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Julia Seidman - Embracing the Careen Over the Career

Season 6, Episode 6 | September 20, 2022

In today's episode, Dan and Bekah talk to Julia about learning how to learn as a Technical Writer, the importance of teaching as a tool for learning, and her approach to writing about new technologies.


Julia Seidman

Julia Seidman is a technical marketing consultant and developer in the Seattle area. She has 2 terrific kids and a wonderful partner, and her family cos-plays as a “normal” family.

Julia is a believer in the careen, rather than the career.

After studying anthropology and writing a senior thesis on the ethics of museum collections of human skeletal remains, she took the job she could get, which was fundraising for a hospital.

From there, she became a financial analyst and employee educator for 401(k) and pension plans. After that, she got a Master’s in Teaching, and taught high school English, ESL and Debate for most of a decade.

Now, she works as a freelance technical writer and software developer, specializing in technical content marketing.

Along the way, she has learned a lot about a lot of things, including the Python ecosystem.

Show Notes:

This week Bekah and Dan sat down with Julia Seidman, a technical marketing consultant and developer in the Seattle area, and talked about her work writing about different technologies, learning by teaching, and embracing the careen over the career. She talks about her career journey from studying anthropology to financial analysis to teaching high school English, ESL and Debate, before landing her current role as a technical writer.

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Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello, and welcome to season six, episode six 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 here. And we are here to share it with you. Here with like host Dan.

Dan:

Hey, Bekah how's it going?

Bekah:

fantastic.

Dan:

um, yes, we are in a silly mood cuz we just finished recording with Julia Seidman, uh, developer, educator. Um, she's uh, independent consultant and um, she's had really long and interesting career, couple different roles. Um, and it was a really good time. It was a very silly time as well. So, uh, we, we, we had a good time talking to Julia as always.

Bekah:

Yeah, we did. We had a, a deep dive into our intro question. So I think that we have set the record for longest ever intro because we explored quite a few tangents.

Dan:

Yes. Um, but we learned some things along the way. Right?

Bekah:

We did some very, very interesting things about exploring different technologies as developer educator, and what that career path.

Dan:

mm-hmm

Bekah:

Also about rhodium gotta, you gotta listen the end of the episode, though. If you wanna know about rhodium.

Dan:

yeah, no, Julia has a, a really great, um, outlook on pretty much everything. Uh, you know, she talks a lot about how education is important in her writing process. And, um, she has this, uh, I don't know if it's a ethos or whatever, but, uh, she says "embrace the careen over the career." Right. And I. As another person who I never thought about it like that. Exactly. But, uh, I very much appreciate that that look in life. Um, I think it's very healthy one too. So, um, yeah, I don't know. It was, it was a good time and it was fun. So I, this is I'm horrible at ending things. It hasn't gotten better.

Bekah:

I think that's probably my, my job to pick up with. 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, and we hope that you enjoy this episode. Our intro question today is if you could have an unlimited supply of one non-food thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? My name is Bekah. I am a technical community builder at a it's not what I normally say. I don't know. Hi I'm Bekah

Dan:

It sounded good.

Bekah:

but it was like, I don't, that's just not what I normally say. And then my brain was like, what are you doing? This is not how we do this thing. Um, alright,

Dan:

That's what my brain does every time, except that there's not a normal thing that it's

Bekah:

Well that's because you don't know what you do. you're very confused about.

Julia:

Same same.

Bekah:

Hi, I'm Bekah, I'm a technical community builder at DeepGram from a small town in Ohio and an unlimited supply of one nod food thing for the rest of my life. Um, I, this is just, I don't know where to go with this. I really like N um, notebooks and pens, but that's two things. So that should it be like practical and does it just automatically appear because like, I, for a long time kept forgetting to buy light bulbs. And so we were in the dark all the time, so, or like triple a batteries. I don't, I'm just,

Julia:

good one.

Bekah:

and non food items. All I

Julia:

always have

Bekah:

food

Julia:

always have double A, never have triple As..

Bekah:

Yeah, exactly. Or like that one time you need a D battery and like what the, no, I don't have a D battery. Um, so I don't,

Julia:

You wanna show your kid what happens when you look a nine volt and you don't have a mind.

Bekah:

Am I supposed to show kid that

Julia:

I feel like it's a right of passage

Bekah:

I don't even understand what that I've never heard of. That

Dan:

go try it. See what happens.

Bekah:

I don't have a nine volt

Dan:

no,

Julia:

was a science teacher. a lot questionable things.

Bekah:

dry ice is really fun. You can do. My dad was a pharmacist. I remember like sometimes he would bring home dry ice. I like something shipped in it. I'm like, this is the coolest thing ever. I'll just go with dry ice. I'm gonna have an unlimited supply of dry ice. I'm that's what I'm

Dan:

Uh, alright, well, you'll have lots of, um, well steam or, well, that's not really steam, is it? It's? Uh,

Julia:

uh, it, the, the chemical process is called sublimation.

Dan:

Yeah, but what is the thing called? The

Julia:

it's steam. It's when a solid

Dan:

Okay. It is team. Okay. Yeah. All right. Cool. Uh, hi, I am Dan. I do stuff. Uh, I I am a independent, um, computer person, developer guy. Uh, yeah, if I'm Cleveland and, um, yeah, I think, uh, time is what I'm going with. That would be the thing that

Bekah:

Oh, that's not fair. That's

Dan:

Listen, it's not food. That's only, that was the only rule. All right, fine. Uh

Julia:

time is infinite. Dan,

Dan:

Hmm. But I don't have an infant supply of it. See,

Bekah:

you want free time. That's what you're asking for.

