This Developing Story

TDS 84: Getting a Job from Side Projects - Katherine Peterson

Episode Summary

Katherine Peterson recently accepted a role as an engineer at GitHub. Join me in learning how she built one side project that got 7+ plus interviews at various companies and why she chose GitHub.

Episode Notes


Episode Transcription

Episode 84 of this developing story.


what's up. Y'all uh, it seems like every time I find out a new person who sort of made their way in that industry, they've got really intriguing stories. This episode is just that I chat with Catherine Peterson, AKA Katherine codes about her trajectory into getting her job at GitHub as an engineer on Mindy's team.


It turns out we've crossed quite a few paths. And we kind of talk about that actually in this conversation. Uh, talk about how Catherine started the side project, which was read me that. So in how that side project kind of became her main project. Folks who are reaching out for jobs. Uh, it seemed like she had a lot, quite a few inbounds, uh, for opportunities and interviews.


So hope you find these interviews, intriguing hope. These are inspiring. If you're looking for a job, if you have a job we'll complete your next job, or if you're just trying to get involved in open source or get attention into your project, that's what this podcast is trying to serve and trying to serve the question of.


How developers became developers and are still developing. As a reminder, this interview was actually recorded on Twitter spaces. If you're not following me there, it's  how that made there. And, um, yeah. Turn on the notifications. You can actually turn on notifications just for Twitter spaces.


Uh, whenever I go live too, as well, so feel free to do that. All right. So let's jump into the conversation and, uh, I'll see you on the other side.


Yeah. So I'm Cathy. I let's see it. I live in the bay area and I am working as a software engineer at get hub specifically on the communities. Um, I'm working on get hub sponsors right now. Um, so I just, I just joined GitHub back in June. Um, and yeah, that's where I'm at. That's awesome to hear too as well.


Cause I'm familiar for a bit of your story because I saw the read me not. So, um, was it a product onto her somewhere, someone tweeted it and I was like, oh, that's a cool project. And do you wanna talk about how you got your job and get hub? Maybe we start there. Yeah. Yeah. So I built that project. Read me dot.


So back in, I think around March or April, I think April, um, And I tweeted about it and it got like a little bit of attention, but a few weeks later, uh, GitHub, like their actual Twitter account tweeted about the project. Um, yeah. And I think I like retweeted it and was like really, really excited. Um, And then I got a DM from some, from a manager at GitHub and they were like, oh, like, seems like you're really excited about GitHub.


Like, would you be interested in working here? And I was like, yes, of course. Um, so I ended up interviewing and that's basically how I got it. Yeah. But just basically through Twitter. Yeah. That at that point, um, just like a hiring manager from get hub, DM me on Twitter. Basically said he added an opening on his team and asked if I was interested in interviewing.


Um, and I did. And the rest of this. Yeah. I mean, it's history in the making and it's a continuing the process too as well. But I wanted to ask, take a step back and find out your background as far as developing. So like what, how did you get into the web development and coding? Yeah, so I actually studied industrial engineering in college, so it was.


Wasn't CS or anything like that. Um, and I liked it, but I, I was just thinking for traders and stuff. People say that no, it's more like business process improvement. Um, yeah, but it was, it was like very general. Um, like we took a lot of classes, like a couple electrical engineering classes, a couple of mechanical engineering classes.


Like I felt like coming away from that, I didn't have any like hard technical skills. Um, and then straight out of college. So I graduated in 2018 and then I went to work for a small company. They did like food automation, um, so like food making robots basically. Um, and I kind of just did like whatever needed to be done.


And it was like a small company, so wore a lot of hats and just did like random things. Um, And it was fine, but like, I didn't love it. And then about a year into that, I got an email, um, from Cal poly where I went to college. Um, That said that they were partnering with this coding bootcamp and offering like a part-time online coding boot camp.


And I knew that coding was something I was interested in from in college. We had like two or three coding classes. I done like a little bit in high school. And so I knew that it was something I enjoyed and that like kind of came naturally to me. So I applied for this bootcamp and ended up doing that.


