The Relicans

loading...
Cover image for Finding Focus and Space in Tech with Ceora Ford

Finding Focus and Space in Tech with Ceora Ford

mandymoore profile image Mandy Moore ・31 min read

In this episode, Developer Marketing Coordinator at CodeSandbox, Ceora Ford, talks about learning Python by sticking to the language, diving deep into concepts, and not jumping around – all while learning in public and building projects.

Ceora also talks about her job search experience: sharing out loud when she bombed an interview and recalling the support she received afterward on social media because let’s face it, it happens to all of us!

Should you find a burning need to share your thoughts or rants about the show, please spray them at devrel@newrelic.com. While you’re going to all the trouble of shipping us some bytes, please consider taking a moment to let us know what you’d like to hear on the show in the future. Despite the all-caps flaming you will receive in response, please know that we are sincerely interested in your feedback; we aim to appease. Follow us on the Twitters: @Launchies.

play pause Launchies

Jonan Scheffler: Hello and welcome to Launchies. Proudly brought to you by New Relic's Developer Relations Team, The Relicans. The Launchies podcast is about supporting new developers and telling their stories, and helping you make the next step in what we certainly hope is a very long and healthy career in software. You can find the show notes for this episode, along with all of the Relicans podcasts on developer.newrelic.com/podcasts. We're so glad you're here. Enjoy the show.

Pachi Carlson: Hello, I'm Pachi, and I’m going to be your host for today's show, and today, I have here my friend, Ceora Ford, as our guest.

Welcome, Ceora! I’m so happy to have you here today!

Ceora Ford: I'm excited to be here!

Pachi: Well, thank you for taking time for this.

Launchies is a podcast for newbies and devs from different backgrounds so, I wanted to have Ceora here as my first guest because she's both.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are a digital market developer?

Ceora: Yes.

Pachi: You just started a super cool job with dev market at CodeSandbox?

Ceora: Yes.

Pachi: So Ceora is awesome. She creates some great content. She always starts some very helpful trends on Twitter. I love everything she asks.

[laughter]

Every question you put over there, it just brings so much content. I always go with you. [laughter] Oh, I didn't know that! That's so useful, and really, you must follow her on Twitter. You don’t know. You need to be.

So again, I'm really happy to be here with you. You are a code newbie and have been there for not long, but you know a lot. You have been through a lot, especially this last year.

Ceora: Yeah. [laughs]

Pachi: So, just to get us started, when did you first get interested in working with tech? What sparkled that first interest?

Ceora: Well, I think the first time I realized coding was even a thing, I was in the sixth grade, and my teacher, she played this video where there were a couple of athletes, Bill Gates. They were like talking about, “Oh, coding is the next big thing,” yada, yada yada, and I kind of thought, “Oh, that's interesting.”

At that point in time, I had been really interested in technology because tablets were just coming out, and the whole smartphone thing was happening. I thought it was really interesting, even though I could never afford those things as a kid, I really was interested in that. In my brain, I thought coding and technology must be somehow related.

So that was always like something I was kind of interested in. I didn't really pursue it, though, until I was in high school. In my senior year of high school, I took a really basic HTML, CSS class, and this was like the 90s aesthetic of a very, very super static and basic. Nothing like what we have now [laughs], and I took that class, and I kind of enjoyed it. I thought it was a little boring, but I was like, “Okay, this isn't so –” like, I could imagine myself doing this for work; something I wouldn't go to work hating it every day.

So then, later on, that summer of my senior year, I participated in this program called Kode With Klossy. It's a non-profit organization where girls ages 13 to 18 learn how to code for two weeks, and then you end up building a project with other girls in the camps.

I participated in that, and we learned. We focused on HTML and CSS and Ruby, and it was really, really difficult. I didn't have much of a CS background, and most of the girls I was learning with didn’t either, but it was enough to kind of get me to see okay. This is kind of difficult, but I think I could do it, and I actually really liked the problem-solving side of things. I went from there, kind of thought that, “Okay, maybe I could do this,” but I just didn't know how to do it.

At that point, I knew that a CS degree was not going to be a real option for me, and I wasn't sure if I could do a Bootcamp because bootcamps are expensive, and then at that time, people knew that bootcamps could be predatory. There was a whole lot as far as that was concerned.

