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Suze Shardlow - Creating welcoming spaces in dev communities

Season 4, Episode 5 | November 2, 2021

In today's episode, Dan and Bekah talk to Suze Shardlow about how she approaches creating welcoming spaces in dev communities.


Suze Shardlow's profile photo
Suze Shardlow

Suze Shardlow is a published tech author, developer community manager and event MC. Before retraining as a software engineer, she worked in marketing and management for 20 years in the engineering, technology, law enforcement, education and economic development sectors. Currently the head of developer community at Redis, Suze has won numerous awards including Rising Star In Tech 2021, TechWomen100 2020, Women In Software Power List 2020 and is a finalist in the Women In Tech Excellence Awards 2021.

This week Bekah and Dan sat down with Suze Shardlow. Suze is an award winning community manager, coder, tech writer and tech event MC and she currently leads the developer community at Redis. We had a really interesting conversation with Suze! She's done a million different things throughout her life and her career and she shared with us how her experiences have informed her time as a software developer and a community leader.


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Transcript:

Bekah:

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

Dan:

Thanks Bekah. Today, we sat down with Suze Shardlow. Suze is an award winning community manager, coder, tech writer and tech event MC and she currently leads the developer community at Redis. We had a really interesting conversation with Suze. She's done a million different things throughout her life and her career and she shared with us how her experiences have informed her time as a software developer and a community leader.

Bekah:

We start every episode of the podcast. Like we start every Virtual Coffee. We introduce ourselves with our name, where we're from, what we do and a random check-in question. We hope you enjoy this episode. Today's random question is if you could pick a fictional world to live in, what would it be? So I am Bekah, I'm a front end developer from a small town in Ohio, and there are so many cool fictional worlds that it's hard, like do do you want to totally go fantasy and a different world? Want in space? I definitely don't want to live underwater. Um, so where do I want to live? Now I can't now I can't even think of a fictional world that I want to live in.

Dan:

Do you get to choose who to be in the place that you live? You know,

Bekah:

I you're going to be yourself. I think that's the rules.

Dan:

But I mean, like you said Harry Potter, like, you know, Hogwarts or something, but just

Bekah:

You're just Dan at Hogwarts.

Dan:

Just a muggle. A muggle Dan, you know, like that would be worse.

Bekah:

Yeah. I, um, I'm just going to go. I, you know, I really liked the world of X-Men. So, I I'm going to go live with the X-Men in that world. Um, because I have always enjoyed.

Dan:

A friend, a friend to the mutants

Bekah:

I will be, I will be an ally to the mutants I draw.

Dan:

Where you could be a, a mutant advocate or would that be. Like a like dev you got like a big Twitter account and stuff.

Suze:

Mutant community engineer.

Bekah:

Yeah.

Suze:

nice.

Dan:

Um, hi, I'm, I'm Dan. I, uh, do web stuff. I live in Cleveland. Um, my fictional world. I was like, I wanna go somewhere where it's a little less. Maybe where there's no computers, honestly. Uh, you know, all the ones that I keep thinking of, there's like a lot of strife and that didn't, wouldn't be fun. You know, I want to go somewhere relaxing. Maybe just like the, it called Hobbiton? Is

Bekah:

Yeah, that's a really good one

Dan:

Without all the bad stuff that's happening, um, to feel like they had some good times there too, you know, so just like some chill, more chill and,

Bekah:

or Rivendale, that would be sweet too.

Dan:

Wait what's.

Bekah:

Where the Elves live.

Dan:

Oh, yeah, that seems cool. But they seem like pretty serious, you know, the hobbits like have like taverns and, you know, you know what I mean? Like, I don't think they drink any, any beer. elves don't drink, you

Bekah:

I was don't. drink beer. Oh, we need a fact check on that. Okay.

Dan:

obviously Kirk is probably

Bekah:

Kirk

Dan:

out loud at us. I'm sure a bunch of different things.

Suze:

It wasn't me Kirk, it wasn't me.

Dan:

Uh, I'm going with, I'm sticking with Hobbiton though. I, I liked the houses in the hill too, you know, like there, the whole vibe.

Suze:

Cozy.

Dan:

Yeah.

Suze:

Nice. Well, my name's Suze Shardlow. wear so many hats, I don't even know where to start. I'm a software engineer, coding instructor, published tech author, and a developer community manager based in London, England, in case you couldn't tell from the funny accent, and if that wasn't enough of a fantasy world to be living. Uh, this question is really hard. I don't know. I, I'm not really into fantasy books, but worlds that you escape to when you go to the movies and say, the first thing that came into my head was The Truman Show. Because one of my favorite things is to look at the sky, especially like on a day this, we do actually have blue sky today is quite cold. There's a few clouds and I look, and I the end. Yeah. Uh, he went to the edge didn't he went to the sky and there was a of steps on the door. I often kind of think, you know, We're quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things and we are all just kind of on the stage. aren't we? Um, so yeah, I feel like going on the Truman Show would be, uh, would be a good place to live.

Bekah:

That's fascinating. I love The Truman Show it's right up there...

Suze:

I need watch that again. Yeah.

Bekah:

Ever like big fish. I don't know if you've, what's a movie and a play and a book. Um, but it's, it's a journey. So they're going to different places that would be cool too.

Dan:

Do you say Reel big Fish?

Bekah:

big fish.

Dan:

They're a ska band

Bekah:

No, there's there's no real in and fact check for you Legolas' people in particular traded wines from the south quite often, so

Dan:

Did drink them though? Or did, just like, you know, profiting

Bekah:

I believe that they are. Um, let's see. Are there

Dan:

Yeah. If you said like, they like sip fancy wines, you know, like, you know, believe that.

Bekah:

Which one of the characters in Lord of the rings can't get drunk? That's one of the characters, right? Is that. is that one of the elves? All right, sorry. I'm going, going down the.

Dan:

Isn't that Wolverine somebody, the healing, somebody with a healing thing can't get drunk.

