Elyse also talks about living and working between the United States and Mexico, researching opportunities and taking advantage of them for free or cheap, and then using her vast research skills and web development knowledge and turning NewsIn.IT into a business she shares with the world.
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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.
Pachi Parra: Hello and welcome to Launchies podcast, a podcast for newbies, developers with non-traditional backgrounds, and career-switchers. And I'm Pachi, a developer in New Relic's DevRel team, and I'm going to be your host for today. And you can find me all over the internet as pachicodes. And today, we have here with us as our guest, Elyse Robinson, and she's the founder of NewsIn.IT and a cloud developer. She lives in Mexico and loves helping people to get into tech. And I love it. Thank you so much for being here. Welcome, Elyse.
Elyse Robinson: Thank you for having me.
Pachi: It's great to have you here. So can you start talking to us about how you got started in tech? How was your journey to where you are today?
Elyse: I started when I was ten years old.
So I learned about the cloud. And so, I built a podcast and an email service on AWS. And so Mexico is a Third World country. And so, I had the idea of bringing them into the 21st century and creating websites and databases for them in the background. I focused on real estate companies, so databases are definitely needed for the properties. And then COVID hit, and I realized Mexico is not handling COVID very well, so I need to come back home. And so you're stuck in the house; I was literally stuck in the house in Mexico. There were no flights and everything like that. So I was like, well, maybe I should do what my first love was, it was programming and stuff. And so I started learning more about Python, and I was like, I actually like this, so I think I'm going to come back to the States and pursue my career in IT finally. And I am now a cloud engineer; I design cloud systems. So yeah, I guess that's my story. [laughs]
Pachi: That's really interesting to hear that you started so early, and then you learned all of those things, then you stopped, and after years, you got back. In the end, you felt like tech called you back. [laughs]
Elyse: Yeah, yeah. So if it wasn't for COVID, I guess I would still be in Mexico to an extent, but yeah.
Pachi: How long has it been since you came back from Mexico?
Elyse: I came back in December, December of last year because, yeah, there were no flights.
Pachi: That's tough. I'm from Brazil. My entire family is there. So, yes, definitely COVID made things weird.
Elyse: Yeah. But no, I came back because my sister was on a COVID contract. I literally thought I was going to stay in Mexico, and it might have gotten better by then. But my sister took a COVID contract, so I had come back to help out with my nephew and my father. And then I got the IT job, and then I was like, well, I'll just stay because, I mean, it hasn't cleared up. [laughs] Mexico is still bad. Matter of fact, they're back on curfew again.
Pachi: So, are you planning to maybe go back once this is better?
Elyse: I don't know. I guess it would depend on my job because I do have to travel for my job. So they said that I can move pretty much anywhere on earth. I just have to let them know. [laughs] So yeah, it's definitely a possibility.
Pachi: Yeah, and Mexico is not that far. [chuckles] So I was reading about your NewsIn.IT, and that is very interesting that you have free Udemy courses, discounted certifications. You have a lot of things to help people starting out in tech, and I love it. As a self-taught programmer, I know these kinds of things are literally life-changing. So, how did you get started? Where did the idea come from?
Elyse: Well, while I was in Mexico, as you know, things are much, much cheaper in other countries in comparison to the United States. And so one certification is like six months [laughs] worth of pay for somebody. So I was like, well, there has to be something out there where I can get these things for cheap or free, and so I found them. And so I also got on Twitter at the time detailing my progress on what I was doing every day. And so people were like, "Well, how are you finding these things? How are you winning these things?" And so that's how the idea came about for NewsIn.IT. And so, I wanted to help people like myself that can't necessarily afford the certifications afford the training. So I have free bootcamps, I have free certifications, I have free courses and scholarships and free events that you can attend. And so yeah, that's how the idea came about. And so, instead of searching for them yourself and taking time out of your day, they're just all in one place.
Pachi: And that's really helpful because there is just so much stuff out there.
