Relicans host Danny Ramos interviews Open Source Developer Nick DeJesus about gaming competitively, being an open-source maintainer, (Check out use-shopping-cart: a Hooks library that handles all of your shopping cart state and logic!) and how having passion and being pissed off drives him to do his best work!
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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.
I want to remind you all that New Relic and The Relicans are going to be at our upcoming user conference, FutureStack coming up on May 24th. You can stop by therelicans.com/futurestack and read about it. We would love to have you there. Hope you have a wonderful day.
Nick Dejesus: Hey. What's up, everybody?
Danny: Nick, thank you so much for joining us. How are you doing today?
Nick: I'm good. Thank you for having me on. I told you earlier I just got my second vaccination shot, so yeah, bracing myself here. [laughter] But I'm glad I got that out of the way. Otherwise, I'm good.
Danny: Good, good. I'm really excited to be talking to you today because I just stumbled across you on Brian Douglas' Top 8 on his GitHub repo.
Nick: Oh, yeah. [laughs]
Danny: I saw you on there. And I'm new to the whole tech scene, and I'm trying to see who to follow, see some cool projects that are open source. And then I came across you and T7 Chicken Plus, which we can get to later. I wanted to talk to you and get a better idea of your background and how you got into tech or what interested you in tech in the first place.
Nick: Sure. There are so many variables here. And I think the best place to start was after high school, trying to get my life together. I wasn't the best student at all, and I couldn't get into a nice college or anything. So I ended up going to a giant scam school, ITT Tech. It got shut down and everything.
Danny: You went to ITT Tech?
Nick: It's embarrassing.
Danny: Wow. I saw so many commercials for those. I was like, hmm.
Nick: I know. So never trust a school that has commercials, especially when it's running at 3:00 a.m. during Jerry Springer reruns.
Danny: [laughter] It's always super late at night.
Nick: Yeah, exactly. There's a certain type of people they're trying to target. And so that set me back. Two years of school there put me back at 48K in debt.
Nick: And I couldn't get a job at all. And so I ended up finally landing an IT job at this agency, and I was making like no money at all. It was in Boston, and I was making 35K a year, which is horrible. I couldn't leave my mom's house on that. And so I knew I wanted to make more money. I knew that coding was the way to go, but I specifically wanted to be an Android developer at the time. And so what gave me the idea to try coding -- And this is where I have to talk about Tekken because Tekken is life to me. [laughter] And it's pretty much the reason why I got into coding.
Danny: With the Xbox controller right next to you. [laughter]
Nick: It's actually a Switch controller.
Danny: Okay, there we go.
Nick: So I was playing Tekken competitively. I was going to tournaments in Atlanta and Philly. I was traveling and stuff. I was really doing this. And one person that I used to play games with launched an app for the Tekken community, and it was to help us study something called frame data. And in fighting games, frame data is like information on the characters, what the attacks do, how fast they are, what they do when someone's hit, blah, blah, blah, all kinds of information. I'd spent like two or three bucks on that app, and I was broke. So that two or three bucks was a lot at the time. And the app was so bad, in my opinion, that it literally inspired me to learn how to code and make a better version.
Nick: So first of all, it's extremely hard. It's scientifically proven that it's extremely hard to get Android users to pay for any apps, period.
Danny: Right, because they want it free.
Nick: Yeah, exactly. So I was an Android user, and I was already broke. And so after paying for that app, I was so upset that I said, you know what? And no slight to this guy; he's actually really big in the fighting game community. I don't want to say his name because this is kind of mean, but I was like, if this guy can make an app, then I can too. And the rest is history from there. We'll be talking about it throughout this podcast. But that is the moment that I decided I want to learn how to code. And so T7 Chicken Plus is like the third iteration of me making a frame data app for the Tekken community. The first time it was just on Android only. I had up to 10,000 users. The next time it was with React Native. I went up to 20K, and just recently, this T7 Chicken Plus, even though I kind of low-key abandoned it in the past year, I have over 30,000 users between both platforms.
Danny: [laughs] I have to comment on that because I just downloaded it about an hour ago. And I'm looking through it, and I was like, oh, this is super sick. And it has great reviews, and one of the comments on top was like, "Bruh, update it." [laughter]
Nick: I feel so bad. If I had to be honest, for the past four months, I've been trying to figure out how to quit maintaining the app. But then, every time I think about it, I go to the Discord, and I still see people joining and requesting updates. A big part of why I dropped it was one, Covid. The pandemic shifted all my priorities, and also, it's not the best code. Like, I used this project to learn and so updating it is a giant pain in the ass. If I was to redo it right now, none of that would be a problem. And then it's not making me any money. I get 500,000 ad impressions a month, and it only gets me 30 bucks.