Suze:

We already in the rabbit hole. Well, that must be a record.

Dan:

Honestly, Kirk was poking at us a couple of episodes ago. And so now it just like.

Bekah:

yeah.

Dan:

We'll just have a little Kirk segment where we really make him mad and then, uh,

Suze:

Poor old Kirk ...provoking. It's not nice.

Bekah:

Um, well, thanks so much for being here with us today. Um, there's so many different ways that we can approach this conversation, because like you said, in the intro, you do all of the things, but let's just start with how you got to this point in your career.

Suze:

Okay, I'll give you the short version. Cause, uh, it's like two decades long, so, well, two decades along since I left university. And then another two decades before that. So yeah, then my whole coding journey started when I was a small child in the 1980s. And I don't really remember where this computer appeared from, but my dad must've liked gone out and bought it and brought it home one day. So we had a BBC micro, which is a. Uh, computer that was actually developed and made in the UK. And it was sponsored by the BBC, which I think a lot of folks around the world have heard of. Um, and it was accompanied by a TV show that they showed on the BBC. And in those days we didn't have the internet. So you kind of had to watch the TV and write down the code and type it into your computer. And or use a book or use magazines and things like that. But the, um, so I was probably about five when I got that computer. And then I programmed that like, well into my teens and stuff into the 1990s. Um, and then there came a point at school where you have to decide what you want to do, but the UK education system. And I don't think the UK is unique in this. Um, doesn't know what to do with girls that like computers. And it still doesn't know what to do with girls that like computers. So when we had careers days and things like that at school, I was never actually shown anybody that was doing programming for living man or woman or, or gender. So, um, yeah, we were just shown like lawyers and doctors and vets and things like that. And nobody ever sort of said, you can do this as a living. So, um, and also at school they didn't offer computing subjects. Um, they didn't offer any computing classes, but we did have a computing club, which I was very heavily involved with, but, but for some reason they didn't offer any actual classes. Um, so then, so therefore my path to taking a degree in it, wasn't really that clear and it didn't occur to me that maybe you can go do the degree without taking it at school and stuff. Cause again, had no role role models. None of the teachers were interested in it. So I went to university and took the most versatile degree that I could think of, which was business. 'cause I thought, yeah, that probably lends itself to a few things. Still don't really know what I wanna do, but, um, one of my ambitions when I was younger was I really wanted to be a radio presenter. So I thought, okay, if I take do marketing or something like that, it's quite close to media. So that's what they've specialized in marketing and then came out of university and just kind of got my first marketing job and then just stayed in marketing for quite a long time, but it was always still interested in technology and try to get sort of technology, adjacent marketing roles. So one of the roles that I did was marketing manager for an IT company. And then when I got made redundant from that. When I joined, um, the police here in London as a communications manager, so supporting technology rollouts with communications campaigns, um, we've had about 50,000 users at the time, police officers and police staff. And if you think about, you know, this at the time, there were about 30,000 police officers in London and every single one of those officers was using a radio when they went out. So we, then we upgraded all the radios I put together campaigns to support those type of tech rollouts. But then I was at the police for quite a long time and still kind of thought this isn't really what I want to be doing forever, but what do I really want to do? So I did quite a lot of reading to figure out what I wanted to do. And one of the pieces of advice that I kept coming across was think about what you enjoy doing when you were younger. And I thought, oh yeah, actually I enjoy coding when I was younger. So I, uh, I decided to go back and do that. But I think, cause well, I forgot to mention was when I was doing the marketing roles, I was still like making websites and things like that. So I was still really interested in still trying to do things, but just didn't see a path to actually get to do this professionally. Meanwhile, sitting there with dev teams that were full of men. Um, but yeah, it just didn't seem to be a clear route for me. So I did a bit of research after about... maybe 10 years in the police. Now probably about 10 years. I was there for 12 years all together. And a couple of years before I left it sort of research that to do it. And around that time was when, um, bootcamps were springing up everywhere. And I thought, yeah, actually this looks like a nice defined route. And also I'm the type of learner who likes to turn up to a class and sit down and learn and then go home. I'm not really that good at the whole distance learning thing, self learning. So I decided to enroll on a big cap, which happily coincided with the fact that the police were looking to lay people off in my team or lay some of the roles off. And they were very kind about actually, they said, you know, if you want to go then, um, then that's fine. You can go. And because the police has quite a nice defined plan for if they're laying people off, because I've been there for 12 years, then I got quite a nice severance, which I was very lucky to have, which then gave me a bit of a cushion to decide what I wanted to do next. So after I did the big cabin and left the police, I kind of thought actually, I don't really want to be a coder full time. I just want to take my time and see what's out there. So while I've been researching and around the time that I kind of got into the, um, bootcamp, I was getting more involved in local meetups. And at the time there weren't that many, so that was probably around 2014, 2015 ish. Um, so yeah, there weren't that many boot camps around that time. Sorry, there weren't too many meetups around that time. So I joined the ones that I could find. I just kind of met people there because I had a marketing background eventually started to help to organize one, which kind of took me back to my roots of organizing the computer club at school. And also when I was at the police, um, organizing the association for senior women in a police as well. So kind of always had that community interest. And, um, so yeah. Then when I left the police and I had that little sort of cushion and a little bit of time to think about what I wanted to do. Just sort of continued with the whole community building piece, um, blogging. Um, just, just bits and pieces of different freelance stuff that seemed to come my way up. I think I've been quite lucky in that respect, um, that people have seen what I can do. And they've approached me most of the time to say you will you do this for us? And then, um, so I currently work at Redis their developer community manager. And they actually had hunted me they could see what I was doing. And they said, um, you know, we've got this open role come and apply for it. We really want you to apply. So I applied for that. And of course, like, you know, there were other folks there in the mix as well, who had also applied, yeah, it made it all the way through the recruitment process and got offered job at the end. So there for about two months now. Um, so yeah, it's been quite nice because it's a good combo of what I started off doing in my career, which was the marketing communications. And also, combines in all the experience that I got with organizing the communities and stuff, but also with like the software thing as well. So it feels like it's a really good combo of all the things that I because any job that you get, you're not going to enjoy all of it. So it feels like I've taken all the bits of all the jobs that I've had, that I enjoyed and fit them together to create this job. yeah, that's how I got to where I am currently.

