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New Relican – Welcome to DevRel with Lauren Lee

Relicans host Aaron Bassett talks to New Relic’s newest Relican, Lauren Lee, about being a “second career dev” after starting out as an English teacher, her experiences on going through the Ada Developers Academy bootcamp, and finding her way into DevRel.

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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 We're so glad you're here. Enjoy the show.

Aaron Bassett: Hello, everyone. My name is Aaron Bassett. I am a Principal Developer Relations Engineer here at New Relic. And this is actually my first time hosting an episode of Launchies. You'll normally find me over on the Polyglot Podcast, but I could not miss out on interviewing today's guest.

It's not hyperbole to say our guest today is my most favorite person in the world. She's an English teacher turned software engineer. She's a podcaster, streamer, conference speaker, and one of the most passionate and empathetic educators I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. I could gush about our guest all day. [chuckles] She's also my partner. Welcome to the show, Lauren Lee.

Lauren Lee: Hello. I'm so happy to be here. [laughs]

Aaron: I'm so happy to have you here. We've been talking about doing a podcast episode together for pretty much as long as we've known each other I think. [laughs]

Lauren: Yes, you were due to be a guest on my podcast. [laughs]

Aaron: I know. To be honest, like I said, this is my first time on Launchies. But I have done quite a few episodes on the Polyglot Podcast. And this is the most nervous I've ever felt going into a recording.

Lauren: Get out. Really? [laughs]

Aaron: Yeah. I know what a good interviewer you are. I know that I will be getting critiqued after we finish. [laughs]

Lauren: Stop. This is a safe space. Ask the questions you like. [laughs] Let's see if you can learn something new about me today.

Aaron: Oh, I really hope I do, actually. But yeah, I think that's actually a very good place to start is you do have your own podcast that's called We Belong Here. And you have that podcast I think...I should give its full title first so people know. It's We Belong Here: Unconventional Paths Into Tech.

Lauren: I'll just correct you really quickly. [laughter] It's a lengthy title. And so we often abbreviate it to We Belong Here. But it's We Belong Here: Lessons from Unconventional Paths to Tech.

Aaron: So close. I missed the lessons. I'm sorry.

Lauren: No, no, don't apologize. We don't often use it when speaking about it. But the lessons that people learn from their prior jobs and their experiences before they transition into tech is what I think is the glue of it all. It's about celebrating those life skills that we learn whether it's when we're a barista or, you know, I've interviewed a rabbi or a ballet dancer or a lawyer. We pick up all these skills, and then we bring them into tech. And we help, I think, improve the tech industry by diversity of thought and bringing expansive backgrounds to the table when we're trying to solve problems.

Aaron: And you yourself are a second career tech. Is that the correct term I'm using here?

Lauren: Career changer. I've heard people refer to it as second career dev. I was an English teacher before I learned to code is usually the language I use because it was a really important part of who I am, and it's an important part of my journey. And I never lost the part of me that loved being a teacher either. So it's important for me to hold on to that and have it be a part of my current narrative as well.

Aaron: And when you did that transition you went to a bootcamp. Do you want to tell us a little bit about which bootcamp it was? Because there's a lot of them out there.

Lauren: There are so many. Oh my God.

Aaron: People have a lot of choices.

Lauren: Oh my gosh, I am very proud of the program I attended. So any moment someone offers me a mic to sing [laughs] the praises of Ada Developers Academy, I will take it. Let's see. So I was teaching high school in Seattle, Washington. And let's back up even further. I was teaching at an incredible school. At the school, I was implored to be beyond just a teacher. I was a volleyball coach. I was a mentor, an advisor, advocate for these students. And we also had incredible trips. We led trips all over the world so that my students could experience empathy and put themselves in new scenarios all over the globe and have really impactful life lessons along the way.

And one summer I was in Zambia with my students, and we had a sister school there. And I was just a chaperone on the trip. But my students there were teaching their coding lessons that they had learned the prior year, basic CSS, HTML, some JavaScript, to the students there. And we had brought computers with us to help set up a lab there. And I'm in the back reading books prepping for the school year and not paying attention to what my students are teaching. So I'm in the back watching my students teach these lessons. And I have no concept of what they're explaining to the students there.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: But I'm really proud watching my students become the teachers in those moments and suddenly feel as though I'm the student in that situation as well, kind of taking notes, even though I'm not fully paying attention in the moments either.

But I noticed that my students were really struggling to make connections with the Lusaka students there. And the moment that they were put in front of a computer together and asked to build a website together, like, what are you interested in? It allowed them to say to one another like, "I like sharks." Do you want to make a website about the ocean? [laughter] And it's a very elementary connection moment like, we share something in common but then working through something all week or all month together building these things together allowed for more substantial bridges to be created between one another.

