Software Developers Journey Podcast

#103 Carolyn Stransky learning her way from journalist to developer and back


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Carolyn Stransky 0:00
When I was trying to learn JavaScript on my own, I thought that these function names I thought there was just like a list out there of like, 3000 functions that people memorize. And I was like, why am I the dumbest person on earth? Who can't figure out how to like, you know, who can't find this magic function list to be able to use them? I was like, I was like, first of all, like, how do people memorize a second of all, where is this magic list? And then, of course, like my first class, like, were they introduced JavaScript, they were like, here's a function like you can name it whatever you want. And I was like, What?

Tim Bourguignon 0:46
Hello, and welcome to developers journey, the podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful developers. To help you on your upcoming journey. My name is Tim Bourguignon, and today I received Caroline's Stransky. Caroline is a front end developer, a technical writer, and Mozilla tech speaker, a journalist, a community organizer, and many, many more. And Carolyn is also joining from Germany tonight from Berlin to be precise, Carolyn, welcome to dev journey.

Carolyn Stransky 1:16
Oh my gosh, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Tim Bourguignon 1:20
It's my pleasure. I'm thrilled as well. So the show exists to help our listeners understand what your story look like, and imagine how to shape their own future. So, if you will, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your developer's journey?

Carolyn Stransky 1:39
Hmm. That's a loaded question in the sense of, if I really had to place it back to I don't know, my roots in technology, I'd probably say it was when I first moved to Berlin five years ago. And I moved here right after my undergraduate degree. I got a degree in journalism I thought I was going to change the world with my writing. I had, like really idealistic dreams about promoting democracy. And, and then I met a boy. And I moved across the world to Berlin and realized that being a journalist is really hard. And being a journalist and a country you don't speak the language is also hard. So then, and Berlin. I mean, Berlin still now has this kind of like booming tech startup scene. And I realized that was the best way to get a job in English. So I started working for a blockchain company, actually, it's kind of like my dirty secret.

Tim Bourguignon 2:46
Can we speak about it?

Carolyn Stransky 2:48
We totally can.

Tim Bourguignon 2:51
How did you flip the switch from journalism to working in blockchain?

Carolyn Stransky 2:56
Yeah. So as I told you, I was trying to freelance, like doing freelance journalism? It was during the refugee crisis. So I was able to get some articles around that topic because I was kind of, at least, you know, relative to. I'm from the US relative to US News. I was kind of in the thick of it. But yeah, I mean, it just wasn't sustainable for an income. So then I was applying to all these different tech startups. I had never thought about the tech industry in any meaningful way. I never thought I'd end up in the tech industry. So I was just shooting out my CV to kind of everyone.

Tim Bourguignon 3:38
What kind of jokes were you looking for?

Carolyn Stransky 3:39
I figured marketing would be my best shot because it involves writing. And I, you know, I had journalism and I was like, okay, probably spin it that way. So, yeah. And then they, this blockchain company was the one place to respond to me. I mean, there was a few others but they were the ones who were willing to helped me with my visa. Turns out that was kind of a lie. But you know, they at least seemed willing to. Yeah. So I ended up being a digital marketing intern at this company. So my job was to try to explain blockchain to artists.

Tim Bourguignon 4:16
How did you learn blockchain yourself to be able to enter into explaining somebody else for that?

Carolyn Stransky 4:23
I didn't. I mean, okay, it's like one of those. I read their white paper. And I was like, Okay, this is cool. I don't even think today I could really explain what blockchain does, let alone do I think any of the artists understood what blockchain was. But I sat with a bunch of the engineers and they tried to give their like best explained it to me like I'm five explanation. And I just tried to take that and run with it. And it wasn't. It wasn't my best work, but you know, thanks. got me into tech I got introduced to the idea felt more open to it. And it like looked hardcore on a CV. I don't know, looking back, I'm like, I don't know if it was like how people perceived it, but I think they were like, ah, she she was in the thick of blockchain. She got it.

Tim Bourguignon 5:20
You have the secret handshake? Yeah. Just as a side note, there is a very interesting podcast called zigzag. And the first season was to journalists exploring the blockchain world. So they are absolutely not in the technical space and really mainstream journalism. And it took them a whole season to explain it in laymen terms, but the explanation is really, really good. So, if you were searching for how to explain blockchain, to your grandparents, that will be the place to start. It's really, really interesting.

Carolyn Stransky 6:00
Yeah, good on them that they were able to learn it, I kind of like, dip my toes in that part of the industry, so to speak, and then almost immediately decided I wanted to not be there.

Tim Bourguignon 6:13
Define "almost instantly".