Dan:

I want more time.

Julia:

you wanna look forever?

Dan:

Uh, no, no, that doesn't either. Yeah, no, no, no. Um, alright fine. Uh, how about, can I sell the thing? it,

Julia:

Sure.

Dan:

can I do, uh, I mean,

Bekah:

No drugs. sell

Dan:

Can I do money? Nothing illegal. What is this? You're putting all these rules in didn't exist. Uh, gold. Uh, one of those things called. Doubloons. Yep. That's it. like a pirate and then I'll sell 'em when I need more money and, uh, infinite supply. Yeah. It's the most practical way to transport gold. Uh, yeah. And, you know, I could fill up a pool and go swimming in it. Uh, Scrooge McDuck style. Um, I could sell them, you know, when I needed more money for things, I could probably make jewelry out of them. Uh, doubloons, you know, is, uh, you know,

Bekah:

Just for reference. We are recording this a Thursday Eastern in afternoon. We are not even like,

Julia:

No, one's

Dan:

I, uh, I went home for lunch just before this and, um, opened my fridge to get a soda. Definitely took a hard look at the beer I chose not to today, but, uh, I, I, I was like, it's been that kind of week. I, I, I took a look at it. Uh, so I decided to but I actually got my first, like full night sleep last night in, I don't know, at least a

Bekah:

oh, your brain doesn't know what to do with itself.

Dan:

I know, I know have lots of energy today, so anyway, me and my gold doubloons, are gonna, you know, what we're gonna do.

Bekah:

Good luck, Julia. It's.

Julia:

Yeah, I have a lot of thoughts now. Um, my name's Julia side, um, I am, I don't know. I guess I call my lately. I've been calling myself a developer educator. Um, I'm kind of mainly what I do is I work with API companies to create sample apps and getting started guides and tutorials, and generally help them like improve their developer experience, um, with specifically like with an eye towards onboarding new developers, but also like trying to create content that inspires. Creativity. Um, so I write code, um, and I write about code and yeah. Um, I, if I had an unlimited supply of something, so I was gonna say sunscreen because I compulsively buy sunscreen, like in enormous quantities. Every time I see it, I'm like, oh, I should probably buy more sunscreen. Um, but I don't ever actually remember to use it. And I'm imagining that if I had an unlimited supply that just like materialized, then maybe I would actually remember to use the sunblock and I would stop spending so much money on sunblock that doesn't get used. But then I thought. There are rare earth metals that are much more valuable per ounce gold. And if I'm allowed sell the thing and especially if I could like have rare earth metals without the environmental costs of mining them and like the like child labor costs of mining them and all of that, then, then that's that that'd be really good. So I think I'm not sure which rare earth metal I have to do my research. Um, but yeah, that's what I'm thinking. Um,

Dan:

of another answer, uh, energy. That'd be my, that was my one. Yeah. Cause I could sell that too honestly. Uh, but I could also, you know power, all

Bekah:

I was

Dan:

all BA my battery things

Bekah:

get the day. You're

Dan:

oh, personal energy. Oh no, no, no. I meant like,

Bekah:

energy.

Dan:

you, yeah, well, you know, not doesn't have to be electricity, just energy, you know, I can convert it into electricity if I want, I can convert it into, uh, probably other things,

Bekah:

it make you fast?

Dan:

Uh, well, no, probably could power a thing that fast. You know, you know, uh, so yeah, that's, that's it that's gotta be the real answer. I, I, do wanna know where these things come from, you know, cuz because uh, it's like unlimited supply,

Bekah:

unlimited

Dan:

well is it not, is it unlimited supply? I mean, yeah. Does it mean like you were asking about this too? Does it just like one appear when you need it? Or is it like

Julia:

Yeah.

Dan:

I mean it's a, know, it has be like that.

Bekah:

Yeah. That's what I was imagining a closet of

Dan:

Yeah. Cool. Yeah. So they don't yes. Nobody's mining them or, or, or making this unblock or whatever

Julia:

Yeah.

Dan:

yeah,

Julia:

As far as I know, manufacturing, sunblock is not like

Dan:

We need Kirk on this.

Julia:

environmentally costly, but.

Dan:

I

Bekah:

that should be our last episode of the season should just be Kirk questions that we answer.

Dan:

Oh man, Kirk, if he was there for that would just have an aneurysm, I think by the end of it.

Bekah:

So, um, if you are listening and you have not experienced a Kirk question, when we do these questions before every Virtual Coffee, Kirk has been coming up with some, um, some doozies, I, I guess you can label them where it, uh, leaves a lot of room for interpretation and requires you to think outside of the box, which is a rabbit hole for most of us.

Julia:

Yeah. Um, I hold a little bit of blame potentially. I don't know. Um, in that one time in the co-working room, I pulled out a copy of, would you rather questions year olds? Um, and there have been a few that were inspired by would you rather for eight year olds,

Bekah:

Is that a book?

Julia:

it's a book.

Bekah:

Oh, oh,

Dan:

Mmm,

Julia:

have them for seven year olds, eight year olds, nine year olds. I don't what the difference is, but

Dan:

right. I'm writing that down.

Bekah:

kid has a birthday in a couple weeks. He's about to be eight and he would love that. So guess don't, this will come out after his birthday. So in case he listens, it will not spoiled. Um, I think this is the record for our longest intro ever.

