In this episode, Wesley Faulkner, Developer Relations at Daily, talks about ethical networking by sharing your whole self and going beyond transactional relationships, i.e. what your job is, what your role is, and how those relate to each other.
Wesley also says that the people who are extremely good at what they do aren't as good as what you may perceive and that when you're getting started in programming, you're not as bad as you think. Don't be too rough on yourself and don't think that people are perfect. Mistakes are what make us. Keep trying. Keep moving. No matter where you go, you're going to end up where you need to be.
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Jonan Scheffler: Hello and welcome back to Observy McObservface, the observability podcast we let the internet name and got exactly what we deserve. My name is Jonan. I’m on the developer relations team here at New Relic, and I will be back every week with a new guest and the latest in observability news and trends. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to hear me cover on this show, or perhaps a guest you would like to hear from, maybe you would like to appear as a guest yourself, please reach out. My email address is email@example.com. You can also find me on Twitter as thejonanshow. We are here to give the people what they want. This is the people’s observability podcast. Thank you so much for joining us. Enjoy the show.
I am joined today by Wesley Faulkner. How are you today, Wesley?
Wesley Faulkner: I’m doing well, as well as I can be.
Jonan: We’re all doing the best we can. Today, Wesley and I are going to report a podcast about some things where we pretend that there is no outside world. It's just us here talking about nerd stuff and/or conferences and community. Does that sound good to you?
Wesley: Absolutely, let's do that.
Jonan: So you should actually tell our listeners who you are and what you've been up to lately. Maybe many of them, I'm sure, have not heard of you.
Wesley: Yes. My name is Wesley Faulkner. @wesley83 on Twitter. I’m currently a developer advocate for a company called Daily. You can find us at daily.co. I'm a developer advocate and have been one for many companies, most formerly MongoDB and then, before that, IBM. But I've been in the tech space for over two decades. Before I was the developer advocate, I did marketing and social media marketing for about ten years, and before that, I had various roles at Dell and AMD. At AMD, I was a product development engineer, and my last role at Dell was I was a regional support person for Dell EMC Fibre Channel Storage.
Jonan: It's a fiber channel storage?
Wesley: Yes. Cables are slow. Glass is faster.
Jonan: It is way faster.
Wesley: Yep, shooting light is a lot faster.
Jonan: I was trying to explain to my son recently how valuable fiber optic was for internet speeds, and I was like, “I don't know, they use, like, lasers and stuff. It's the speed of light. It’s faster than electricity.”
Wesley: Yeah. Fiber channel storage, Dell EMC storage arrays, or at the time, it was Clarion that I worked on specifically if you know fiber channel storage. Fiber is actually spelled differently than the fiber that is the light because it's a protocol, not just the medium.
Wesley: But what you would have is computers, they're called compute units basically, and each compute unit would connect to a hard drive, and you would have at least two compute units. So if a compute unit died, you're still connected to the hard drive through an alternate channel, and it would be in this rack, and then you would have the fiber channel cables. The light would go to the server across the room, or in the next rack over, or above it in the stack, and so this hard drive would be in this system, and then it's almost like a buffet.
So you would just go into the system and choose how much hard drive space you want in the array, and you would connect that to your computer, and if you need more, you just change a couple of settings, and then you allow it to have more storage. It's super-fast, and since all the IO is on another computer, you don't have to worry about that overhead with reads and writes on your server.
Jonan: You have it traveling at the speed of light, so it's as though you had this hard drive plugged right into your system.
Jonan: Faster than at the time what was not a SCSI cable, but maybe SCSI 3 or 9? I don't know, I lost track of hardware a time ago when I stopped building my own PCs, but I remember how complex this world is.
I'm very interested about this networking angle in a different context, actually, because you and I had a conversation one time about—one time I say as though it was not just now.
Clearly, we both know it was just now, and the listeners know it was just now. But we had a conversation earlier, before the show started, about networking, which I had described to me very early on in my career by my friend, Davy Stevenson, as something I should call making friends instead to give myself the right perspective, and I know for a fact that you have some thoughts on this. So maybe we could talk a little bit about that if you're down.
