This Developing Story

TDS 82 - Why Generalists Triumph in a Developer World - Shaundai Person

Episode Summary

UI Engineer & ERG Co-Founder at SalesLoft

Episode Notes

Join us live on Wednesdays

Episode Transcription

Episode 82 of this developing story.


What's up. Y'all, it's be Douggie back again for the podcast episode. It's been a minute, but we've got. Quite a few guests actually happening on this podcast. I know two years ago, I was like, yeah, I'm done with guests. I'm going to start talking about my story. And I did that for a couple episodes, but I missed having conversations with folks that I looked up to folks in the industry, folks with really interesting stories about how they became a developer.


And today we have just that we've got Shonda Parsons talking about her story. I found that we actually have a lot of similarities in our stories, both coming from sales, both having kids that, that sort of pushed us to continue to learn how to code and make money doing it as well. So I hope you enjoyed the conversation.


I do want to point out that these conversations will be hosted on Twitter spaces live. So if you're not already doing. Follow me on Twitter. It's be ducky yo howl at me and you'll get update for every time I do a Twitter space. If you want to ask questions or if you want to get the full conversation. So this is an edited version.


All the context of her story exists in this podcast, but if you want the. He got to show up. Hit the follow button. Also do me a favor. If you enjoyed this conversation, please follow shun day and tell her that you enjoyed it. Because I think folks sharing the story is what always encourages more folks to come in and also learn how to code and do the thing.


So without further ado,


Yeah. So I'm Sean Day. I am by trade I'm a UI engineer. And what that means is I'm just a front, not just I'm a front end engineer. And so I'm responsible for making sure that the app has all of the great accessibility UX but also the functionality that things need. I add filters to searches and do all kinds of.


Really cool stuff. And the platform that I work on is a platform made for sales, salespeople, and it's serendipitous because I. My career at the beginning, part of my career in sales. I tell this story a lot is I wasn't sales because I had a passion for entrepreneurship and one of my entrepreneurship professors, I actually went to school for entrepreneurship.


And my, one of my entrepreneurship professors. Who had never worked for anybody before told me that the best way to understand what it's like to run a business is to do commission only sales. And so I got into sales again, still had this passion for understanding businesses. What makes them grow?


What makes them tick? And in 2015, I decided to pursue my passions for entrepreneurship and leave the workforce, start a business. And I thought what I would like the most is the sales aspect of it. And because I had become really good at having those conversations, really understanding what The why was behind what people were asking for and what things were valuable to them and turning that into sales.


And so I thought that sales would be the thing that I liked the most, what I ended up liking the most. This was an online, only business. I liked custom learning liquid, which is Shopify as Ruby base language to customize my website. And that was my first taste into web development. I did think though that engineers needed to have these advanced degrees in.


Whatever things you can't really pronounce. And the reason why was because my first tech sales job was selling to literal rocket scientists. NASA was my customer. And so all of them had, degree, not only degrees. Computer science, but also, PhDs and mathematics and all these different science domains and things like that.


So I thought it was something that was inaccessible to me. It wasn't until I was actually on maternity leave that I was just looking at some ads or I wasn't looking at some ads. I think I was on Facebook, but an ad popped up for . And there was a comment underneath it that said that you don't need to go to school to be a developer.


You can be self-taught. And so this was my first exposure to this term self-taught and when it came to engineering and so I decided to explore it a little bit and I gave myself a half an hour to. Just try it out as a hobby and it quickly became, as soon as I put my son's asleep, I would spend four hours, five hours beat up into until one o'clock in the morning, learning how to code and getting really deep into react and JavaScript.


And I told myself like, what sense does this make? I'm in sales right now, but I know where my heart is at. I know what I love. And so I decided to make a career out of it. And so that was how I. How I originally got into tech. So that's a little bit about my story and


yeah. I've got so many, follow-up like points.


So one, I don't know if you know this about my background, but I was in sales before learning how to code. Yeah. So a couple of years. So 2013 same sort of thing. I actually had my son. He was born at 29 weeks, which is you've. You've had a kid very early, extremely early. So we were in the hospital for 11 weeks and a while in the hospital.


I had an idea for an app. Google with how to build an app type of deal. Also during this time I was getting my MBA as well and also for entrepreneurship. So I was like, oh, I can build an app, build a business. And so I ended up doing that and found that I didn't want to do sales anymore. So tried to do that and then found out, yeah.


Jobs were paying, like paying more than my sales job with the commission. That's that was my story. My story for those who just jumped in, like we're going to be publishing this conversation just to our sort of conversation, not the questions at the end as a podcast, but this podcast is actually what started.