So I just wasn't sure what I should do. I started learning on my own, and I was really on and off and inconsistent for a while. I did FreeCodeCamp, a couple of Udemy courses that I like never finished to this day, and I was just wandering around for a little while until I think March of 2020 is when I really got serious about coding again.

This is a long story, [laughs] like a long answer to your question.

Pachi: I feel like a lot of people, they have some introduction when they are younger, especially here in the US where it’s common in high school, but nobody really thinks about that. Years later, like, “Hey, that's a thing that I can do. Cool.”

Ceora: Yeah, like it's an actual option. When you're a senior in high school, you're 17 or 18, and everyone expects you to know what to do for the rest of your life. You have to decide what your major in college is going to be or whatever, and I had no clue. [chuckles] I wasn't sure what I wanted to do.

Pachi: I don't know how we expect 18-year-olds to know.

Ceora: Right! I'm still kind of figuring out what I'm going to be when I grow.

Pachi: [laughs] Yes!

Ceora: People act like it's the end of the world when you don't know when you're a kid. But yeah, I definitely felt that pressure of like, okay, I have to figure something out, and this coding thing isn't that bad. So yeah.

Pachi: So let's do it.

So I know that, like you mentioned, you got serious in 2020, and you love Python. I think Python is the first language that you pursued seriously, right?

Ceora: Yeah. So I've dabbled a lot.

[laughter]

I haven't been in the tech community or industry for that long, but I have gotten a little bit of experience with a lot of things. Like I said, my first first introduction to coding was through basic HTML CSS. Then I learned Ruby, which was difficult because of the circumstances. We were learning in two weeks, and you can't really get that in-depth in that short amount of time. There were a lot of things I just didn't understand.

Then after that, I got into JavaScript. JavaScript was difficult because I didn't understand what was going on like, the DOM manipulation. I got to that and was like, “Okay, it's difficult. I don't know what's happening.” I ended up getting into Drupal at one point, and I started learning PHP a little. When I tell you, I was all over the place. But in March of 2020, I started getting into the cloud computing world. Python is really big in that field, and I thought that Python would be a good choice because it's applicable to so many different sections of tech. If you're undecided about oh, I don't know if I want to do web development, or data science, or whatever; you're not sure what you want to do. I think Python is a great option because it can be applied to so many different disciplines in the tech industry.

So I decided to learn Python, and I decided to really take my time and try to go in-depth, try to build projects as well, and I really, really, really enjoyed it. It was the first language that I actually understood what was going on. [chuckles] I wasn't just building things or doing things and not really knowing what's happening. I felt like I really understood what's happening. So Python has a special place in my heart.

Pachi: That’s an awesome feeling like wow, I know what's going on here!

Ceora: Yeah!

Pachi: Like you said, you’re a self-learner, no college degree. I remember you talked last year about doing bootcamps because they are really hard. But you did it. So when you started, you decided to learn Python because it was a practical language. How did you start it? How did you find out which if it was going to be video or reading the worked for you? What were the first steps that you took as a self-learner?

Ceora: First thing I did that I think was really helpful with that—I look back on the time I wasted, that year and a half before I started learning Python where I was jumping around, and I was learning a lot of different things and not really grasping anything. I looked at that, and I tried to learn from it and not repeat those same mistakes, which I think was really important, which sometimes it's something that we forget to do because nobody wants to really think about their past mistakes because that can be a little embarrassing, but I did. I decided to take a look back and see. Again, I noticed that I was jumping around. I wasn't really applying. I wasn't building projects. There were so many things I just wasn't doing.

So I tried to change a bit this time around and noticed what things worked for me and what things didn't, and one thing I noticed that was really missing was learning in public and building projects, which I tried to fix. There are still lots of Python projects that I started and didn't finish, but starting them was still valuable because I still learned way more than I would have if I just didn't, and then I did take some video courses and things like that.

But one thing that I had the habit of doing, which I think a lot of people do, too. Some people listening might find this relatable is that you get into this phase where you stockpile courses and articles and things you're going to read. You stockpile it, and it makes you feel productive because you're collecting all these resources, but you're not really doing anything with it. I was buying courses and bookmarking articles and things like that, but I was never applying them.