Wesley: Yes. I think the biggest part of understanding how important it is or why it's important to do is because humans, generally speaking, love to connect to each other, and actually, the networking that people are taught is antithetical to the human nature of it being purely transactional. We do want to connect. We do want to have a deeper understanding of the person that we're dealing with, and so, the transactional nature of networking that we learn is actually not very natural. You're skipping several steps when you say, “Hey, I want you to help me.” That transactional “I'll give you money,” or “I'll do this in return” is something that's because of its artificial nature. It's not built to last; it breaks down really easily.
So if you want to have real connections with people, you have to be able to connect with them and try to allow them to share their whole self and yourself and those are the connections that go beyond what my job is and what your role is and how those relate it to each other.
Jonan: This idea that we want to connect to each other seems pretty obvious, right? The tribal nature of humanity; we want to be part of a group, we want to have people around us, and yet, so many of us so often say things like, “I don't care about that. I don't care about those people or what people think of me,” but of course, you care. You're a human being. You may have decided that this person's opinion is not useful or valuable, or may, in fact, be toxic in your life, and you just remove their input. But saying that you don't care or you don't need that human connection just really doesn't make sense from the context of human evolution. Of course, you do. Of course, you always have, and we need it today, maybe more than ever.
But that piece that you were talking about, the transactional piece, I want to hear more about that because I get that in professional networking, it often is very transactional. I agree with you that those relationships don't very often last, and I'm not saying that's not okay with me. I mean, if you want to reach out because I can help you with something professionally and it's just a one-time deal, I'm likely to help you—I'm a pretty friendly person—but I'm not likely to become your friend long-term or really care about your well-being or form that connection like you're saying. So what advice do you have for people to move past that, I guess?
Wesley: One of the examples or how I start off about why it's so important is just a simple exercise of, if you just go to your phone and look through your pictures and look through like your recent calls or your recent texts, and think about the people that you see and how you feel when you think of their names, see their faces in your head, and then you scroll through your list on LinkedIn and realizing that you might have not the same warmth, then you can understand that inclination of having connection and real connection and why it's important.
If you are able to find people on LinkedIn that you say, “Oh, I haven't talked to them in a while. I miss them,” you're more inclined to talk to them. That's an exercise that I start off with in one of the talks I used to give about how to get over the awkwardness of networking but also, there's two ways of looking at it in transactional nature and how it could hurt you.
If you are individual contributor and someone else is a manager at another company, and you want to work for them, if you approach them and say, “Hey, I would love to work with you. I would love for you to hire me,” that is starting up an evaluation phase. You're looking at me, and I'm looking at you and seeing if we can fit. If it's not a fit, it's okay. You’re done. If we start off more of a chummy “Let's talk, let's see how we're doing, how you're doing, how we work together,” you're able to relate to the person on a deeper level to the point where you can see beyond just the skillsets that are written down on a resume, but more of a can I work with this person? Will this person work well with me?
That's just one example, but let's say further down the road, we don't end up working with each other, and roles are reversed. I get promoted in my current company, and the person gets demoted, and they are an IC.
Now, if it was fully transactional and you were only interested in the person because of the difference between what you think they could have given you before, when that person reaches back out to you saying, “Hey, I would love to work for you now, we did talk.” You're like, “Eh. I don't know. You can't help me anymore.” That relationship is just dead, and you just not just lost the connection with that person, but that person might feel disheartened like, “Hey, I thought we had an agreement. You help me. I help you. It didn't work out, but I thought it would work the other way.” So the language itself becomes awkward.
But if you did the other type of networking where you had a deeper connection and that person reached out to you like, “Hey, we do work well together,” and that doesn't change the relationship, that nature.
If you think about that scenario in one, you're gaining people in your network; in the other, you'll lose them occasionally based on their relative position to where you are, and so just pure definition, you're going to have a smaller network if it's purely transactional rather than having a deeper connection and it changes context.
A friend of mine, she was doing social media. She had a whole bunch of friends in social media. It's all more like, “Oh, are you on Twitter or are you on Facebook?” marketing stuff, and she decided to start her own business making scented candles, like a totally big shift. She lost tons of “friends” because she didn't work for this big social media company anymore. She’s now her own entrepreneur.
But our connection, because it was deeper level not just what she did or the position she had for the company she was with, it was more like we connected as people and then we are still connected. Just because her position changed, it wasn't because she was of use to me or she could help me, it’s more because she's an amazing person, she has great ideas, and it does translate into her current job, which is running a company, and she's extremely successful. But all those people from that other world don't know this new person or this person in this new role because they felt it wasn't worth it for them.