Carolyn Stransky 6:15
To be fair, I don't know if it's actually like, because of that actual technology. But I think I met a lot of people and I didn't like those people. I didn't like the type of people they were, it felt really like toxic and very masculine, a very, I don't know, and I just didn't feel comfortable in the space. And so I knew I wanted to stay in tech, because I think that was my best shot at like, a livable paycheck. But I just knew that like there had to be something else out there. Like there had to be another option besides this space. And again, I fully recognize that that might have been just my experience, but that's that was my gut reaction. That was how I felt for no for No.

Tim Bourguignon 6:55
How did you find the next place?

Carolyn Stransky 6:56
My internship ended and I decided not to continue Just to be fair, it was a mutual decision not to continue that. And again, I just kind of blasted my CDs. I figured I'd stay in marketing I would try. But I was like, Okay, I have experience with this kind of hardcore technical like, looks like I can really, you know, and I started getting into this idea of explaining technical terms to non technical people, which I don't know where I had that kind of like ego at the time because I didn't know technical things, but I like thought like, okay, someone has to do this. So I will, and then it didn't work out. I ended up working. I got a job at a wholesale furniture online wholesale furniture platform, which was still technically tech, but I was doing a lot of, you know, writing SEO optimized blog posts about furniture trends and color schemes and living rooms and just all sorts of random topics. But on top of that, I ended up writing a lot of documentation, which at the time didn't even realize was documentation like looking back on it now as a software developer, I can be like, Oh, that was product that like that was technical product documentation. But in my mind, I didn't know what that was. So I just was writing it. I gave it to the engineers, they filled in the code samples, and then gave it back to me. And I checked it again, for I was a native English speaker. So I checked it for grammar.

Tim Bourguignon 8:24
If I can rephrase what you were getting from product management, or something like this, some kind of high level use cases. So and filling it, basically the the human readable part and the developers were, were completing this with the developer readable part.

Carolyn Stransky 8:43
Exactly. Yeah, no, almost exactly like that. Or it would be an instance of I would walk through the product as if I were a user and kind of write down what I thought needed to be documented so that people would be able To use this and then, yeah, I'd hand it off to someone else if there was anything like, any technical pieces to it, like any configuration they needed to do that was filled in by the developers. And then I, yeah, almost exactly what you said. I don't know why I'm repeating it.

Tim Bourguignon 9:17
Oh, good. Oh, good. Yeah. That's cool. That's cool. So you got your first glimpse into the developer world at that point, or was there a previous point before that?

Carolyn Stransky 9:27
I mean, at the blockchain company, it was small enough, like, there were only 20 of us. So I were like, kind of work closely with everyone. So you saw that but I think that was the moment this furniture startup was the one that I was like, Oh, I don't know. I it was where I really realized that like, being a software developer was a career. I know that sounds kind of ridiculous. But I was so outside of tech that like seeing this. I just kept thinking like, Oh, they have a pretty good setup. Like all the developers could pretty much do whatever they wanted. They could work from home anytime they could come and go whenever they felt like they. I always got told, as a marketing person that like, whenever we had a new feature release, I really wanted to talk to the developers working on it to make sure that I understood how it worked properly, which I think is logical. And I'd always get told by upper management, like, Carolyn, you can't be doing that. Because, you know, their time is worth a lot more than yours. Like, you shouldn't be doing that, like, and that annoyed me. And I kept thinking, like, Damn, I should just become a developer, because clearly this looks this is you get treated way better. This looks nice.

Tim Bourguignon 10:43
This is so painful to hear.

Carolyn Stransky 10:45
I know and that's, it's common, which is like the most sad part, whether it's coming from upper management or even sometimes, like, I've worked with engineers who have that attitude towards, you know, sales and marketing people and it's really frustrating, especially as someone who's like On the other side of it,

Tim Bourguignon 11:02
yes. And that's why it's painful to hear. Because I know I know it's true. I've, I've lived it from the other sides, say, but I've lived it as well.

Carolyn Stransky 11:10

Tim Bourguignon 11:11
Okay, so So you were writing documentation trying to do your best to, to step into the user choose and, and try to describe what they should know and get the the other side of the fence from the developers as well. That's a kind of neat place to to dip your toes in their sand. It's kind of ideal ideal start it would say,

Carolyn Stransky 11:34
I mean, yeah, but I was so oblivious. I had no idea that that was what I was doing. I just thought like, I'm doing a task. I didn't think that deeply about it at the time, but then that company ended up failing. So that was, I mean, that in and of itself is an interesting experience to live through like shutting the doors on a start up because I think it's like, it's so sad. It's like shutting the doors on someone's dreams. A little I mean, not my dreams, but it was a founder streams. Still weird. We were also small. And that was the point where I was like, Well shit like, I don't have a job like I'm officially unemployed. I don't know, I had this mentality like, if I'm going to make a switch, it should be now. Like, this is the time to do it. This is what I have to do

Tim Bourguignon 12:21
By switch, you mean you were already focused on on going toward development?

