Episode 136 – Understand How to Take Responsibility for Your Career with Julie Lerman

 In Podcasts

Phil’s guest on today’s show is Julie Lerman. She has had a long IT career, of more than 30 years, during which she has worked as a coder and coach. Since 1989, she has worked as an independent consultant.

Over the years, she has led software teams in many different countries. She specializes in guiding teams towards re-thinking their software architecture and adapting it to fit in with modern practices.

Julie has worked hard to share her knowledge with a wider audience. She has created in-depth training in the Pluralsight library and has written 4 highly acclaimed books about Entity Framework. Her blog, thedatafarm is also a great source of information for developers.  


(00.58) – So Julie, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Julie explains that she spent the first 4 or 5 years of her career working mainly as a programmer for employers. But, about 30 years ago, she decided to go it alone.

These days, she focuses mainly on coaching, consulting and mentoring. She uses her decades of IT experience to help all kinds of IT teams to progress.

(2.26) – How did you get into coaching, Julie? It is something that just evolved. For many years, she had been teaching people through her sites, books and conference speeches.

After a while, people asked her to provide training for their teams. She really enjoyed the process of sitting down with companies and going through their issues and working out how to address them. It is much more effective than public training. However, she does encourage the companies to go through her PluralSight videos, first. If, after doing that, they still have problems or concerns she sits down and helps them to solve their more complex issues.

(3.43) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Julie’s most important piece of advice is to take responsibility for your career and further learning.

Too many people get stuck in a rut. They just carry on doing the work they are familiar with. Over time, they end up being unaware of what is going on in the wider world. They have very little understanding of the new technologies and how they are being applied. You have to keep up with new developments to be able to make the most of your career.

Phil reminds the audience that the company you are working for will only assist you in learning new skills, up to a point. Typically, they will only help you to take your career in a direction that suits the needs of the business.

(5.14) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? For Julie her two worst career moments came when it was time for her to move on to bigger and better things. In both cases, her employers got very angry with her.

They both tried to persuade her to stay by offering her a little extra money or the promotion she should have already earned, but not been given. In both cases, she felt that what they were offering was ‘too little, too late’. So, she said thank you, but no. That is when they got really angry and aggressive. In both cases, she had to deal with the men who had been almost father figures to her losing their tempers and berating her just for leaving. For someone in their 20s this was an extremely unpleasant situation.

(7.21) – Did you take anything away from that experience, in particular? Julie says that it taught her to trust her instincts. These experiences also made her realize that she had more gumption than she thought. She just stood there and sucked it up, did not argue back and moved peacefully on into a better role.

(8.28) – Phil asks Julie about her best career moment, her greatest success. The moment Julie’s first book was delivered to her home and she held it in her hands was a highlight. She felt so proud of what she had achieved.

But, Julie is lucky enough to regularly experience smaller moments that also make her feel proud. For example, when she is able to help a developer to understand something they have struggled with. Another example is when she suggests a little tweak that ends up making a tremendous difference and benefiting lots of people.

(9.58) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that things are so open-ended right now is something that excites Julie about the IT industry.

Things are opening up in new directions all of the time. Thanks to IoT, machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data. The easy availability and effectiveness of this tech are freeing people up to use their talents in new and exciting ways.

You no longer have to worry about a long list of little details, when developing. Now, you can focus on the code knowing that the deployment and infrastructure is not an issue. Cloud computing has made things so much easier. It is just one example of how new technology is freeing up developers to achieve more.

(12.24) – What drew you to a career in IT? Julie fell into her IT career by accident. When she started college, her plan was to become a chemical engineer. While there she took a programming class. She realized she was something of a natural, so got involved in IT instead of chemistry.

(12.59) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Someone once told her to “praise publically, criticize privately”, which is advice that Julie is careful to follow.

(13.23) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? That is something that Julie has never really thought about before. It is not really in her nature to plan like that. But, she does wish that she had more time to get more deeply involved in machine learning. She also knows that she would still want to be involved in the back end.

(14.17) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, Julie is focused on continuing to learn, to make sure that she stays relevant. She is working to make sure that she pushes herself out of her comfort zone without constantly jumping from one thing to another. Looking for opportunities to share what she learns is helping to do this and cement her knowledge.

(15.42) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Julie says that her liberal arts degree has proved to be surprisingly helpful. Taking the course, gave her a head for broad thinking and thinking outside the box. It helped her to develop her creative thinking. These are skills that she has found invaluable during her IT career.

(16.19) – Phil asks Julie to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. If you find yourself stuck on a problem, walk away from your computer. Take the dog for a walk or something similar to break the negative cycle. When you do that you can be lucky and find that the solution has been there all the time floating around your head.

You mentally go through everything again. Usually, that is when you work out what it is you have missed or a few other things you can do to fix the problem. All you need to do is to give your brain a chance to relax to get a fresh perspective.


(4.14) JULIE – “Take responsibility for your own career and further learning.”

(10.16) JULIE – “Things are really opening up in new directions, with IoT, machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data.”

(11.49) JULIE – “Cloud platforms are enabling developers to do that much more and explore that much further.”

(14.43) JULIE – “It’s really important for me to stay relevant. In order to do that, I need to keep learning”

(16.41) JULIE – “When I am really stuck on a problem, I find walking away from the computer helps so much.”


Twitter: https://twitter.com/julielerman

Website: https://thedatafarm.com


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