Danny: [laughs] Wow.
Nick: You know what I'm saying?
Nick: But to be fair, the ads are nowhere near as targeted as they should be; it's like cat games and stuff.
Danny: But now you have like 10,000 people at your disposal that you can just start spamming the Discord with your own project.
Nick: Yeah, I know, right? I could just start dropping stuff, yeah. [laughs] I feel really bad about it. Recently, someone actually volunteered to pick it up for me. And I might revive it, but it just depends on how much this person's willing to do. I was real with them too. They were asking me for all these suggestions like, "Hey, how should I approach this?" I'm like, "Look, you're the boss now. You tell me how you want to do it."
Danny: Yeah, "You're the big dog now, okay?"
Nick: Yeah, exactly.
Danny: I really admire that because there are so many times where people would look at an app and be like, "Oh, I'm going to do this. I would change this. I would do that," and they never do it. But you saw an instance where you were upset that you paid $2.99 for this app that wasn't good. So you were telling yourself, "I'm going to change this. I'm going to make my own."
Nick: Yeah. There's something about being pissed off that really drives me to do my best work. It's like rage-driven development.
Danny: [laughs] That's what ITT Tech taught you.
Nick: Exactly. That's where it all started. I was such a happy person until all that.
Danny: Were you at tournaments selling this app to people?
Nick: No. So first of all, I want to say for the name, if you've played Tekken for years, you'd know that chicken is like a little wink to the community. If you've been playing since Tekken 3, you'd know exactly why it's named Tekken Chicken or T7 Chicken. So I'm part of the community. I know how Tekken players think and talk about things. And I was also dropping it in a lot of Facebook groups, and there was also a big forum as well. And so through my friends, like my friends that I've met through tournaments, they would be using it, and they'd be promoting it and stuff. So it was natural how it took off. And there are other frame data apps out there, but they have the worst names like Frame Data, Buddy for Tekken, Frame Pal, or something. There are all these really boring names. And so because I had chicken in it, I felt like how cool would it be to have all the characters' art redone as chickens? You saw that in the app.
Danny: Yeah. I wasn't sure if you were worried about copyright or that was just a work of art.
Nick: So that's part of it, but it's also the name too. So for the art, you see there, more recently, it was somebody in Russia who did all that. They also love Tekken. And so it's all like a bunch of Tekken players. I have like three artists some volunteers to make videos out of the gifs. The gifs aren't working right now, and that's why people are mad at me.
Nick: But anyway, the point I think I'm trying to get at is it's a passion project to the fullest. And everyone loves Tekken, and I was initially upset by the quality of things. And it just took off naturally, and it really helps when you're truly part of the community you're making apps for, you know what I'm saying?
Danny: Right. I think there's something there that could really be a testament of when you're starting in tech, find that passion project. Take some time to notice what communities you're in and see what the community is lacking or needs or is wanting. For you to be like, "Oh, you know what? There's a huge competitive Tekken community. And I know about Tekken, and I want to learn the code, I guess. At this point, I'm going to try." So I think that was pretty cool.
Nick: Yeah, that was exactly it.
Danny: This also is interesting because when you talk about frame data, it shows the lack of knowledge I know about gaming because then I'll be talking sh*t to my friends or something and be like, "Oh, I'm good at this game," and I think I'm good at that. But then you dive deeper into competitive gaming, and it's like a whole another world.
Nick: Yeah, every game has its mechanics. And being fundamentally better than another player is how well you understand those mechanics and how well you can apply those mechanics in a match. And every competitive game has so many different things like fighting games have a lot of things in common actually. Like, there's the concept of the importance of poking and spacing in The Street Fighter; they call it footsies. And footsies exist in Tekken to an extent. And then you've got shooters where you need to consider leading your shots, bullet drop, and rate of fire, all these other things. There's understanding these mechanics, and then you have to learn about them. And I think at the time when I started, or long before I started, people were just picking up these fighting games and just mashing away and trying to kill each other.
