Laurie Barth – Software Engineer, Speaker & Blogger (#33)
Laurie is a Staff Software Engineer on the Gatsby Learning Team as well as a conference speaker, egghead instructor and member of the TC39 Educators committee. As a technical blogger, Laurie is a contributor to various publications, including CSS Tricks and Smashing Magazine. When she isn’t writing code you can find her playing board games and eating cupcakes with her puppy, Avett.
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“I’m a very plan oriented person and I never had a plan to be a speaker or a blogger or an instructor. It was more of, I tried something out, and it led to something else, and it led to something else”.
In this episode we’ll cover:
- Why technical blogging led Laurie to become an instructor at Egghead.io
- How much did a Masters in Computer Science help Laurie with her career? The answer is somewhat surprising!
- Why Laurie didn’t accept jobs at Disney and SpaceX to instead work from home in DC.
- How Laurie stays up to date with all the front end frameworks? Some frameworks mentioned are: Svelte, Angular, React, Vue, GraphQL
[1:45] – Laurie thought she would end up in law school. But while interning, she was forced to take a computer science class and this changed the course of her career.
[4:35] – After college, Laurie worked as a program manager for the federal government. She hated it and decided to apply to become a software engineer. As an engineer, she worked at several companies before joining Gatsby.
[9:40] – Laurie talks about how she got involved in the speaking circuit and how she picks out conferences. She mentions how much insight she got from the Kansas City Developer Conference.
[13:18] – How Laurie got into blogging? And how technical blogging led her to become an instructor at Egghead.io.
[16:42]- Laurie talks about different mentors she’s had in her career. She also talks about how she decided on her first junior level developer job.
[23:38] – How much did a Masters in Computer Science help Laurie with her career? Would she recommend it to others?
[26:40] – Laurie learned Java, Python, PHP because she was a consultant and needed to be knowledgeable for her clients. Lately, she gravitates more to front-end development.
[31:33] – Laurie explains why she didn’t accept jobs at Disney and SpaceX to work from home in DC.
[35:52] – How Laurie stays up to date with all the front end frameworks? Some frameworks mentioned are: Spelt, Angular, React, View, GraphQL
Grant Ingersoll (00:19):
Laurie Barth (01:36):
Nice to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Grant Ingersoll (01:38):
Yeah, and thanks so much for joining us. Why don’t we start off by having you just walk through, walk us through your career path to date.
Laurie Barth (01:45):
Oh goodness. That’ll be a nice little winding road. So I actually have to start at the very, very beginning. So I am the child of two attorneys and for some reason that made me decide when I was very young like five that I wanted to be a lawyer because my parents were lawyers and that’s just what we did. And I was for sure going to do this my entire life through college, through high school, going into college. I was going to graduate and go to law school. And then about 19 I still loved mathematics. I was majoring in mathematics and government at the same time. My dad was putting pressure on me to not be a lawyer. Ironically, he didn’t think I’d like it that much. And I decided to take an internship at my college because I went to Franklin and Marshall college and on-campus we had something called the center for opinion research, which was a political polling center that ran off of a building in the college.
Laurie Barth (02:52):
And I decided to intern there because I was majoring in government and mathematics and that was kind of the perfect blend of my two worlds. And while I was there, my boss, Angela middle who I still credit with my career to this day told me that she had spent a lot of time teaching herself sequel and database and some other coding stuff to make her job in the polling world easier so that she could deal with data and running regressions and all that kind of stuff. And so she told me that I wouldn’t be able to intern there for the summer unless I agreed to take a computer science class at the same time in one of the summer programs. And I pushed back on her really hard. I was like, you know, I’m not that smart. Geniuses do computer science. I don’t know computers.
Laurie Barth (03:41):
I haven’t been doing it my whole life. This is a terrible idea. And she said, well that’s the deal. You’re either going to take CS 101 and work with us the summer or your not and I’m not going to let you. And I had been an intern there during the school year, so she had enough buy in from me to kind of make this demand. And so I took CS one-on-one. And I loved it. It was in Java. It was, you know, basic data structures and it made sense to me. And it wasn’t until that moment that I kind of looked back on other exposure to computer science and development that I had had over the years. There had been a high school computer class that I had to take and I’d done really well in and really enjoyed and there had been some HTML and CSS that I had done just being a millennial on the web and really enjoyed, but none of that seemed to count to me.