Bekah:

Oh, so awesome. I love that this feels like such a good fit for you. It's I mean, it definitely sounds like it. And as I was going through and kind of preparing for today's podcast. I was trying to think of this word and it's somebody that does a lot of things and is talented at all of those things. Right. And so I didn't find the right word, but I did find there's this word polymath, means having learned much. A person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. I was like, okay. Yeah, that that's exactly who you are. And I think even if you go on to your blog and check it out, there are so many things, you know, you're cooking, you're sewing, you're writing about code. You're talking, writing about giving talks. So I especially feel like that's refreshing because so many people are the personal branding is a big thing right now. Right? And so much a personal branding is an over-simplification of who you are, and it allows you to have one focus about the things that you want to talk about. and it doesn't allow us to kind of present our full selves in the conversation. And so just really love that you present all of the things that you're interested in talking about and, and pursuing, and, you know, I I'd love to know, you know, your take on personal branding or like what kind of makes you feel like, yeah, I'm just going to talk about all the things I like.

Suze:

Yeah, that's an interesting question. And you, you do hear a lot about personal branding, especially if you are in tech and especially if you're on tech, Twitter, um, It's really hard. I think being in the tech industry is hard anyway, without this added thing of like, you've got to make a personal brand. And I remember when I was coming out of bootcamp, the, um, the careers coach did say you need to have consistent branding, but what she meant there was visual. So, you know, make a business card, make your CV, make your website and make sure that the branding is consistent and then sits there. You know, they took more about personal branding. And I think that you can only really have. A good personal brand, if you do include all those other things, because if you don't, if you just say right, I'm a, I don't know, I'm a JavaScript developer. That's not really a personal brand, is it because what makes you unique? All of those things that you said, like, you know, do you like sewing? Do you like cooking? Do you like running? Do you like cats? That's what makes you, you isn't it. And that's your personal brand. And you know, this is how you write, this is how you speak or maybe you choose not to blog. Maybe choose not to speak. Um, but yeah, I think that there is a lot of pressure around making sure that you've got a personal brand. I dunno. I don't think that I necessarily curated mine. Like you say, I try to be quite authentic and you know, if people don't like my hobbies, then I don't really care because they can get their own hobbies company. Um, but yeah, I think it's, it's just interesting to read about other people as well as see what makes them tick. So, yeah, we're all different. And I think it's up to you as to how much of yourself you put out there. And that's the other side of personal branding, isn't it? That there is a lot of pressure to put yourself out there. And I always say to people. You know, they come to me and they say, oh, you know, you did a lot of public speaking do this and that. Like, I, I, don't know if it's for me. And I'm like, well, you know, don't feel the pressure to do it, because for some people, like I've seen them physically shaking when they had to get up and do a talk and I'm like, you know, find something that you feel comfortable doing. Don't feel like you have to go and do talks and stuff because everyone else is doing it. There's got to be other ways of showing what you can do. Like maybe you can write something or can just build something you don't, maybe don't even have to write and speak. Maybe you can just build something and show your talents through that. Um, so yeah, I dunno, it's a big topic and, uh, I'm not really too sure the answer is. I often wonder if the people with the big personal brands are truly happy and how much time they spend on, uh, on nurturing that brand and keeping it up because does feel like some of these folks are on Twitter all day, every day. And it's like how, I can't think of that many things to tweet. have you got time to do your day job? It's really weird.

Bekah:

Yeah.

Dan:

I have that same thing too. I'm lucky if I get one or two tweets. you know what it also happened. I'll try, I think of something and then edit it over and over again.

Suze:

Oh, yeah.

Dan:

and then just close the window

Suze:

Yeah, exactly. If you overthink it, you buy, I do that all the time. Yeah.

Dan:

are never, yeah. The ones that go through that process are never a good, good anyway, but yeah, that's um, actually, honestly, I was coming in the office this morning and thinking almost that exact same advice about. There is a lot of pressure to do, um, a lot of this stuff or, you know, anything, even the, the there's the, the build in public, you know, movement. And there's a, all, all my, um, asking me almost always good intentions behind all of the advice. You know, people are pretty much talking about what worked for them But I love that you said like, please, like don't, you know, if likes public speaking is very, very hard for you or horrible, you know, just don't like find, you can find something else. There's lots of other things to do.

Suze:

Yeah. Yeah.

Dan:

I appreciate like that advice people can use to hear that that's good stuff.

Bekah:

Yeah. And I think we're looking at your career too, you've tried a lot of different things. Um, have a lot of different interests. Oh, my gosh interest is I need more coffee, I guess, but one of the things I see consistently is your work with communities. And you first started coming to Virtual Coffee, you became a breakout room leader really quickly. Um, it's just because I wasn't in your room. think I've only been in your room once because you became a room leader so quickly and I'm most often a room leader, but it was it's consistently, um, commented on what a great room leader you are. And in everyone's always like, oh, if I could be in a room, I would be in her room. And so, you know, you've been an emcee for events and other things. And I just wanted to see, like, is there an approach that you have as you go into this and you lead these small group conversations, or maybe you can just kind of like walk us through your thought process as you're a breakout room or being an MC for an event that helps people feel welcome.

Suze:

Yeah. Yeah, no, that's a really great question. And, um, yeah, it's true. I did become a room leader very early on and I thank Dan for that. Actually, Dan invited me to, because I remember the turning point. Do you remember that?

