Episode 142 – Learn From Your Mistakes and Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up with Fernando Cejas
Phil’s guest on today’s show is Fernando Cejas. Fernando is a Developer Advocate who is currently working at IBM. He has also spent time working at SoundCloud as a Mobile Core Engineer and, prior to that, at Flomio and Tuenti as a Mobile Software Engineer.
Fernando is a huge fan of agile methodologies, programming, and tech in general. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with others and putting it to use by helping people to solve their problems. His urge to share what he knows has turned him into a prolific public speaker.
(1.10) – So Fernando, can you expand on that brief introduction and tell us a little bit more about yourself? Fernando said that Phil’s intro was a good summary of his career. He also explained that he is also taking the time to share his knowledge. Mostly by giving talks at conferences, which he really enjoys. It provides him with the chance to help people to avoid some of the mistakes he has made.
(2.16) – Can you share a unique IT tip with the career IT audience? Fernando says that it is important to share your knowledge. He knows that his sharing what he has learned, including as a result of failures, can help others from hitting their head against a brick wall. From experience, he has found that it is your failures that teach you the most.
Phil agrees with the saying “you learn from your own mistakes.” But, he also says that it is better to learn from other people’s mistakes. So, you don’t make them yourself.
(3.39) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? Interestingly, that happened only five or six years ago when he was working for SoundCloud as an Android Developer. When he was asked to be the release captain for a project, during his first week, he said yes. In those days, there was no continuous integration environment. Releases were not automated they were done manually.
By that time SoundCloud had about a hundred million users. Unfortunately, when Fernando shipped the release, he forgot to change the input. The application had worked on his phone, so he shipped it.
But, he was in the development environment, not the production one. That environment consisted of two Mac minis serving the API in the content. Unsurprisingly, in the far bigger scale live environment, there were issues. This led to a 2-hour outage that affected millions of users.
The CEO even rang him and asked why their core functionality – playing a song – was not working. Fortunately, the fix was easy. DevOps increased the instances of the development API, did some forwarding for the APIs and a few more technical things and it was fixed. But, the outage was a big deal.
(7.37) – What did you learn from that experience? Avoid having manual steps in a process. Automate as much as you can.
Fortunately, there was no finger pointing at SoundCloud. Something that Fernando was grateful for and thinks was very beneficial. They recognized that a weakness in the process was uncovered. Then they worked to fix that issue, so something similar could not happen again. The no blame culture allowed everyone to be totally honest and uncover the real issues.
(9.16) – What was your best career moment? For Fernando that was the first time he gave a talk. He feels that is when he crossed the line from being introverted to being extroverted. After that, he was no longer afraid of starting a conversation.
(10.50) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that tech is changing at such a rapid pace is something that excites Fernando. Recently, he has been doing some work on quantum computing and he believes that is going to change the world.
This field has so much potential, they are so fast, which means any problem is solvable. Quantum computers are not likely to replace traditional computers, but they will be ready to complement them, in about five or six year’s time.
These are the computers that will solve exponential problems. However, we will still need classical computers to feed the quantum ones.
(12.41) – What drew you to a career in IT? Basically, it was curiosity that drew Fernando into the world of IT. He first started working with tech when he was 16 and was spending time at his local hospital gaining work experience. While there, he got sucked into creating and maintaining Ethernet networks. From there, he just kept trying things out starting with small things like hacking microprocessors to play games.
(13.48) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Over the years, he has received lots of great career advice. But, for now, he is going to pick “Don’t be afraid of saying no.” If something is not possible, you have to say so as soon as possible. It does not matter who that person is or where they sit in an organization you must not be afraid to speak up.
(14.34) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Fernando does not think he would do much differently. He would still start out by writing code.
(15.14) – What are you currently focusing on in your career? Right now, he is focused on helping to solve people’s problems. He enjoys the fact that people are complex and are not predictable like computers are. The challenge of interacting with others and solving their problems is something he enjoys, so that is his focus.
(15.41) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Because Fernando likes sitting down and working through issues with people he thinks that patience is his number one non-technical skill. He knows that non-technical skills like being honest, respecting others, communicating effectively and being humble are all invaluable when you work in the IT sector.
(16.59) – Phil asks Fernando to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. Fernando’s advice is not to be shy. Speak up and ask questions even if you think they may be a bit dumb.
He also believes you should prioritize human values over technical knowledge. After all, computers are only a means to reach out to other people.
(3.02) PHIL – “It is better to learn from other people’s mistakes. So you don’t make them yourself.”
(7.43) FERNANDO – “Automate all things, manual steps should be avoided.”
(8.20) FERNANDO – “There was no finger pointing, we acted as a team here”
(13.51) FERNANDO – “Don’t be afraid of saying no.”
(16.42) FERNANDO – “Respect, communication, honesty, and humility, I think those things are key.”
(17.43) FERNANDO – “Computers are only a means you reach out to people.”