Laurie Barth (04:35):
It always seemed like it was kind of fake and not as legitimate as real computer science coders. So I took CS one Oh one I ended up minoring in computer science in college and then I graduated and went to work for the federal government as a program manager for large technical projects thinking this was my dream job. I’d wanted to work in that area for a long time and I hated it because I wasn’t doing the work. I was managing the work cost, schedule performance, all of those things. I knew what everyone around me was talking about in terms of making architecture considerations and kind of what challenges they’d come across in their features and their sprints, but I didn’t actually have a hand in any of it. I was just making sure that they had the resources that they needed to complete the project.
Laurie Barth (05:26):
So after two and a half years of being honestly miserable, almost every day I decided to leave and I was looking for analyst positions. I figured kind of hybrid business-y technical roles would be the best for me. And I had a phone call with my now uncle who was just [inaudible] my boyfriend’s uncle at the time and he is a CTO and he said, Lori, what are you doing? Why are you playing the Ana less roles? I hadn’t heard back from any of the analyst roles. I’d applied to like three. You said, what are you doing? And I said, well, what else am I going to, they said, you’re going to go be a developer. And I was like, I don’t have enough for that. They know the detail that I haven’t added is that when I was in the federal government, part of the program I was in required me to get a master’s degree.
Laurie Barth (06:15):
A lot. Or the people in my program were getting MBAs. I decided to get a master’s in computer science. So I wasn’t done with the program. I was only halfway through my master’s in CS, but between that and a mathematics undergrad degree and a minor in computer science, he was sitting there saying, you have enough coding to be a junior developer anywhere. And so I applied to nine jobs. I heard back from seven of them. I had final interviews at two of our final interviews at three and I got two offers. And I made a decision between them. Yeah. It ended up being exactly what I was supposed to do. So I was in my first role for a couple of years and I kinda hit a plateau there. I had had a great senior mentor and it was time for me to move on. And then for three years, I was a consultant with a team of brilliant people at 10 miles square who were far more senior and advanced than I had ever dreamed of working with.
Laurie Barth (07:13):
Grant Ingersoll (08:27):
No, that’s, that’s perfect. And I mean, wow, we could, we could talk about so many great things in there. I’m going to start maybe a little bit in reverse here because I think you hit on, so those last couple of sentences hit on some really interesting things for folks. That I often see, you know, is like people that people in the space often come at things like careers as it’s very, you know, no pun intended or maybe pun intended, binary choices of I must do this or I must do that, right? It’s either be an analyst or be a developer and, and, and you’ve actually, I think hit on something in that. And I, in my own career has been really helpful and I see in many, many successful people as they, they work through their career is like, I’m going to do these kind of experiments on the side. I’m going to start to develop some of these other areas that, and then I can go use that as a leap to the, the next idea. Right. So maybe dig in a little bit because effectively what you’re describing in your current role as you’re, you’re both a developer and a developer advocate, right. And we’ve had some prior interviews was developer advocates. Right. I would love to hear you, you know, put some more meat on those bones if you will.
Laurie Barth (09:40):
Yeah, absolutely. So I do a tiny bit of developer advocacy in my new role, but I would say that the primary purpose of my role is to be a teacher and a documentation expert. So to focus on making sure that people understand how to use the platform, not just making sure people know about the platform. There is a little bit of developer relations that I do, but that’s kind of a secondary job for me right now. But the, the kind of side experiments that you mentioned are really interesting because they were never intentional for me. So in 2017 there was a local first year conference in the DC area that was looking for speakers and the theme of the conference was legacy systems. And at that time I had worked for the federal government and then I had worked in consulting and everything I knew was legacy systems. Yeah. And really kind of a big way.
Grant Ingersoll (10:38):
I’m having flashbacks right now. Sorry,
Laurie Barth (10:42):
Spine side. It makes a lot of sense. Right? So I wanted to see more women on stage. I had worked whether I didn’t know the speaker circuit very well at that time, but I knew that the companies that I worked in were very male dominated. And so I didn’t expect to see as many submissions from women. And so I decided to submit a talk. I thought it would be fun because I did theater and debate growing up and crowds don’t really scare me. And so I got up and I put together, it was supposed to be a 20 minute talk and I think I made it 15 minutes and it used a terrible PowerPoint. There is a video of this online that you can find if you search on YouTube, Lori Barth, the table cloth trick, but the talk itself went decently well. People laughed. It was compelling. Those slides should be burned and never used again. But that’s another story and I really liked it.
