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DevJourney Podcast

#116 Scott Tolinski from allrounder to allrounder

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Scott Tolinski 0:00
Totally weird how everybody in my program was doing such big things. And I just felt like, Man, I'm not doing anything. I'm sitting in a projection booth at the college I went to. So I decided I really needed to do something and my wife was like, Listen, you're trying to do way too much. And if we would have looked at my website at the time, you would have come to that conclusion very obviously, because it was like Scott kolinsky is a you know, audio engineer, a graphics artist, a motion graphics artist, a web developer, a web designer, a logo maker, like I was trying, I had a one person band at that point, I was doing shows and recording a lot of music trying to make it as a musician. I had so much energy and so much drive to do things but it was completely fragmented. And so my my wife was just like, Listen, just find one thing that you're the best out of all these things didn't just pick it. I sat down and I thought about it for a little bit and was like listen, like I'm really the best at programming. That is honestly the thing that can like put my head down and take away the entire day because you don't even realize that the time is gone because you're enjoying it so much. And I almost didn't even realize that till she pointed it out.

Tim Bourguignon 1:06
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers, to help you on your upcoming journey. My name is Tim Bourguignon, and on this episode 116, I received Scott Tolinski. But before we get to our guests, did you know that Python was again ranked the top one to language on the 2020 Stack Overflow survey by fellow developers from around the world. In the past few years, Python has become my language of choice, but I still have tons to learn is Python on your bucket list as well? Well, Michael Kennedy, who shared his dev journey with us in Episode 94, and hosts the "Talk Python to me" podcast can certainly help. Among his Python for absolute beginners, Python for the dotnet developer or countless other advanced courses, there is certainly one for you. Go have a look at his catalogue and use the

link https:
//talkpython.fm/journey for a $50 discount. And finally stick around until the end of the show for a chance to win Michael's "Python for absolute" beginners course. And don't forget to thank him for sponsoring the show. And now on to the episode. Scott is the creator of level-up tutorials where he really sees free and premium web development video tutorials. He is also the co host of the podcast syntax.fm where you can remember this West boss who we had on episode 76 is the older co-host. In his free time though, you will find Scott breakdancing or watching kung fu movies from the Show brothers usually. Scott, welcome to DevJourney! The show exists to help the listeners understand what your story looks like, and imagine how to shape their own future. So, as usual, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your DevJourney?

Scott Tolinski 3:09
Yeah, I think I would place it firmly in high school when I was in a band we were performing every single year, you know, concerts we've been in that we started the band probably in like eighth grade, in middle school. And I think it was probably around them that I had started hacking together a basic HTML site with Angel fire. Just that that classic sort of angel fire thing where you just throw up a couple HTML pages, and it's up online and then me in the the bassist in the group, we both just kept always iterating on it and throwing in little snippets here and there and eventually got into flash because that was really the way to do audio on the web at that point. So we were doing a lot of flash, we were doing animations because that was very much firmly entrenched in the era of like, very elaborate in ornate flesh websites that were super animated and had that like very specific aesthetic that anybody from that era would would recognize. So that's pretty much it, we started there. And it was just sort of a thing that we did because we had to have a presence online at that point, even though it was, you know, maybe like 2000 in the year 2000, specifically, somewhere around then. And it was just very funny because we built we built like a forum, and we didn't really build a forum we installed it with Angel fire, and it became like a place where people in our high school would hang out in chat. Even though it was like a forum for our band. It was like it just became like a spot for people to chat online. It was pretty cool.

Tim Bourguignon 4:44
I remember this time fondly.

Scott Tolinski 4:46
Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 4:47
I did some some web mastering for comics back then. And I remember also the is Dreamweaver back then it'll fire but I guess that's, that's similar with some very nice table. design with rounded corners made with tables that Well, yeah.

Scott Tolinski 5:05
Yeah. Having to slice out the the background image on the corners and the one pixel GIF thing. Yeah, there's absolutely weird little tricks that went along with that.

