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Jess Lee
Jess Lee

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I'm a co-founder of dev.to (this website), ask me anything!

Hey, I'm Jess!

Here are some things that make me interesting, maybe:

  • I am Taiwanese American.
  • I like to rock climb.
  • I studied piano in college.
  • I went on tour with the KIDZ BOP Kids (not as a performer).
  • I went to a coding bootcamp.
  • I product managed at a nonprofit tech company.
  • I co-founded dev.to
  • I deal with operations.
  • I code, mostly in ruby & JS.

I also kicked off our monthly progress report today, so if there's anything in there I can clarify, ask away!

Top comments (120)

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vaidehijoshi profile image
Vaidehi Joshi

What has been the hardest, most difficult, or challenging aspect of founding and running the dev.to platform? And what turned out to be much easier than you expected? 🙃

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

The most difficult --- remembering to give feedback! Sometimes I get stuck in the weeds and forget to set time aside to give feedback -- we have retros every Friday but even then we have a tendency to blow through everything quickly in order to 'get back to work.' I think positive feedback tends to get overlooked and we have a tendency to focus on 'what went wrong and how we can be better.'

We're getting better at it since we started doing Rose, Bud, Thorns at retro. A rose is something we celebrate, a Bud is a new 'thing' we're excited about, and a Thorn is something we need to do better at next time.

Must easier...making connections! People have been overwhelmingly supportive of dev.to and we've been given a lot of opportunities to talk about what we're doing, and have gotten a lot of great advice from people we look up to.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

What dev.to feature that's not already in the works are you most excited about?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

Whoops! Answered this below

But in short, I want to host office hours where devs can ask a programming/career/life question and know that there'll be another dev at the other end of the socket to answer it.

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sammyisa profile image
Sammy Israwi

Would the mentor host be a dev.to dev or a community member? 🤔

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jesseditson profile image
Jesse Ditson

A lot of engineers I know (myself included) started out as musicians. What relationship (if any) do you think music has to writing code?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

For instrument-playing musicians I always thought an 'obvious' relationship was the ability to play notes/type keys quickly. But that doesn't account for our vocalists and percussionists that might not be using their fingers like mad, that have also become engineers.

I think the biggest relationship is how code is written and how music is composed. Both can be broken down into smaller parts and both require attention to detail but a high level understanding of the bigger picture. Every developer has their own style and interpretation when approaching a problem, as does every musician.

Here's a huff post article that was an interesting read.

I will say that I use the same profanities when I'm stuck on a coding problem as I would when practicing a chopin etude.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

My older brother Mikey recently took up coding in his early 40s. He's been a hardcore musician his whole life. I think there's also a similar thread on one's capacity to really try hard at something. Trying, failing, not giving up, and enjoying the journey either way seem to be skills that benefit both coders and musicians.

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andy profile image
Andy Zhao (he/him)

This thread made me realize that I had the same exact feeling of frustration when starting to learn music and starting to learn coding.

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walker profile image
Walker Harrison

Who is your favorite former coworker?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

🙄

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jeasoft profile image
Jearel Alcantara

LOL!

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cassidoo profile image
Cassidy Williams

Do you prefer top-rope rock climbing, or bouldering? Any tips for someone who likes bouldering but kind of sucks at it (can't get past V1s...bleh)?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

OH MY GOSH, YES! Ok. I bouldered for a couple years and couldn't really get past V1s comfortably. I was still terrified of the height and always struggled on the last move -- it was super frustrating and I never ended up climbing consistently because of it.

This past year, I started climbing again...but instead of bouldering, I went for top-roping. I found a buddy in @angaither so she pushes me to climb at least once a week. Top roping has helped me focused on the actual climbing and not the fear. I feel a lot more confident in my technique and I have a much higher level of endurance because the climbs are so much longer.

Now that I'm top-roping consistently, bouldering has become a lot easier and the fear aspect doesn't play as much because those muscles have gotten stronger.

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

(so the tip is to add some top-roping into your routing!)

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cassidoo profile image
Cassidy Williams

That's great advice! Thank you!

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annarankin profile image
Anna Rankin

What's the hardest part about building a community?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

Communities take time to blossom so we could never have a 'build it and they will come' mentality. We spent a lot of (enjoyable) time building relationships with early adopters and listening to their feedback. But the difficult part is being patient and thinking hard about which pieces of advice/feedback to take and which to move on from. So, the hardest part is figuring out what's best for the community. At the end of the day, it's all of you that make this work because our tech isn't anything to write home about.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Damn, really well put.

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jasodonnell profile image
James O'Donnell

Do you have any advice on attracting diverse candidates?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

Yes! At the top of the funnel:

1) I'd focus on eliminating unconscious bias from job descriptions. There are a lot of articles and tools out there that can help with this.
2) List the job on platforms that care about inclusivity and have a diverse demographic (like dev.to!)
3) Promote the job at events that are also inclusive and diverse.