Jonan: This is a really interesting point to make about networking, this exploitative aspect. Honestly, actually, I very often respond to LinkedIn invites when I click that little connect button with someone, I will reply like, “Thank you for connecting on LinkedIn. I look forward to exploiting our friendship for mutual professional gain.”
I think I'm very funny and it's true that you sometimes will find yourself in a situation where you are a friend with someone, and then you become coworkers.
But it's also true for me, certainly, that many of the people I work with professionally, I become very close with like, some of my best friends in the world, I started out as coworkers with. So we do start on either side of this equation, and we move back and forth in this fluid way. That unnatural aspect of it, then do you think that we get used to it, I guess, is where I'm going with this? Do you think that people, if they handle their professional friendships industry transactional way, they get used to it and they maybe forget or become less skilled at actual human connection?
Wesley: Yes. I can tell you from people who I've met, like salespeople, especially when they're like trying to chase the next sale, that they feel like they're always sizing up the person they're talking to, and it's to their detriment. I'll give you another example.
I, until recent events, used to go every year to South by Southwest. Huge convention, thousands of people go to this event, and I met this guy who was starting like, he was an entrepreneur or a hustler at the time, he was meeting people. My badge just had my name on it, I don't think it had the company even, and he did the thing where he shook my hand, then looked down at my badge, evaluated who I was, and then immediately moved on to the next person.
Then a celebrity came in, saw me, came straight to me, then we hugged, and then he's like, “Oh, I didn't know you knew each other,” and then he tried to be chummy again. I'm like, “No, I'm not. I understand where you're coming from. It’s not worth it because it feels fake.”
That is his handicap in terms of having that built into his psyche to always evaluate people, which makes it harder because if he deemed you not worthy, then he doesn't put in the work, or she, or the person. So it's to your detriment to always size people up because that disregards their future potential, like, what if they then become someone huge or someone, then you want to be their friend? It doesn't work.
I know if I met someone – like I teach a couple of skills of how to level relationships so if I met Oprah, it's hard to have a conversation with Oprah because her life is so much different than yours, but I have some tips on how to get over that.
But if you're able to level the conversation, so you're not thinking of, you're way ahead of me, you're so successful, and I aspire to be you, and be two people just having a conversation, it allows you to connect in a way that is deeper and not cliché
Wesley: Right? I think people who fall into “tell me what you do” opening salvo in terms of the conversation those conversations never get past. But if you could connect on you’re a human, I’m a human and how do we link and relate, then it makes it easier to connect and those connections work with doesn't matter if you're a celebrity or a person who works at a fast-food company.
Jonan: It always feels a little bit yucky to me to talk in this way, this networking thing where you're like, “Well, I mean, they may not offer much value today, but someday they will offer value to you professionally,” or this evaluation people do when they meet each other, “Oh, Hey, I am Mr. Vanderbilt, who are you?” and they're evaluating your last name and they want to know, what do you do, where did you go to school?
I experienced this a lot more on the East Coast, and I have, over the years, gotten used to the idea that this is just a difference between the way that the West Coast people interact with each other. If you come and meet someone in Portland, they're much more likely to ask you if you snowboard or something as the first question, or what have you been up, what do you do is probably sprinkled in there just because people are curious—it's such a big part of our lives. But it's not about this, what value you can offer to me, or it doesn't feel the same way. I'm not suggesting that this doesn't exist in equal portion on both coasts. It’s just a very different communication style.
Similarly, something that has helped me think about this breaking down of relationships and really analyzing how communities grow and how friendship groups grow has been working in software because we work with so many neurodiverse folks here, and that actually is really valuable. It was this great show I was watching about people who were dating and being taught how to date.
Wesley: Oh, yes!
Jonan: I forget the name of the show, but it was –
Wesley: Love on the spectrum or something like that.
Jonan: Yeah. Love on the Spectrum, and they break it down for people because some people have a hard time understanding those things like, now what went wrong in this conversation? You were on a half-hour date, and you only spoke; it was you talking the whole time. What can we do to improve that situation?
Breaking this down is not only valuable for many of our peers from that perspective, but I think it's a good way for us to break the habits we fall into professionally. We were talking about getting used to it, shaking that mold up, and thinking about how and why we formed the relationships. It’s not harmful necessarily in and of itself to talk about things this way.
