, right? Like, you can mostly make it work. But like, I think it's, it's hard to remember, like, it's really hard when you start. Like, with no context, like, it's really hard.

Dan Ott:

Yeah. No, I totally get it. It was... Sorry (laugh), I was just gonna say that, that was something that, um, actually, Virtual Coffee helped me remember or realize, you know, because it had been a long time since I was there. But I do. I mean, I, I remember struggling and having no idea, you know, what I was doing. But it is. It's hard. Like, the kind of questions you ask are much different when you're starting out, versus one year, whatever, a year or two under, you know, under your, under your belt. And hanging out with a lot of people who are learning for the first time is, is instructive, you know, and cool to see.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, I don't know if this, if this tracks, because I'm not really a musician, but we see a lot of musicians moving into tech. But I know, I know, my brother plays a lot of instruments, right? And learning to play an instrument can be really hard. But if you get a good understanding of how to play that instrument, and a good concept of music, then it's easier to pick up the next instrument and to learn that one too, right? Because there's this idea of like, how you approach it, and the pattern matching that happens, too. And there is going to be some overlap with these different things. And in your brain is kind of like, okay. I see that there's a pattern here. It's not exactly the same, but I can get there a little bit quicker.

Dan Ott:

I think that's a great metaphor, or is it an analogy? What is difference? Doesn't matter? Oh, well, all right. Are we in a metaphor right now? Or are we in an analogy?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I think we're in an analogy.

Dan Ott:

Okay. Cool. (laugh) So that's a great analogy, Bekah. And I think that kind of ties back or in my head, it's, it's time, what I was, what I was saying was, was the thing that you're teaching yourself is music. Your, your asset like, you have to be teaching yourself piano or x at the same time, but really, you're teaching your brain how to music, you know? And so, moving from instrument to instrument, you don't have to relearn how music works, you know? You have to learn, you know, you have to learn some new intricacies or whatever. Like, I, I played a lot of instruments, but I never really played any string instruments because they're different (laugh). Like, you have to use two hands to be used in different ways, you know? And, I mean, I'm sure, probably could have, but you know, I played like, every single brass instrument, and could just pick them up because I don't know, it's like, it's like all and when you're in JavaScript or something, you know? Like, React, Vue, and all these things are much more similar. But even if I jumped to violin, I, my brain still knows music, you know? You know, so, I don't know. I like, I'd very much like that analogy, Bekah. We're collecting a series of like, really good, develop, like, programming developer journey analogies. So because Marie had the really good one about, about cooking, you know, about being a chef and recipes and stuff like that. So I like it.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Okay, so you're doing consulting. And so you're primarily a Rails developer, right? But then you've decided to tackle React, and you're building this product, right? And so you're like trying to balance all these complicated things.

Colleen Schnettler:

(laugh) It's too much. So, yes. So first things first. I am committing to taking... Okay. I didn't take this Sunday off. But I am committing to taking Sundays off. And I started doing that a couple months ago. And that has been really good for myself. So basically, I'm trying to, I'm trying to commit to balancing these things in a way where I can take the weekends off. And it's funny. So I've started like, this is so sad I have to do this, Guys. But on Friday, I delete Twitter. Like I just delete it from my phone. It's like, because I can't have it on my phone. I just can't. Like, it's terrible. But then, and so, I don't have slack on my phone, I don't have Twitter on my phone, which is really good. So I think that's been really good at helping me balance. It's just like finding the time, like trying to really take a step away on the weekends. But then I come back on Monday and everyone's been hanging out all weekend. And I'm like, oh, I miss all these things (laugh). So there's that. But for me, like balancing these things... So the consulting, I have one kind of long-term client, which isn't too bad, it's like maintenance. And that right now I have a pretty intense project, which is taking up all my time. But it's nice, because I can do it in short bursts. So I can work really hard for three months, have enough money for six months. And then for the next three months, focus on my product. Or at least that is my master plan. I started to learn React, and then I just stopped because like, I ain't got time for that. So maybe in the future (laugh) I'll sort that out. But uh, yeah, the reason I started to try to learn React is because I'm building this product, and I was getting a lot of requests for a React component. And then one of like, my internet friends built a React component because he wanted it, which is awesome. But I tell you what, I sure don't know how to maintain it. And now I'm (laugh) trying to make changes. And I'm like [gasp]. So yeah, that's a bridge I'm going to cross in the future. Like, that, that was just too much. Like trying to learn that, and try to do the product, and trying to work, and do the podcast, and all the things was too much. So I'm tabling that till I have some more time. I mean, this is like a life, like, as we talked about earlier, like, this is our life. So if we're constantly in sprint mode, like how are we going to recover? And how are we going to like, this is my life. Something that occurred to me, like when I was starting the product, and it was really intense. It sounds like, like, what is my goal here? Like, yes, I want to have a product. But if I spent the next 10 years, like heads down on this product every weekend. Like, the reason I want to have a successful product is because I want to buy a house. Like, it's real simple. Like I want a house with a backyard and I want my kids to have their own bedrooms. Like that's (laugh), you know, that's, that's why. And it occurred to me, I was like, if I spent 10 years, like heads down on this product and then sold it, even if I sell it for $10 million, it doesn't matter, because my kids will almost be out of the house by that point. And I'll have missed what they really want more than a house, which is to hang out with me. So I know that's like kind of cliche to say, but it's true. Like it just kind of hit me like, even if I make $10 million. And it takes me 10 years, it does not matter because there'll be teenagers and they won't wanna hang out with me anymore. So hence the, I'm always taking weekends off. I'm always gonna focus on my priorities, and I'll fit in everything else as I can fit it in.