Reviewing process

1) If you have the resources, eliminate as much personal info from the each resume as possible. This will help prevent you and your team's own biases to get in the way.

2) Instead of reviewing resumes together, add your feedback to a form. This way, everyone on your team has a say on whether or not a candidate should reach the next level. Avoid group think.

3) Same as the above after each in-person interview. Have you ever been in a situation where you really liked someone but then a peer says they thought that person was a terrible fit? In that moment, it's easy to doubt your original opinion so giving everyone an opportunity to provide feedback without groupthink is crucial.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Also don't give up! Like any hard problem it's way too easy to say "welp, that was hard, but at least we tried".

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sammyisa profile image
Sammy Israwi

Ms. Lee: How has dev.to changed in the last couple of months? What kind of workload does the PBJ have in these days with the increased userbase?

Also, what is the reasoning behind open sourcing dev.to? What does the company hope to/expect will happen when the codebase goes open source? Looking forward to learning how dev.to was built!

Also also, thank you for the must-read emails!

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jess profile image
Jess Lee • Edited

Let's see...well, we started doing AMAs 😛, but feature-wise we've added: reactions to articles (the unicorn reaction is up for interpretation!), notifications, a smarter home feed, and the ability for organizations to self-create their own accounts (we used to have to do that manually). Oh! And the #hiring board.

We're in a unique position where the community has the ability to build itself. When we open source, we hope people will jump in and start building out enhancements they want to see. We can make dev.to more robust, very quickly. We're also excited for our codebase to generally improve because we'll have more eyes on it keeping everyone accountable. We come from the belief that sharing work is what's best for the world and open source software is always the best software, so that's where we want to be.

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HawiCaesar

Biggest Achievement so far ?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee • Edited

Hm, I have a tendency to associate an 'achievement' with a certificate or badge, which I can't say I've really acquired in the last few years aside from graduating from a coding bootcamp.

But something I'm definitely proud of myself for accomplishing this year is venturing into public speaking. I gave my first talk at Write/Speak/Code, an awesome conference for women based in Portland, OR. It was exciting and nerve wracking to talk about dev.to (and your developer identity) in front of a group of incredible women.

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nitya profile image
Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D

What is the one feature (or initiative) you are personally passionate about seeing on dev.to that is not yet announced or built?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

😃

Office hours and mentorship. We're planning to host office hours where devs can ask programming/career questions and know that someone will be there to answer them. We don't have the details sorted out so I can't really elaborate further than that, but that's the idea.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

What are the biggest differences between a bigger engineering org and a "scrappy startup"?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

More processes and more stakeholders with less change and less experiments. In my experience, decision-making takes a lot longer at bigger organizations. I've been told that a successful MVP is something that works 80% of the time -- but it's hard to take that mentality to heart when there are biz dev folks who really need everything to be running perfectly all the time, especially if the 'clients' will freak out if the padding on the user profile photo changes by 3px.

In order to not fall into that, scrappy startups should think hard about their boundaries/culture/relationships with stakeholders early on.

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Andrea Gaither

How was your bootcamp experience? What did you have trouble learning? What did you pick up easily?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

I thought I picked up CSS easily until I realized it was the worst.

Overall, I want to say I had a good bootcamp experience but I definitely adjusted my expectations a few times. While it was happening, I didn't feel like I had enough 'support' -- there were too many students and too few professors. But in hindsight, having less support forced me to self-teach which I think is the most important skill I got out of the experience. The ability to find, read and interpret documentation has been crucial to becoming a better dev. The bootcamp taught me how to try & fail and ask smarter questions.

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rsxboxkhaka profile image
Robinson

What’s the best way to get better with JavaScript?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

I think the best way to get better at anything is to practice. Challenge yourself with new problems everyday and find people to provide feedback on your approach.

Here are some articles that might be helpful:
dev.to/maxpou/typical-javascript-i...
dev.to/arnavaggarwal/10-javascript...
dev.to/vincecampanale/revisited-a-...

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andy profile image
Andy Zhao (he/him)

Do you think studying piano contributed to your extreme typing speeds?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee

✔️

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annarankin profile image
Anna Rankin

Hi Jess! What was it like working at a tech nonprofit, and what drew you to that particular company?

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jess profile image
Jess Lee • Edited

I was drawn to DoSomething.org because of the mission: empowering young people to take social action. And with that, the people behind the mission. I was in a place where I had the luxury of choosing where to work and given that option, I wanted to work for an organization that was adding to the world in a positive way.

DS was run like a startup, so it honestly didn't feel that different. Our KPIs were organized around activating young people, and not 'revenue', so that was pretty cool. DS is also well-connected so we were able to pick the brains of a lot of smart people.