So instead of just doing that, I decided I'm going to take this one course that's an introduction to Python, and I'm just going to finish this one course, nothing else, just this course, and then I'm going to build a project. That was my workflow. Introduction to Python, finish the course, start a project and then intermediate Python, finish the course start a project. That became how I went about learning Python, and I think that was really successful for me because, again, I'm not jumping around. I'm not switching between five different courses and three different articles all the time. It gave me like the focus I needed to actually really grasp the information I was learning.

Pachi: I'm very guilty of that. Looking at all the things I have saved to read later, it is very true. That is great.

Ceora: I'm talking a lot of trash right now because I still like, you should see my bookmarks on my Chrome tabs and stuff like that. I have so many articles saved that I'm going to read, I'm going to learn how to do this thing and whatever language, and I just never get back to it. Because it feels really, really – it feels so productive to collect.

Right now, I'm learning Tailwind and my urge to stockpile a bunch of Tailwind resources is just ridiculous because it makes you feel productive even though you're really not doing anything in the end. [laughs] I’d force myself to stick to this one course and only focus on this and do not stray. [chuckles] Later on, I can take more courses, but I just noticed that that was like – and this might not be the same for everyone.

But for me, I would have a huge list of a hundred JavaScript courses and articles and things like that that I just never – then you get overwhelmed because it's like, where do I start with this huge list? So I try to fix that by pick the first one that you come across or that comes up in your Google search and try to stick to that. If it's a bad resource, that's fine. But at least you're starting, and you're learning something instead of just having a huge list of stuff that you're not really even digging into.

Pachi: Yeah, and even just finishing something you had still matters. You feel like I can’t believe I did it. I have the certificate as something to show to myself or to someone else. It feels good. When I finally finish it, because I always had been in FreeCodeCamp forever for the first one, the web design thing. [laughs] It took me a year to finally finish that because I just kept been going back and forth. I’m having the JavaScript one for six months now. Someday, I will finish that.

Ceora: I don't think I finished the FreeCodeCamp one either. [laughs] I finished the web design one, but not the JavaScript side, so we're on the same page with that. [laughs]

Pachi: Someday, we’ll have that certificate.

Ceora: Yeah.

Pachi: But that’s really great advice. Even if you don't do that to every single resource, you get out there, just focus on something. There's so much out there. Every time you ask somebody, “Hey, I want to learn this. What should I use?” You're going to get ten comments at least.

Ceora: And the suggestions can be good. But I think as an experiment, I like Google oh, like learn Python. There were almost a billion results or something crazy like that. There were so many results for things you can use to learn Python, and can you imagine if I decided, oh, I'm going to check through every single one of these things and see which one is good and see which one I like best, I would waste so much time and by the end of it, I wouldn't even learn any Python.

Just start with something and get the basics down. Sometimes the most important thing is just to start. Start learning and stay focused. Don't have any other excuses. Just start and jump into it headfirst, and if it doesn't work out so great, that's fine. But the important thing is to just get started.

Pachi: Yeah, like I mentioned, I have been following you.

Ceora: Yeah.

[laughter]

Pachi: I saw that last year you were very intent on your job search. No, actually I really love that last year when you had a bad interview, you wrote about that.

Ceora: [laughs] Yes.

Pachi: It was very helpful to know that Ceora has a blog post that was just about how she bombed an interview. Who does that? Like, “Oh my goodness, I just did this terrible interview…”

Ceora: I think I did cry about it a little, [laughs] but I was like, I had to do something. I don't know. I think it was two-fold. First of all, I'm not very good at holding my emotions in. If I do that, it like slowly eats away at me, and I just can't do that. So I had to put it out there somehow, process these emotions, and then, at the same time, I had to prove to myself that I was going to take this and learn from it. Let me just turn this into a blog post and share it with everybody and then also, too, I think a big part of being, especially now since we're also remote, we get stuck in our heads, and we start to think like, “I'm the only one who's not doing great with these technical interviews. Everyone else must be so good at it.”

