Relicans host Danny Ramos talks to Community Manager, Katy Farmer about attending the Turing School of Software Design, coming into tech from a publishing and editing background, and gives advice for people who consider themselves introverts and doesn't really look at interviews as a fun or exciting process.
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Jonan Scheffler: Hello and welcome to Launchies, proudly brought to you by New Relic's Developer Relations team, The Relicans. The Launchies podcast is about supporting new developers and telling their stories and helping you make the next step in what we certainly hope is a very long and healthy career in software. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of The Relicans podcasts on developer.newrelic.com/podcasts. We're so glad you're here. Enjoy the show.
Danny Ramos: Hello, everyone. My name is Danny Ramos, and I am your host for today's episode of Launchies. And today on the opposite side of the mic I have…
Katy Farmer: Katy Farmer
Danny: Katy Farmer, yes. I said opposite side of the mic like you're in the same room but opposite side of the internet world I guess is the appropriate way to say it.
Katy: Yeah, I'm on a different node.
Danny: Yeah, there we go. Starting off with tech right off the bat.
Katy: Yeah, I know computers, no big deal.
Danny: And I know you were a guest on Jonan's Podcast, Observy McObservface. But today, we're going to focus more on your tech journey. How did you get into tech? You don't need to answer all these questions right now. I'm just giving you a little debrief of what we will do. Because as I looked at your Twitter, and I had been following you for a while now, I never even realized that you went to Turing.
Katy: Yeah. Here you think you know everyone.
Danny: [laughs] Basically, before we started the podcast, we were both losing our minds. Like, how do we not know each other at this point?
Katy: Yeah. It feels like even while you're still in school, it feels like you meet all of the people who have come before you, the people who are there presently. [laughs] So it's weird to come across someone you're like, we would have nearly crossed paths there and yet didn't know each other till now.
Danny: Yeah. This is great. It's always nice to meet more people in the Turing community. And if you don't know, the Turing School of Software Design is a code school based out of Denver, Colorado. And it used to be in person. You got to hang out in the basement. And I was the first cohort to be fully remote.
Danny: Now, from my understanding, they are completely fully remote.
Katy: Interesting. That changes things.
Danny: Right? I would love to have cried amongst other people, but I was just crying by myself.
Katy: One of the reasons I went to Turing is because it was in person. Because I don't know, once you spend a while on the internet, I felt like I knew what I could and couldn't learn in an online class because there are so many resources online for learning to code. And I also knew a lot of developers personally.
And I had tried many times to learn to code, and then I had been like, this is hard, and I'm tired. And then I didn't do it. [laughter] I didn't do it until I went to an in-person classroom with the teacher being like, "Hey, are you doing this?" And I was like, "Oh, you want me to finish? Okay."
Danny: Yeah, in person is like, oh, this is hard, and I'm tired. But I have spent a lot of money on this, so I need to keep going.
Katy: Yes. And I very much need that accountability factor. I should be better at it, but I'm just really not great at doing things for myself. But if I feel like they're for someone else and someone else needs me to finish, then I'm much better at being like, oh, right, my teacher needs this rather than you know --[laughs]
Danny: Yeah, that is speaking to me on a spiritual level. [laughter] I'm like, why do I always feel like I need to do things for other people when I just need to take some time and actually do things for me?
Katy: Right? I mean, Turing was one of the first choices that I feel like was a deliberate decision about the direction of my life that I had made. I don't want to say ever but pretty close. Before I worked as an editor, so I worked freelance. I did everything from Ph.D. theses and PR releases to romance novels.
Danny: No way.
Danny: Wait, that sounds…why did you ever leave that?
Katy: It's very fun. [laughter] It's very fun, but no one wants to give you any money.
Danny: Because you're pretty much an artist at that point, and no one wants to pay for that.
Katy: Exactly. So it's just like, it didn't have benefits. Anyone out there who's involved at all in the world of publishing knows that it's really hard to get in. There are only like four major publishers in the scheme of things, and so that's why I was working freelance. And then yeah, you don't get benefits. You don't get paid a ton. But it was very fun. If it had paid better, absolutely, I would have been happily moving commas around, but instead, I move semicolons around now. [laughs]
Danny: There we go.
Katy: It's not that different.
Danny: So, how long did you do editing for?
Katy: Eight or nine years after college.
Katy: Yeah, pretty long time.
Danny: Was there a moment where you were just like, okay, this is the last straw I got to get out or was it a gradual progression?