Kind of just like on a whim. Like I, I saw that email and I was like, I thought it looked interesting. Um, and then I ended up completely loving it. So that was like a full stack web development bootcamp. Um, so I did that, um, on the side of my full-time job for six months and then the company that I was at, uh, they actually let me switch into a software role there.


Um, yeah, so I did that for a while. Um, and then I ended up going to a very early startup who was like just starting developing a mental health app. Um, and that's where I like first used rails and stuff like that. Um, so I was there for another year or so, and then I ended up like, Wow. That's awesome. So going, like finding out about the bootcamp to getting the job at get hub, what's the time span of that?


It is. I started the bootcamp in April, 2019. So two years out of, or two years, I guess, from the start of my bootcamp, which was six or 26 weeks. Okay. That's that's not bad. Um, I mean like a lot of everybody's everybody's story is like different. I know one individual who just recently got a backend development job after, um, actually two years since finishing the bootcamp.


Um, so getting their first job, but then I also know other folks who get the jobs before the bootcamp end, and I think it's all choose your own adventure. It, this a lot of different variables, but. I think it's, I, that's amazing to sort of not really know about programming and then kind of not, I don't say backtracking, but like sort of side dooring into the industry.


That's pretty awful. I feel super lucky. And I know, I see, um, Nick, my fiance is listening right now on the space. Um, But he did the same bootcamp as me, like about a year later. And he's interviewing right now for jobs, but I seen with him and with a lot of other people who have come out of boot camps, like it's really hard to get that first job out of bootcamp.


So I, I feel super lucky that it was just like the company that I was at happened to like, have that opportunity there. Um, but like for a lot of people, that's not the case. They kind of were able to take a chance on me without knowing my skills just because they knew me. Um, but it's hard like to, to find a job straight out of bootcamp when you don't have a lot of like code to show or like experience to show.


Um, and then obviously like the, the ghetto jar was kind of. Like luck and a lot of senses of them, like seeing that project and tweeting about it. Um, so yeah, I know it's like very unusual to end up where I did so quickly after, after switching into soft. Yeah. And like the, the one thing I wanted to point out too as well, cause like I've seen you around and I didn't realize, I knew the project that you created Remi.


Uh, so, but I've also seen you around in different communities as well. And I can't even like place. I know we were both in the same chat once in a live stream for a James Q quick, uh, James, James actually shouted you out and was like, oh, check out Katherine's project. And I'm like, oh, you created that thing.


Like, I totally know what that is. James is awesome. I, he had me on like, uh, shortly after. I really used to read me. And I think I remember I was interviewing with get hub when I was on his live stream, but I didn't, I didn't want to mention it on there because I didn't have an offer yet. And I remember, like, I kind of told him about it, like before we started recording, but I was like, yeah, I don't want to say like the company.


I just want to say like, companies have been reaching out to me since I released the project. Um, but he's awesome. And he he's like shouted me out a bunch of stuff. Yeah, he's a congratulation with James too as well. I think he's in the listing right now, but he just hit a hundred thousand on, um, YouTube.


Um, which is, yeah. It's mind blowing because yeah, he was definitely a lot lower earlier this year and, uh, he just sort of just ramped up pretty quickly. Yeah. I mean, he's another one that I've like seen everywhere for a long time. Yeah. And I think that's the thing too, as well. Y you, you have a project that got folks to reach out or get hub to reach out and retweet you.


But I think it kind of goes to show too as well. Like sometimes actually rather than me come to conclusion, I want to find out more about why you built a project where you be, so that way I'm not putting words in your mouth, but yeah. What, what was the story behind that I was at, um, who was actually, I was building a, a read me for the startup that I was working at.


Um, we had just like our main repository of. Had been around for like a year and never had a read me. So I was like, I should probably add a, read me to this. And I was like, I don't really know what I'm supposed to put on here. So my technique was to like Google example read means, and then I would like go through and pick and choose what sections of the read means that I saw online, like, made sense for that project.