And I realized in a kind of aha moment a very light bulb life-changing feeling of what am I doing teaching a five-paragraph essay? A really antiquated thing in society right now and in the world of education academia. And I see my students teaching something that is so modern and builds these bridges and interconnectivity and feels as though it is preparing them for college life. And beyond that, I got really, really curious [laughs] about what coding was. And my students were really excited about that for me. And when we got back from Zambia that summer, starting that school year, they started assigning me coding assignments, Codecademy, Udemy.

Aaron: That's so sweet.

Lauren: It was really, really sweet. They were very encouraging. We would find ways to incorporate coding into my English lesson plans. If students wanted to create a website for their character for Ophelia, they absolutely could. And it would be a way for them to demonstrate knowledge of the character and the text. And so I started learning on my own in those moments. And that ended up being my last year of teaching.

Aaron: Wow.

Lauren: And that's what brought me to Ada Developers Academy, which is a program that is in Seattle, Washington. So it was right in my backyard. I was really lucky. I had heard of people attending bootcamps. I'd met a few people. It sounded very, very expensive, especially on a teacher's salary. I felt very overwhelmed at the idea of dropping...I mean, I didn't have $20,000 sitting around or didn't know where I would be able to find that. And I think that that's maybe even the beginning range of where it starts these days.

So I just spent time on, actually, and started networking myself and started attending every single tech meetup that there was in Seattle, which there are a lot of. And so I was able to each night of the week go to something different and learn about different technologies and meet folks who had attended programs or were self-taught and didn't have CS degrees. And it felt exciting to introduce myself into this world because I didn't have anyone in my world that was into [laughter] technology. My world was teachers.

Aaron: Yeah. But Seattle is such a great place to start that. There are so many tech companies in Seattle.

Lauren: Exactly. And so really, genuinely, I could go to a Ruby meetup one night and then a JavaScript event later that night or the next day, and every single night diversify my knowledge and just start writing down things that were interesting to me. I remember being really curious about mobile development early in those moments. And one of those meetups is where I learned about Ada. And so Ada is a year-long program, which is a really differentiating factor for bootcamps.

Aaron: That's long.

Lauren: It is long. It is for women and gender-diverse folk. It is fully funded in that there is no price to attend. And, in fact, it's six months in the classroom and five months in internship. And the way that it works is that the five months internship that sponsoring company pays for your spot, so they are able to support Ada Developers Academy for the price of a student's tuition. And we even received a stipend when we were in that phase of it and when we were in our internship. So it's an incredible program, and it allowed me to get my foot in the door in the tech industry in Seattle. And it was a full-stack curriculum.

And they've now gone online because of COVID, and we have online and in-person courses. And so I implore every single person that is curious about this program that is hearing about it to look into it and to use me and our Ada community as a resource to apply because it is a really competitive program, but it's life-changing. And I don't use that phrase lightly.

Aaron: So you mentioned your students would send you assignments. Before you applied to Ada, was there any other preparation you did? Or what was your level of experience by the time you sent in your application?

Lauren: [laughs] Just having...I still have my notebook of the notes I took while I was in Zambia of handwriting out my design for the HTML page and embedding the CSS into it. I still have that. And so those are the original curriculum that my students were teaching which was probably an intro to HTML and CSS.

But back then, Ada had asked that it was a level playing field, that no one had experienced, that we all entered without having taken maybe a JavaScript beginner course or an online program. They did have a jumpstart curriculum that got us the basics of Ruby, which was the language they taught at the time. And that was very intentional so that we all followed that curriculum together. I know, since, they've shifted their narrative in what they asked for folks to have experience-wise. But at the time, it was really important that we were all entering the space on the same field so that we could be really collaborative with one another and not competitive.

And I think bootcamps sometimes foster an environment of extreme competition, and it's really hard to escape that. And they were very, very intentional about making us a community, that there's room for all of us at the top, and all of us are going to land jobs, and all of us did. And all of us are now badass individuals in the industry, kicking ass, taking names, that sort of thing. And it was never encouraged to be who's the best or ranking between one another or fighting over spots in the industry with one another. That was never the way of that...that's not the Ada philosophy.

Aaron: You're still pretty collaborative. You still have group chats and things where you support each other as well.

Lauren: Definitely. Our Slack is robust. That community is incredible. We share a lot of our information, our data on salary, interview processes. We have a great whisper network of "This company is incredible. You must come work here." Or "Actually, this place is stuck in the dark ages. It's toxic. Stay away."