Julia:

sorry.

Bekah:

no, don't be sorry. It was all Dan's fault. Um,

Dan:

no.

Julia:

I even held back on a about gold doubloons,

Bekah:

you have a

Dan:

now I,

Julia:

not actually about gold doubloons, it's about gold krugerrands, which, so it was the currency in South Africa. Like, um, I don't know, historically, I'm not sure when they stopped using them, but they are, I guess they, they were kind of popular among like people doing like black market kind of stuff, pre-internet age. Um, and we had a super corrupt governor in Connecticut when I was growing up named John Roland. And, um, one of John Roland had like a couple of cronies in my hometown and, um, one of his. I don't know, partners in crime was the father of one of my sister's classmates. And, um, he, he was arrested while my sister was in high school. Um, and I, in my mind, they actually caught him in the act of burying gold krugerrands in his backyard. I don't know that they actually caught him in the act, but for sure, my sister went to high school with someone who was, whose father was arrested and found to have hundreds of thousands of dollars of like illegal south African gold coins buried in his backyard. So

Dan:

that is incredible. that. This is about. It's so much of a better story than if you just had like cash buried in his

Julia:

Oh, totally. Well, there was that guy from Louisiana who had cash in his freezer. This guy, way more

Dan:

One and a half Yeah. They're like this quarter, like a little bit bigger than an American quarter, I suppose.

Julia:

Are you looking it up?

Dan:

I'm looking at 'em on Wikipedia. So by, uh, 1980, they accounted for more than 90% of the global coin market. And was the number one choice for investors buying gold.

Julia:

yeah,

Dan:

you go. they're not though

Julia:

you know,

Bekah:

This is where we need sound effects for like the more, you know, is that, how it goes?

Dan:

Um,

Bekah:

We

Dan:

I don't have that one. All I have is

Bekah:

that is

Dan:

that's all,

Bekah:

not, not what we're not the I was going for.

Dan:

so these are cool, but uh, yeah, doubloons, I feel like I need them to be bigger and thicker, you know,

Bekah:

So you

Dan:

mean? Why you could wear 'em you could do, you know, you what I.

Julia:

Like they're a lot more portable than like a big brick

Dan:

Oh, I get it. I mean, I understand practically, like these are good for crime and stuff, you know,

Bekah:

These are good for.

Dan:

for my thing, you know, this is why I want, if I have an unlimited supply, I'd rather just, you know, know what I mean? If I change my mind later, I can just melt 'em down and make Krugerrands with them. Well, that was our.

Julia:

think.

Bekah:

I'm gonna, there's no segue here. So thanks for coming on the podcast, Julia, we like to get started with your origin story and maybe that's where it starts with gold coins and backyards. Um, but give us your, your story of how you came to this point in your tech.

Julia:

Only. Um, so I, um, I, when I was in college, um, I, well, so when I was in college, um, I double majored in anthropology and comparative religion, um, which is not useful in any commonly known sense of the word. Um, but I had a, I had a, um, a Dean who I knew pre she was actually, well anyway, I knew her pretty well, and we were talking one time and she said something about how she had had a cur, she had decided to embrace the Korean over the career. And I just really liked that phrase and idea, like, and, and I would say that. That's kind of what I aspire to is like, I, I can't plan. I'm no good at committing to any like long term vision, but what I am good at is rolling with the punches and like just kind of seeing where things go. So, um, after college, I bounced around for a few years, working in as a professional fundraiser as, um, an events coordinator really briefly as a recruiter. Um, and then, um, I spent like about four years working in finance, um, which was just a total, like, I just stumbled into the job. They had hired somebody else who went to the same college and they were like, Ugh, Let's hire her. Let's see how it goes. And, um, I, so I really liked it in some ways. really liked that the sort of the analytical work. I liked that I was learning a lot because I had no background in finance. Um, I did a lot of writing while I was there. And if I kind of look back at like, what's the theme, in my, in my Korean, what I would say is that I, what I, what I do over the long arc, I learn about things. And then I write about them. So at that phase, I was learning about finance and writing about finance simultaneously. And that was great for a few years. Um, but then in 2000, Fall of 2008, winter of 2009. I don't remember. I, I don't know if other people remember this time as acutely as I do. Um, I live in Seattle, WAMU collapsed. I worked in finance, everything else collapsed. We had people being taken to the ER in the middle of the work day because they thought they were having heart attacks, but it was actually just panic attacks. Um, it was such an intensely stressful time that I was like, peace. I am, I am out here. I do not wanna work in this world anymore. No one is happy. Um, and so I did, I went back to school and did something that was probably as far in the opposite direction as you could go. And I became a high school English teacher. Um, I did that for. About 10 years. Um, and then just kind of got exhausted by the, I don't know, the vagaries of working in public education. Um, and it's another story for another day, but I worked at a very high pressure in a very high income, high pressure community. And, um, I was really not happy with like the way that my students lives were being shaped. Um, so when my second child was born, I was like, you know, I'm gonna take a break and I took a year off and it felt really good. And so I took another year off. And during that second year, I started learning how to code. Um, I started kind of more with data science because of having that finance background. Um, but along the way, kind of stumbled my way through various things. And I did a bootcamp. I did some self-taught stuff. I did some internships. I did a, um, an kind of a incubator program. Um, and then stumbled my way once again, into this role that I'm in now, um, doing developer education. So once again, I'm learning about things and then I'm writing about them. Um, so yeah, that's, that's my origin story. And I think it's good because I finally found something where like, there's really no limit on how much I can learn. and I have a ton of control over who I work with and when I work and all of that, and the people that I am teaching through my work really wanna learn they are intrinsically motivated and that's that's cool. Um, yeah, so that's me.