Katy: Well, there was definitely a gradual disillusionment with what I was doing. But I remember feeling a little bit like…I was working remotely freelance for eight or nine years, and I felt like I had left society. [laughter] All my work was on the internet, and I was at home. And I really didn't ever feel like I had a reason to go out and meet people. I have moved around a bit, so I didn't have strong communities. I felt a little bit adrift as far as I just exist on the internet only.
Danny: So you were remote before remote was even cool.
Katy: Yeah. I was remote when people fully did not understand that I was like, "No, I work online." And they were like, "Like, 8:00 to 5:00, right?"
Danny: Yeah. Like, when are you stuck in traffic? When does that happen?
Katy: I was like, "Well, I stayed up for two days because I was editing a Ph.D. thesis. And now I'm not working for four days."
Katy: And they're like, "But why?" And I'm like, "I can't tell you that. I don't know. [laughter] I don't know why I'm like this either."
Danny: Wow. So you had been doing that for so long that you felt…I really liked what you said where you just said you had no community. So were you really looking for different communities? But you had mentioned that you knew some developers. So would you hang out with them, and they were talking about tech, and you were like, hey, this sounds kind of interesting? Or did you play with some different ideas for a little bit after that?
Katy: I was resistant to learning to program [laughs] because a lot of people wanted me to learn it if that makes sense. You know when people are like, "You'd be good at this." And I'm like, don't tell me what I'm good at. I'm an artist.
Danny: You don't know me. [laughs]
Katy: You don't know. Yeah, I could be good at anything, but I don't want to do that. I think I was just like… some people had told me that I could try it. But the times I had tried it, I felt like…I don't know that they were unsuccessful, but I had some negative experiences with a couple of developers who just were not nice. So I was like, well, I am not going to learn to do something hard and work with jerks. That's a double no. No thanks.
But eventually, I remember someone saying to me…I was complaining about my general state of my struggle. [laughs] And someone said to me, "Okay. Well, what if next year we're having breakfast together and you say the same thing? What if nothing changes?" And I was like, "Well, that would be terrible." And they were like, "Right. But things don't just change on their own. You have to do something."
Danny: Who is this friend? Shout out to this friend.
Katy: Gross. [laughter] I think it might have been my sister. She's kind of smart. I don't like to tell people that. [laughter]
Danny: Shout out to sisters.
Katy: She's fine. She's not smarter than me, but she's pretty smart. [laughter] She's definitely smarter than me.
Danny: That's amazing. That is some good advice where you just get that punch to the gut kind of thing that needs to be said.
Katy: Yes. And I think I have always struggled with that feeling of like, am I good at the things I like because I spend time there and I love doing them? Or do I just take an easier path and gravitate towards things that I find easier to do? And I don't know if there's an answer necessarily. But I found myself wondering that a lot.
From the time I was very little, I was into writing, and music, and stuff like that. So I had always felt like, oh, I'm a creative person. I'm not a math and science person, even though now we know that that's not a thing. You don't need to choose.
Danny: Right. Right. Absolutely.
Katy: And I just didn't feel confident that I had like….I started to feel like yeah, these other things are hard because I don't know them. I knew my own work area so well. I could tell you a lot about how to format a Ph.D. thesis that I don't need to know, and that's because I spent a lot of time doing it.
You know when people say, "Oh, I'm bad at math." But do you do math every day? No. Most people don't. Maybe they do a little arithmetic. You get good at things by practicing. And so, I started to wonder if maybe I was not giving myself enough credit. Maybe I could do something hard and succeed. And I just didn't know, and I felt like I needed to know I could do it.
Danny: It is a scary thing to move away from what we're comfortable with, especially as a creative person or a self-described creative person like myself where I'm like, oh, this is what I'm good at. This is what I'm going to be good at forever. And I don't really have to work very hard to do it. And it's fun.
And it feels scary to leave that because it's all you've really known for so long. And that could be with anything like the nine-to-five that you work at or the pretty sick food service job. You love the people that you work with, like, hanging out with the kitchen people is always fun. But then trying to think of a new path you're like, that's scary. I don't want to do all that.
Katy: And it feels a little bit like, I don't know, my background is…I didn't have a ton of money or resources growing up. So a lot of the things in tech felt very inaccessible to me because they felt really indulgent. There's this mindset from cheap parents [laughs] that's really ingrained in me where it's like, why would you spend your money on that? That's a silly thing to do.