I also believe that it's our duty as we enter into the industry to then lift one another up. And so every cohort, I mentor new folks that enter into the program and function as that someone who has an ear where they can vent and listen to them and be empathetic to their experiences because going through a bootcamp is intense. And a year-long one asks you to sacrifice a lot of your personal life, other things in your world, and to make code your number one thing when that's never been before in your entire life. That's a complicated relationship to navigate.

Aaron: I'm not sure if you did this but I know some bootcamps make you write a letter to your family and friends saying, "Hey, I'm not going to be here for the next... " like, the time of the bootcamp."

Lauren: Yeah, give me some slack. Yeah, exactly. And ask for flexibility there and for folks in their world to step up and to pick up those slack moments. And I think it is great that they've gone online because I had a lot of friends that had picked up their life, moved across the country to attend the program. And that ends up being...there isn't then the support network embedded into their world. And so I'm very happy that we allow people to show up and attend wherever they are and wherever their support lives because that's a huge piece of a bootcamp and self-teaching.

I think both paths you're demonstrating to a company that you have grit and that you want to learn this content, that you want to be a developer, that you have the hunger for it, and that you're going to do anything it takes to do it and to learn it. And I spend a lot of time talking about this on We Belong Here and celebrating folks who have done that. And I never mean to vilify or to be the anti-CS degree.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: I just want to celebrate that there are other paths to it and that it's an incredible thing when people do say, "I want to take ownership of my life and career shift and do whatever it takes to do that." And I think it's really incredible when people champion that and find success. And I like to be a part of folks' journeys in that regard.

Aaron: I think that our whole industry is really shifting now to not require that CS degree as a prerequisite for interviewing.

Lauren: I can agree with that. Yeah and companies that I do I have no clue what you're doing.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: And I don't understand you and get with the times. And you're missing out on folks. But we'll be fine on our own and peace be with you. [laughter]

Aaron: I've only ever been asked once in my entire career what qualifications I had. And that was because a previous boss wanted to put...they didn't know if there were any letters they should put after my name on a patent application. That's the only time I've ever been asked. [laughs]

Lauren: Well, that sounds like white male privilege though to me.

Aaron: Pretty much so, very, very much so.

Lauren: As my partner, you have seen me apply to jobs where they...and one I'm thinking of in particular was a small startup and they were really stoked and like, God, used the ethos of their employees of like, this was an MIT grad. This person went to Harvard. This person has the patent for XYZ. And I was like, cool, good for you. But they didn't want me eventually and that was fine. It wasn't a good fit. But ultimately, I know there was something there involved of there's nothing about me they can brag about. And that's a complicated feeling I have with some of the more antiquated...I mean, some of the companies like Google...and there are some companies that still absolutely look for that degree. So I agree that it's changing. But I'm happy that you haven't been asked that before but a lot of us have.

Aaron: Yeah, that's a really good point. I know it's something that's come up before in discussions as well around titles. Some of us were like, "Oh, titles are no big deal." And everyone is like, "No, a title is an incredible deal because that is how I show that I am worth listening to."

Lauren: Yeah, I think it's a great privilege to be able to say, "Oh, a title doesn't matter." No, I fought tooth and nail to get the titles I have. And it is how I ensure that I have pay equity. I'm really all about transparency when negotiating and receiving an offer and to not waste people's time. Like, early in the conversation when you're interviewing to talk about what those numbers are going to look like if the offer is extended. And advocating for a promotion, like, to always know where you are in that regard with a company, and with your manager, and with your higher up. No one's going to advocate for yourself other than you. A great manager will.

Aaron: Well, I have to say that's not quite true because my partner is great at advocating for me, and she really keeps me on track with it.

Lauren: Oh sure. [laughs]

Aaron: And she's a wonderful negotiator. [laughs]

Lauren: I spent a lot of time...and Ada prepared us really well for these sorts of things also. We had a lot of workshops during our program about negotiating, about the importance of it, and about being a woman in the industry and how to navigate that space to be the only and to not let them say, "Okay, our diversity is done now," and to continue pushing and to be the person that says, "You know, how are we being held accountable? Where's the action?" And it's just a really important part of my space in the tech industry.

Aaron: That is something that we are very aware of that a lot of work needs to be done there. It sounds like Ada did a good job of preparing you for being a woman in technology.

Lauren: Definitely.

Aaron: But did you have any apprehension about transitioning from your previous role into tech because of that?

Lauren: That's a good question. I mean, academia, education, high school teaching, in particular, is very women-dominant. And I had a rude awakening come for me when I walked in on day one to my Amazon team. And I was the only woman on the team. I was the only bootcamper. It was a space that really again celebrated the CS degrees and programs that my manager and team had been on. And it was a Kindle team. So I came in on day one and was very excited to ask everyone what they were reading. And it just felt like it was a perfect fit.

