Ep. 15 Kelsey Hightower - Tech Support to Dev Advocate to Keynote Speaker


Kelsey Hightower has worn every hat possible throughout his career in tech, and enjoys leadership roles focused on making things happen and shipping software. He is a developer advocate and a strong open source advocate focused on building simple tools that make people smile. Kelsey is an expert in Kubernetes and has written a book about it called “Kubernetes: Up and Running: Dive into the Future of Infrastructure” (link below). When he is not slinging Go code, you can catch him giving technical workshops covering everything from programming to system administration. Learn how Kelsey went from tech support to dev advocate to keynote speaker!

For other tech roles and descriptions click here.

Episode Summary

Kelsey Hightower elected not to go to college. He learned to code by picking up a linux book and using it for all it was worth. And his career path is nothing less than fascinating. In today’s episode, Kelsey walks us through his incredible career in tech. We discuss how to grow an online community rooted on authenticity. We also go into Kelsey’s daily habits and he shares why he wakes up at 4:30 in the morning. Finally, we learn what it means to be a dev advocate and how Kelsey’s early tech support background came in clutch!

If there’s one thing our guests have in common, its that they see the silver lining in the opportunities they are given. Kelsey’s first job was in tech support. As he puts it, his role was “managing software that he didn’t write.” Kelsey was just starting out, but he realized that the tech business world is all about keeping customers happy. It was all about getting “people back on track to where they can focus on the thing they were doing before the problem came up.” Over time, he realized that the same problems came up over and over again. This is when he learned to code.

Key Milestones

Key Quotes

“If you can get people back on track to where they can focus on the thing they were doing before the problem came up thats where the gold is”

“the number 1 skill set is flexibility and just knowing how things work and map that to real world context and that makes you clever. And I developed these skills as a system administrator. “

“As a system administration, you’re trying to manage software that you didn’t write!”

“People want people who are authentic. Even if you’re wrong, they will appreciate you putting an opinion as long as its rooted in honesty.”

“You can see a lot of my code on Github so you know there’s not a lot to assume or guess about my abilities.”

“I elected not to go to college, and I grew up single mom and working fast food jobs.

“Once you learn to program, then the thoughts in your head become reality in the tech world.”

“Once you can put your thoughts down on paper, then they outlive the short term memory, they outlive you. And they can grow into bigger and greater things.”

“I just thought the book needed to exist because I had so much in my head, you could only get it if you went to a conference or I talked to you directly. So I wanted something to scale those ideas.”

“I like to write code every day. I wake up around 4:30AM and I’ll just hack on something to make sure I still got it. And also I want to see some of my ideas and solutions come to life.”

“If you’re trying to mimic something else, then you may always have impostor syndrome.”

“Mobile is out. Machine learning libraries are just one API call away these days.”

Additional Resources

Kelsey’s book: Kubernetes: Up and Running: Dive into the Future of Infrastructure