Tim Bourguignon 5:16
Yes. And I remember having a phpbb forum though. Yeah. Trying to get the community going, which was a pain in the ass but yeah,

Scott Tolinski 5:26
it all summer. Yes, it was.

Tim Bourguignon 5:29
Okay, so you you dipped your toes in html5 back then? And how did this evolve into more than just scratching your own itch for your band and starting doing things or making things for others?

Scott Tolinski 5:43
Yeah, well, so I went to school for music, believe it or not, and I'm not necessarily a talented musician. I went from music technology. So it was very like media technology based and part of that was creating a website for yourself personally to sort of brand yourself as like, this is what I do. For me, I was doing a lot of things I really saw myself getting a job in motion graphics or video editing. In fact, I did shortly work as a video editor for a little while. And that was really like what I was what I was planning on doing because I had actually been doing video editing for like skate videos that my friends would make for a long time, even before I was doing websites around the same time. You know, just like, that's really what I saw myself doing. So when I was in school, I took a bunch of classes that were just very assorted media classes. I took a class on like installation, projection art and stuff like that. Just very odd. The program that I was in produced an insane amount of very talented people. And it was at the University of Michigan and everybody was doing the most bananas projects you could imagine. We we had a one music programming class where somebody rigged up a bunch of sensors do a ping pong table, and they would play ping pong and it would make music while they were playing it That's like really the environment that I would just school in with just a sort of like, odd, odd sort of stuff. I actually one of my projects for my projection class was a, essentially a piano that would play by running through the the notes that were projected on a wall. So it was like projected on a wall, the different color bars, vertical color bars, and people would run through them, and it would play different notes. So if you stood in different locations, you could make chords and it was just like sort of fun stuff like that. And that was really my introduction into programming in general, beyond, you know, basic HTML stuff was this music programming in a language called max MSP, which is basically a series of boxes and patch cables that you connect to do I mean, legitimate real programming. So it's, it's like, you know, you have a box that's a number and then a box that's a counter or plus one that fires every beat or something like that. And you can change the the fire rate and stuff. It was just a very interesting programming interface. And I had a few years of that programming class so they kept me Really, really interested in general in making things. But I didn't I didn't have any ambitions of becoming a web developer, even at that point. It wasn't until after I graduated, and I was trying to find a job as a video production person doing either motion graphics or video editing. And I had decided to stay in Michigan for a little bit because I'm from Michigan, and I had a job offer and New York and I could have moved out there and all that, but I was dating someone who would later become my wife, and she was getting her PhD in Michigan. And while she urged me not to stay in Michigan, or, you know, her ambitions, I was just like, well screw that I'm gonna, I'm gonna say admission. So I found myself finding it really difficult to find a job doing any sort of video production stuff in Michigan, obviously, which was just, you know, remote anything at that point was not very doable. So I got a job as an accountant for a record label doing who knows what, just issuing payroll and whatever not really being a good accountant. That would that was really just what I do. Did Dell hold down the fort for a little bit? And I got a letter a job as a projectionist for the University of Michigan, where I was basically, it was the sweet job for learning how to program because what I did is I would, I would show up to work, I would basically make myself seen once at the beginning of the day, I would walk into a classroom, a big classroom and I would turn on the projector, because they were digital projectors at this point and just sit up in the projection booth. Well, nothing ever went wrong ever.

