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Mike Rogers - Tend Your Career like a Garden

Season 3, Episode 7 | August 16, 2021

In this episode, Dan and Bekah are joined by Mike Rogers, to talk about changing course as a dev, and tending careers like gardens.


Mike Rogers's Profile Photo
Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers is a Ruby developer from the UK. He made the chat bots for Virtual Coffee, has an awesome Ruby Event Calendar, and loves Docker.

Show Notes:

In this episode, Dan and Bekah are joined by Mike Rogers. Mike has had a long and successful career, but at one point he realized he no longer felt good or satisfied with where he was as a developer. He shared with us what he did to change course, and how he has learned to approach tending his career almost like a garden.

Links to things mentioned in the episode:

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Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello, and welcome to season three, episode seven of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. I'm Bekah. And this is a podcast that features members of the Virtual Coffee community. Virtual Coffee is an intimate group of developers at all stages of their coding journey. And they're here on this podcast, sharing their stories and what they've learned. And we're here to share it with you. Here with me today, is my cohost Dan.

Dan:

Thanks Bekah! Today we're joined by Mike Rogers. Mike is a Ruby developer from the UK. And if you're a Virtual Coffee member (and if you're not, you should join), you've probably seen his chatbots at work everyday in the Virtual Coffee slack. Uh, which we very much love and appreciate. We had a really great time talking with Mike. Mike has had a long and successful career. But at one point he realized he no longer felt good or satisfied with where he was as a developer. He shared with us what he did to change course and how he has learned to approach tending his career. Almost like a garden. Mike has a lot of insights and we had a blast talking to him. I know you're going to enjoy it.

Bekah:

We start every episode of the podcast. Like we start every Virtual Coffee. We introduce ourselves with our name, where we're from, what we do in a random check-in question. Today's question is you can have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what is it? We hope you enjoy this episode. Hi, I'm Bekah. I'm a front end developer from a small town in Ohio. And if I could have an unlimited supply of one thing, I'm, I'm going to say energy. Cause I feel like there's not, not like power for my lights, but like for me personally,

Dan:

Um, hi, I'm Dan I'm a front end developer from Cleveland, Ohio, and yeah. Uh, rest was the first thing that popped into my head. Um, I, uh, you know, I don't know. I was just telling Bekah before we recorded, I had my two year old woke up maybe four or five times in the middle of the night, last night. Um, and, um, just to, I just don't have time. I don't know how time would work. Like that was my going to be my other answer, but like, that doesn't...super make sense. I don't mean

Bekah:

dangerous. You're messing with the space time continuum. And I

Dan:

I'm all right with that though. I'm all right. Being a time variant, you know?

Bekah:

wow.

Dan:

Well, like it's like almost like a Time Turner or something, right. Or like that, the pause time thing. We've, we've, we've talked about that. I feel like before it's, it's come up a few times. Um, but yeah, so I'm, I'm going to stick with the rest though, you know, um, our energy, I suppose it's almost the same thing, right?

Mike:

Sounds like you kind of this pitch red bull that if I'm honest.

Dan:

Yeah, well, that's right. Yeah. It's a slippery slope

Bekah:

what we want.

Dan:

But I I'm, I'm going with rest that's that's my official name.

Mike:

Okay. well, I'm Mike Rogers I'm a Ruby developer originally from the United Kingdom. I currently live in the United States, which is quite exciting if I had an unlimited supply of something, I want to say enthusiasm. Um, because sometimes I go through those little down bits where I'm like, I can't be bothered to code and I just wish I could turn on something and be like, no, now I really want to code again. This is great. Or get something done. That'd be me.

Dan:

I liked that I was almost going to say, like, you're just wishing for something that you already have, but, uh, that, that explanation

Mike:

I want more of the thing I already have, please.

Bekah:

Mike is one of the most enthusiastic members of Virtual Coffee. If you are ever in a room with him and you are feeling down, I don't think it's possible to leave that room without feeling happy. So I hope that you get that from this episode too.

Mike:

Always throws me off when people say that, because everyone says that and I'm like, seriously, I'm just being myself. Like, what do I do to people?

Bekah:

It's the best you have. You have the, the energy. So, I guess my answer is just more Mike Rogers in my

Dan:

There you go. We just need an unlimited supply of Mike and we'll, we'll be in good shape.

Bekah:

So we're so excited to have you here with us on the podcast. Thank you for being here. And we always like to get started with the origin story. So tell us how you got to this point in your life.

Mike:

say I was really dreading this because my story is so vanilla that I was going through my notes and I was like, I don't think it could be any more boring. It was a very typical entry in to tech. Well, I was building websites when I was like little, like when I was like 12, 14, just in Dreamweaver. If you remember that. Oh, tool from Adobe. Oh, I loved it. I good. And then I'd be like go to like school and I'll show my friends and then we'd all like start building websites and have them online for free. And then very quickly I was like, Oh, I really enjoyed this. This is really fun. Then I went to university and I had some identity CS degree, but very focused on web. And that was, that was great fun. And then I just ended up kind of getting a job, like vaguely and what I wanted to do, like someone told me Ruby on Rails is like quite a fun framework. And I was like, yeah. it does look fun. I done some PHP, but then yeah, I think did Ruby and it was like, oh, I like this. This is, this is a pretty language. So I was like, I like you have an ice cream

Bekah:

Okay.

Mike:

be the best way to describe my reaction to that. And then, um, to kind of fast forward to how I got to where I am now, I had like a few years where, like, I was kind of quite happy just traveling around like the world's kind of freelancing and doing a bit of work. And more recently, like I wanted to kind of get a bit more stability in my life and then have like a full-time job where it's like, oh, I actually get paychecks every month for like, doing work as opposed to not getting paid sometimes as a freelancer, which is very scary. Um,

Dan:

Yes.

Bekah:

that's rough.

Mike:

That's pretty much

Bekah:

So were you a digital nomad or.

