Stacie Taylor, Engineering Team Lead at Zapier and Co-founder at Collab Lab
Hey folks, we are back on the dev TWI stream. My name is Nick Taylor. I am a lead software engineer at forum.
Forum is the software, the powers dev. And today I'm super excited to be hanging out with Stacy Taylor. We're gonna be talking about all things, collab, lab, and who knows what else? Thanks so much for coming on.
Stacy collab is one of my favorite things to talk about. I could talk about it endlessly and eager to see what other things come up in conversation just. Cool. Cool. Cool.
So I guess why don't we start off? I know you're working at Zapier right now. You're I believe your team lead there. Is that right? Yep. I lead two teams that are kind of in the marketing space. One of them is a more front end team.
That's the marketing platforms team where we build the platforms that Zapier's. Content creators can send great content out into the world with and then I also manage a team that is more backend and does more of the data syncing from across our different tools. So that's what I do by day.
Nice. Nice. And, and yeah, I guess by night or any other part of the day you work in at the collab lab? I guess for folks that might not know what the collab lab is, can you kind of just give like the TLDR of what it is. Yes. So the T L D R of Blab lab. So we are an organization that is on a mission to diversify tech.
And the way that we're doing that is by helping early career engineers get a foothold in their first job at tech. Okay. And the way that we are doing that is that we have a program that runs once order. We have four to five teams, usually from across the world. That get together to collaborate, to build a real life app using agile methodologies.
So four developers will get together. They'll have two, three mentors and they split up each week and pair through different pieces of the app filled. So when the eight week program is done, they have a working app and a lot of really juicy experience to talk about working on a team of developers and okay. We found that that is really a necessary thing to have because so many of us. Who have tried to get a start in tech, right. Are like, okay.
We went to bootcamp, we learned how to code. However, whether you're self taught or did bootcamp or university even. But then when you go to interview for jobs, nobody wants to take a chance on you because you don't have experience working on a team. And so the lab really gives you that kind of experience so that you can talk about, you know, when an interviewer is like, tell us about a time you had to give somebody feedback. You're like, yeah, I was working on a team of developers and here's a very realistic time when that happens.
So it's kind of like giving your first job in a very safe, comfortable space so that you can take those insights into the job search and really impress people. No, that's awesome. And I, I, I guess before we talk a little more about the collab lab, how did the collab lab become to be, did I say that right? sure. Yeah.
So yes, that a good enough Andrew hedges is the founder of collab lab. He was, I think this Frigo, something like this, and y'all should ask Andrew because he'll tell it way more beautifully than I'll , but he lives up in Portland and he was at a meetup, like a tech meetup and found he was chatting with somebody and they were like, yeah, I learned how to code, but I'm really kind of falling off the wagon cuz I don't have anybody to practice with. I'm just kind of alone enough.
Okay. And Andrew was like, well wouldn't it be cool if we had. You know, a team of people who could just work on things together and have some accountability and learn together. And so he grabbed this fellow, he was talking to, and three other people, one of them, including me to kind of try out what would this look like? And Andrew himself kind of had built the app that we built at cloud lab. Now in the past, he broke it down into some user stories. And then we kind of just did a pilot of what it could look like.
And it went really well. And when it was over after the eight weeks. We were all like, oh, that went really well. He was like, great, thanks everybody.
And I was like, that's not it. Right? Like, we're gonna keep doing this for lots of people. Right. And he was like, oh yeah, let's do that. And so that's when I kind of joined him as co-founder and we just started rolling and we're like, we just closed applications for our Q to 20, 22 cohort. And I think we will be on our 44th team at the club lab.
So that's awesome. We're feeling pretty good about how things are going and getting lots of good feedback and just continuing to try and refine it. But yeah, it was just an idea and some people got together, loved it and then have kind of started refining it so that a bunch of other people can benefit. No, that's super cool. So, like you said, there's been about 44 teams now, so there's there there's these different cohorts, the cohorts are per quarter, right? Like you said. Yeah.
Yep. Okay. So every quarter we do a cohort inside the cohort. They're usually four to five teams. Those teams are generally like a couple north American teams. Then we have European African teams and we also do Latin American teams that are fully in Spanish, too.
Oh, no way. We've got a pretty wide range. We wanna keep growing more.
But of course it's completely volunteer run. And so it's all usually a matter of like getting volunteers and then getting people who wanna participate. Yeah, no, that, that was gonna be my next question.
Like I know I've volunteered. I, I can't be a mentor this cohort, but I'm still in the slack, you know, trying to help where I can, but yeah, I guess for starters, if somebody was interested in, be sorry, interested in becoming a mentor for collab lab what's what's the process to do that. Sure.
Yeah. So we're. The process right now is to go to the cloud lab, duck codes. And Nick's that, that I I'll drop it in the chat, but you go there and there's a a page talking about, become a mentor where you can reach out and Andrew will likely get back ahold of you and have a chat with you about what we're doing.
And what mentoring at cloud lab can look like. However, we're also going through a revamp on our website. Where we'll talk more about just volunteering at cloud lab at large. Okay. Cause as you know, it's not just being a mentor, we have so many other things you can do. So if you wanna be a mentor, great, we always need them.
That is about a 10 week commitment, about five hours a week, where you're directly working with teams and running. Weekly syncs, where there are, you know, retros and kind of sprint planning. We do some learning modules.