Dan:

I am almost interjected to steal credit for that, because I don't remember what we talked about. You and I had a one-on-one conversation or something. And then I was like, oh, we just need to get in here. Which is,

Suze:

Yeah. Yeah. What it was was you were room-leading that day, but I think you had a really bad night and yeah. You were properly struggling. And I was like, oh, okay. So I didn't, I don't think I consciously led the room, but yeah. I was like, oh, I thought I had dan looks like. We're going to fall asleep. So let's see if we can take the pressure off. Yeah, it was, yeah, it was, it was you weren't well that day at all, but, uh, that's the thing. We often commit to do something and, uh, and then find out that actually today's not the day. So, uh, yeah, so also that we were like, okay, let's, let's do this thing. So, um, yeah, I think it all comes down to. Empathy and knowing your audience. And this is something that I learned like really early on doing marketing, because if you want to do marketing, you have to know your audience. Otherwise you're not going to be very good at marketing. And so being in Virtual Coffee, I think I probably maybe came to four, three or four before I became a room leader. And so it was very fresh in my mind, what it felt like to be new to Virtual Coffee. So I tried to kind of incorporate that in, um, And so something that I always ask when I get into the room and I'm rim leading is, do I have anyone new to Virtual Coffee here with me today? And then I'm like, look, don't be scared. Like just put your hands up. It's fine. We're not all going to judge you. I just want to make sure that I'm not missing out any information that, you know, I need to know. And then I might go over a few bits that you've already gone through in the big breakout room in the main room. But I feel like in the main room, sometimes there's just so much going on that maybe they're not taking it all in. So it's just easier in a smaller group. And then just put them at ease because they're gonna have to introduce themselves anyway. So, you know, so they can kind of be in the spotlight.

Bekah:

Yeah.

Suze:

Um, and then I also try to make sure that there's a balance of topics and also balance of people speaking. So I always, um, asked for all the topics upfront. And then say, right, I'm going to try and split the time equally between all of these topics so that folks can all kind of get their questions answered and stuff like that. And then I'm not afraid to call it, say, we've done 20 minutes on the topic. I'm not afraid to say right. I'm just going to take the last point here from Dan. And then we're going to move on to the next topic, because I've already said at the beginning, we've got these three, so everybody knows we're going to have to move on at some point. So they can, they can't be too upset when we actually do move on. Whereas I guess if he didn't do that, and then we pivoted somebody might be like, oh, hang on a minute. I didn't quite finish what I wanted to say. Um, and then, um, when people speak, I do a lot of active listening as well and make sure that I kind of highlight back to everybody, the bits that kind of resonated with me, which are going to be different for everyone, but at least I think it's important to people to feel heard, isn't it. So what better way of making them feel heard than repeating back what you heard? So, and that also gives people a chance to then think, oh yeah, actually, you know, I've thought of something else or whatever, it kind of stimulates conversation, but sometimes. If you feel like, um, it's kind of dying off a bit, just doing that little summary piece gets people thinking, and it gives them a bit of time to think about, what comes next and stuff. Um, yeah, so those are the main things I just try and include people really...um, I think that's the main thing, because being an introvert myself, know that when I'm in a group, especially when I don't know people, it can be really hard to get a word in edgewise. Yeah. um, oh, and the other thing I always do is I make sure that we use raise hands in all of my rooms. I don't, I don't allow anyone to just unmute and, uh, and speak because the people who do that are going to be the ones that are confident to do that. And the people that don't do that, aren't going to be the ones that aren't confident to do that. And then you won't ever hear from them. So I always say, please use the raise hand function. And then that helps me to see like how many people are in the queue. And I've got five minutes left until I need to pivot. So. Ask them to be brief and stuff. It just kind of helps me with the whole management of the room. So yeah, I do try and build in a few different things to help the more introverted people, because I know what that's like and you kind of feel like, I can't get a word and then you just give up and I don't really want people to do that because there's a reason why they came and the reason why they came wasn't really to sit there, listening to everybody else, but really they wanted to speak didn't they, and either they didn't manage it this time and that's really what I want to avoid.

Dan:

I love all of that. I love hearing about it, your process, you know, it's something that I've personally just really started thinking about since Virtual, you know, over the last year or so. Somebody with your experience, you know, with the community building and, um, you know, things like that. It's really nice to hear that I like the active listening, active listening, you know, I'm glad, I'm glad that I can ask you this question because it's is a cool, um, is as cool as see how much actually goes into being a room leader. When, when you know room leader, most of the time isn't going to be talking it, like isn't talking that much through, through, through an hour long conversation. Um, but still. Uh, doing a lot. I like how you illustrate it, like how much, uh, you know, so that somebody can improve, help, improve a room and, and help people get hurt, you know? And that's that, was the other part of what I liked was the, how the active listening is, you know, is a form of managing the conversation, but also like acknowledging that a person got heard, you know, that's phrased was not put that together very well, that sentence, but, you know, th that was the, you ended with like, that's why people are coming is to maybe to, you know, connect and, and part of connecting is actually being heard as far as well as, uh, you know, listening, I suppose, that makes any sense at all.

Suze:

Definitely. It's definitely a conversation is always a two-way thing. Is there communication's a two-way process. So, um, yeah, it's not just about talking at somebody at all. So yeah, I do try and get a bit of a, a bit of a balance in there, but you know, that's not to say, you know, I know there's a lot of folks who've tried the room leading and then you were it and there is a lot to remember. So just don't feel any pressure to do all of those things, but just be conscious that you're not just sitting there to be a person that's calling out names I guess... maybe, um and we were just trying to incorporate one or two little tactics in there, but at the end of the day, we're just grateful for anyone who steps up to do that role, because it's not an easy one is it?

Bekah:

Yeah.

Dan:

Yeah.