Aaron: Yeah, that seems like a great team for an English teacher to join the Kindle team.

Lauren: And as an English teacher. Oh my gosh, I was stoked. Instead, it was very stereotypical in the moment. The team was like, well, we play video games on Wednesdays. And I'm like, I've never played a video game in my life like, feeling so otherified and different. [laughs] And I'm just really struggling to make a connection with them. And in time, I broke down barriers and was like, you will be my friend.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: But I went into it pretty naively, I would say. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't know anyone in the tech industry before I attended Ada. And so I didn't know the good or the bad of the space. And so that is why...I mean, I started my podcast, oh gosh, very early into my career because I was suddenly realizing that I didn't have allies in the space. I wanted to find and meet other people that were like me and had navigated this space already.

And I wanted to hear selfishly, like, how are you explaining your past and positioning it to these future employers as an asset versus a detriment? Because I'm suddenly doing the self-deprecating thing where I'm almost talking shit about my prior experiences. And I saw myself doing it, and I wanted to surround myself with folks that were spinning it and taking it proudly and presenting it as something that companies would want. And once I built my community, it has been wonderful to introduce myself and build relationships with so many people who have done it before me that I'm realizing I'm not alone by any means. Like, we absolutely do belong in this space, but I had a very myopic view of it all early on.

Aaron: I guess it's very different joining a team like New Relic then where we play games on Thursdays rather than Wednesdays...

Lauren: Oh, sure. It's so different. [laughter] Well in our team, I find in the space of Developer Relations other paths to tech journey is not so unique. And I think that finding my way into DevRel has been a really wonderful shift for me and industry change almost. Because my manager at Amazon was wonderful, but he also was the person that said, "We're good on diversity now. You've been my checkbox for the year. I've hit my quota for it." And I never wanted to be, obviously, a checkbox for anyone. That felt really, really singular and that they didn't care at all about who I was as a human or individual. And finding Developer Relations I feel I can bring my full self.

But I feel like now I'm able to bring my full version, my full Lauren Lee self to the table. And gosh, that sounds wholesome and cliché, but it's embraced versus this thing of like, well, okay, we'll accept it so that we cannot be bothered by our higher-ups anymore. And so yeah, I feel really lucky to have found Developer Relations.

Aaron: Yeah. So like, please leave your personality at the door, and we're...

Lauren: [laughs] For sure.

Aaron: Yeah, it's a very different space.

Lauren: Specifically within Developer Relations I thrive in the space of education. That is what I was doing before code. And so of course, when I found the opportunity to blend my love for teaching and pedagogy with my new passion for technology, it was another aha moment where I felt like, oh, everything is aligning. And I cannot believe these sorts of jobs exist where I get to help other people feel empowered and excited about code and stoked to try these new solutions that I am also excited about. And so yeah, it really truly perfect fit.

Aaron: [laughs] If you were able to go back to that first day, that very first day as you're just about to start the bootcamp and you were able to give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Lauren: Ooh, bootcamp advice? Well, I just got a new mentee at Ada. And she's about month one right now. And so I've been thinking about that actually quite a bit. One of my pieces of advice was to not take handwritten notes.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: I still carry around my two notebooks with me. They're packed with information that I really, really, find valuable. But I can't index it and look it up quickly on my machine. And I was so envious of the folks and the program that did take notes on their machine or on their computers because they were able to then quickly lookup. Like sometimes they're presenting information that you have no idea what they're talking about. And you're just taking the notes and hoping eventually it will click. And that is a very tangible piece of the English teacher needed to leave me a little bit.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: I was very, oh, everything needs to be pen and paper. But also, broadly, I think it's to take one step at a time. When I was learning about, you know, we were still talking about terminology and learning about what a method was, for example. I was busy wondering and worrying about what internship company I was going to be placed at, and so jumping too far ahead of things. And so just to take it day by day and to enjoy the learning process and to not feel pigeon-holed or pressured to know exactly what part of tech I wanted to work in once I was finally ready and prepared to start applying to roles.

At meetups, people would often ask like, "Are you front end, back end? What's your language?" And I feel that way about the way that we treat our high school seniors. Like, "Oh, what are you going to be when you grow up? Or what are you going to study in college?" It's so limiting. And I tell now mentees of mine just enjoy every assignment or struggle through each one and don't feel the pressure to know that you're going to become an Android, you know, a particular style of developer. And be open to all the different assignments because you might never know what might surprise you.

