Season 2, Episode 3 | April 19, 2021
In this episode, Dan and Bekah talk to Glen McCallum, a Software engineer and manager from Victoria, Canada, about his unexpected career journey, the hard decisions he's had to make, and using open-source software with his artificial pancreas.
Glen McCallum is a Software engineer from Victoria, Canada. For the past 7 years he's been doing backend development in C# and SQL. Earlier, he did projects in Java and Rails. He's always learning, currently exploring big data with hadoop, python, and spark. Day-to-day he manages a team of 8 engineers for the 2nd largest independent book distributor in the United States.
In this episode, Dan and Bekah talk to Glen McCallum, a Software engineer from Victoria, Canada who manages a team of 8 engineers for the 2nd largest independent book distributor in the US, about his unexpected career journey, the hard decisions he's had to make, and using open-source software with his artificial pancreas. Glen also talks about his near-death experience in his first IT job and the decision to move from Independent Contributor to Management.
Hello, and welcome to Season Two, Episode Three of the Virtual Coffee podcast.
I'm Bekah, and this is a podcast that features members of the Virtual Coffee community. Virtual Coffee is an intimate group of developers at all stages of their coding journey. And they're here on this podcast sharing their stories and what they've learned. And we're here to share it with you. Here with me today is my co host, Dan.
Thanks, Bekah. Joining us today is Glen McCallum, a software engineer from Victoria, Canada. Glen does back end development in C sharp and SQL while managing a team of eight engineers for the second largest independent book distributor in the United States. I really enjoyed our conversation with Glen. We talked about his career journey, some hard decisions he's had to make along the way, and the unexpected ways that Tech has entered his life.
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, you have your own late night talk show. Who do you invite as your first guest? We hope you enjoyed this episode.
Hey, I'm Bekah, I'm from a small town in Ohio. I am a front end developer. And if I had my own late night talk show, I think my first guest would be Mindy Kaling because she does lots of different stuff. She's super smart and funny. And I think she would be fantastic to talk to.
Yeah, she's really cool. That this is really hard, because there's just so many, you know, like, potentials. By Oh, sorry. Hi, I'm Dan. From Lakewood, Ohio. I do fronted development. And if I had a late night talk show, my first guess I'm just gonna go with recency bias. We most watching a lot of Brooklyn nine nine and Terry Crews is just like one of my favorite people. And he's, he seems very, very cool and interesting. Like in the real world, too. So that's, that's who I would have as my guest.
Hi, I'm Glen McCallum. I live in Victoria, Canada. I'm still learning software development. But I have my own team, I manage a team of software developers.
If I had my own talk show, my knee jerk answer to this one was Mr. Rogers. I have such a special place in my heart for him. But at the same time, I didn't want to have like the awkwardness of a stranger. I really got to meet someone. I wanted someone other than a stranger though.
So the name I'm going to put out there as a name you've never heard of is Robert C. Gay. And it's someone I met by chance he does private equity investment, and dropped it all to do service and charity work in Western Africa, and had this chance meeting with him and heard him speak. It was absolutely riveting. So I'd want to talk to him for another full hour if I could.
That's, that's awesome. Yeah, I like I started going down the road of like, actually interesting people, but that might not make a good TV commercial, you know. And then like, I don't, I got very confused, so I just like kept it to celebrities. But this is another thing I could do a whole hour long episode just about some of these questions.
That would be fun. Glen, thanks so much for being here. We are very, very happy to have you today on the podcast. So thanks for agreeing. We always like to get started with the origin story, where you came from and how you got to where you are. So just the the short version of how did you get into tech?
Well, originally, and this goes way back, I, I wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. And I went through pre veterinary in school and I didn't get into veterinary school and there's only one veterinary school in Western Canada. And they get like 200 applicants and accept 20 positions. And so I was ranked low 30s as I remember. So it wasn't mean it wasn't too discouraging from that standpoint. But you know, when you're, when you're at that age, you just feel like you need to keep moving on with life. And so I had taken a computer science elective course I taken two of them Just because I thought you can't go wrong with some computer science. And I took, I didn't take like the computer science for non computer science people, I wanted to take real computer science. So I took the year one programming courses. And I got a pluses in both of them.
And this school sent me a letter asking me if I wanted to join the computer science program. And so it all kind of happened at the same time that I got this one rejection letter from, from Veterinary College, and got this invitation letter to study computer science. And I was like, Alright, let's do this. And so that was a transition moment. And that's kind of what got me started on this pathway.
That is awesome. And well, you've been coming to Virtual Coffee for a while to do you remember how you found out about Virtual Coffee?
I guess I have to credit it back to Jesse. Because I heard Jesse, on a podcast months before pandemic. And this interesting thing came out is called moms who code which just sounded fascinating to me. Because I mean that that notion where I mean, your family still comes before code, but you still have that.