Getting into eventually jumping into San Francisco and there's a whole story behind that, but I'll I'll put that aside, but I wanted to ask you'd mentioned Shopify. So were you building Shopify stores? Was that like your introduction


or? Yeah. Yeah. I, my goal this was my passion at the time, or I thought was natural products.


Cause I was really into organic food and products. I was like making my own lotions and things like that. And I wanted to get into drop shipping. And I found this big drop shipper that I could connect with Shopify. So I thought it was like an easy way to get off the ground. But basically I was, it was an online only store where I was selling anything you could find in whole foods, which is for the folks that don't have a whole foods in their area as a place that has natural and organic products from like pet care, baby care food.


And so I was selling this all online. And I was part of, it was on, most of it was online. Part of it was me physically going. Door to door, to businesses to try and sell stuff. And I got a lot of big customers. Like I got a really big hotel chain to buy some snacks, organic snacks and put it in all of their hotels worldwide.


Or, sorry, not worldwide nationwide. And so it was successful, but I found the most joy out of customizing my site. And so it got to the point where people were reaching out to me like, Hey, how did you do that? Like, how did you integrate this and that? And not integrate, they didn't use that word, but like, how did you combine these two things together?


And how did you add this page onto your. And they were like, could I pay you to do this for me? And I'm like like I could make money from doing this stuff that I like to do. And so that was different for me to be able to make money. Like I was used to the sales hustle and grind.


I can't say that I loved it, but I did love the money that was in it. And this was my first exposure to being able to get paid, to do something that. To do my passion, that pays is how it goes. Yeah,


That, that is awesome too, as well. My so I'm actually a twin. I dunno, I don't actually say this a lot publicly, but my twin brother is actually, he got heavily involved in Shopify the last couple of years and build stores and stuff like that for folks.


But yeah.


I didn't know that you are, I'm learning so many things about


you. I'm wondering so many things from you. Cause I feel like there's so many correlations within your story and having a kid and learning how to code and doing sales. I just want to hear more about your trajectory too, as well.


So like you found Codeacademy so I'm curious about that, that, that sort of pathway. What specifically did you learn while doing code academy and what was the next step between that and getting a job?


Yeah. So I would highly recommend for anybody who wants to be self-taught is to go down a path where you can like code academy, where you can have a an agenda laid out for the things that you're going to learn, because part of the.


Frustration and confusion when you're self-taught is just knowing what to learn, where to start and what to do next. And then, getting to those foundations and then being able to build off of that. And code academy, they had a web development path, and the reason why I went code academy was because I had I had a bachelor's of business.


I had an MBA at the time and I'm still paying off a ton of loans. And I also have. I think at the time he was one or something like that, but I had a one-year-old son. And so all that to say, I didn't have money. I didn't have time to take 15 weeks out of off of work. And go to a bootcamp and pay for it, pay $15,000 for a bootcamp.


So I had to figure out how to, be effective without having to leave my job. If you're on the if you're going to self-taught route, I would recommend something like code academy. It was I think, 200 bucks for six months. And they have this interactive portion where you can just log in.


They'll teach you something on the left-hand side of the page. And then on the right hand side, you're actually trying things. So for me being a self-starter and also somebody who likes to be able to have the flexibility to not to really truly be self-paced about it. I have goals for myself and I ended up usually exceeding them, but I like the flexibility to know okay, if I had a bad name or my son was crying the whole night that I could just take a day off and not be letting anybody down.


But then I still had this framework that was outlined where it said, okay, we'll go through HTML first, teach you the basics of that, the Dom and CSS and It was called a web development path. And so it took you through the basics of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and then you went into react a little bit in node and all the while you're building out these different projects, while I was going through that path, I also connected with someone at my company who had made a switch from.


Sales to product management, to engineering. And I asked him about his journey at our company sells off and he was like, listen, if you want to meet with me once a week to just talk about what you're working on, I'd love that. And so he ended up being. Mentor. And we met for a year every Wednesday over lunch to just talk about code, like where I got stuck.


And that was instrumental in my learning as well. Cause he would tell them. Okay. I know that code academy is telling you there's one way to do it. I want to open your eyes to this other way to do it. Or I know this class component model is, it sucks right now, and it's a little confusing, but wait until you start getting into functional components in hooks and things like that and watch how awesome it's going to be.