Bekah:

that makes such a difference when people are motivated to learn.

Julia:

it's huge. And like you get that sometimes in K-12 education, right? Like I'm, I don't know. I'm sure we all had times in our education where we were really genuinely motivated by something, but there's just so much else going on that. I don't know. don't love it.

Bekah:

Right, Right, That's I mean, my background's in education. I taught college English for 10 years and it was a lot of core classes, which means people had to take those classes. It an option. Most of them did not wanna be there. Didn't see the point of it. Weren't motivated. And like, to the point of being aggressively unmotivated and like about things, I'm like, this is not. why I signed up to and like the rare occasion, I would be able to teach, um, uh, like a special interest class. I taught a screenwriting class once I had eight or 10 students. It was the best experience. I loved that because everybody was excited about being there and talking about those things. Um, but those experiences are not as frequent

Julia:

no, no. They're not. Yeah. And it, I mean, the people who stick with it and do it for a long time and I mean, I have enormous respect, but, um, I also don't at all, judge, anyone who opts out because it can be pretty demoralizing.

Bekah:

Yeah. And I think that, I don't know if it's a generational thing or not, but I know my parents stayed in careers forever. And a lot of the people around us, um, who are in the same generation, they spent their entire careers, you know, doing one thing. But I see more people now maybe just cuz I'm older changing careers and, not having to be stuck doing something that you're not interested in doing is really important to me. So I know like I would talk to somebody else about a career in tech and I was like, I don't know if I'll be here five years or not. She she's the same thing. Like, yeah. I don't know if I will either. I kind of hope I'm not like there are lots of options out there in finding, exploring those things that keep you interested, I think helps you to, I dunno, be motivated in all areas of your life.

Julia:

Mm-hmm Yeah. And that's something like when I kind of made the transition into tech, I was pretty explicit in saying like, it's not that I think I'm gonna be writing code all day every day for the rest of my life. This is a skill, um, a. It's a skill and like a discipline that can feed other kinds of growth that can enable me to get involved in, in different things. And I, I think initially I thought of it more as a skill. And now I would say it's really is more of like a discipline. Like there's not one skill that, that anybody learns except maybe. And, and I think that this is part of like, what has helped make me successful in the time that I've been working in tech? Um, maybe the skill is just learning how to learn. Um, like, and I think that that's like, if I of what I'm good at, like I'm good at learning about stuff and that's, I think probably the most essential. Skill, otherwise, like, it's not like you could say like, oh, I have a skill in writing JavaScript. Like that's not, I mean, there is skill, but it changes. And really the skill is a, is about like habits of mind. And, um, I don't know.

Bekah:

I love that. And I think I, I also always struggle with people asking me what my career goals are. And I think that's for like a lot of this reason, I don't really have career goals. Like I'm interested in, you know, connecting other people. And like you said, like learning new things. And so for me, it's not like, oh, I wanna be a senior blah, blah, blah, someday. You know, I just wanna keep doing things that I'm interested in and helping to support other people, you know, feel part of something.

Julia:

mm-hmm I mean, I think it's cool when people. Have those aspirations to,

Bekah:

Yeah. I think that's totally fine. I just think that there are so many different career paths and ways to approach what you're doing. That like, acknowledging that I'm interested in learning or learning new things. Now that's a really great place to be.

Julia:

mm-hmm ,mm-hmm

Bekah:

So let's back up a little bit and talk about what your work, what you do for work.

Julia:

sure.

Bekah:

to give, um, like more of a zoomed in idea of what you're doing daily, or, you know, how the projects get chosen that you're working on and talk through some of the things that you like about that.

Julia:

okay. so I'll just talk about what I'm working on right now, cuz I think that's a good sort of snapshot um, right now I have three main projects that I'm working on three different clients, three different sort of types of work. Um, one is um, like an API tooling company, um, and I am a frequent contributor to their technical blog. Um, so I just wrote a three part series on authentication and authorization and an authentication best practices for APIs. So I'm not writing code when I'm doing that, but I'm doing a lot of in depth, technical research, reading code, reading. You know, reading documentation from different, um, I don't know, different solutions providers. Um, I did an SME interview as part of that with a senior engineer who oversees some of their security stuff at, at that, at my client company. Um, and then writing those articles, like for a technical audience writing for API developers to say, like, here's how to approach the decision making process. And that was one of the things that I try to do as a writer and like part of why they keep bringing me back there is that there's a lot of repetitive content out there. Um, so if you look up like API security, best practices, you're gonna see a lot of articles that say essentially the same thing. Um, anytime you look up anything to do with GWT, Jos, Jos JSUN web tokens, um, the first hits are the same, like it's, everything is so SEO optimized, like, um, and what I try to do is to take a point of view. That's a little bit more about like, okay, there's a lot of options. There's not a best option. How do we come up with a decision making framework? Like how do you, as a developer, as a, you know, as a team lead a product architect, whatever, how do you approach the decision making process of like, what's the best option for me? Um, so. That's kind of part of what that series is about, and I've done things like that on other aspects of API design for them. So that's one thing and that's kind of the least technical part of what I do. Um, then right now I'm working with two other clients. One, um, is, um, they have a GraphQL API that coordinates the APIs for like maybe, I don't know, just estimating 40 different brands of I T devices. So like your SL smart locks or your Phillips hue, light bulbs, or your eco B thermostat or whatever, each of those has its own API and its own app. And. As a homeowner, you can use like Google home or whatever, but let's say that you were like an apartment building superintendent and you wanted to be able to manage all of the smart devices in your buildings from one place. Instead of all of those places, they make an API that coordinates all of those things. And, um, so I, but right now, most of their documentation is very like marketing. Oriented. They it's like, they've been very focused on just like onboarding their first few significant customers. And the, and their technical onboarding has been like super intensive, custom, like hand holding. And I we're, I'm involved in helping to transition them away from that, like creating more standard documentation for like those getting started guides. So how to build a node app that allows you to control all of your smart locks, how to build an, you know, and then eventually like integrating all of these different things in there, but also along the way, explaining, like, why is this a GraphQL API instead of rest, why do we insist on you using. Um, a specific authentication protocol. Um, and, and there are technical reasons that they do all of those things that have to do with coordinating between 40 different APIs. Um, so the content that I'm creating for them, some of it is just creating these sample apps and kind of documenting the nitty gritty of those apps. Um, and then some of it is the more in depth explanations of like the why, um, of how it works. Um, and that's been really cool because I've gotten to learn a lot about these different aspects of it. Plus I think IOT is really interesting. We have. Everything in our house is smart, is like a smart device. And, um, it frustrates me that they don't talk to each other very well um, uh it's yeah, I think it's cool. I just, it's a really exciting, interesting project to be working on. Um, and the engineers who work at this company are like, they are, they know their stuff. Like they are very smart people, um, creative, analytical people. So it's been really neat working with them. Um, and then my other client that I'm working on right now working with right now, this one is like simultaneously an example of what I do and really, really, really do not like about my current role. So this is a company who makes a player and engagement. API for game developers. So, you know, sending push notifications and rewards, you know, in game stuff. And, um, I'm creating a lot of the same kind of like getting started guides. Um, because again, like they, their existing documentation sort of assumes that you already know what this thing does and roughly how to use it. Like maybe you've already been using a competitor product and you're just switching over. And so it's, it's not gonna be any challenge to, but they're hoping to expand and, and kind of make themselves more accessible to a broader audience of game developers. Um, so. To do this, to create the content that they want. I have had to learn how to work with game code. Um, and

Bekah:

Oh, right.

Julia:

I, it's just, it's not all the same. it's like the transition from working with a rest API to a GraphQL API in node is no big deal. Right. Um, the transition from working with one authentication protocol to another in.net is no big deal, but changing this entire framework and way of thinking about, um, project architecture has been really, really difficult for me. And it's just not easy to troubleshoot and it's, um, Yeah, it's been interesting. I mean, it's cool to be learning and working on something so radically different. Um, and I hope eventually I'll be able to create some content for them that's useful and meaningful, but, um, it is definitely something where I'm like, oh, there has gotta be somebody else out there who's better qualified to do this. it's sure not me. Um, but it's kind of the nature of like, there're just there, aren't an enormous number of companies that do what our company does. Um, and I I'm technically a freelancer, but I almost, all my work right now is through, is through an agency. And there just aren't that many agencies that do what we do. And we had a sales guy for a little while, while who was. Maybe overselling our technical expertise or like overselling the idea that, you know, developers could learn anything and you know, in no time flat Um, yeah. Yeah. But so that's, that's the kind of thing, like a I'm I don't know. Does that answer, is that a good

Bekah:

Yeah, this is great. I mean, you really broke down a lot of different things. Do you get to choose the projects and the companies that you work with or does the agency assign you?

Julia:

So when I first started working with them, it was really just like kind of one off freelance stuff. Um, and over the course of a couple years, Well over the course of a year, you know, I, I took on a variety of different projects and at first they were like pretty targeted to stuff I already knew and stuff I had already worked on. And then gradually they started kind of pulling me in on more stuff and saying, Hey, would you be interested in this? Would you be interested in this? And eventually I think that they realized like, oh, Hey, Julia is a person who is happy to learn new stuff, happy to take on challenging clients. So, um, I I'm now like I'm a 10 99, but I'm, I'm the staff writer at, at the agency. And I mean, I kind of get the clients that are too difficult to give off freelancers. So like I kinda get to choose. Um, I was. You know, at some point they asked me like, Hey, would you wanna work on this crypto thing? And I was like, no, not really. So, I mean, I do get some input. Um, and that first client that I was talking about is one where I did a few pieces for them. They really liked it. I was in some meetings with them. I really liked them. And so I've gotten, I've been able to say, Hey, I really like working with them. Like, I've got ideas. Let me let, can, you know, can I take on more of that relationship? But yeah,

Bekah:

So, so with the ideas, do they come in, does the company come in with ideas or they have like a general, do you define.