Um, so I had like a bunch of tabs open and I was. Flipping through like looking for what's relevant and adding it to my rude mean. And that's basically where the idea came from. I was like every cool. If I just like, could, you know, like exactly what red means day, like click on sections that I wanted and kind of see like, uh, like what type of stuff would you put in that section?


Um, so when I was doing that, I. I wrote it down on like a list of ideas that I keep. Um, it's like a notion and I I'm constantly adding ideas to that. That like in theory, I will have time to build eventually. Um, and then I ended up, it was probably a few months after that, that I had, um, I had taken a Friday off of.


For a trip that I was supposed to go on with some friends and that fell through. So I decided I'm just going to code this weekend. Um, and I looked at my list of ideas that I have and was looking for something that like I could build, start to finish in a weekend. Um, and I saw that one. Just decided to build that one that weekend.


And I built it in two days, released it on Twitter and never expected everything that's happened with it since then to happen, um, from like releasing on product hunt, it was on the top of hacker news. Obviously like get home tweeted about it. Sarah Drasner tweeted about it. Um, all sorts of like attention that I did not expect because it was mostly something I built because I wanted to.


Um, which makes sense. I mean, like if it's a problem, I have that it's probably a problem. Other people. Yeah. I mean the, the best way to learn is by solving problems and it sounded like, so you said you had a couple of different ideas and you sort of just ended up picking up this one. Did you, uh, have you done this similar for other projects since.


You know, since then I've gotten pretty caught up in still, like, after I released that one, I actually, I did like on hacker news, someone reached out and like offered me a job opportunity. And like, so I ended up being interviewing at like six companies at one start after that. Um, and then I joined get hub obviously, and then I ended up open sourcing, read me dot.


So, so. That's actually been like more work than I thought it would be. Um, so in other words, I haven't really built any other side projects since then, but yeah, I do have like a long list of ideas and I chose this one, honestly, because it was like really straightforward to build like a lot of my other ideas from like a technical standpoint would be a lot more complicated.


Um, like building up. Project. It's funny that it's like the project that gets me the most attention. Cause like, it was probably simpler and easier to build than like projects I built in my bootcamp where like, they give you like your capstone project at the end. Like, like it didn't have a backend, like no database, like you didn't save anything.


Um, it was just like a. Basically front-end react up. Um, so yeah, I think it's kind of funny like that. It doesn't really matter, like how technically impressive or complex the project is. If it's useful to people, um, like that that's enough, I've got so many allergies to what you, what you just said to you as well.


So everybody bear with me, but, um, I use that same thing. You just mentioned about how it was simplistic. There's no backend and it solved a specific problem. When I hear his constraints. And, um, a lot of times people leverage those constraints as like, um, as like a problem to overcome. So like you gotta make it more complicated so you can get around the constraints, but it seems like you sort of embraced them.


Uh, and I just, I just finished watching the Bob Ross documentary on Netflix. Uh, the happy little accidents. Uh, it was, it was actually really good. It was, um, and perspective of his son, which I didn't know, he had a son, uh, and like, there's, there's a lot of controversy and stuff like that that happened, you know, after, during, while he was alive, but also after he died.


So I won't spoil it for everybody who wants to watch it. But the concept of Bob Ross had of, you can just start painting and if you mess up or you absolutely accidentally use the wrong color, it's like a happy little accident where you can just like make that, that little accident into a tree or something.


And I'm like you created a project that folks can solve. The problem of most read means are pretty underwhelming. Uh, and I think most folks had the same pain point, but didn't solve the problem or maybe didn't know it was like a problem to be solved. And I think, I don't know who retweeted it from GitHub, but.


It internally. I know that, well, the team you work on now, the, uh, the org, the communities team, like they're all trying to solve problems of things that people didn't know were problems. And which I find fascinating that that's the team you ended up landing on at get hub. So it's so perfect. And I, I love too that, um, I'm like working on get hub sponsors, which I just got my first experience with maintaining open-source through this project.