Mike:

Um, that was what I was going for for like so long. I really enjoyed, it was like the best few years like all my life. I was just like, I was just jumping between like major cities, but like, I find the best in that I find amazing coworking spaces and I'd just work and I'd have such a good time. Um, I'm also a quite anti-authority person, so it's quite nice kind of going against the grain and finding people who are similar to that. So I also got featured on a magazine as well. I think he may have seen the picture where I'm just kind of sitting outside on my laptop, just like working in some of his like, ah, cool. I'm going to right now to go about you and I'm like, do it. And Yeah. then she did,

Bekah:

It's like at a top of a very high place. And Mike is sitting there with it.

Mike:

Yeah. There was some other shots as well. I also had a dog with me at the time.

Bekah:

Were there. Did you have favorite places that you like to work from or was your goal just to go as many places as possible?

Mike:

So originally my goal was to go see all these places like, which I'd read about in magazines, but very quickly I realized the places I wanted to go as a tourist, was different to where I want it to go to like live for like a few months. So my favorite places, like kind of in no particular order Berlin, like the city in Germany, um, there's some really nice like meetup groups there where they're so friendly and I'm still friends with the people I met in those meetup groups. One of them tweeted me yesterday saying we miss Mike. And I was like, oh, That's wild. And then, um, Prague as well, I went to a wonderful coworking space there. It was. The owner was an American guy and he's just like, I just wanted to make friends. So I started a co-working space and I was like, I like, I liked this guy's same mindset. And then, um, I tons of actual, like crazy places. I really enjoy Japan. Like it's a bit more tricky to work there. Like I guess working remotely. Isn't, wasn't a thing when I was there, but I've really enjoyed just kind of this, the Japanness of everything.

Bekah:

So where you just were the, were you working consistent contracts that just kind of allowed you to go to these different places? Or were you trying to pick up contracts as you're moving? That just sounds like a lot of logistics, like, well, I need work and I need a place to stay any place that has internet, you know?

Mike:

Oh, luckily I was young and happy to wing it. Um, every time. It was bad. In hindsight, I think I was like a little bit crazy. I didn't even have like any money at the time, but like to cover like places to live. I would like do pet sitting where people would go on holiday and that normally I just feel so by who has the fastest internet. And then I just go to that person's house. That worked really well. Um, and then to actually find work, I had a few like startups, I kind of knew about who needed work every now and again. And they would kind of keep me going here and there. And then sometimes I'd have to like, do some really terrible freelance work, which I hated doing where it was like the stressful kind of you, you wouldn't pick this project unless you were like really styling kind of freelance work. Um, I always had this dream and it was this, the worst dream, like kind of go out with, uh, I was like, I'd have enough energy to make my own startup. And I could be the guy who's just like sitting on a beach and ending like that passive income. And every time I tried, I never quite like finish any of the projects. I had lots of fun.

Bekah:

Yeah, that sounds awesome. And really exciting. And so.

Mike:

to live.

Bekah:

You went from being a digital nomad to kind of deciding that you needed something more stable and that, ahead. Talk about that a little bit.

Mike:

Yeah. So I started hitting this problem and it was so it's such an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but when you're freelancing, you generally are going to stick to what you're really good at. So with me, it was like, okay, I'm really good at this very small particular thing. That's where I know I'm definitely going to get. And I kept doing that and doing that. And I just felt like I wasn't really making any progress in my career. Like I'd hit like a, a wall where the next place to go was no, as like some kind of kid who just turns up with his laptop every now and again. And I got super sad because I talked to my friends who. Work together in a company like many years ago and I chat to them and then we'd be comparing our salaries because, you know, that's such a good thing to do. And I was I'd come back. And I was like, I thought I was doing really well, but now one of my friends is earning twice as much as me. And he seems so much more like stable in his life. And he's where everything kind of a bit more like just, just a couple of his like Eggs in a row. Is it egg ducks in a row? That's the one not exited, right. That would be horrific.

Dan:

eggs eggs in a basket ducks in a row

Mike:

Yeah,

Bekah:

Lux have

Mike:

the one.

Bekah:

can be in the row with them.

Mike:

And I started kind of thinking, right. I really need to solve this because if I don't push myself, I'm going to be that person. And I met a few of these were traveling where I would chat to them. And I just was like, what are you doing? Like you're, as soon as like, maybe your technology goes, you don't have anything to fall back on to. So you could just wake up one day completely unemployed and you'll have to scramble to get work and you don't have too much more. And yeah, so I really. Really struggled. So I thought the first best thing to do is maybe come back to the UK, settle down a little bit, or try and find something a bit more stable, which was, uh, an exciting adventure as well. Like I managed to find some pretty, uh, pretty fun startup to work for, which was very relaxing. And, uh, they kind of were able to change me a little bit more. And I've really got out of my like little quiet shell of like, Okay. I can do some little bits of rails, but now. They're forcing me to kind of learn all these other things like server administration, how to optimize databases, how to really be fantastic at like front end. And that was, that was quite a fun one to, uh, to chase.

Dan:

Was that a I'm sorry. I was just going to say, was that, was that still a contracting at that point? Or was that like a

Mike:

Oh, that was like a full-time role. That was wild. Um, that was like my first full-time job. And like, I want to say it was like three or four years at the time. And, uh, yeah, it was so weird. Like every day it's like, oh, cool. I have a job to go to. This is great. Um, compared to where I'd ended up and it was so fun, like kind of looking back on the, kind of the projects I had been doing, like there's like a certain trait to projects where they can only hire people for like a short amount of time. I'm sure you everyone has like, kind of encountered this where if they can only have a developer for like three. Months in a year, they're going to really cram in what they have to do, and they're going to triple it really hard to get stuff done. And very quickly projects become awful to work on, like where it's like, instead of like a nice logically laid out CSS file. It's going to be like all over the show, possibly even one big like cluster spaghetti mess. And so I try, I'm very, very careful not to make you put an explicit tag on this podcast as the heads-up.

Dan:

Yeah.

Mike:

then Yeah. also some of the products were so old. Um, and then being able to kind of work in a company and be like, Hey, if we put some time into this, we can, we can be way happier. And like three weeks time, can we do that? And then they're like, Yeah. which was quite nice.

Bekah:

So I want to back up for a second here. So you talked about

Mike:

I've like, run through quite quickly. I'm like,

Bekah:

no, no, this is great. Um, This, you started to feel this sense of there's a lack of stability, starting to feel stagnant, where you are. So at what point did that happen? And like, was it that conversation about salary that really helped you to understand that? Or how did you recognize that?