Bekah:

Uh, it's, are so many little things like you were saying, and we want everybody to be comfortable and feel welcome. Right? And so allowing space for them to do that and creating different pathways for them to communicate by giving time with the hand raise function, or allowing a little bit of silence for someone to jump in or to use the chat and bring that forward is, you know, really important to forming those relationships. And I think. Active listening is, is a skill that can be that's learned really, I think because we all like to talk about things that we're excited about and, you know, sometimes it's hard, sometimes room leaders continue to talk about things. You know, I've been known to go on a hot take rant every once in a while. Um, but by keeping those things in mind and recognizing, okay, I've been talking for awhile. I need to figure out how to bring other people into this conversation. If there aren't any hand raises or this person in my room was very excited, but they've been talking for five minutes straight without taking a breath. I need to make sure that there's space for everybody to be part of the conversation. And that's why we keep the. Small like between eight and 10 people, ideally, because it does allow room for that. And I think that are lots of helpful tips for people who are room leaders, but also for people who are, are in the room or in a group conversation, or, know, sitting at a conference table with a bunch of people you don't know can be a challenge. But I think that, know, it's all towards building an inclusive community by keeping those things in mind.

Suze:

Yeah, definitely. Definitely.

Dan:

I'm glad we got into this too, because I, you know, I don't know how many listeners we have that are not Virtual Coffee members. Um, but you know, this is like one of the main things that we do in Virtual Coffee and all of our room leaders are all, you know, sort of volunteers that we, either volunteer to, or we pulled into helping manage these rooms. And, um, I just wanted to like take a quick moment to shout out everybody. mean, Suze and everybody else, because I don't know how many people are. In that we, you know, we have a group of people that we pull from, but, uh, they're all awesome. And they're all volunteers and it's, it's like, this is a good illustration of like that th that it takes work and it takes effort, you know, just, just to do those. And we, you know, we appreciate everybody appreciates. It these rooms B uh, B

Suze:

Sometimes it takes getting over a bit of fear as well. I know there's some people that have tried to do it and they've really kind of had to psych themselves up to do it. So not everybody can just jump in and do it. And I really take my hat off to them as well.

Dan:

Yeah.

Bekah:

absolutely. It is. It's a process and it's not for everybody, but also something that you can work on and we try and provide support for a new room leaders and, um, to transition into. Full-time room leaders. I don't know what to call they want to, but you know, like you said, there can be a lot of challenges along the way. Yeah. that that's one of the things that I think is really interesting about your story too. Like you, I think are consistently taking on new challenges. It feels like, you know, you're, changing career paths or you're writing a book or you're streaming on Twitch. so you're consistently pursuing all of these new and challenging things. And I just want, why.

Suze:

I don't know. Um, it's funny. Yeah. Why? Well, um, that is, that is the big question. I don't know. And I'm really glad you said that. So thank you for saying that because I think it's really hard. And actually like, especially through the pandemic, I've really kind of struggled with my mental health quite a lot. And there have been points where I'm just kind of thinking like, You know, my achievements aren't really anything and what am I doing? And you know, what do I do next type thing. So it's really nice for you to acknowledge that. And it does make me feel a bit better than that. I actually, uh, I am actually doing something even when it feels like I'm not, but, um, yeah, I guess. I dunno, I guess I'm just curious about stuff. I just see people doing it like this Twitch thing, and I'm like, oh, what's that all about then? How does that work? And then what can you do with it? And I think I also like to be different as well. So I want to try something that other people aren't trying or other dev teams aren't trying, or maybe the same thing, but in a different way. Um, or just try, try something for the first time somewhere. I don't know, or just take a different slump on it, but I try to do things in an organized way as well, because I'm always thinking about why am I doing this? Like, what's the point of doing it? And I think that helps quite a lot. I'm not really a random person. I don't I don't really like random. I like to do things in quite a strategic and planned way. So yeah, while it might seem like I do a lot of different things, I probably did over think all of those things a lot before I actually jumped in. Um, so, uh, yeah. Yeah, I think that's, I think that's what it is, the curiosity and the wanting to do something different and you know, what tools can I use to do that?

Dan:

So you're streaming on Twitch, you know, sort of recently is that that's for work, right? Um, is that true? All right. Um, um, not totally remembering, but.

Suze:

Yeah. So yeah, the streaming or Twitch is very recent. And like the other thing about me is like, I kind of go big or go home. So I think they think gradually I don't do a small thing. I'll be like, right, I'm going to go on Twitch. So this month is the first time I've ever twitched. And by the end of October, I will have done nine at least. There's nine in the diary. Yeah. So I, so, okay. So when I decided I was going to apply for this job during the recruitment process, I said to my boss, you, they hear some projects that I would really love to do if I get the job. And one of them was, they Redis, we have, um, Redis university got eight free training courses. And I said, right. Okay. Lets o RU 101 I'll take RU101 as part of my onboarding and I'll learn in public. Um, so I'll stream that. And so I'm streaming that with one of my colleagues who works in the Redis university world and the we're going through all the different classes together and stuff like that. And he's teaching me, so that's my regular one every week. And the other project that I pitched to my. Um, at the time, hopefully potential boss, but now he's, my boss was hacktoberfest. So, um, yeah, Redis has got its roots in open source and I thought, you know, this is a really good fit and Redis, hasn't done hacktoberfest before. So let's look at putting some of our stuff out for folks to get involved with and contribute to because you know, I've Participated in Hacktoberfest before for the benefit of everybody listening, I'm just holding up my t-shirt that I'm wearing. And this poor t-shirt is stretched. Cause I keep holding it up on the, on the strings. Um, so yeah, I was like, let's do Hacktoberfest. Like how hard can it be? Really? And actually it wasn't that hard, like, cause I was really organized about it and um, talked to a few people across the business about, you know which we realistically include here? issues can we put out? And we've had a really good response. So. With that. What I did was also the docs team at work. We're really lucky. We've got docs T in the Dev rel team with us. So it's all like this nice place where we can just go directly to them. I don't have to go into another unit and ask and stuff. I said to them, documentation is often cited as a way for folks to get their feet wet with openings source. And all hacktoberfest So let's live streams is where we demystify technical writing and documentation for people that will want to get involved in that. You know, there's a lot of coders that want to get into technical writing. There's a lot of people that don't code, but they're interested in writing who were interested in doing technical writing cause they don't want to code, which is fine. Um, Th those people on my teams, who've got three technical writers. One of them was a coder, one of them wasn't. So that was really good. So, um, I've done a panel, um, chat with them last Friday. So that's on YouTube now and next week hunting one to one file size for each one of them. So that's another three streams. Um, and this morning, yeah, this morning, me and the dev rel manager, the developer advocacy manager a live stream at 9:00 AM this morning, which was fun actually, because we both in the UK. Normally we do it at 5:00 PM because that's the time that hits like Pacific, Eastern and a lot of other places, but we thought, okay, let's do the 9:00 AM slot and just see what happens. Um, so we went through, um, you know, let's have a look at the issues that we've put out and let's have a look at the PRs. We've got back. Cause some of them were really amazing. And like I said, at the beginning, didn't know what we were going to get back. Like we put out a load of issues. We didn't know how well they were going to be received. You know, how hard can it be? But we got so many great contributions from people. Some of whom had never used the product before. And this was really kind of a Testament to how good the readmes were that people had put on the repose. But back when they created the projects, not even just for hacktoberfest. We were really like thinking like everybody, everbody's past selves for being kind to us there. And, um, so yeah, this is, this is how I kind of got into streaming. I'm not sure whether it's my favorite thing to do. I think it's a really hard grind actually. And it depends why you want to do it. If you're doing it to get followers, you probably going to do be doing it for a while. Maybe just doing it because you like streaming then fine. But I think there's always a part of you that wants somebody to be watching because otherwise, why would you sit there doing it?

