Tracy Lee – On Founding ThisDot and Building Communities #30

Biography

Tracy Lee is the Co-Founder of This Dot Labs, a consultancy focused on helping companies with digital transformations. She is also a Google Developer Expert, RxJS Core Team member, a Women Techmakers Lead, and a frequent keynote speaker at conferences.

She heads up Community Relations for Node.js at OpenJS Foundation, is the host of the Modern Web podcast, organizer of This.JavaScript, Contributor Days, Google Developer Group Silicon Valley and Triangle, and RxWorkshop. You can find her on Twitter @ladyleet or at http://thisdot.co/labs.

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Episode Summary

“Everybody on the team has kind of rallied around this idea that we’re making money, we’re helping companies. And we love helping companies. But even better than that, we can take that money and actually invest it back into the community.”

—Tracy Lee

In this episode we’ll cover:

  1. How Tracy started 3 companies while she was bored at her job
  2. Why are there are so few women in tech?
  3. How Tracy hires so many moms at ThisDotLabs and why moms have such a killer mindset.
  4. Why it’s so important to start blogging and producing content about your journey as soon as possible.

Key Milestones

[2:00] – Tracy Lee talks about starting side-hustling making jewelry while in college. Just out of college, she got bored at her tech job and decided to start more businesses – one was a video production business, and the other was a tech startup, Dishcrawl.
[7:00] – What was Tracy’s mindset while launching Dishcrawl in Silicon Valley. She talks about initially struggling to find people to buy tickets to the event. Tracy got help with PR and began discounting the events. This is when the company started to take off.
[11:33] – Tracy on learning JavaScript by taking a 3-week online boot camp. While doing this, she also started blogging and establishing an online presence. She stresses that it’s essential to tell people what you’re doing. Otherwise, how would people know?
[14:26] – Why Tracy is a generalist and not a specialist? Also, Tracy explains why she hires so many moms at ThisDotLabs and why moms have such a killer mindset.
[19:05]- How Tracy focuses on both business and technology? What are some things that she has learned about running businesses and building communities along the way?
[22:04] – Tracy Lee talks about company culture and hiring. It’s important that everyone in your company is moving in the same direction. And why personality can be equally important as talent, otherwise the company isn’t sustainable.
[26:24] – ThisDot started off providing open-source support and high-level mentorship but it has continued to evolve every day. Today ThisDot is focused on providing consulting and resources to companies in various industries and integrating new technologies including AI and machine learning.
30:25 – Why are there are so few women in tech? ThisDot connects women and junior developers with mentors that will help them get a foot in the door. It also allows companies to take less risk by offering to hire junior developers on a contractual basis.
34:30 – Tracy’s advice is to start producing content about your journey as soon as possible. Walking people through what you learn will help them. Also, Tracy recommends reaching out to people that inspire you. More people will respond than you think!

Transcript

Intro: 00:18 [Inaudible]

Grant Ingersoll: 00:19 Welcome everyone to the development or podcast, your source for interviews and content on careers in tech. I’m your host grant Ingersoll. For those new to the show, we have two simple goals. We want to showcase interesting people in tech across a variety of roles and then we also want to highlight the different paths those people have taken in their careers in tech. If you want to listen to more episodes, please check us out on develop mentor.com or you can subscribe to us in your favorite podcast app like iTunes or Spotify. Today’s guests is our first I think, techie turn founder and CEO. Her resume is a laundry list of companies she’s founded and led over the past 15 years all while also staying active as a technologist in the modern web dev space. Currently she heads up the digital agency this dot which focuses on modern web development and as if leading a 30 plus person team isn’t enough, she’s a prolific public speaker, social media influencer, and all around connector of people and ideas. Please welcome to the show Tracy Lee. Tracy, great to have you here.

Tracy Lee: 01:31 Thank you for having me. Very excited to be here.

Grant Ingersoll: 01:34 Great. Well, so Tracy, you know, in doing my background research, and I kinda hinted at this in the intro, one word stands out and that is founder. How about we start by having you fill us in on, on that career as a founder, as someone who’s started a lot of companies over the years and really evolved into being somebody who’s constantly creating something from nothing.

