Episode 168 – Learn to Overcome Adversity and Use Your Soft Skills to Progress your IT Career with Tejas Kumar

 In Podcasts

Phil’s guest on his show today is Tejas Kumar. He is a front-end developer who has been coding since the age of 8. Tejas has worked with a long list of front-end frameworks, programs and languages, including JavaScript, TypeScript, React, and the Babel webpack.

He is also a conference speaker who is working towards his goal of speaking at every JSConf, across the word. Tejas wants to educate and empower developers, in every corner of the globe.


(1.10) – I would like to start by asking about your work traveling the world speaking to developers and empowering them. Tejas explains that he started doing this, June of last year, when he spoke at JSconf EU.

His talk was well received and he really enjoyed it. So, he decided that he would like to speak at each of the JSconf events that are held worldwide.

Tejas structures his talks as dialogue. He enjoys the conversation he has with his audience. Afterward he gets to carry that conversation on and talk to some really interesting people, from all walks of life. Everyone from web architects to traditional architects who design buildings.

(2.25) – So in terms of the numbers of conferences, talks you’ve done, how many of you clocked up now? Last year, Tejas did 7 conferences in 6months. But, that is nothing compared to his friend Sarah Vieira who spoke at 47, last year alone. His aim is to do an average of one a month, so he can maintain a reasonable work-life balance.

(3.10) – Have you got any conferences coming up? There is one that had not yet been announced, at the time this recording was made. But, he also due to speak in September, at JSconf Budapest.

(4.15) – Can you please share a unique career tip with the I.T. career audience? Tejas says it is important to remember that IT professionals are working in an industry where feigning knowledge is the norm. He has noticed that in technical meetings, everyone, including himself, will just nod their heads and pretend that they fully understand what is going on.

Tejas finds this sad. He points out that a culture in which people feel an overwhelming need to be right and are disinclined to ask questions is not a healthy one. There are also a few people who feel an overwhelming urge to constantly correct everyone. Often, these people publically pick others up about silly, unimportant things simply because they want to appear to be cleverer. They tend to think they are always right. People like that can end up putting those who are new to the industry.

(7.54) – Can you tell us about your worst career moment? And what you learned from that experience. Unfortunately, at the start of his career Tejas was thrown in at the deep end. He was being asked to do a mid-level job despite the fact he had very little experience. Worse, his team leader was constantly critical of him. Despite this, Tejas toughed things out and became good at the job. So, much so that other companies were headhunting him. But, when he asked for a raise his CTO just laughed at him and said he was not worth it and nobody would pay him that sort of money.

Naturally, he quit. Before asking for the raise he had been looking around to see what was available. So, he knew what he was asking for was reasonable and that he could get a job elsewhere. In other words he had leverage. So, when they said no, he was comfortable with just quitting and moving on.

In fact, he had already been offered a job by a company he liked the look of. But, he was not sure he was qualified and experienced enough. So much so, that he wrote back and explained this to them. Fortunately, they were really positive. Their attitude was that he knew more than he thought and if he did not they were sure he could quickly fill any gaps in his knowledge. Even before the hiring was official his new boss demonstrated that he believed in Tejas.

After working for a boss that constantly tore him down working for someone who built him up was very refreshing for Tejas. Quitting his previous post was the best thing Tejas has ever done.

(10.35) – What has been your career highlight? Tejas responds by saying that he is actually currently living his career highlight. Every day feels like a new best day at his job.

He works with a brilliant team, has a lot of freedom, can more or less choose what technology he works with and works on interesting projects. Tejas especially appreciates the fact that his team works smart. For example, they budgeted 2 days to build a feature. With the help of his team, he was able to build it in 15 minutes. Phil jokes that if he was Tejas’ boss he would probably be challenging his estimation process.

This joke encourages him to share another career highlight. Tejas always has a good time at conferences and meets interesting people. But, being asked to speak at React Finland was extra special. It is non-profit, everyone stays in the same hotel and the atmosphere is great.

