Episode 70 – Find a Problem You Care About and Think Differently About Solving It with Dylan Beattie
Dylan Beattie is a software architect, conference speaker, and musician. He designs APIs and distributed systems based on Microsoft .Net and he also helps to run the London .Net User Group.
In this episode, Phil talks with software architect Dylan Beattie about everything from understanding that software is not always the solution to a problem, avoiding getting burnt out, how writing websites can eventually get you speaking at conferences halfway around the world, and the future of tech will involve difficult lessons about community interaction and a greater shift towards user-inclusivity. Dylan also talks about finding the fun in IT, even the uninteresting parts, and why he’s glad he chose a career in IT over one playing guitar.
(1.05) Phil opens by asking Dylan to tell a bit more about himself, with Dylan recounting his early days as a webmaster and that he got into IT purely because he thought it was fun and then learned that he could make a career out of it, and is currently working as a CTO at Skills Matter.
(2.50) When Phil asks Dylan for a unique career tip, he tells a story about how senior manager at a company he was working at had asked him to create a secure digital storage system for some sensitive documents. After learning that they only had 30 or 40 documents to store, Dylan advised them to just use a safe instead, offering up the tip that even when you’re a software developer, software is not going to be the solution to every problem.
(5.11)Phil then asks Dylan to share the worst moment in his career in IT and Dylan explains that he’s never had a specific worst moment, but several “worst periods” where he was getting burnt out working too hard on projects that he didn’t really care about. He recalls struggling with companies that were more concerned with a big picture vision than a clear roadmap of steps, milestones or deliverables necessary to get there.
(8.14)Phil changes tack to ask about career highlights and Dylan discusses starting out going to user groups and community events to listen and learn new things and that, before long, he was the one giving the talks at this events, eventually moving up to conferences and keynote speeches in other countries.
(9.25) Dylan specifically recalls going with a group to speak at a conference in Ukraine and going to the chance to go to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and marveling at how strange it was that his particular career journey had allowed him to experience this, finishing by saying, “The highlights are the things which are unexpected.”
(10.35) When Phil asks Dylan’s opinion of what’s the most exciting thing about the future of IT, he and Dylan recall the massive impact smartphones have had on how software interacts with the world and that back in the 1990s, no one could have even conceived of it. Dylan says that he thinks that another, similar paradigm shift will happen soon, involving how we think about online communities and interactions.
(13.52) Dylan also talks about a shift towards making things not only more user accessible, but more generally inclusive, and that software development needs to catch up with that movement, joking that, “We think we can solve anything by making the fonts bigger.”
(15.54) From there, Phil moves into the Reveal Round, asking Dylan why he started working in IT, to which he reiterates that he always thought it was fun and was interested in the potential of machines and making them better, and then realized he could get paid to do that.
(17.22) On the subject of the best career advice that he’s ever received, Dylan remembers initially wanting to be a professional guitar player, only to have a local guitarist he looked up to tell him not to play for a living. He says that playing is something you do because you love it and if you make it your job then you’ll have to do it even when you don’t feel like it and you’ll grow to hate it.
(18.41) Dylan contrasts this with the career in IT that he pursued instead, saying that in tech, even when you don’t want to do something, there’s usually a compensating factor, like if a problem is boring, finding the solution might be interesting, or vice versa.
(19.34) Phil asks Dylan what he would do differently if he was just now leaving university to start a career in IT, and Dylan says he’d be at a bit of a loss because he has had the luxury of having software development complexity grow along with him and now things are much more technical and specialized.
(22.54) Phil then asks Dylan about his current career objectives, and Dylan is at a loss for an answer and instead talks about Rockstar, a new programming language he created as part of a joke that recently went viral in the online dev community. Dylan jokingly says that he’d like to make refining Rockstar a career objective and be able to go to conferences with stickers and branded swag just as a laugh.
(25.10) Phil’s asks Dylan about what he thinks is the most useful non-tech skill to have, and he says that he thinks communication is incredibly important and that the two big parts of that are writing well and be able to comfortably speak up and share ideas. But he adds that these skills are so tied-in with the job that they don’t really count as “non-tech” and changes his answer to being able to make good coffee.
(26.07) Finally, Phil asks Dylan for some parting words of advice for the listeners, and he talks about not being afraid to explore other job opportunities out of fear that you won’t be able to find another job as good as the one you currently have. He adds that he wishes that there a healthier and more natural way to change careers than the way recruitment currently works.
(4.43) Phil: “So, almost trying to provide a solution and then find a problem that will fit that solution.”
Dylan: “Yeah, trying to find an excuse to do something cool with hardware…we get hard problems to solve that actually matter, this is not one of them.”
(9.45) Dylan: “I got here because I started writing web pages and then started talking about it and now we’re here inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in the former Soviet Union. This is completely unexpected.”
(11.06) Dylan: “Microsoft’s mantra in the 80s and early 90s used to be ‘a computer on every desktop.’ They weren’t even thinking that nobody was going to care about desktops anymore because the computer would literally be a thing in their pocket that had started out as a telephone and evolved superpowers.”
(15.44) Dylan: “Even the most daring things we can think to dream at the moment can be completely turned on their hand within the next ten years, and who knows where that’s gonna lead.”
(20.32) Dylan: “Find a problem you care about and don’t worry too much about the software you’re using to solve it.”
Contact Dylan Beattie:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/dylanbeattie @dylanbeattie