I just wanted to let people know like, no, I had a really [laughs] horrible experience, and it went so poorly, and it happens to a lot of us. Even, I think right after the interview, I tweeted like, “Yeah, I really just astronomically bombed this interview,” and everybody responded like, “Oh, let me tell you about this one I had that went really badly,” and it made me feel a lot better. Not that I was happy that other people were failing their technical interviews, but it's something about knowing that you're not the only one and then to writing the article. Some people did actually DM me like, “Oh my goodness, I'm so glad you wrote about this because it helped me not to do this, that, and the third and my technical interview ended up going really well.” So I was really happy to hear that with my bad experience, people were able to learn from it and not repeat the same steps that I took that kind of led to my downfall. [laughs]

Pachi: Exactly. I really love the things that you write. How did you start blogging? Because I know that many people, they're newbies, they don't feel comfortable writing, and you do, and you do great at it.

Ceora: Thank you. So actually, the way this started was when I was doing digital marketing, I worked with a coding bootcamp that was based in DC, and one of the things they had me do was content creation because, at that point, I knew a little bit of HTML CSS. Part of the course was that they taught HTML and CSS to the students along with a few other things.

I wrote a couple of basic “here are eight resources you can use to learn CSS,” and I wrote, I think, a couple of tutorials on responsive design or something like that, and that was for the bootcamp. It was under my name, I had the byline, but it was still for them, and that got me started, which helped me get over the fear. Because I think on a couple of the articles, I wrote people had a few snarky comments that were like, whatever. I just ignored them because I was getting paid, so, [laughs] it was fine.

But the thing that got me back into it, like I said, I dived in headfirst back into learning how to code and really being serious about getting in tech in March of 2020. I also mentioned earlier that I took the time to look back on the year and a half I had wasted trying to learn how to code and try to learn from those mistakes. I decided to turn that into a blog post, and I decided to do this because the type of personality I have. I need external influence to keep me motivated to do things. I'm not a very self-motivated person. For instance, if I'm like, “Oh, I'm going to start exercising and working out. It’s the new year, I'm going to get healthy,” or whatever, if I don't tell anyone else about it or if I don't have an exercise buddy, it's not happening, period.

So my idea of an exercise buddy, but with coding, was I’m going to write this article. I’m going to tweet them out. I'm going to share it. Everybody's going to know that she's trying to learn cloud engineering, Python, and learn this AWS thing. Get really serious about it, so other people can know what I was up to, and I could have this healthy, external pressure that other people are watching me to see what I do next. I wrote this article that I think it was the five mistakes I made learning how to code and then how I'm going to fix those things.

So like I said, I mentioned oh, I jumped a bunch of resources, I jumped from language to language, a couple of other things that I mentioned, and one of my goals was I'm going to learn in public, and a way you can learn in public is writing articles. I know you do that. You also stream on Twitch. I don't do that yet, maybe one day. [chuckles] But there are lots of ways that you can like learn in public, and my favorite way was to write.

Writing is like—and this is the whole point of learning a public—you’ve got to get to teach other people what you're learning, and a way to accelerate your learning and advance quickly is to teach other people because when you have to teach someone else, you have to figure out what you don't understand so well, so you can explain it to somebody else.

So that's what I was doing with writing. I haven't done it recently because I went through a little burnout after my job search. That's one thing I really, really enjoy about writing is that it helped me immensely, and then also, coming from a non-traditional background, like no CS degree, I didn't even go to a bootcamp. It was one of the ways to help me to stand out, which was really useful.

Of course, I don't agree with the fact that – I think it's a bad thing that in our industry, we expect people who don't have a degree or who don't go to a bootcamp or whatever the case may be, we expect them to go above and beyond to get noticed, but it did help for me. It does work. Not that I agree with it because not everybody has access to time and resources to do that, but it did help. So it did help me to network and find new opportunities and things like that, which was really helpful.

Pachi: Yeah. Well, agree or not. Sadly, we do have to step up somehow. Just see us. “Here, look at me. I don't have a degree, but I'm writing! Watch me fail live!”

Ceora: [laughs] And that's basically what I was doing, and it actually helped a lot. I got quite a few opportunities, and I think even the position I have now, writing and being involved in the community and doing all these extra things, helped a lot, prepared me to help me to stand out for this role. I wish it wasn't this way, I'll say it again. But it is. So if anyone listening is looking for ways to stand out for the job search, it does help a lot. I think so. It's worth the time investment.

Pachi: And really, you can write about anything. How to find experts, just get started again. Just do it. [chuckles]

Ceora: Yeah, exactly.