Julia:

do our, our, I have a fly in here. Um, our principal consultant, um, when, when we onboard a new client, Does a process that they call the, um, the dis the developer content action plan. So they do like a developer content review where they say like, here are the gaps in your existing documentation. This is what developers want to see. This is, you know, this is, these are your areas of strength. And, and they, we have kind of a, you know, a rubric, um, and then they come up with a, an action plan based on that content gap analysis. So it's a collaborative process for sure. Um, and the longer I've been with the agency, like the more I've been able to be involved in that process. Um, yeah. So it it's a mix, right? Um, sometimes clients have wacky ideas about what they want. Um, and then we have some clients who've been clients for a long time where we've moved past, like that content gap. And it's more like, Hey, we would love to have, you know, this more kind of off the wall piece. Like I did a piece for Algolia around black Friday last year, that was like an instant inventory. It was like, how can you use Algolia to like, manage your black Friday sales? Um, and they said, you know, this is something we think will like kind of republish every year leading up to black Friday. Um, so, you know, it's like that kind of thing where it's more like, I don't know,

Bekah:

Yeah. Yeah. That's fun. What? Okay, so you've done, you've really broken down a lot of the, the stuff that I was interested in hearing about, which is great. Like there are some really fun parts. There are some parts that are not so fun or kind of challenging are, there any, so I would say it sounds like the part that you like the most is being able to learn new things, but it also seems pretty fun to be able to develop. Those deeper relationships with the clients too, that.

Julia:

And, um, I, I really, I like that. I've been able to recently kind of develop these more in depth relationships with clients. Um, it's a mixed bag though, because the consultant client relationship is, as I'm sure you both know, not always the easiest relationship to navigate. Um, and as a contractor with my agency, like, I'm always kind of like a little on guard about like, oh my God, I, I'm not even an employee of this company. Exactly. Like if I say the wrong thing and like upset this client, like, ah, you know, it's my butt on the line. And our, our principal consultant is like an amazing guy. but it's just not, it's not the same as like a. Being part of the same team, like that manager relationship where like, like, I don't know, I just, there's always this like added level of stress in conversations with clients where I'm like, oh, I really hope I don't say the wrong thing. Um, but I do like it and I think that like, whatever the next move is in my career, um, I, I wanna have it be something where I have more depth, um,

Bekah:

Hmm.

Julia:

more depth in my relationships with people, but also like more depth in working with a, a more focused tech stack, because it does get pretty exhausting, like just bouncing from one thing to another and kind of feeling like. I never work with any one thing long enough to really have any mastery. And like, I know I'm learning cuz when I come back to stuff later, like I can achieve more complex results and I can work faster and I can troubleshoot better. But like I don't ever feel, I, I never exactly feel competent.

Bekah:

Yeah.

Julia:

and that's kinda tough sometimes. Um,

Dan:

get that. I mean, like digging in all the way into something can feel good. You know, I was gonna make some joke about how that's like, just being a JavaScript in general, where everything's always new and changing, you but,

Julia:

That's

Dan:

then it's.

Julia:

an industry wide phenomenon.

Dan:

Right, but still, I mean, I, you know, I still have been doing rack for like years, you know, and it's like, I actually know it like pretty well. You know what I mean? And

Julia:

Yeah. And it's like, you know, earlier this spring I was working on this kind of complicated.net sequel thing, and then I'm working in unity and I have to learn Xcode and how to do iOS development. And also on the side, I'm working with GraphQL and like, it's like, I just, I mean, I really bounce around a lot and occasionally they'll be like, do you know, angular? And I'm like, oh, that's the GraphQL client. We're all in agreement. That the next thing, the next deliverable is for me to do something in flutter. And I'm like, oh, for Christ's sake,

Dan:

Yeah, you were, I saw, you mentioned that on slack. I don't even know what fluter is really, what

Julia:

it's, um, Uh, it's a mobile framework, so it's like a, but it's um, so, uh,

Dan:

apps.

Julia:

yeah. Um, but it's,

Dan:

I could look it up.

Bekah:

it seems like a react native competitor. Am I

Julia:

it's a react native competitor. It, I can't remember what the big advantage is. Overreact native.

Bekah:

I've heard a lot of react. Native people say there's no advantage.

Dan:

well, react native is really annoying. Uh, so if this is better than, you I've just started my first react. I just started digging to react native for the first time, like a month or two ago. And I'm I'm phase.

Julia:

And the, and the idea is that like, like react native it's, um, it's like device agnostic. Like it's not like writing an iOS app or

Dan:

Right, right. Wants, published anywhere kind of thing. Yeah.

Julia:

Yeah.

Dan:

Yeah. I mean, starting from scratch, I in a, like a big way, like that is, is hard. You know, I was, I was just thinking in my head, I was just like outlining a blog post about like how I learned things, you know, from scratch, you know, and like the bigger it is, like the it's just like you were talking about the game app, right? The like, uh, the further away from what you're used to it is the harder it is. I mean, like, that's an like obvious statement, but it's like, it's, it's much more for me. It's much more exhausting too and takes longer, but it's also like harder you know, you know what I mean? Like it's not just a simple, oh, it just takes two days instead of half an hour. If it's, you know, some package or whatever, you know,

Julia:

Well, it's like, you know, we

Dan:

eh, it's hard

Julia:

we're all, all like the idea that it's hard to estimate how long things will take is obviously well known phenomenon. But when you don't know anything,

Dan:

Yeah.

Julia:

it's impossible to estimate.

Dan:

Oh, I mean,

Julia:

probably roughly estimate how long it'll take me to like, write something in flutter, because I read about it and I was like, oh, okay. This is not radically different than anything I've done before. But with game development, it's like, oh, GE like this is, you know, there's just reams of files that I'm like, I have no idea what any of these do.

Dan:

Yeah.

Julia:

you know, I don't know. It's just, and yeah, I'm, um, I'm a terrible jaw clincher, like I just all day, every day and. Over the last few months as I've been working on this, like these few particularly difficult projects, I, I actually went to the dentist and I was like, you have to help. I'm going crazy. So that's why I now sugar free, worth original. I'm like an 80 year old diabetic. I suck on sugar free where there's original all day. Cause it me punching my teeth.