Bekah:

It's less scary. If there's nobody watching, then you can say, well, I tried it, you know,

Suze:

Nobody came so I'm not gonna do it anymore, but yeah, we recording all ours and putting them on YouTube and we getting a decent, uh, views of the recording. So that's something.

Bekah:

Are those all in the Redis lab twitch account?

Suze:

Yes. Yeah. I can give you the link. Yeah.

Bekah:

Got it. It'll be in the show notes.

Suze:

Yeah.

Dan:

That's fun. Yeah. And the, the, the fact that it's easy to put those recordings on YouTube is as fun it's, it's becomes like, even if you, and if you just keep going you'll end up with followers, I think, you know, but like on Twitch, but, um, it's a nice way to record, um, with some lower expectations, you know, so if you drop onto a YouTube link that says, here's the stream recording from whatever, then people are going to expect a stream level. You know, like not highly edited, not like highly produced, but a nice stream. And you know, so that the expectations are like set, you know what I mean? And so that's one reason. That's one, one side of that. I like streaming, you know, for coding stuff, because if I made a typo, you know, whatever I had to hit delete and, you know, whatever in a, in a recorded video that I was like producing, I would have to edit it out and do a scene or whatever rerecord it. But if it's not a stream, like, you know, everybody makes typos, it's not a big deal, you know? So, um, That's like the Twitch to YouTube pipeline aspect of it. I, I feel like is, uh, is nice. I don't know.

Suze:

Yeah, no, you're definitely right about that authenticity thing. If people want to see what you're really like, they'll either they need to watch you on a live stream and they get the warts and all don't. They like the first livestream that I did accidentally expose my password, which is like a bit of a Rite of passage for any new streamers.

Dan:

Yeah. Yeah. That'll happen.

Suze:

Um,

Dan:

like watching a recording of a, of a concert or something as opposed to a music video, you know, it's like,

Bekah:

And it's the same thing I think that goes for, there are so many online conferences, right. And everybody complains. It's not the same energy, but that's because they're not creating a new space for that thing. So many of them are prerecorded and you don't get energy from that. At least I don't. It sucks. It sucks the energy out of me because I know I can, Yeah. I can edit that thing or I have to nail it because it's, recorded and that's an expectation, but if you're at a conference and you're giving a live talk, you're not, that's a totally different energy. And I think. You know, maybe there's a middle ground between just going into a livestream without any preparation and having a produced YouTube video and that's where the online conference space should live. Like be able to give your talk, um, while livestreamed and. Um, it's harder because you can't see people, but when you're navigating the chat that goes on a Twitch stream or whatever, that becomes part of the interaction and there shouldn't be that expectation that this is going to be like an in-person conference talk because it's not an in-person conference talk, right. There should be a shift in how we find our energy online.

Suze:

Yeah. Yeah. And that whole finding your energy online thing is the age old question. Isn't it? We kind of rapidly had to desperately find some energy from somewhere when everything went online and some conferences are better than others. I definitely like the ones where they have like networking and stuff, and that can be scary for people. Um, but yeah, those ones are the ones that I probably enjoy the most. And like you say, the ones that I enjoyed the least were the ones where they were prerecorded and like for the past sort of 18 to 24 months, I've done a mixture of both. So I've spoken at conferences, online conferences live and online conferences where it's been pre recorded. And yet pre recordings are energy sucking aren't they?

Dan:

Yeah, it's hard to, it's hard to, and I agree. reason that it's happening right, is everyone just tried to do straight, you know, live ones when it all started. And that's really hard too. And there's so many technical challenges that can come up, you know? And so I think there was a whole year or a few, like half a year of conferences that were all. Parts got messed up and the organizers are like, we're not doing this again, you know? Uh, because they just tried to do the same thing except on zoom, you know? And so swung way around to the other side of where you're, you know, now you're like a lot of prerecorded talks, but

Suze:

Yeah.