And I think if we try to limit ourselves or know exactly what our path is going to look like, we don't allow for the opportunity to be surprised when an assignment is really, really fun. You may have no idea that you might love front end and design work and that that might just really click with you if you were obsessed with being database-minded. I've seen it happen when we get too zoomed in on things during the program. And there are just so many parts of tech that there are so many opportunities.

Aaron: There's a huge surface area.

Lauren: Exactly. And I just hate that we pressure students and folks that are new into the industry to know exactly what they're going to be. And I think it's cool to be a generalist for a little bit or to take a role and see where that takes you and to do some on the job learning and then just switch roles and to find something different. Find a new company that might allow you to learn something totally different and even to be a few years into your journey and to still not know because we'll never know all of the things in tech. And so I think that that's an exciting piece of it. And that's why a lot of us enter into the space itself. And it's a fun thing just to continue to be a forever student almost.

Aaron: [laughs] So talking about forever students then, what about people who are a little bit older who are thinking about making this transition? So somebody who is my age and who's now looking at it going, okay, well, is it too late? Is 40 too late to go to a bootcamp or to transition to tech?

Lauren: Yeah, the limit does not exist in which our curiosities die. And in my program, we had a wide range of folks, 20 to 50. And all of us landed jobs, all of us landed roles. I think there's a complicated piece where it feels maybe tough to be learning something new. I think when you attend a bootcamp, you often are surrounded by type A, people who have all succeeded successfully in their life so far, people that are good at something.

And then suddenly, cut to day 10 of your bootcamp and you feel like the dumbest part of you is thriving. You feel so incompetent and nothing makes sense. And it feels like maybe other people around you do get it. And that's wildly frustrating because it's like, you've always been that person that succeeds and excels at what you put yourself up to, and so suddenly to take on something new that you are awful at is really humbling. And so that's going to be humbling at any age. But I imagine as you grow older, that will just continue to be difficult.

Aaron: Well, you've seen it happen to be trying to learn Kubernetes.

Lauren: Okay, exactly, yes, yes.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: Well, here, let me back up, though. That's the thing is you're used to that because you've been in tech for 20 years, and someone attending a bootcamp has not experienced that feeling before where they're suddenly so confused. The docs don't make sense. They don't even understand the concept of reading the docs. There are too many things that they don't know. They've succeeded literally through everything else they've done before, most likely, and now this is the first time.

Then you have your tutors, and your teachers, and your mentors being like, "Buckle up, buddy, this is the rest of your life in technology." And that is a terrifying moment. Because it's like you're telling me that I'm signing up to feel confused, dumb, frustrated for the rest of my life. What am I doing? And everyone's like, "Yeah, isn't it fun?"

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: But eventually, I think you realize in time that that feeling of confusion isn't reflective of your intelligence level. It is normal to feel confused on things and that when you are learning new things, it is going to be a frustrating moment. But that doesn't mean that you're not a senior level engineer. It means that you're human, and you're learning something new. And that is the industry of tech. But those first couple months of that or years of that can really knock you off your ego pedestal a bit.

Aaron: And that's what we're here for as DevRel is hopefully to try and remove some of that confusion for developers as well.

Lauren: Sure. I mean, it's never going to be a clear-cut path though. And so I think it is an important piece to struggle through until you learn to navigate on your own because the only person that's going to help you get out of it is yourself in understanding something and so yeah. And the community is wonderful too. Twitter is a wonderful place sometimes for folks that are learning to code to go and ask questions. There are great Slack communities, Discord communities that will cheer one another on. But it's about finding those and learning to have a voice and how to ask those sorts of questions too.

Aaron: So you spoke a lot about your time in the bootcamp. I think we'd be remiss if we didn't talk about your current role at New Relic. So why don't you tell us a bit about what you do there?

Lauren: Yes. So I just recently joined The Relicans team, the Developer Relations team at New Relic that you're also on and a lot of our friends are on.

Aaron: [laughs] Yeah.

Lauren: It's a great group of individuals. And I joined as a Senior Developer Relations Engineer. I come to New Relic after working at a couple of different companies in the DevRel space. I entered this industry or this particular branch of the industry of Developer Relations as a developer educator at Vonage. And that was an incredible experience where I got to essentially write tutorials, and help people film videos, Twitch streams, create content about how people could use their APIs and whatnot. And I eventually went on to manage the team of developer educators. And it was a great experience also.

I was the department chair at my high school, and it was great to translate those managerial support mentorship skills that I hadn't really been flexing in my IC or individual contributor role. And then I went on to Puppet and was the Director of Community there and got to put it all together in the sense of helping an entire company's program build-out. And that was a shift also then for me to make the move from [laughs] climbing the hierarchy ranks of that to then come back and join as an IC or individual contributor. Apologies for using tech jargon or acronyms. I don't want to be that person.