Bekah:

that's interesting. My dentist me to my chiropractor to have my jaw adjusted. That is one of like the most awkward, uncomfortable adjustments that I have had. Um, but I am also a jaw clincher and it was causing my tooth to grow thickening roots that were starting to protrude in my gums.

Julia:

yeah, yeah, no, that's what I like. we don't need to get into my oral health.

Dan:

um, you mentioned the, you know, estimating and all that stuff. And I, I actually, like, I was been wondering about this since you talked about it, especially since you're a contractor, how, um, like how it works, what, like your arrangement. I mean, you get an assignment of writing an article about something that you don't know about yet. And so like, how does that, how does that break down? How does, how does what's the process of like, cause cuz if I have a project, you know, maybe I try to estimate it or something and there's always unknowns, but with writing assignments, lot of times it's, there's other, you know, it's per pagers. Like there's like, there's lots of different ways. And so is it just. You kind of treat it like a software project and estimate hourly and deliver a at the end.

Julia:

process, the writing process doesn't really take me that much time. So like, if I'm writing that I already understand. Really well, or just like a very simple API where I just wanna show like very basic, like here's, here's how to call it the first time. Um, I know very well, how long that'll take me, like the writing process? Just, it's just, it's like, as, I don't know, the, so one of the differences is when I was working before I kind of got brought in house as a staff writer, then I was paid by piece. Um, and it was a standard rate. Um, and the pieces that I was getting were pretty standardized, um, at the point that. It started getting more complex, where it was like, Hey, stuff's coming back to me from the client, like asking me for a lot of revisions that like were not in scope you know, then it was like, we have a conversation about changing how I'm compensated? Because this is not, this is not standard now. Um, I'm paid a, a monthly retainer and our project manager sort of, I com I communicate with her about like where I'm at on different stuff. And we kind of scale how, how much I take on just based on how long things are taking. So,

Dan:

Yeah. Nice.

Julia:

yeah. Yeah. It's not, it's, it's pretty, it's pretty flexible. They had expectations. When I came on board as a staff writer that turned out to be like really wacky, but everybody realized it very quickly, like. I cannot produce 10 articles a month if I have to learn an entirely new framework for every single article.

Bekah:

don't know if anybody can produce 10 articles a month. Like, that's just a lot of,

Julia:

Yeah. I mean, I could do 10, if they're all just like,

Dan:

It's stuff you already know,

Julia:

yeah. 500 words on,

Dan:

Yeah.

Julia:

you know,

Dan:

No, that's cool.

Julia:

why you should have docs for your API. I'm good. I could write a lot of those, but, um, yeah. It's um, I don't know. It's interesting though. I think I was talking about this with you recently. Bekah like feeling kind of like, I do think I'm underpaid maybe because I think that the amount that I actually get done. Is probably on par with somebody who's a full-time employee. Um, but I'm paid as a part-time 10 99 employee because I don't have this sort of like official role in the organization. Um, the upside is I have very few meetings which I love. Um, but it's also harder to kind of, I, I don't, it's hard for me to really like, um, figure out. What like what my compensation should be, because I don't really know how, like my role compares to somebody who's in house somewhere. Although I will say I interviewed for a role somewhere recently where they said something like, oh, our full-time writers, right. About four articles a month. And I was like, what? Oh, okay. I could do that very easily. um, but

Dan:

Well, no, I mean, that's, that's, I mean, yeah, it's gotta be tough, but like the, I, you know, I was thinking about this when you were. Talking about the like actual different articles you were writing. And you know, some of the thought processes you're explaining are complex things, right. That, that, that are targeted towards more senior developers. Right. You're not writing the, you're not being asked to write the like, sort of super, I mean, maybe you are, but like

Julia:

yeah. On.

Dan:

of times you're not writing the super intro basic stuff or the SEO, you know, fodder stuff. Right.

Julia:

No. Right. And that's something that we like as a company like, listen, we're, we'll like try to make the stuff that we write reasonably optimized, SEO wise, but that's not what we're here for. Like, we are not here to like, you know, just create fluff content. Like we want content that actually engages developers for the long term. Um, and there is definitely like, you have to be discoverable. Um, and some of that is like identifying search terms that just have really low results volume. So. For example, just recently, it was like, we noticed that there's very few results for the search phrase, JSON payload. And so we went to one of our clients and we're like, can we write something on this term? Like it's relevant to you. And like it's relevant to developers. People are searching for it. And there's not that much content. Um, but it's based on the idea that like, people are searching for this because they want information, not like they're searching for it. And so like let's, let's create the fluff. Um, I think so the, the principal of our, the principal consultant is, um, he wrote a book called developer marketing does not exist, which I think is kind of a goofy title. That was a face of recognition. Bekah do you know the book?

Bekah:

Yes. It's I don't know who recommended it to me. It's definitely on my list of books that I should.