That career integrated, just, I mean, secretly, I want to be a mom who codes really. And so I started following some moms who code stuff on Twitter. And from that came this Virtual Coffee. And when it first came up, I thought it was for moms who code. And initially, I thought, that would be really cool to meet some people. But I didn't come because I thought it was for the moms. And later on, I started seeing, you know, retweets or lights just popping up in my stream from, from guys who are going to Virtual Coffee. And that's when I decided to join for the first time in August.
I had no idea. That's the first time I've ever heard that story. So Jessie is my husband, who's also a developer, and moms who code I was really involved in that early on. Well, I was learning and getting into tech, that's just very, very fascinating. Um, there are lots of moms that do come and it's nice. A lot of them bring their kids. And so we get to see kids and cats and all the fun people that that come to Virtual Coffee. So very glad that you're here. And you can hang out with the moms.
Yeah, it was really, it was really interesting. I've been looking for better friends, is that a way to say it? I love this phrase, it's been attributed to different people, you are the average of your five closest friends. And so, you know, I'd been looking for some better five closest friends to hang out with, and just not quite sure how to find them. And so after my, I mean, I came to Virtual Coffee, it was good. And I remember sitting here afterwards, that initial session, and I just felt sort of empty inside.
And it wasn't me it wasn't that I realized what I was missing. until after I kind of experienced it in that professional connection, that professional camaraderie with excellent people. And I've been coming regularly ever since.
That is really awesome. And I think that resonates with so many people. And I think you know, having community has been super important in the last year, but also this community has been one of my favorite places ever for people because I have a hard time making friends or talking to people because I can be really shy and just having a group of people that I have felt comfortable around has been such a great part of not just the last year but my adult life.
I think there's something very atypical about this technical group. And I'm sure it's come out and everybody says it, it's just there's there's no ego and nobody's judging or nobody's trying to prove themselves and so often I don't care what community like Stack Exchange, it just seems like the insecurity comes out. And that's manifested in snarkiness. And, and put downs and things like that, but this is just really safe and supportive. Welcoming.
Yeah, that's nice to hear. Yeah, I, I'm not sure what your work situation was before pandemic, but I've been like, pretty much remote for my whole career, you know, you know, and I come and go from, I don't know, searching for communities, you know, I was part of like, a meetup group early on that, like a physical Meetup group. And then we moved in, I don't know, it sort of fell apart. And then, you know, there's, it's just so hard to find people to, like, be with, like, when you don't know how to, like, you know, go into an office with people for people, you know, stuff like that. And, I don't know, it's, it's, that's, that's kind of felt to you, like, it's just been so nice to like, this group, you know, this group doesn't have the like that some of those problems, you know, and so it's just, it's my kind of group to, you know, where I can just be comfortable and like, be myself, you know, and not have to worry about the upvotes, or the popularity contests or whatever, you run into lots of other places.
I think the the face to face interaction, augmenting the online discussion, group interaction just changes the whole dynamic to get to get to know these people.
Yeah, there's something really, that invites vulnerability and intimacy, when you do have that experience, like you're, you're seeing them, you're hearing their voices, once or twice a week, and I loved how you said it in one of the breakout rooms on a Thursday session where you were talking about, like, if this is like sitting around a coffee table, as friends, just talking, and that's just what it feels like when when you're in the room with the people.
Okay, so you your career, obviously, it's been quite a journey. So not only were you going to be a vet, but you made a lot of like big career transitions. And I want to know, there had to be some challenges along the way that I want to hear you kind of talk about and in, I'd love to know how you felt as you were going through the challenge. And then now looking back at that challenge, in retrospect, like how that's changed, because, like, so much of the time, when you're in the middle of that thing, it feels unbearable. And then once you get out of it, there's you can kind of look at it a little bit more objectively. So do you have any big moments to talk about?
We could talk about lots of moments. I mean, I kind of spent my first seven years in enterprise healthcare IT. And there are some big, big transitions in that. My second seven years were spent in more tech software development straight up. And there was a big transition to shift between those but let's go back kind of, while I'm still in enterprise, healthcare IT and I'm an Oracle, because that was a things went pretty smooth. Up until then, I mean, you you graduate computer science, I was in the co op program. So I already had work experience. I had a job offer before I finished school. And things just kind of start trucking along when you're on that kind of traditional track, which is nice. However, and and I went to a big integrated healthcare network and did some big type of government work, which is really boring, but we'll continue on. And I got recruited to Oracle to work on their enterprise healthcare analytics platform, and got into that world of traveling. We had a dev team in India, in addition to California, so there was like, people working on these products 24 hours a day, I would essentially get up, have meetings to transition work back to me, I do my work all day. Well, my counterpart, slept. And then at the end of the day, I would hand my work off to him and he would do it. Lots of travel to meet with customers. But you know, over time, it really took a toll on the family. And I can remember, you know, coming home to the airport, my wife picking me up and like, just like breaking down and crying on the way home really hard on the family. I can remember my second child I would hug the computer and be like, goodnight, Daddy because I would talk to them on Skype. And as well as I wasn't liking the person I was becoming in terms of kind of that environment of traveling eating nice restaurants, you start to lease, I started to get a certain expectation of how things should be. And when they weren't that way, I just wasn't very nice.