And then realizing that one, it's just an entirely different ecosystem where money exists in a very different way than it does for other people. The hardest part for me was adjusting culturally to working somewhere…(We're jumping ahead.), adjusting to culturally where people would laugh when I bought fast food for lunch instead of whatever interesting San Francisco salad.
Katy: People would be like, "I can't believe you're eating Taco Bell." And I'd be like, "Have you had it? It's delicious." [laughter]
Danny: It's so bomb. I laugh as I order a salad from DoorDash that's like $25. I'm like, what have I become? [laughs]
Katy: I know, right? I mean, those are also good. [laughs] If you're going to eat a lot of Taco Bell, it's good to throw in a salad here and there just to keep the energy up.
Danny: Exactly. So, did you leave your editing job and go straight to Turing, or did you dabble with some other things?
Katy: I went straight to Turing.
Katy: I had been working other jobs while I was editing because editing can be seasonal. And I like to have a job that's interesting where I meet people because, like I said, I was so disconnected from reality. It felt good. And it never hurts with that kind of income to have a little bit more money. So at the same time, I had worked in a lot of wild jobs. [laughs]
People sometimes…some of my co-workers now are like, "I don't understand how you've had this many jobs." I'm like, "Well, when you start working when you're 16 or 17; it sounds like a lot." But while I was editing, I was a university help desk admin. [laughs]
Danny: Yeah, I did that. I did that.
Katy: Yeah, great. I had no idea how computers worked, but I figured it out then.
Katy: I worked janitorial staff super early in the mornings because I'm definitely a morning person. And I was like, oh well, if I'm going to be up, I might as well make some money.
Danny: Let me pause you there. I also did this. But honestly, when I retire, I would go back to being a janitor 100%.
Katy: I found it very meditative.
Katy: No one else…and for better or worse, people just don't bother you. [laughs]
Danny: No. You're the little scummy person in the corner, and I'm fine with that. I'm just like, I'm going to just mop, and I'm going to clean, and I get to talk to myself in my head.
Katy: Oh, I was doing full musical numbers at like 4:00 a.m. through dormitories when people were sleeping.
Katy: Nobody knows. It's too early. No one exists except for you. It's very nice. [chuckles]
Danny: Yes. You get this kind of view of the world that not many people see, I guess. You did it at dorms?
Katy: Yeah, I did it towards the end of my college time. So I just worked whatever job on campus seemed available. [laughs]
Danny: Nice move. So, what did you do after that? I'm sorry.
Katy: Let's see. What happened after that one? Then I think I worked in…I was an executive assistant for the biology and chemistry departments at the university after I graduated as a little bit of a buffer while I figured out what to do. And basically, what you do if that's your job is that you order them chemicals and dead animals to do experiments on. So I can say that I've signed for a Tupperware full of dead cats. And that's something not a lot of people can say.
Danny: That just gave me the scariest mental image.
Katy: It's just as bad as…you know what? I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It's just as bad as it sounds.
Danny: Where are they getting these cats?
Katy: They order them from scientific catalogs. They're just like--
Danny: Oh no.
Katy: I don't know. All I know is that I had to place the order and be like, yep, and then direct them where to put all the containers.
Katy: And then I'm just like, I guess these students need to know how to do this. But ooh, I thought we were doing non-cute animals, but whatever. It's fine.
Danny: I'm allergic, and I'm not even team cat, but that's still…I don't like that. [laughs]
Katy: And they also had lab rats. They weren't horribly mistreated. They were regular non-invasive experiments. But they certainly weren't treated awesome because they were in a room. And then, when the students were on vacation, I had to feed them.
And I am a real animal lover, and so I would always be like, maybe I can befriend these rats. And I would reach out to them, and one of them bit me. And I was like if I don't get superpowers, this rat is on the list of enemies forever. [laughter] Still waiting. Still waiting.
Danny: What would be your rat superpowers?
Katy: That's a good question. What are rats really good at?
Danny: Just crawling in small little places.
Katy: Yeah. Or what if when people saw me, they just screamed and ran away?
Danny: Oh wow, yeah. And then combine it with the janitor vibes.
Katy: Yeah. I'm really cultivating a whole character here.
Danny: [laughs] Yeah, this is good. Let's start a comic.
Katy: Yeah. I sound like a villain, but I'm definitely the protagonist [laughter] or both. So I just did whatever jobs came my way and were interesting. I worked at a juice bar. I did a lot of manual labor when people just needed help with baling hay when I was a teen or building fences and stuff like that because I lived in rural Oregon.