Carolyn Stransky 12:25
Yes, because I was like they have such a better life. Like people respect their time. They can work from home, they got paid like probably double what I got paid. I was like, that is the dream. That looks nice. And but then it was funny, because when I was talking to people at that same job, ironically, all of the developers I talked to were like, Yes, great. You should totally do that. Let me know if you have any questions like, please let me know if I can be of help in any sort of way. And I was like, Oh, I feel so good. And then I remember there was one guy who was like, who Carolyn, aren't you a little old to learn to code? Oh, boy. I was 23 I just don't know. But I first of all, I don't think there's like an age that like, there's no age. That's ridiculous. But also, I was like, I'm a child. I didn't say that. But in my head that was like, I'm like, I'm at the beginning of my career. I think what like it was so unfathomable. That was bad. Like, I didn't even know what that word just that just came out. It was so unbelievable.

Tim Bourguignon 13:34
Yes, and I would hope this very podcast is an example. We have so many people who had a career before and then switch back to a completely different career with way more years than than 23

Carolyn Stransky 13:48
I've been waiting for the right moment to like, message him and be like, hey! By the way, maybe this podcast could be my moment. Like this clip and be like, Hey, thanks for being part of my journey period done!

Tim Bourguignon 14:07
With an animated GIF of a mike-drop.

Carolyn Stransky 14:09
Exactly. I mean, and I don't usually hold a grudge, but like, I don't know, it's, it's kind of the sad thing of like, comments like that, even if it's, you know, it was one person out of the maybe 15 people I talked to, but like, that comment is so burned in my mind. And it's hard to shake, I think

Tim Bourguignon 14:28
Did it have an influence on on your decisions after that? Motivating you or pushing you in any way?

Carolyn Stransky 14:35
I mean, it made me mad. But I also but I was such at that time, like I was so unaware of how things worked. I didn't know how people became developers really. Like I didn't besides getting a degree and I was looking into boot camps. I ultimately, spoiler alert, went to a boot camp, but it was that you know, I didn't know and so hearing that from someone Who I perceived as like, Oh, they must know because they are developer, you know, they understand this whole thing. I it shocked me for a little bit not so long, maybe about a week that I was for probably about a week.

Tim Bourguignon 15:13
Okay, so what did you do after that after you covered for this week? Probably my horrifying week sitting on the on the on the couch and eating ice cream. Easy. Yeah, too much cliches...

Carolyn Stransky 15:25
I mean, it was probably pretty accurate. I don't know. I mean, I didn't know what to do. I was unemployed. I was just like, Okay.

Tim Bourguignon 15:40
How did you go to understand what the next moves could be? How did you uncover the unknown unknowns?

Carolyn Stransky 15:52
I think I I, that's a really good question. I genuinely think I googled How do I become a developer They're like, how do I become a software engineer? Like I think I just googled it. It's the same way. When I first moved to Berlin, I literally googled, how do you make friends? In Berlin? How do you make friends in a new city? Like, that's usually my go to option, which turns out is a great skill for being a developer is knowing how to Google stuff. But I just started looking into the you know, and I didn't, I didn't have Twitter, I didn't know about any of that kind of networking. what I ended up doing was reaching out to through my journalism contacts, I reached out to a tech journalist that I knew in the city, and her husband was a technical writer. So I kind of got an idea of at least what the career possibilities could look like. And I realized that if I wanted to get something a little bit more serious like that, I would need to learn how to code and then yeah, I think I just googled found the boot camp. Go into a boring answer.

Tim Bourguignon 17:02
No one knows that. That's good. That's good. Did you pick the first one?

Carolyn Stransky 17:06
I didn't, I was looking into two different options. Because the bootcamp I was looking at in Berlin that I ultimately decided to go to. It was really small, like just started, they just had their first or maybe third cohort go through. So I felt a little nervous about it, because I was like, you know, I don't, I don't know. And yeah, I don't know it. Like, it's not a big number of people who have gone through it. So I also look and that that one was called spiced Academy in Berlin. And then I also looked at General Assembly in London because my uncle lives in London, so I figured I could like crash on his couch. And, I don't know ultimately, it felt more comfortable to stay in my own city, or not my city, but the one I live in, I wanted to stay. I felt as long as I'm gonna like, shake up my whole life and learn a completely new skill and Start a new career, I should at least keep as many things familiar as possible. Make sense?