Danny: Oh, yeah. Proud button masher right here. [laughs]
Nick: And you know what? I'm jealous of you because you can actually enjoy the game in a way that I never can. I've seen people pick up Tekken without knowing anything, and they're laughing and giggling. And I'm like, what is going on? Why don't I laugh and giggle while I play Tekken?
Danny: Yeah, this isn't supposed to be fun. This is a bad– [laughter]
Nick: Exactly. And who knows who it is or where it started? But somebody decided to look at these attacks, and they're wondering why is this person winning against that person? Oh, it's because this attack is faster than the other attack, or this character has better options than the other whatever. And then it comes down to the players themselves, like how well they can execute upon all that knowledge and stuff, so competitive gaming and eSports, in general, is just so deep. Super Smash Bros has their own whole entire thing of lingo. They don't even operate like other fighting games at all, and it's really deep. The beauty in it is when two people who have basically had the same amount of knowledge/experience throw all of that at each other, and it goes down to the wire. I go to the tournaments because it's so hype. It's like me and hundreds of other people watching two people duke it out with all of that knowledge and experience and stuff in it. And it just gets so intense and so hype.
Danny: I think when Smash came out, I was watching videos on YouTube of tournaments, and that was really my first exposure to it, and the energy was insane.
Nick: Oh yeah. It's the best.
Danny: The energy is insane because it's just two people just sitting there, and then there's a crowd of people behind them just going nuts. And then it gets all quiet and then an explosion of cheer.
Nick: And that right there, I'm grateful for that. I've been that person on the stage with hundreds behind me either booing me or cheering me on and thousands watching on stream at the same time. And I'm grateful for those experiences because those helped me. I used to be super nervous, and now I can handle it -- I'm really good with public speaking now and not letting my nerves get to me when in serious situations, you know what I mean?
Danny: Absolutely. So two more questions about Tekken, and then we can move on. But how many controllers have you broken, and then who do you play with normally?
Nick: So I have been a Feng main for over ten years, but recently with Tekken 7, I switched it up. I started using other characters like Geese. It's a very different game from the other Tekkens. They're trying to make it a lot easier to pick up, and so it makes it harder for the better player to win. But don't get me wrong, the better player still wins. So I picked up other characters to handle those that I felt were giving Feng trouble. As far as controllers, I have this curse where every single tournament I go to, I lose a controller, and I have to go buy one and come back before a match.
Nick: So I can't even count how many tournaments I've been to. It happens every time. The last tournament I went to was in Thailand, and that still happened. I had to go and find a GameStop in Thailand just to get a PS4 controller. [laughter]
Danny: That's hilarious.
Nick: And my fiancée went with me, actually. I proposed to her there, which was awesome.
Danny: Nice, congrats.
Nick: Thank you. I told her, "Listen, I have this weird curse. I always lose my controller when I go to tournaments. But hopefully that won't happen this time," and it still freaking happened. I asked her to run and buy it for me before my next match.
Danny: It's your arch-enemy, bro. They're breaking into your apartment or your hotel and stealing your controller.
Nick: I don't even know. It's like growing legs and running away or something. I can't even tell you where they are.
Danny: [laughs] That's hilarious. I play with King, but I'm a button masher.
Danny: I just like King because I think --
Nick: He's sick.
Danny: Yeah. The story of a wrestler that is from Mexico, I think, is dope.
Nick: Yeah, and he's got the best grabs in the game. He's got the rolling death cradle and all these other throws that everyone just starts screaming, and they lose their shit when they see him [17:01] in a tournament.
Danny: Oh yeah. Doesn't Paul have a super punch like that?
Nick: Death fist.
Danny: Death fist.
Nick: Yeah, we call it death fist.
Danny: I don't know anything. I just remember when Tekken Tag Tournament came out, my friends and I did not leave the house.
Nick: Yeah, it was such a great time. I'm waiting for another tag game if I had to be honest.
Danny: That would be fun. So you're currently still working with Resilient Coders. Can you tell us about that at all?
Nick: I'm not anymore. I'm still really part of them. I mentored for them for maybe four or five years. I joined for one year, and I'm still mentoring and stuff. So Resilient Coders, in my opinion, is the greatest bootcamp in the whole world. It's focused on getting Black and Brown people into tech jobs. They pay them to learn how to code. They don't owe anything after. And the placement, I haven't checked the numbers, but when I was working there, the average salary was like 90K. And the CEO takes a really different approach: what he does is he talks to employers and secures the jobs before classes even start. So I think that's a big difference between a lot of other bootcamps. Bootcamps are like, let's take all this technology and slam it into your head, and then you're off on your own. And you owe us, by the way. This is like, nope, you're going to have a secured job at the end of this. However, graduating is very hard. Students do get let go. It is a non-profit at the end of the day. And they can't afford to just be paying people that you don't think can actually get a job at the end.