So it was just a lot of whatever was at hand. I didn't feel like I had much of a direction or purpose. I just moved around and did what I wanted. And then when I decided I'm going to go to code school, I was like, oh, this is a career. And that was a very different feeling for me because I had just been vibing up till that point, you know? [chuckles]
Danny: Absolutely. Was there someone in your life besides your sister, maybe a mentor, someone that was like, "This is the school that you should go to"?
Katy: Yes. My friend, Dezi. I'd just known her for years. And I think in the very early days of Turing maybe helped them out. She's a super senior engineer. And I'm trying to remember, but she definitely knew Jeff, the founder, and would come in to help. And I remember she was the one who changed my mind about the negative experiences I'd had up to that point because it was like some of her former co-workers. And I was telling her about my experiences with them. She was so mad on my behalf. I remember her just being like, "They can't tell you what you're capable of. They don't know you." And I was like, yeah. [laughs]
Danny: Yeah. Snaps to that. That's 100% true.
Katy: Exactly. And because I had friends who were developers…and now that I work in the field, I totally understand. But a lot of them really didn't like the early coding schools, or they were very critical of them. Because a lot of the early ones, the timeline was so short, and they're like, "Get a new job in two months." And you're like, I would explode if I tried to do that.
Danny: [laughs] Yeah. I don't know how anyone can do. I mean, more power to you, but no, I couldn't do it.
Katy: Yeah. If you could do it, do it. I knew that wasn't going to be for me. And so once, some of the people I knew were like, "Actually, we think Turing is a pretty good school." I was like, coming from this crowd, that's a pretty high standard. So I knew that if I was going to learn, that's where it was going to be.
Danny: Yeah, it's always so good and valuable to have people around you that you trust and admire, especially when you're thinking about doing a complete career change.
Katy: Yeah. I mean, it's terrifying. And so I used to give talks at bootcamps. After I graduated, I would go back and chat with people. And I would always say, "No one goes to a code bootcamp because everything's going awesome."
Danny: Wow. Yeah, really.
Katy: I have yet to see it. And if you're out there great work. But for the most part, you're here because you need a change. And it's such a high-stakes environment because people are putting their lives on the line to say, yeah, I'm not going to have any income for X amount of time. But at the end, I know I'm going to be able to do this. And that's an investment in yourself that I don't think I'd ever really done. I went to college, but I just was like, put it on my card, by which I mean the government's card. [laughs]
Danny: Still paying that card.
Katy: Yeah, exactly. And that was another thing. It's like deciding to get another loan to go to code school when I was paying the minimum amounts on my regular student loans is not a light financial decision to make, especially if you share finances or you just can't afford it. I was like, well, what's another $20,000, huh? [laughs] And then my brain was like, it's a lot. And I was like; it is a lot. Thanks, brain.
Danny: Yeah. I was like, I've barely even had a comma in my bank account.
Katy: Yes, very much. And then going through the code bootcamp was, again, for everyone, it was incredibly difficult. And I feel like it's a more emotional experience because it feels so high stakes. So it's like when you mess up, it feels like it matters more than anything in your life. And I would say the same on the other end too. Although, like I said, I'm not great at celebrating my own wins. I would move on pretty fast from mine. But I'm getting better at it now.
Danny: Would you go back to Turing? Let's say you were just about to go into code school. Would you specifically look for one that's in person now? Let's say COVID aside. Or would you want to try to do it remote? Would that deter you?
Katy: Interesting. I think I would still like to be in a classroom, and that would be my preference for my learning style. But I do know now that I'm a better online learner now than I was then. So, could I be successful? Maybe. But I think I've just always really liked school. I like being in a classroom and doing homework. And I've just always been a big nerd. And so being in the classroom, I'm just like, yeah, I'm going to sit in the front, and I'm going to raise my hand. [laughs]
Danny: I asked you because when I did the whole code school thing when I went to Turing remotely, I felt really bummed because I was excited to be in person. And I like creating relationships with people and having that human interaction. But then I realized that by learning remotely, it made me more prepared for the remote position that I got.
Katy: Yeah, definitely. I think that makes a ton of sense. A big part of what sold me on Turing when you go to like, I don't know what they're called, like an open house night kind of thing. And it was this idea of classmates and a cohort to bond with because, like I said, I had no community. And I saw all these people being like; we are deeply bonded after this experience. And I was like, I want to have trauma bonds with people.
Danny: [laughs] Yeah, I want to cry with people.