Tracy Lee: 02:00 Yes. I think being a founder means you have to be okay with failing and having, you know, 10 million things on your mind and just starting things. So I remember when I was younger, I sat on the bed with sat on the bed when I was 18 and I had gone to this jewelry show. I had gotten a bunch of stones and I spent the whole weekend just making jewelry, right? Because I didn’t want to pay, you know, $75 for a pair of earrings. I said, okay, I’ll just make it. And by the end of the weekend, I had so much jewelry. I said, Oh, maybe I should just sell my jewelry. So that was back in Cupertino, California, home of Apple. And I started going to the DeAnza college flea market, which is still going on and just randomly selling my jewelry. So that was my first business.

Tracy Lee: 02:51 And from then I just, you know, every single time I had an idea or a notion, I would start something because, you know, it’s cheap to start a business. It’s not hard to start a business, especially these days with so many websites and tools out there. Right. and you know, some days I’ll just say, okay, let me just do it. I remember when I was starting my first successful startup dish crawl I was actually getting really bored at my tech job, which was at Brocade. They do storage area networks. I was three weeks in, didn’t feel like I was going to change the world. So I was like, okay, well let me start some businesses. So I remember starting three that specific week. I started another jewelry business. I revamped it. One of my friends wanted to do like video production. So I said, okay, let’s put together a business. And then the third was, you know, this, this thing called dish crawl, we call the battle dish at the time, which was a tech startup. You know, and then one of them ended up being, well, so maybe a better way to think about founders is people with like just a lot of excess baggage of ideas in their minds that they haven’t actually done.

Grant Ingersoll: 04:09 Yeah, I can, I can definitely relate to that. I mean, for sure. But so, so there’s something interesting in there, right? Is that, so you were literally three weeks in at this corporate job. And so this is the, in many ways, the story of a lot of people who start side hustling, right? And then you were able to turn dish crawl into a full time job, if you will.

Tracy Lee: 04:34 Yeah. So this is a, so, especially in Silicon Valley and I think anywhere, right? Like I see people saying, Oh, I really want to start this thing. And they’re, they just can’t, it’s just not successful. And you know, they’re working, they’re working the nine to five. But like if they had all the time in the world, then they could make this thing that they’re dreaming of successful. And every time I hear that I’m like, okay, but then you don’t have money, so are you sure you should do this? So my story was I started these businesses, I was working full time and I was doing my startup full time and you know, I was fortunate enough to be, you know, 20 something at the time. So I had the, the energy, the mental energy to do this. But what I would do is I would work from eight to five.

Tracy Lee: 05:23 I would get in my car, I would go to a coffee shop, get there around six. I would work at the coffee shop from six to 11 on my startup. I would go back home cause that’s when the the coffee shop ended. It was coffee society across from DeAnza college in Cupertino, which is no longer there, sadly enough. And then I would work from 11 to two in the morning on my dream. And I did not quit my job until I actually figured out how to make money. And so I remember emailing my boss I was like, I’m going to take over the world. I quit. And she already thought I was crazy cause it wasn’t like I was amazingly engaged at my job. Granted, but that’s the story, right? So I mean, I would highly, you know, you can do it, but the thing is if it’s not going to make you money on the side and you’re not going to be successful in the side, right? Like you kind of have to build up those muscles right to, to, to attend. Know that because if you are just going to do nine to five on a startup, it’s probably not going to be a successful, it needs to be, right? Like it takes a lot of time and energy to be successful.

Grant Ingersoll: 06:30 Yeah. That’s that you know, whole side-hustle approach if like, if you don’t you know, if you’re not making money, well then it’s just a hobby and it’s probably a really expensive hobby especially in terms of opportunity costs. So, so you kind of get Dishcrawl launched I mean, walk us through that progression a little bit. Like what what did launched mean and how did you exit out of it and kind of what was that whole process?

Tracy Lee: 07:00 I think startups are a lot about just kind of wiggling your way around, being able to be introspective on a day to day, a week by week, a month by month basis to be able to maneuver on, you know, where you should go next. SoDish crawl started back when lean startup was a really big thing. So Steve Blank was, you know, just and Eric Reis, were just doing lean startup. It was the hottest craze in the Silicon Valley. Everybody was following it. So we were following it. And initially what I wanted to do was I just wanted to get people to take pictures of food, come back to a website, upload this pictures, and they would get prizes. And you know, then I actually threw a thing called a dish crawl to promote this whole idea of this like food game concept. And everybody loved it.

