Episode 103 – Learn to Work Smarter to Become a More Effective Developer with Trisha Gee
Phil’s guest today is Trisha Gee. She works as a developer advocate for Jet Brains. Her goal is to help developers to make their lives easier and become more productive. Trisha spreads the word about how to do this using live training, social media and public speaking. Her expertise is in Java high-performance systems. She is the leader of Seville’s Java User and Monod user groups as well as being a key member of the London groups. Trisha is a Java Champion and a MongoDB Master.
(1.04) – So Trisha, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? She responds by saying she is interested in everything and has been a developer for 20 years. Trisha has always resisted has always had broad interests, so has never stuck to just one discipline. As a developer advocate she talks directly with her company’s developers about products, languages or frameworks that can be useful to them. Basically, she helps them to quickly get to grips with them. She enjoys the fact that, this role requires her to teach, present and write as well as use her technical knowledge.
(2.10) – Phil comments that hiring a developer advocate is becoming more common. Trisha agrees that is the case. In particular enterprises like banks are starting to hire them. They have APIs that need to be widely used. Developers need to be able to easily incorporate them into what they are doing. In the past, difficult to read, official documentation was used to communicate with developers. Documentation that does not fit in with the way developers think. Today, there are developer advocates, like Trisha, who are able to quickly bridge that communication gap.
(3.12) – Phil asks Trisha for a unique IT career tip. Trisha’s advice is to learn communication skills as well as technical ones. Being able to listen properly and answer questions in a clear and understandable way is extremely important. If you want to become an architect or lead communication becomes even more vital.
(4.20) –Trisha is asked to share her worst career moment with the audience. Trisha said that happened when she typed rm -rf in the wrong directory. It is a mistake that a lot of people make, just not in production or a huge 8 level live testing environment, which is what Trisha was working on at the time. Trisha thought she was in directory level 6, in fact she was higher up, so ended up trashing multiple directories. Just before Christmas lunch. The testers were in the middle of testing in every one of these environments. As a result, they were not in a consistent state. So, restoring from backups would have been too hit and miss. She had to ask the testers they would need to do some of the tests again. It taught her the value of owning your mistakes. She quickly explained what she had done and how it could be fixed. Once she had done that, everyone was OK about the situation and the problem got fixed faster.
(6.42) – Phil asks Trisha what her career highlight has been. Going from being a developer to a developer advocate has been Trisha’s career highlight. Becoming a public speaker was her first step along that rewarding path. But taking that step happened in a slightly unusual way. At a conference, she met Martin Fowler and mentioned the fact there were not enough female speakers. His response was “you can change that.” You are an articulate woman, so you can speak at conferences and play a part in solving the problem. Trisha had planned to do exactly that, but was thinking of it more as a long term goal. Martin had made her understand that she could get started immediately. So, when her boss asked her to co-present with him at JavaOne, she just did it. The rest is history, at that moment she started participating in showing developers the way forward.
(9.00) – How much practice did you have before you stood up on stage for the first time? For that speech, she did not get any specific practice in. She had seen her boss, Martin Thompson, present that speech before and she had been blogging about it. So, he knew that she could do it on the fly. They just went through the slides and she watched the earlier version. But, Trisha does not do that now. She always practices the entire speech, several times.
(9.59) – Phil asks Trisha what excites her about the future of the IT industry and careers in IT. Trisha says the broadness of the field. You can be doing anything, solving any problem. Trisha expressed the wish to see the IT industry become more diverse. Improving the diversity should be done, but it will also bring many benefits. It will spark off different ways of working together and solving problems.
(12.10) – What drew you to a career in IT? She started programming when she was 9 or 10. She liked the idea of typing something into a machine and getting it to do more or less what she had intended. Also, the fact you can constantly enhance and tweak things appeals. Being able to discover something new simply by looking at it from a different angle and trying a few things is also something she enjoyed about IT.
(12.59) – Phil asks Trisha if programming was what she planned to do when she left school. Surprisingly, Trisha said no. In her teenage years, she more or less stopped programming. But, studied math, physics and computer science at A level because she wanted to do astrophysics, go to Mars and join NASA. However, she realized that physics was really just lots of different types of math. With computing the computer does the math for you. Leaving you free to think about how the user can benefit from what you are doing. For her, physics was just too abstract. Computer programming appealed much more.
(14.34) – What is the best career advice you were given? Trisha does not feel she has received career advice, as such. But, she has had great mentors, people who have helped her to progress along her chosen path.
(15.08) – If you were to begin your IT career again, now, what would you do? Trisha says she would focus on machine learning. At university, she studied AI as well as computer science. But, when she graduated, practical AI was really just a pipe dream.
(16.12) – What career objectives are you currently focusing on? Currently, she is asking herself what next? There is a possibility that she will be thinking a bit more strategically, perhaps leading other developer advocates. Or, she may turn her attention to deploying to the Cloud, DevOps and Docker, because, so far, she has not really covered those areas. But, whatever she does, she really wants to make a difference to the lives of developers. She wants to reach as many developers as possible and help them to be more effective and move forward.
(18.23) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Trisha said writing, which has pushed her to sit down and work things out then share it with others.
(19.16) – Phil asks Trisha to share a final piece of career advice. Trisha says it is all too easy to become overwhelmed by the fact there is so much you have to learn. It is always going to be like that. Even the most experienced people do not know everything. Things are constantly changing, so everyone in the industry has to continuously learn. You need to become with the fact that you are just going to have to learn stuff on the job.
(3.21) TRISHA – “Don’t just focus on the technical skills,”
(3.45) TRISHA – “If you’re able to listen to answers and listen to concerns from your users, it will make you a better developer.”
(6.16) TRISHA – “You have to own your mistakes,”
(11.02) TRISHA – “I think if we improve the diversity, it is just going to become much more interesting and much more exciting, as we get different ideas from people with different backgrounds.”
(11.48) TRISHA – “When you fix something for one set of people, you actually make it better for everyone.”
(19.06) TRISHA – “The ability to take technical ideas and write them down in it in a useful, readable way, has probably been the best skill that I’ve got that isn’t coding.”
CONTACT TRISHA GEE:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/trisha_gee @trisha_gee