Danny: So, how did you get involved with them? Did you just stumble upon it?
Nick: I wish I was a student. What happened was while I was trying to learn how to code -- So at this agency, my co-workers knew every single time we got a developer whose laptop was broken, my co-workers knew to let them go to me. And I was asking questions while I was opening up their laptops and stuff. I'm like, "So HTML, huh?" [chuckles] And everyone was just giving me advice and stuff. And one guy suggested that I go to General Assembly and do a part-time course. It was a 10-week course. And so I went there, and I ended up meeting Leon Noel who is actually phenomenal. He's running an online bootcamp. So he manages the curriculum at Resilient Coders, and he's running an online bootcamp right now to try to get 100 devs on Twitch hired, so definitely check out his stuff. He's really cool. But anyway, he was the first person to ever teach me code. And it wasn't really enough to get me a job, that part-time thing, but it was enough for me to learn more on my own.
Danny: What is the timeline for all this?
Nick: This was like five years ago.
Danny: From when you started learning to at this point finishing this part-time, is that a year or a year and a half?
Nick: No. Five years ago is when I went to the General Assembly, maybe five or six at this point. And the whole thing was like five years ago. And Leon ended up becoming the main instructor for Resilient Coders, and that's how I heard about Resilient Coders. And someone was like...I don't think it was him, but someone else told me, "Hey, Leon works there now, and maybe you should check it out. Maybe you can mentor." I wish I did that bootcamp. It took me two years to get my first developer job after that bootcamp, that mini bootcamp. And so I figured maybe I should start teaching how to code so that I can get better, and that's why I was involved with Resilient.
Danny: Did you have to work full-time during that while you were looking for a job?
Danny: That is super hard. That is really difficult.
Nick: Honestly, when I really sit back, this thought occurs to me like once a week. I'm sometimes just sitting there, and I'm like, I can't believe I stuck to trying to code that whole time. It was horrible. I was working a shit job with shit pay and shit managers that didn't respect me. I loved my co-workers, though. So that was the silver lining.
Danny: The co-workers always keep you there because it's like everyone hates the job, and everyone's like, "Yo, we don't care about this job right now. I don't care. Let's not do anything today." [laughter]
Nick: We were miserable, but we were miserable together. There's just something about that. I haven't felt that since, and there is a part of me that misses it. I would have never left if the pay was better, to be honest. So yeah, there's that whole thing. I had friends, this was in my early 20s, and my friends were always going out and clubbing and stuff. And I love all that stuff, but I put a hard stop. I'm like, "Listen; I need to learn how to code. I need to figure this out." And so I started saying "No," a lot to a lot of friends, a lot of events. It's not like they cut me off, but the relationships are nowhere near as strong as they used to be. So it was a lot of sacrifice. I was in this mode where all of my free time went to trying to figure out how to get better at coding, and my number one project to try to make it all happen was T7 Chicken Plus. The first iteration was Tekken Chicken, which got shut down because it had the name Tekken in it, and I had to switch it up to T7 and stuff like that. So it was just a lot of grinding, a lot of sacrifice of my personal time. Some of my relationships got weakened from it. And I felt dumb the whole time too. Coding makes you feel simultaneously really smart and really dumb at the same time.
Danny: I cannot tell you how much I agree with that. [laughs] It's like every day I'm like, wow, I'm a genius. And then, by the end of the day, I'm like, wow, what did I even learn today? What did I even do? I didn't even finish anything. This little page is complete, but it doesn't look good.
Nick: Exactly. And so imagine that but for two years on my own. Like, I didn't have any community. I did spend a lot of time online. I can't say I literally had no community; I joined Slack channels. I was trying to make up for the lack of interactions. Where I'm from, I didn't grow up around anyone who even knew or was interested in technology or anything like that. So it was just straight-up isolation. It was like a self-induced isolation scenario for me. And I was really hoping to just increase my salary so I could at least freaking do anything.
Danny: Live. [chuckles]
Nick: Yeah, I just want to live. I just want to live my life. I just want to be happy. Is that too much to ask for?
Danny: So I'm going to work on the computer late at night while my friends think I'm just going crazy.