Um, and now I I'm working on a product that's specifically geared toward open source maintainers, but I wanted to shift gears and talk more about your, your role at get hub. And what's the experience been because you've been here at least six weeks now. Yeah. Yeah. I started at the very end of June, which was a great time to join because our next week we had off for 4th of July and then we've had our summer Fridays since then.


Um, so I think next week is going to be my first five day weeks since I've joined. Yeah. It's so it's been awesome, but no, I love it. Um, The, I don't know how much you've interacted with the communities team, but, and I don't know how different it is from other teams I get here, but they are awesome. Like we it's cool how they, we have like different projects within communities and we have like flexible squads.


So you kind of have like, you have your, your direct manager, but then you have your, your squad. That's like the project that you're working on, like sponsors. Um, but it's, it's kinda, it's like one big like family in a sense. Um, so the culture is really awesome. People have been really, really supportive. Um, I, so that's all been great.


The hardest part for me since joining has been just like. The sheer size of the code base is something that I'm not used to. Um, so I, I was at like a super early startup before this, and I've worked on like smaller projects, but like the monolith was very intimidating. And I actually like, just yesterday, I had my first, like I deployed something and like mid deploy when it was.


20%, um, like rollout. I like found a bug in it and I was like, Aw, man. And I had to roll it back. And then you feel so bad cause like the other people on your deployed tray, like they have to start over and. And it was at like 6:00 PM or something. So like, I was like freaking out. Cause I was like, I I've never had to roll back before, like help, but like my team's like all, uh, like on the east coast, a lot of them.


So like no one was online anyway. I was freaking out. Everything's fine. It got rolled back. But yeah, it's intimidating. I've never worked on like such a big code base with so many users that like, it really matters if you break things. Yeah. Are you using a code spaces? Are you still doing the local development stuff?


I am. Yeah. Yeah. I think I set up my local environment on like the first couple of days. And then someone told me like, oh yeah, you don't even have to do that. Like you can just use code spaces. And so I've been doing that since then. And it's been awesome. I had like a week where my internet was really acting up, so that was problematic, but like how quickly you can get up and running with that is so amazing.


Yeah. And from the article that, um, I think Corey put out there, so folks, if you didn't know, get hub, I don't know if the, all the engineering team, definitely not all engineers are doing this, but we're using GitHub code spaces internally and sort of leveraging on product to do day-to-day development. Uh, I love it because for someone who's more of a, um, every once in a while I have to, I have to touch the monolith.


Um, it means my monolith, my local environment is completely out of date. So it's like this B this basically wipe it and start over type of deal. Um, it's nice to be able to just open up the code space and be most of the way there. It's amazing. Another thing I really love about it, I'm like hearing feedback.


Are you hearing. Yeah, I I'm hearing your voice, uh, vibrating again. Okay. Yeah. Okay. It sounds better now. Um, anyway, another thing I really love about it is I'll be working on like two different features or something, um, on like two different branches. And I can have like two different code spaces running.


And have totally different like data seated for each one. Um, like a totally different state of my database, um, which is really cool. It's like having as many computers as I want running on my computer with totally separate environments that I can spin up in like 20 seconds. If you found this conversation insightful, or if you got any value from the read me, so project I consider sponsoring Catherine on cadet sponsors, as well as considered a sponsoring anybody on getting sponsors.


If you're not sponsoring any. And you're using open source and getting a lot of value from a simple get up projects. I think $5 a month on one project actually goes a long way, especially if like 20 of us decided to do that. Also, we briefly went into the idea of code spaces and how get up using code spaces, check out the articles on the, get up engineering blog around that as well as a, if you haven't signed up for code spaces or tried it out for your team, consider checking it out.


There's a few videos out there on YouTube as well as on the GitHub blog, uh, on that subject. So check it out. And reminder this conversation was on Twitter spaces. If you have any interest in being on this podcast, sharing your developing story, reach out to me in a Twitter DM. I'm more than happy to hear your story and share it with the world.


All right. See you in the next one. .