Katy: Yeah. And I will say that I think my cohort was a bit of an exception in that that didn't really happen. I saw it happening in the other cohorts, and mine was just like, we're a different crew. We bonded over the fact that we didn't want to ever see each other again.
Danny: What cohort were you in?
Katy: I think the number is 1608.
Danny: 1608. I ask like I have every single one memorized. [laughs]
Katy: I know. It's hard. If I'm being really honest, there were a couple of white guys in my cohort who were really disruptive and offensive. And we spent a lot of time trying to correct their behavior instead of learning.
Danny: That sucks.
Katy: Yeah. There was definitely at least one guy who was just like, "Why don't I get a diversity scholarship?" And I was like, "We don't have time for this."
Danny: Yeah. Like, that's the question you have after all the things that we've learned? Code aside. You know what I mean?
Katy: Yeah. I was just like, that's what you want to talk about right now? And so, I felt like I didn't get the same experience with that. But in a way, that also prepared me for the jobs I was going to get because it was a more realistic mix of people who are not getting it, not understanding the point of collaboration, or not understanding other people's viewpoints, and people who just want to get the work done. And a couple of people who were like, "Let's try to help these people. Let's try to teach them." We didn't bond like the other cohorts, but I do think that we all ended up with…and when I say we all, I want to say except that one guy.
Katy: Because wherever he is, I kind of hope he's not doing great, or he's changed his heart significantly. Those are the two options for me that would work.
Danny: [laughs] He's like a yogi. He's traveling the world and helping the world.
Katy: [laughs] Yeah. If he has made a full turnaround, then good for him. Otherwise, bye.
Danny: That's actually really interesting because what you said about preparing you for maybe a more realistic setting where not everyone is going to vibe the same way because my cohort ruled. And I was like, man, everyone is so cool, and everyone wants to get the work done. Everyone gets it or yadda, yadda. And that's not always the reality of the world and the job that you get. And being able to adapt and go about certain things professionally and learning how to maybe speak your mind and things like that it's very important skills to get. And that's really cool that you were able to get that and right in your education.
Katy: Yeah, I think it's this interesting thing where you have to…well, I guess I'll call it a trauma response. I have experience with PTSD. So I think sometimes when you're in the moment, you find a way to be like, I'm going to use this. I'm going to use this because this is my circumstance right now. I am going to survive this. And then maybe, later on, I'll have a good breakdown about it. But right now, [laughs] what I'm looking for is survival. And so I think that was a big part of it. And just like, it's so stressful. And then you get your first job, and you're like, this is stressful, but in a way that feels a lot less stressful. [laughs]
Danny: So, were you there when Jeff was still teaching?
Katy: Occasionally taught when I was there. I never had him, but some other classes at the same time did.
Danny: Oh, okay.
Katy: Because we had a front-end track and a back-end track.
Danny: So you were there when they split it.
Katy: Yes. And we all just booed at each other.
Danny: [laughs] I know because I'll talk to some friends, and they'll be like, "We didn't have that. We're full-stack." I was like, "Wow, look at you."
Katy: Oh, okay. [laughs] I was like, it turns out you got to know at least some of both. You don't get very far being like, I'm sorry, I don't do frontend. Like, cool, but eventually, you're going to have to do a little bit. [laughs]
Danny: Exactly. Exactly. So what was your interview process like post-Turing? Did you find any struggles with it, or did you just immediately just blossom post-Turing? Or what were some of the things that you want to pass down to all the listeners out there?
Katy: Oh my gosh. Interviewing is the worst. It is universally recognized as just a problem. And everyone would say, "After you get that first job, it gets so much better." And I'll just say that's not helpful. [laughs] I understand people's intent, but it's not a very helpful piece of advice. So if that's something you've heard like, "After you get your first job, it'll be easier." One, not really. And two, yeah, but you still have to get that first job. So it just feels like really unhelpful advice to get from people to be like, "Yeah, but it'll be easier five years from now." When I'm dead? When I'm unemployed? Like, what will happen to me?
But I did a medium amount of work as far as interview prep. I don't know; maybe this has just always been my style in that I don't believe in overpreparing for things because I have anxiety. And if I let myself overprepare, I will usually end up in some pretty negative patterns of worrying about things.
So I have to be conscious of like, okay if I know it, I know it. And if I don't, then I'll have to try again. And mostly, I didn't. [laughs]
As I'm sure you know, you apply for just anything. You cannot afford to have principles. You cannot afford to be like, oh, I actually can't commute that far. You're like, I’ll walk three days to get to this job if I have to.