Okay. And you're like a member of the team. You're a leader of the team, but we also have opportunities like what you've done in our career lab space, which is a two week extension that we offer people ally on their cloud lab experience, where they can do mock interviews and beef up their LinkedIn and resumes, and just like have access to a lot of really. Helpful information on getting started in their job search. So volunteering for that can be very lightweight.
It's usually a week or two week commitment every quarter where you're just interviewing collabs and giving them advice based on your experiences in tech. So that can be a really lightweight commitment. That can be very valuable because all of our collabs have been like being able to mock interview and say the words out loud before going into a space where.
Like a job is potentially on the line is so helpful. no sure. There's also like automation opportunities. Like we are still like being very scrappy with the way we do things and I would love to get so much more automated and in my head I have a million things, but then I also like have a full time job and, and.
Others have. So I'm like, it's all a dream, but someday it will be a reality. Yeah. Well speaking about yourself, we'll get to about like maybe your origin story, if you wanna talk about it. Sure.
But but yeah. Get getting back to the collab lab. So it is volunteer. I know, like, for example, like there's the slack, I think there's some seats for Google and stuff and, and I know I.
I know, like I've sponsored the collab lab on, through GitHub sponsors, but is there, I I'm curious because it is all volunteer. What are the main resources for, I mean, just to be blunt, like getting cash to enable all this with the volunteers aside from the GitHub sponsors or is that the main source? Yeah, that is the main source. We, okay. Like I saying, we run super scrappy.
We do have things that we need to keep the lights on with, right. Like slack and. A couple of the other tools that we use, we have tried to be really resourceful with getting nonprofit discounts for things, because we are an official nonprofit.
But yeah, just our donors. That's where we get all of our money from to keep the lights on. So please donate if you can. I'll I'll grab do that's this perfect. Thank you.
And on our website too, at the bottom, there's like more information about. Donating. Okay.
Anybody out there wants to contribute? Yeah, it's, it's, it's a, it's a great program. I, I strongly encourage you to donate whatever you can. There is a question from the chat. I use asking because for the, the projects that the cohorts make during the, the quarter it's, it's a web based project it's using react. She's wondering how much experience do you need in react? Like when you come to the kLab lab or do you need any at all? That is a great question. Okay.
So here's the thing at the collab lab. We don't teach coding, we teach collaboration and we practice. Kind of working on a team. So because right now, the only program that we're offering is building this react based app.
So you. Have a better chance if you know, react, you will want to know how to code, just so that you and all your teammates are successful. So generally we'll see a lot of people coming post boot camp or after they've spent a while learning how to code on their own.
Okay. But it's hard to put a number on like how much react you need, because yeah. Sometimes you don't need any, if you have other experience, but yes, chances are best. Yeah, we can give the, it always depends. But yeah, I, it, it sounds like you know, go ahead and apply anyways, you know, like, cuz it, it would be a great opportunity if you get in the program. Yeah.
And yeah, it's great. And it's like, Just know that if you're applying for collab lab, we are all here because we want to learn how to work in a T. Like when you get your foothold and tech and you start working as an engineer, you'll start to realize how very little of your job is actually coding, like fingers to keys, coding. Yeah. And how much more of it. Collaborating and organizing with a team.
And it's like, if you can refine those skills before actually going into interviews or going into a job, you're gonna be so much better set for success. Because like you might not go into a really safe space to learn these things for the first time. Yeah.
And so if you can go in with like really confident, solid skills collaboration, it can take a whole layer of sort of the panic. We all feel when we start our first jobs in tech. So highly recommend. Awesome.
I do ask more questions for you, but there is a question from the chat from, I don't know, I don't know who it is, but demo underscore X. I is asking the thing, oh, it looks like a really cool project. Have you considered other languages like Python node Ruby, which is Ali rails. So yeah, just wondering if you could speak to that.
Yeah. For sure. We absolutely would love to consider growing the program and offering a lot more. As I mentioned before, we're completely volunteer driven, and sometimes it can be challenging to get people to commit to building whole pieces of the project out like this. Yeah. And with the mentors that we have, the mentors are generally not always very skilled react and so they can be really good.
Offer really good guidance to teams. So if we do start expanding, we'll have to expand our mentor pool quite significantly to okay. Have people with those backgrounds too.
So yes, we would love to someday is the answer. But today we just do react. Yeah. No, and I, I think that makes sense.
Like you said, given the pool of mentors you have right now, you know, you don't wanna spread yourself too thin you there, you still wanna offer a really great program. So yeah, I, I can definitely agree with you on all those things. Like.
You know, as you get further, along in your career, you know, you're still coding, but like a lot of it, like it's not to sound cheesy, but communication is like super important, you know, like obviously you still need to have some kind of programming chops as you go through your career. But yeah, it's, it's so important and especially like the pandemic is kind of exacerbated this, but like a lot more companies have moved to remote. I know you work remote.
I work remote. And I work with people all over the planet. I have coworkers in Russia, Poland. Like Thailand, South Africa, I'm in Montreal in Canada. So, you know, we have meetings when it makes sense.
We don't have a lot of 'em most of the stuff we do, it's it's written. So even though we're open source project, even if you were a close source project, you know, writing really good issues. Kidding what the issue is. What's the roadblocks you're having because.
You know, when I'm finishing my day and if I just left a message like, Hey, it's not working. You know, they're gonna wake up in the morning and they're just gonna see a message and say, Hey, it's not working. And then they'd probably respond with like, well, what's the problem, you know? And then you end up with this ping pong. So you know, learning to commute effectively is super important because when you can give as much.
