Episode 138 – Learn to Fully Utilize Your Skills and Eliminate Distractions with Matt Raible

 In Podcasts

Phil’s guest on today’s show is Matt Raible. He is a skilled web developer who has been working in the industry since the early 90s. Matt is also the man behind the open source AppFuse project and the Okta Developer Blog.

Currently, he is working as a Developer Advocate for Okta. He is also a well known public speaker and is deeply involved in the JHipster project. Matt maintains and develops the JHipster Mini-Book and the Ionic JHipster Module.


(1.02) – So Matt, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Matt explains that he has been working as a web developer since the early 90s. He had not planned to have a career in IT.

In the early 2000s, he got into Java. By 2004 he was also involved in public speaking.

(1.44) So, you obviously enjoy the web aspects of development. Is that something you deliberately pursued as the internet sort of exploded and expanded? Matt says yes, it was. In the early 2000s, he realized that it was best to be the guy who wrote the UI. Simply because that is what people see and are most aware of. He enjoyed doing the demos and getting the accolades, so he ended up focusing on UI development.

(2.25) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Matt’s advice is to create a six-week plan of the things you want to accomplish. He has found following this advice to be very helpful, especially for his work as a developer advocate at Okta.

Putting together a six-week plan keeps you on track and enables you to achieve a lot more. It is far more efficient than simply working week to week. He also finds it useful to do this for his personal life too.

(3.52) – Is it a rolling six-week plan? Matt revisits his plan on a weekly basis. He and his team also summarise what they have actually done each week. This information is published in an internal newsletter.

(4.35) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? Matt says that he has two he wants to share with the audience. Luckily, they are both turned into silver lining moments.

In 2007, he was working for LinkedIn as a contractor. Helping them to select and set up an open source, Java web framework. Things went well and they asked him to create his own team. So, Matt asked some of his friends and former colleagues to join him.

Two months after they started working together they were persuaded to go full-time. Yet, 6 months later they were all laid off. That was in 2008, just as the downturn started.

That time, the silver lining was that nobody was really enjoying the work they were doing because they had been switched from the front end to non-developer roles. Luckily, within a week, they were picked up by another organization where they became front end developers again.

The 2nd moment occurred 5 years ago. For 19 years, Matt had been working as a consultant. During all that time, he never had any trouble in finding full-time work, filling a 40 hour week. Suddenly, he could only find a part-time gig.

He found this hard. That is until he realized what a glorious thing having 20 spare hours a week was. At that point, he started doing more with his personal life and, as a result, became a happier person.

(6.47) – What did you learn from those experiences? Matt says that the LinkedIn experience taught him not to be afraid to change jobs when he finds himself in a role where he is not using his skills. He really did not enjoy his last few months at LinkedIn because his new boss had moved him away from UI development into a nonproduction position. So, when LinkedIn let him go he was actually relieved.

(7.49) – What was your best career moment? Matt is lucky to have had quite a few career highlights. He particularly enjoyed seeing his open source project AppFuse take off. For about 2 years, he was spending about 30 hours a week interacting with users, learning and seeing hundreds benefit from this project. Unfortunately, there was a downside, his family life suffered as a result.

(9.25) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? Matt is excited by the fact that it is possible to take a relatively small amount of knowledge and do a lot with it. Being able to take something that you have taught yourself and turn it into a good career is fantastic. With IT, you can still do that, even these days.

(10.22) – What drew you to a career in IT? Matt had studied Russian and International Business. But, when he spent the summer working in Russia he realized it was not for him. So, he decided to complete a 5th year and take a finance degree. Unfortunately, again, when it was time to find a job he struggled. There was work, but the pay was not very good.

Around the same time, his friend who was doing a computer science degree was getting amazing offers. Three times what he was could land. So, Matt switched his focus to IT.

(11.37) – Do you think that is still true, today? Matt says things are changing. When it comes to the finance industry, if you excel, you can actually get paid a lot more than you would working in the tech industry.

The cool thing is that if you are curious, you can carry on learning and add to your skills. In time, you will end up earning even more and staying gainfully employed becomes very easy.

(12.18) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Around 2005, Matt was working as a consultant for a startup that was shutting down. While discussing what Matt was going to do next the CEO advised him to double his rate. That is exactly what he did, that year. Each year after that, he added 20% to it.

(13.04) – Phil asked Matt if he was saying that you should make sure that you get paid what you are worth. Matt replies that you should always ask for more, because often you will discover that people are actually prepared to pay a much higher rate.

(13.09) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Matt says that he would not change a thing. His career has enabled him to fulfill his dream of restoring his old Volkswagen bus, which has taken nearly 10 years. He has big plans for that bus.

(14.26) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, Matt is where he wants to be with his career. But, he is working at getting better at drawing, so he can add more hand drawings to his blog. He is also planning to do more videos, screencasts and to get into recording meetups.

(15.02) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? For Matt, the ability to speak publically has proved invaluable.

(15.10) – How did you get into that? In 2004, a friend suggested he speak at ApacheCon. He decided to give it a go.

Surprisingly, within 15-minutes of being on stage, his nerves evaporated and he felt at home. Even today, he gets very nervous before each talk, but once he gets started he feels comfortable, fairly quickly.

The other non-technical thing that helps Matt is being an outdoorsman. Most days, he takes a walk or rides his bike. During these activities, he finds that he automatically settles a lot of things in his mind. Phil agrees that being outdoors is quite therapeutic.

(16.32) – Phil asks Matt to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Matt says – “If you really want to get something done close off your email, you slack. Turn on some music and write some code.” Once you have eliminated distractions, you will be far more productive.


(1.29) MATT – “I started developing web pages in HTML before Netscape even existed”

(2.48) MATT – “Create a six-week plan of the things that you want to accomplish”

(7.44) MATT – “If I’m not utilizing my skills, then maybe it’s time finding another job.”

(12.10) MATT – “If you’re curious, you can keep learning and keep improving yourself and keep gainfully employed.”

(13.15) MATT – “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

(16.34) MATT – “Close your email, close your Slack, turn on some music and write some code.”


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

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

Website: https://raibledesigns.com

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