Tracy Lee: 07:58 It was covered on NBC LA. I did it at a conference and somebody was just like, well why don’t you just do these things you like so much? Cause I really liked doing dish crawls. They were so popular. So I did it for a while and they were, you know, they were $40 each and then, you know, I wasn’t really getting that much traction. Right. So what I would have to do is I’d have to spend 40 hours on Twitter, which means I would get 40 people to actually join this event and I would make, you know, right. That was the metric. It’s like one hour is one ticket. Okay. And then what ended up happening was you know, I met somebody, she taught me how to do PR. I lowered the price. So this is, this is kind of like the right, right place, right time type of deal. Groupon was just getting popular. So all of a sudden restaurants understood this idea of, Oh, if we discount our stuff to drive customers, then we’ll get more business. Right? So that, so matched with PR, figuring out how to do PR with the fact that I could actually throw an event for $15 and my cost was only $5. Then all of a sudden everything changed. Then all of a sudden 150 people showed up and I didn’t have to do anything.

Grant Ingersoll: 09:18 Nice. Well, and so, okay, so this is a podcast on careers in tech, so, so we’ve kind of covered the startup side of it. I mean, are you writing the code? Are you outsourcing their code? Like what’s the, what’s the tech side of, of this? Obviously you’re in the valleys, so you know, it has to have the word tech in it. So what was that side of it for you?

Tracy Lee: 09:41 Well, we’re very tech enabled, so we ended up having 250 people across the US and Canada and managed by a team of 15 to 20 people. So if you think about that you know, the only thing that can get you to be successful managing that many things is really building a system that can track like 100 million things out at any given time. But yeah, you know, Silicon Valley, right? Everybody starts a tech startup,

Grant Ingersoll: 10:11 But so were you writing?

Tracy Lee: 10:13 I was not.

Grant Ingersoll: 10:14 You’re writing code. Okay. So we’ll, so then maybe that’s a good transition into, you know, I mean these days you, you’re a very active member in a lot of JavaScript communities, modern web dev communities, and through a lot of evangelism. Walk me through the, the, that side of your career, that the tech side, the person writing code, speaking on modern dev frameworks, those kinds of things.

Tracy Lee: 10:40 So I was luckily enough to have a boyfriend who was doing JavaScript and I was bored because I had just sold my startup. So I decided I should learn JavaScript because our, our, you know, our website was built in JavaScript who doesn’t use to obviously up. So I took a three week boot camp online, 40 hours a week. If anybody does that, I would highly recommend, like everybody thinks it’s, Oh, I just do it for 40 hours, but what really made me successful, it was I would do the do the 40 hours a week, but then I’d spent 40 hours extra every single evening building things based on what I had learned that day. To me, things really stick. And I just really fell in love with it because it’s, you know, development, it can be hard, it’s challenging, but it’s also so much fun.

Tracy Lee: 11:33 And then, you know, I think the, the great thing about development is and I see this a lot with people starting off in tech and actually I see this being a successful path for people in tech as well. If you just write down what you’re learning kind of as a note for yourself and then publish as a blog post, you’d be surprised how many people you’re actually helping. Yeah. So I started doing that. I would just learn something and then write a blog post about it, learn something and write a book was about, and that was my process. But what that ended up doing for me from a career perspective was all of a sudden I was known as, you know, an expert. Right?

Grant Ingersoll: 12:18 Yeah. Oh my God. I landed my very first book, my book deal off of this exact same process. That is so cool. Well, there’s a really important underlying piece here is like you’re just a hustler, right? Like you’re hustling, you are burning the candle at both ends. You’re, you’re doing your day job in this first case with dish crawl and here now you’re, you’re taking a fulltime bootcamp and then you’re spending a full time on, all right, well how do I actually make this real? And then you’re also blogging about it too.

Tracy Lee: 12:52 Yeah. I was I think I, I, I, I guess I get bored really easily. So, I mean, you know, again, in the closet of all the things I do are all the things I don’t do, which I’m really, you know, I get really sad about. But you know, I, I think when you find what you’re passionate about, right? Like whatever it is from a development perspective, like you don’t have to follow anybody else’s path. You don’t have to force yourself to be excited about something. You just need to find that thing you’re excited about and then just do it. And, and I think Twitter is so amazing these days because, you know, just tell people you’re doing it. I always tell people when I meet them and they’re starting out, if you’re not telling people you’re doing something, then nobody knows.