I think that it leaves out this very important, unfortunately, kind of a femoral piece. That is, are you here to meet humans before you die or to make money and I choose the former, and I always have, so this has come naturally to me, but it doesn't come as to some people. Do you think that we, as an industry, are improving on the whole in tech because I'm not sure I see it?
Wesley: I feel that we're moving closer to it in terms of at least awareness, so it's not a total alien concept. Before, you would hear that basically, answers for certain things are binary. Yes, no; it does this, it doesn't do that.
In the developer advocate space, when someone says, “Will your application connect to a mobile phone? Can you connect to video calls when on desktop, when on mobile? Will that work?” The answer is: “Depends.” It all depends; it always depends. But if you're going to say, “Yeah, it should work,” and then that's very dismissive, but if you realize that there are people and this is a real situation, you try to connect a little bit deeper, saying, “Well, most modern browsers, whether it's on a desktop or on a mobile will work, but please tell me more about your situation. What are you trying to fix, or what problems are you running into?” That is a more empathetic response because you're more interested in helping the person instead of getting rid of the issue.
So that's the difference between transactional like, “I'll just give you the answer,” you ask, I give and more of a relationship, “Tell me more, let’s actually get to know your problem or your issue.”
In tech, I think, especially in artificial intelligence, we talk about ethics, that's coming up a lot, and how interests and how it's important to understand, in context, what things matter. I see more articles written on the differences, like diversity inclusion and how it matters. Like those oxygen sensors you would put on your fingers to tell your saturation and how darker pigments don't work as well and give you some error—not error, but there's a margin of error for the readings. I think that shows that it's being more inclusive and not just saying, “Well, this is our control, and everything else should match that.”
I think understanding the nuance between and the differences of people is something that is now being seen and observed, and people are trying to – some are understanding, at least from the beginning, that it should be done. It's almost like unit tests. Yeah, that'd be nice to do for everything, but you don't necessarily can do it, but at least being aware of it, I think, is something that is, in terms of recent history, less alien.
Jonan: I think that makes sense. I think you're giving me more hope than I had coming into this conversation for the industry, because you're right, that there is something to that. It's frustrating that we are not acting as much as we are becoming aware and paying lip service, too—much like we do with unit tests—but we have to walk that path. There's progress that is being made.
I think about a lot of the issues that tech has as having evolved from this environment where there's a lot of smart people working really hard on technology, and they were there because they were 24-hour a day developers. They were all in on tech all the time. That was what wanted to do with their time, what they wanted to talk about, so as you can imagine, binary thinking came very naturally to them. Things like this meritocracy, this tech over people approach.
In fact, I was thinking just now that this observability podcast, we should talk about observability right now so that our observability listeners, they're not disappointed because they came here for deep technical observability content. So I want to point out very briefly that we are observing humans, and observing and understanding and understanding better how to communicate with humans will serve you far better in your career, over the course of your career, than any conversation you ever have about observability. I will stand by that statement until I die.
Jonan: Tech is about people, fundamentally.
Wesley: I agree with you, and also, the structure of the company and the people in it also translate to the products that is being produced.
Wesley: So if that's not there in the company, it also is very reflective that it's not there in the product.
Jonan: We have at our companies, these conversations about D&I all the time, and more recently, in the last couple of years, I've been hearing that come up in meetings. I've been hearing people say, “Well, did you read about that example of the AI that didn't recognize anyone who wasn't white?” or the example, the oxygen sensor, and people will go and then use that data to train other AIs or to talk about did you know that people of color on average have very low oxygen levels? [chuckles] Right?
Jonan: Though they don't! No, that's not true, but we end up trapping ourselves almost in this local maximum problem where we find ourselves painted into a corner, more or less. Your perspective there, it gives me hope that we are making progress because we're talking about it more, as frustrating as it is.
This actually brings me to another question for you. Back to the networking thing a little bit, because I feel like I live my life online and my life and my work pretty much just as me. I try not to make the same kind of fart jokes I make with my kids on my Twitter, but actually, I kind of do. I don't really have a disconnect, like a lot of people do, with certain professional boundaries, and I think that's healthy. I think that it helps us make tech approachable. I think that it makes people more authentic, and I also know that I come from a tremendous place of privilege to be able to say that, that I don't have to worry about code-switching.