(12.17) – Can you tell us what excites you about the future of the IT industry and careers? The fact that the web is an on-exhaustible resource really excites Tejas.

He grew up in Qatar, a country that is built on oil, which, unfortunately, is running out. So, Tejas appreciates working in an industry where there will always be work.

Tejas is particularly pleased to see the serverless way of working coming to the fore. It is a simple way of working that means that things like IoT are now a reality.

He is also to see the industry become more inclusive. People from every corner of the globe are getting involved and succeeding in the tech industry. They are many people from these countries becoming leaders in their field. People of color, women and non-binary people are all enjoying successful IT careers.

(14.11) – What drew you to a career in IT? Tejas has a rare, dangerous and life-threatening illness. Even doing something relatively simple like climbing the stairs or lifting a backpack could kill him. He has ended up in the emergency room several times after doing something relatively minor. So, for Tejas sitting at a screen and writing is his only viable option.

Fortunately, at the age of 8, Tejs discovered that he liked coding. He could not go to school or play outside, so he spent many hours playing around with HTML and coding. So, naturally, he got quite good at it.

His mother did not expect him to live past 10th grade. So, it feels great to have achieved as much as he has. Tejas is understandably proud of what he has been able to do with his friend, especially the conference speaking. His message to the IT Energizer audience is – if I can do it, so can you.

(16.08) – What is the best career advice you have ever received? Someone once warned Tejas not to believe the hype. The same people that are talking you up today may not do so tomorrow.

It is very important not to base your identity on what people say about you. If you do that, you are basing your view of yourself on a very shaky foundation.

(17.22) – Conversely, what is the worst career advice you’ve ever received? Someone once told Tejas to quit IT. They literally said you suck at IT, quit. Kill yourself. He knows that some of it must have been a joke. But, at the time, it did not feel that way. Naturally, he was very upset by this and thought maybe I do suck; maybe I will never be anything. It was a real low point for Tejas.

(17.38) – If you were to begin your IT career again, right now, what would you do? Tejas thinks he would not actually do anything different. He would still start by learning and working with JavaScript. It is a really forgiving language, which makes it ideal for beginners.

(18.15) – What are you currently focusing on in your IT career? Tejas is challenging himself to learn the operations side of things. For example, Kubernetes, he is also interested in learning more about back end development.

(19.06) – What is the number one non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? Tejas says it is his ability to communicate and the fact that he enjoys public speaking. But, these skills have taken a lot of time and hard work to learn.

As a child, he was badly bullied. Because he could not go to school or play outside it was hard to connect with people, he became socially awkward.

He hated the fact that people did not like him. So, decided to do something about it. He went online and googled “how to make people like you” and read tons of books on the subject. It helped. Bit by bit Tejas learned how to put people at their ease and be good company. Today, being charming, considerate and a good communicator are all 2nd nature to him.

(20.44) – What do you do to keep your own IT career energized? His job keeps him energized. He really loves the culture his company has, the team and the work he does. He can’t wait to go to work every day.

Tejas gets head-hunted quite a lot, but he is so happy with his current company that he is not tempted by any of the offers. He feels energized every single day by the work he is currently doing.

(21.57) – What do you do in your spare time away from technology? Tejas loves music, in particular, playing music. He has an album due out soon. Plus, right now, Tejas is busy planning his wedding.

(22.25) – Phil asks Tejas to share a final piece of career advice with the audience. People matter more than code. He would even make the case that soft skills matter more than the hard ones do.



(9.15) TEJAS – “I normally do not negotiate salary unless I have leverage.”

(10.00) TEJAS – “Developer jobs are in demand. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

(12.42) TEJAS – “The web is a non-exhaustible resource”

(16.07) TEJAS – “There’s nothing that can ultimately hold you back, if that’s your path.”


Twitter: https://twitter.com/tejaskumar_

Github: https://github.com/tejasq

Website: https://www.tejaskumar.com/

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