But I was missing getting my hands dirty, and building applications, writing code, creating content, and it felt good to return to that for a little bit of time. I don't know how long I will want to be back in this IC space, but it's been really nice.

Aaron: IC forever. [laughs]

Lauren: You're an IC forever for sure. But I do like the big picture stuff as well. It's a nice balance. And I think it's really fun to yo-yo back and forth between the two. I thought once you picked the manager path you had to stay on it. And discovering that I could then segue away and then go work and join this team, and be a part of the team, and create content, and collaborate with one another in a really fun and energizing way where we get to talk about New Relic products and technologies but then also celebrate our different passions that we bring to the table individually felt really interesting and different. So that was really compelling to me. And who knows? I don't know what the future will hold or which direction I will go further on in life.

But I had never really heard people talk about going from manager back to IC before. And so I'm really curious to learn and to continue talking about it with folks as well and just encourage the flexibility to try all sorts of different roles, and to see what feels great, and to take some pause away from, you know, there's a lot of pressure once you get into the senior leadership level. And it feels really fun to now just be in the space where our team gets to be silly sometimes with the content that we create.

Aaron: A lot of times. [laughs]

Lauren: Yeah, and it's creative, and that really is fulfilling for me in a different way. I'm not living in the world of slide decks anymore and that feels great.

Aaron: I'm personally so happy there are options now for people who don't want a managerial role. For a while, it seemed like if you wanted to progress in your career, you had to go into management, and I am an awful manager. [laughter] Let's not beat around the bush, I am. So thankfully, now different companies do have these career paths where you can progress to principal or as distinguished or whatever else it is on that. It's a big relief for me. [laughs]

Lauren: For sure. I hear that completely. And yeah, it’s just different skills that you're interested in flexing and learning about. And it's nice when something gets a little boring that you're allowed to shift and change, and try something different. And I'm suddenly using skills that I haven't used in a while and growing those muscles again, and that feels really fun. Life should be fun I think.

Aaron: That's what DevRel is. It's interest-driven development.

Lauren: Interest-driven development, conference-driven development. We just attended our first in-person conference after COVID. And we did it safely and with precautions, but it really genuinely was wonderful to be back in person just building community, and yeah, it felt great to be. That's one of my favorite parts of DevRel. And it felt wonderful to be able to do that again.

Aaron: You said that's one of your favorite parts. What is your ultimate favorite aspect of being in DevRel? I think I know the answer to this already.

Lauren: What do you think the answer is?

Aaron: I think it is being able to blend your history of education with technology.

Lauren: I don't know the answer to it.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: So while I was still at Ada, I don't know why...on a whim, I must have applied to….I remember we were teaching...currently, Ada teaches Python. But when I was there, we were in Ruby curriculum. So I applied to be an opportunity scholar to RubyConf and got in. It was my first tech conference I'd ever been to. It was wonderful. It was the perfect first conference someone could attend because we were paired with a mentor. I met my tech idols. I sat next to Sandi Metz and Matz, the author of Ruby. I was rubbing elbows with him. I was just full-on geeking out with my heroes at that moment.

Aaron: That sounds great.

Lauren: And it was so incredible. And then I suddenly realized that everyone I was building these relationships with was in DevRel. Chloe Condon introduced herself as a developer evangelist. Jonan who is now our current boss and leads our DevRel team at New Relic I met him there. And he was wonderful, and enthusiastic, and encouraging, and believed in me and wanted to be a mentor and support me, and was just enthusiastic. And I connected to that. So that was my first introduction into DevRel, and it was a perfect foray into it.

And when I was at Amazon, I quickly realized in my software engineering role that I felt a bit singular in my role as a software engineer. I missed that piece of connecting with people. I craved more beyond just sitting behind my machine every day and tackling tickets. And I felt very singular in that life. And I then had access to an incredible database of Amazon employees. So I looked up every single person who had advocate, evangelist, Developer Relations in their title at Amazon.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: I sent every single person an email and asked if I could get them coffee and learn about their path. How did they end up into this space?

Aaron: That's such a you thing to do I have to say, and it's incredible. [laughs]

Lauren: Oh my gosh. And it's the beginning of the podcast too. It's me being like, "Hi, I'm Lauren. I want to know more about you. Can we hang out? Do you want to be best friends?"

