Why Effective Onboarding and Having Exciting Work to do Matter so Much with James Turnbull

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James Turnbull

James Turnbull is VP of Engineering at Glitch.  James was previously a founder and CTO at Empatico, CTO at Kickstarter, VP of Services at Docker and a CTO in residence at Microsoft to name but a few.  He is also the author of several books, including “Monitoring with Prometheus” and “The Docker Book”.


He is originally from Melbourne, Australia, but now resides in Brooklyn, New York.


In this episode, Phil and James Turnbull discuss the need to find work that truly excites you. They talk through how to deal with the inevitable mistakes you make in a positive way.


James also speaks about how adaptive technology is transforming the lives of those with disabilities. He also shares why you need to ask about onboarding at the interview. In particular, during the early stages of your career.


James Turnbull


Karter.Net – Check out James Turnbull’s website!

2 Top Career Tips

1) Don’t assume you’re going to be doing the same job forever. You are going to evolve, and the IT industry moves fast. So, it should be easy to find work that excites you. There is no need to just settle.
2) At the interview stage always ask about onboarding. Ask if you get a mentor and how you will become a fully functioning member of the team. If they have not really thought about how they are going to do that, it is probably best to try for a job elsewhere.

Show Notes

Worst Career Moment

Early in his career, James managed a major Casino’s computer. Naturally, he scheduled maintenance to take place at the quietest time. Unfortunately, one day, he fat fingered it and shut everything down for an hour during a very busy time.

He immediately told the CTO what he had done, what the impact would be and the steps that could be taken to mitigate the situation. James expected to be sacked. But the fact he had admitted his error and done all he could to solve the issue saved his job. It taught him that mistakes happen. What really matters is that you deal with them properly.

Career Highlight

James is most proud of the teams he has built and the fact that he has had a positive impact on the careers of other people. Not long ago, on Twitter, people were telling others about the people who had influenced them and their careers. He was touched that several people talked about him.

He is also particularly proud of the app his team at Empatico built. It is currently being used by 20,000+ teachers to teach children how to be empathetic, something that will have a lasting impact.

The Future

Interestingly, James states that the pace of change within the industry both terrifies and excites him. But overall, he is looking forward to seeing how technology will change the world.

Right now, he is especially interested in the way adaptive technology is changing things for the disabled and everyone else. It is a great leveller. He is particularly excited by the difference it is going to make to the lives of the disabled in poorer countries and other more vulnerable groups.

The Reveal

What first attracted you to a career in I.T.?

The fact that you could have an interesting career and earn good money.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Treat everyone you work with respect, kindness, and empathy. James shares an interesting story that demonstrates why this is so important.

What is the worst career advice you’ve ever received?

Chase the money. Making career choices based solely on monetary gain rarely works out well.

If you had to begin your career again in today’s world, what would you do?

Realistically, he thinks he would probably end up as an Android or iOS developer. But infrastructure is where he would really like to be if he were to start again.

What career objectives are you currently focusing on?

Honing the skills that enable him to build amazing teams and products.

What’s the number one non-technical skill that has helped you in your career so far?


What do you do to keep your own career energized?

Writing technical books exposes James to technology he would otherwise not use. This keeps him energized and engaged.

What do you do in your spare time away from technology?

James likes reading, art, collects antique maps and is interested in antique coins. He also finds history and politics to be fascinating.

Contact The Guest

Contact James Turnbull through the following social media platforms:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kartar

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

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Accelerate Your Career Every Week - NOW

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