Laurie Barth (11:37):
And so I submitted to a couple more conferences and I got a couple of kind of big breaks. I was accepted into the first ever lead developer Austin events. And I got flown out there and I gave 10 minute talk on a technical project that I’d worked on and I called the talk tech for the nontechnical. And that went really well and I had no idea how amazing it was to get into that event because to be perfectly honest, I’ve not gotten in since. It’s a very competitive event. And then I had submitted to a bunch of other places and I was kind of choosing my locations based on family members that I had in the area that I thought I might want to visit. And so my sister in law lives in Kansas city and I said, why don’t I apply to this conference called the Kansas city developer conference?
Laurie Barth (12:31):
And I didn’t get in. And I was at that time, I had this kind of sense that the conference organizers paid had a small enough number of submissions that they paid attention to, like who followed them on Twitter and their interactions, which was ridiculous. But I followed the conference organizers and they tweeted out, Hey, we had a thousand applications for, you know, a hundred slots, thanks to everyone who submitted. And I said, Oh wow. I had no idea it was that many. I don’t feel so bad for not getting in. And they responded back and they actually looked me up in their system and they’re like, Oh yeah, you applied to Java script and human skills and those were really, really popular tracks please try again next year. And I was like, Oh, I definitely will. Hmm. Well, they had a couple people drop out and they remembered me.
Laurie Barth (13:18):
They remembered that interaction and they sent me an email and they said, Hey, do you still want to come? I said, yes, I definitely still want to come. And [inaudible] Kansas city developer conference is one of the largest, most well-run community conferences in the United States. And there were so many people that I met there who are just dynamite speakers who have been speaking all over the world for many years. And they gave me tips and tricks and places to apply and blew my speaking career wide open in, in parallel, I had met some friends in the DC area who were really big technical blockers. And I had done some technical blogging, but they pointed out that, you know, speaking is kind of a flash in the pan. You’re in one place, you see one set of people and blogging can reach a bigger audience. And so I started doing that.
Laurie Barth (14:11):
And then about a year into doing that, I got a message from Joel hooks who is one of the cofounders of egghead, which is a educational video platform for mostly front end developers. They said, Hey, do you want to be an instructor for us? And I said, no, no, I have too much on my plate. And he’s like, okay, I’m going to bug you in a month because he bugged me in a month. And I said, no, no, I have too much on my plate. And then he said, okay, I’m going to bug you in another month. Then he bugged me in another month and my husband happened to be traveling for a long work trip and I said, yeah, okay, I got some time. So I put together some videos and I found that they were kind of fun one off things to do that ended up complementing a lot of the blog posts side written because it was this is written down code and narrative, but maybe some people prefer visual me walking through code and being able to see it, which is totally different than a talk, which is kind of pulling this all together.
Laurie Barth (15:05):
So they end up really complimenting each other nicely. And I, I cannibalize a lot of the same learning and knowledge that I have. And I just do it on different platforms for different audiences and different mediums because people learn different ways.
Grant Ingersoll (15:19):
Yeah, no, that’s great. And I think you answered all my questions. So the interview is done. No, no. I mean, there’s so many, so many good things in there. And I mean, I sense the, there’s a couple of really interesting themes I’m hearing emerge, you know, so you talked about intentionality and you know, you almost a little bit of self deprecation, they’re all, I haven’t done these intentionally, but, but in some ways you have, right? Like you, you took that first step to put yourself out there. You had conversations with people who then said that, that then pushed you a little bit. And so there’s this, there’s this mix of intentionality. You wanted something better. You had some serendipity in there, but more importantly, you recognize the serendipity and then took action. Right. So you talked about your early mentor, Angela on and then your uncle, and then it sounds like at egghead I think you said his name was Jeff. Right. So Joel, sorry, apologies Joel. Spend a little bit more because you know, in the name of the show, develomentor his mentor. And so talk a little bit more about some of these influences in particular, if you have any tips for other people in helping them identify mentors. Right? Like what are some of the criteria or some of the things that came through for you as you reflect back on these people who’ve helped you?