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: And a lot of those conversations came to really interesting places. I think that's where I met Nader. There were really cool people that were at Amazon at the time. That's where I met Cassidy. I don't mean to be name-dropping right now. That's really annoying of me. Back it up. Back it up.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: Okay, the person that really opened my door to what DevRel was was someone named Fletcher Nelson who was on the Alexa team. And he had no clue. He is an electrical engineer by trade and was doing a lot of hardware things with Alexa and was embedding Alexa into just funky things, you know, the microwave. He was the person that came up with all the ridiculous ideas of what not to put Alexa into. But he also would put it into Raspberry Pi. And he had workshops that he would host and encouraged me to take those workshops and teach them at Ada and to really get tangible experience of doing Developer Relations work while I was still in that software engineering role.

And it was just so fun to be able to start blending those two things. And that mentorship is what I now try to do and strive to be for other people. Because he just was like, "Sure. I really don't know what you're talking about. Like, Developer Relations…" These were very early moments of defining Developer Relations and he was tangentially that. He's now at Facebook, and he has helped me so much with also salary negotiation. He's always just like, "Ask for more. Get more money."

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: So great to have a person like that in my life but just how he took me under his wing and gave me that very...I could add those workshops to my resume then. I've given them at Ada, and I've given them at different places, meetups, and hosted these workshops myself, created this content for it, etc. And that allowed me to really get the foot into, you know, at least to get interviews with Developer Relations roles. And yeah, doing all those sorts of things really showed me that that was the path for me, that was the industry that was going to keep me interested and keep me excited because the software engineering side of it wasn't filling all of the boxes for me.

Aaron: Yeah, I hear that a lot like in the Twitter Spaces we hosted around Developer Relations as well. It seems that a lot of times Developer Relations people are really good at promoting the companies and products they worked for. But we're also incredibly good at promoting Developer Relations. Because most people I know get into Developer Relations after speaking to other DevRels. [chuckles]

Lauren: Right right. And being like, you got to do this for a job?

Aaron: [laughs] Yeah.

Lauren: And oftentimes, a lot of people are already doing the work. I was already blogging and creating content like that. I wasn't Twitch streaming, but I was already doing some of that stuff. So that someone saying, "Hey, that stuff you do on the side that seems to give you energy and be interesting and exciting do you realize that you could do that full time?" was a really, again, a light-bulb moment for me where it felt really exciting to say, "Let's go all-in on that then."

And I went on to work at GoDaddy and did a technical product manager role for a bit where I was internally evangelizing the tools that my engineering team was creating. And that was interesting to me because I got to put on a show every time I would go to these different teams of why they would want to use our tools etc. etc. But it wasn't technical enough. That wasn't filling me up in the sense of I got the teacher side of it almost, but I didn't get the tech side of it.

So the PM route wasn't interesting for me, so I had to try on a lot of different shoes before I found the perfect fit. It was not necessarily an easy path, but I'm glad I did all the different things, all the different roles because I love working with product. I love working with design. There's a lot of different orgs that I can play a bridge between or like a switchboard operator if you will.

Aaron: I was just thinking so DevRel is your, like, Cinderella moment. You got the right shoe on and that was it.

Lauren: Yeah, yeah, 100%. That's exactly the metaphor I was going for, honey.


Lauren: It was more subtle though. [laughter]

Aaron: Okay, so we're coming towards the end of our time. And I did mention at the start that you are a wonderful Interviewer. And probably I'm going to get critiqued heavily here but hopefully --

Lauren: No. You've done a great job. [laughter]

Aaron: So what is the one question you wish I had asked you, and how would you have answered it?

Lauren: What my favorite ice cream flavor is, what I love about my dogs.

Aaron: How can your husband help you more around the house? [laughs]

Lauren: Yeah. What chores should he start picking up? Or, let's see, things that he said he's going to do.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: Maybe find out when he's going to do said things. We really do need some new hurricane doors installed.

Aaron: Okay, so let's just talk about ice cream then. Ice cream sounds good. I can get ice cream. [laughter]

Lauren: Ice cream and s'mores are my favorite food, and I think that's really all you need to know about me. I love musical theater. I do not identify in the space of tech as the folks that, I'm not a video gamer. I have interests that extend beyond tech, and I think that is 100% A-okay. I do not shy away from those interests.

Aaron: Nope.

Lauren: I do not feel embarrassed that I do not share the same interest as a lot of my peers. Because there is pressure, I think, in our space to thrive in particular spaces or to know a lot about those other niches or, I don't know, other subsets of tech. And it's important to feel okay with loving the things that we love. And I want us to be excited for everyone that enters the space and to welcome all of them to this industry and however they come and whatever interests they bring to the table as well. I am a very enthusiastic person so that ends up being that I will discover new interests and hobbies quite often. I just discovered a deep passion for creating handmade stamps while we were at Strange Loop.

Aaron: [laughs] Go check it out on Instagram. It's impressive.