Pachi: So you mentioned having burnout. You look where that you spend most of 2003 looking for a job and how was that? How bad was it? [laughs]

Ceora: Actually, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. The whole reason why I decided to dive into tech again was that in March, I was doing freelance digital marketing. I lost all my clients, and I was having a really hard time finding a job. That was the worst job search I've ever experienced. I went through the whole thing of oh, this person almost hired me, but then they decided not to because oh, we're just going to give these responsibilities to someone who already were –

I just had all those things happening, and it was really, really frustrating, and it can really ruin your self-esteem for people to keep telling you that basically, you're not – because this is what it feels like. They’re not exactly saying this, but it feels like they're telling you you're not worth having money to survive. That's tough to hear over and over again.

I decided this time around; I didn't want to waste my time and apply to a whole bunch of different – because filling out a resume and like doing your cover letter is tough. That takes time. You have to tailor it to each job, make sure there's no errors, and have your friends read it for you. All that kind of stuff, it takes time and effort, and it's not easy work. That's why people pay top dollar to get people to do this stuff for them. So I decided again, looking back on my previous job search when I was still in digital marketing, how can I like refine this process to make it a little bit easier on me? The world is already stressful enough with everything going on, so how can I relieve as much of this as possible?

My method was that I was reaching out to people on Twitter and LinkedIn respectfully. I wasn't being a stalker or anything, but I noticed that someone worked at a company I was interested in. I would message them like, “Hey, I noticed that you work at such and such place. I’m trying to expand my network to people that work there. I would love to know what your experience has been like working there.” That was my pretty much cookie-cutter introduction I would send to probably three to four people who worked at whatever company I was interested in.

More times than not, that either led to me having a conversation with somebody over Zoom, or we even exchanged messages through LinkedIn or Twitter. Sometimes they would say, “Oh, I'll pass your resume onto our HR person,” or whatever. But it led to me getting more interviews because that was the problem. I was sending in resumes and not getting a response or getting that canned [response] like, “Oh, we are rejecting you right now because your experience doesn't fit what we're looking for,” and I just didn't want that. I wanted to actually get interview experience and get some technical interviews, too.

That was one thing I was doing. I was networking like crazy. I was sending messages, DM-ing people, emailing people, reaching out, and all this kind of stuff, which led to me getting interviews, which was great, but also nerve-wracking because getting through is half the battle. You have to pass the interview.

I'm a very conversational person. The initial, I guess, you would call it cultural interview usually goes pretty well for me because it fits my personality type pretty well. Not the case for some people, which, again, I wish interviews were more tailored to who you are as a person, but that's not how things are. But the part that I struggle with the most was technical interviews. Technical interviews, they were so hard for me [laughs], and I was getting to the point where I was like, I don't even know if I –

At one point, I was applying exclusively to internships because I was so afraid of software engineer technical interviews because I didn't have much experience with the whole algorithms and things like that, and I just was not ready for my self-esteem to be ruined like that. I don't think I've had a really good technical interview yet where I thought, “Wow, this went really –”

Actually, no, that's a lie. I had to get one because the person she really was first of all, it was a woman which was like, what and then she was really cool and chill about it. It felt more like I was having a pair programming session with someone who was teaching me how to review GitHub issues and stuff like that. So I didn't feel as nervous about it, which was great. I didn't even end up getting that job, but it still felt okay. I feel like I walked away from this with learning something new and being more prepared for the next time. But that was the one exclusively that went well.

The rest I had were bad [laughs], and it's hard to rebound after that. You have to get over these icky feelings of like; I don't come from a traditional background, maybe I need to work more. Maybe I do need to go to it. We had this conversation before about do I need to go to a bootcamp. I feel the holes in my knowledge. Am I actually good at this? Which was conversations I was having with myself all the time because when you start having these interviews back-to-back-to-back. “Oh, we didn't think you knew enough,” or “You need to work on your algorithm approach,” I was getting responses like this a lot, and it was hurting my feelings. [laughs]

I'm laughing now, but it wasn't funny when it was happening. I was hurt, and it makes you really question: should I be doing this, or is there something –? Should I just go back to digital marketing and what?