For example, in my country of origin, boy humanity just kind of works. I'm pretty friendly. I'm not super hard to get along with. I don't appear to people as a threat just based on where I grew up or how I speak. A lot of people don't have that, and well, it makes me sad, sure. But in the context of professional networking, I think it's important, first of all, to have those boundaries and to be aware of how people will perceive you, and you may just say, “Hey, that’s bullshit. I don't care.” But you don't have the option a lot of times, and it can over time impact your career.
Wesley: Yes. I'm going to try to weave two things into one, so please bear with me.
My company that I work for, Daily, it's amazing. In terms of company culture, I can be my whole self there; I can express myself, and they accept me for all parts of me, and I feel like I can be extremely transparent and open, and that allows for really great conversations.
But for every Daily, there's a Coinbase where they say that it won't be political, we won't take a stand on anything, and we're just going to focus on the tech. For a person who is vulnerable or marginalized, and you still need a paycheck, you probably could still be at a Coinbase where you have to mute yourself and make sure that you don't bring all of you to work, just the part that works on code. When that occurs, when you're muting yourself, and you're not fully participating, that’s a certain kind of mental burden that you're enduring while you're at that company—I'm getting to the point, so it's taking a long way.
Jonan: No, you're killing it.
Wesley: Eventually, you'll burn out because you are trying to deny yourself, and you'll burn out because one, you can't express how you actually feel, you have to hold that back, and two, you might feel a lot of the more input on the other side where people are the opposite point of view, but you can't express yourself so that you might be taking in negative input. It increases your self-loathing or shame about your feelings in knowing that you can’t express them. So you will eventually either burn out faster, your performance will tank, or you might just leave the industry totally.
So what I'm trying to say is if you're able to show your whole self and bring your whole self, and then someone comes in and acknowledges that they want you, you're not doing it under the pretense of this alter ego that they want. They are able to accept you as you are. I know not every person is able to do that, but it's better to put that on there and saying, “This is who I am,” and then be accepted instead of conforming and then burning out or realizing that your muted state is still not good enough, which would also be very devastating.
Jonan: I haven't considered it from this perspective before, and I want to try and explain what I heard just to make sure I'm understanding, that we start out every day with a bucket of care to give to the world. There's a spoons analogy that someone has used.
There was a person who gave an explanation of living with chronic illness and how they handed their friends some spoons, “Here's your ten spoons.” They were in a restaurant, and they collected the spoons, and she says, “Okay, so what are you going to do today?” “Well, I'm going to get up and shower,” and they take two spoons away. “And then I'm going to make myself some breakfast,” and they take two spoons away, and then work starts, and you're holding two spoons left, and then you get halfway through your day, and then you're out of spoons.
So now, it’s led to a place where people occasionally say, “I don't have the spoons for that,” or “I'm out of spoons today” to express that feeling of this motivation having been drained, and it's a very finite resource. There’s a lot of research around this, demonstrating that while can grow our pool, we can increase our bucket size slowly over the years. It’s a finite resource.
You wake up in the morning and thinking, or cloaking, hiding who you naturally are in the workplace. I don't need to make it sound like it's a big thing. Many people can get through their whole work life without talking much politics at work, and that's fine. I think that from a board member's perspective, I can understand why that's what I would want a company to focus on. “Well, how about you do the business stuff, where you put the money in my pocket, and then we can all have our feelings privately, and you can be a human outside of work, but in this system, you're a cog.”
I don't know. I’m taking the analogy too far, I guess, is what I'm saying to make the point that there is some bit of empathy that I can have for that argument. Because I like getting a check, and if I were running the company, I would feel some measure of responsibility to make sure that the people who work for me and their families continue getting a check. I get that. However, you are doing yourself harm as a company when you take that stance, even from that perspective. Let's take the humanity entirely out of the equation. All people are cogs; they are human resources. To an extreme, the cogs in your machine move slower, perform worse company makes less money because you are not allowing them the opportunity to be their whole selves at work, because they're spending spoons not being that.
Wesley: Yeah, and then knowledge economy, when you're paying for brains, and you're paying for thought, do you want to get 60% of that because 40% is worried about how you're presenting or what you're trying to hide? That mental overhead is sapping the productivity of your knowledge work.
