Full Stack Journey podcast

A few weeks back I was asked by Scott Lowe if I wanted to be interviewed. At first, I was puzzled. Why would someone want to interview me? Scott was looking for people to talk about their personal career journey. Where did it start? Where was it going? How did you achieve it?

With an emphasis on technology, automation, and the soft-skills that support it we ended up talking for a good 45 minutes on this.

Thanks Scott for the invitiation. It was great fun – even if the timezones are crazy!

Below are the show notes for an idea of the content:

  • Went from desktop administrator to solution architecture/engineering in just 7 years
  • On the perception of the networking industry as “slow”:
    • A certain workflow is typically required in order to minimize risk to the network (validating changes, having changes go through peer review, waiting for a change window, and then finally logging into the boxes to make the changes)
    • This seems “slow” in comparison to what the virtualization/server admin teams can do
  • Automation and learning to code/script helps with being more efficient
  • This isn’t necessarily about cost—this is about being more personally efficient and more personally effective
  • Anthony’s journey started partially due to finding himself able to talk about it, but not necessarily do it (referring to networking automation)
  • It was PowerNSX that initially interested him, but he had to learn PowerShell and some very basic programming concepts first
  • Seeing tangible results, like being able to save hours on a task, helps energize you on your journey
  • Some of the big challenges Anthony faced as he started his journey:
    • Impostor syndrome was a big deal
    • Felt like he knew nothing (which was partially true)
    • He had to accept that this was true (he was starting from scratch), but that didn’t invalidate his other expertise or experience
  • The ability to look at online help and code samples was useful
  • Having a task—a goal—helped with the learning process
  • It’s natural for your code to evolve as your skills and your knowledge evolves (Anthony shares an example of a script he wrote going from 200 lines of code down to just 22 lines of code as he iterated over the script)
  • Having a good mentor helps during the learning process
  • Other learning resources:
  • Anthony also recommends looking at GitHub for projects written in the language you’re learning (this may also give you the opportunity to learn from their code and/or contribute to the project)
  • Giving back (blogging, teaching, mentoring, contributing to other projects, speaking, etc.) is a natural evolution of your journey
  • Closing thoughts:
    • Don’t be afraid.
    • Jump in.
    • Ask questions

You don’t know as much as you think you do and that is… perfectly fine.

We live in a world that requires people to know a lot of information. Depending on role we are required to know to varying depths. Shallow and wide or deep and narrow. No matter the combination the teams we are placed in have overlap in skills, knowledge and each person brings something of value.

The simple reality is that no one knows everything. If you have an eidetic memory then kudos to you but the mere mortals amongst us do not.

You’re allowed to say I do not know. I don’t have sufficient information to answer this. You’re allowed to say I don’t understand. There is nothing wrong it admitting this because quite simply you’re being honest. You’re not pretending to be something you’re not. You’re not lying to anyone. You’re being truthful – to whom you’re working with and to yourself. It is how you handle this going forth that makes it.

I’ve been working lately on a heap of Python for a conversion tool. This tool I understand what it does, how it operates, and the before and after state. The fact is my python blows chunks and my colleague has troubleshoot and fixed some issues with it. But I didn’t rest on my laurels. I asked questions. I looked at the committed codes and the differences. I tried to understand what is going on, added notes and comments to my knowledge base. Reading. Questioning. Learning. Thinking. Considering.

I’ve been struggling a fraction with the notion of ‘being a fake’ in my new role. I am working in a small team of ~20 people globally. We all have different skill sets. We all have different strengths. Some of the team have been around doing cutting edges things from the time when I was still in a nappy, in school, or before I joined IT. It was overwhelming at first and made me feel small.

To overcome such feelings of “what the F am I doing here?” or “What value am I adding?” I have decided to tackle this head on. Ask questions, learn, think through problems including what a proposed solution or comment would then introduce? Thinking problems through to their conclusion, taking in information, and asking questions has yielding massive gains already. Whilst this may seem obvious for some it make seem new to others.

So question things around you. Ask on twitter, forums, reddit, or from your peers. Read papers, blogs, and chase that rabbit hole to its end. Document your thoughts, questions, and answers. It will make you a better person, allow you to obtain knowledge, and more importantly, keep you fresh. It means next time you’re asked a question the response might be, Yes! It might just be something that you previously did not know!