One of the things that really helped was that, first of all, I started to space apart the interviews I was having because doing them back-to-back-to-back was torture. I stopped doing that, and then I also started to have practice sessions with people that I knew. This is why community and building a network is so important. I will reach out to a few people I knew through Discord communities, who I trusted, and I will say, “Hey, do you have an hour where we could get together, and I can just explain my code to you really fast to get used to the whole technical interview process?”

That was really valuable because hearing their validation of like, “Oh yeah, this is a good solution,” or whatever. When I actually went into the interview, and they said, “Oh, you don't know enough,” or whatever the case may be, I knew it was probably maybe this isn't so much a me problem, but a them problem. Maybe they're being a little too strict because I know that I can code because I just had a technical practice interview with one of my friends, and they said that I did pretty well.

So it helped me build my confidence up and get used to it, which was immensely valuable, and then I also, there are a couple, if you don't have the network around you, which is understandable, there are some technical interview programs out there where they'll pair you with a stranger who is trained in giving technical interviews, and they give you some algorithms that you have to work through. I did a couple of those, which didn't go so great. I'm really bad at data structures and algorithms and whatnot. There are people out there who actually enjoy this stuff, and I'm like, how? But I did do an interview where it was strictly data structures and algorithms, and it was tough, but I still felt much better after doing the practice one. Even though I didn't finish, the person who I was paired with, he gave me some tips and resources I could look into to help me improve.

So those were some things that helped me gain more confidence in giving technical interviews or in doing them, not giving them. If I'm ever in the position to hire, I don't know if I want to give technical interviews. [laughs] I'll just look at their code and say, “Oh, that looks great.” So. [laughs]

Pachi: I think more often interviews should have – because they probably have all the same background, so I feel like they're looking for people like them. They’re not expanding, so if you don't know some things the way they do, you're not good enough.

Ceora: And I've heard that sometimes they want a certain response. They want you to solve the problem in a certain way, and even if you do solve the problem, if you don't do it the way they imagined, they still won’t accept you. I'm like, “What?”!

Yeah, I'm still not 100% over my fear of technical interviews, but I think I'm more comfortable with them now. If for some strange reason, I lost my job tomorrow and I had to go back on the job search, I think that I would be more comfortable this time around doing technical interviews. Still not super, super comfortable, but more [laughs] comfortable than I was the last time around.

So there are things you can do to make it better. It's almost like what we were saying earlier with when you come from a non-traditional background, and you have to do a lot of content creation to get noticed. Of course, it’s not ideal. Doing technical interviews is not ideal. I wish it wasn't this way, but it is, and it's probably not going to change for a while. There are things you can do to deal with it better.

Pachi: Yeah. We don't like it, but we have to roll with it.

Ceora: This is the way things are, so we’ve just got to deal with it for now.

Pachi: And we can hope someday they would change.

Ceora: Yes, definitely.

Pachi: So right now, you’ve got your job that you started this. That’s super exciting and is basically a developer job, right?

Ceora: Yes. I'm doing developer relations, and I really love it so far. I'm just starting out, so I'm still getting used to everything, but I'm really enjoying it so far.

Pachi: When you started job searching, that wasn't what you were looking for. What was your first go, and how did it change?

Ceora: So that's actually a really interesting story. Initially, like I said, I was looking for frontend developer, full-stack internships, or engineering because I was like, “I want something that's going to have a lot of guidance because I don't really know what's going on.” I wasn't sure if I was ready for a junior developer position, but I thought an internship might be the way to go for me. But again, I was having conversations with people, networking, and things like that, and sometimes it wasn't like, “Oh, I'm interested in working at your company.” Sometimes it was really just genuinely like, “Hey, I just want to talk to you about what you do.”

The more I heard about developer relations, developer education, developer advocates, I was like, “This sounds more like what I want to do,” because before starting this job search, I did mostly technical writing. These were the things that I was doing, and then I did a bootcamp for public speaking. So a lot of my short experience so far has been centered around the things that people in developer relations do, and I enjoy it. Those are the things I like doing. I like writing, I like speaking, I like community things, and things like that. So I was like, “Why don't I just narrow my focus and aim for that?” and there aren't that many junior developer advocate or junior developer relations positions out there. But I was like, “So what?!” I think this is what I want to do, so I'm just going to go for it, and I'm not going to talk myself out of this.