Nick: And they understand. I recently was in a group chat with them, and I'm like, "Hey, I've been working hard." I still post on social media because that's what it's for, letting people know where you're at, what you're doing.
Danny: I think that's really admirable that you just stuck with it regardless, especially not having anyone in your community or family or background that really was interested in technology. Is that why you really wanted you to be an educator, like a mentor at Resilient Coders, to just guide people along your similar path?
Nick: That's a huge part of it. Every Resilient Coders bootcamper I've ever had the chance to talk to, I told them, "I'm doing this because I do not want y'all going through what I went through to get here." I think also it was a super weird time for me to learn how to code. This was like the days of Backbone, and Angular, Knockout; it was the framework wars. And I had just started pretty much learning how to code maybe five or six months before React came out, and that was like the Wild West as far as how things got done. So I think it was extra hard for me because I did not know what direction to go. Now you can point to React, and you can point to Vue, and there are a few other good ones out there. But there's a lot of dominating best practices, a lot of dominating technologies now that didn't exist when I was trying to learn, and so I think that really held me back as well. But I think at the same time; it's how I developed my grit to just go through things that suck to get where I want to be.
Danny: It can be very daunting when you are a beginner to know which path to even go down because there are the initial questions like, oh, do you want to learn back end or front end? Okay, you chose front end, but which framework? So it's really, really helpful to just even have one person to just guide you along the way. Like, "Hey, I'm going to just give you some tips on what I know. You can either go with Vue or go with React, but it's up to you."
Nick: So I didn't have any of that. I had this Slack channel that was probably the most helpful, and there were a couple of individuals that actually helped me the most. And my imposter syndrome was rearing its head because I named myself "terrible developer."
Nick: It was funny. It was really funny. We would always joke around. They were mean with their feedback on my code all the time, but it was a funny thing, like I'm a terrible developer. And then one time, one person saw a big improvement in my code, and they were like, "Let's upgrade you," and my new name was "inconvenient developer."
Nick: It was a great time; I'm not going to lie. It sounds sad and pathetic, but it was honestly a really great time. I still follow that community, and they follow me on Twitter and stuff. But yeah, it was rough. In the Resilient Coders bootcamp, I've seen people get their engineering jobs in less than six months, six months, or less, and that makes me really happy. And there are also students who graduate who have a very hard time getting their job after. Some of them don't get their jobs after the six months; it's like a whole year later or maybe a year and a half. And so those are the ones that I want to keep letting them know it took me two years to get here. And I think that helps them a lot because so far, I haven't seen a single student come out of there take more than two years unless they literally completely gave up. And I think two years is...I don't want to say it's like the stopping point because I'm sure there are people out there where it took even longer, but it's a pretty long time to just be suffering through something questioning your intelligence.
Danny: Absolutely. I think there's a lot to be said about this timeline that people think they need to have something accomplished by. I'm even telling my younger brother, who's about to finish high school, and he's not sure what to do next. And he doesn't really want to go to a university, is what he's telling me. And I'm like, "Hey, why don't you consider a bootcamp or something?" It's like, "You could be done in a year or six months. And even if it takes you two years to find that job, you'll still have a good-paying job, even before the time you would initially be done with university or something," and that could fit his lifestyle. It doesn't have to fit everyone's lifestyle, but it's an option. But I think there's this idea where it's like, oh, you need to have a good-paying job by the time you're 30 so you can start your life blah, blah, blah. It's like, it's not for everybody. It could be whatever timeline you want. I have friends who are 35, and they're like, "I'm thinking about doing a complete career change." Absolutely. Do it. Do whatever you want.
Nick: Yeah, go for it.
Danny: So Resilient Coders sounds really cool. And I love that you really want to help and focus on students who have a similar background. Your Twitter name is dayhaysoos spelled out. Is that because so many people have asked you how to spell it or spelled it wrong?
Nick: So many white people.
Nick: I be hearing like, I don't even know what.
Nick: DayJesus. Dayhuses. I've heard...I can't even keep track.
Danny: Bro, Ramos, R-A-M-O-S they're saying "Raymus." I'm like, "Raymus? What is Raymus?" [laughter]
Nick: So my Twitter handle is literally inspired by how often I have to tell white people how to pronounce my name.
Danny: But it's also weird because it's like, just ask. But people go confidently like, "Oh, so dayJesus, right?" You're like, "No. What?"