Dan Ott:

I think that's awesome. I, it's so hard to do, too. I mean, I'm, it's really hard. I'm jealous, like of your, I don't know. It seems like, uh, what's the right word? There (??), it seems like you're doing it, you know? Like you're doing the weekends off, and, you know, everything. And, I don't know. Jealous is a silly word. Because I know that I could just say, oh, I'll just take weekends off too, you know? (laugh) Right? Yeah, it's hard. It's hard to, it's hard to like, let go. I also started with the, like the, like you said, coming back on Mondays and... I don't know. Everything, everybody was hanging out, doing cool stuff. Also, like, it's like, I got a bunch of stuff I want to do, you know? And it's hard to tell myself not to (laugh), you know? That's really awesome to hear you talk about that.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, it's my husband was talking to me this morning. And he was like, you can't just... I can't, I don't know how I put it, but, you can't just sprint all the time, right? Like you need a rest. Everybody needs to rest. And I was like, But no, I don't (laugh), you know? I can just keep going. I can power through it, right? Eventually you get a second wind. But how many times you get a second wind? I mean, you don't want one, you don't have one second one.

Colleen Schnettler:

(laugh) And then you collapse from exhaustion. That's how that goes.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah. It is like balancing, what, the kids too, you know, it's, there's just so much to try and figure out and you want to stay up on things, you want to learn things and you want to do work and you want to grow. And then you want to hang out with your kids. And it is just really, really challenging to be able to do that. And like you're saying. You miss out on what people are doing, or somebody like, I learned 17 languages during the pandemic. What did you learn? Like... (laugh)

Colleen Schnettler:

Yeah, when I started doing React, I bought a book and I know the author really well. So that's cool. So I literally have the author on like, speed dial. And one of my friends was like, oh, I bought this book and I read it in a weekend. And I was like, ugh, I don't want to read a React book all weekend. Like, I just don't. But people are doing that, so you feel like you're getting ahead.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I juggling that. I can juggling at the book. Yeah. Maybe that's how I'll start putting myself to sleep. (laugh) Sorry. I just, coding books are not my, they're not my thing.

Dan Ott:

I stopped buying them a while ago. I have like, oh yeah, you can see some of them behind me. But I have like, a pile of books and I, I can never get through them, you know? It's like my free time, if I'm actually having free time, I don't want to be doing anything related to my computer anymore, or development or, you know, it's like, there are all this stuff, books and podcasts and everything that I want to consume, because I want to know them and, you know, know the material and all that stuff. But it's just so hard. It's, there's not enough hours, really, in the day, you know?

Colleen Schnettler:

Yeah, well, I think we're socialized to one of work all the time. So we should figure out a way to socialize like, like gold star, every Sunday you don't work. And then you can like move it to Sunday and Saturday, double gold stars (laugh). Like, we need to find a way to incentivize ourselves, not to work all the time. Because there's so much pressure to work all the time.

Dan Ott:

That's, I like that idea that gold stars in your, yeah, the, the like, incentives are your health, but it like, it's like a long term thing, right? So you're never gonna know until... The incentives will not show up until, until much later (laugh). Yeah.

Colleen Schnettler:

Yeah, you're totally right. Like, it's, you really won't know until it's too late, right? Because then you'll just get a pass out from exhaustion or whatever. However, everyone deals with a different way, right? But I'm sure we've all done that, where we work way too much. And then, you know, we have to deal with the ramifications of that.

Dan Ott:

Yes (laugh). Yes, that sounds familiar, vaguely.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I want to jump back just for a second. So you know, we talked about like the benefits of working for yourself and community support. But also, so I'm like interested in this question of what qualities are important in the people that you work with? So you know, it might be your clients, or if you can reimagine yourself going back into the workforce, like... What, what are those things that make you want to work with that person? Or make it a safe space, a safe environment for you?