Danny: You're like, do you know how much I'm in debt? [laughter] Let's get this job right now.
Katy: Exactly. I'll get up at 3:00 a.m. and start running. It's fine. I'll be there. And I think that, for the most part, they all felt very similar. I didn't find one company that was a super stand out for me. The process felt the same at every company. The recruiters were all very nice.
But recruiters have, depending on the company, they may not know the reason people said no to you. So sometimes when you're like, "But why" Sometimes the recruiter doesn't know because sometimes internal communications are not that great. So the only time that I felt really…getting ghosted by recruiters mid-interview is the worst feeling. Because you feel like, well, maybe they are just taking so long because they love me so much.
Danny: Yeah, they're just talking to everyone in the company about me.
Katy: [laughs] Yeah. It feels bad to have to follow up about yourself. You're like, hello, I'm still here. Do you remember? But I did constantly send out emails being like, remember how we were best friends?
Danny: That is really important, though, to keep note of is that following up can make the interview process go a little bit faster. It's hard to think about it other than your individual experience like they're forgetting about me. But they probably have so many other things going on in their workday that they just forget or whatever. And so following up is such a good way of just being like, hey, I'm really interested in this job. And remember you didn't know how much I wanted this job. Well, here it is.
Katy: Yes. 100%. I think I'm very lucky in that I think the part of interviews that I'm good at is talking to people and being memorable. And everyone is never like, "We hated her." They're always like, "Yeah, we really liked you, but you didn't get any of the answers right." I'm like, "Yeah, but we had fun, though, right?"
Katy: So I think that a lot of it is finding the balance of like, yeah, you have to be able to talk to people and hold a conversation. And I think that the interviews themselves are deeply flawed.
And I guess for advice, I would tell people to make sure to ask for accessibility options if they need them because this is something that…like a take-home assignment, actually works really well for me because of my anxiety issues. It gives me a longer period of time to do something and focus on it and not have to do it in a super intense environment where you're there with someone staring at you. And if they can't accommodate you, that means that they're probably not going to accommodate you when you work there either.
Danny: So that's actually a great point. I have never thought of that.
Katy: If you're like, "Hey, I actually need to like…" or "I would love to do this as pairing because I'm neurodiverse, and it really helps me," or some other accessibility option and they can't help you, then they probably aren't going to be able to offer you the ideal working environment either.
Danny: Absolutely. I go about interviews similar to you, I think. I'm pretty good at talking. And my sister is actually in Turing now.
Danny: She's in module one. So I'm really excited about it. She's sending me screenshots already like, "What do I do here?" I was like, "Well, what do you think you should be doing here?"
Katy: Isn't that the greatest? [laughs] It's the greatest question to ask when you're like, I don't remember.
Danny: [laughs] Yeah, that and also, I'm like, "You got to struggle for a sec. I know this was the first issue that you just ran into, and you're trying to get help. "
Katy: [laughs] And you're like, I would like to see evidence of your struggle, please.
Danny: Yeah, exactly. I was like, "What have you tried?" and she is like, "Nothing." I'm like, "Here, see? You got to…" but she's doing good. I'm excited for her.
Katy: That's amazing.
Danny: But her and I are very similar. We're good at talking. We can do our thing. But my brother is teaching himself right now because he's still a little 17-year-old baby.
Katy: Oh, little baby.
Danny: But he is pretty introverted. He's pretty quiet. So I get nervous about him in the interview process or in the future whatever. And that's just me being an older brother. But what would you say is good practice for someone who would consider themselves an introvert and doesn't really look at interviews as an exciting thing?
Katy: That's a really good question because I also knew a lot of people. Even if you think about developer stereotypes, that stereotype is of a more introverted person, I think. So what does it look like to be kind of a quieter, more introverted person and make it through a pretty social and taxing process?
My advice is usually to make yourself lots of lists. That's something I like to do anyway ahead of time. They'll always close an interview with being like, "Now, what questions do you have?" And sometimes you feel awkward if you don't have any. So making sure that you have a couple of those written down that you can look at.
No one is going to be upset with you for taking notes. They're going to think you're a genius if you write anything down. My notebook is like…one time I went back to look at some notes, and it was just a picture of a Ninja Turtle. And I was like, I'm sure they were very impressed, but I didn't write down anything useful.
Danny: Wait, which one?
Katy: [laughs] I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be Michelangelo.
Katy: I didn't have any colored pens.
Danny: So it was OG, OG Ninja Turtle.