Laurie Barth (16:42):
Yeah, absolutely. And I will say I like what you said. When I say it’s not intentional, I’m a very plan oriented person and I never had a plan to be a speaker or a blogger or an instructor. It was more I tried something out and it led to something else and it led to something else. So yes, absolutely. Taking advantage of opportunities in that serendipity and being intentional. What’s your what’s you’re given the opportunity versus kind of having this longterm plan of like, this is where I’m going to be and what I’m going to do. But in terms of mentors, it’s actually really interesting kind of over the years I’ve had quite a few. [inaudible] And obviously Angela is that first one. And I’m still in touch with her, but in my very first development role my first kind of junior role, I had a senior engineer who, let me ask more questions than anyone should ever let me ask.
Laurie Barth (17:39):
I walked over to his desk every five minutes. He never got any of his own work done. I don’t know how he stood me. But what his role was and the reason he kept answering my questions was because I never asked them the same question twice. I never made the same mistake twice. So every time he gave me an answer, I took it, put it in my brain and I was going to use it the next time I came across it. Every time he helped me solve a problem, even if it meant that he had to sit down and code it himself, he knew that I would go into the code base and figure out how he did it because I was curious. And so that was a really great relationship because he probably pushed himself past the point of what he was really comfortable with.
Laurie Barth (18:21):
He will tell you that he was not someone who enjoyed teaching. There was another senior engineer who really did, but he had a very practical style that matched mine. When I asked him a question, he talked to me about how to solve that problem instead of, you know, going five levels deep on the fundamentals underneath. And that worked really well for me. So finding someone who matched my style. And I tell people constantly that your very first development role, it doesn’t matter what language you’re coding in, it doesn’t matter what project you’re working on, as long as it’s ethical, what matters is who your senior resources are going to be and how they work with you and how much you can count on them to give you good habits. Because those are habits that end up being really, really, really hard to break. So you want them to be good ones.
Grant Ingersoll (19:11):
Did you find that you, sorry, jump in there. Did I want to hit on that because did you find like was that an intentional part of some of your early choices or did you just get lucky?
Laurie Barth (19:23):
I got lucky. And that’s important to recognize too, right? Yes. So, so I will actually say I got lucky. So it’s interesting. Part of it was luck and part of it was choice. So I got two job offers for that first junior developer role. And what people don’t know, and I don’t think I’ve ever said publicly before is the second offer I got was what ended up being my second job. But I turned it down the first time and I spent two years somewhere else because I felt that there was a more attainable path forward for me. There were a lot more junior engineers in the company I ended up working for. I knew that there were some senior resources there who were used to dealing with junior engineers. That was an intentional choice. The of the two senior resources that existed, there was an expectation that I would work with and benefit from one of them versus the other.
Laurie Barth (20:22):
And it ended up being the opposite. I ended up benefiting from the other senior resource, but that worked out fine. That was the luck part, that there were two people of different styles and one of them worked for me. But, but turning down the other job that I ended up taking two years later, you know, they all gave me crap a little bit. They’re like, you know, you turned us down. I was like, yeah. And it was, it was the right, because they were a team of incredibly senior people. They didn’t have a lot of junior resources. And so when I came to them I had learned, you know, get processes and JIRA and what a development team looks like and you know, how to code front end and backend and set up my computer and all these things that you kind of take for granted and your first development role. And then I could take all of that knowledge and jump into working directly with clients and being integrated with another team and having a level of knowledge that I felt I needed to feel comfortable in those environments and take advantage of what else I could learn in those environments.
Grant Ingersoll (21:28):
Yeah. Wow. I want to make sure our listeners really pay attention there because a lot of really good stuff. And please come rewind if you did because I mean there’s so many key pieces there of how you set yourself up for success. And I think too, like even on the mentorship piece, I think highlighting the fact that you approached it with a mindset of curiosity as opposed to, you know, Hey, a senior developer, you must teach me. Right? Like, like you, you came in with some curiosity. You didn’t make the same mistake twice. Even if you did is probably okay. But you know, going in and approaching it that way I think is, is really helpful. I want to come back to something early in your career that you talked about, which oftentimes in the, the early CS part of your life, if you will though that first job out, one of the questions is, should I get a masters? Right? And as someone who did, you know, you hinted at this, but you know, what has been the impact of that for you, right? As there’s often this question, is it useful? It sounds like for you, it, it worked out pretty well because it gave you that last bit of credentials or that last bit of over the hump. But talk a little bit about, Oh, how that’s worked out for you. Did you, you know, in terms of your career?