Elyse: Yeah. And last year there was a lot of stuff. There were tons of things that were heavily discounted or free, not to say that it's let up a lot since then because I still find things all the time, but just not as much. [laughs]
Pachi: Yeah. I feel like with COVID; everybody, was like, "Hey, everybody is at home now. It's the perfect time to turn everybody into programmers."
Pachi: And right now you're working with cloud. And so how did you...because first, you learned the basics when you were little, and everything changed. And cloud is different from regular programming. How did you stumble into that area?
Elyse: Like I said earlier, I wanted to build a podcast and an email service, so instead of paying Blubrry, I think it is $15 a month or something like that. On AWS, it might cost you 5 cents a month. And MailChimp, too, might charge you $20 a month or something like that. It might be like a dollar to send a whole bunch of emails out on AWS.
Pachi: That's really interesting. You just got those things that you really wanted to do, and they're useful, and everybody's paying lots of money for it. You're like, hey, I'm just going to just learn how to do this and make it myself.
Pachi: And where did you find the resources to learn that at the time?
Elyse: Just Google. [laughs]
Pachi: That's the best answer.
Elyse: Just Google.
Pachi: Google is the best place to find stuff.
Elyse: Yeah. A lot of times, people...I know it's big in the IT community to write about what you do when you find something. So there are all kinds of technical documentation out there and things like that that people have put together. So it's just do you want to take the time to figure it out?
Pachi: That's very true. There are all sorts of materials out there. If you want to learn from zero, or if you want lots of hand-holding, or if you want to go by yourself, there's literally everything out there.
Elyse: But yeah, you also forget that I used to be an auditor. So research is my middle name. [laughs]
Pachi: And that was my next question. But I feel like you can turn any skill to be useful in programming. And I'm saying that from being an auditor, you're bringing lots of your research skills into tech. What other skills are you using that you didn't expect would be applicable in tech and they're being useful?
Elyse: Well, I'm a consultant technically. So I find them to be the same type of skills, communication, writing, research, so yeah, [laughs] because I'm technically a consultant.
Pachi: So you're doing what you used to do just with a different public, would you say?
Elyse: Yeah, to an extent. So yeah, I consult with different organizations to design their systems and figure out what would be the best fit for them and then implement those.
Pachi: That's very interesting. I never considered a career as a consultant. And it's great to talk to you because we usually have programmers here. And it's good to show hey, you can work in tech without being a programmer. There are other things out there for you to do that are in tech but not necessarily hands-on programming.
Elyse: Oh yeah, IT is so vast and wide it's ridiculous. There are so many things I learn about every day that I've never heard of before. But yeah, if you had caught me years ago fresh out of high school, college, I would have been gung-ho for being a programmer, but now I don't want to be one. [laughs]
Pachi: That's interesting. You did programming back then, and you're back saying, hey, I like tech, but I don't like to code. What do you recommend to people that are interested in tech but they don't want to program like yourself, or they just don't want to deal with code? What kind of skills; what should they learn to get into a similar career path?
Elyse: I code to an extent, but it's Bash and PowerShell. That's what I use every day, and sometimes I get them confused. [laughs] But I still code to an extent. But I guess maybe Scrum Master, Product Owner, I know they don't code. But yeah, my coding is more so on the administrative side, so I wouldn't have to memorize PowerShell or Bash or anything. I would just have to look up what the commands are, and I don't even know if you want to consider it programming. But you do have to have some type of code in there. What's another career field that doesn't have coding in it? Probably sales. I had sales; they make good money, and they get commissions. [laughs] But I guess I'm probably one of the odd ones out when it comes to IT because not to stereotype, but it's a stereotype for a reason; they are not able to interact with people on a daily basis. [laughs]
Pachi: Yeah. I record a podcast, but outside of the podcast, this is my least favorite thing. [chuckles]
Elyse: Yeah. And I'm an introvert, and that's the thing. After I do this, I probably won't talk to people for a whole month. [laughs] But I am able to talk to people.