Tim Bourguignon 18:06
Yeah. How was he with language? Was it defined already that it would be English, or did you have to learn German on the fly?

Carolyn Stransky 18:15
Oh my gosh no, no it was an English both of the teachers were from the US, which wasn't why I chose it. But I think that solidified to me like, okay, it will be in English. And when I talk to them, they were like, no, don't worry. Everything is in English. And that made me feel really good. I think. Also, something I didn't mention. But another important part of my decision was like the decision to even do an in person like boot camp or class, because I knew there was the option of learning online. My previous colleagues had sent me a bunch of courses, but I don't know it didn't really click for me to learn online like it was too. I think programming was such a different way of thinking than I was used to. Like this kind of logical step by step, like, figure out how things, you know, I'm not really a builder or like a tinkerer. So like, finding the ways things fit together wasn't intuitive for me. So I knew I wanted someone in person. And turns out, it worked really well. Because like, for example, when I was trying to learn JavaScript on my own, I thought that, like these function names, I thought there was just like, a list out there of like, 3000 functions that people memorize amused, and I was like, why am I the dumbest person on earth? Who can't figure out how to like, you know, who can't find this magic function list to be able to use them? I was like, I was like, first of all, like, how do people memorize a second of all, where is this magic list? And, and then, of course, like my first class, like when they introduced JavaScript, they were like, here's the function like you can name it whatever you want. And I was like, What? WHAT?

Tim Bourguignon 20:06
You've been lied all this time.

Carolyn Stransky 20:08
I felt I felt very betrayed by the internet. I was like Internet. I've been good to you, I turn to you for my problems. This was so unhelpful. Ah. So it's nice to have the human tell me that. I think

Tim Bourguignon 20:22
I can relate to this. My one of my uncle's was in, in coding way back when. And when I when I was a kid, and that was something like eight or nine. I asked him, How do you how to program and he gave me this book. I think it was a C or C++ book back then. And so that was my main one of my introductions to to coding, but I didn't get how to to interface, the code and the computer at the beginning. And so I was I was just dumbfounded. How I didn't understand that was compiler it was anything to like an editor and somebody. I was just at the beginning looking at this book and say, Okay, I can understand how to code but I don't want to say what to do with this. And I truly really, when when you when you're missing such a key piece, you just cannot find it. It's just

Carolyn Stransky 21:11
It's awful. To be honest, I probably would have had the same thing except I had one class in university, my my last year of university, I was taking like a graphic design course or like a design media course. And my professor was basically like, he didn't say this, but this is what it felt like at the time. He was kind of like, okay, all of you are like journalism majors, you don't have any like skills you can put on the CV like, I'm going to teach you how to code. So he had us, like, do all of our designs in HTML and CSS. So that was where at least I understood, like, okay, there's a code editor. I didn't know what it was called. I didn't know where it lived on the internet, but I knew it existed. So then at least like those concepts I was a little bit more familiar with. And I still remember that because that quote, I kept getting like, I got such bad grades from my CSS horrible grades. I'm like, shocked. I'm a front end developer. And it was all things that I'm just like, he'd be like, it's in the wrong order. Like you use too many selectors when you could put them together. And I was just like, I don't know what this guy's talking about, but okay,

Tim Bourguignon 22:19
it does the job. Come on.

Carolyn Stransky 22:20
Yeah, right. It looked fine. So,

Tim Bourguignon 22:23
But at some point, something must have happened. You're an established front end developer. Now we you are tech speaker from Mozilla, you organized communities and meetups and you've been on many, many stages. So take us through this flip of the switch and your journey toward who you became today.

Carolyn Stransky 22:46
What happened? I always like joke that I think my CV looks really disjointed. But I'd like to think of it as like a path. Like I think I'm heading somewhere. I just don't really know where it is, but I I think it'll be there eventually.

Tim Bourguignon 23:01
What's the path? so far?

Carolyn Stransky 23:03
Yeah. So after that boot camp, I looked at my different career options. You know, they told us like, okay, you can be a full stack developer, you can be a front end developer back end. They didn't really mention anything else besides full stack, but I figured the rest out on my own because I knew people before. And I still kept coming back to that conversation I had with this tech journalist and the technical writer. And I really thought like, Okay, this is like, where I could find my my thing. I can do this. Like, it combines writing, something I'm really comfortable with. There's coding. Cool. So I became a technical writer, right after like right out of the boot camp, and I have mixed it like looking back on it. Now. I have mixed feelings about it. I think, objectively speaking, I was good at it. Like I think I was able to take the technical concepts I learned apply them and communicate them and what I liked about it was unlike my previous job, I didn't need a lot of I need someone to read review it, of course, because everyone needs someone to review their work. But I didn't need to leave big blocks empty where the developer would put in code because I could put in the code myself. So that was nice. But looking back on it, I do wish I would have gone to a developer role right away. And I think I felt that while I was the technical writer, because I was like, Okay, I understand how to code and I can put code on the screen. And I can do all of that. But I didn't understand developer workflows. I didn't understand like, I was writing documentation, but I didn't quite understand where documentation fit in the process and the workflow of developers. So then I quit my job and decided to become a front end developer. That's what I mean by like, it's a little disjointed, but it's fine.