It's going to be so much easier. He helped to. Keep my emotions in check a lot of the times, but also so many different things different ways of doing things and introduce me to things like GitHub, for example, which isn't covered in code academy. If you're going to collaborate with other people, which was something that I wouldn't have had.


Exposure to otherwise as a self-taught engineer. If you want to collaborate with people, you should try, getting your stuff up on, get hub and play with the different commands. We'll learn about that a little bit, because that's going to be a big part of what you do when you become an engineer.


That's awesome. It's nice that you're able to get that mentorship too, as well. And I, similar to yourself, I had a very similar. Like upbringing into getting it as a developer. I didn't have the bandwidth to take 12 weeks out of my life to go move to another city or do whatever I had to do it basically.


When I was, yeah. When I was feeding my son in the morning, I would actually watch YouTube videos. And that's how I saw it. I got caught up YouTube videos and podcasts is how he got caught up on like the sort of who's who and like what to learn. And then at night I would actually do all my coding.


Yeah, I'm just impressed with your story. And again, like we've got so many similarities too, as well.


Yeah. This is awesome. It makes me excited to have this conversation, but yeah it was tough and I'm not going to say it was easy. It was fun. And I'm one of those folks. Granted, if there was no money in engineering, I probably wouldn't be here.


It would be like, it would have stayed a hobby, but I'm very much in it for the passion. Like I, I do love what I do. And that was what made it easy for easy, not easy, made it easier for me to commit that time because you are, either trying to balance parenting and learning at the same time, or you're taking time away from.


Parenting to be able to learn and grow so that, you'll have this different future, this happier future. Yeah, it was important to me and I, and I tell this a lot, like I'm a single parent too, so I'm like part of the, my journey was alone. Like not having that support of somebody else too.


Watch my son all the time. My, my son's father is is a good dad. And he's good at, taking the time to watch him, but I like most days a week it's just me. And so it makes it exponentially harder. So I say that to say that if no matter what your circumstances are, If there's a will, there's a way like, and I don't mean to say it so lightly.


Cause I know there were a lot of nights where I was just so frustrated hair falling out and I'm like, will this ever, will I ever get there? But yeah, I feel you, if anybody ever needs to vent, I'm totally here. I've had those nights still have those nights sometimes do.


Yeah. Yeah. And I'm sure there's a lot of similarities too, as well as folks who are listening to as well.


So just want to shout out folks who are here and listening. We will ask questions at the end. So if you have any questions or you have any sort of reflection of our conversation feel free to hit the request button like 20 minutes. If you're still around also this conversation will be recorded.


It'll go up on this developing story, doc. As well. But actually I wanted to touch on something you just mentioned too as well. And like sleepless nights and like all this sort of effort investment you put into learning how to code, getting your first job. A simple question, maybe simple, or maybe it's nuanced, but are you happy with the decision you made in the investment you put into learning?


I am, yeah, a hundred percent. Like I. So I'm usually on one end of extremes. Like I'm when I'm committed to something I'm committed a hundred percent to it. So what I did with staying up until one o'clock in the morning, that's just my nature. And I know that it's not the same for everybody is I'm not going to stay up till one o'clock in the morning for a year and do this.


And I get that Saying that's healthy at all. It's not something that I would recommend, but I am happy that I did it. And like I said, the reason why I did it was because it was something that I loved. And if it wasn't something that I was passionate about it, I would have just stuck with sales and that's totally fine too.


But I am. I'm happy. And I'm also, I feel very lucky that I came across so many people that were willing to invest in me because there's no way that I could have I call myself self-taught. But there are so many people that have either been explicit mentors where. Sat down like Gladney the gentlemen at my job sat down with me once a week and helped to coach me on different areas.


And then there's also like mentors. I didn't realize they're my mentors or that I've never even spoken to. And I'm like, yeah, I'm learning a lot from you. I'm reading your blog posts. I'm subscribing to. Things that you, your YouTube and things that you're publishing to learn more. And so I feel like they are invested in my journey, even though, they don't necessarily know that.


So I feel very fortunate that I've had all that and What I've done for myself is create the life that I have wanted. And that was the dream is I knew that I was making some sacrifices or there's some trade-offs to everything. In staying up nights or certain times I had to have especially during COVID, like my son is watching a little bit more TV than usual because I really need to get this thing done, but he gets to see a happier.


Mom. And I wasn't super unhappy in my career before, but I think I was holding back because I didn't want to take risks with a child involved. What I CA what I landed on and why I decided to go into engineering was that I didn't want my son to ever think he was the barrier for me to get into something that I love.