Mike:

It was a really difficult thing to actually recognize. So the conversation about like salaries was the starting point of like, getting that ball going of going, oh no, I need to fix some stuff. So as soon as I started thinking, Okay. Actually I've done very similar projects and I'm not pushing myself anymore. Like my career is like, if you were to go look at my work history, it's like I was doing the exact same job over and over and over, like was on a, on a treadmill almost. And for a lot of the jobs, I was like, I can't even remember doing half of them. I can see the paycheck there and I can see the customer name, but I couldn't tell you what was special about that. And that was, that was cool. It was quite jarring as well, like really strange feeling. And it's like, huh, am I unhappy? Or what's, what's causing this unhappiness because it's, I'm not satisfied with the work I'm doing and not sure how to get around it. And I kind of jumped the Cal ended up kind of like solving it very quickly there. But like, as soon as I started becoming aware that I needed to start pushing myself a bit more and the steps I had to make as well to correct that. Was very, very difficult. Um, but it paid off quite quickly. Um, and I'd love to go into some of the things I started doing as well. Would that be Okay.

Bekah:

Oh yeah,

Mike:

cause it, it wasn't like I got depressed and then I got a job. That was a lot of the middle. It was like,

Bekah:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, once you recognize, start to recognize these things, like you said, it wasn't easy. There was a. You know, a variety of things that had to happen. And so recognizing is step one and then really diving into that middle part, I think is important because we often get the stories of, well, then I decided I made this decision and then everybody fast forward through all of the hard parts of things. So I would love to hear

Mike:

Yeah. Let's jump into the hard part. So I want to say like, The lowest point I had was I remember the sitting in bed one morning and I woke up and I was like, I don't even want to put my feet on the floor. I'm so miserable and unhappy with just the state of things. It's a really weird feeling to be like, oh, I'm earning quite good money doing something. I think I quite like, but I don't even want to like, literally roll, put my feet on the, and press the power button on my computer this morning. Like that is too much. that was definitely a morning. I remember the morning really distinctly, whereas it's like, oh, this is, this could go downhill really fast. And I was even thinking, do I want to leave tech because do I enjoy programming for fun and actually getting paid for it. is the issue. And, Um, then I remember actually I really like the money. That's that's, that's definitely a good motivator. So I was like, it's probably not that. And I quickly made a list of all the things I wanted to be. Very soon on it in the future, I was like, well, what are, what is some small bit of all the people I follow online or really like, what's something small they've done, which I really want to copy. So one was I follow a developer who he contributes a lot to open source and I was like, okay. well, I don't have to contribute a lot. I can just maybe contribute just a little bit and have my little piece there. And then I started watching YouTube tutorials a little bit. And there's a particular guy that's into Chris Oliver. I always really liked his style where he just does a quick 10 minute video every now and again. And I was like, Okay. I really like that. then the final thing, I was like, well, all of a sudden. I also want to make sure I write down the things I know just in case I get really bored and no one finds my videos and then we'll find some way principles work. So at least maybe some of them I can at least solve someone's problem. If I don't stick on with this depth stuff. So I started like blogging again, and you can see it in my blog post, by the way, you can see like the dips as like, when I was taking breaks and then suddenly, like I started doing stuff again, and then it like quietens down a bit while I have a job. And then it's like, ah, I have to take it back off again. Now I want to like do more stuff. But that was, that was kind of the main things I was doing. So I made this list and I started working through the list. And as I started working through, I started talking to my friends about this and turns out they were all in the same scenario where they were all like, not quite satisfied and they're all working. On the little things to try and like boost their careers and get to that next level where they can just do interesting, challenging work, where they're gonna get paid pretty well. And I have a really good friend called Tom Cadwell and we, we worked together when we were 20. We paired every day and then we both went our separate ways. And then we've texted like pretty much once a week about what we're doing. And. He's like, he's like me to other how people would describe me to other people. And I'm like, really, Jerry he's that for me? And it's like, cool, cool, nice. And we have like a bet between us, like dollar bets for like, who's going to get the most followers on certain things or he's going to get the most views. And that was really brilliant. Up. It's like, well, helped me kind of keep sticking with the things I was doing. So like, I think Right. now we have a bet for, who's gonna have the base of YouTube followers by the end of the year and he's winning. So I really want to work hard to fix that. Um, but so once I kind of side working through this anyway, and felt more confident to apply for those harder jobs where maybe I might actually be challenged a bit during the day. And cause it's, I hate applying for jobs. It's like the worst experience. If you it's like, it's almost like dating apps where it's like, you're going to be rejected thousands of times and that's gonna like destroy you, but it could be that one thousands times actually the perfect person for you. So you kind of have to stick with it. So like, I would apply for jobs and I'd keep upping the ante each time and I'm like, Okay. I know a few of these things and I'm going to do everything I can to do it. Or. Feel competent about what I'm applying for. So that worked quite well. And as I was doing this, I found the best way to find out about Joseph was through local meetups and stuff. So user groups, and that was great. Um, that was like, oh cool. By meeting all these friends and a little tip for everyone, um, meetups are a great way to find a job. It's like you meet the people who are going to be interviewing you beforehand. You can figure out if they're like nice people or not. So I highly recommend that. Yeah. that was kind of like what I did. And then eventually, like, as I was waiting for you, the stagnation feeling, I came out the other side and then I was like, Okay. I don't feel stagnant anymore. I'm being challenged. I'm surrounded by really smart people. And I felt like I've really, really was going, but I was back on track where I want it to be like, when I kind of compared myself to my friends, I was like, cool. We were all kind of back on the same level. Now I managed to very quickly level myself up and. That, that was a great feeling. And it kinda made me think about like how your career is kind of like a garden as well. Um, who it will be. This metaphor works where if you kind of like, forget about your garden and let it grow wild. It's going to not be a great garden and you've got to sit there and maintain it. And so you can, you know, plow the pow pow, the grass, put it in, but you also have to like, let it grow as well organically like, you can't sit there, poking the seeds because the seeds will never grow. You've got to like water it and maybe brush the soil. I don't know much about gardening. Is that really?