Context to things. It just, it's just, it ends up being a better experience. And, and also just like for context, for like historical context, you know, like maybe you're going to revisit something and like, if you were right more synchronous, you know, where you just had a meet, a one off meeting and nothing was written down like that, all that context is law lost. So, you know exactly. It's super, super important. So I definitely couldn't agree more with you about that.
I love that idea of like using slack, for example, communication as almost documentation. So at work at Zapier, what a lot of us will do is we'll almost create a thread just for ourselves. It's almost rubber ducking. Like if you, you and rubber decking, meaning. To anybody who's not familiar with that term. It's kind of the idea of just talking it out.
There's that's a cute little rubber. What is that? A corgi duck? Yeah, I got that from shadow to Jason Lang store of his he sells it on his store. I love that.
But anyway, the idea of rubber ducking, right, is just talking it out, like out loud to somebody. And when you do that in a very public way, in a very transparent way in slack, three months from now, and another engineer is saying the same error that you got, they can be like, oh, here's the answer right here, because all of those search terms were in this beautiful thread. So I highly encourage you to it. Just figure out a way to really communicate well and document your thoughts in a very digestible way. Because not only is it gonna help future you, but it's gonna help everybody else on your team too.
And it's a really strong skill to demonstrate when you do go to find a new job that that's something you really you find really important for sure. And it like, like you said, like there's stuff I've done. And I come back like even like two months later, sometimes I'm like, what the heck is it? All this stuff? And I, oh, okay. Now I remember. Okay. Cuz you're reading through some things.
Yep, exactly. Yeah. And it's, you know, It's also super important as you oh, IU says she's gotta run for supper time. Thanks for popping by bye. Yeah, it's also like, if you can explain things well, like, you know, the it's, it's a great skill to have, you know, so like, Like I, myself, even other seniors, I know sometimes it's like, you're onboarding somebody or, or maybe you're, you're pairing with somebody. And then you, you realize you have holes in your knowledge too.
So just talking it through and then writing it down, it's just super helpful. And that's why, like, there's, you know, I'm kind of mixing a bunch of things here, but like you there's career changers that have, I know they've come to collab lab in other places and. I know like my friend Becca, she used to be an English teacher and she's so great at communicating because of that, you know? So like, and I was. Talking to two of our collab last week for the job mock fit interview. And I was just saying lean in on your, your previous experience, even if it's not programming, because there's so many skills that can translate from there that would apply to programming because I find at the end of, yes, you're doing coding, but I, I feel like we're just all detectives, you know, we're trying to crack the case, you know? Yeah. Like whether it's a feature or a bug, you know, exactly.
And we're all just trying to make life better for people at large. And those people that you might be making life better for might not be, you know, computer science, engineering, grad. Yeah. They're like regular people like you've worked with in your other jobs. So it's like when you come to the table with a history and service, for example, I feel like you underst stand humans on a very different level than somebody else might who didn't work in that. And like when we all work together and we kinda like.
Put our experiences with humanity together. I feel like that's when we can really start building tools for people that they wanna use, because we know that we know the people and so lean on that for sure. Yeah. Like, and, and just also having empathy for, for folks like I mean, I, I used to work in restaurants and I, I also did internet technical support before I got a programming job and.
I can, 100% tell you that nobody calls their is P to say, Hey, my Internet's great. Just wanting to let you know that have a great day people. If people usually call up, they're angry or upset, cuz their Internet's not working. You let 'em vent a bit. And then you just like, okay, well let's take a look at this.
And then, you know, not always, you know, sometimes there's just people who are just. Full on angry all the time, but you know, once, once you calm somebody down a bit, you help 'em out. Then they're like, thanks, you know, and stuff.
And it's like, mm-hmm, leaning into those skills. There's I'll try and find the, the stream we did, but I had a, a few career changers on and like, one of 'em was an opera singer. One was like in a orchestra. Wow. And I love that, you know, they're, they're thinking like, well, You know, I'm an opera singer.
Why, how would that even help me out? And I'm like, well, if you think about it, you know, like music or, or singing that's requires a lot of training, discipline mm-hmm . And those are things that directly translate to problem solving, you know? And like so just, just wanna give a shout out to all the career changers. So, yes. And I love that you mentioned like the empathy that. You develop in these other roles, like in service or support or whatever it might be, because it's like, as an engineer, a lot of times you're handed plans of sorts from a designer or a product manager, and you have to make those things go and I want to encourage all of. The engineers, the early career engineers, listening to use your experience to make things better.
Yeah. Just because somebody gave you these plans doesn't mean they're the best mm-hmm like put yourself as your coding features into a user shoes and think, is this something that they actually are going to find useful? And if not, like, hopefully you're in a safe enough environment to do this, but challenge those ideas and propose better ideas because you know, stuff that other people don't know. And so that's, our job is to like, make good things and you can't make good things without questioning things. Yeah. And, and I can't stress that enough for people starting off their career too. Like, like, I, I.
I'm being slightly, slightly hypocritical. Cuz when I started off as a junior dev, I was afraid to ask questions. I, I was kind of terrified that like people thought I was terrible and stuff, you know, and, but you know, your point of view could make the difference or, or like bring up something like, oh yeah, that's a great idea. Oh, I hadn't thought about at that.
And And there's I, I, I don't have all these tweets lined up because there're just things that are popping in my head now, but there's there's a tweet from like a, an older game programmer from like, when there was like the older consoles, like I think it was Atari or an Nintendo, and they were talking about, I'm not really into football, but there's this game called tech mobile, which was a like, kind of. Pixelated football game. And there was this issue, like they were looking at the screen and they're like, where's all the players. There was only the ball on the screen. And this junior developer, you know, was like, well, did you look inside the ball? And then like all the senior. Developers and I'm, I'm paraphrasing here, but the senior developers were like, yeah, whatever.