So the I was at Oracle for a couple years, it was actually the day my third child was born, that I decided I was leaving. And there's a not sure where they call it law or program in Canada, where you can go on employment benefits at the birth of a child, regardless of paternity, maternity. And so I registered for that program. And he gave me a year of minimal income. And, and left Oracle.
And that was a major shift for me, because I really didn't know where I was going at that point. Towards the end of that year, off, and I did, I did various things on the year off that we could talk about if you want, I finished building our house, and landscaped our yard,
I was just gonna ask if you took the whole year, that's awesome.
It gets really boring if you're just sitting around, although, yeah, there were some complications from that birth. So I was really glad that I was there and available.
Towards the end of that year, I tried to get into some consulting work. But I found that my contacts and experience took me into a enterprise type consulting world, which number one, was leading back to travel. Number two, it's really hard to financially weather, the cycles of enterprise consulting payment. And maybe you've tried that maybe you haven't, it takes from the time you have an agreement, it takes a month to get legal review on the contract.
After the contract gives legal review, it takes a month to get a billing number set up. And, and so that's like, two months from actually getting a deal hammered out before you can start billing. And then there's, you know, submitting the invoice and just kind of waiting indefinitely for payment to come. So it was in having been at kind of the tail end of a year of, of time off. It wasn't very comfortable to financially weather that. So I I ran back to the hospital where I worked before, and got a position there, which is very senior, but it was an interesting time there time to change there as well. And I was back there for another year. And they were in the process of negotiating a big vendor agreement, 100 $50 million contract for consulting and software services to roll out across the whole Health Network. And when that got signed, I just didn't feel there was a place for me there. Because those those types of services that I could offer would be just come through that consulting agreement. And I was just feeling bored.
And so I had a friend at a sort of an established startup in Victoria. And I had seen postings for that company come up regularly. When I was cruising around, and I just asked him if he was happy there. And he said, Yeah, they treat me pretty well and so I I he put me in contact with his boss who I also loosely knew we had lunch and it was a done deal. And that's what got me kind of back onto the software development track from the enterprise healthcare IT track
That's wild. And I think I mean, you talk about this also commonly, but those all seem like really huge decisions to make. Were you ever freaked out about those decisions? You had a kid? And your third kid, I think you said, and then you're like, Well, I'm not gonna do this anymore, right? I don't think I can handle the birth of a child and leaving a job at the same time.
Yeah now that you point it out...
I always had something that I, that was there for me. I didn't drop in leave into nothing. So I had a, I had a runway and I had to set a context when I left Oracle. And I didn't leave the hospital the second time until I had another job in place. Yeah, so it wasn't like I was just taking the leap of faith.
I know, I totally get that it just transitions like that can be so difficult. And so for me, it would be it would require a long stretch of second guessing myself as to whether or not that was a good decision.
And it wasn't. without emotion, I'll say that, especially ... transitioned back into software development. As I joined a team that was that is was also...what's the word...cross international cross border. So we had a split between Canada and Russia, on this team. And it was, it was a bit of a rough onboarding, in terms of, they're putting me through my paces, and it had been a long time since I've been building software. And so I, you know, I totally get kind of that new developer experience of getting put on a team. And I don't know if hazed is the right word, but maybe a bit where you're, you're getting picked on. And, and you're expected to know things that you really shouldn't be expected to know. And getting hassled a bit when, when you stumble. And I remember, I remember breaking the build, and just being really upset, like more upset than I should have been looking back, it wasn't a big deal, but pay me at the time. I think I like cried in my garage office at the time.
I mean, that, that kind of kind of thinking feels so stressful. Like in the moment, you know, it's, I think it's pretty natural reaction. I mean, it's pretty natural reaction to something like that, especially when you're new, right? And also, especially when it's your first time, if you're an old hat at breaking the production build, like I am, eventually you realize, like, wait, like he said, with experience, you realize maybe, you know, doesn't have to be as big of a deal. But yeah, like that? I don't know. That seems...It's so hard to like think like that when you're in the moment and sweating and like, you know, the things broken? And
well, and maybe it really wasn't even about that maybe it was just about the fact that I've been through a wide career swing and stuff going on at home and all the implications of that and just all kind of coming out in that one moment.
yeah I like to do that, too.
I was just gonna say, that's a really good point. I like the, I was actually to was talking about with my therapist about this about how, like, on some days, like, like, if the exact event happened on, you know, one day and then happened, like, four days later, my, my, like, my reaction to it the way I like, react to it in the way that like, everything else, like, comes from that will be completely different can be completely different. If I'm, you know, in that if I'm, like, overwhelmed, if there's, you know, depending on like what the other external things are internal things are happening, you know, at the moment. I don't, you know, I don't know, we're talking about how to, like, ways to like, remember that when you're in the moment, you know, which is like, That's hard. I mean, I don't even have it the advice you know, we're just kind of talking about talking about it, but But yeah, that like, anytime you're in a big transition, you know, of, of any kind, you know, everything is going to it's just like a stress on your system, right?