Katy: I think he was just a Cowabunga. [laughter] Write things down. If you feel especially there's a social aspect of it that's a little bit overwhelming, ahead of time, research some open-ended conversational-type questions. Don't be afraid to do research not just on the company but about the person you're talking to.
I will fully stalk someone before they do an interview with me so I can be like, "Oh, Danny, we both went to Turing. That's so cool. We have something in common." Especially if you feel like you need those things to keep a conversation going or to just give you some comfortable points, fully research the people who you're going to be talking to. And ask for an itinerary or an agenda from your recruiter because they definitely have one for you. Most of the time, they share them but if not, just ask for one.
Danny: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's such great advice. And coming from a community manager, I think that's some good advice there. I don't even think we mentioned, but you're the Community Manager at CircleCI.
Katy: Sometimes, I'll do entire podcasts or talks and forget to tell people what I do.
Danny: I think that is just going to show how much fun we were having that we didn't even talk about work.
Katy: Yeah. Oh, I guess I have a cool job.
Danny: I love that you are in that position. Because right from the get-go, you talked about how you didn't have a community for the longest time, and you're like, that's what I want. And here you are leading one, which is great.
Katy: I think from the beginning, what I knew is that I was very lucky to know some very senior, pretty well-known programmers when I started out. And what I knew was that there weren't very many types of people. Some of them were nice, and some of them weren't. But what I knew was they were all married hetero white cis males.
Katy: And I was like, you all seem fine. But like, where's everyone else? And I also know that it's important to me to recognize that white women aren't a great sign of diversity either. Just because I'm here now doesn't mean that you're done, or this is really better. I want to see everybody here.
Someone told me this ages ago. A friend of mine said, "Some of the more feminist moments in tech were really just about getting a double tech income for white homes." And that hit me hard because I was one of those for a while. And I was like, oh my gosh, you're right. Basically, I learned to code. My spouse at the time was a developer. I was a developer. I had learned to code and did something really good for myself but essentially had just increased our wealth by whatever amount.
And so, the community piece that matters to me is making sure that the people who show up feel welcome and included because there are opportunities. But I find that when it comes to being involved, sometimes it's easy to find whatever. You can get a job, but how do you feel once you're there? Do you want to stay? That's much harder.
And internal community, external community for me, they're the same thing. Everything I give away or try to offer to users at my company, I also try to give the people who work at the company. So do you want to come do a video stream and talk about this feature that you made? And we'll get people to come. Because I think it's so important to show people what community actually looks like. And community looks a lot more like uplifting other people than it does high fiving your spouse. [laughter] I mean, that's cool, too. You should do it.
Danny: Yeah, I completely agree with you. It's just one thing that I have found is something really, really fortunate from my experience in tech is the community that I have found myself in. I was really worried about…I was like, oh, if I go into tech, am I going to meet any other like Latinx people or people who listen to the same music or watch the same movies as me? I don't know. I think maybe I was just naive or something. I didn't do much research; I guess where I was, just like everything I saw was the same thing over and over.
Katy: Yeah, true.
Danny: But it's always been really nice to…I think I went to my first, not I think, I did go to my first conference at Strange Loop in St. Louis. And it was so cool to just meet other similar in age people that had a similar upbringing that really connected with me. And it was so nice. It makes going into work or waking up in the morning, or going online so much better.
Katy: Yeah, completely. The feeling of feeling like you belong is one of the hardest problems for a company to solve but one of the easiest things to offer to someone as an individual.
Danny: It is, yeah.
Katy: Every time there's a new person, I'm always just like, "Hey, guess what? I'm your friend now." [laughter]
Danny: Which is like such a --
Katy: It's an aggro move. [laughs]
Danny: Yeah, yeah. It is. And I love it because that person immediately is like, oh, haha, but then internally they're like, "Oh, thank God."
Katy: I started doing it pretty early on in my career. And then the first time somebody actually came to me and asked me for help, I felt so special. Like, you came to me, my baby bird. [laughter]
Danny: Before we end anything, I want to ask you about the art that you've been making. So in your profile, it says that you're a new artist. But if you look at your art, it doesn't look new. So can you tell me a little bit about just the process of…did you just decide one day, like, hey, I want to be an artist?
Katy: [laughs] Sort of. The funniest thing for me is that, like I said, I was a creative as a kid. But one of the things I was really scared of was drawing, which is kind of wild. But I have three older siblings, and they're all pretty good artists. And instead of faking an injury during PE, I would fake sick during art so that I didn't have to do it. I was like, I have a stomach ache. I can't be drawing penguins right now.