And then they debugged the code. They, they looked in the ball and sure enough, the players were in there. They had been zoomed, zoomed sorry. They got shrunk for whatever reason, there must have been a variable or something, or some scenario that. Caused them to get so tiny.
And that was a junior developer. And then like, they were like, yo yeah. You know, so it's like, mm-hmm, definitely, don't be afraid to speak up. It been so often exactly that like, We're all seeing things different and it could just be like a quick little bug and a line of code that to a more senior level person they're like overlooking, but because it's very fresh for you, you can be in there asking questions like, well, why is this this way? And that causes somebody with more experience to look and be like, oh, you know what it shouldn't be. And I hope that all of you, you get to go into a team full of very empathetic, honest people who don't have a lot of ego so that they can say things like. Oh, you know what? That was my mistake.
I hope that they do that as a good model for you all, but you might not be in that space. Yeah. And I'm so sorry if that's you, but do feel encouraged to ask the questions because you have to. Yeah, no for sure.
And no programs like this and just, I find, you know, not every re company, but. Like I know when I started off, I didn't really have mentors or none that I can really remember. Stack stack overflow literally did not exist at this point. Like I think stack overflow only showed up in 2009. And so like nowadays, like I just think it's so great that there's so many folks willing to mentor sponsor people. Mm-hmm company, you know, again, not every companies there's obviously still not so great companies too.
But like you said, if you can find a place where there's like seniors willing to mentor, you know, pair just help out, you know, it's, it's amazing. And, and those places are out there for sure. And I have no doubt. Although I've never worked there.
I'm sure. Since you and Andrew were there Zappier is one of those places for sure. It's like, it's all very different.
I feel like no matter where you go, but I think that even as an early career engineer, At most places, unless you're working for a really big company, that's very bureaucratic and has very strict rules. Yeah. I think there's a lot of freedom to make the experience be what you need it to be.
So if you're an early career engineer, I would encourage that whatever team you join, find somebody. On the engineering team that you can pair up with every day, whether it's just like a 30 minute check in to tell them where you're getting blocked or what you're working on, or if you, you know, pair with them through a whole feature build, having mm-hmm that person to lean on and to dedicate some time to you makes you feel like less of a bother. So as you're going throughout your day, you're like, oh, I have all these questions, but I don't wanna bother anybody. If you know that tomorrow you have 30 minutes with.
Engineer a, then you're not gonna feel like a bothering you have space. And if you can build trusting relationships, it becomes a lot more comfortable to ask questions and just make progress. And so, yeah, trying not to hide yourself away, trying in the beginning, be like, this is what I need from my team is 30 minutes of synchronous time of day. And having that time, I think make a huge difference.
Yeah, no for sure. And there's someone in the chat. Alio so vicious is saying all, this is so helpful. I'm in a bootcamp now and I'm a career changer used to be, or might currently still be a journalist writer with tech support experience.
And I'm wondering if I'm good enough to be there. I know what I would say. I would just say apply. So yes, you're actually, I'm gonna drop that link again. Yeah, so definitely check that out, Allie. Or alio so vicious.
I'm not sure what year real name alio so vicious. yeah, yeah, yeah, no, we have so many career changers come through the program. In fact, I would say I would bargain to say 90%, like that's who that's, who comes to do these things. People who.
Who have been doing other things and are ready to break into the tech industry and don't have the privilege of, you know, rolling out of high school and going to university and getting a degree it's people like me who, you know, Is a mom of two who has a communications degree that I used to do. Absolutely nothing relevant. And you know, you need to, you need the experience because it's really hard going out there and to interview with companies, they're like, why would we hire you? You have literally nothing to show and collab lab does a great job of giving you something to show. And it's you get surrounded by people who just wanna help you mentors that become.
Lifelong mentors who can expose you to opportunities and who can just be there for you. If you have questions, even once you leave the cloud lab and you get your, you know, next engineering role, and you have a question that you don't feel comfort at work, you have a whole team, a whole community of people at the cloud lab, you can lean on for the rest forever. Yeah. I like what you said there, because like, You know, there's, there's a lot of, I mean, there's been tons and times of, I feel like there's been a big influx of juniors since the pandemic, but like mm-hmm, , you know, everybody is trying to. Make connections, you know, to land that job and stuff.
And I totally get that. But, but to your point, what you were saying is like, don't focus on that short term, like, Hey, just connect with me on LinkedIn and Hey, can you help me find a job? Like, like you wanna make those meaningful connections? And I don't mean it's not gonna happen like overnight, like but you know, those are the ones that are long lasting. I have like my first manager from like, like, cuz I I'm, I'm like getting up there. I like my first ma I think, or my second manager from like 2004.
I mean, I know him cuz I used to play rugby with him, but like I still talk to him about work all the time. Sometimes I've ended up doing some work for him on the side, you know, and just other people. And it think with these connections too, is it's great if it helps you out, but it doesn't have to, you know, like, like I've met you through the collab lab now and. Maybe I never work at Zapier, but I know you, and I know you work there, so I'll be like, Hey there's this friend of mine that's super interested in Zapier, you know, would you mind having like a 15 minute chat with him? They're just curious about this role or something, you know, so exactly that so much of the game is who you know, and what connections you can find.