I didn't want him to think that, okay, he's born. Now I can't do the stuff that I want to do. I want him to look and be like, wow, that was the inspiration for my mom to do this and that, which he is he's in everything. The blog posts that I write I wrote a blog post about why, what I've learned about teaching from potty training, my son, or how safe state and sexy is like temper tantrums set state functions, or like temper tantrums and things like that.


I've I carry him in everything that I do, and he is my inspiration, so I don't want him to ever feel like he was, he's a burden he's he's like everything. He's everything, but he's my north star. I do all this for him. So I say all that to say, yes, I'm very grateful for my life.


And I'm glad that I did it the way that I did it.


Yeah, that's awesome and inspiring as well. Cause for one potty training we just completed potty training with my daughter. And the one thing that I've, that I learned is the Pomodoro technique, which is like in programming twenty-five minutes, you take a break and you take like a whatever, five, 10 minute break, whatever the rules are.


But with potty training, my daughter, especially cause we were all at home, it was 25 minutes and that Alexa is gonna be. Dinging and saying, okay, we've got to go try. Even if nothing comes out of this, like we're going to go try to go to the bathroom. And that was actually super helpful. So like that I had a reverse correlation of taking programming and applying it to fatherhood and parenting.


But it brings up a point that we were actually chatting about before we hit record. We were chatting before about this book you mentioned, right? And how taking like correlating different aspects of your life and bringing them along for the ride in the programming or into entrepreneurship. Can you speak a little bit more of that?


Because I thought that was super insightful. And I love to share it with some of the folks


listening. Yeah. Yeah. For everybody listening, there's this book that I recommend to everybody called range by David Epstein, it talks about. How generalists being a generalist is a super power.


And a lot of people will tell you that being interested in a lot of different things that are seemingly unrelated makes it so that you're not able to put that focus attention into the things that matter. For example, if I'm spending time outside, Work gardening or something like that or knitting, that means that it's time away from the real focused in deep learning that is required for a 10 X developer or whatever I want to be.


So it goes over this model there's a tiger woods model, where from age six months, he was doing these exceptional things balancing on one foot on his, or on his dad's hand or something like that. And he was swinging a golf club at two and winning masters when he was like four and a half or whatever.


And and I'm not even exaggerating, like he's been a superstar forever, but those are the heroes. I'm sorry. Oh, okay. And so these are the heroes that you hear. These are the people that you hear about, but what you don't hear about is the people who have Steve jobs, for example he pulled in different domains in order to.


Make a turn into who he is and turn apple into what it is like. For example, he took a calligraphy class and this is what introduced him to different fonts. And that's what he brought into the Mac that made it so stylish and unique. They talk about a football player. And he used the skills that he learned in gymnastics and tennis to be more graceful on the football field.


And I do a lot of that and I see I'm starting to see that. And now when people where you're able to draw parallels from different domains and turn it into your super power, and I think that's what I do with sales and also what I do. With parenting. So a lot of the blog posts, like I said, the blog posts, the conference talks a lot of it relates parenting or family to to code.


And so my potty training example that I had is My mom. So when I was potty training, my son, it was very frustrating. And I was reading a book that told me that he would be potty trained in three days. And I was worried that it was too early to start potty training him, even though there were a lot of kids, his age that were already potty trained.


I'm like, okay, I read this book and my sister-in-law's no, this is gonna, it's gonna do everything. Like this is gonna be perfect for you. And I think it was like on day one or two, I'm like, there is absolutely no way this kid is going to be potty trained by tomorrow. And I remember vividly I didn't want to freak him out, but I was so frustrated because he kept peeing on the floor.


And I was so frustrated, but I didn't want him to see that I was upset. So I went into the furthest room from where he was, which ended up being my closet, shutting the door and like screaming at the top of my lungs. And then I had to come back down, and reconnect with myself.


So I called my mom and I'm like, listen, he's not ready for this stuff. And I like, I don't understand what what am I like, what's going on? Like why is he not getting this right. She was like, listen, it's not him. This is you a hundred percent. Like you're giving him language that he's never heard before.


You're giving him this tool that he's never seen before. This potty just appears in the bathroom. And you're telling him to respond to this feeling that he's never had. He's never had to pay attention to you before. And you're just telling him to figure it out. You should know what to do.


Like this is all new to him. You need to connect it. You need to give him context and connect it to something that he's familiar with and have patience with him because this is his first time. And so I was like, damn, this is exactly the way that people sometimes will teach technical concepts is they'll just throw languages at people like, okay, Hey, you got react.