Tim Bourguignon 24:51
No, that's good. I'm sure I'm sure this time as a technical writer, was kind of forming in a way to help you find the missing piece of the puzzle and in orient yourself and then step back to be able to jump.

Carolyn Stransky 25:05
Oh, 1,000% 1,000% because I think I've built so much of you know, you mentioned like that I do conference talks and stuff. Now, almost all of that is on the backbone of being a technical writer, like all because I found this niche of like, okay, I was like watching talks online, from, you know, JavaScript developers. I was like, you know, going to conferences, and I was like, why is someone talking about this? Like, it's such an important topic. I don't understand why it isn't an integral part of every tech conference, like why isn't there documentation talk at every tech conference? And I mean, I knew there were people out there talking about it, but I just I didn't see them. And that was like, my very first talk I ever gave was humanizing your documentation. And I still give that talk today because it's still relevant. It's still important and you I mean, and it's funny because I think I've still kept my niche in that kind of documentation sphere, even after becoming, you know, a full time software developer, because it's just important. I don't know.

Tim Bourguignon 26:13
It is it is. And I think that that's an advice that was given to me many, many times over is to try to find a niche where I can combine two skill sets that don't always go together. And that's that's where I would find my spot. And I guess in this case, it relates to you as well finding this sweet spot between writing and summarizing information and and explaining information and this tech world at least it's it's consistent in my mind.

Carolyn Stransky 26:44
Yeah, definitely.

Tim Bourguignon 26:46
What convinced you to to give this first talk?

Carolyn Stransky 26:49
As a technical writer, I went to the company I was working for hosted a Oktoberfest event, and I went to that heck cover fest event and one of my colleagues at the time, Stefan UTIs, he was I don't even remember, we just started talking. You know, I think I mentioned like, Oh, it's really cool that you give these talks. I think it could. I don't know, I think it could be something I could do. And like, Dominic Kindle was there too, from Twilio? And he was like, yeah, you should do it. I don't know. Like, both of them are just like, Yeah, why not? Okay, let's do it. What topics Could you do what you could do? And you know, oh, documentation, that's great topic. Okay. Why don't we like, figure out where you can go from there. And I don't really remember the rest. But I just remember being like feeling very empowered by these two people who I've seen on stages before. Like, give me that encouragement. And I like conference speaking. What I found is that it's actually even more closely related to journalism than technical writing is because, you know, at the end of the day, like conference talks are talent. It's storytelling. It's something where you're on a stage and you're you know, Yes, you're communicating information and hopefully giving people actionable takeaways that they can apply to their jobs. But, you know, you need to keep people engaged for the 30 minutes, you're up there. And there needs to be some sort of plot in that, and I just found it so fascinating to be able to find something where you could take all of this like data and information and lived experiences and communicate that to large groups of people. That's the worst part, but it's good.

Tim Bourguignon 28:33
Oh, no, it's fun. It's fun,

Carolyn Stransky 28:35
but getting on stage...

Tim Bourguignon 28:37
Yes. Okay. It's, I think I think it is, it's just a drug. Okay, I'll give you the beard. I'm scared each time as I was the first time but it's it's a really experience. And I keep coming back to it.

Carolyn Stransky 28:54
Oh, 1,000% you feel like I always feel like pretty much the whole like two weeks before I'm like, Oh my gosh, I'm gonna vomit. Why am I doing this? I don't wanna be here. And then afterwards, I feel like Well, I'm on stage, I kind of go into autopilot. And because I rehearse so much, and then it's like, I just feel so powerful. I love it. And I'm trying to find that with these, you know, online talks now, but I don't know. It's not the same feeling as like, physically standing there and being like, Damn, look at me. I'm important.

Tim Bourguignon 29:28
Yeah, I understand what you mean.

Carolyn Stransky 29:30
I'm communicating.

Tim Bourguignon 29:32
Yeah, I have my problem with it, the online conference as well. I wrote a long blog post about it. And that and that's one of the limits of it. I don't get the same kick out of it.

Carolyn Stransky 29:42
Yeah. It's a different experience.