Nick: It's weird. I don't know what that is. I always ask people before I say their name. Sometimes I'll try to have fun if it's a really fancy name; I'll be like, "Hey, can I attempt to pronounce it real quick?" But outside of that, I'm always asking just because I don't even want to risk f*cking it up. It's a weird thing because once somebody says your name one way, they just run with it if you don't correct them from that point forward. So it's always awkward. It's always a thing like you get scared. You're like, oh my God, are they going to call me dayJesus for the rest of the day now because I didn't stop it when I could?
Danny: But it's also your identity. Like, this is who I am.
Nick: Yeah, that too.
Danny: Can you say my name right, please? [chuckles]
Nick: Yeah, that's the main problem. That's right. Say it correctly. Put some respect on my name. Here's my Twitter handle so you can't f*ck it up. [laughter]
Danny: I'm not even going to lie, man. Once I saw your last name on Brian's Top 8, I knew I wanted to get to know you because I'm so curious to know what the Latinx tech community is like because Black Tech Twitter is popping. You go on Twitter and to the hashtag, so many results. And then I go to Latinx tech Twitter, and I want there to be more, and it's things from January or November.
Nick: Oh my God.
Danny: I want more to be happening in the Latinx tech Twitter community.
Nick: I'm so sorry. I cannot speak on Latinx community because -- so I'm half Puerto Rican and I'm half Trini, and I grew up pretty much mostly with the Trini side. And so I should be speaking Spanish myself, but I don't. My dad speaks it fluently. He told me that I didn't look interested; I was like three years old or something.
Danny: [laughs] You didn't look interested.
Nick: I was so mad when he told me that. But there's definitely a big difference. And I do see events and stuff. If there's anything, South America has so many amazing developers, especially in Brazil. There's actually a really big community of Spanish speakers that aren't getting, it's so weird, any attention at all from the English speakers. If you look for YouTube videos on certain things with Node, it's really common, at least for me, to come across Spanish-speaking instructors online. And they got tons of views, tons of comments, lots of followers. I feel like it's mostly, as far as South America goes, it's a language barrier in a way that doesn't exist for, say, Black Tech Twitter.
Danny: Sure, sure.
Nick: You know what I'm saying?
Danny: Yeah, totally because I didn't even know there was such a huge development community in South America until I started working with Pachi. And she goes by PachiCodes on Twitch, huge following. And it's just like everyone is such a tight-knit group. It's really incredible to see on Twitch her comments in the chat just popping off just, so much Portuguese going on. [laughs] I was like, whoa, okay, this is amazing.
Nick: So I think that's what it literally is. I think it's there, but it's mostly a language barrier, in my opinion.
Danny: And I'm the same way. My mom was born in Mexico, but she didn't teach me Spanish. She was just like, "It was just me and you, and my roommates were..."
Nick: [laughs] It's just me and you.
Danny: Yeah. She was like, "It was just me, and you and my roommates were white, so I wasn't going to speak Spanish to you." And I was like, okay, well now I'm just a regular guy that doesn't -- [chuckles]
Nick: That makes me so sad. I have a random thing to share. I have a godfather who's French, I think, and so he speaks French. And he married a Spanish-speaking woman, and they're both white-passing. And they had these kids. He only spoke French, and the mother only spoke Spanish, and the kids learned English in school. And I'm like, that did so much for them. And that's why it hurt when my dad told me that I didn't look interested when I was three in learning Spanish. [laughter]
Danny: They're kids. They are only interested in four things: candy, TV, and being outside. [laughter]
Nick: Right. And so I just think that's really messed up to not pass that language stuff on. But it is what it is, too, right?
Nick: You're still part of the culture regardless.
Danny: Right. That is going to be my goal for this year. Everything I put on Twitter it's just going to be #latinxtechtwitter. [laughs] It would be the most random joke or something.
Nick: You got it.
Danny: I just want to see more happen there. Tell me more about your open source work. I saw that you had posted that Stripe sponsored one of your recent projects.
Nick: Yeah. So it's called use-shopping-cart, and it's a Hooks library for now. I'm actually making it framework agnostic, and it's in beta right now. I'm really hyped about that. But it's a Hooks library that handles all of your shopping cart state and logic. And it pretty much sets you up to go to Stripe's checkout. I've made it because I once -- when I was really into T7 Chicken Plus, I was like, okay, I got 30,000 users. These ads aren't getting me anything. It's time to have a swag store. I got chicken art; you know what I'm saying?