Grant Ingersoll: 13:40 No, that’s so true. I want to just pick up on something you just said there because I think you hit on a really important thing and we’ve, we’ve hit on a couple of important things. One is just this worth that work ethic side of the equation that, you know, so many people don’t think about anymore these days because they think, Oh well I can just push a few buttons and magically I have an app or whatever. But the other side of the, you know you, you characterize yourself as this founder, as somebody who has all this baggage of ideas and then you just hit it also on this, all the things you’re not doing. Can you elaborate a little bit more on those? Cause I think that’s a really important thing for people to think about as they try to figure out what works for them.

Tracy Lee: 14:26 Yeah. It’s, I think you have to know yourself, right? And I think you know, at some point in time in your life, even though people change, like you, you kind of know who you are. So for me, I’ve, I know I’ve always been the type of person where I want to do 10 million things and I’m going to be pretty good at the 10 things, but I’m never going to go like deep, deep, deep, deep, deep into one thing. Right? So for me, I’ve kind of built my career on being a generalist. I think from a founder perspective, that’s really important, right? Like, I can, I can pick up, I can do something, I can spend a week learning something and I can, I can do it enough to the point where I can deal with it, you know. And, and you know, different people are different. Right. But I think understanding who you are and where you are and what you want to do and how you want to do it with what works best for your personality is really important.

Grant Ingersoll: 15:27 No, I’m, I’m the same way. I tend to, I maybe it’s the liberal arts degree I got back in college, which still had a math and computer science component to it, but it also had things like Russian literature and, and Spanish and all these things. And I tend to like to work on a number of different things as opposed to just one. But then I have other, like one of my cofounders at lucid works, he was a [inaudible]. I’m going to go really deep on this one thing. I mean, not entirely, but so I think you really hit the nail on the head. And I see that a lot with engineer I manage and I would guess you do too, of like, Hey, this person is my specialist, they’re my performance expert, or this person’s my, I can throw them into any account and they’re going to go survive. Is that fair to say?

Tracy Lee: 16:15 Yeah, and I mean, I, yes, absolutely. And I want to go, you know, I know like for me in my twenties, I busted my butt and really hard on the things I was excited and I’m passionate about. But obviously there’s, you know, work life balance, right? So I have a lot of I think our company, ThisDot we are there, so many moms who are coming back into the workforce that we’ve hired, I think probably because a lot of developers introduced me to their wives and then we ended up working together kind of weird. Like, everyone has a two year olds at my company. But, you know, yeah. But like that being said, right, like, you know, you don’t have to have the luxury of, you know, being able to work whenever you want. I see these moms, you know, they are so focused, they’re able to basically what, what do, what do we call it? You know, the focus time, right? Like that’s a luxury. So they open up their laptop, spend 30 minutes, be successful, 30 minutes here, be successful be successful and that’s their hustle, right? Like being able to do that, being able to do that in the evenings. But it’s not so much like the amount of time you have. I mean that is one component but it’s the mentality, right? Like the desire to be successful.

Grant Ingersoll: 17:37 Yeah, no for sure. It’s interesting cause I too like I can, I can remember in college I used to play college sports and during season I was a way better student than I was outside the season, which you would think would be the opposite. But that exact thing of being focused. Like you had a limited amount of time. You had to get your homework done, you had to get your studying done, cause you had to go to practice, you had games, all of those kinds of things. And, and having raised a child now kids amplify that by a 100X, right, of like, no, you only have this little slice of time. And Oh, by the way, you still want to see your friends and you still want to have a social life and all of that. So Tracy, I mean, one of the things that’s really interesting here is like, you’ve got this mix of you’ve started some businesses, you’re, you know, sounds like you grew up a lot in the Silicon Valley mindset and then you taught yourself tech later on. You know, so you’ve got this really cool marriage of the two. What’s kinda been the most surprising benefit for you in terms of that mix of being technical enough that you can go toe to toe with any web developer out there, but you can also, you know, show up and sell you know make a sale for services or for a product or build a business.