Laurie Barth (22:51):
Yeah, absolutely. So I didn’t have a choice in starting the program. It was a requirement when I was working for the federal government. But when I, when I left, I wasn’t done. I was about halfway done with my degree and I did a lot of soul searching about whether or not I wanted to finish it, but I kind of got in my head if I don’t do it now, I’m never going to do it and I’ve put in all this time and energy anyway. Why don’t I just finish it? So I did credential wise, I actually don’t know how much it helped me. I think it helps me get that first entry level job even though I was only halfway through. I also think having worked for the federal government ended up being impressive to that particular company. I can’t quite tell you why, but that’s feedback I was given.
Laurie Barth (23:39):
Whether it’s helped me going forward. I had a job where I was talking to a about what people should make depending on the degrees that they have. And he started to talking about, you know, how much he thinks someone with the master’s in CS should make. And so I turned to my boss at the time and I said, Hey, I don’t make that is like we’re talking about someone who has a master’s. And I said, boss, I have a masters in computer science. He had no idea. He hadn’t, he had never bothered to kind of read the resume because it was a conversation. It was, it was, can she do this job? So, so I like it because I think it was an interesting experience. Do I think it’s had much bearing on my career maybe to outside observers who haven’t mentioned it? To me it has, it’s given me kind of a more credentialed approach, but, but to people who have spoken to me, half of them don’t know. I mean more than half of them don’t know. So I’m not sure it’s made much of a difference.
Grant Ingersoll (24:36):
Yeah, no, I had mine paid for as well, and I did mine part time, you know, like one class a semester. And you know, back then I think people probably cared more about it. You know, this was 20 years ago. But, yeah, I mean I think, you know, you did hit on something and that pay bands are often tied to those kinds of things and the higher you can start your career at, the better off you’re going to be. Right.
Laurie Barth (25:05):
And the larger companies that you work for, the more impact it’s gonna have. I’ve worked for smaller companies and so they, they can be more individualistic in the way that they hire in the way that they compensate. That’s very different in larger enterprise organizations. The other thing I will add I was not given a job, not by an interviewing panel. They wanted me to have the job, but by HR, because my mathematics degree is a bachelor of arts. I went to a liberal arts school. I now have a master’s of science just to prove a point.
Grant Ingersoll (25:42):
Wow. That’s a, that’s really interesting. That’s exactly my why of math and computer science. Well, you know, liberal arts degree and then master’s of science. So that’s funny. I never thought about that. I love it. I want to shift gears a little bit because you know, I think one of the things that struck me in, in doing my research on you that you, which I love to call, is LinkedIn stalking. You know, in a world that often specializes in looking at your profile, it seems you’ve worked across a variety of both front end and back end technologies. Right. You know, you mentioned now you’re at Gatsby, which is a front end tech, but looking at some of your past experience, your first classes were Java, you’ve done some Java development. I saw some elastic search and some other pieces in there. Has that been a deliberate choice or does this fall into the category yet again of like, Hey, I got this job and then the job required and it kind of worked out?
Laurie Barth (26:40):
Yeah. Can I call it consulting life? Yeah. Yeah. So the first job that I took, I was a consultant, but we were working in our own space and we were kind of contracted out and we were a Java shop. And that introduced me to Java script and angular because I had the backend experience and not the front end experience, which is typical of most people who come out of any academic program. You learn algorithms and databases, but they don’t really focus on the front end at all. And so I learned angular, their original angular JS like 1.0 not modern angular. And that was a cool experience and I really enjoyed it. But when I went to my next consulting job at 10 mile we, I used to joke that I don’t have a tech stack. My tech stack is whatever the client tells me it is.
Laurie Barth (27:34):
And I was all over the place. I was learning PHP and Python and proprietary technologies. I was designing databases in post-grads, in sequel, in documents stores. I was working on hardware at one point. I did a whole CICB dev ops pipeline. Most of my talks and speaking are based around being a fish out of water and having to learn this new thing that I don’t know anything about. It’s what makes me a better teacher frankly, because I had the, I have so much experience having to learn that I don’t take for granted things. I think other people just forget that they ever didn’t know. And I found myself gravitating after all of those experiences, I found myself gravitating more towards the front end. I found myself gravitating, especially toward Java script as a language and frameworks and all of the comparisons between that, but still with the knowledge that I enjoy and can pick up whatever else I have to pick up.