Bekah:

Yeah, that's a British method that I am not aware of.

Dan:

Sure, sure. Yeah.

Mike:

maybe.

Dan:

Get the soil brush out.

Mike:

Yeah. That's this, put it down as a British thing.

Dan:

Well, it's it's that's what's the point of the gardening pick? You pick that up and none of Japan, right? I'm pretty sure that's the Japanese soil brush. Yeah.

Mike:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. You have to, you have to be in your bathroom. I said, well, you're doing stuff. It's like, it's a relaxing thing.

Bekah:

They do in the bathroom.

Dan:

that's a different, different brush. Um, I, my guy, I love this metaphor. I, uh, I was, um, I was just thinking about what you're talking, you know, and, and yet, and there's a lot of different, there's a lot of different things you can do with a garden. Right. And there's a lot of different things you can do, um, with your career, you know, you could plant a bunch of different things and kind of tend them all.

Mike:

Yeah.

Dan:

maybe like, w were you doing before? Like as a freelancer or something, right,

Mike:

Yeah. Or you could focus on like certain individual things. So you feel like, you know what carrots, that's going to be. My thing for this month, you can agree on carrots. Or if you want to have a big tree, which is going to take a long time to grow, where you put the seeds in and you look after it, maybe you put some like steaks in to help it grow straight and strong. And that's a lot like a career in a way. And also sometimes you just need to have people to help you with things like doing stuff on your own is hard. Like. It's so much easier to have help from other people, especially if you're doing something big or heavy, or even just asking people like, Hey, how, how far apart should I plant these like carrots? It's like, yeah, I don't know how far apart you should put carrots. But when I have grown carrots, I put them too close together and they ended up bunching together.

Bekah:

Oh, yeah. There's lots of things like that. And even like, if you think about weeding and how that applies to sometimes we pick up bad habits. Right.

Mike:

Oh, yes

Bekah:

we do need some help, like taking care of that part of it or recognizing that like, oh wait, that that's not a tomato plant. That's this weed that looks similar to a tomato plant, which I have in my garden right now. Right. I've got an app to identify these things now. So see, I found help. Um, and, and this applies to, at so many different stages of the career too. I love it. Like this idea of it can be so hard to be patient when you are learning something new, but that idea, like, look, it doesn't, these things don't grow overnight. Put tomato plants in, in June. And I don't have tomatoes that are red yet. It just takes a while and you have to give it nutrients. You have to feed it. And, and then that's when you collect the, you know, the things that you've worked so hard for.

Mike:

Yeah. the super nice ones. That's super good. Yeah. Um, so I had something in there and then it is wished completely out my brain. It's like, there's no thought.

Dan:

I was going too far in the metaphor. I was trying to figure out how to keep, you know, how do you keep chipmunks and squirrels out of your career and kind of, I don't think I've, I haven't, I haven't found that.

Mike:

I have one good thought though, it's like, I'm getting rid of those bad habits as well. Cause that's the other thing, which is, I feel keeps so many people back is like they develop all these bad things. Problems in their, like how they approach problems or like other aspects. So a good example is let's say you have a developer who's very bad at writing commit messages or doing pull requests. And if you were to work with them, that would probably rub off on you. And then if you went to another company, they might look at that when they're interviewing you and be like, no, you're bad at this one particular thing we really care about. And I found the best thing to do is like constantly. Almost work in public, as much as you can and ask for constant feedback or say, I've got this like little hot tip for anyone who's kind of senior. Um, and is kind of in that. position where they're like, have I picked up bad habits, pay with junior devs? They're like, they're fresh out of like, uh, like the cancel that causes. You can teach them a lot, but also you can see what they're doing differently to you. And I've been pairing with my junior. Uh, they're not a junior developer, they're just a developer, but, um, they call themselves junior and I'm like, don't call yourself junior. I digress. Okay. So I've been pairing with one of my colleagues and they're fantastic, and they do things a bit differently to me. And I don't want to tell them that. I think they're actually doing it a bit better. Sometimes, um, quietly changing a lot of my habits now because they've obviously found a more efficient way because they just entered the industry at a different time where like all these extra things I do aren't required anymore. Like I've just picked up something from somewhere where it's like maybe using get version control where it's like, the way I change my branch is. The worst way possible or how I emerged that there's like an easy way now there's like, and I'm just completely wishing on it, um, the whole time. Um, so Yeah, that's, that's been one of those little hot tips, which is like completely changed and I highly recommend it's pairing with anyone and anyone who will help you

Dan:

I think that's great. I think it's great advice. I wanted to call out real quick. Your piece of advice, right before that, which was, you know, working in public, uh, as ways to improve your, you know, your own skills or whatever your habits, every, all of that. Um, I think that's huge. And if you, um, I find myself lots of times I'm writing code that I know I'm only going to see probably, or, you know, most likely I'm the only one that's ever going to look at it lots of times. And I'll find myself doing that, that same thing kind of maybe, um, Not explaining things as well, or whatever, making commit messages that don't actually say anything or all of that writing, writing issues that are just one line instead of explaining the actual process. And as soon as I find myself working where I know there's going to be other people, whether it's work work or where I know there's going to be a couple of people or open-source stuff, public stuff where I know like possibly everybody could see it, you know, Uh, almost forces you to do it well, you know? Um, and if you do it enough, it becomes like you were saying, I have it, you know, as opposed to, um, but it kind of feels like pain. And I find myself personally doing that more, even with my own stuff, just because it's like, oh, this is just how I do write an issue now, you know?