Tracy Lee: 19:06 I think one of the biggest things for me, and this is probably why I’m such a good community person in JavaScript, is I love bringing people together. Like every single thing I’ve done in my career has been helping people. So I love helping people and I love bringing people together. And so even even by accident, you know, like not even really intentionally just, okay, I’m good at events, let me do events, I can let me do podcasts and we do this, let me do that. And kind of finding my way there, right? Like you’re, you’re kind of like building, I mean, the beautiful thing about the internet these days say is you can literally be anything you want and however you want. So that’s been really interesting for me. I think from a, so when I learned development, I remember even after the first week I realized how much effort, like we talked about focus time, right?

Tracy Lee: 20:08 Like it’s so important for developers and I realized how much business people don’t value it. Cause I remember looking at my cofounder, my technical cofounder and being like, Oh, he’s not involved in the culture. We should get him on more meetings. When all of a sudden you have the main developer on the project, you know, have the meeting at 8:00 AM and at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM, because you know, then everybody else feels good about him being involved. Right? But like when the heck is he getting any work done? I think that was the biggest realization for me, realizing all the mistakes I was actually making without understanding development. I also remember one thing he would always say, do you want me to do it the hacky way where we’re going to have to refactor later or do you want me to do with the right way?

Tracy Lee: 20:58 And then like any business person who doesn’t understand what exactly technical debt means we’ll choose the hacky way, right? Cause you want to count and then you don’t want to pay the cost of refactoring later. So just understanding all of those things. So that’s kind of what I love, that I can bridge the gap between having the conversations with the business people and doing it the right way and seeing the mistakes. Like I talked to so many startup founders and I’m like, okay, but you don’t understand what you’re actually saying or like the value of getting it done right, right. People will pay 10 bucks to get, you know, 10 bucks an hour to get a website up, but you know, you spend $50,000 you’re going to have to spend $200,000 later on just redoing the thing.

Grant Ingersoll: 21:48 Right. Interesting. That’s probably a good segue into the next question is, which is whenever I have managers, CEO leaders and companies on, I really like to dig in a little bit on how they think about hiring you. Like what skill sets you primarily look for. I know for instance, you hire a lot of, and now that you’ve told your story, it makes total sense. You hire a lot of bootcamp trainees and kind of mentor them through. And now I understand why because that’s what you did. But I’m curious to hear some of your thoughts on and perhaps as advice out to people who are listening to this, how you think about hiring, what you look for in that junior candidate and that mid-level candidate and that senior candidate. [inaudible].

Tracy Lee: 22:40 So we have a pretty specific hiring process. I made a lot of mistakes in my first company where the culture does, by the way, was for me so fast. I mean, we had to hire, we were onboarding 20 people a week. Okay. So, you know, a few months later, I mean, I’m not even at a company I want to be at, you know, like we had just had to deal with so much. Like we didn’t spend time on culture. So at this hour we spent a lot of time on culture. I always, you know, if I look at the best developer, Oh my gosh, she’s done so much open source and I look at somebody who I want to build a business with, but maybe, you know, maybe he’s an eight on the technical scale versus this other guy’s a 10, I’ll choose the eight because it’s so important.

Tracy Lee: 23:31 Right. Like, you want to make sure you’re working with people that you like and everybody says like diversity of thought, blah, blah, blah, this and that. But you know, at the very beginning, if everybody she has not going in the same direction, then you are going to screw yourself and building a company. So I think we have a lot of very likeminded people here at this dot. But we have a very well, a lot of very likeminded people in a healthy way. They all believe in teaching people, they all believe in mentorship, they all believe in creating like inclusive communities. And they all believe in being nice to people. And I much prefer that versus some companies you see, you know, they, I mean we hire the best, we have the best of the industry, but some companies you see, you know, hire the best, but then those people also are kind of like, I don’t know, cocky or whatever it is. Right. And that works really well in some companies. But I think personally it’s not a sustainable thing or at least it’s not where I would want to be every day.

Grant Ingersoll: 24:46 Yeah. It usually implodes in the long run.

Tracy Lee: 24:48 Right, right, right, right, right.

Grant Ingersoll: 24:51 Really interesting. Your, your earliest statement of like three weeks later I was at a company I didn’t even want to be at. I remember when I founded my company and my criteria was I want to be at a, on a found a company that I want to work at. You know, and it’s almost like that and now that’s evolved and shifted over the years is, you know, you get into more leadership and you know, because you realize all the things that you as an individual contributor never even had to think about that your managers were thinking about. So it’s not entirely a fair approach, but in many ways it still does get at that piece of I want to work with people. I like being around. And that doesn’t mean you all have to think the same way, but you all need to have a way of communicating and having fun together.

