This Developing Story

TDS 80 - Making Developer Content with Ali Spittel

Episode Summary

There is a demand for developer content and currently a race to buy more stuff to make that content. I join Api Spittel in discussing if you indeed need a multi-thousand dollar setup for Zoom calls? We also chat tips for getting started with content creation. Ali teaches people to code. She loves Python, JavaScript, and talking about programming. She has been writing React since before es6 classes. She is a Senior Developer Advocate on the AWS Amplify team.

Episode Notes

Episode Transcription

Episode 80 of this developing story.


What's up? Y'all this is Brian back again for another podcast with an interview. So hopefully you enjoyed will Johnson from last week. Uh, if you have not seen on the YouTube channel yet Douggie, actually through Will's video up on YouTube, as well as a bonus little content we did at the end.


Okay. Where asked him about top shot in the blockchain. Just want to say, I am going to be doing interviews moving forward. It seems like I've got the system down. I just actually, I put together a Calendly link and I'm just kind of the shop that arounds and that the people's DMS. And if they say yes, then we have a podcast.


If they say no, then I will just do a stream by myself. And I know you'll be around with me. Live on Twitch, EO on Fridays, who knows no promises with that said I will be out next week because, because. I'm actually moving back to California. I've actually been in Florida for the past three months and, uh, hanging out with my grandma.


She just turned 89 last weekend. And, uh, yeah, it's been interesting being back in Florida where all this began. Um, I, no, I'm actually from Florida. Uh, I got my start going to Tampa, Ruby grade and, um, also got my start working in Orlando, Florida. And, um, some of the earliest episodes was when I was working as a gene engineer at ICS.


So that's not why. I'm here today. Today. I'm actually here chatting with Allie spittle. Uh, Allie's actually the ho one of the hosts of lady by podcast. So you definitely check that out. And then also she also is a developer advocate at amplify, and she's going to be chatting about developer content creation.


I know Allie originally from dev to where she was prolific and doing weekly posts, uh, almost seemed like daily posts, but yeah, weekly posts for quite a while. We actually connected through the party Corrigan network and they were. It's a conversation about developer relations, but also just content creation in general.


And whether he, who has the most tools wins when it comes to content creation, I think what we ended up getting to, um, probably won't surprise you with our answers, but, uh, with that being said, if you're interested in learning about how to get started in content creation, this is the episode for you. So I really appreciate Allie taking time out of her day to chat with me and talk about the subject, the subject that I'm actually really extremely passionate about as of late, uh, doing a newsletter.


Subscribed that BW live and so many other places, but I'll stop rambling. I'll let you listen to this episode. And without further ado, here's Allie spindle.


Today. We are doing another sort of record a YouTube video podcast. Honestly, I don't even know what I'm going to do with this, to be quite honest, it will eventually be on YouTube. Um, but I've been doing podcasts. Streaming YouTube videos all on Friday, all at one go on, on stream. So that's what this is. So call it what you want.


Uh, but today I've got Allie spittle, uh, from amplify AWS fame, big time dev to writer, content creator, formerly general assembly teacher as well. And enough that is that part of your bio too as well. Why don't you introduce yourself? Yeah, so before I started at amplify. I think eight months ago now. So I don't know if still feels very new, but also, um, settling down a little bit.


But for the past three years before that I was a lead instructor and then a faculty lead at general assembly. So my background is really in teaching code and making it as understandable for new ways as possible. So developer advocacy is still something that I am relatively new to, I did for about six months or so split half of my time at dev, too.


As a developer advocate and the other half of my time as a front end dev. So yeah, the whole da thing is new piece of my life. Like the, um, so you spent a lot of times as an engineer actually. Can I ask your background as an engineer? Did you do the CS? I did not know. I accidentally came a software engineer accidentally wait.


Okay. I probably know the story, but could you explain this and how you accidentally became a software engineer? Yeah, for sure. So I grew up in the absolute middle of nowhere. Yeah. In New Hampshire, the town of a couple of thousand people and my high school didn't even really have a computer lab. So when I got to college, I had to take a math class one semester.


And the only one that fit into my schedule was computer science, which isn't really math, but that's okay. It counted as a math credit and I took this CS class and just fell in love with it. I thought it was the coolest thing ever that I could type a Python script into my computer. And it would tell the computer what to do.


