January 10

2019 Develomentor Podcast Recap – Grant Ingersoll

Author, Founder, Open Source, Search, Software Engineering, Speaker, Startup

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Biography

Grant is the CTO of the Wikimedia Foundation, the co-founder and ex-CTO of Lucidworks, lead author of the award winning Taming Text, co-founder of Apache Mahout and a long-standing committer on the Apache Lucene and Solr open source projects. He was inspired to start Develomentor (podcast) after watching his son navigate the tech career space.

When he’s not doing his day job or interviewing guests, Grant spends his time cycling (road and mountain), rock climbing, walking the dog or hanging out with family.

Click Here –> For more information about tech careers

Episode Summary

“It’s OK that you aren’t using your degree.  It wasn’t wasted. You still learned how to learn and think, at least partially, from that degree and no one can take that away.  You don’t need to apologize for not being “classically trained”. If you reframe, you just might recognize it’s actually a key strength.  Different backgrounds bring different perspectives. Different perspectives bring better tech and better solutions.“

—Grant Ingersoll

Develomentor ‘highlights’ of 2019

Ep. 2 Social Worker to Tech Product Manager, With Renee Saint-Louis
Ep. 4 Goldman Sachs Saved My Tech Career, with Camille Fournier
Ep. 8 Empowering the Underprivileged, with Divine
Ep. 12 How to Shift Your Career from Engineering to Product, with Nick Caldwell
Ep. 14 Duretti Hirpa – Secrets from a Self Taught Software Developer

Upcoming Guests
Daniel Tunkelang – Consultant at large for search, discovery, machine learning / AI, and data science. 
Laurie Barth – Laurie is a Software Engineer who started as a Mathematician. She is now a Staff Engineer at Gatsby.
Kim Maida – Head of Developer Relations at Auth0
Mike Gualtieri – VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research covering artificial intelligence
Beena Ammanath – AI Managing Director at Deloitte and founder of Humans for AI.
Simon Willnauer – Founder & Lucene hacker at Elastic

Transcript

Happy New Year and welcome everyone back to the Develomentor podcast.  I’m your host Grant Ingersoll. For those listening in real-time, we just turned the page on another year.  I hope 2019 was good for you and I hope 2020 is even better. As you look forward to the next year and you are thinking about ways you might move up in your career or start a career in tech, we hope you find Develomentor helpful in defining your path forward.   I thought I’d pause from the interview style that you normally find here to reflect back on 2019 a bit, revisit some of the goals of the show and then give you all a sneak peek into what’s coming in 2020.

2019 was a whirlwind year for me.  Believe it or not, I actually started working on Develomentor at the end of 2018 and recorded my first episode (published as episode 5 with Drew Farris) all the way back on January 21, 2019.  I had originally planned on starting to publish in March of 2019, but I was neck deep in prepping to both change jobs and change cities and so I had to put things on hold.

Develomentor stuck with me, though, and so I pushed ahead with launch in September of 2019.  Some of those early episodes were a little rough recording-wise, as I didn’t have a good sound setup in place yet (I’ve since purchased the BEHRINGER Audio Interface, 1x XLR/TRS 1x 1/4″ 2X RCA USB and the Audio-Technica BPHS1 Broadcast Stereo Headset with Dynamic Cardioid Boom Mic, which have served me well ever since) but thanks to the audio engineer I’ve been working with, we got things straightened out.   We published 19 episodes in 2019 featuring a wide range of people working in tech. 

Early episodes included one of my inspirations for the show in my very own sister Renee Saint Louis in episode 2 and one of my lifelong mentors in the Dean of the iSchool, Liz Liddy.  Moving forward, we highlighted Camille Fournier and dug in deep on her path from engineering to management and the C-Suite and her authorship of “The Manager’s Path” which is still to this day one of my favorite books on technology management.  After Camille, we highlighted a number of people with backgrounds ranging from self-taught to PhDs and big company employees through to Founders.  While I enjoyed all the episodes, if you’ve only got time for a handful of episodes, be sure to catch episode 8 and hear Divine’s story of rap, incarceration and redemption in tech, as well as his relationship with famed Venture Capitalist Ben Horowitz

Also be sure to catch Nick Caldwell in episode 12 and hear how he went from engineering to product and Duretti Hirpa in episode 14, who was an English major in college who taught herself to code.  Naturally, you can find all of our episodes on https://develomentor.com.  A huge thank you to all of our guests, past and future.  You make this show possible and I’m hugely grateful. Likewise, a huge thank you to our listeners.  We’ve been growing at a pretty steady rate in terms of downloads and I’m really excited about what the future holds for this show. 