Jonan: This is, I think, why smart teams pay such close attention to mental health. I haven't seen this as an organization very often, but certainly, on a manager level. I've met many managers, over the years, who have a real focus on this, and they say, “Hey, if you” – I do this with my team.
We check in every day, we put an emoji in the chat to indicate our mental state, and it's not an opportunity for you to go to your coworker and say, “Oh, what's wrong? Why is it a sad face today?” It's just so you have a measure like you're reading a barometer okay, I get it. They're not having a great day, maybe don't budget a lot of extra meetings for them or assign a bunch of tasks today. Just let them swim today. Maybe just keep swimming is the assignment for this person today.
Having that context in smaller groups is easier, I think. When you get into a larger group, let's say you're in a company now of like you were in a startup, and everyone was friends and everyone talked about whatever they wanted, but now there are 500 people. There are going to be people who disagree with you, and I'm not talking – I have a very fundamental rule that you can't say you can't play. We all learned this in kindergarten. You can't just kick people out of the sandbox of life. You can't decide that another person can't exist, or shouldn't exist, or isn't valid on any level.
But beyond that rule, there are still reasonable disagreements, “I think the government should spend more money helping people not die of preventable illness.” Some people disagree with me, right? That's okay. We can disagree, but we're going to find that as the company grows.
So I guess what I'm getting at is maybe it makes sense, for a start, to address these at home. To bring it up with your manager and talk on smaller teams about being your whole self and find places where you can be your whole self, at least in your local environment with the people you most often interact with. But I'm not sold on my own idea here because leadership means something. It means something.
The reason Uber turned out to be what Uber was and is because of who started Uber and ran it the way they did. That culture comes down the pipe. So I'm not sold on that, but what do you think about it? Maybe it's okay for us to be human on our small teams and as larger teams to be cogs.
Wesley: I think the issue wasn't at Uber, a difference of opinion. It was ethical behavior, and you could have different approaches and have different opinions on something, but understanding how people should be cared for, I think, is a big cornerstone of people being their whole selves. Like for instance, like that retort, “I'm just being honest,” and then they're saying something extremely rude. You can express that same thing in a non-rude manner and still be able to be yourself and share your opinion.
I think the caring for others and having the graciousness to know that you might be wrong or that you could hurt, harm somebody, if you have that in conjunction with being your whole self, then I think that you can disagree in a very respectful manner. It's the, “I'm going to be myself. Screw all of you.” [chuckles]
Wesley: “If you don't think like me,” that is the toxic behavior that doesn't work in large organizations. You can scale, and it's actually seen that when we talked about reading a book about empathy and caring for people, if you're a negative person like, “Oh, that person's an idiot, they never understand what I'm saying.” That thought is hard to maintain. It really can draw on your soul. But if your thought is, “Wow, they have problems with understanding me. I really feel for them. I should try better to make sure that they can really understand.” That caring nature is sustainable, it won't tear you down, and so, when you are able to care for people, it lasts way longer than taking the person out of the equation and centering yourself.
So it's actually more sustainable from a mental standpoint. Like literally, your brain cannot maintain that hate for too long without causing damage as opposed to caring, that goes so much longer. For instance, I think they brain scanned some monks, and they said, “Think all these bad thoughts as long as you could,” and I think it was max an hour. But when you think about the people that they could help and how they can help them, that lasted for the whole session that they were it testing for.
So to your point, leadership matters. Leadership, when it's negative, is not sustainable, and it'll set you back in terms of R&D years, if not months. I mean months, if not years if the person is not dealing with someone who is empathetic in a way that is caring for other people. Because you'll lose that person or that brainpower either way like, the person will burn out and leave the company, and it'll be that much harder to replace, and of course, that's money, too to bring someone, to try to get them up to speed and get them trained up, and then to be a useful member of the team. That type of turnover wastes tons of time and money.
Jonan: This inclination that we have, I've been thinking a lot about lately to disconnect the behaviors or to allow the behaviors to inform what we know about a human. If I see someone or I catch someone on a bad day, I introduce myself to someone after they've just received some bad news, and they're a little short with me, and they walk away, then my head spins for a while, right? Do they dislike me? Did I do something wrong? Why is it that this failed? It's all internalized, which makes sense because I view the entire world through the perspective of my perception. I get that.
But we have a real tendency, I think, to do this pattern recognition thing, that humans are so good at, where we try and classify people—“Well, that person is just kind of surly,” or “That person is this”—without remembering to disconnect the behavior from who the person is and provide context.