And it, you really hard for people who. Are nervous and introverted and don't feel a lot of imposter syndrome. Like they don't belong, but I promise you, there are people out there that wanna help you. So yeah, like Nick was saying, make those meaningful connections and use that time really wisely, come with questions or projects or things that you wanna gain from it so that you can be really efficient. And you can just use the time to grow Ooh, together with somebody, because as much as an early career engineers growing through mentorship, mentors are growing too. Yeah.
It's like a total two way street. So it's beautiful to have those relationships. Yeah, no, I, I, I definitely can say I've learned some things from people I've mentored too, so yeah, no big, big ups to that.
I wanna kind of switch gears for a sec. Cuz you were talking about your communications degree and how you said like, oh, well, nothing really came to that. So I'm kind of curious how you, I guess kind of how you ended up in tech and like, and like yeah. Where you're at now. Like kind of what that.
Not sound cheesy, but I'll say journey. I'll tell you about my journey. Yeah. Okay. So got outta high school knew I had to go to college. Cause that's what I was supposed to do.
Like I grew up in the deep Midwest and which kind of like went along with whatever be else did. I was gonna be, I thought I was gonna be a nurse for a while. The cuz that's what most. Women who grew up in my community. Did I lived in a small farm town with like less than 3000 people? So I was like, okay, I'm obviously gonna go be a nurse. Started into that, got like a CNA, started taking care of people as a nurse nurse's assistant and realized like, I love people a lot, but maybe not that much.
any CNA out there has a heart of gold because they're doing the hardest work. I. I think it's the hardest word. Anyway, then I was like, I don't know. I like to look at magazines. I guess I'll get a communications degree.
I don't know what I was thinking. Got outta college, worked at a bank and then came to California and got a job in social media where I was just like doing people, social media. And then that was at a little startup that was connected to a lot of other startups.
And we were just kind of. All growing together in different directions. At that social media startup, we started building our own kind of like customer client management system, because we had very okay. Unique ways we were. And in that, I was kind of like, oh, I'm loving driving this project of like our, our processes. I had built a lot of apps and stuff like that.
Like just automating things and was trying to figure out how we could build this internal app. And the CEO was like, well, you're doing product management right now. Like you should really lean into product management and learn that.
And so it just started really like kind was fell into the opportunity to be a product manager, because I liked it kinda good stuff that it required got a lot of experience doing that for a couple different things, different projects and apps. And then I was like, okay, I wanna be a product manager. Places started applying. The gates are almost just as high for product managers. It's PR for engineers. So it was very hard to get into that.
And so at the startup I was working at, at that time, I was like, I wanna go learn how to code because I was having some friction with the engineers I was working with when I was the product manager where I'd be like, Okay. Our users really want this list sorted a to Z, just alphabetically sort this list. And they were like, well, it's just not so easy like that. And would like drag their feet. And I was like, just sort the list, like, why is this so hard GRA, now that I'm an engineer. I know that it's not always just so easy like that, but I think that they're was a lot.
Tension and this particular situation, so told the CEO, I'm gonna go learn how to code, cuz I wanna be able to just do this stuff on my own. And originally he was like, no, I need you to be the product manager kind of stay in your lane. Okay. And I was like, Okay, because I'm a woman tech and that's what we do. And looking back, I'm so embarrassed about it, but I was like, all right, I won't.
But then secretly, I was like, forget about him. I'm going to bootcamp. And so I put myself through bootcamp at this time. I like had a one year old and was about to give birth to another baby. I was like, I'm gonna do bootcamp. I'm gonna do my full-time startup product manager, job . And then when
I finished boot camp, I told that. CEO. I was like, you told me not to go and that was not okay with me. So I went anyway and he felt so bad that he was like, oh my God, I'm so embarrassed. That's not what I meant. I like pay for it.
So he like footed the bill for bootcamp. Oh, nice. Knowing that I was probably gonna leave to be an engineer somewhere, but started freelancing with the new stuff I learned at boot for Some of the bigger art or some of the bigger museums in Chicago. So the modern art museum of Chicago, the shed aquarium, they have an accessibility app that makes interacting with exhibits easier for people who have different disabilities.
And so I was working on that as a freelancer and it was a rough experience being a freelancer as an early career engineer, people out there do it and are successful. So if you're listening to me say this. Know that there are ways to be successful. I was not, I was like, be like, Hey can you make these images in a certain kind of grid? And I'd be like, oh yeah, that'll only take me five hours. And then it's like hour 15 and I'm still working on it. And, and I don't have anybody to ask because I didn't have any mentors either.
And so I was just like billing them for five hours and like this, it was just not scalable as a mom who. You know, benefits for children and stuff. So I was like, okay, I need to find a job as an engineer. And this is where, like, why I'm really passionate about the cloud lab wanted to find a job as an engineer had been freelancing, so had some experience, but nobody would hire me. Like everybody was like, well, you, what? Like, what do you have to offer us? You've never been a developer on a team.
And I probably had like 50 rounds of interviews that just ended a meeting, very disappointed and feeling kind of worthless. And so I was like, okay, I don't have time to keep going this interview route. The path of least resistance for me is going to be finding a support role at a very technical company.
And then moving over to engineering from there because you can't have fuck around with these interviews anymore, basically. And so how can I say that on the stream anyway? Sorry. That's too late. You already said it. So , I went to.