Pachi: And those are like two different skills. Because some people say, "Hey, you're an introvert. How do you record podcasts then do this?" Hey, I can still communicate, but I know that after that, I'm going to have to take some time out and just lay down. [chuckles]
Elyse: Yes. Yes.
Pachi: But that doesn't mean I'm not a sociable person.
Elyse: I'm trying to think, what are there some other career fields? Because yeah, all the ones I'm naming those are people-jobs, and even now, programming is becoming a people-job.
Pachi: Yes, that is very true. It's getting more holistic. Like, you cannot be a great programmer if you're not really talking to the people around you.
Elyse: Yeah, I'm trying to think of what would be some...maybe Salesforce administration. That would be a good one. They don't program [chuckles] anything that...well, even Linux administration that would be programming to an extent. But I'm drawing a blank on that.
Pachi: Yeah, I think you have to do some. You probably have to...it's easier for you if you understand some code.
Elyse: Yeah, I would probably recommend everybody to take an intro to programming class to an extent, so you understand and then the agile stuff. But yeah, there are not too many things out there where you don't really have to program at this point because even I have to know some type of stuff. [laughs]
Pachi: Programming is important. Like I mentioned, I have never chatted with a cloud engineer. Can you tell me a bit about what you do day-to-day?
Elyse: Day-to-day, right now, I'm still in training. So I just read all day long and do labs. But even if I had my client and everything, I would still do the same thing. [laughs] Because you have to play around with it, figure out what the best method is for it in your own lab that you designed, and then go back and implement it. Because that's what my co-workers pretty much do at this point. They're like, "Yeah, you'll have lots of time to learn on the job and play and practice." I'm like, "Okay." So yeah, just setting up labs and playing around in them to make sure that you don't break anything when it goes to production.
Pachi: That sounds important. [laughs]
Pachi: That's very interesting. I feel like cloud is a thing that is growing a lot, but it's still like...I myself; I don't fully understand everything that's involved. I just know that it's a hot topic. And that's now something that's going to be popular and lots of jobs. That's what I see.
Elyse: Yeah, it's impossible to know everything about the cloud. There are so many different services, and at a certain point, you have to specialize. And so these job bulletins I don't really like them because it's like, okay, they want you to be a programmer with the Python or the Java or the Node or whatever. They want you to know all these software like Jenkins and Kubernetes and things like that, then they want you to be an administrator. Then they want you to be able to talk to people. [laughs] And then you have to know the networking. Networking is huge in the cloud. So it's like, okay, at what point do I actually know what I'm doing? [laughter] But I don't know. I guess some people are out here doing it. I don't know. But yeah, at this point, I'm getting up to speed on what my specialty is going to be for the next probably year or two.
Pachi: Hmm. And so you choose a specialty based on the clients you're working on, then or you just choose something, and you look for clients that have accepted that? How does that work?
Elyse: Actually, both. I could choose between two clients. And so I chose one; then, you have 10,000 servers. [laughs] You can't create 10,000 servers all at one time, you know? And all these servers all have different things on them, so it's going to take time.
Pachi: That is interesting. You can work in a project for so long or not so long. I guess I'm just getting to understand more about this now, but it's very interesting to me the variety of work you can do. It's really interesting.
Elyse: Yeah, because you have to remember that the cloud is still kind of new. And so everybody is not necessarily on it, and they're pushing people to get on it, [chuckles] no matter if you have a one-page website or you have a million websites or a million databases or a million whatever. Everything is going to the cloud to the extent Adobe is on the cloud. You can't use...what is Adobe's software? Like Photoshop and things like that. You can't even use that without being on the cloud at this point.
Pachi: Yes, that's true. Everything is in the cloud now. And even if you don't know what the cloud is, you're probably using it to some extent.