Dan:

I think everybody agrees that, um, Codeland did an interesting thing where they had a bunch of prerecorded recorded talks, but they had like they, there was like a of time of like four talks It was just like, they were just like streaming the recordings, you know? And so the MCs would like drop in in between, but, they also released on demand links. And so you could just like shut off the stream and go watch them or something if you wanted, or, you know, like that. Um, which was like kind of interesting. Uh, you know, I don't think it totally solved the problem, but

Suze:

No, I don't think there, there is an answer. Cause some people don't even like in person ones. So for some people they really love the online. So yeah, definitely can't please everyone.

Dan:

Well, yeah, that's, that's all, that's always true.

Suze:

Yeah.

Bekah:

I think people too don't realize how much speakers prepare for their talks and. When you go to a conference, a lot of times they'll pay for your travel or they'll pay for your hotel stay and you'll get, you know, some kind of gift as part of that, which is like a nice recognition. You, you put a lot of time into this and we appreciate that. And I think that there wasn't as much of that with online conferences, because one, they didn't have funding or sponsorships and two, they were trying to figure out how are they going to run three tracks of this conference online and in a lot of instances, the speakers kind of got lost along the way, in terms of just, just simple thank yous is even, and, and I, I understand it is hard to organize events and make changes and stuff like that, it just goes back to that. You know, earlier talking about those, there's a lot of work and effort put into a lot of the things that we do that are, um, audience facing things.

Suze:

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Cause people are quick to tell you what they didn't like, but a lot of the time they don't speak a couple of say what they did like do they, um, and also even if you ask people some times, like you did a survey, historically I was in marketing for ages. And I think the survey completion rate was somewhere between. Um, 5 and 15%, but normally around the 5% mark and it still, it's no different today, really, unless you kind of offer a nice incentive for somebody to fill that in. So yeah, even when you directly ask people what they want, they don't necessarily tell you. And yes, organizing an online event is it is a different set of skills and knowledge. Uh, than, uh, organizing an in-person one. And like you say it in in-person ones kind of a bit easier, cause you're dealing with physical rooms, aren't you? And you know, if you've got three tracks, you've got like that room one is track, one room two is track two and room three's track three easy. Just tell everyone which room they've got to go to, but if you're using a technology solution to manage your tracks, that can become a bit of a nightmare very quickly. I think you probably need more staffing. To manage something like that, but then you the safety issue. Yeah.

Bekah:

Well, w when you're in a room with somebody, can say, the speaker is not here. You can physically find them. If somebody is not online at the right time, more difficult.

Dan:

Yeah. And you're, you're much more like at the whims of their local, you know, their own computer and their own internet connection, all that stuff to which, which causes problems

Suze:

Yeah.

Dan:

can cause some problems

Suze:

Yeah. Where do

Dan:

there was a, there was some, there was some good, the keynotes were live, so the keynotes were live. And then there was other talks that were recorded, which hybrid hybrid combo,

Suze:

Hmm. Yeah, sometimes they do, um, prerecorded talks and then live Q and a that's quite nice.

Dan:

Yeah,

Suze:

You can see that the speakers have tried to do the continuity thing by wearing the same clothes that they wore in the recording for the Q and a. But I did notice, like somebody would rearrange their room in the few weeks in between. I was like, oh, okay. Yeah, you didn't think of that. Did you eat the plants? Moved, walked across the room? Yeah. Yeah.

Bekah:

Well, and so, you know, we've talked about all of these different things that you've done. Well, a lot of them, but we haven't really hit on your book. So I would love to hear about like, you know, this is another thing you took on. Why did you decide to write a book? And what was that process in reception? Like.

Suze:

Well, this book is not something I actually made the decision to do per se. I didn't sit down. I didn't wake up one day and say, right, I want to write a book, it was something that I wanted to do. When I was a child, I always thought, yeah, I'm going to write book at some point, but I always thought it was going to be fiction because I think a lots of kids like writing stories, don't they? Um, but yeah, I kind of didn't really think about it too much. And then, um, always been interested in writing and that was what I was mostly interested in when I was doing the marketing stuff, like, uh, communications and things like that. So yeah, somebody actually reached out to me on Twitter and said, they've got this project. Um, And would I like to contribute to it? the series is called 32nd and, um, The books that existed before my one. So my one's 32nd coding where things like 32nd architecture, 32nd biology, 32nd chemistry, you know, all these 32nd history, things like that. And, um, the objective is to get across like 50 different topics within that whole theme within that book within about 170 words. So they, I think they said to me, oh, I saw your blog. And I think you would be really good for this project. And also what's interesting actually is that these, uh, the publishers published the book in like, I think 30 or 50 different languages or something like that. So I might actually come across this book in a different country with a, B you would recognize the branding, which is funny. So even though you do what you didn't understand what the words on the front side, you know, from the picture. So, um, so yeah, so he said to me, you know, I'd really like you to contribute to this book. So yeah, in the end there for some of the books, 15 contributors, but on this one, there's only three. So I got to write quite a nice chunk of this book. Um, so yeah, to have sort of, uh, like variables, how do you explain what a variable is in like 174 words? It's quite hard

Bekah:

Yep.

Suze:

and, um, you know, arrays and functions and loops and all of that

Dan:

you have your, can you, can you just do your, can you do the variable one? Do you have it somewhere?

Suze:

I've got my book in front of me. I can read out to you

Dan:

yeah. Yeah. Just, just, just do it or pick one, pick one. It doesn't have to be the variable one, but that,

Suze:

Right. Let's do variables cause like that. You didn't say to me, just tell me what a variable is in 170 words because I, yeah, it's not the sort of thing you can remember. We'll be able to articulate, but right. Okay. So variables, we use variables in programming to give us an easy way of labeling and therefore recalling and manipulating memory locations in which we store pieces of information. For example, our program might ask the user for their name and location. When the user submits these pieces of information, we can assign these values to name variables, current years Suze" and current user location equals Europe. I deliberately said Europe because the UK left the EU, but we're still in Europe. So holding on to that, that's just a note, that's a footnote, but no one we're still in Europe. Please understand that the computer is still with these values and the memory locations associated with each variable. This allows us to greet the user by name with a salutation appropriate to the time of day where they are. When declaring a variable, we can decide whether or not its value can be modified. We also need to decide the scope of the variable, where it can be seen in use in the program. Some variables have a global scope so they can be used anywhere in the code. Others have a scope that is limited to a specific code block. For example, current time may only exist in a function where you are determining whether it's morning or evening in the user's time zone. In addition to a name and value, variables in most programming languages also have types. For example, a variable whose type is integer can hold whole number values. There you go.

