Episode 121 – Progress Your Career Using Good Communication and Networking Skills with Charlie Gerard

 In Podcasts

Phil’s guest on today’s show is Charlie Gerard. For the past few years, Charlie has been working to provide all kinds of companies with better software. She is also a mentor at the General Assembly. There, she provides support to both amateur and professional developers.

In her spare time, she experiments and collaborates with others to try out new concepts, often using Arduino. Right now, she is diving deep into their VR browser and uncovering the possibilities it brings.


(0.45) – So Charlie, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Charlie explains that by day she works as a software developer building websites and applications. But, at night she likes to explore technology.

So, she spends much of his free time building prototypes with Arduino and is currently experimenting with their VR browser. Basically, she is interested in anything that is going on within the IT industry.

(1.42) – How long have you been doing this? Charlie explains that she has been a developer for about four and a half years. Before that, she worked in marketing as a project manager.

(1.58) – Phil asks Charlie for a unique IT career tip. Charlie said she was once told not to let people know that you are good at something you do not really want to do. If you do, there is a real danger that you will be stuck doing tasks that you really don’t enjoy.

For example, she once made the mistake of letting people know she is good at CSS. Now, people tend to ask her to complete that part of a project. But, that is the last thing she wants. She already has a good level of competency with CSS. So, she really wants to be doing other things, so that she can grow as a developer and progress her career.

(3.16) – Phil says that reminds him of learning to say no. Charlie agrees that is important too.

(3.42) – Charlie is asked to share his worst career moment by Phil.

Years ago, she was due to give her first conference speech. So, she worked hard to clear her desk, the night before the big day. She did that so that she would have a little time to get herself ready for her important event. So, when she woke up to find 20 fresh tasks waiting on her board, her heart sank.

Her initial reaction was that she had no choice but to deal with them. However, instead she decided not to do so. Instead, she checked that none of the tasks was urgent and left them sitting there undone, for half a day.

Doing this ended up empowering her. Fairly soon, after this incident, she told the company she worked for that her 70+ hours workload was not reasonable. It was this situation that taught her that sometimes you have to say no. She realized that furthering her career and making time for her life was important, as well.

(5.54) – Phil asks Charlie what her best career moment was. Charlie says that it was delivering her first conference speech.

Speaking at a conference was an especially big achievement for Charlie, because she is a very shy person. So, giving a speech in front of so many people was something she never expected to be able to do.

(6.50) – Is it something that you would recommend that other people try? Charlie’s response is, yes. The challenge of speaking publicly teaches you a lot about yourself. It is scary to get on stage, but, also exciting.

Once you are up there you forget your fear. Even if things are not perfect the audience usually stays with you. They want you to succeed, so they are always supportive.

Public speaking is something that Charlie intends to do more of. She has learned a lot from her first conference speech, including skills that she is finding helpful in the workplace. Plus, public speaking is really good for anyone’s personal brand.

(8.17) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The wealth of possibilities that new technology offers us excites Charlie the most. In particular, machine learning, it will simplify the interaction between humans and computers.

In time, it will be the technology adapting to the human being, rather than the other way around. Eventually, there will be virtually no learning curve.

(8.56) – Are there any particular technologies that you are finding interesting? Charlie says that the field of neurotechnology is one that fascinates her. Currently, she is at the very early stages of learning about this technology and that she is sharing what she learns as she goes.

For this technology, the possibilities are huge. Phil agrees, and says that with so much new technology being available it is impossible for us to know where it is going to take us.

(9.35) – What drew you to a career in IT? Charlie explains that her journey started when she was working as a project manager. After a while, she wanted to be able to help her development team.

To begin with, she planned just to learn how to upload some of the work her team did. But, once she started coding she realized that this skill would enable here to bring any idea to life. Charlie now understood the power of coding, so wanted to learn more.

(10.10) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? A friend of Charlie’s once told her to remember that “If you don’t do it, somebody else will.” Over time, she has used that advice on several occasions. She finds that thinking like that pushes her to just get on and tackle things, even if she feels slightly scared.

(10.59) – If you were to start your IT career again, now, what would you do? Charlie started her IT training and career by attending boot camps. There she learned how to solve problems and do so quickly. But, she missed out on learning the fundamentals. As a result, she still does not know how everything works, which is frustrating.

(11.39) – Phil asks Charlie what she is currently focusing on in her IT career. Right now, Charlie wants to grow her technical knowledge. She plans to switch from working mainly on the front end to doing some back end work. Ideally, Charlie wants to understand how an entire system works and fits together.

(12.24) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Charlie says that is definitely communication.

As a consultant, she spends a lot of time talking to clients. So, she has to be able to help them understand why certain things are not possible.

However, she believes that being a good communicator is an essential skill for everyone. After all, everything we do is achieved through teamwork, so good communication is extremely important.

(13.12) – Phil asks Charlie to share a final piece of career advice. Charlie says that it is important to be able to network.

Becoming a good networker ensures that you gain an understanding of what others are working on. It also enables you to uncover new technologies that are of interest to you and sometimes spot opportunities. Plus, networking helps to build your personal brand.


(2.24) CHARLIE – “Never let people know you’re good at something you don’t want to do.”

(7.05) CHARLIE – “You’re scared to be on stage. But once you’re there, the excitement of sharing what you know, takes over.”

(10.00) CHARLIE – “Once I started coding, I got really interested in being able to bring any idea to life.”

(10.32) CHARLIE – “If you don’t do it, somebody else will.”

(13.08) CHARLIE – “Everything we build is through teamwork. So, good communication is essential.”


Twitter: https://twitter.com/devdevcharlie @devdevcharlie

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/charliegerard/

Website: charliegerard.github.io

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