Laurie Barth (28:40):
But I love teaching people this thing because I think like I said, with the kind of traditional backgrounds, I think most of the front end resources are created by people on the web for free or not for free. [inaudible] You don’t exist in kind of traditional textbooks for classrooms. And so we have an entire generation coming up where front end is incredibly important. It’s become far more robust than it ever was. It includes, you know, so many considerations about mobile versus tablet versus desktop and all the different frameworks and all the different browsers and there’s just so, so much to learn there and it’s really critical to do well because everyone uses the internet these days and we have to take in to consideration, you know, accessibility and internationalization and all of these things that, you know, you don’t get taught in a classroom and I think bootcamps are actually doing a good job of focusing on a little bit more. But for anyone who already works in the industry, who, or who is coming into the industry in that space, it requires a lot of good teaching and a lot of good documentation. And I kind of fell in love with that area and said, I’m going to, you know, park here for a little while.
Grant Ingersoll (29:59):
Yeah, interesting. I love it. You hit on something that’s really cool there and I think this is like for any of the academics listening to this, there is a big gap here and bootcamps have stepped up to fill it. And it’s almost like, you know, to be a complete developer these days, you pro maybe completes the wrong word, but you, you essentially could do a bootcamp. Plus I think if you took data structures as a class and algorithms of class, it’s like you need those two classes for that. That’s solid backend functionality or early learning and then bootcamp on top of it. And like, you could get a job anywhere in the world right now doing that, doing pretty much anything if you, if you could demonstrate, you know knowledge in that space. So I think you hit on some really key pieces there.
Grant Ingersoll (30:46):
I want to take a little bit, you know, one of the things, you know, this, this show really is about, is, you know, helping people see and find their path and, and tech and, and to the extent that you’re comfortable, I’m wondering if you could reflect on some key inflection points, perhaps, maybe even some adversity you’ve faced in your career that you’ve had to overcome or, or some pieces that, you know, as you look back, you’re like, wow, that made me a better developer, that made me a better coworker, that, that really helped me get to a better space. And, you know, I want to make sure you feel comfortable with the questions. So don’t, you know, don’t feel obligated to go out, you don’t want to. But I think it’s really important for people to, to hear and understand like, Hey, sometimes careers don’t always work out the way you want.
Laurie Barth (31:33):
Yeah. Yeah. So, so I will say right off the bat, I have been very fortunate. I am incredibly lucky with the way that my career trajectory has turned out, at least thus far. I’ve gotten to accomplish a lot of things and do a lot of things. There’s a few things over the years that really stick out to me. I kind of joked earlier that I’m a planner, a longterm planner, and having my dream job right out of college be such a failure was really hard for me. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do now. I had this whole plan and it just, it wasn’t working. And should I stick it out and eventually hope it would get better or should I leave? And I left. And I would encourage anybody who really is not happy in their role. If you have an opportunity to get another one, don’t let fear of comfort or lack of comfort convince you not to.
Laurie Barth (32:30):
Don’t stay somewhere because you know it, if you hate it, because it’s rare that you’re jumping to something worse, especially if you’re intentional about how you do that. Another thing I would say is there are jobs that have ceilings. There were jobs that I really enjoyed and I enjoyed my coworkers and I enjoyed the work I was doing, but I knew after, you know, a year or two that there wasn’t much else for me to do there. I have limits on what I could accomplish, the opportunities I was going to have. And again, it’s scary to leave, but sometimes that’s the best move. Yeah. And the last thing I would say in terms of you know, kind of things that didn’t work out is I had some opportunities for jobs in California. I mean I’ll be really explicit about it. I was contacted and went through some rounds of interviews for space X.
Laurie Barth (33:26):
I wanted to be a Disney Engineer for a little while. Which is still probably my dream job. But I decided not to take those opportunities because at the time I was getting married and my husband’s job is here in DC and it is okay to be a career oriented person and decide not to take a job because of your life for your family. I am a very career oriented person. I really like accomplishing things. It’s part of my identity. My identity wouldn’t work if I didn’t have the support of my family, if I didn’t have a puppy in another room right now who hangs out with me while I work at home. I mean, it just, it wouldn’t work. And so it’s okay that I’m not a Disney Imagineer. It’s okay that I don’t work at space X. I might’ve been happy there, I may not have been happy there, but I wouldn’t have been happy being in California, away from my family or moving my family somewhere where they weren’t happy. And so, so those were choices. We thought about them for a long time and you know, maybe if my husband had a different job that would’ve made sense for us, but it didn’t. And I’m very grateful that, you know, I waited and I ended up finding something that I love that I can do from my house.