Grant Ingersoll: 25:38 And it sounds like you’ve done a really good job at thinking that being very intentional about that at this dock. So maybe that’s a good segway then, you know, tell us a little bit more about this dot and, and what are some of the key challenges that you’re trying to stay ahead of and, and especially like all the things in tech besides maybe AI and blockchain modern front end web dev, Java script, etc. Like that is just a massive amount of change all the time. Right? Like, so how do you think about, you know, so tell us, like I said, the question would be, tell us a bit more about this dot and then about how you approached this as an agency.

Tracy Lee: 26:24 I think with this da we, so we started off co-founding it. So I was a, you know, I was surrounded by a bunch of 14 members in different JavaScript frameworks. One day just to meet my, my, my, that’s actually kind of what drove me into JavaScript too. I was just surrounded by JavaScript people. And so I was a little bit burnt out after my last startup, but after I got over that, I was like, well, you know, maybe I should be useful again in society. I decided to start another company. So we started thisdot and initially we just provided, you know, open source support contracts and really high level mentorship contracts to people who really need to get unstuck. So this could be anywhere from really large corporations who need to talk to, let’s say, react native core team members and you know, get features added in.

Tracy Lee: 27:19 Or I’m on the arch jazz core team as well. And so are a few of my founders, so people who needed, you know, testing, right, that I was testing, sorry for our stats and like, we were able to do that work. What we’ve transformed into is a more staff augmentation these days. So what we’ve been finding is a lot of companies need help with simply digital transformation. So it’s moving from these really old legacy systems into new frameworks and libraries to, you know, I mean, it affects hiring and affects performance. It affects a bunch of different things. Right? so we’ll do that. And you know, obviously we love poking around in new technologies and verticals. We’ve been focusing a lot on machine learning and AI related stuff and kind of how to help people in supply chain do that. Right? people in banking do that, right?

Tracy Lee: 28:20 And just high level consulting, right? Just making sure, I think a lot of people just need to make sure they’re doing it right. So we do a lot of architecture consultations. And then the other side of this thought labs is we just do a lot of stuff for the community. So you can go on this dot and you can see free events every single week. We do events in person and the Silicon Valley and then triangle North Carolina every few months. You can find podcasts, you can find basically whatever you need. We’re going to start actually doing free trainings as well, coming up very soon. And you know, that type of stuff. Like for this dot we have these pillars that we pride ourselves in and one of them is just being able to make sure we’re constantly educating people. And you know, being in consultancy in my opinion is kind of boring. Like, okay, so what you, you consult, you make money. But everybody on the team has kind of rallied around this idea that like, you know, we’re making money, we’re helping companies, we love helping companies, but even better than that, we can take that money and we’ve actually invested back into the community. We can invest that back into underrepresented minorities. We have things like apprentice programs for example, to help women in tech get their first, you know, first foot in the door. Yeah, we do a lot. I mean, right, like the 10 million things

Grant Ingersoll: 29:52 That kind of fits with the, you know, it’s funny, right? Because every company is often a reflection of their founder and, and as you’re describing that, I’m like, yeah, well that makes sense. That’s who you are in many ways. Tell us a little bit more about you know, you hit on this a couple of times, like how many, for instance moms you have with two year olds in the office and then people getting back into tell, you just mentioned this a bit more. Tell me a little bit more about that program. I believe you call it the, the fempire, is that right? Fem [inaudible]

Tracy Lee: 30:25 Yeah, yeah, we call it the, well, it’s the, it’s apprentice program that we have. So I talked to a lot of companies who want to hire a woman. And I talked to a lot of women who need jobs. And so my question was always, well, why is there a disconnect? Right. It turns out it’s actually not really a pipeline problem. It’s more of a problem with the gatekeepers and the hiring bias. And I think a lot of women that are coming into tech are coming out of boot camps. So the second career developers and potentially a secondary career developers not being valued as much as new grads. Right. Or have not have as much opportunities as those people. So we created this apprentice program in a way to say, okay, you can actually hire a woman in tech who is a junior developer and you can do this on a contractual basis with us.