Yeah. But I mean, just like to point out that if it happened to me could happen to anybody. I mean, wasn't like I was new to this game. And, and going through that and having that experience, just imagine what it's like if you really are new to this game, and you kind of don't know, the behind the scenes of how things work.
Right, absolutely. Like you probably knew that data. No, I mean, I don't know, specifically what was happening with the with breaking the bill, but like you probably knew, you know, intellectually that you didn't like destroy the company or something right. You know, but like, yeah, if you're, if you're newer to the whole thing, obviously, the promisee would seem seem bigger, you know?
I know. I've heard of companies when they're onboarding new developers, and I don't know if this goes across the board, whether it's somebody new to the team, or just people who are early in their career, but they'll introduce them to other members of the team. And tell ask the other members of the team to talk about what they've broken in the last week or something like that, or the their biggest story about that. And I always thought that was a fun way to kind of maybe defuse that future situation, or to say, like, hey, like, this is normal, we do it and then we work through it. Right? And look, we are a team and we get along.
It's a really good idea. You can you have to have the right team to feel comfortable sharing that, you know, there's a certain amount of egolessness to get people to open up that way. I think we could do that. Now. I'm not sure if we could have done that at the time.
Yeah, that's I mean, that's, that is a cool idea. And it, it's important, I feel like that the people are sharing their own, you know, moments of that. It's not like somebody saying, Oh, this guy messed up here. And this guy just appears, you know, like pointing it out for somebody else. Right? That doesn't seem as good, right?
That's one of the things I've actually liked about in Virtual Coffee is having you know, some of the more senior developers, like, share stories like that a lot. I know, Bryan has. He's the first one I think of, with with this practice, you know, of just like, I don't know, like, he also, I mean, he's the, you know, it's like running the company. And like, he also has broken the builds. And his company, you know, it's just like, everybody, everybody will be okay, you know, so that, like, relating relating that kind of the same kind of thing. I feel like it's, I don't know, seems like a good practice. You know,
I also want to touch on a story that you have mentioned, if you're up for it, I'm your first full time job out of school, the one where you almost died.
Before we go there, do you want to finish the topic on change, because up until now, we've kind of talked about change that I've inflicted on myself, but there was this there's been this event in the last four years where change was kind of inflicted on me. And that was when the company that the company went to after leaving the hospital, carved off kind of half of their products, and sold them to a book distributor. And with that sale of those products, they took three Canadian developers, and I was one of them. And that whole thing was a really interesting day.
And it was September 1 2016, as I recall, and for weeks, there had been kind of a oddly placed random status meeting on our calendar for that day. And I didn't think much of it. And, and, I mean, the company I was at had a new CEO, and he had a new mandate. At the time. I didn't really know what that mandate was, but he'd been up to visit and to meet us. We live in Los Angeles, and it come up to Victoria. And and he'd been hired by the venture capital firm that owned a share of the company. And at the time, I didn't know but I believe he'd been hired to liquidate the assets of the company. And so this day was the first sale that that new CEO had made. And so we walk in, walk in, we joined this call, and there was a few people on there that I wasn't expecting in terms of higher ups. And then it was like we'd like you to meet the new owners of this product line. And it was like, jumped into two hours of PowerPoint and then talking and telling us about their new company.
And then it was like,
and that's the first you heard of it at all, like the first, the first
first mention, I've heard of it, maybe people knew, maybe I was just isolated. And then they're like, they were in San Francisco, at the main company office, and then they're like, we're all going to lunch. You guys go have some lunch. And, and at the time, I don't remember if they were specific about who they were keeping. And like, we, of course, got off that call, and all of a sudden got back on another call, like the secret call. Where we kind of like, are venting and debriefing about this whole thing. And later that day, I got a letter of offer for a job from them. But it didn't, just the way. I mean, they're good people trying their best.
But the the letters of offer weren't quite squared away in terms of what our current positions were and what our benefits were in things, which is fine. They made good on it. They matched everything. So, so stand up job for them. Over the next couple of days, they did that. But I like not going was not an option for me. I went to my boss, the same one who hired me two years earlier. And I was like, What are my options here? And he is like, if you don't go, we're laying you off. And but you know how these things are right, because at the same time, they had job postings. So it's not like, it's not like they didn't need people, they were hiring at the same time, but also learn things in hindsight. The team that they took was part of the sale, they didn't want just the product, they actually wanted to acqui-hire a software development team.