Grant Ingersoll (34:47):
Yeah, that’s, that’s great. I mean, Laurie, there’s so many parallels I see in my own career that you’ve hit on math. Then somebody just happened to say, computer science to me and I took a class and here we are and just record your episode. No, that’s awesome. I mean I deliberately stayed on the East coast for family reasons, found remote work. Like you know, so, so many cool things there. I wanted to shift gears just in the interest of time. This has been, so there’s so many things I could dig in deeper, but I want to spend a little bit of time, you know, kinda in the here and now are looking forward and you know, one of the running jokes in front end development is, you know, Hey, there’s a new framework every week, right? You know, angular, view, react Gatsby, you know, on and on and on. How do you approach staying current and deciding where and how to invest your time in a world, you know, in a, in a world that by definition is changing at the, you know, the, the rate of the speed of light or almost, right.
Laurie Barth (35:52):
Yeah. So it’s interesting. I think that’s the stereotype in it’s true to a certain extent, but if you look at the trajectory, it’s actually slowed down quite a bit and it’s stabilizing a little bit. View for example is what people look at as kind of one of the newest frameworks and it’s been around for three or four years now. I’d say spelt is probably the newest and that’s probably a year or two old still. We are coalescing around probably three or four frameworks. And what you’re seeing now is the rise of what I’ll, what I like to call meta frameworks or technologies that exist to be slightly more opinionated than the framework that they’re based on. And do a little bit more for you. Gatsby is one of those, it’s focused on optimizing your performance and it’s on top of react and it uses graph QL.
Laurie Barth (36:50):
So, so these meta frameworks that are kind of moving a level up from something like a react and angular or view allow you to use the knowledge that you already have and get [inaudible] a little bit more for free as I call it, because some of these frameworks they are so unopinionated that that’s really dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. In terms of keeping up to date with stuff, there’s a couple of things I try and do. Blogging is a big way that I learned new things. I say, Oh, I want to write this post. And then I go and I do the research for it. That’s only so sustainable in terms of time and you’re probably gonna see me blog a little bit less with my new job just because you know, priorities change. But another thing that I would say is you realize over time that there’s a lot of patterns and they exist throughout the frameworks.
Laurie Barth (37:45):
They exist throughout the front end and once you learn one or two things really, really well, it makes it a lot easier to pick up the next in particular I was writing a post the other day about component lifecycle hooks that exists in angular and view and react and it’s a matter of understanding that their function names are different, but the actual, you know, back end concept of what they’re doing is the same. And so understanding it in one framework allows you to work seamlessly, move into the next. I keep up to date on things a lot through Twitter. I’m also through newsletters, things like CSS tricks and especially magazine. Those are all really helpful. Podcasts can be helpful. I enjoy the egghead podcast, I enjoy react podcast. I will admit that I am terrible at listening to podcasts unless I’m walking the dog or driving. And the other time I get deeply distracted so I don’t get through that many of them. But I try and kind of pick and choose episodes and I’m probably about to like preempt your next question. But if you, my biggest advice to anyone in their career is learn how you learn best. If you know the answer to that question, you can keep up to date with whatever you need to.
Grant Ingersoll (39:00):
Yeah, I think that’s so true. And, and one of the other things I think tying in your career is like that getting exposed to a lot of different ideas in your 20s or in the early part of your career I think is so helpful because then it does allow you to go and decide where later that you want to really be an expert on it. And it feels like in some ways that’s the path you’ve described to you had these early consultancies and then later you started gravitating towards the front end. Right? And you got into these more opinionated frameworks. We’ll, we’ll be sure to link up all of those frameworks that you mentioned. And there’s a couple of new ones in there for me, so I hadn’t heard of spelt before, but, but yeah, that learning how you learn I think is a really key piece for our listeners to, to hone in on because that takes a while, right? Like, you know, very few of us are just right off the bat, know how we learn. Right. You may have some broad strokes, but really digging in on that, what do you see then as you know, so kind of taking this learning, where do you see essentially front end development going in the next few years?
Laurie Barth (40:17):
It’s super funny. I actually get asked this every so often and I never know what to say. Because I don’t think any of us can know. I will say I think there’s a couple things that are clear, at least based on the trajectory right now. I think people have moved away from focusing exclusively on the developer experience and we’ve started turning back to the user experience, which is a really, really good thing. I think we are putting more of a finer point on accessibility, which is so important and the fact that we ever moved away from it and it was ever not a default experience pains me. So I think that’s wonderful to see. I will also say that I think we are focused on performance. I think we are noticing that a lot of the websites we make for customers and people who want to make money, that’s why they pay us to make websites half the time.