Dan:

Nice.

Suze:

170 words on variables.

Dan:

I think that's great. And variables. Yeah. I mean, I that's why specifically? I said, can you read it to me? Cause I was trying to figure out how to, you know, the thought process about like distilling something down to. You know, to a simple language like that. Um, and that quickly is, that's takes a lot of skill and, um, thought and that was really

Suze:

Yeah. I feel like, cause you know, Bekah said earlier, I've tried so many different things. I feel like. Um, and also it goes back to, you know, wanting to do that different thing or be unique. I always seem to go for the hard way of doing stuff. So it is much harder to write something short than it is to write something longer.

Dan:

absolutely.

Suze:

So yeah, definitely got

Bekah:

100%. I'm trying to...

Dan:

yeah, mean, you could see an entire book written on the topic. I mean, you know, I can, I'm sure that I'm sure there are entire books written on the topic, so that's yeah.

Bekah:

I'm trying to write a proposal for a lightning talk right now. And it's, it's five to seven minutes. you tell me 45 to 60 minutes, no problem. I can give you quite a few different talks, I having such a hard time figuring out how I will talk about. Anything for, just five to seven minutes, it's more overwhelming to have less time than it is to have that whole hour.

Suze:

Yeah, I think in a five to seven minute talk, you probably only want one argument. Don't you because you only have time for one there's, you can't really do three takeaways. You need to one argument and really argue the heck out of the argument. I think, and it goes really fast. I remember at school, one of the things they made us do every year, which was really evil. Cause I went to an all girl school. So you can imagine that was like, Horrible in itself. But every year they made us stand up in front of the entire class a speech that we had prepared. And yeah, that has served me well in adult life, but it was quite traumatic way of, of getting the skills. and yeah, so I think we had to do, was it a two minute talk or five minutes? It was really sure, but it felt like it was going to be forever, but now yeah, 20 minutes is too short for me, I think.

Bekah:

uh, we're just about at time here. And so one more question, and maybe you don't have a straight answer for this, but of all of the things that you've done, what has been your favorite challenge?

Suze:

My favorite challenge. Yeah, that is a good question. Hm. Okay. I've got two from I'll choose two from this year because I'm struggling to remember anything pre pandemic.

Dan:

as are we all, Yeah.

Suze:

I I'll say, two from this year, which again are really different things that I had never done before. So the book definitely, which I actually started last year, but that, that whole process is long. Uh, but that got published. The book got published at the beginning of October. 2021. For any of you good folks of the future who are listening to this podcast? Um, on the same day as Dave Grohl's book. I don't know. I

Bekah:

You were retweeted,

Suze:

I know. Yeah. Yeah. So Dave Grohl is my best friend. I tweeted about my book and said, It's been published on the same day as Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters and the Foo Fighters tweeted me back and said Congrats... oh my God. Holding the book in my hand was something. And then I got that tweet. I was like, oh, I don't even need this book now I've got a tweet from the Foo Fighters. Like really? Um, and then last weekend I actually went into a physical book shop for the first time, probably since pre pandemic. And I found my book in there and I was like, yeah, that was so weird because yeah, because I was like, hang on a minute. This is a copy of the book that I don't own. And it's going to be in somebody else's house. This is just so wild to me that my name is going to be in a thing in somebody's house is just really well. yeah, the book, um, because that is just something that just kind of, I don't know, I always wanted to do, but I never seriously thought that I would do it and I haven't actually made a plan to do it. So, yeah, that's a big achievement for me. also earlier this year, right at the beginning of the year, I actually did a six hour live stream conference type thing. So I don't know if any you have heard of global diversity CFP day. It is a, um, it's an annual event. And this year it was online for obvious reasons where we encourage people from underrepresented groups to submit proposals to CFP so that we can get more diversity on the tech conference stages. And so I was given the brief of.... Um, organized a six hour live stream find speakers for it and things like that. So I found some speakers. I did some firesides did a bit of slight karaoke. I am seated all. I produced it all. yeah. Now if you said to me do a five-hour one, it'd be like nothing. Cause I've already done a six hour one. So yeah, I'm really proud of that because at one point, um, probably towards the end, I did a shout out and said, look, you know, Post in the chat. If you've been with me for the whole six hours I was here people had, and one of them actually said I hadn't planned to, but it was so good I stayed. So, uh, yeah. So, know, people are choosing to spend six hours of their life on a, uh, on a Saturday with you then, um, you're doing something right aren't you. uh, yeah, those are my two big things that I'm proud of this year.

Dan:

that's awesome.

Bekah:

Yeah, great. And I love that. if someone asks me to do a five-hour one, I, we easy, cause I've done a six hour one. I think that's a fun way to approach doing anything.

Suze:

Yeah. Yeah. Five, 5 hours and 59 minutes. No problem.

Bekah:

I got this. Well, Thanks so much for being here with us today. This has been great to follow along the things that you've done and to hear all of your tips. So, thank you. And we'll talk to you soon.

Suze:

Thanks. Thanks. for inviting me. It's been a pleasure.

Dan:

right, bye.

Suze:

Bye.

Dan:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel, and was edited by Andy Bonjour at GoodDay Communications. If you have questions or comments, you can hit us up on Twitter at VirtualCoffeeIO or email us at podcast@virtualcoffee.io. You can find the show notes, sign up for our newsletter, check out any of our other resources on our website at virtualcoffee.io.


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