Colleen Schnettler:

Yeah, sure. I've worked with a lot of people doing that, because I do like a combination of contracting and consulting. So I'll drum, jump on and augment a team for six months to a year, or I'll work you know, in a smaller group. So what I look for, in people I work with, I really, like people who are honest, obviously, who are, I don't want to say, well, like empathetic and understanding, like my very first contract job. And it was like really exciting to get this because I was like, really new. It was a team. They were VC backed. So they had a lot of money. It was a team of like, a bunch of like 22 year old guys (laugh). I mean, Guys, this was like me coming off of being a stay at home mom, I'm what, like, 32. And they're like, on Slack, and they would type things like, like they would just type all these acronyms I didn't even know. It was hilarious. But, okay. So these guys, and these guys did work all the time, which was negative. So things I look for, my point of bringing these, bringing this up is despite the fact that like, they were kind of young, and they were really excited, and they had money, they were also like, really okay, and kind of empathetic to the fact that like my life situation was really different than theirs. And so when I couldn't turn around a feature superfast, or like when I wasn't online on the weekends, like, they got it. And so that's really important. Like, like the people you work with don't have to be in the same life stage you're in. But if they can at least understand and not penalize you for having to stop work because you got to go pick the kids up from daycare or whatever it is, that's really important. I just like people who are honest and, you know, really open to learning. I think no matter where you are in your coding journey, you can, there can be a lot of give and take. I worked with someone else who was like, really militant, I don't know if that's the right word about a specific style of coding. And I, if I were to work with that person again, I would push back a little more on that even the way, you know, when people review PRs, like, there's so much you can tell. By the way, people review your PRs. But um, yeah, I mean, just people who treat you equally and fairly like part of the team, and there doesn't have to be a team hierarchy and our, you know, give and take, like, you can teach them something, and they can teach you something.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, that's so great. I think, in one of my previous jobs, I was there for many, many years. And I don't know that anyone ever told me good job. And I don't think I ever realized it until Dan and I started working together. And he said, good job. And I was like, oh... Like, that was nice, right? Like (laugh), I don't know. Just feels good to, I don't know, it's an, it's an acknowledgement. And it's simple, right? And, um,

Dan Ott:

Yeah, I think, I think one of the things I tried to look out for is yet the sort of a two way communication, you know? Like, that's something I value personally. It kind of ties into everything you were saying, but you know, being more of an equal footing, even if it, even like, yes, there's a client, you know, relationship, you know, I sensibly, I'm doing work for a person, you know, like... I don't know. The client's always right or whatever, you know, but it's, like...

Colleen Schnettler:

Well, I have hired, yeah. I have hired a contractor who's a better developer than I am. I hired him to review my PRs. And like, I loved his style, because he would pull out something, he'd be like, hey, this is really cool, how you did this, or, I really liked the way this is structured. And then he would bring in, but did you know about this resource? Have you read this article, like, and it was just so cool, like, yay.

Dan Ott:

I mean, that is awesome. But also just the idea that... I don't know. Being comfortable with hiring somebody that you know is very much better than you or whatever, like that situation, like the fact that you did that is like, just such a cool thing to me. Just as a business owner and as like a developer and somebody who, you know, wants to keep learning, but maybe this is, um... Maybe it's only strange to me? I don't know. That's strange, but like, surprising, or... That's not even the right word. But the, that like, you did it on purpose, right? Like that tactical thing. You're like, I want to go hire somebody to that is like much better than me to help me and my business. And that's also, I just think that's so cool.

Colleen Schnettler:

Yeah, honestly, it went so well. Now I'm looking for like opportunities to do it, again. I'm like, how can I hire him again? (laugh) Like, how do we do this again?

Dan Ott:

That's really cool.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Yeah, that is super awesome. Okay, Colleen, it's been really great having you here. And so we really appreciate you talking about these things. And where can our listeners find you?

Colleen Schnettler:

I am on Twitter. My handle is @leenyburger. You can also check out my podcast, the Software Social Podcast, available on iTunes and wherever you get your podcasts.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Like and hit subscribe. I think, actually, the first time I ever met you, we were doing like co-working in the Moms Can Code and your handle was leenyburger and I'm pretty sure I called you Leeny. So... (laugh)

Colleen Schnettler:

(laugh) It's a terrible handle. Like, I had no idea that, like, Twitter was a real thing when I signed up. And now it's like I'm stuck with it for life. So, oh well... (laugh)

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

You can't get away from it. (laugh)

Dan Ott:

I think it's great handle, by the way. I think it's awesome.

Colleen Schnettler:

Thanks. (laugh)

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

I'm sorry I called you Leeny. (laugh)

Colleen Schnettler:

I don't even remember. I do remember you were like on the treadmill or something while we were, we were co-working.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

Exercise bike. Yeah.

Colleen Schnettler:

I was pretty impressed. I was like, oh, nice.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

(laugh) Trying to, trying to get it all in. Colleen, it's been great having you here. And we're really excited to see what comes next and to listen to your podcast episode. So we'll talk to you soon. Bye.

Colleen Schnettler:

Bye.

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 at hello@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 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.