Julia:

Yeah. He's um, and the idea is basically like, if developers feel like they're being marketed to, like, they're not gonna, nobody wants that. Like, I wanna know that a product is gonna actually solve my problem. I wanna know that like, if I start using something, I'm gonna be fully supported in my journey as a technical user. And so like, the content that we're creating is really geared towards that developer experience of like, okay, great. You made it to our website, you signed, you know, you signed up for your free trial account. Are you gonna actually be able to get stuff done? And are you gonna feel successful and empowered by the content that you find here? Um, or are you gonna feel like you're being. You know, told exactly how to do it. And if you wanna do anything different, you have absolutely no idea to make it work. Um, yeah. I can't remember what you said that made me just that, but

Dan:

I was just talking about the, yeah, I was talking about how, um, the content you're writing is, is, is, uh, talking about some high level concepts and, you know,

Julia:

oh yeah, yeah,

Dan:

it was mostly just mostly just like you're operating on like a senior developer level, you know, and you were talking about competition before, and that's what made me start talking about this, you know, but, uh, like the,

Julia:

then the hard part of the hard thing for me is like, I really genuinely love what I do and that actually makes it harder for me to like fight for the compensation

Dan:

Yeah. Yeah. I hear that.

Julia:

with the fact that right now, like I work from 10 to three roughly. Sometimes I work a little in the evenings. Sometimes I get started a little earlier in the morning, but like, I really only work like 20, 25 hours a week.

Dan:

Yeah.

Julia:

And I'm, I just, I know that like taking a full-time job, like the difference that additional 10 to 15 hours a week is just gonna be meetings and like annoying emails. And like, I don't like, am I willing to take less money to not deal with that stuff? Like, and have the flexibility, my schedule, like, yeah.

Dan:

I mean, if really, really wanted or needed more money, you could pick up more clients too. Like that's the beauty of being independent. So you can do,

Julia:

I could. And, um, I do, you know, I toy it with that but

Dan:

or just raise your rates. You know, it's all, it's all, good Just send up an email. That'll be fine.

Julia:

yeah, It's true. I have such anxiety about, I think I better deliver a couple of successful projects on these two nightmare clients. Before I for

Dan:

Say now that I am a game developer, this is my new rate.

Julia:

game developers are paid

Dan:

Now that I'm a flutter developer, this is my new rate.

Julia:

Developers are like hideously underpaid,

Dan:

Well, now that I'm

Bekah:

An angular developer.

Dan:

I'll write it for you. To whom it may concern.

Julia:

it's interesting. The whole game development world is like its own.

Dan:

don't know anything about it. Yeah. far separated from It is weird. Like you think about it, cuz I, you know, I get a lot of overlap. I mean obviously most of my overlap is with other web developers in different technologies, but even so there's, I don't know anybody does game develop it, you know, it's like, and I know a lot of developers and

Julia:

Yeah. I mean, I've lived in Seattle for 17 years. Like I've know people at so many different tech companies, I know recruiters all over the place. And at one point I was, somebody had expressed an interest in working for a game company and I was like, well, I'll reach out. But like, it was like, you know, one person was like, well, I, I know that the VP of HR at wizards of the coast, but that's about as close as I can get. I was like, well, I don't think that's quite what we're looking for.

Bekah:

Well, Julia, this has been a really great conversation and, um, but it is. Time to wrap it up. So is there any last words of wisdom you have for our listeners or, um, things you want them to, you think they would benefit from learning about.

Julia:

Um, uh, I don't, I was talking with David Albert a couple weeks ago, and we were talking about the idea that like was after I gave the lunch and learn about feedback. We were talking about the idea that like giving feedback, being mentor of some kind formal or informal. sort of an intrinsic part of your responsibility in, in the tech industry. Um, and I, I think it's a really, it's something I think about a fair amount that like, you know, I don't necessarily have like a huge wealth of technical experience. Um, I haven't been in the industry that long, but I think it's just really important for everybody to remember that like you have valuable experience and knowledge and skills and insight, and you know, all of us are always learning and we should all always be teaching as well. Um, and that's not, that's not like to say that you need to be. You know, giving formal instruction on something, but that, like, we all benefit from people sharing what they know, sharing their perspectives. Um, you may not be an expert in anything, but you're an expert in being yourself. Right. you know, and it's like, I talking with somebody who has a lot of experience in, in like, um, tech support. And I was like, listen, you may not think of yourself this way, but you are a UX expert. Like, you know, more about actual user experience than like almost anybody. If you've worked in tech support for three years or whatever, like you have so much hands on knowledge and insight into how people use technology. Share that like, but also like before you can share it, you have to actually reflect on it and try to like give it some framework. Um, and I think that that's something I've really been trying to do. Um, myself is like, I know that I know things, how can I put them in a framework that allows me to share them with other people? Um, so yeah, we're all always learning. We also should all always be teaching and I think that's, I know. Yeah,

Bekah:

I love that. That's so great. And what a great way to end this episode. So thanks so much, Julia, for being with us. We, we had a great

Julia:

absolutely. My

Dan:

Julia. Um, also I looked that up and the most expensive, precious metal is rhodium. So if you are going that direction, rhodium is gonna be where you're going. I've never heard of it

Julia:

rhodium. Well, I know. Jewelry is plated,

Dan:

That's cause

Julia:

but

Dan:

cuz it's fancy. I don't, I don't know. Uh,

Bekah:

I don't believe you.

Dan:

it's used for, oh, it's very reflective. So it's used in search lights, mirrors and jewelry. I think it's mostly just that it's rare. I don't know. Anyway, that's it. all I got. All right. Um, cool. Well thank you, Julia. This is great. Well, I had the tab open from, before and then I, I forgot about it. I didn't wanna. Okay. Julia.

Julia:

Thank you.

Dan:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel. 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 the newsletter, check out any of our other resources on our website VirtualCoffee.io. If you're interested in sponsoring virtual coffee you can find out more information on our website at VirtualCoffee.io/sponsorship. 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 Dan Ott.