And so and so that boss in good faith, in good faith on that deal could not have kept me because it was it was part of their their deal they'd made between companies onboarding us, I would say. I mean, technically, it was hard. Because we had shared repos, shared libraries, shared infrastructure, shared continuous integration with the whole other product line. So it took us months to kind of tease all these products apart. And, and get end of our side of the fence located to a new data center. And even then, I mean, the initial hardware that was SPECT wasn't quite adequate. And so it wasn't quite running right until we got some new hardware in place. I learned this as a software developer, having to take over some infrastructure planning roles. Because we have a whole infrastructure team at the old company at the new company we didn't and they're like, Glen, you're in charge of this. Okay, we'll do it. But yeah, I think it was harder on their IT team because they they wanted to software developers, but they kind of kind of a smaller it group. And then they brought us in and we're sort of bit more rough and tumble in how we work together. And we may have overrun them a little bit with just our way of doing things which is good because it's all following software engineering best practices. But I mean back to back to my onboarding experience. It's a bit it's a little a little rougher with each other and some other teams can be. It's not like Virtual Coffee.
That's Yeah, that's, that's pretty crazy. I try to integrate, like a new team into an existing team, you know?
And like surprise.
Yeah, the idea of Yeah. Being a, I don't know, an asset in acquisition, basically, without your, you know, knowledge. That's,
it's an interesting experience. Yeah, straight out hearing people all in good faith. And by no means was it anything...anything shady going on there? Nobody was trying to, to hurt anyone else, but just just difficult change thrown upon you.
When, at that time, like when that transition happened, were you still more of like an individual contributor? Like in that role?
Yes, I was
so. So is after that. So because because I know now you're, you're managing a team. So that that kind of happened, like organically over that over the preceding? I forget where we are in the timeline, but like, in the in the in the years after that?
Yeah. I mean, 'bout year after there was a software development manager came over as well with that. And about a year after we got the infrastructure migration complete, they announced they were leaving. And I was offered the position at that time, I think, mostly because of my roles. I'd had him back in healthcare it.
Yeah, yeah. Cuz, I mean, that's, that's a choice, too. I mean, did you have to think about it? Like, take, like, you know, when they offered? It did, were you? I mean, I assume that, like I did, like, I mean, like right ... traditionally the, that sort of offer will, you know, have be like a raise and everything, a new title, whatever. But like, it's, it's a, it's a different ballgame. Right.
I should give a talk about this...
Well, I mean, you know, for listeners that don't know, like, Glen did a lightning talk on this transition for our lightning talk round in February. I knew was I mean, it was very, very good talking. Well, the talk is on YouTube, so we'll link to it. But I, one of the reasons I was very excited by having you here was was to like, sort of, have you dig in a little bit more? Because it's such like a I don't know, we were just talking about transitions this whole time. So I don't want to say like, Oh, it's a huge transition, compared to compared to a lot of the stuff you've gone through, or anybody's gone through, but like, it's still as a career choice, you know,
things different transition, sort of transition, because, I mean, I went from kind of a team member to team owner. Yeah. Some respects.
Sorry, I just want to pause for a second and see if you can you define the difference between IC to engineering manager
define the difference between that I mean, it's a it's a in terms of the work I do day to day, or in terms of how it felt? Well, you can go with both, I just want to make sure that listeners understand what the transition what what that means in terms of your role and expectations. And, and I guess how you feel plays into that for sure. A lot of that can depend on where you are where I am, that took me into a whole new leadership layer that I didn't have any access to before. And I should qualify that, that I worked for a big classifies small company, but in my mind doesn't really seem very small. There's 200 staff. There's one large team of software developers and a few IT personnel. But in terms of leadership hierarchy, above me, I mean, now I report directly to the CEO and on the software development manager, so I'm pulled into many strategic planning, company crisis meeting, things that things that I just had no knowledge of before.
And I mean, that's kind of the the tightness of my team going through that acquisition and, and having been together through that. I mean, we didn't keep secrets, that was our policy, no secrets, no matter who would hurt among us, I mean, we're trying to hurt anyone else. The policy was you had to tell it. And, and so me going from independent contributor to the manager is really me kind of leaving some of the closeness and the tightness that I felt with those comrades. And kind of going out and doing more on my own, which is led to a lot of growth, but also some growing pains there. My work, I do a lot more project planning now, supervising what other people are doing. Occasionally, I get to help people and touch code. And that's really fun. I'm probably guilty of touching code too much and avoiding some of my other duties. But that's just me. You want me to hit on some of the things I talked about in my presentation?
Yeah, I mean, I like that, that I've been, I can't remember what podcast was, I was listening to another podcast about, about this, and about the how Traditionally, the way to move up in a company or you know, get a raise, or whatever it is, you know, there's just like a ceiling for being a, like an individual developer. And the next step is always management, you know, but the in the podcast I was listing to is about pushing back on on the idea. I know. Not everybody like, has is, you know, possibly good at being a manager, or wants to be a manager, you know, and things like that. And, and so anybody that has, like, consciously made this transition at you know, I always want to, like, the things I wasn't want to know is like, like, did you think about that at the time? And now that you're in it? You know, it's, from what I can tell, it seems like you're pretty comfortable in the position, but like, are you like glad? Do you ever think about moving back to being, you know, like, it? And I see like, in another, you know, if you could keep all the whatever your current benefits and everything, but be coding all day, instead of managing? Would you take that job? Or, you know, would you think about it, you know, that kind of...I know that that was just like 7000 questions that you can pick which one you want to hit, sir.