Elyse: Exactly. Exactly. And plus, it creates a continuous revenue service. So that's also a plus for these large companies that are already worth billions of dollars, but that's a whole other story. [laughs] Because instead of paying $100 for the software and the software might last you five years or something like that, now you're paying $25 a month forever.
Pachi: Yeah. I can see how cloud is a market that's not going to cool down anytime soon.
Elyse: No. No.
Pachi: So do you think that for people that are interested in getting to tech cloud is a good area to invest if you're lost, and you don't know what you're doing?
Elyse: Yes, if you can get a company to hire you and actually train you, so you know what you're doing. Because I get messages on LinkedIn all the time, and they're looking for senior people and I'm like, I'm not even a senior. And the cloud is still new. So, how many senior people do you think there's actually out there?
Pachi: Right? [laughs]
Elyse: Like, I've seen a job bulletin where they were like, "We want ten years of Azure experience," and Azure had not even been out for ten years.
Pachi: [laughs] That is so funny. Some of these jobs are so out of reality. I know that recruiters usually don't know tech, but still, I feel like they could do a little better research on some things. [laughs]
Elyse: Yeah. And it was funny because my friend he's all like, "You're so mean to these recruiters." I'm like, "I'm not being mean. I'm just being real."
Elyse: You can't sit up there and say you want ten years' experience, and it hasn't even existed for ten years. [laughs]
Pachi: [laughs] That's literally impossible. You're never going to find a person. It just started the other day.
Elyse: Yeah, I called them on it because it doesn't make any sense. And oh, I had one recently. They sent me a job bulletin, and it said "AWS" on it. In the job bulletin, it said, "Azure everything." But at the top, it said, "AWS," I'm like, come on now.
Pachi: Can you decide what you're talking about?
Elyse: She was like, "Oh, that was a typo."
Pachi: That's not really a typo.
Elyse: Yeah, if you're making that type of mistake, I don't think I want to work there. I don't think I want to work there.
Pachi: Right? That's a very rude typo if you don't know what you're working with. [chuckles]
Elyse: So cloud is very interesting because you can do so many different things with it, but you would have to like I said, you would have to find a company that is willing to train you because they're looking for people with all this experience. And there are just not that many people out there. So if you can find someone to train you, go ahead. It's very worth it. [chuckles]
Pachi: Yeah, that's funny because yeah, it's new. I don't even know the first time I heard about cloud, but it wasn't that long ago.
Pachi: So I really can't imagine how many seniors are out there. [laughs]
Elyse: Exactly. Exactly.
Pachi: I feel like everybody's definition of senior kind of changes a bit from person to person. So maybe you're a senior, and you don't even know that.
Elyse: I guess it would depend, but usually, it's like maybe five to six years’ experience that you would be a senior.
Pachi: It really depends on the company. I see some places that...I have seen people looking for juniors with four to six years.
Elyse: Yeah, that's true too. That's a whole other issue. That's true.
Pachi: Yeah, there's not a pattern. Every company has their own guess for things, and it's a mess. Like, tech job ads are a mess.
Elyse: Yeah, and then coming from audit accounting where everything is standardized, and they have so many different fields and avenues that you can go into too, it's very different and very wild to me. So yeah, I think to an extent IT needs to have certain fields. And then we put all the technologies underneath these fields, and then put down what the requirements are so we can't deviate from them. [laughs]
Pachi: Yeah, I think that would be a great idea, really.
Elyse: Because it really gets out of hand.
Pachi: Yeah, just have a guideline to follow, even if you follow it loosely. "Okay, so we have been doing this for two years; maybe you're not a junior anymore." You have been there long enough or no; you are a senior because… and you actually know why you are where you are.
Elyse: Exactly, because in comparison to audit accounting, the top of the line would be the CPA license, Certified Public Accountant. And you need one or two years’ experience before you can get the license or whatever. And you need these specific classes and specific number of credits, and then you need to practice underneath a CPA. And so, without that, you can't become a CPA. But I do love tech because there are so many different ways that you can get in there, and there's no one story. Because people come to me like, "Well, how did you get in?" and all this other kind of stuff. And I'm like, "Well, I had no certifications," you know everybody's pushing the certifications. They're talking about do a portfolio. I have one, but you can't really have a portfolio for the cloud. What would I showcase on the cloud?