Tim Bourguignon 29:45
It is. It is I was it. We'll see how that go after the epidemic. How that settles down then. But but it was interesting to be able to join some meetups in the in the East Coast of the US different times that worked better for me with my family because usually Do meetups in Germany yet something like 6pm six to 8pm which exactly family time so I cannot join the meetups here and being able to join the meetups, five hours later or six hours later was an interesting experience. So maybe that would work with with online talks and that would be the best of both worlds.

Carolyn Stransky 30:20
I love the idea of an online conference in the sense of like, I could be you know, I can watch the conference I can, you know, be in my home and then immediately I can close my computer and fall asleep. I don't know why I love it. I love the idea of just immediately being able to take a nap wherever I am. After this

Tim Bourguignon 30:39
you can do that in the new conference venue as well. That's a little harder let's let's go back to to to public speaking toward Mozilla and being a Mozilla tech speaker. How did that go?

Carolyn Stransky 30:55
I feel like my story is just like a series of like, bumping into the right people at The right time and then being like, you should do this. And I'm just like, okay, don't even think about it twice. So normally the process for becoming a Mozilla tech speaker is there's an application process. You go through, it gets reviewed by a committee, and then you get added to a cohort. You go through, like the onboarding together. My process was a little different, because I joined in between groups. Yeah, I met fluckey, who works on the Mozilla tech speakers team, he introduced me to Hobie Hoffman, who was running it at the time, and I had a few conversations with her. And she was like, oh, if you can present a they're called tech briefings. So it's like introducing a new technology doesn't need to be that new but something may be new to the group. And if you do that, then you can join you can be part of it. And I and I felt that because I put it off for so long, because I was like, teach a new technology like What does that even mean? Like? I I have no idea because all of my talks had been, you know about documentation. And I didn't realize that that could have also qualified. So I was just like, okay, maybe later I'll consider it. But I just kept putting it off. I was like, I'm really busy and I feel bad about that to this day. But yeah, it just kind of Yeah, it totally. And I mean, I hate saying stuff like that, because it makes me sound so like, Oh my gosh, it just like fell into my lap. But, I mean, realistically, like the way it happened was through working really hard on like, going to conferences, speaking at them, I put in like, my talks are very research intensive. So they take, I mean, minimum 50 to 100 hours to make like, and just doing that and like putting myself out there and meeting people, which is horrifying, but I tried to do it. And it's just a It's really led to a lot of opportunities that I could have never imagined. What like two years ago when I first became a developer, I would have never thought,

Tim Bourguignon 33:09
but that's the thing. It's exactly what we should be doing. And I don't know why we're still so shy about that. Because it's this this is the way it works. We've we've made an reputation of ourselves in this industry to be the loners and the the this lone wolf achievers but that's not true. All the people I talked to you who we did something we did it with people together and so we shouldn't be shy about that and and connections and then meeting the right people at the right time and, and making your own luck so that you are able to, to act on an opportunity when it comes is is the whole the whole work you have to do and then when you have this opportunity, then you can roll with it. And for me, it's constant In the end, you did the work you you prepare yourself, you did this technical writing, you learned how to code, etc. And you were at the right position to, to take this opportunity. If that had happened the year before you wouldn't have been successful.

Carolyn Stransky 34:15
Exactly. It's also it's exactly what you just said, making your own luck saying yes to opportunities. And I mean, I'm trying to learn to be more strategic because I tend to say Yes, a lot. And then I'm just busy and stressed all the time. But like, really like having, like just saying, even if you don't feel 100% comfortable, like, oh, who am I to give this thing saying Yes. Can make such a huge difference? I don't know.

Tim Bourguignon 34:39
I'm glad you said yes. To this podcasts.

Carolyn Stransky 34:41
Yes. Because I also think it's interesting what you said about like our mindset in software engineering, because, like in journalism, who you know, and like your sources, and like who you're able to talk to you is a really powerful thing. And I don't know it took me a long time. Realize that like, it's similar in software, it's just different in the sense of like, you know, I don't know, in journalism, it felt so nicely transactional in the sense of like, Okay, I know you and I'm going to promote your story. So like, if you interview with me, I will promote you like it all kind of loops like that. And to figure out what that same loop was, in software engineering was a little harder, because it's not always so clear. You know, it's like, you meet someone and like, maybe they liked your talk, or maybe you've seen them online or maybe whatever. And, like, that kind of transaction isn't clear. But it might be clear over a couple of years where you know, someone and you build a relationship and like, you know, in this moment, they're starting a new project and they need someone like you and you're there.

Tim Bourguignon 35:46
I've never thought about it that way. That's, true.

Carolyn Stransky 35:49
I never did either until right then. I don't think so. I don't think it's anything profound, but it's like, oh, no, it's interesting.