Mike:

You have that feeling. I'm going to be sitting behind you, reading it back to you in a snarky voice. Right? That's that's what I do for everything online. Now, every tweet I read, it's like I do in my snarky voice. Every time I write when it's in my snarky voice. And it's like, ah, this bug's broken. I can hint how you reproduce it. It's like good. Right. There's all these steps and as soon as the snarky voice disappears, it's like, right. It's a, it's a good, a good. issue a good pull request

Dan:

that's amazing. That's amazing. Yeah. Somebody, um, A Virtual Coffee a while ago. Actually, I think it started on the podcast, but, um, somebody, one of the random questions was, you know, who would you want to have narrating your life or your inner monologue or something like that. And, um, somebody mentioned Alan Rickman and then I couldn't just like, for the rest of the day I had Snape like professor Snape hanging over my head doing the exact same thing, except in like his like sarcastic, you know, slow like, oh, does can't reproduce the bug, Potter. Like just like the sneering, you know, at my like bad commit messages

Mike:

that's one I want Nikki T to be like the guy Who narrates my life, because, so I've got such like a, like a dev crush on him where it's like, when he starts like working in public, it's like, I want to do that. That's what I want to do. Like his confidence there is incredible.

Dan:

Yeah.

Mike:

You've got me wanting to do an Alan Rickman impression. Okay.

Bekah:

Okay. Do

Mike:

it.

Dan:

yes, we need it.

Mike:

Ah, on the spot! Good work, Potter. Shoot the glass. I don't think that's very good. Yeah.

Dan:

Yeah. Oh man. He's the best. Yeah. That the idea though, of just putting it in public, you know, even if it's, um, it doesn't seem like. Yeah. I don't know. It doesn't like, not meant for an audience, you know, you're not like, uh, performing or whatever. Uh, I think I still think it just helps so much. I think that's great. Great advice.

Mike:

Yeah. And honestly all it's the little things as well, because if you're thinking this is in the public, now you're not going to do like the little silly mistakes, like accidentally committing SSH keys or something, or APA keys to version control. And then in a few months later, um, when you decide, I don't want to do this project anymore, or even open source of the project. You don't find it. You go, oh no, I have to nuke all the history. Um,

Dan:

Right. right,

Mike:

in case, um, if you look at it, I've got two projects by the way, where I nuked the history, because I did exactly that. And I really regretted that afterwards. It was like, it was like two years of like get version control history. And I was like, I just, just nuked them. Cause I couldn't remember what was in there, but I wish I had done something a bit better.

Dan:

Yeah, who knows? There's probably ways to handle that, but yeah, like, yeah, having that plan in the back of your head, maybe this eventually open source. Yeah. I think, I think helps helps your instincts kind of cover that sort of thing. Yeah, for sure.

Mike:

so that one day will say, like I was working on a project and my friend texted me, um, my friend Tom Familia. And he said, by the way, you're on the front page of Reddit. And it was on the front page of like one of the small. Four bucks a subreddit. So it wasn't like front front page, but someone had just found my code base and was just sharing it and talking about it. And I was like, this is wild. It was only, I think only like 25 people actually looked at it. Like maybe write some comments, but it was like overall, everyone was really polite and nice. And I was like, I didn't expect that at all. I always assume people on the internet, they're going to be terrible people, but overwhelmingly, most people are very nice and I just very happy to see how other people work. I'm very happy to see something shared.

Bekah:

I'm, I'm going to back up a little bit, because I just wanted to highlight this point that you see. Um, I've, I've just found that there are so many people who have been developers for a while who are also failing like this stagnation that I think kind of can lead to burnout. And, and you, you know, you even said like, Uh, this mean that I leave tech, should I try something else? And you said, you know, it was, um, the morning that you woke up and you're like, dreaded, hit hitting the power button. Right. Like you just felt this dread. And I think that it's, I just want to highlight that because I think that not enough people recognize like, okay, this is, this is a bad point. Like this is time to evaluate some things and change some ways. So do you think. No. How do you think that you, can you prevent that from happening? Um, or if you could go back and do things differently, is there something that you would do to avoid that stagnation?

Mike:

Oh, it's, it's a difficult question. Um, so when I entered Ruby, there were two really prominent Rubyists. So Ryan B and _why. And they are two developers who kind of very famously left one day and never came back. And for one of them, we were like, is he Okay. What's happened to this guy. And I want to say there was an article in the New York times saying, like what happened to this person who was like everywhere? And then one day just disappeared. And I think they turned out to be a manager at Walmart in the end. And like someone like track them down, but for private investigator and that always sat in the back of my head going Okay. Um, so people do leave every now and again and just decide they want to get away from whatever life they've just created, because it's just not doing it for them. And things I would do definitely is I wish I had a bigger support network of like dev people. Um, back when I was, when I was like really peak, unhappy, I didn't have anyone to talk to. Like I had like maybe five other developers I knew, and I wasn't that close with them. And I just wish I could have had someone to be like, Hey, I'm feeling this. Has anyone else felt this? What did they do? And that wasn't, it's not that it wasn't a thing. It's just, I hadn't found it yet. So I almost want to like encourage everyone to. Grow that professional network, you know, that, that little fish in the garden of the professional network of people here, like be like this, there fee to answer some questions. And if you send them a private message, there'll be like sympathetic to be like, Okay. cool. Now I can, I can help you with this. And if you want to jump on a call, so we'll go out for coffee, then that's, that's something that we'll do. And I think it's easier now. Like thanks to the global pandemic. There's like plays a nice slack groups and you can pick out your individual people. You're ready. You know, make part of your, like, you know, inner circle of like people you already trust. Have you guys heard about the thing where you only have like a hundred and full, proper close friends? Like that theory? Um,

Dan:

Yeah, I vaguely, I definitely am familiar with, you know, what you're

Mike:

Yeah. Like it's some kind of human thing where you can only keep track of so many people properly. And so if you've only got like a hundred friends, some of them are going to be family. Some of them that'd be like old school friends maybe. And I think you should probably pick like a few key developers or people in your field who you really like, and let's keep them in that light we'll circle of a hundred people who could sit in your phone book or something.

Dan:

I think that's great. I, uh, having somebody who. Is in whatever field you're in, you know, and can understand a lot of the context that goes around. I, you know, a close friend from, from when you were young, even somebody who you keep in touch with, uh, but isn't it a complete different field. Um, when always have the context, you know, somebody that might be like, well, you just, you have a good job that pays well, why are you unhappy? You know, something like that. But I think that your, your story is going to ring true with a lot of developers. Um, you know, the, the, this, the, that feeling of. Satisfaction.