I went to a couple of companies and got into interviewing pipeline for port roles. Zapper was one of them. And in the end I was like offered two roles and they're both really fantastic, but I had I had known people at Zapier and by known, I mean, I met Andrew hedges through Twitter, like, cuz I think I. Tweeting about looking for a job.
And he tweeted like, Hey, have you looked at Sappi? And I was like, oh, that's interesting. I don't know if I'm Calli and you're like, let's just get on zoom. And we connected on zoom and he kinda like gave me a good referral. And I was like, okay, well I know that there's a kind, there's at least one very kind person at Zapier. So I think I'll take my chances on. Got there.
Right up front told everybody I could tell, I wanna go into engineering. I wanna move to the engineering team someday. And that's a really risky thing to do.
And I think you have to do it very confidently because in tech, in general, as soon as you say, I'm gonna come onto the engineering team gates go up and it's like, I was. Overwhelmed that Zapier by all the support, I got to make that like, nobody was like, you know, trying to like put up updates or make me feel unwelcome. Lots of the engineers were like, how can I help you? Like, do you wanna shadow me? Do you wanna help? Like pair up with me to work on things? Like, how can I move you over here? I want you to succeed because it'll make us all feel great.
And so that's what I did. And honestly, that path is what I recommend to a lot of moms specifically in tech, especially who are career changers, who. Have experience in the service industry or in support because we don't have the resources or the time, especially single mothers to mm-hmm, spend a year interviewing. We have to have a job right now and it has to pay well and it needs to be flexible and all these other things. So I've found that you can spend your tires, trying to get the, a job endlessly, or you can find a company that you like and a company that you know is supportive and find like.
Find a path of least resistance there. Find an entry point there and put it in your growth plan that you wanna move over to engineering and try and find ways in your day job to do that. I also think this is great because coming from support onto an engineering team is like a super power because you know, so many things about the company, then nobody, none of the engineers you work with. No, because they've never had to. And you can say things like, I don't think our users would find that helpful. I know because I've talked to 50 of them a day for over a year.
Yeah. Yeah. It's like, you can like get a level of respect that you might not get just coming fresh into an engineering or too. So I thought it was great. It takes a little bit longer, but.
Sometimes the best things do. Yeah. It it's, it's definitely not a, a cookie cutter recipe, but that, that path worked for you.
And I know there's others that have done that path of like, you know what, I'm gonna do support and then move over, you know, like that's the, the end game, you know? But again, I kind of wanna touch on what you're you said you ended up speaking to Andrew, you know what I mean? So, you know, you, you bypass, it's a superpower when you can bypass like a whole. Part of an interview process. Like the resume line doesn't mean doesn't mean you're guaranteed.
You're gonna get the job, but like just reaching out to somebody, you know, like, Hey, this looks really cool. You mind if we chat, you know, and then, and obviously. I would assume, you know, Andrew pretty well now.
And, and he's probably a lifelong connection and friend now, you know? So like, you know, there's that too, you know? So it's yeah, yeah, yeah, no, I think you're totally right. That it's like, and I just know from working in Zapier, that the amount of applications we get is uncanny. Like there are so many, there's no way you're gonna, like our recruiters read through them all, but it's when you're getting so many that it's like just chaos.
And so if you can find. Connections of the company that you like and sort of get somebody to give you a thumbs up. It's a really easy way to stand out in the crowd because, the crowd is big these days.
It sounds bad to say, but knowing people definitely helps out it doesn't, it's not always the case, but it definitely, definitely helps. If you do know people, even if it's just to have a conversation with somebody like I can give an example I didn't get a job there at Netflix, but I reached out to somebody on. I was asking about something and they're like, oh I don't know what, but I'll give you the email of a manager. Just I'll tell him you're gonna email him. And I had an hour long conversation with an engineering manager there.
Like I said, things didn't work out, which is fine, but I, I had that one hour conversation that I never would've had if I had just sent in a resume right away, you know? So I love that. Yes, actually, I have a very similar story at Netflix, too, where, okay. I was referred in by a fellow mentor at lab lab. Who's an engineering manager there and she was like, she knew I wanted to be an engineering manager. I'm still not an engineering manager, my in the be goal.
But so I had no experience as an engineering manager and she's like, I wanna refer you in for this em position at Netflix. And I was like, I'm wildly underqualified for this, you know that, right. Like, yeah, just do it anyway. So I met with this other hiring manager who sent me through the process. I did those whole big long six hour interviews. And in the end also didn't get it because hello, no experience.
But also the hiring manager was like, I think you're gonna do great things and I wanna be there to witness it. So I would love to coach you if that's something you're interested in. That's awesome. And so now I have coach that I, I meet with, who's an engineering manager at Netflix who just is there to coach me once a month and keep up to date on my progress and stuff. So it's like, Good things can come of things that don't work out too.
So yeah. Yeah. Don't always feel defeated. Yeah. Yeah. And it's like also making those connections is so important.
It was kinda like we were saying the, how was really valuable for mentors too, because like I've got experiences, like, for example, there's this engineer named Eric. When I was going through boot camp, I was like tweeting about a lot of the work that I was doing and struggles I was facing. And when I'd come across a technical problem, Eric would be like on Twitter, responding and trying to help walk me through some of these things. And we just developed a really strong Twitter connection. And then I went to Zapier and Eric was like, oh, I am looking for a new job.
I'm interested in Zapier. I was like, please come. The Zapier got him on the engineering team at Zapier. And then he started sponsoring me from the inside to get over to the engineering team. We've just kinda been going like this that's awesome, like years now.
And so it's like making those connections has, has just been beautiful. Highly encouraged. Yeah.