I started having conversations with people, and they were like, “Yeah, your experience really fits this well,” and there were times where they were like, “We want somebody who has more experience,” which is understandable, but I did find a few positions, and I did get some interviews. Again, narrowing my focus helped me get more results because my experience really is tailored toward developer relations. I've only been working in tech for less than a year, but that year has been jampacked with stuff that developer advocates do.

That's how I ended up in the position I have now. Plus, my digital marketing experience plays a big role in that because a lot of times, developer relations is under marketing, which is how it is at CodeSandbox.

So did I answer your question? [laughs]

Pachi: It's funny because I feel like my 2020 was very similar to yours, and I was doing as well without knowing what I was at the beginning. I was doing one thing, and somebody asked me, “Hey, do you have an interest in doing frontend DevRel?” and I was like, “What is that?”

I wrote a blog post about it because everybody keeps asking me; I don't want to answer every time because here, here's a link, go read it [laughs] here's DevRel. Sometimes people may do it, and they have no idea. Twitch streaming, writing, giving talks, that’s all very DevRel stuff, so if you like this side of technology, maybe there’s something that’s there for you and you don’t even know.

Ceora: Yeah, and that's basically what was happening. I remember somebody I was following Twitter; he was basically saying, “People who are getting into tech are basically doing developer relations,” and I was like, “What?” But really, a lot of us, especially if you come from a non-traditional background, we're encouraged to write blogs, stream on Twitch, go to a meetup, speak at meetups, network, and grow and build communities. That was the stuff I was doing, which is what developer advocates do.

So I was like, “I think I have the experience for this.” So I was like, “Maybe I should aim for this,” and I started talking to people who are doing it like, “Do you think I would be good at this?” Or I know I don't have much experience because I haven't had a software engineering position. I've done technical writing, but I haven't had software developer, frontend developer. I haven't had one of those positions before. So I wasn't sure, is this going to be something that is good for me?

But it's the perfect position for someone who's just learning, in my opinion. If you are in the learning phase where you're like, “Oh, I want to learn in public and everything,” why not get paid to do it?

Pachi: It just weird that each company has a different – they're looking for different things. Like DevRel, there's just so many faces to it. What are your main tasks in your current job?

Ceora: So right now, what I'm mostly focusing on, we're focusing a lot on growth, and like you said, it is really different. If anyone listening is interested in developer relations, I highly encourage you to really ask what that looks like at each company because it's so different. It’s not like frontend development, you have a general idea of what you're going to be doing, but developer relations could be different at every company.

So we're really focused a lot on building their product out to grow the community more and get more traction if that makes sense. Build our brand a little bit more. I'm wearing a bunch of hats, which is good because I actually enjoy doing that anyway, and internally, I'm the face of the community.

When I'm at meetings, I'm saying, “Okay, is this what our users want? Is this what developers are actually asking for?” But also, to the community, I'm like, “This is what we're doing. This is the features we're working on,” and sometimes, users don't know. We have certain features that they don't know how to use certain features, and that's where I come in. I'll write an article or make a short video, improve documentation.

Because it's such a small startup, there's a lot of different things that I have to do, where otherwise, in a company like yours that has a bigger developer relations team, you can specialize a little bit more. I have to fulfill a lot of roles, which I actually really like. It’s like, this is one of the reasons why I wanted to do this at this company because I get to do a little bit of this and do a little bit of that, and I'm a little bit all over the place as far as what my interests are. So it's nice that I get to fulfill all those things at one place.

It's a lot of fun. It is hard work. I think I saw someone do a thread on this on Twitter a little while ago about developer relations is difficult because you have to do a lot of context switching. You have to sometimes do more development one day, and maybe you have to work on a feature that people are asking for, fix an issue that people are having, and then the next day you're doing a speaking engagement, and then 2 hours later, you have to finish an article.

You have to switch; it’s hard to get focused time where you can finish things through and really improve in each thing that you're doing. But I don't mind that so much [chuckles]. I can see how this is difficult for people. Maybe later on down the line, check with me in six months, and I might be like, “Oh!” But right now, it's actually something I really enjoy.

Pachi: That's fun. I'm really glad to see you're excited about a job. I know how last year it was hard, and it was a struggle, and it was hard to begin with because it was 2020.

Ceora: Yeah.

Pachi: I feel like getting that first job is the hardest thing.