Danny: Oh yeah.
Nick: But I was so naive. I'm like, I'm a developer, so why don't I just roll my own e-commerce store? And it was one of the worst decisions I could have ever made. I hated it. I've made all these Gatsby templates and things. I thought that Gatsby was going to be the future for me in the e-commerce space or whatever. But it turns out no one really cared that much about the Gatsby stuff. They wanted the shopping cart logic. And so I took that logic out of that project and made it into a Hooks library. And yeah, it got some nice attention, and Stripe is sponsoring me for my efforts there. And I'm super grateful for that. It's so awesome. And I also have a bunch of other sponsors and stuff. So Resilient Coders is essentially like my last job. I've been an open-source maintainer this whole time. But I just recently signed an offer letter for Prismic like last week.
Danny: Oh, nice. Congrats. That's dope.
Nick: Thank you.
Danny: As an open-source maintainer, what would be some tips and tricks or just general advice you would give to people who are thinking about getting into open source or just one wanting to contribute more?
Nick: So this is my first open-source project ever, and I'm very new to being an open-source developer. So I still have a lot to learn myself. Just to take things even further back, if you have the desire to maintain an open-source library, I would focus on things that you actually find are problems. I found making shopping cart stuff, and I said, "I never want to do this again, so now I'm going to make this library," and now no one has to do it ever again. So with that same kind of energy, like, what is it that sucks for development for you? What do you want to make sure you never do again, and other people never have to do again? I would start there. If you can't think of something, join somebody else's project that tackles -- Or if you can't think of starting that library yourself, but someone else has, offer to open up issues or give suggestions or feedback or open pull requests, whatever. But I think you genuinely have to be interested in solving the problem.
Danny: It goes back to what you said, like finding that passion project. You wouldn't have gotten to T7 Chicken Plus if you didn't come across something that you were passionate about that was done incorrectly in your eyes.
Nick: Yeah, exactly. And I feel weird about saying, "Be passionate about things." I don't think passion is really a good way. I don't want to see that in my job description. When I'm looking up to work at a company, and they're like, "Be passionate about something," I'm like, no, pay me. I'm passionate about money.
Danny: There we go. Yes, because that's an easy way to be like -- especially at these previous jobs that we were talking about where everyone was miserable together. You'll hear this language where it's like, "We're all a family. We can do this together. Just be passionate about it. Go the extra mile." It's like, no, you just want me to work for free.
Nick: Yeah, exactly. No, get out of here. So I do feel weird saying, "Be passionate about whatever open-source library thing you want to do." But make sure that it's something that puts you through pain in a way. The pain for me was trying to make my own shopping cart. I had no idea how deep shopping carts went until I started that. So yeah, you want to actually solve your pain. That's how you're going to make the most valuable thing, and then just talk about it on Twitter. People will come through the whole #learninpublic #buildinpublic, all that crap. I'm always quoting this guy; every single podcast I ever do, I always quote Chris Biscardi. He said, "If you don't tell people what you're doing, everyone's going to assume you're not doing anything," you know what I'm saying?
Nick: So most of the time, and I think that's a big part of my success, I'm loud on Twitter. I'm always talking about what I'm doing, small or big. And a lot of those things have just literally led to opportunities for me. Like, I've gotten to do talks, I've gotten to do workshops. I just recently did one for Netlify. The sponsorship from Stripe, if I wasn't out here tweeting, I probably wouldn't have gotten that. So just tell people. You don't have to look at it as bragging or whatever. None of my tweets are like, "Hey, I just did this awesome thing. Come check it out (fire emojis)." I'm just like, "I'm building this," literally just telling people, "I'm building this. I'm working on this. I did that."
Danny: Right. I'm agreeing with you. My previous tweet was like, "Damn, I'm dope. I just did this." [laughter]
Nick: I mean, do that too.
Danny: That's more for hyping me up.
Nick: Yeah. Hype yourself up. Hype yourself up for sure. But I just said that for the people who are like, "Oh, well, I don't like bragging on social media." You don't have to brag.
Danny: But the way you're suggesting to do it, I think, is great because it also is you're writing down everything you do so, later on, you can look back because we could easily forget all the projects that we got into or different milestones that we accomplished. So even throwing it out on Twitter which is good for social media and to get recognition for it, it's also like you're documenting your progress.