Mike:

there's pinpointed the exact phrase, which made me never want to talk out about being unhappy and tech as well, because we're a really well compensated field. Like you tell people that you own, like, this is how much money you earn. Like starting. Most people are like, oh, I just want to do that job. And very few people maybe talk about, oh, actually, There's a very unhappy side to this where you are sitting inside all day, typing at a keyboard or planning out a database and it could all go horribly wrong. And that feeling is like, well, you could, yeah. That tiny mistake, you know, is there could just balloon into a monster. And if you don't deal with it, it's going to be embarrassing. And people will almost look at your work and your work always has your name next to it as well. That's something we've done as an industry.

Dan:

Forever.

Mike:

away from this. Yeah. Like I've picked up code and I went, who wrote this? And then I'm like, oh, it's that guy. Okay. He pops up everywhere and it's like, oh, that's an interesting one. Or it's like, oh wait, no, it was me. I'm the bad guy in, in my story. Uh, Yeah. And it's, it's difficult to talk to people about this cause it's, we're in a different world and this is why I really like having a few really close developer friends who are like, we're all kind of in the same bubble. We know like how, how it goes in terms of, Okay. Yeah. You do have days where you are just sitting at a computer screen, looking at a black terminal. And you'll just say, I can't figure this out. I have. And you Google the question and like one guy, one person on stack overflow has asked to, and it's like no answers. And it's like, uh, how obscure is this? What am I doing wrong? Sorry.

Bekah:

Or I feel like the worst is when you get that, but then they respond to their posts and they're like, I got it. Nevermind. I'm like, well, can

Mike:

Should I be what you did, what did you do to solve it? Uh, but has anyone come back and found their old posts from when they Regina to go correct them or add more information, but we're just me.

Bekah:

There's no way I would ever do That

Mike:

Aye. Aye.

Bekah:

of where I was at that point in my life. And I'm going to just go with that.

Mike:

I changed my username online at some point, just to not fight any someone, a VC found my OGs name, um, because I'd written a comment like being like nice. And they're like, wait, hold on. This is the same writing style as that person. And that name is very familiar and they figured out it was me from like, Well, yeah, two years ago solving That problem and they sent me a thank you. And I'm like, I need to go back and work for more of these places. Now it's the, we've got some good detectives in the crowd who he know my old user name.

Dan:

That that's pretty funny. I, I, um, yeah, going back and that's an interesting idea of just going back and updating, answering your own questions, you know, uh, back in the day, this is what I did. I promise. I wouldn't probably remember, you know, any of the answers

Mike:

Yeah, but you might be able to figure it out, like go back and be like, this is prob this is what I was asking. I think I vaguely remember. What that question could be, or at least you can put it in the right place or maybe archive the question if you were like, no, this is garbage. I need to hide this from the world or something like that, but it gets, it comes back to the garden again. It's like, you know, putting up the bits in the back, which you don't often tend to, or like getting rid of the bad information. Maybe if you put out some old comments,

Dan:

Right or change your use name? Maybe just throw a tarp

Mike:

no, they'll, they'll protest

Dan:

somewhere else.

Mike:

every few years to start a fresh this,

Dan:

Right? Buy a new plot of land.

Mike:

yeah, I'm going to be Mike Rodriguez. I think it's the it's completely changed. My name grow miss big, big bushy mustache, like shave my mustache.

Dan:

So you. Um, I, I found it really cool and impressive, uh, your process for when you sorry we keep we keep going back to that moment, but at that moment, um, where you made that list, um, and, you know, found some stuff that worked for you that wasn't like, That wasn't like, I know you started applying for jobs and stuff too, but the list of side things like side projects or, or other things like that. Um, and so I guess my question with that was, um, do, now that you were in, um, maybe a more stable situation, you know, how have you found yourself? And I think the answer is yes, but like, have you found yourself keeping up with those things that you did mostly to get yourself moving again? You know, and, um, and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about that.

Mike:

absolutely. So this is, I guess the other part of this, where. When you're searching for a job or trying to make a big change, it's really easy to like go out, like again, back to the garden. Like, you know, when you want to make it pretty, it's like, it's easy to put the effort in for a few weeks and then you've got a pretty garden, but actually you need to maintain it over a long period of time and you can't go in with like absolute, full force, full time to make that garden pretty. You have to do like come up with a reason. So I've, I mean, I'm still really bad at keeping up to date with like keeping things going out. But what I do is I set myself a goal of like one post a month, one video a month. So, which I think is very achievable. It's not, not too much work. It's a very steady flow. And I just say, right, that's what I'm going to aim for. It's I'm going to keep putting things out and that's going to be what I do like, and I've managed to do that pretty well. So. And even if it's not like a really well thought out thing, like if I've got something on my mind, I just want to write about it, or I want to make a video on something. Cause I know I've seen people struggling. It will happen. And then also on the lists as well, I am the worst and the best. And the greatest. There you go. I'm the greatest for making lists, sorry. I'm not the worst. I'm the best. Sorry. Completely wrong time. I love making lists. Lists are like I've got, I use the Reminders app in apple where you can have lots of little lists broken out to categories. And I have, I always go through them. Curate them as well. So at the end of the month, I remove stuff, which actually I'm not that interested in doing anymore. And then throughout the month they keep adding stuff in. So I've got a big list of blog posts. I want to write. I've got the titles done and I've got like a link to where I think I could take them. Same with videos. Same with like little things I need to do. Um, And that has that's helped a lot. I, I realized I'm a very list oriented person. Like I think it's agile methodologies have like ruined me. I was like working in like, you know, having a startup every morning. I almost like if I had a pet cat, me and the cat would have a start up every morning about what we're going to achieve that day. And I'll do the voice of the cat, obviously. Um, you guys won't know the accent. I give it, but every day it would be slightly different. Like I'm just imagining that the cat is snarky. Uh, you can, you're gonna write a blog post. You did that nice one.

Bekah:

I would like a whole series of that.

Dan:

Yeah. That's uh, the new, the new Mike Rogers video series is conversations with the cat. We just need to, we just need to get you a cat first and then

Mike:

It could happen soon enough. That's there's some floating around outside. Maybe others feed some.