As a small favor, If you, our listeners, like the show, please do leave us a rating or review in your podcast app. Those ratings and reviews keep us going and show that there is interest.  They help other listeners find the show in and ultimately help us know what type of content best resonates.

Throughout all of these past 19 episodes, I hope our listeners find little nuggets of information that help everyone move forward.  I know in recording and listening to the episodes, I’m constantly invigorated by the lessons brought forward by our guests. In many ways, Develomentor has become my own mentoring session, one guest at a time.  Reflecting back, I think a few key themes emerge that we all can learn from as we try to get better at what we do:

  1. Relationships matter.  I know I struggle with this one and I know I can get better at them.  It’s often all too easy to simply focus on the tech and think that the people side of the equation will balance out, but time and time again our guests have shown us that it has to be the other way around, even in a field like tech.  If you don’t get people right, you won’t ever have a chance to get the tech right.
  2. It’s OK that you aren’t using your degree.  It wasn’t wasted. You still learned how to learn and think, at least partially, from that degree and no one can take that away.  You don’t need to apologize for not being “classically trained”. If you reframe, you just might recognize it’s actually a key strength.  Different backgrounds bring different perspectives. Different perspectives bring better tech and better solutions.
  3. It’s never too late to start.  I keep going back to episode 3 with my mentor Liz Liddy, who was a single mom with 3 kids working as a librarian who then went back to get her PhD before going on to being a luminary in her field, rising all the way up to being the interim Provost of Syracuse University or Divine in episode 8 who was incarcerated not once, but twice before finding his path in tech.  It’s not too late to go to that bootcamp, or to spend some extra time learning a new programming language or getting that certification on Google Ads or to learn social media or Search Engine Optimization. Repeat after me: it’s never too late to start.

Before we look ahead at 2020, I wanted to pull back the curtain a bit on how Develomentor gets made and what our goals are.  As we’ve said now quite a few times in the lead-in to our interviews, we want to showcase three things: 1) a variety of people in a variety of roles in tech and the paths they took to get there, 2) that there is more than one path into tech, including many non-traditional approaches, and 3) how you might find your path. 

There’s a lot that goes into making a tech company these days and we strongly believe it takes people with varied backgrounds and approaches beyond the traditional. We also believe there is more to tech than writing code. We don’t subscribe to the “everyone must learn to code” mentality that seems to be prevalent these days.  We do believe everyone should be familiar with what code does and the implications of it’s usage, but they certainly don’t need to know how to code. And, of course, we certainly do believe that anyone who wants to learn how to code, should have the opportunity to code.  So, give it a try if you like. If you don’t like it, that’s OK.  There are plenty of other places in tech where you can find a good job that pays a good wage.

Beyond this vision for the site and the podcast, I thought I’d share a bit about my personal goals.  When I created Develomentor, I was on the lookout for something I could do on the side. I had a few simple criteria: First, whatever I did had to not conflict with my day job.  I know where my bread is buttered, as they say, and I don’t want to mess with that. Ideally, even, my side hustle would be complementary to my day job by giving me deeper insight and more capabilities to do my job better.  Second, it had to be something I could outsource the majority of things that I don’t like to do.

I took a really hard look at myself and what I care about in late 2018 and early 2019 as I was switching jobs and moving cities.  Call it a mid-life crisis if you will. One of the things that came out of that was an effort to realign and really focus on things I value and things I’m good at, or at least think I’m good at. It’s why, for instance, we moved to be closer to family and it’s why I jumped at the chance to go work at the Wikimedia Foundation and it’s focus on free knowledge and open source.  Third, on average, it needs to take up less than 5 hours a week. I have no interest in taking too much time from other things I care about like family and recreation. Fourth, I wanted something that wouldn’t require corporate permission for people to be a guest on. When I looked at my skill sets for a side hustle I considered doing something coding wise, but felt it would take away too much from my work and require too much time. 