Ceora: Yeah. Because even now, I don't know. Something about getting your first job now, everybody is like, “Oh!” [laughs] Now you get the recruiters or people who are like, “Well, if you ever need anything, just reach out.” No, I needed you six months ago! Where were you then? [laughs]

Pachi: Where were you? Now I’m good. I’m happy. Some people...just don’t. But yeah, that's really, really exciting, and again, on your end, it's very similar, so I know exactly what you're talking about. It's a fun job. It’s not because it’s fun that it's easy, but it's rewarding just to be doing something that you're really passionate about. “Hey, I'm doing a job that I love!”

Ceora: Yeah! It's almost like sometimes I'm like, “Wait, really?” Honestly, every job has its things that you may not enjoy so much, but it's saying something, especially this year, after 2020, I should say when so many people lost their jobs and things like that. To actually have a job that you like is a privilege, and I'm really happy that I stuck through it and made it this far and kept going, even when I was frustrated and didn't know what was going on and made it this far.

Pachi: I’m really, really happy for you.

Ceora: Thank you! Likewise!

Pachi: I was just following you. Not a stalker because I’m not creepy. [laughs] You’re my top ten favorite people on Twitter. So I was like, “Hey, how's Ceora doing? She hasn't posted in a while. What’s going on?” [laughs] So yeah, I’ve been always cheering for you.

Okay, we’re running out of time. My last question for you is not really a question, but you had a great journey, you learned a lot. So my question is, what is your most precious piece of advice for code newbies out there?

Ceora: This is a good question. I would probably say that there's a few things that are really important that made a huge difference for me.

One of them was community, having people to rely on and which is harder to do now, I think. Maybe harder for some people and easier for some people now, since so many things are remote. I found it easier, but it might not be that for everyone. But find somebody, at least one person, even better if it's more than one person who you can rely on and reach out to for help, or even just to vent to. It really helps to know that you're not the only one struggling or you're not the only one who's doing this period. Then also, focus.

Community and focus are two things that really, really helped me. I really think that the reason why I struggled for so long was that I wasn't really focused. I was trying to learn this language and then the next day, that language and all this kind of stuff. Not that it's bad to be a generalist and not that it's bad to learn two things at one time, you need focus to really improve. I know that really helped me.

So those are two things that I would really emphasize. Working on focus, community, and oh, I would also say project building. That really, really helped me, and those are the three things that I think account for a lot of my progress within the past nine months.

Pachi: Wow. Nine months. [laughs] It feels like nine years.

Ceora: Yes. It really, really does.

Pachi: Well, thank you for the great advice. Really, community is very important, especially for us with different backgrounds. We have to find our people or people that support us.

Ceora: Yeah, absolutely.

Pachi: Especially because sometimes, you don't have the confidence and you need friends that say, “Hey! You can do it. You're awesome.”

Ceora: Yeah, and it makes a huge difference! Someone else telling you that you're actually good at this and you're a really great developer, it goes such a long way. It's like, “Oh my goodness, I didn't realize that. Thank you so much for telling me.” That's why it's good to have at least one or two people who are in your corner like, “No, keep going. You're actually really good at this. You're making good progress.” So yeah.

Pachi: And then you can be a developer or whatever you want to be.

Ceora: Yeah! Exactly.

Pachi: So, thank you so much for being here today. That was a lot of fun. I learned a lot, even if we have similar journeys, but not all journeys are equal.

So before we end this, do you have anything where you want people to follow you?

Ceora: Sure. You can find me; I’m most active on Twitter. My Twitter handle is @-C-E-E-O-R-E-O underscore, so that’s @ceeoreo_ with an underscore at the end. I'm also on my blog at ceoraford.com. That's where most of my writing is. I write on dev.to as well. I think my username there is ceeoreo as well. Those are some of the places you can find me most active online.

Pachi: So follow her really, she has great content like her Twitter.

Ceora: Thank you.

Pachi: There's always something going on there; some threads, some questions that she asked because she has some answers. So definitely recommend that.

Thank you again for being here today. That was great, and thank you all for listening. This was Launchies, and please subscribe and follow us. I am Pachi, and you're going to have more people joining us with different hosts. So we’re here, and thank you.

Discussion (0)

pic
Editor guide