Tracy Lee: 31:24 But what we provide is we actually provide them with a mentor to make sure that they’re successful from day one. I think a lot of companies who are hiring women in tech, or, sorry, not women in tech, but junior developers, a lot of companies will say, Oh, we can’t hire a junior developer so we don’t have the bandwidth. You don’t have enough senior people to manage them, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The reason why I started this program was to try to take away all those business excuses that I kept hearing and saying, okay, we’ll take care of all that for you. Then once that person is trained on, go ahead and hire them, you know, it’s our contribution to the industry and yeah.

Grant Ingersoll: 32:10 Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. I mean, I think, you know, I’ve, I’ve personally heard all those excuses as well and, and you know, a lot of what this show is about even is this exact problem in tech that thou must have a four year or CS degree from Stanford slash MIT slash CMU fill in the blank and it’s such BS, right? Like, like sure. If you’re going to do all the hardest like low end like systems level stuff. Yeah, it probably makes sense for you to have a really deep background on algorithms and data structures and hardcore like OS layer kinds of training that you mostly get in college. It’s not the only place you get in college, but you know, you’re not going to necessarily learn the full depth of that in a boot camp.

Grant Ingersoll: 33:01 But the flip side is there’s a whole bunch of stuff that we all can do that doesn’t require those things and that’s way more of the field than, than the really hardcore stuff. You know, those very hardcore is not even the right word cause that’s not fair. Right. It’s the very specific things that are require very specialized training and may take you five, six, 10 years to master kind of stuff. Yeah, no, that’s, that’s fantastic. I want to shift gears then a little bit and kinda wrap up the interview. You know, this, this has been awesome. I see a lot of really interesting tangents in your career or not tangents, arcs in your career. You know, one, this work ethic too. This just, Hey, I’ve got an idea and I’m going to go start it and, and that follow through on it. And then, you know, we didn’t talk a lot about it, but some of these two are like, Hey, that’s not working anymore. I’m going to move on to the next one. I probably could do a whole episode on that, I’m sure. But maybe if you could kind of take in and tile these things back together and just reflect a little bit on what advice would you give, you know, that that junior dev or that junior business person who wants to get in tech, that Tracy back in 2000 or whenever it was in terms of your best career advice?

Tracy Lee: 34:30 So, right. Just produce content. Like it amazes me how scared people are sometimes to just put themselves out there because, Hey, I’m not an expert. I don’t know, I just learned this thing. But you figuring out that thing and writing it down and sharing it with the world is what’s going to help the 10 other hundred other people behind you. Right. So that’s, that’s the, the thing that was the most, you know like probably the biggest thing for me, and you know, again, I’m the type of person who starts something, right? So I remember Dave Muchler who was the founder of 500 startups. He had this thing called startup to startup and it was dinners with investors and founders. And I said, well, I really love this concept. I went to a dinner and I was like, I could do the same thing. So I started and I still remember public speaking, I would have to write down what I was going to say, recite it, bring in a piece of paper, look at the piece of paper while I was talking.

Tracy Lee: 35:39 Right. And now I’m keynoting at different conferences. And so when those first opportunities come to you, like you know, a few months into my into learning how to code, somebody asked me to speak at an online conference and you know, what did I have to offer? Anybody? I don’t know, but I spoke in it. And then all of a sudden, the entire year I was speaking at conferences doing exactly that. I was just spinning up on new technologies and teaching people what I learned. So don’t, don’t don’t underestimate how much you can share with the world and just do it because that’s what’s going to get a new your job. Like, if you work on Twitter and follow me on Twitter, like you see so many women in tech who are finding jobs just like this, you know, cause people know you, you have credibility now you’re a person, you’re a human.

Grant Ingersoll: 36:33 Yeah. So true. I, the best thing I ever did was just start contributing to open source and, and then people would, you reached this point where you don’t even have to interview anymore because people just see your body of work. And I think that’s exactly what you’re saying is like show people your body of work. It’s, it’s show don’t tell. Right. And, and, and then the other key thing I think you really hit on there is like, come as you are, come as who you are as a person. You may not be perfect. Even like as I started working on this podcast, I was super nervous. Like I don’t know how to do podcasting and then just start to figure it out. And in fact, like I just started learning from other people who had learned before me. And that’s so easy to do. Speaking of that, maybe, you know, any particular resources throughout your life, career, books, like podcasts, other websites that have been particularly helpful for you on this journey? You mentioned Eric Reese’s lean startup and maybe a few others in there. Any, anything else that strikes you as, yeah, this really helped me?