Lauren: Go check out our Instagram. We were prepping for our booth, and we have these beautiful stickers created for Strange Loop, which is the title of the conference, and gorgeous stickers, but they didn't have New Relic anywhere on them logo-wise.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: And so ran to Michaels, got us ink pad that I etched the New Relic logo and the text into the text of the stamp which I was so proud of.

Aaron: What was that URL again?

Lauren: Sure. Say it again. [laughter] Go there. Go there if you love us. Then hand-stamped every sticker we had which was like I think we all bring different things to the table. This is all to say that we cannot force ourselves to be the same.

Aaron: Sure.

Lauren: And we need to celebrate. We must celebrate the differences and those areas that we thrive separately because then together we can create really incredible things. And yes, now I really want to make a stamp that's what I'm thinking. [laughter] They're really fun. I highly recommend it. It's just nice also to have very antiquated art versus the tech work that we do. It's fun to have polar opposites in real life sometimes.

Aaron: We did talk about making an automatic one using an IoT device though.

Lauren: I mean, I didn't. You and Jonan did. [laughter] That would be very cute. We could definitely do that.

Aaron: A little collab going on there.

Lauren: Exactly. That sounds like a good stream we could do.

Aaron: [laughs] I was going to say we've mentioned it many many times on here. It is a wonderful podcast. It's We Belong Here which is available I think pretty much anywhere podcasts are available. So that's one place you're available online. It's also at, no here, just

Lauren: I didn't get the URL, but it's okay.

Aaron: It's fine.

Lauren: It's fine. [laughs]

Aaron: If you want to check it out there. Or it's going to be on all of your Spotify, Apple, etc. Where else can people find you online, Lauren?

Lauren: That's a good question. I'm lolocoding everywhere for the most part. That's L-O-L-O-C-O-D-I-N-G. That's me. You can hang out. My DMs are open on Twitter if you ever have questions or are seeking mentorship to navigate the space as you're entering tech. I absolutely am happy to be a resource. And I love talking about things such as negotiation and getting your money.

Aaron: [laughs] She's really good at that, folks.

Lauren: And finding the right role for you and being picky and interviewing right back because sometimes when we're early in the space, we feel pressured to say yes to the dress that is the first offer.

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: And that is a privilege to be able to navigate that and to say no or to interview back. But lots of questions I can share of what to ask when interviewing to get a good read on the team or the manager and just how to navigate that particular space because for a lot of us it's new. And I remember it was really terrifying my first go around. So yeah, those are things that I love to talk about.

Aaron: And people can find you @lolocoding, so it's L-O-L-O coding. And that's going to be on Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, just everywhere.

Lauren: Twitch, yeah. You and I should probably schedule a stream for this week.

Aaron: Yeah, we stream on both yours lolocoding...and I'm going to give myself a little shout-out here as well.

Lauren: Go for it.

Aaron: I'm aaronbassettdev. We love streaming together. We have such good fun.

Lauren: Should I have switched and said where can people find you online, Aaron? [laughter]

Aaron: No, because I'm really boring and I'm just like Aaron Bassett everywhere. I have no imagination.

Lauren: Well, not on Twitch. You're aaronbassettdev.

Aaron: I'm pretty sure I also I'm Aaron Bassett on Twitch. I just forgot which email address I used to sign up and can no longer get the password so…

Lauren: Okay. Okay. Got you.

Aaron: I made a mistake on that one. [laughs]

Lauren: Well, that is an uplifting and exciting way to end the podcast.

Aaron: I know. Aaron was an idjit, and he forgot his password. [laughs] But this has been so much fun. I'm so glad we finally got to do a podcast together. I've enjoyed it immensely. I'm looking forward to being on the other side of the microphone. That should be fun, too.

Lauren: Yes, come check out an episode of We Belong Here for when Aaron --

Aaron: [laughs]

Lauren: I think I always get nervous when I interview friends and then even further loved ones, but you did a great job. So high five.

Aaron: Thank you very much, virtual high five. [laughs] Okay. Well, that's all for us today, folks. Please do check out our future episodes or if this is the first one you've listened to, we have a large catalog. So go listen to some of the previous ones as well. We also have other podcasts available. We have Launchies, and we have Observy McObservface.

Lauren: This is Launchies.

Aaron: Oh, sorry, this is Launchies. Polyglot. This is Launchies. See, I'm always on Polyglot.

Lauren: Wow. You're welcome.

Aaron: I know. Thank you for saving me.

Lauren: You're welcome, folks. This is why I work here. You're welcome.

Aaron: [laughs] They're all on as well. So please do go check this out. And I will see you next time over here or on We Belong Here. Thanks again. Have a good day.

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 In fact, most anything The Relicans get up to online will be on that site. We'll see you next week. Take care.

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