I could really build things. I thought it was incredibly useful. Probably fun. But then the next semester I came back to you, take a C plus plus class D did not understand it at all. I had to spend all nighters just to do the basic assignments and wasn't even doing that great with them. And so I was like, I'm not good enough at this.


I obviously learn too old, which is super funny now that I've taught like 50 and 60 year olds, how to code. And I was like 19. I was like, I'm just, I can't do this. I'm not good enough. Like, I am not smart enough to be a programmer. Like these people are geniuses. I can't do it. So then I was doing an internship the next semester to doing mostly like data analysis, things like Excel work.


And I realized that I could kind of automate my own job with Python. And so I did that. And then I got recommended for a software engineering internship, which turned into a job. And so I accidentally became a software engineer, my junior year college. Nice. Remind me, what was your major? It's hard enough for this to, to doing it.


Full-time. Yeah. That's um, that's awesome because my intro to programming, which I don't know if I talk about this a lot, but, uh, I was doing sales and I had to manage Excel spreadsheets as well to input, uh, large orders. Like these are like 80 K to a hundred K, which I don't know if that's larger, not in the wholesales world, but, um, it was big for me, so I had to make sure it was correct.


So I wrote a script and VB, uh, I Googled it the entire time. So like that's how I learned what GitHub was, uh, but wrote a script and VB to basically input it from the. PDFs into Excel spreadsheets and then into our, um, what does that? There is a, uh, there's a large conglomerate based in Germany that does a bunch of sales software.


That's not Salesforce, but, um, anyway, we just had to input in there and, um, I just sort of learned it and got hooked from there. That's awesome. I feel like it's a more typical path and people talk about this learning Excel and then from there getting into programming, just because it is. So similar to, like, I think Excel is a lot of people's first programming language, even though they don't think of it that way.


No. Yeah. It's, it's ironic, but it's also like, um, it's a big, like kind of Frank and honest, like no one really had there's no real, there's no set journey. Like getting a CS degree is not, what's going to prove you to be the next great, you know, Elon Musk. Or, you know, Mark Zuckerberg, which I didn't even know any of those, those guys got the CS degrees at all.


I don't know their backgrounds, but, well, I know Mark Zuckerberg, he dropped out, but what I'm getting at is like, there's not a proven path to get a dev job. And that as one thing that you couldn't just look at all these YouTube accounts and all these Twitter profiles and all these dev two writers, they all have unique experiences and they all bring that to the table.


And that's sort of how you get your intro into your network or yourself into like your first job, your next job, your last job, hopefully not your last job, but into your next job. Yeah, for sure. For sure. Cool. Well, thanks for chatting about that. I stopped you there talking about your, your background and I completely forgot.


Oh yeah. I wanted to ask, um, your experience at depth to being an advocate too, as well. That was your first advocate role. Yeah. Yeah. So I think every job that I've had, I've pretty much just done the job before having the job. And I think that's probably a very common thing, but I think the same thing is true for developer advocacy.


So I started at general assembly, which is a coding boot camp and. So I was no longer a software engineer, typical software engineer. I was teaching other people code, but it's teaching a lot of the same beginner things over and over again. So I was like, how do I keep my skills fresh? How do I keep learning and prepare myself for the next role, if that happens?


And so I started blogging. I was like, this is going to be something that helps my career. And my goal was initially that I was going to pick one topic each week, build an app with it, and then. Write a blog post about it, which is absolutely ridiculous schedule, especially for somebody with a full-time job.


Um, especially writing about something that I did not know about going into that week. And my first blog post got like, I think 32 readers, and I thought it was huge. Like I thought that was so many people are reading my blog posts because, you know, I, I had like next to no following on social media, I had under a hundred Twitter followers and I was like, Oh, wow.


This is really cool. Like people are reading my stuff. I I'm going to keep blogging and eventually started instead tailoring my stuff to being the stuff that I knew really well, instead of just things that I was learning about more casually. And that's when it started to catch on a little bit more and better a year in, I had blog posts that were getting like a hundred thousand readers instead of 32.