Tracy Lee: 37:38 Well, one books that I really like right now is this book called getting everything you can out of all you’ve got and just great because it, it’s a, you know, you can read one page and get so much information out of. So it’s, it’s basically consists of all these little stories of this one time this person did this and then this thing happened. Right. so yeah, I would, I texted it to you. Actually. I highly recommend that book. And I think another thing I highly recommend is just reaching out to people. So I still, I remember my first time on Twitter guy Kawasaki who is pretty famous. I didn’t know at the time he was the first person to talk to me on Twitter. And that really changed my mindset of, yeah. Right. And I was like, who”s this Guy Kawasaki guy, he’s so nice.

Tracy Lee: 38:32 And then I looked him up and I was like, Oh my gosh, oyster. You know? And you know, that makes me so like not afraid to just talk to people. I think a lot of people look at these people online and are like, Oh wow, this person’s doing this. They would never talk to me. I would say especially woman probably feel out, I know everybody does, right? But I will tell you the number of 20 year old male African developers that have messaged me on a daily basis asking for help and JavaScript is so high, right. And racing about these guys though, is that they have the balls to do so and because they have the balls to do so that’s how they’re going to be successful in life. Right? So anybody out there like if you want to be successful, don’t be afraid of rejection. What’s the worst that could happen? Just do it and you know, it’ll be okay or it won’t. Who cares? Like who at least try

Grant Ingersoll: 39:38 So beautiful. I just, in fact, I had a junior in high school interested in natural language processing, just reach out to me the other day, Hey, can I interview you? And it was amazing to hear like you showed up for the interview and like a suit and tie and it was such a just genuine, heartfelt like curiosity. And then he asked me like, what would you tell me to keep doing? I said like, dude, like you got to figure it out. Like keep doing this curiosity. I mean, I think that’s what you’re getting at is that curiosity and like, what are they going to do to say no? Oh, are they gonna ignore your email? Okay, we’ll just move on. You know, it costs you two minutes of your time to write that email and send it.

Tracy Lee: 40:25 But I think that’s like the the, you know, this goes back to putting yourself out there by writing blog posts, starting at business, right? Like, you know, everybody talks about MVP and, you know lean startup, right? Is those, this whole idea of like, just, just launch the thing. It’s okay. I mean, I can’t tell you how many websites or ideas I’ve just ran up, how many times have I started a food blog. So many times, so many Twitters, so many random abandoned Twitters, Instagrams, books. But it’s out there, you know, for all the broken glory it is.

Grant Ingersoll: 41:02 It’s so funny cause like literally about a month ago, I went through my hosting service and just cleaned up all of the old domain name registrations that I no longer use it. It’s like, you know what I’m not going to do. Tracy says such a great conversation. Where can our listeners best get ahold of you? Follow you, send that first email, you know, and just to be clear, you asked for it. So where and how can they connect with you?

Tracy Lee: 41:30 So you can always find me on twitter at ladyLeet. That’s L a, D Y, L, E, E T or you can email me if you want. It’s Tracy at this dot, a CEO, but then you’re going to have to figure out how to spell that. And I’m leading lead everywhere, so I’m always happy to chat. And you know, if I don’t respond, it’s not cause I don’t like you, you should probably just try again. But you know, I’m always happy to point people in the right direction. If you are a looking for amazing woman in tech or are an amazing woman in tech, you can always get a get hub.com/fempire and over there I have a list of female speakers and organizers. So if you’re excited about getting on the speaking circuit, that list is you know, used a lot by conference organizers who are looking for more diverse audiences or more, more diverse speakers in the in the industry. So there’s still out there fail. Blow your first talk. It’ll be fine.

Grant Ingersoll: 42:40 That’s awesome. And we’ll be sure to link all of that up in the show notes for sure. So Tracy, thank you so much again for joining us today.

Tracy Lee: 42:50 Yeah, thank you.

Grant Ingersoll: 42:51 And as always, for our listeners, if you’d like to show, we’d love for you to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or in Spotify or whatever your favorite listening app is. You, of course, can also visit us at develomentor.com that’s D, E V E L O, M E N T O R .com. To hear older episodes as well as find other content on careers in tech. Thank you all.

Outro: 43:36 [Inaudible].

Additional Resources

Books:
The Lean Startup – by Eric Ries
Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got – by Jay Abraham

People:
Guy Kawasaki


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