Dan:

yeah. I mean, that's true. Cats'll, cats'll learning. If you start feeding them, they'll they'll learn my, um, Emily's my wife's grandma. Uh, feeds cats in our yard to cause they killed the chipmunks and squirrels, you know, it's because she wants them to come, but they'll come like they'll, they'll learn here. They'll learn your routine and stuff. So he could just have a little stand up with the cat under stoop, you know, every, every morning I would watch that.

Mike:

I, yeah, I think we just hit my new video series. Right. It's like, this is what we're going to do today. Cut. Like, almost like, was it pinky in the brain? What are you going to do today? Pinky or brain. Oh, I'm going to take over the world. Yeah.

Bekah:

but by Joe. So, you know, one of the things like talking through all of them, Has been really fascinating. And I'm like amazed by how many people that I've talked to that have talked about how much they love their job. And then suddenly realized that they hate their job. Like.

Mike:

I'm suspicious of people who say they love, love their job on the site. I don't think you do. I think you're just saying that,

Bekah:

I think it's a lot of times like putting your hand in warm water and then slowly boiling boiling it or frog, I guess you don't

Mike:

Yeah. That's I know the

Bekah:

it with a frog either, but

Mike:

Yeah.

Bekah:

You increase it, the temperature and don't realize it because it's just like this slow, um, process until like suddenly you're boiling. And then I think at that point you're like, oh, Maybe, maybe I don't love this. Maybe I did love this at one point, but all of these things are keep changing and I just missed it or kept thinking that it will get better and it just keeps getting worse, you know? And then we don't talk about that kind of stuff enough. And I think part of it, like you said, we make a lot of money in tech and you can make a lot of money and not be happy. It's okay. To not love to code, but there's a difference between not loving to code and really being unhappy because it bleeds out into all the other aspects of your life.

Mike:

Exactly. Like if, Yeah. I feel like unhappy at work and you can't quite identify, like what's what the cause is. Or like you're unhappy outside of work and you've got to bring it in. Like it just kind of, it slows you down in the other places and you've got to like really. Find the good bits. And this is why I'm also suspicious of people who say they've really loved their job. Um, sorry. I'm like, like mumbling next to it. So I'm like, we aren't allowed to say we don't like our job. It's none of that. It's like, no, she don't tell people. You hate certain things about work. It's never going to change. You've got to like, you've got to almost go out to your manager or be the, be the change you want to see in the office. So if you want to. Do certain processes to stop doing them and then see if anyone will fight you on like, not doing them and to see what happens like worst case scenario. You have a fun argument with someone and you'll be able to find out the benefits of something or maybe not right.

Dan:

I love it. I, this actually that goes right into a question I was going to ask was, um, you mentioned when you were talking about, um, So your freelancing experience, you know, before, and it's sort of, you said it as an aside, but you said he sometimes have problems with authority and, you know, it had been one of the reasons why you had stuck with the freelancing for so long. And, um, I was, my question was basically just like I was wondering you now we're working for sort of a larger organization. I was just wondering, um, how that is. You know, vis-a-vis like authority and having bosses and, and probably different tiers of managers, but I'm not really sure, but you know, that sort of thing. I was wondering if, uh, if that has

Mike:

It's so

Dan:

any effect on you.

Mike:

It's so different. I find it almost comical every time I have to like fill out some kind of form and I always make sure, like, I tell people that this is a stupid form or like, Hey, this is a waste of time. Like we've just spent like three hours planning for something like. Yeah, well, it surprises me. So the companies you have meetings about when you're going to have a meeting about something more frequently than you expect, like, I feel like when I was a freelancer, that was like, they would never bring a freelancer into that kind of eating that is like, this is what we're going to get the freelancer to do. Cool. All right. We'll just give them the work or give them the work even. Um, yeah, I'm still. Still terrible with authority figures where it's like someone tells me to do something and I'm just like, come on, you're going to do it. If I want to do it, that, manage that to figure out how you're going to motivate me to do this

Dan:

I love that. I I, I,

Mike:

send money.

Dan:

yeah, I've been a freelancer, you know, my whole career and that's that. Um, one of the reasons why I've almost never really, I mean, there's only been a couple of times where I've really considered, you know, switching, uh, to say some sort of full-time job that the, um, I think about the meetings and especially if being a freelance or not being in those meetings is actually like, can be really frustrating too. Um, I found, you know, the, somebody just gives you the work, but you don't have any connection to. The inception of the work, you know, or like probably you might actually have a better idea then there's, you know, uh, I feel like that's maybe a, a pro for getting more involved in a, in a company, you know, at, at a high level kind of thing.

Mike:

Yeah. I think I've definitely had work come in around. I'm like, why don't we just do the simple way? And then I reply back and then they're like, oh, we didn't know about that. I mean, this had like, we just wasted hours planning this workout for you. And it's like, cool. So we'll just do the easy way then. Nice cool and those still get paid like the same amount. Cause that was going to take weeks. Um,

Bekah:

Uh, it should be like a bonus for those situations.

Mike:

Uh, it's, that's not how freelancing ever has worked.

Dan:

Yeah, no, that's not. Yeah, that's it. I mean, the bonus is that they trust you more and they keeping paying for your work. I mean, that's, that's like, that's the bonus, I suppose, as a freelancer, you know? Um, but also personally, Doing things that are stupid too. Like I've never been, I've never been, I know some people where, you know, you get that same thing. You're like, I know that there's an easy way to do this. That would take me an hour. And the way they've asked me will take two weeks or something, you know? And, uh, I could just let it ride, you know, but I would be miserable for those two weeks, you know? And I'm like, let's just do the easy way. That'd be, that'd be fine. That'd be

Mike:

Yeah, this is, this is why I always, I think this is also one of the things which has made me a happier person. I always like kind of pushing back on everything where I can, or at least trying to be a bit yeah. Like confrontational, because other you're going to be doing that miserable work all day. And it's like, there's no point during the miserable work. Cause like, it's just going to get deleted the week after when someone decides they want to do it the easy way. And you just kind of wasting your time and your time is so precious. Like I'm not sure. That anyone listening to this, but like, I I'm, I'm I feel young Right. now, but I'm also scared that soon I'm going to wake up and be this like crazy. Like my life's gone of like the best years have passed or something. And I don't want to spend it like trying to solve some stupid problem. Like when there's an easy way to do it, I to, I want to be out playing golf or like doing something more interesting.