Pachi: [laughs] Yeah.
Elyse: And they're like, "Make YouTube videos and blog." I'm like, "I'm not doing that. I'm not doing that." So yeah, I tried to tell people ways to get in because, I mean, I guess there is a certain pathway to an extent that you should follow, but I didn't follow that, I know. [laughs]
Pachi: You just did your thing, and it worked.
Elyse: Yeah, but it was a long, long and ridiculous tunnel. Let me say it's a dark tunnel. [laughs]
Pachi: Yeah, tech can be like that.
Elyse: Yeah, very dark tunnel.
Pachi: You were out of tech for so long, and then you decided to get back. Getting back from all that time, what are some challenges that you faced with hey, I'm back, but everything changed. [laughs]
Elyse: I would probably have to say just working in general. When I was in Mexico, I consulted here and there doing my own thing, but I didn't have a set schedule to where I worked. If I wanted to work on a project at 2:00 o'clock in the morning, that's what I did. I never worked in Mexico with an employer or anything like that. So that's one thing that I have to get used to again. And just dealing with being a repatriate has been very difficult. But outside of that, I guess networking is still the same because that's huge in cloud. I guess to an extent, it’s just learning because, in IT, you have to constantly learn. So for those people that don't like to constantly learn, this is not the field for you. [laughs] If you don't like to research, this field is not for you. If you think that you need your hand held 24/7/365, this is not the field for you because many times, no one will be there to answer your question. You will have to figure it out by yourself.
Pachi: Yep. And sometimes it will take a while but, you know. [chuckles]
Elyse: Yeah. If you don't like doing trial and error and doing the backspace, and oh, you accidentally put a period there, and it was supposed to be a comma, now you wasted two hours out of your day. This is not the field for you. [laughs]
Elyse: Yesterday, literally, I was in CLI in Azure. And I kept trying to figure out why the code wasn't working, and it's because I was doing PowerShell instead of Bash. And that took me like an hour and a half to figure out that I was doing it wrong. So if you can't deal with things like that, [laughs] don't do it to yourself.
Pachi: You might have been struggling with something for hours, and it's a semicolon that wasn't where it should be. And you're like, why isn’t it working? Everything is right. But no, you forgot that one little character, and you lost an entire day.
Elyse: Yeah. So if that's not for you, don't do it to yourself. There will be a lot of frustrating days. [laughs]
Pachi: That's a great piece of advice.
Elyse: But I will say that yes, the difference between accounting audits and IT is, again, there are certain steps that you have to go through. There are methods that you have to do in order to figure out a problem and audit something. There is nothing like that for IT. In IT, there could be ten different ways to do something.
Pachi: And nothing's wrong. They're just different, and you have to figure out what makes more sense.
Elyse: Yeah. And I can imagine that it would be worse for a coder because the way you would do it and the way you would comment out your code or something like that. And your co-worker looks at it and is like, "Well, why does she do it that way?" But it works, so why does it matter? [laughs]
Pachi: It works. It's running on my machine. It's running on your machine so that is good enough for me.
Elyse: Yes. But I will say I think in the cloud, there's probably not as many different ways to do things. I think there is usually a set way of doing certain things. So that is kind of a plus with the cloud. [laughs]
Pachi: Yeah, like there’s a little more structure. [laughs] cloud would be nice --
Elyse: Yeah, because you're not starting something from scratch. They've configured things a certain type of way, or you have to configure something a certain type of way in order for it to work. And you have to follow the technical documentation, or it won't work, which is a little bit different than in coding.