So it's cool. And then from there getting invited to speak at things and then. Playing around with YouTube, which I'm still playing around with. That's not something that I'm at all in any way, shape or form an expert at your, that. You're definitely the expert here on this one then. I don't know if I'm really that much of expert.


I just steal a lot of ideas from existing YouTubers. That seems to be the way to go her really anything. Yeah. Yeah. And I've enjoyed your, your contact cause um, you've gotten, uh, you've actually started shipping a lot more amplify stuff, which is something I haven't really sort of tinkered around. Like I, I talked to Matt or a couple of years ago.


I got my feet wet with amplify. I haven't actually touched it since. Um, so you've been actually showing how to build stuff and like, I love watching those videos actually. It's my favorite type of dev content is like, start the video, show me the code and turn it off and then I'll watch the next one. And, uh, it's like, what do you say?


Like, I'm an expert. Like I just been experimenting in a lot of different ways. Like we've been all inside and it's actually part of the reason why you're here today too as well, because I've been experimenting and then sharing my experiments in, in blog posts, YouTube videos, as well as like, Hey.


Everybody, should they be doing this? And here's how I did it. And yes, I did do a whole video of my entire over the top, uh, set up for streaming. Um, but also my point was I wanted to share that, like, this is what I have, like, this is all obtainable to a certain degree, but I do want to do a followup of like, you could also do this from your, your iPhone, which I love that.


Um, Kurt Kimball, this, um, did, uh, he actually did a video on actually, I don't know if he did a video, the blog post on using your iPhone as a camera or. Maybe we just talked about it anyway, you can use your iPhone as a camera, which is for folks who are curious, like, this is my iPhone right here. Uh, you can see my finger moving in front of it.


Like that's, that is just my iPhone seven that I cracked. Um, and also has no mic because it also died. So I'm like, Oh, it's a perfect camera. So that's exactly what that is. That's awesome. That's awesome. I very much filmed my first couple of YouTube videos on my iPhone. A couple of years ago, I had the old.


The YouTube channel that I ended up deleting because people on the internet and stuff, but unfortunate. Yeah. Yeah, no, but those were all filmed on my, my phone. So I think that's a great starting point. And most people have some sort of phone with a camera at them now. So did, did you, um, backup when you created the YouTube, uh, videos with that tech content or was that just random YouTube videos?


Tech content. Okay. Yeah, cause I, when I first started programming, uh, back in like 2013, 2014, I wonder I wanted to start a YouTube channel, like really bad. And, um, but I did it and it was because I don't time outside kids. And I also was doing my first job as a junior developer. So like I wanted to be able to focus and not do another thing.


Cause I, if anybody's follows me on Twitter, I'm kind of, I just had, I do too much. Like I've gotten the point where I'm okay. Yeah. Admitted. I, I actually do see a therapist who as well, I highly recommend it. Um, set, set expectations. On what you're trying to accomplish and make goals, write stuff down and be okay if it fails.


And so I say that because, um, I wanted to share something. I was looking at my, my first ever YouTube video. And, uh, this is going to be, this is on my account, but this is not tech, but this is me. Um, I, I submitted to a contest. A free credit I think they're still around. Uh, but this is where I got.


My start is making YouTube videos in college. I've got a couple of other more embarrassing videos, but, uh, this is, uh, this is why I know what I'm doing. Actually. This is why I don't know what I'm doing to be quite honest, but I did go. This video, so it still exists. Uh, but good luck finding it. That's amazing.


That's amazing. Is that what you're drawing that you use everywhere is from, because you looked identical to that drawing in that video. Wow. You have a, you have a great eye. Yes. Okay. My avatar is actually me at 20 years old when I was making YouTube videos and I was writing a lot of music as well. Uh, so I I'm actually going to plan on doing a playlist so anybody can watch these cause you could see.


Where I started from, so I have this, um, I was playing in a well, I had a singer songwriter project and, uh, so that's what I originally was using YouTube for is my music. Uh, but while I was making music, And while I was also working sales and learning how to use VB VB to manage, um, Excel spreadsheets. Uh, I was also learning how to code at the same time.


So I ended up pivoting away from the music career and into just writing code. That's awesome. But to answer your question, my avatar is actually at this time when I was doing, I like robot, which is the, the name of the, uh, the singer songwriter project, uh, I was wearing, I wanted to be a designer, like do, um, album covers, like kind of like.