Nick: Yeah, and I get that. Sometimes I tweet about stuff, maybe in my pinned tweet, too. My pinned tweet is like, "Oh my God, I'm getting sponsored by Stripe. Yay!" And you'll see some comments there where people are like, "Wow, I've been following this journey. It's been great". You never know. And these are people who've never told me that before. Like, I didn't know you were following my journey.
Danny: I'm like, "Dad, you're following me on Twitter?" [laughter]
Nick: Right? So you never know what kind of people you're going to be attracting and inspiring. And there are people doing cool stuff with my library right now. There's a taco stand in Canada that's powered by my library at the moment.
Danny: There we go. That's sick.
Nick: That kind of stuff is dope, and that's the stuff I would brag about.
Danny: Well, Nick, thank you so much. I don't want to take up too much of your time, but it's been really fun to talk with you. I'm definitely going to DM so we can be playing some Switch together.
Nick: Oh yeah. [laughter] You got Smash Bros?
Danny: Yeah, I've got Smash. I've been playing Resident Evil 2 Revelations.
Nick: Oh, nice.
Danny: And it's just too scary. I got to get back to Smash, where it's just nice and fun.
Nick: So I'm a person that can watch any horror movie. I actually think most horror movies are bad because they never make me scared. But when you give me a game, I can't do it. I bought Outlast a couple of years ago. You should look up Outlast. It's really, really, really scary. I tried playing for 10 minutes, and then I said, "Uh-uh," I shut it off, and I watched someone else play it on YouTube. [chuckles]
Danny: Bro, no, no, no. I don't want to play this. No, I can't even look at this right now.
Nick: [laughs] You don't get any weapons. All you have is a shitty camera with the night vision mode.
Danny: And that's how you see stuff, right?
Nick: That's the only way you can see things, and the battery dies all the time.
Danny: No, no, no.
Danny: See, I was playing Alien: Isolation, and I just turned it off. I was like, I'm not happy right now.
Nick: It's not fun. How do people enjoy scary games?
Danny: I don't know. Nick, it's been a pleasure talking with you. I appreciate you, man. I've learned a lot just by talking with you.
Danny: If anyone is thinking about getting into tech, what would you tell Nick six years ago? You just finished ITT Tech, and you're like, what do I do next?
Nick: Oh my God. That question is weird because, in a weird way, for me, I wouldn't change anything because I'm very happy with my life. I'm very happy with who I am. I'm very happy with what I've done; you know what I'm saying?
Nick: But I do, and I hate to say it, but I do think there's lots of value in really understanding the core languages first. Try to figure out how to enjoy doing those really shitty algorithm challenges on Codewars or something; get really comfortable with the language. The landscape of these technologies changes so much. It's not crazy to assume that React might be out of the picture 10 years from now, 5 or 10 years. So you want to focus on that core language. But you also want to learn how you learn. Focus on the learning aspect first, and that's the Resilient Coders approach. You spend the first couple of weeks learning how you learn and learning about all the different learning styles and what works best for you. And then you get thrown into all the language and technology, stuff like that. So I think it would be those two things. I think that's why it took me two years to learn how to code because I didn't properly figure out what I do best to learn, and so I was all over the place. I just kept doing things, you know?
Danny: Yeah. Nope, this is wrong. Let's try it again. No, this is wrong. Let's try again.
Nick: Exactly. It wasn't very intentional learning.
Danny: Sweet, Nick. Well, I appreciate it, man. Thank you so much. Thank you, everyone. This has been another episode of Launchies. This should be out in a couple of weeks.
Danny: But if you're listening to this now, be sure to sign up for FutureStack. FutureStack is going to be a free conference for anyone who's trying to level up in the observability world. You can find more information at newrelic.com/futurestack. I'm giving my first tech talk there.
Nick: Oh, nice.
Danny: So I'm freaking out about that, but hopefully, it goes well. But if it doesn't, [laughs] I just got to learn my different learning style for that.
Nick: Yeah. You got to practice. I do a lot of practicing just in the mirror and stuff like that, you know?
Danny: Oh, absolutely. If it doesn't go well, I'm just going to end it with standup comedy.
Nick: Oh, perfect. And then it's just a new career path right there.
Danny: Yeah. [laughter] All right, man. I appreciate you.
Jonan: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of the rest of The Relicans podcasts on therelicans.com. In fact, most anything The Relicans get up to online will be on that site. You'll also find news there of FutureStack, our upcoming conference here at New Relic. We would love to have you join us. We'll see you next week. Take care.