Danny: Dang, you do have anxiety.
Katy: You're totally right. I would be like, rather than draw this penguin slightly off, I’m going to go pretend to be dying [laughter] because that's what it felt like to me at the time. But it was actually once I started…so my first job was as a developer advocate, which, for the listeners, is a mixture of I am your technical friend who's here to help you understand the concepts of this particular product or company.
And I was writing blogs about technical concepts. And I really wanted to add jokes because that's very much my style. And I wanted to use images. And then I got really nervous about copyright and what I could add. So I started using clip art plus a little doodling app to make my own very bad art for the articles. And not feeling like…you know when you make something and you know it's not very good so then it's funny, and you don't mind putting it out there. Like, it's not embarrassing. It's supposed to be bad, haha.
Danny: Oh right. 100%.
Katy: But eventually, I found myself being like, I can do a little bit of this. I think I can draw a little bit. And I think I'm enjoying it. And what I found was a friend of mine had a really traumatic experience. Her brother passed away kind of unexpectedly. And I remember…like I said, I have a lot of experience in my life with trauma and grief. And I remember thinking…at work especially, people were very afraid to talk to her about it. They were very afraid to talk to her because it felt so; I don't know, I think it's just scary to try to approach these kinds of topics.
But I remember thinking that she just needed somebody to be like, "Hey, I'm really sorry about your brother." And I was doing that with her and talking to her about her brother. And I just remember having this urge to be like, I wish I could make her something. I wish I could make her something to show her that I care about her and that I care about how she's feeling. And the way that ended up manifesting was a piece of art. And I was like, this isn't very good. I don't really know how to draw these things like I want to. But I knew the feeling I was going for. And I remember giving it to her, and she just cried a lot and hugged me a lot.
Danny: Aww, that's nice.
Katy: Yeah. I was like, this is what I wanted, which is like, there's this emotional piece to art that is therapeutic for me. And if I give it to someone, it can be therapeutic for them.
Katy: And so I started doing it with my therapist. And my therapist would be like, "Okay, but what if you drew yourself and not other people?" And I was like, "Ooh, why would I do that?" [laughter] She was like, "Right. But what do you see when you see yourself?" And I was like, oh man, I'm going to do this.
So then I did a series where I was like, what does it look like if I try to draw myself? What kind of feelings do I want to evoke? What do I want myself to feel when I look at it? And kind of going on a therapeutic journey with it that I think helped me feel really like it just feels like a calming thing to do.
And when it feels like it's not work, then it turns into like, yeah, I'm just going to make something pretty and see how it feels and not be afraid to be bad at it for once in my life. Like, yeah, maybe there'll be better artists. That's fine. And just letting go of that care because the point of the art itself was not to care about being good; it was to care about how I felt. And that was a first for me.
Danny: I love that. I love when things that are just new catch us off guard or, like, wait, I actually really, really enjoy this. Running around Lake Merritt has been my therapy. I love it. So I'm glad that you have found art in a way to make you feel all the feels.
Katy: Look, I am resistant to change and feelings in general. But I am very grateful one, for my therapist, shout out. But just to have the kind of opportunities to explore those things…and also, this is a shout out to everybody who's new. Most companies have a relatively small stipend, health stipend that you can use to put towards therapy if you want to go. So ask your company about that. [laughs] Ask about it when you're interviewing. Ask what kind of mental health they cover.
Danny: Immediately as I hang up, I'm going to look up if we offer that. [laughter] I'm pretty sure they do. I just haven't done it yet. But anyway, that is beside the point. I really appreciated you talking with me today, Katy, and really sharing your story and relating on just this whole code school journey, the same code school. But I really appreciate your time. Where can people reach out to you or follow you if they have any questions or just want to follow your continuous journey?
Katy: Twitter is the place where I'm very cool. They should find me @TheKaterTot.
Danny: TheKaterTot, yes.
Danny: Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Katy. I really appreciate it. I think I've said that already like four times, but I am. I'm very thankful.
Katy: It's okay. I like to be appreciated.
Danny: Especially at the end of a Tuesday when we're tired. We're tired.
Katy: Yes, that's when everyone should be appreciated. I appreciate you, Danny.
Katy: You too.
Jonan: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. You can find the show notes for this episode along with all of the rest of The Relicans podcasts on therelicans.com. In fact, most anything The Relicans get up to online will be on that site. We'll see you next week. Take care.