Episode 99 – Learn to be an Effective Communicator and Diversify Your IT Skillset with Lorna Mitchell

 In Podcasts

Phil’s guest today is Lorna Mitchell. She has a software engineering background and has worked as a developer advocate for IBM Cloud Data Services. Today, she works for Nexmo as part of the Developer Relations team. Lorna is also the author of two, very well received, books about PHP. She describes herself as being at her happiest when her GitHub graph is green.


­­­(0.99) – Phil asks Lorna to tell the audience a bit more about herself? Lorna replies that Phil has pretty much covered everything with his introduction.

(1.38) – Phil asks Lorna for a unique IT career tip. Lorna says here advice is to write things down. When you write something down, you process it in a different way. If you explain something to someone else you have to gain a deep understanding yourself. When you write a blog post you come to better understand the topic. Plus, once you publish, you get feedback and become known for being interested in that topic. As a result, you learn more. That continues, over the years. People know you are interested in the subject so start to share what they know too. This expands your knowledge even more. Plus, when you publish what you write online, people often leave insightful and helpful comments.

(4.07) – Lorna is asked to share her worst career moment by Phil. Lorna was once fired, which was a horrifying experience. She was left wondering how to pay the bills. Plus, Lorna was already having doubts that a software engineering career was for her. But, at the time, she had no other skills. So, she ended up having to take an IT related job even though she was reluctant to do so. As it turns out, she was very lucky. That job was a stepping stone to great things. It led to her speaking at conferences and becoming recognized for the code that she writes. She came really close to giving up a career that she now loves. Lorna comments that she has noticed a lot of people who are new to the industry wanting to give up. At the start, it is hard to find a company that has the resources and budget to allow you to do a really good job. It is all too easy to become disheartened and give up what is actually a great career once you gain enough experience to move on and secure a role with a good company.

(6.15 – Phil asks Lorna what her best career moment has been. For Lorna, that was getting published by O’Reilly. It gave her an amazing sense of achievement. Plus, people started to listen more to her, which enabled her to help even more people.

(7.29) – Would you write another book? Lorna replied that she definitely will when she can fit it in. Right now, she is working full-time, so that could be tricky. She wrote her other two books when she was a freelancer.

(8.16) – Phil asks what excites Lorna about the future for the IT industry. For Lorna the fact that tech is everywhere and constantly changing is exciting. It means that she is always working on something fresh and new and learning about all kinds of industries.

(9.40) – What drew you to a career in IT? For Lorna, working in IT was not the original plan. She was good at math and physics and has a degree in electronic engineering, so she never saw a future in IT for herself. While studying for her degree, she did a little bit of coding and really enjoyed the experience. So, when someone offered her a job in IT, building games, she took it. From there she was hooked.

(10.40) – What is the best career advice you were given? At one stage, Lorna had an awful job. She knew that potentially she could get out of it by working as a freelancer. But, she was hesitant to take that step. So, a friend, who also worked in IT, said to her “Lorna, what’s the worst that can happen?” When she looked at things from that perspective, she realized it was actually the right move for her and she became a successful freelancer. Now, if she is finding it tough to make a career related decision, she asks herself “What’s the worst that could happen?” This helps her to make up her mind and continue to move forward.

(11.35) – If you were to start your IT career again, now, what would you do? Lorna would not change a lot. She says it is good to take a lot of different jobs to build up your experience and broaden your horizons. However, Lorna wishes she had got involved in open source at an earlier stage. Working on these projects enables you to build a big skill set and do so fast. You will learn everything from coding to project management skills as well as how to interact with and work well with others.

(13.02) – Phil asks Lorna what she is currently focusing on at the moment.

Lorna says for her career objectives are a really difficult thing to think about. She is still progressing by moving from one interesting project to another. It is an approach that seems to work for her.

(14.14) – What is the non-technical skill that has helped you the most in your IT career? For Lorna, being able to write well and explain things in writing is an incredibly important skill. She has pretty much always worked remotely, so has needed to be able to explain things in writing and do so in an understandable way. There has rarely been someone available to physically look over her shoulder and spot the problem. So, she has to be able to explain it concisely to them in writing.

(15.17) – Phil asks Lorna to share a final piece of career advice. Where ever you are or whatever you do make sure that you participate. If you attend a conference or working group, ask a question. Hang around afterward for a chat. Get involved. You do not necessarily have to give a speech or write something to be able to participate. In online communities and on blog posts share a comment. This will really help you to find your peer group, to belong and grow.


(3.09) – LORNA – “You should write things down. The rewards and the echoes of that action have been amazing for me in my career.”

(11.57) – LORNA – “I had a variety of different jobs early on. And I think that’s a really good grounding.”

(15.30)  LORNA – “Wherever you are, and whatever you do. My advice is to participate.”

(16.29)  LORNA – “Keep doing what you’re doing and sharing what you do. Choose who you amplify and the content that you share and you will find your peer group.”


Twitter: https://twitter.com/lornajane

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

Website: https://lornajane.net

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