As I dug deeper, I realized I had two pretty large strengths that led to this podcast: Having been a traveling CTO for 10+ years, I’ve met a ton of really interesting people and established professional relationships with many of them such that I thought many would agree to be a guest on the show. I also knew many of them had stories that fit the thesis of this show. This role as CTO and as a founder of a company has also afforded me insights into a lot of different aspects of how tech companies work.  Second, I think, and you’ll be the judge of this, I’m a pretty decent speaker and interviewer such that I could have guests on and ask insightful questions across a variety of topics.

I’m definitely not a pro like some out there and I know I have certain catch words that I find myself repeating too much in my questions, but for the most part, I think things work out. Looking back on our first 19 episodes as well as the 20 or so more additional ones I’ve already recorded for 2020, I think all of these goals have been met.  The beauty of the show for me is it pretty much writes itself in that all I have to do is ask some fairly basic and repetitive questions to get things going and then guide the conversation around specific inflection points in someone’s career. After all, as humans, most of us love to tell our own story.  

One other fun fact about the meta of the show I really love:  Artem Smirnov, my audio engineer, you know the guy who does all the behind the scenes work.  I met him in an Uber. He was driving me home from the bus stop after work one day and we got to talking about the podcast and where he was at in life.  He was looking for something new and I was looking for someone who could help me on the audio side.

We started by him showing me how to get my audio setup and then we started talking about things like SEO and content marketing and now here we are today.  It’s been really awesome having him help out with the show. He’s taught me a lot already and it’s been a lot of fun watching him dig in on things like content production, SEO and the social media marketing. With all that being said, this show wouldn’t happen with out him.  Thanks Artem! 

So there you have it, a bit more on the inside baseball of the show.  Now let’s look ahead at 2020. First off, before I reveal some of our upcoming guests, I want to announce that we are going to two days a week for publication.  We will now be publishing new episodes every Monday and Thursday. We hope you like the results! The best part is: I’m still meeting my less than 5 hour a week goal for time spent on the show!

As for upcoming guests, I am really psyched about our lineup.  We’ve got a range of roles coming up, including CEOs and CTOs, SEO experts and “high class” consultants.  We’ve got VPs of Engineering, hardware engineers and front and back end engineers. We’ve even got two leading tech analysts.  In the next few months, you’ll hear from the likes of Daniel Tunkelang, Laurie Barth, Kim Maida, Mike Gualtieri, Beena Ammanath, and Simon Willnauer, just to tease out a few names, who we will link out in the show notes.  I’m super excited for what’s ahead and we hope you are too! We’re also overhauling our website, aiming to make it much easier for you to find content as well as reduce the time it takes for us to produce the content!

We really hope you will join us on the path to your next career by hitting the subscribe button on your favorite podcast app or by visiting the website at develomentor.com!  As always, we’d love your feedback. Please leave us a rating and/or review on Apple Podcasts or your app. You can also drop us an email at podcasts@develomentor.com.  Please also be sure to visit develomentor.com, as we have a lot in store rolling out soon, too.  Thanks again for all your support in 2019 and here’s to a great 2020, where we hope we can play a part in helping you find your path!

Additional Resources

Selected names and links from the episode:

Upcoming Guests
Daniel Tunkelang – Consultant at large for search, discovery, machine learning / AI, and data science. 
Laurie Barth – Laurie is a Software Engineer who started as a Mathematician. She is now a Staff Engineer at Gatsby.
Kim Maida – Head of Developer Relations at Auth0
Mike Gualtieri – VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research covering artificial intelligence
Beena Ammanath – AI Managing Director at Deloitte and founder of Humans for AI.
Simon Willnauer – Founder & Lucene hacker at Elastic

Podcast recording gear mentioned:

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