My wife is excellent at this. Much to my chagrin, she will defend strangers in traffic when they cut me off. I will say, “Objectively speaking, that person is a jerk. You saw how they were driving. They were a jerk. They should feel bad. They are bad, and they should feel bad,” and my wife will say, “What if they are on the way to the hospital because one of their family members is sick?”
I don't do that as easily in traffic as I do it in personal relationships. I get the ebb and flow, and I definitely will internalize that. But it's a very important point to remember, I think, to disconnect those interactions from who we are as people, and you're right that leadership does matter in this context. I think that what it comes down to is self-awareness and trying to improve. We all have a road to walk, and that's the whole point. We are all trying to get through it.
Jonan: You have to shift your perspective. There is another example that was similar to yours where a guy is sitting across from another guy, and the kids of the person across is running up and down the subway. They're sitting on the subway, and the kids are like running up and down the subway, and the person's thinking, “Gosh, why can't he control his kids? Why is he letting them disturb everyone on this train? Why can't he just tell him to sit down?” And the father on the bench across leans over saying, “I'm sorry about my kids. Their Mom died today, and I haven't found the courage to tell them,” and the person who was sitting with that anger is now like, “Oh gosh, that's horrible.”
So the situation itself didn't change, but it's just the thought and the context that allows someone to make that switch,
Jonan: And this is like, you have this visceral reaction, you can feel it in your throat. I just said out loud, “That's hard,” like obviously, it would be hard, yes, to be headed home from the hospital when your wife died with the kids going crazy. But it's this gut reaction that you feel when you hear that turn in the story and trying to find that and explore it in our personal and our professional relationships, I think is really valuable. I think that's how we continue driving the progress that we're starting to see, hopefully even though it's early days.
There are a lot of conversations that came up this year that are super important for the future of humanity and can go one way or another. I'm deriving what hope I have left for this year, after last year closed, from the idea that that progress is sometimes painful, but in this case, long overdue and hopefully, welcomed by society so.
Wesley: There was a person that was discovered in a forest, I think in the Amazonian forest. He was by himself and didn't know the language, could not speak, never understood language, and then they taught him English, I think, and showed him what objects meant what in relation to things. They did an interview and said, “When you were back in the forest, what kind of stuff did you dream of? What did you think about?” and he said, “Nothing, absolutely nothing. It was just void.”
So the absence of language means an absent of thought, and I think in tech space, now that we're starting to develop the language of empathy, vulnerability, and caring for our fellow humans and now that we have the language, the thought is there, and the thought will hopefully permeate more people.
Jonan: There's reason for hope. I do want to point out for our listeners who are not viewers, unfortunately, and cannot see your shirt that you posted on Twitter, a picture of yourself in a new shirt, and you said, “New shirt ready for podcast,” which I thought was hilarious because no one sees the shirt on a podcast. But now you're wearing a different shirt today that I will describe for our viewers. It is a dumpster burning, and it says 2020 on it. It's a nice souvenir from the year we just survived that is hopefully just leaking over a little bit into the next year, but I am finding reasons to be hopeful today, and I thank you for that. Thank you for coming on the show.
So if you had some parting thoughts for people about how they can level up as developers, maybe people who are early on in their careers, just a thought or two for people who are just starting out here, or maybe even yourself, when you first got here. What would you tell young Wesley?
Wesley: I would say that the people who are extremely good at what they do aren't as good as what you perceive, and when you're getting started, you're not as bad as you think. So don't be too rough on yourself and don't think that the people are perfect. Mistakes is what makes us and keep trying, keep moving. No matter where you go, you're going to be right where you need to be, and if you just keep moving, you'll get to the end somewhere sometime. So don't stop. Just keep going.
Jonan: Thank you, Wesley. It has been an absolute pleasure. I really appreciate you coming on the show. Take care of yourself.
Wesley: Thanks for having me.
Jonan: Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Observy McObservface. This podcast is available on Spotify and iTunes, and wherever fine podcasts are sold. Please remember to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. If you have an idea for a topic or a guest you would like to hear on the show, please reach out to me. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on Twitter as @thejonanshow. The show notes for today’s episode, along with many other lovely nerdy things, are available on developer.newrelic.com. Stop by and check it out. Thank you so much. Have a great day.