Tim Bourguignon 35:57
Oh, yeah. It's it's interesting that don't I did the the episode 100 couple weeks ago. And we we turned the, the episode around and I was interviewed on my own podcast. And that's one of the things we talked about is why am I doing this? And why am I getting out of it? And so my answer was, it's just fun. But and which is still my answer. It's just fun. I love hearing all these stories and being the first one to hear them in science. It's absolutely it's really but there's as well this this in this this idea of you never know what's going to happen. And so now I have countless guests that I could speak to and maybe at some point something will happen maybe at some point I will meet them again and and we'll we'll we'll rock on the different stage and do something else together and the contact will have been born via this podcast via me giving my time and interviewing people and doing the work and We have this guest joining in and giving him an hour or something of his or her time to, to tell her story. So that's just giving without knowing what could happen and making this connection and at some point, maybe something will happen, maybe not. And that's fine as well.

Carolyn Stransky 37:16
It's wild. Like I think about how like one of my closest friends here in Berlin, like we met passively at a conference, like we were both giving, like I was giving a lightning talk. She was giving a you know, full blown talk. And to be honest, I was kind of rude because she asked me like, Oh, do you want to go to dinner with like, a bunch of us and other speakers and I was so exhausted. I was just like, No, I'll go home. But we kept in touch on Twitter. Like we kept in touch on Twitter. And I didn't really think much of it. I was just like, Oh, we reply to each other's tweets. Okay, now we're like dming each other Okay, now we moved to WhatsApp. And then she eventually moved to Berlin and now like a very integral part of my life here. And I don't know, I would have never expected that but it worked out. Yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 38:04
I have exactly the same. The same story the the guests back then who interviewed me for the for the podcast 100. So he was he was the first guest. I mean, Tyson is our first guest on the show. And I I met him online through this podcast and and through different communities. And, and he moved to Germany now and we are, we're dear friends and it's really cool to see him again. And yeah, never knew that something would emerge out of it. But a few years down the line, you never know. That's great. Okay, so we're slowly but surely coming to an end. So, so what's what's your future?

Carolyn Stransky 38:44
Oh, my God. That's, that's a deep question. I don't know if anyone knows the answer to that. I have no idea. I would like to, I think my ultimate goal ultimate. I would like to get back into journalism in some capacity. I think now it would be maybe more on an engineering perspective. But I mean, I think that if I had to choose one goal, that would be it. If you mean goal, like in my future is in like tomorrow, I have some like TypeScript tickets to handle.

Tim Bourguignon 39:14
That's part of your future as well. Yeah.

Carolyn Stransky 39:15

Tim Bourguignon 39:18
How you preparing yourself to being able to grasp the next opportunity that would take you toward journalism and engineering in the future.

Carolyn Stransky 39:27
So I started freelance writing again, which I kind of took a break from for a couple years, because, you know, like, being a developer is hard, in general. And then I think trying to do other things on top of it was impossible. So I think by the time like, I got home, my brain was just fried. So I didn't want to think about anything else. But now I've gotten to this point where I'm like, Okay, my brain is like, not totally fried. I learned a lot, but I'm ready. So I've been trying to do some more freelance reporting. I had all these big dreams, and then you know Coronavirus happened. And now I just like focus on trying to be sort of productive at work, really. But I am trying to so the company I work for now has a background in machine learning. And we have data scientists. And so that's kind of the direction I'm creeping towards. Right now. I'm learning Python. And trying to figure out, I don't know, I feel like myself at a crossroads of like, should I really dive into like, data visualization? Or should I dive into machine learning? And I think both could be really interesting. I'm having a very hard time deciding. So that's my current Crossroads I am at so I'm just learning Python trying to at least, you know, have a baseline knowledge in so you don't have a JavaScript foundation Python foundation. What I do next, I don't know.

Tim Bourguignon 40:59
Yeah, well, we'll see Yeah, that's gonna be fun.

Carolyn Stransky 41:02
We'll see i, i i'm hopeful.

Tim Bourguignon 41:05
I don't want to influence you. But now, but I will do anyway. And yeah, I have seen some very interesting projects recently about interactive, kind of interactive journalism. So kind of have this data visualization where the reader can interact with the data inside of an article.

