This is a article from my "Dev Chats" series where I speak to an awesome developer or techie every week or so. You can read more here. Let me know in the comments if you find these useful to you!
🙋🏼♀️ I’m Chloe Condon, and I’m a Developer Evangelist at Sentry.io (an open-source error tracking tool). I usually explain my job as “a liaison between marketing and engineering”, as I’m an engineer who sits on the marketing team. My job involves wearing many hats- some days, I’m filming/writing/creating tutorials around observability, other days I’m emceeing and organizing our monthly Sentry Scouts event (a camp-themed monthly meet-up with rotating topics), some afternoons I’ll be hacking on an example project, and others I’m in an airplane flying to [insert random location here] for a conference on [insert random technology here]. It’s a really fun job that’s always changing based on the community/company needs!
While attending Hackbright Academy (an all-female software engineering bootcamp in SF), I had fully intended on starting as a jr. developer (as most graduates from the program do). However, on our demo night, when we were to show and present our project to an audience, I noticed that most of the women in my cohort were terrified of public speaking. Being a former actress, that aspect didn’t phase me at all- in fact, it was probably my favorite part of the program! I loved writing and finding the words to explain the concepts of the technology I used on my application.
My partner, Ty Smith is an experienced Android engineer and often gives talks and presentations at various conferences and meet-ups. In our first year of dating, I sometimes tagged along on weekend trips when he would speak at various conferences. I remember asking him in a car-ride once “Is that part of your job a job?”. And the rest is history! When I was job searching post-Hackbright, I found that my theatre background was very helpful in getting me interviews for evangelist roles (after all, I had 20+ years of on-stage experience, event planning, and community building). This is why I’m such a big advocate for hiring candidates from bootcamps and diverse backgrounds.
To be honest, a lot of it was happenstance. I grew up in the theatre (quite literally)- my mother was a costume designer and my father is a director/playwright. My life from age 0-25 was either spent in a theatre, behind an audition table, in a costume shop, backstage, or in the box office. I went to musical theatre Summer camp, I attended a performing arts high-school, I performed in community theatre, and eventually attended SFSU and received a BA in Drama.
When I booked my first big theatre gig in San Francisco, I thought “WOW- this is it! I’ve made it!”... until I realized the pay was ~$500 for 4 months of work. So, I looked for a day job (as all Bay Area actors must do unless they live at home/wealthy and supportive partner/rich deceased relative), and ended up working at a variety of different start-ups in various support roles. I had no idea what engineers did, but I knew it was “computer stuff” and important.
Fast forward to a couple years later, when I first started dating Ty. I was working at NewCo as the executive assistant to John Battelle, and happened to sit in on a talk at Google about getting more young women exposed to/interested in programming. After the talk, I felt so sad that I had missed the boat (where the heck was Girls Who Code when I was a kid??). When I lamented this to Ty, he assured me it wasn’t “too late”, and encouraged me to take some courses online. After dabbling with some classes, I realized “Hey- I think I can do this?” and started looking into bootcamps.
At that point, I was working as an office manager and doing musical theatre rehearsals/performances nights and weekends. I had been feeling pretty burnt-out on theatre, and felt that I had really accomplished all my bucket-list items, so I decided to take a break and focus on leveling up my programming skills. In my office management role, I was really unhappy and depressed- I spent a majority of my day loading snacks and LaCroix on shelves, and doing other people’s expense reports- I wanted to use my brain more. To make things worse, I felt really invisible to all my co-workers, and wanted a role where my voice and opinion mattered. In my mind, programming was my ticket out of there, and I used my frustration and unhappiness in that role to motivate me to study and work hard and getting out of there. I remember singing this song in my head a lot and imagining the looks on people’s faces when I became an engineer one day.
Now, I love my day job! People ask me all the time “do you think you’ll ever perform again?”, and I usually answer “Well, I get to perform all the time at conferences now!”. Of course, I miss singing, but there’s always Martunis and karaoke... and I’ll sometimes sing at a gala or other one-night-only event that requires a minimal time commitment. Sadly, theatre is a lot of time for very little pay (I usually refer people to this article when asked “why on earth” I’d “leave theatre” because “it seems so fun!”). So, now that I feel like my time is worth a lot more, the idea of rehearsing/performing for 3+ months seems exhausting to me. But who knows- maybe in a couple years I’ll take a sabbatical and play Elle Woods in Legally Blonde the musical! I’m not ruling it out 💁♀️
What advice would you have for developers who want to become evangelists? Do we need any special skills? Anything to focus on in particular?
Make a brand for yourself, and create lots and lots of content! The content you decide to make is up to you: blogs, tutorials, videos, meet-up recaps, organizing your own meet-up, or even answering questions on StackOverflow. When you’re applying for evangelist roles, if your potential employer Googles you to find a goldmine of developer resources, you’re on the right track. Focus on engaging with the developer community and helping others. Videos of you public speaking help, too!
Oh man- I wish! This is my favorite visualization of that:
These days, I’m not doing as much conference traveling as I used to. A lot of my time is spent making content and tutorials at Sentry HQ in SF. However, when I’m at conferences I tend to tweet/share more on social media. As a result, I think many people can translate that to “WOW! How glamourous- she travels for work!”, when in reality I’m in my hotel room at 6am getting work done, editing and practicing my talk for 2+ hours, walking the conference floor meeting people and networking, giving my talk, checking my email, answering questions/giving demos after, and curling up into a ball in my hotel room after too much extroverting time. Pretty glamorous, huh? I blame social media, because of course I’m going to share pictures from the after-party sipping champagne and not me eating Indian food alone at 1am going through my inbox 😂 It’s definitely an illusion.
Learning how to say “no”. I wrote a whole article about it here!
See above! Also, be yourself. You don’t have to act/look/behave a certain way to be an engineer or work in tech. Just be you, and bring your diverse and authentic self to the industry. I actually think my quirky brand has allowed me to stand out and have my voice heard more.
I craft a lot in my spare time- anything from making perler bead art, to repurposing my old troll dolls. I also really love Legos! I definitely use my crafting skills as an evangelist (be that with our meet-up, or even fun things to add to our tutorials)! But also, it gives me a chance to get my mind off word and focus on a creative task.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life and Better Than Before have both shaped me significantly in the last year for decision making and habit forming!