That's Eric, is it by you? I'm trying to remember his name. We follow each other on ABAR, Eric ABAR, ABAR. I think probably his handle or something. Exactly like that. Yeah. If, if you find it drop drop his Twitter in the, in the chat there, if you can.
But yeah I'm still perplexed. What happened to my internet, cuz it's been like super solid. The only thing I can think about is I've I'm having some renovations done.
I don't know, maybe something. Well, they definitely didn't cut the wire cuz then I wouldn't be back all, but anyways, it's all good. It's all good.
Don't worries. It's all part of the remote experience. Yeah.
Yeah. It's also one of the reasons why I don't really do YouTube videos. I mean, I, I put recordings up of streams. I do.
But one of the things I like about Twitch is like people expect it not to be perfect. so, yeah, I've heard that. Cause I was really nervous about Twitch. I was like, I've never been on what is Twitch heard the kids talk about it obviously. And then people were like, no, no, no worries. If something goes wrong, people expect that.
I'm like, oh, okay. Not so nervous then yeah. Tim was like, yeah. Yeah, exactly. So getting back to the collab lab, cause I know we're going all over the place here. We always go on tangents here, but so in regards to the cohort, so you talked about, so there's a I'll drop the, the sample project and a link to the GitHub.
Repo is people want to check that out. Yeah. How long, how long is the program? Like, so say I were to join up this cohort. How many months are we talking about? What's the kind of, what's the commitment to it to check-ins all that kinda stuff. Okay. So this is what it looks like.
It is the cloud lab's core program is eight weeks. So over that eight weeks, there are four developers on your team each week is a new sprint. So in that week, the four developers split up into two pairs of two.
Okay. And they each tackle a story together. So, okay. You start the week, you code pair program with your partner to build the thing you need to build. And then you leave of the rest of the week to. Send it over to the other pair for code review, make any revisions you need to make.
Then it finally goes to your mentors for kind of a final approval of the code. Okay. And it all gets merged into production. Then what happens is on the weekends either Saturday or Sunday, your team will have a weekly sync.
The weekly sync will look one of two ways. There are two different versions, like even odd numbered week. But one of the weeks you will, every week you get together and you demo the work you did the week before, which is a crucial skill, not only for the interview process, but for being a developer. Cause you have to demo your work a lot. So yeah, you get to learn how to demo really well, get a lot of good experience with that.
And then. On even weeks, you will do a learning module. So your mentors will put together something that they think is really valuable, usually around collaboration and that side of being an engineer. And then you'll do kind of a sprint planning.
You would call it if you do scrum where yeah. Or like, it's just an agile thing where you get together and you say, okay, what issues are we working on next week? You pick the two, you assign them, you talk through them to see if there's any. You know, if we need to add any color to the tickets, if anything's missing and then it all starts over again. You pair with your partner, you go through the motions of code reviews and then the next week you have another weekly sync in this one, instead of doing a learning module where you're learning something new, you do a retrospective, and these are also part of agile. If anybody listening, isn't familiar with that.
Oh, thanks for dropping that link. Retrospectives are really, really fantastic time for growth. As a team, you get to give appreciations to your teammates for the amazing things they've been doing.
you get to talk about what went really well. So in our mm-hmm project, in our collaboration, what things were great, what do we wanna keep doing more of? And then you also get to talk about what didn't go so well. And collabo lab is a really great chance to say those things out loud and express that feedback and a very safe space where everybody's growing to be together because giving feedback can be one of the hardest pieces of being on a team.
And if you've never had to do it before, and you jump into a space that. You know, might not be as supportive as you need. It can be very scary.
So yeah, redshirts are one of my favorite things that we do at cloud lab, because again, just getting to say those things out loud before it really matters before it's for money can be very helpful. So anyway, we do that for eight weeks. Each week is a sprint at the end we celebrate and we say, if you wanna stick around for two more weeks, To get ready for your job hunt, please do we highly encourage it. And we call that optional two week thing, career lab where we, you know, learn how to tell our story, do the mock interviews, which you've been involved with and are so helpful. And just kind of prepare and you get to be surrounded by like a whole new set of mentors, usually for that piece that you didn't meet in your core team.
So it's even more connections for people who work for zapper and obviously the practical dev at this time and yeah. One pass and like these big companies buffer, or like some big name companies who have mentors there. So it's like getting in, you get to know a lot of really great people. Yeah. Yeah. Like, yeah, just that alone.
Like again, just getting back to the connections and people, you know, like I've. I definitely love the collab lab. Like just the community aspect of it.
Another thing to, in general, if you're starting out or even if you aren't starting out, just joining a community period is a great thing you can do. Like I've I met my friend, Becca, who's a good friend of mine. Now through virtual coffee, it's a program. She started. It literally started with, she tweeted out, Hey, anybody, wanna meet a coffee for a coffee? And I just said, Hey, yeah, I, I DMD her. Hey, if there's still room, I'll pop by.
And that's like almost two and a half years later now. Mm-hmm you know, and yeah, you, I think people would, maybe it's not surprising, but Becca's here. Oh, Hey Becca. Hey.
Yeah, yeah. Heart rate back at you. You know, you'd be surprised at how many people are willing to help people. You know, and even, even just putting stuff out on Twitter, like I can think of concrete examples and like, I wasn't even adding the person.