Pachi: Yes, it is. That's interesting. I like the idea of having more clear steps to follow than just trying till it works. [chuckles]
Elyse: Yeah, because I mean with servers and things like that, there's pretty much only one language, which is Bash. And so, Windows uses PowerShell. You can also use Bash too. But yeah, there are not many different ways to do things when it comes to servers, and then you know the database is SQL. So I guess the database would be another good one. There are not too many different ways to do things. [laughs] There's only one language.
Pachi: Yeah, that’s true. Because there are a number of people who want to start to code like, "What language do I start?" And there are too many languages. I cannot tell you which one's the right one for you to start because it depends. So it's kind of nice okay, if you want to work with cloud, you have to learn that. And that is the one language that you're going to have to work with. And that takes out all the guesswork.
Elyse: Yeah, there was a lady, and she was like, "I want to learn how to code. Where do I start?" I'm like, "Well, coding means nothing. It literally means nothing. What language?" And then we can go from there. She never responded back after that. I was like, yeah, come on now. You have to do a little bit of something for somebody to help you. That means nothing.
Pachi: Yeah, you can Google a bit before you...I totally understand asking for help in the beginning because it's a lot. But you have to have done some little research.
Elyse: Yeah, just a little bit. That's all I'm asking. [laughs]
Pachi: Yeah, you just need to start with one to learn how to code. Literally, you can just learn how to make HTML, and that means you are learning how to code
Elyse: Yeah. And then you get the whole argument that HTML isn't coding, and neither is CSS and all that other good stuff. [laughs]
Pachi: Yeah, and that's too much for this episode. [laughs]
Elyse: I'll tell you, it saved me a lot of money. I haven't had to hire anyone to run anything when it comes to websites and stuff, so I will say that for someone that believes that it's not coding. [laughs]
Pachi: I absolutely love HTML, and I'll protect it. [laughs] I will defend it, whatever the situation is, because that was the start for me and where I am right now. And I wouldn't be anywhere if I hadn't started it but yes.
Elyse: Yes, I agree. It jump-started my love of tech. So I 110% agree.
Pachi: Nice. So my last question for you is not really a question. I just want to ask what is your top one advice for somebody that wants to get started in tech and whatever you feel that maybe you'd have liked somebody to have told you when you started.
Pachi: Yes. I think half of the developers I know have at least five Udemy courses that they never finished. [laughter] And I am one of those developers. [laughs]
Elyse: Yeah, I have a few myself. Another probably good one would be Tableau. I actually did finish all three of those courses. I had so much fun, but you need the math behind it, so I didn't pursue it. But Tableau was so much fun to play with, too, as another career.
Pachi: Oh, congratulations on actually finishing those. [laughter]
Elyse: [laughs] She was a really good teacher, and she had some really good projects, and they were just, so fun to do. But yeah, I finished that one. That was in like a week. They were really fun, but yeah.
Pachi: That is great. Thank you so much for being here. It was great talking to you. I just learned so much. I love recording this podcast because I feel like I'm having a class every episode. [laughs]
Elyse: Yeah, this is why I try to not be my introvert self and talk to people because I do actually learn so much from people and not be a weirdo. [laughs]
Pachi: So, Elyse, where can people find you on the internet?
Elyse: I am at elyse.pw that lists all my projects between my blog and me living between the U.S. and Mexico. NewsIn.IT is my resource website to help you get into IT or upgrade your career if you're already in IT, free bootcamps, scholarships, events, certifications. And then I also have started (I don't know what I'm trying to turn it into at this point) but Switch Into Tech. And last week, I did a free resume review seminar, and then next month, I'm going to do a LinkedIn review because it's really helped people. And I want to help people that helped me get into IT.
Pachi: That's really interesting. I'm definitely going to be checking it out. Thank you so much for being here today. That was awesome. And thank you, everybody, for listening. This was another episode of Launchies. I hope you enjoyed that. And stay tuned; we have another episode coming up next week. Have a great week, everybody. Bye-bye.
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. We'll see you next week. Take care.