Dan:

Tending tending your garden, right?

Mike:

Tending to my garden. Yeah. that was,

Bekah:

Brushing his garden.

Dan:

Brushing the soil.

Mike:

but yeah. Thinking about that now, I think I'm in raking the soils.

Bekah:

Yeah.

Dan:

Yeah. That's that's

Mike:

that was a hundred percent.

Dan:

That makes sense.

Mike:

It took me 20 minutes to figure That out. I'm glad we had a meeting about that.

Dan:

right? Yeah. Oh man. It's amazing. I still do love that metaphor though. I'm going to be thinking about it.

Mike:

I'm I feel like I want to get like, like have you seen when people have like live loss live or life, so throw those out because those are terrible, but change it if like, you know, garden your career or your career is a garden and brush it.

Dan:

Okay. Brush that dirt.

Bekah:

I think we have a code of conduct. Okay.

Dan:

I

Mike:

Like Icarus right now. It's like 10.

Dan:

Oh man. That's amazing.

Mike:

Okay.

Dan:

Yeah, I'm going to make that sign for sure. I can't, every

Bekah:

That's going to be a sticker. We need

Dan:

tell him, don't tell me, don't tell me what to do. Sign.

Mike:

My manager, but not, I don't listen to you so like you might manage it, but I'm ignoring you because you're wrong.

Bekah:

Okay.

Mike:

in management. You're not a developer. Sorry.

Bekah:

hot takes.

Mike:

Spicy.

Dan:

Well, you, you had that lot. What was it? Uh, oh, good luck. Good luck managing me or

Bekah:

Okay.

Dan:

good luck motivated me to do that.

Mike:

Yes. That is what I want on my laptop.

Bekah:

Like, I, I we're like almost at time and I really want to dive into that idea of motivation a little bit more because something that I've been interested in, and you're talking about this competition that you have with your friend. And so, like, obviously that's a good motivator, but I think, I, I don't know if we have time to talk about this. So maybe just some, a

Mike:

should've been so quick.

Bekah:

On how to motivate people and keep them from stagnation. Right? Cause that's part of it.

Mike:

Yeah. So I've got like one, one quick tick and it's like, so I have a podcast. I listen to where. It's like a meditation podcast and that has been so wonderful. Um, I talk about it in VC, quite a lot of things called meditation minis. They're 10 minutes. They come out like once a week and they are just a wonderful way of just like before bed. I sit down and I was very skeptical when I first tried it, but something about the sitting down, down and relaxing for 10 minutes before bed has helped me enormously. I think there's getting a better night's sleep and having good sleep hygiene as well. So I feel better, like I don't work till like three in the morning or four in the morning and wake up at 7:00 AM and then like rec my, uh, rec my sleep. Which has been good. And I also really recommend everyone. If you're not feeling great, talk to a therapist, it's like, it's super easy. Now. There's like, there's apps to do it. It's like, you don't have to kind of go to a place and tap them in person. You could talk to someone this via WhatsApp, and then they'll just do the things and then you'll be, you might feel better. Yeah. The reason. I also say therapist, as well as when someone explained the concept of therapy, I was like, that sounds, that sounds weird. But then they're like, they said to me, okay, so your parents, no one told them how to raise you. They figured it out and they screwed up everything probably. So, so a therapist is like, they iron out the bits, your parents, like didn't like give you the tools to like solve in life. So like how to deal with like, being really unhappy or they'll give you some techniques to deal with it. Or if you're feeling anxious, they. Approaches, which no one tells you about until you pay them the money. And it's like a hundred bucks and they'll pay, Okay. Here is the secret to like getting rid of anxiety. If you're feeling anxious about something. And then also, Yeah. a bit of healthy competition. Like I always, I love to show off and like, I love to be competitive with my friends. So like we always send each other what we're up to and try and get feedback. And sometimes we are brutally honest with each other saying, this is a terrible idea. You're going to waste all your money here. And then other times it's like, they're like, no, this is an interesting idea. You should, you should give it a go. Um, a really good example of me being completely wrong. Um, one of my friends showed me this app ID had where it was people watching YouTube videos together, and this was pre pandemic. And, you know, being able to write notes around them and then have a bit of a conversation afterwards. And I was like, That's. a stupid idea. That'll never take off.

Bekah:

Okay.

Mike:

Um, I found a app recently, which had raised tons of money to do just that. And it was a really good app. And I was like, we were watching, I think it was a Sandy med store together with a bunch of other developers. And I was like, this is perfect. This is what I like. And I really regret not like encouraging my friend now because really regret it because he couldn't get a millionaire. I think.

Dan:

That's. Yeah, that's one of those weird things that like the pandemic, I feel like, uh, it, it doesn't sound like a good idea. It didn't sound like a good idea to me either that, that sort of thing. Cause you know, and then, well now we can't actually be in the same room together. So, so like,

Mike:

perfect. I love it. I hate being in the same room as people,

Dan:

yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly.

Mike:

No, I'm just kidding.

Bekah:

has been.

Mike:

Yeah. It's been fantastic

Bekah:

Really good podcast episode. So thank you

Mike:

to wrap up before I talk for another two hours and we ended up having some mega session and it's like, the list is like, I think maybe we'll save like another topic for another podcast season or something. I hope. Um, yeah, if I could go out and like one final thing Is Yeah, obviously we talked about, if you're feeling like stagnant in your career, just talk, talk to people, even if it's a private one, you will feel better for that. And we've all gone through this. We all feel sad. So this just talk, it's tell people, ask for help. You'll feel better for it.

Bekah:

absolutely. That's a great, great piece of advice to end that.

Mike:

my DMS are normally open, so happy to chat to people.

Bekah:

All right. Thanks, Mike. We'll talk to

Mike:

Thank

Dan:

Thank you, Mike.

Bekah:

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 VirtualCoffeeIO, or you can email us at podcast@virtualcoffee.io. You can find the show notes, plus you can sign up for our newsletter to find out what Virtual Coffee's been up to on our website at virtualcoffee.io.

Dan:

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.