Laurie Barth (41:13):
They have opportunities in all kinds of regions of the world and if we don’t have performance sites, we are cutting them off from certain areas with less quality internet and bad bandwidth and all those kinds of things. So things like PWA is you’re going to be really important that folds into static generators. And, and doing some of that pre compiling so that you can serve things more directly. Using content, data networks and that kind of stuff. In general, I think we are focusing on taking the fundamentals that we already know and using them to get a little bit farther, a little bit faster. That’s kind of where I see us going for the moment. Whether that shifts or changes your guess is as good as mine.
Grant Ingersoll (42:05):
That’s the beauty of the internet is you never know where the next great idea is coming from. So
Laurie Barth (42:09):
Hopefully not in blockchain, but
Grant Ingersoll (42:12):
Hey, you never know. Somebody might come out with, there’s a lot of good things underneath it, so
Laurie Barth (42:18):
Just don’t use the electricity of Venezuela to do it. I mean come on.
Grant Ingersoll (42:23):
Exactly. Well you know that that’s somebody who will probably solve, right. That would be nice. So yeah, you did preempt my last, my, one of my usual last questions around advice. So I’m going to actually skip that and, and go to the next one, which is we wrap up here. You know, any particular resources that stand out to you in terms of things that have been pivotal? I know I often talk about, there’s a few books that I’ve read over the years that really helped me kind of solidify my thinking around my career. Anything that stands out for you?
Laurie Barth (42:58):
Hmm. So there’s, in terms of like keeping up with code, there’s a fair number of resources they use. I know I mentioned CSS tricks and smashing magazine. I blog on dev.to, which has know hundreds of thousands of bloggers at this point. I think. And that’s super helpful. In terms of career stuff, I’ve found that it’s mostly conversations with people that I meet in real life. I don’t know that there’s any particular resource. I’m probably gonna, you know, end this call and immediately think of something. Yeah. But yeah, I’m not, I, I have to admit I’m better at kind of short or even long form articles and that kind of thing that I can do asynchronously than I am about kind of books. But there’s been a few recommended to me that I still haven’t gotten to. One of them is about taking feedback. I would have to find the actual title, but, but that’s one of those that I, you know, I intend to get to at some point. One of the,
Grant Ingersoll (44:06):
It doesn’t have to be books too. I mean, I think those, those that you you named are great and we’ll be sure to link those up in the show notes. And last question, Laurie and you know, which is first off, thank you so much for everything. Where can our listeners follow you and, and learn more about you and your career and perhaps subscribe to your blog. Maybe give us a couple of links.
Laurie Barth (44:31):
Yeah, so I’m, I’m pretty well branded at this point unintentionally. Actually probably intentionally at this point. Laurieontech, so L a U R I E on tech. I’m that on Twitter. That is my.com and.dev site. They’re the same. They just, I felt like buying vanity URLs the other day that all links to my speaking appearances that is as kept up to date as possible with my blogs. If you want the most up to date blog posts, you’ll go to dev dot T O and Laurie Barth there. And then on egghead you can find me at as Laurie Barth and instructor or just search for some of the topics. Those are also linked on my site. So this site is kind of the main thing and then if you want my day to day ramblings and thoughts, Twitter.
Grant Ingersoll (45:20):
Awesome. No, that’s so great. And we’ll be sure to link those up in the show notes. Laurie, I want to thank you again for joining us today.
Laurie Barth (45:30):
Yeah, absolutely. This was a lot of fun.
Grant Ingersoll (45:32):
Yeah, and as always, if you, our listeners like to show we’d love for you to subscribe on iTunes or Google play or Spotify or whatever podcast app you’re using these days, you of course can also visit us at develomentor.com To hear older episodes as well as find other content on careers in tech. Most importantly, if you liked the show, please tell your friends referrals are the lifeblood of any podcast. And of course we are always looking for feedback on either this episode or any episode. Finally, if you’d like to be a guest, drop us an email at [email protected] and finally, just here’s to you finding your next career and we hope we can be a part of helping you on that journey.
Front End Development Resources
Selected Links from the episode:
Ep. 3 Natural Language Processing, with Liz Liddy
Ep. 12 How to Shift Your Career from Engineering to Product, with Nick Caldwell