I'm gonna start at the beginning. Yeah, there definitely was a ceiling. I think at any mall company, there's going to be a ceiling and how far you can progress as an independent contributor. Oracle's different Oracle had career tax for software development, you could have, I mean, you could go all the way up through the levels, almost to the top as an independent contributor. I mean, there were ceilings that you're not going to go to the executive later moving from independently contributor, you had to go through the management track to get kind of up past that. But you can go a long way as an independent contributor or call and get very good income. So but at this small company, I mean, there really wasn't any place for me to go. In fact, I'd say, about six months before that, I was looking for another job, just because I didn't think anybody was ever leaving. That was ahead of me, and I wasn't going to have any place to go. And I was looking for some place with more of a progression possible.
But I had a really unexpected health care issue, that year, health issue and a diagnosis. And so over those months, it was just not even on my radar. I was just trying to make some life adjustments. And so when that came up was completely unexpected. And, you know, I did think a lot about it quickly. In that, you know, I wasn't in a place to make a ... transition that year, just because of that, that stuff I was going through in the other part of my life. And so I kind of looked at it like, I kind of took over the team when that other person left. And what were my options? I say no. And I'm still running the team while they hire someone. And then I'm going to be training the person probably and doing part of their workload for, I'd say, a period of months, and maybe, maybe I don't even ever stop doing part of their workload. We'll see. I see what they're like, maybe there. Maybe they don't work out. You know, this just and I just think At my current rate, or if I take it, at least I get a new job title and a pay raise and do what I would have had to do anyway. Yeah, totally. So that was the decision that kind of led me through there. Sorry, I lost the the second part of your question.
If you don't remember, I certainly don't remember
if I can do it over again or?
not, if you could do it over again. But if you had the opportunity to go back coding all of the time, with the same benefits that you have in your role?
Yeah. So not like, would you go back and make a different choice? But like, right now, you know, how much do you miss? coding is, I guess, like the right. I mean, like, you don't have to answer like that.
Do I think about it? Only every day.... I mean, I equate that to taking a step back in the progression of your life to a certain extent. Would it be awesome to go back and live with my parents? My mom makes me french toast every morning. Yeah, that'd be really cool. But would you really want to do do that?
No, I don't think that I could go back and kind of that back to that same goal where I was before, I think there might be something different for me in the future where I get to do more coding, but we'll just see kind of where that leads.
Okay, so I think there, there are two ways that this can go. So I still want to hear your story. Um, about your first job.
The story where I almost drowned?
See, I didn't even put that in my speaker notes there.
But you remembered because I told you at some point,
yeah, you put it in slack. And I still have a record of that.
So my very first job at a university was setting up health IT systems in remote Aboriginal communities along the western coast of Canada. And so many of these communities or villages are flying only or boat and I guess traditionally boat in. And so to go do this work, and we'd be getting satellite Satellite Internet hookups, being some advanced wireless signals off different islands from the mainland kind of thing. We'd get to charter flow planes.
And so getting to this day, if I get on a float plane, I fall asleep. Because I had to leave my house, I'd drive for two, three hours, it'd be like 3:30am, I get to the flow plane dock at 6:30am. We get on a flow plane, we fly for two hours and get to our destination. But as soon as I hit the flow plane every morning, I was just out. But the company put us through this. It's called egress training. And what it is, is, I mean, statistically, any plane class crashes, like, I don't know what the percentage is. super high percentage to happen on landing or takeoff. And the the creator of this course, survived a plane crash himself on the Fraser River in Vancouver.
And after that, the RCMP started calling him in to help investigate other plane crashes, especially on water. And what they found was that everybody was surviving these crashes and getting trapped in the plane and drowning. And float planes float. So these people were drowning, like, only a few feet below the surface of the water, because they couldn't get out of the plane,
because it's upside down, right?
Yeah, the plane inverts the pontoons hold the plane up. And so he created this course to teach people how to exit inverted submerged planes.
And so, I was put through this course. And the way he did it is he had to forfeit deep hotel swimming pool and he had built this fuselage with seats in it and doors and windows and this is strap you in The seat and essentially, like, dump you into the pool upside down. And, I mean, this is it happens in stages. So, I mean, first you practice getting yourself out and getting your belt off and memorizing where the door handle is and where your hand positions are kicking out a window. And then, I mean, it leads up to you dumping this fuselage thing in the pool upside down, and you have to get yourself out. And there's actually a smaller one, too, as well that it's for more advanced, this little cage thing with doors and windows. And what they do in that one is they, they tumble you until you're just completely disoriented. And and then you have to get your way out. And I was in the tumbler one and got out, but I just had no idea which way was the surface of the water kind of thing. And yeah, I got like one foot on the ground, luckily, and just like got my head up and vomited. I got I took in water, and I can see how people drown. I learned a lot in that moment.