Carolyn Stransky 41:29
Yes, that's exactly Yes. Like 1,000%. I've been looking into that. And on the other side, on the machine learning side, I was looking into, like, how do you build bots, that report I have a talk on like, how AI influences journalism. And like, again, both of to me are so interesting, but yeah, I love the idea of making data, especially giant data sets really accessible to people and being able to cuz I think that's what you do as a journalist and I think to an extent It's what you do as a developer is like this idea of taking all this information, or maybe not developer, but at least a technical writer, you take all of this information that maybe people don't understand. You figure out like, what are the key points to that? Oops, sorry, I just hit my mic. Because I was so excited. I'm like, waving my hands around. You take all of your, you take all of the information, and you figure out kind of what the key points are. And you find a way to make it so that people can interact with it and, or even like, make their own decisions based off of it. I don't know. I think exactly what you just saw. I just got so excited. Exactly what you just said.

Tim Bourguignon 42:37
Yeah, this sounds like Carolyne's sweetspot.

Carolyn Stransky 42:41
I think it couldn't be

Tim Bourguignon 42:42
yes. Something that that would be on the path for you started describing. So that would make sense in your story.

Carolyn Stransky 42:50
I'm intimidated by the art part of it. Like I think a lot of the data visualization I see. Like especially by like surely woo is like, very artistic, very useful. So sometimes I'm like, I'm not an artist, I don't know. But I think there are like frameworks and things that can help. I just need to figure, figure them out.

Tim Bourguignon 43:10
A few more weeks of Corona and you'll, be ready.

Carolyn Stransky 43:12
I'll be ready. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 43:14
Fantastic. So, if you had one advice to give to the journalists that would like to start in development, what would be the advice you would give them?

Carolyn Stransky 43:25
I think in general, it doesn't even necessarily need to be journalism. But I think journalism has a really dynamic relationship with computer science. So this works especially well. I always tell people who are looking to switch careers, like, if you feel comfortable doing it, talk about your previous experience, like lean into the fact that especially I think about with journalists, like, lean into this idea that you can process information and make it accessible to the public. That is also what you would be doing with software engineering. You know, you are building something to make it available to people you are taking all of this knowledge that you have and condensing it into this project. And I think it's like hit or miss, like I've had it with my experience of like, when you are a career changer and you're applying to jobs, like, if you talk about your past jobs, some people are like about it. But I think the idea of like, you already bring so many skills, like whether you come from journalism, whether you're a fiber artist, or a chef, like any of those will have skills that translate into software. So if you can figure out what those are, and shape them into your story, I think I find your sweet spot like exactly what you said. I think it works. Amen.

Tim Bourguignon 44:49
Yeah. And it would add, if somebody has this reaction of saying, if when you start speaking with your past with stars in your eyes, then that's not a place where I would like to work.

Carolyn Stransky 45:00
Yeah, exactly like, one, the I mean, they, one, they clearly don't respect you enough in an interview to act, you know, professionally, but also like, they're probably not gonna respect you on the job. And that's a red flag. And the reason why I said if people feel comfortable with it is like I understand some people leave careers, wanting to never return or think about it again. So, but if you're in a position where you're a little bit more open to either way you bring skills, so I'd still stand by it.

Tim Bourguignon 45:32
Awesome. Thank you very much. To Where can the listeners continue this discussion with you?

Carolyn Stransky 45:37
Oh, my gosh, so I'm pretty much everywhere on the internet. And @carolstran, I mostly hang out on Twitter. So that's the easiest. And if you I'm going to be doing a lot more work around like documentation and creating good technical content as a developer. You can find a lot of that at my website, which is workwithcarolyn.com.

Tim Bourguignon 46:04
Do you have anything you want to plug in any conference or online conferences, this times coming up or something you want to plug in.

Carolyn Stransky 46:12
I mean, if anyone is free this coming weekend, I'm going to be the MC for yougotthis from home, which is a conference that focuses on all of the aspects around being a developer that aren't coding. So things like mentorship, work life balance, self care ethics, and I think it'll be really fun. You can watch me like awkwardly talk to my screen. There might be some computer puns.

Tim Bourguignon 46:40
Awesome. I've linked to the show notes. Carolyn, thank you very much. It's been the best.

Carolyn Stransky 46:50
Thank you for having me.

Tim Bourguignon 46:51
And this has been another episode of telcos journey. And we'll see each other next week. Bye bye. This is Tim from a different time and space with a few friends. wants to make. First, get the most of those developers journeys by subscribing to the podcast with the app of your choice, and get the new episodes out to magically write when the podcast is available on all major platforms. Then, visit our website to find the show notes with all the links mentioned by our guests, the advisors they gave us their book references and so on. And while you're there, use the comments to continue the discussion with our guests and with me, or reach out on Twitter, or LinkedIn. And a big, big thanks to the generous Patreon donors that helps me pay the hosting bills. If you can spare a few coins, please consider a small monthly donation. Every pledge, however small helps. Finally, please do someone you love a favor and tell them about the show today and help them with their developer's Journey