So we used Preact, which is like react at, at forum and dev two. And I was just, I wrote out, out like, oh, I'm stuck on this thing. I had an issue open and all of a sudden. We follow each other now, but the creator of the project, Jason Miller, who works at Google, he responded to me in my own issue and he offered suggestions and stuff. And that was like, not even me asking for help. It was more like, Hey, I'm stuck on this.
Curious. Well, I guess I was kind of asking it, but it was more like, Hey internet, not like somebody specific everyone. So, you know, so it's just, it's, it's, you'd be super surprised at how many people oh. Wanna help.
And I think the only thing I would say listening. Yeah. The only thing I would say to that too though, is like, I, I love in people whenever you do receive help at some point, whenever you can.
And hopefully you'd like to just. Just give it back, you know, like help others out. You know oh, Hey Shelly. Hey. Yeah. Shelly's in collab lab too, right? Yeah, yeah.
Yeah. It's in and I love this. I love this because I found, okay, so.
My tech journey really started with the moms can code crew, which a lot of people who are in all these spaces are also in and it was like a very, it was very supportive to know there were other moms out there trying to do this too who were struggling, you know, with having so many babies and so much to do and needing to have full time and learn to code and then get another job. And it was a lot of stress. And having those people around just to have a shared experience, Was so powerful for me. And then from there I've seen a lot of people break out and kind of form their own things.
And we all have a lot going on now, like Becca's got virtual coffee and we've got the cloud lab. And so there's this kind of like really beautiful blend. Like we work together so well in this space of just trying to make tech better for like under represented people specifically, and then bringing people in like allies to just rally with us.
And it's been. So powerful to have so many communities out there doing great things. And it kind of gives me hope.
It gives me hope to see that there are so many people out there who wanna make a difference and who wanna see change. So yeah, I find everybody doing awesome thing. and, and we haven't even talked about that, but yeah, there's a big focus on diversity in the collab lab apps too. And, you know, like, because like, I'm, I'm prob I wouldn't say I'm stereotypical, but like, I am a white guy in tech, you know, like my name's not Chad, but you know, like there's a lot of, there's a lot of free passes. I get, you know, just for being, or, or looking the way I do, you know, and I I'm aware of that, but I still have to.
Kind of reflects sometimes before I say things, you know, like what, you know, like, why don't you do this? And then it's like, well, I can probably do that just because I have a lot of privilege just cuz I'm a white guy in tech, you know? So it, some things it's never anything bad. I said, it's just more like. Right.
I have to kind of reassess, like it might not work for everybody. Or like, if you can, if you have time, if it fits in with your things, you know, like I'm a big proponent of open source. It's opened a lot of doors for me, but like, I know, you know, not every, like I had the privilege, I could spend a weekend on something sometimes, you know, and I know not everybody can do that, you know, but yeah. But if you can, it, it, it definitely opens doors, but. But anyway, that was my long segue to talking about diversity in, in the cloud. Cause I know it's a big focus as well.
Yeah. So we, we do focus a lot on diversity and we recognize that everybody has biases. We have biases. Yeah. And so we're explicit about those.
And so the way our teams work is we will, we have four developers and only one of those will be a male identifying person. The other ones will be. You know, female identifying or non-binary and we do that.
So that like, cuz there was a point in, in my head where I was like, no, like all women and non-binary people and Andrew was like, yeah, but there are going to be men in tech and we need to raise them in a space where they understand how to communicate and they know early on that, how valuable, you know, mm-hmm these underrepresented groups can be. And so I was like, oh, that makes a lot of sense. Like. It's not like being exclusionary is not the key, but rather helping people see value in people that they don't understand. And so if you can imagine your first experience being on a team of all women and non-binary people, you're gonna go into the tech world with a very different view of who those people are.
And it's gonna matter a heck of a lot more to you then it did if you'd never worked with any. And so, yeah, for, I think it's a really solid approach and just a lot of work goes into. All of us being mindful, like you're saying of creating a very safe space for people. Yeah. And just being mindful of their own experiences, like you were saying it, you know, this is something I do that works for me, but when you're then mindful and you, you know, like can put the caveat if like this might not work for you, like you need to do what makes you feel safe and comfortable. That can be very meaningful for people.
Yeah, for sure. And you know, like you said, there not every place is amazing. I've I have worked at mm-hmm some toxic places or, or like a place that did end up getting toxic or, you know, I'd say I have a. Bit of a thick skin, but still it's not great when somebody just tells you, just, you know, Hey, fucking fix that. That sucks or something.
It's not, even though I'm like, I can bounce that off me. That's still not a good way to respond to somebody. No. You know? No. And, and I think this is one of the, one of the great things you were saying about, I mean, it, it's the collab lab, cuz you're collaborating in. We were talking about communication before, but it's, it's also super important.
Like when you're reviewing people's code there's a, it's called conventional commits. It's sorry, conventional comments. It's something I started using a year and a half ago. I'll drop a link to it, but it's just reframing how you give feedback, you know? So like, you know, instead of saying.
You know, I don't know change this, this doesn't work, or like use this method instead. You could, you can reframe it by prefixing it with stuff. So you can say like refactor, nitpick use this instead.
But if it's something I, I consider, like it's, it's it can't ship. I'll say like refactor blocking, and then I'll. I'll write something and it it's a small thing, but I've had several people on the team. It was one of my old coworkers, Michael Cole, who had introduced me to it, but I've had other coworkers since then, like adopted and also just, they found it helpful. Yeah, but my point about all that is, is, is really it's the giving feedback, like you were saying before, and especially if you're an open source, so say you're looking for work. You know, all of this stuff is literally in the open.
So like if. Even if yo