How West boss got us his start. And, uh, yeah, that was my introduction into this world is music eventually to graphic design, which is my avatar everywhere. And then eventually writing code. That's so cool. That's so cool. I feel like the, um, musician programmer overlap is so real. They're shown many people who were musicians before coding.


I think. From discussing with people, it seems like it's the practice piece of it. That both fields, you need to practice a bunch in order to, um, really get good at it. And so I think that might be part of the reason. Yeah. And it, it's also, it's a, it's a good point about the practice too. Cause like, My role at Deveraux it's like, I was actually just chatting with, uh, the open-source community in our pre stream chat.


And folks, if you want to come and chat with us and the discord, we do a chat before streams on Fridays. So definitely check it out. But, um, my, what I'm getting at is like, I build projects to go solve a problem. Like if I want to learn to amplify a global something random, like a baseball app, like I don't like baseball, but I'll make a baseball app.


Cause that's like a, it's a good construct to build an app into and like manage teams and statistics. And then. I'll use that app and then I'll submit to conferences on a regular basis. Uh, and that's sort of the same approach of like, Hey, I want to learn the song. Yeah. Yeah. But this is less about me. And more about, more about your story.


I'm curious of your now your, uh, amplify or AWS rather. Um, What was the sort of like, I guess, did you enjoy being an advocate at the point that you're like, Hey, let's try it again at this bigger place. And like with like dev tools. Yeah. So honestly being a da event, additionally, at Dentsu, I didn't love it.


I, something that I've always dealt with with being a da is like, what's me. And what is my job? And trying to split the two. And so, you know, what part of my social media is me and what part of it is my job and, um, how do I advocate for things in an authentic way, but still keep it professional enough? And it's just balancing all of the things I think.


And you know, how do I also. Still do all these type things, because for awhile, uh, when I worked for general assembly, for example, like side work was my primary source of income, even though I still had a day job. And so I still wanted to be able to do all that because it seemed my own little business fro and seeing what it could do was really cool to me.


And I felt like I had real like, ownership over that. I wasn't really able to do that at dev two. And so that was one of the big reasons why I ended up leaving and also just working remote was really tough for me at that time. Which I mean, ironically, we're all remote now, too. Um, but so amplified natter who's my manager reached out this summer and was like, it's a really cool opportunity.


And the first call with him was just me. Pretty much be like, these are my 10 concerns with being a developer advocate again. Like, I don't think it's right for me. Like I like doing it as a hobby, but I don't think it's something that I want to do. Full-time um, but I can honestly say this job has been the best job of my life.


I'm in love with it. And I think the reason why is because I'm. Building things for people like me. And so it's really, really cool to be able to have direct input and just get to like build stuff with code all the time. And AWS is almost like a developer, a play place or something like that, because there's an endless amount of things that you can learn within AWS and build.


And like I'm at the time. So people send me tweets about, you know, how to X, Y, and Z service connect. And I'm like, this is alphabet soup. Like, I don't know what this is, but, um, I dunno, it's been so fun. You learn all these things and be able to teach it back to the community and make all these connections with these really, really smart people and constantly learn and grow.


And so I love it. Now, coming back to developer advocacy is something that I've really, really, really enjoyed. So I can definitely recommend it as a career path now, but I definitely, definitely struggled with it at first. All right. Well, I hope you all enjoyed that conversation. If you were interested in doing develop a content, it would be the one to write a blog, post start, a YouTube channel or Tik TOK.


Um, definitely hit me up in the open soft discord. I am always looking for collaboration and opportunities. Um, I mean, I've just been doing a lot of GitHub action stuff as a late. So if you want to, what about getting actions or you want to show me a good of action or, or Peter would show me something different.


That's not actions. I am all for hearing from you. Uh, to say hello, um, to just discord, um, also wanna point out if you were interested in hearing the rest of the conversation, this was actually, I didn't actually mention this up top, but this is a snippet of the full hour conversation we did with Allie. Uh, so Douggie.


We have two separate videos that I'll be putting up this week, um, focusing on tips and tricks and things that Allie is into for doing content. So. Definitely check out a YouTube channel for the rest of the conversation and stay saucy.