You got tools that you've never seen before. Let me give you some BS code, some, get hubs, some libraries and things like that. And I'm expecting you to just put it all together and know exactly what to do with it. And there's no context behind it. It's just let's just start with functions and see where it goes.


So it's important to take things start with, meet people where they're at and build off of that. Again, these are, that's just one example of how I'll draw these parallels between what I've learned as a parent. And things that I see in my son and ways that I will learn and teach tech.


And w we also talked briefly about my background and then how I worked at Netlify. But the one thing that, that the correlation I drew from that story with your son and teaching and not knowing everything and not knowing what this potty and what's this feeling that he needs to start awaiting aware of my interview at Netlify, I actually interviewed, and I wrote.


Programming and go with something I was doing for fun, never built any sort of anything serious. And the project I was building was like an API built and go. It was pretty, it was a lot of fun, but the one thing I didn't know how to do is how to export Jason from one class to the other class or one file to the other file.


I didn't realize what go when you. Write out the classes you have to capitalize to show that it's a public function or a public class. And I'm like, I'm struggling with the turns. Cause it's been a while since I wrote go. But it was something that it was nice because I was able to message that into a slack channel and get the answer right away from somebody who like basically one of the earliest, the head of infrastructure at Netlify.


And he was, I was super appreciative of it. Cause I could have spent like hours. On this one problem for my take-home problem, I take home little project and but it's like one of those nuance things that you could be little folks and be like, oh man, you don't know what a hook is and react.


And sometimes people it's like the concepts of sometimes called different things in different situations. And if you in your experience, you weren't through code academy and you didn't have the context of GitHub and the context of like, how to collaboration looks like. And but going back to your story, Someone actually took the time to show you those concepts.


And I think when it comes to learning how to programming, finding folks that can take you aside and be like, you know what? You probably haven't seen this before. And that was my entire career. Like I didn't see any of anything. I jumped from Florida to San Francisco. Where would you like super fast paced?


Didn't know anything, what I was doing. And I sorted this, figured it out and asked a lot of dumb questions and it was like totally fine to do that. And I'm appreciative that people who were in my life and was able to pull me along on the ride. But real quick, I just wanted to, I just see some people requesting, I want to ask one more question and find out what you're doing.


Today and then we'll open up for folks to ask questions and provide some insight to the conversation.


Yeah. Right now I am, like I said, I'm a UI engineer at SalesLoft, so we're actually in the middle of a company rebrand. I'm just making sure that nobody's on my company or you're in the middle of a company where you were in that I'm not supposed to announce.


So don't tell anybody and I am. I'm working on the UI for that. And then I am also on the side, I'm working on an exit course on TypeScript, which I haven't officially announced yet, but hopefully within the next couple months it will be released. I'm just working on some modules on that. And that takes up most of my day.


And then of course, just being a mom. Okay,




Yeah. Looking forward to that course. TypeScript is something I've always consumed, but it's not something I actively pursue. That in vs code or things on my list to learn much better this year. Looking


for it. Same. Yeah I picked the TypeScript course because I'm part of a duo that's campaigning to convert some stuff from angular, one into react and hopefully TypeScript, but I think it'll make things maintainable.


So I, one of my favorite ways to learn is to teach things. So I took on the challenge of being able to teach people to use TypeScript. And so if I can teach people to use it, then I can absolutely. Do it myself. And so that'll be my journey for the rest of this. 2021.


Awesome. Yeah. Looking forward to continue following your journey.


Folks, if you haven't already please follows from die or sorry, someday. Apologies on that. But yeah, give give her a follow appreciate that and follow for whenever that TypeScript course will ship on egg head as well as everything else you're doing. I'm actually going to invite up All right, folks.


That is the conversation. As mentioned before, please follow Sean Day on Twitter by her course, the TypeScript course. That's coming out ahead. Subscribe. Get your subscription, go in there. And then also let me know if you enjoyed this episode, hit me up at a DM or in a tweet. I will be doing Twitter spaces, mostly weekly at the moment.


We've have them scheduled sporadically. So if you want to share your story, hit me up. The floor is open. Basically. If you want to put yourself. Part of the reason why I do this podcast is because it's how I got my job at Netlify and why not continue the pattern and elevate other folks who have great stories and doing great things in the industry.


Beat me up and hit the subscribe button too as well. So if you listen to this in the browser find it in one of your podcasts there's choice. Honestly, I don't even know if this is on Spotify. This is not on Spotify. Let me know. I'll figure that out. All right. T the next one.