So that was
like two things. One, I would never have expected for my first job in tech to have to experience that and two, Glen. I think this whole podcast episode, you've talked about a million things that like have terrified me. I've had a stress reaction here. And you're just like, so calm talking about it. I very much want to know how you do that, too.
I don't know, maybe that's why I got the job I have would just figure it out, start moving forward. Take things as they come.
Yeah. And I just I want to touch too on. Okay, so you talked about you faced a challenge a couple of years ago, and that was kind of part of this decision making thing, right. And so I'm not positive about what that challenge was. But I think that maybe that has to do with your diabetes diagnosis. Is that true?
That's true. I mean, that's a, that's a whole other story in itself, we have time for it.
The brief version is I lost 38 pounds in about three months. And that was while I was like eating everything in sight. I would literally like go to the grocery store at 10 o'clock at night because I was hungry. And I mean to anybody familiar with Type One Diabetes, this is really kind of stereotypical behavior. Other symptoms, kind of went back a few years it had been progressing, runs in my family. My grandfather had it, my grandfather died of it. And so you know, I drink a gallon a half of water per day. It would be like, you know, one liter bottle of Nalgene, I'd be like, I just need a little drink water before bed and drink the whole thing and like 10 seconds.
So made a doctor's appointment. And the doctor knew. And it's quite unusual to get type one diabetes as an adult. Normally, there's, there's kind of two ages that are common to have an onset of type one diabetes, a one is around five or six years old. The second one is late teens, you know, 18 to 20 years old, can have an onset, and I was a bit older than that.
And so they sent me to an endocrinologist to get all these tests. And I mean, the interesting part about this whole story they gave me needles is it's all no fun. And I had to learn how to use it.
But is that I got introduced to this idea of an open source artificial pancreas. And this is a really amazing community. Because the open source solutions have far surpassed what's available commercially. This is the term is called we're not waiting if you're looking for it on the internet. And it's actually I believe, driven by parents of diabetic kids who build software. And have made an incredible set of open source tools for advanced diabetic care. And so there's kind of two main components to, to this one is called the continuous glucose monitor.
And it it's like a sticker that gets stuck on you with a Bluetooth transmitter on it. And there's a little filament of wire that goes under your skin. And it continuously monitors your blood sugar levels throughout the day, you get that you get that from a company called dex calm, that's where I get mine, there's a few. And then you have an insulin pump. And it continuously microdoses insulin throughout the day to maintain your proper blood sugar level. And the crazy part about this situation is that these are made by two different companies, and they've never actually got together and figured out you know, hey, I can sense the blood sugar level, and you can dose the insulin.
When I eat, if I'm just using a straight up insulin pump, I have to you know, count my carbs, and program how much insulin to give myself or if I'm going to exercise I have to like reduce my insulin level ahead of time, or else all I need to eat sugar. Because exercise burns sugar. So what this open source community did is they built a bridge between the two, with with university researchers as well. And so my phone, the software running on my Android phone acts as a kind of an artificial intelligence bridge, there's a certain algorithm analysis in there, that senses my blood sugar levels and automatically adjust my insulin dosage levels. And, like I said, the crazy thing is that this, this couldn't have been figured out by industry, they couldn't have talked to each other and done this. To me, people were literally taking the wireless remote for the insulin pump and reverse engineering The, the commands to it.
I mean, so this is this all fascinating. And one of the things that I was thinking about so my first instinct, if I weren't intact would be to be really afraid of that. But I was wondering if you're because you are in tech, because you kind of understand what's going on? Did that impact, like the solutions that you were looking for? Or you're trusting this? Or I don't know, just how did you decide to make this?
I mean, it's all not the FDA approved, let's, let's come up with that. Right away, I think that I couldn't have pursued this. If I didn't have a background in tech. I mean, I had to build Android clients from scratch and deploy them myself, myself, and that sort of thing. Number one, number two, I was lucky I even found it isn't like this is advertised. It's not like the doctors are telling you about it. I mean, my family doctor, I don't even think I've explained it to her. I just she's just like, Yeah, you got a pump, good. My endocrinologist knows about it. Because he specializes in this. And he thought, you know, this is, this is pretty cool. Let me know how it goes. You got a background, you know what you're doing? He said he has one other patient, you know, of his entire patient load. He has one other patient who does loopings what it's called, you close the loop. And he's like, Yeah, tell me about it when you come back next time.
And so in terms of me being afraid to try it, not really. Oh, yeah, it wasn't first. It was at first but everything's subtle in degrees, right? It's not like live or die, pass or fail. There's a lot of areas of gray in between everything. And I mean, I had I had problems. At first I'll see that. The nurse that set me up with my pump initially, who probably still doesn't know that I have this running. Initially dosed me about 30% too high. Maybe more than that, maybe 50% too high even on my insulin. And it's really subtle. From me who doesn't know anything to tell that necessarily because there's no that was, that's my kind of constant level throughout the day, she dosed really high. And it's mixed in, I'm giving myself other doses when I eat. So it's really hard for me to tell that that that base level was, was too high.
And so I had problems with my, my algorithm setup. Based on that for six months, maybe. And I say problems, what, what's the solution to the problem, it just means I got to eat. And so luckily, I have, I have a constant monitor, and it has an alarm that tells me what I need to eat. But I got, there's a book that the endocrinologist recommended I read. Initially, that was like, months before. And so I started reading this book one day, and it started giving me these protocols to actually determined my correct levels. And I did them involves a lot of fasting and pricking your finger every two hours throughout the night. And that's how I got my correct base level figured out. And once I got that, things started to go smoother with the artificial pancreas feedback loop.
That's, that's crazy, it's tough to win when the kind of thing takes time to figure out and it's also like, your health, you know, like your body. And it's so hard, I don't,
I never really found someone to talk to about this. I'm still going at it by myself. And it's one reason why I bring it up. Sometimes it's like, if there's someone else struggling with this, I want them to talk to me, the I mean, the docs, let's just say open source docs. Nuff said there. But they tell you, and there's like a gajillion settings on this thing. And they tell you kind of what give you an explanation of each setting. But they don't really tell you how to know what to set it to, like how it applies to you. And so it's been a lot of trial and error there. On my own party. I mean, it goes on every week, every day, trying different things, trying different set different settings. And I don't have everything dialed in yet, but it's like way closer than it was. So, I mean, I still consider myself lucky to have stumbled on this number one. Number two, lucky to have the technical knowledge to even get it running by myself. And number three, like the effectiveness of the treatment using the open source system is lightyears ahead of what is available through traditional medicine like there is absolutely no comparison not even in the same bill ballpark.
So hard to imagine.
Right? And that's what's so frustrating. I don't know, the healthcare industry is one of the things that frustrates me the most for like exactly this reason, right? Like there are things that they try that we treat people over and over in the very same ways that are not accurate or not the best ways. And then newer and better ways aren't pursued, or they just take so much time, or just people don't even doctors don't even know to offer them. Right. And so then there's just I don't know, my inner rage comes out when I talk about this. Because it's just it's not fair. Like we're letting people down by not pursuing these different ways or the the most exciting way or whatever. Like maybe you're not going to make headlines for doing this thing. And so then nobody pursues it.
But gosh, put insurance companies in that mix?
It's the worst. Like, I'm in the middle of that right now. And it's just such a shame. And that's why, you know, I'm really glad that you talked about this because, you know, hopefully one person hears it and they tell another person and just, I think even sometimes knowing that there are options out there that you haven't stumbled upon is enough to provide hope for somebody who, who's just going through a really rough time with it, you know?
Yeah. And I mean, it's, it's quite humorous looking back. There's even if you have a child who's diabetic, there's great monitoring tools that that had been built in. So me, I monitor myself, obviously, I'm able to do that. But I mean, this cannot be this is all internet enabled through cellular data, if you have this on your child, you can be monitoring constantly, if they're not managing themselves, you can manage them remotely. If it's a small child, we set up this up. Initially, for me, it seemed like a good idea, because I do a lot of work outside by myself. And, and this is, I mean, in that initial month, when I was first trying this, and I had monitoring setup to my wife's phone.
And the exact same monitoring you'd use if you had one of your children on this. And I was working at the back of the property doing my thing, and not really paying attention to anything. And she like comes running through the field with I don't remember like sugar and water and these things, and, and I'm just like, Hey, what's going on? She's like, convinced then like, laying there dying? Because my connection was disconnected. It was it was it was not reading accurately.
Well, nice to know she is ready to ready.
So that was the last day the monitoring was installed in her phone. After that. She's like, You're on your own. So now I'm on my own. But it's been good. It's very difficult to get into that type of situation. Now that I have it tuned better.
Wow, Glen, this has just been such a great hour plus talking through all of these things. I just very much like hearing you talk about all of this. All these things that you've gone through and all of these things that you've done, and just hearing your story, because you're a really great storyteller teller. So it's easy to you know, just sit back and listen. So I very much appreciate you sharing all of this stuff for everybody else to hear as well.
Yeah, I agree. I feel like you have a unique perspective on life. I'm sure some of that is from, you know, created from your experiences. And some of that is, you know, I don't know, innate or whatever. But I always I always like, kind of listen to you. Talk about your experiences. And you know, the way the way you've kind of viewed things as you go through them. I Appreciate it.
All right. Well, that's our episode for today. We will put some of those links in the show notes. And again, thanks so much for being here with us, Glen. We'll see you soon.
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 at Virtual Coffee, IO. Or you can email us at podcast at Virtual coffee.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 Virtual coffee.io.
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The Virtual Coffee Podcast is produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel and edited by Dan Ott.