Unknown Speaker 9:31
You will

Scott Tolinski 9:32
occasionally get like a sub sub professor who would show up and not know how to plug the USB stick into the computer. Oh, I could do one of these before Okay, you just plug it in right here. And that was really the entire job and I got paid for that was pretty sweet. And which allowed me to basically just sit up in a room by myself every single day for eight hours, eight hours every single day. And I took that time to to teach myself more and more Programming stuff my my parents at the time they were opening a T store online. And without really knowing anything about I was like, well build the website. So they let me build the website. And that was my first introduction into MySQL databases in PHP, because it was in Magento. And I really had no idea what I was doing, but I follow some docs and bought some books. And next thing I know, I'm running out Magento website for a couple years. And that that really kind of, you know, taught me that I could could do this stuff when introduced me to things like WordPress, and that that whole world, right. And so I just sort of generally just sat up there every single day sort of hacking on stuff and at some point, in that job, I started looking for freelance clients in web stuff and and at that point, I still wasn't even planning on becoming a web developer. It was like, here's my, my, my career, whatever, I still want to do video production, this production stuff, just a temporary layover and what I'm going to do is I'm just going to earn some cash on the side with these design and web skills, and the design stuff, I was never a very good designer, but I really aspired to be a designer, even more so than a developer. It's like, I was a much better developer at the time than I was a designer, but I really aspired to be a designer. And I didn't aspire to be a developer just because I I like saw myself as this like artistic person, even though definitely much more of an engineering mind than a creative mind, even though I do have this creative skills. So I worked really hard at becoming a better designer, learning Photoshop and all that stuff and worked really hard, got some clients, build some build some easy, quick sites for some money, did the whole freelance thing and oh, man, I just really wasn't happy with my work. I just wasn't happy with what I was doing every day, even though it was like, you know, getting paid to sit up in a projection booth. It just like wasn't fulfilling. And I wanted to do something better. I wanted to sort of fulfill some higher career aspirations that I always wanted. Not only that, but I was seeing a lot of the people that I had graduated with, go on to like Really big things. You know what, you know, just like I said, the program that I was working in really produced a lot of high end talent in various areas like the the volt volt pack, there's a famous band in the states here, they all went to my program. You know, my best friend who was the bassist in my band was also in my program, and he was like doing some, like serious, serious stuff in the mastering engineering, audio world. You know, one of my good friends at college became the guitarist for 30 Seconds to Mars, which is like a pretty popular band here in the States. with Jared Leto was the singer. I mean, it was just totally, totally weird how everybody in my program was doing such big things. And I just felt like, Man, I'm not doing anything. I'm sitting in a projection booth at the college I went to, so I decided I really needed to pick, you know, just do something and my, my wife was like, Listen, you're trying to do way too much. And if we would have looked at my website at the time, you would have come to that conclusion very obviously because it was like Scott kolinsky is a You know, audio engineer, a graphics artist, a motion graphics artist, a web developer or web designer and logo maker, like I was trying to hit a band, a one person band. At that point, I was doing shows and recording a lot of music trying to make it as a musician. Like it was like, man, I was just fragmenting all of my energy. I had so much energy and so much drive to do things, but it was completely fragmented. And so my, my wife was just like, Listen, just find one thing that you're the best out of all these things didn't just pick it. And I sat down and I thought about it for a little bit and was like, Listen, like, I'm really the best at programming. I mean, that is honestly the thing that can like put my head down and take away the entire day because you don't even realize that the time has gone because you're enjoying it so much. And I almost didn't even realize that till she pointed it out to me was like you need to pick something and oh, once I picked programming, I mean that was really it or at least web development. That was really like sort of the moment and by I think that was the spy like 2010 and by the time it was like 2011, I had gotten my first dev web dev job at an agency in Michigan. And it was like a it was like a 1412 person agency doing some pretty decently big client work and they had been around for quite a bit of time. And so it was like a long standing client or a long standing agency and they've done really good work and I impressed the the interviewer who later became my boss and one of my close friends and someone I actually ended up starting level up tutorials with, I impressed him by, you know, talking about a list apart in some of the books that they have produced, and he could tell that I was, even if my skills weren't there, I was at least like driven to be there. So he gave me a chance I got hired and, and just just grinded it out. I mean, I I got that job in in March of 2011. And by 2012, I'd already started level up tutorials as a YouTube channel teaching web development or at least the basics of things. So I have a lot of energy and I was just able to like really heavily focus it. And once I once I was able to do that I, I think I quickly discovered that I absolutely loved web development and really had nothing but time to put my brain on it and really think about all the different things. And like really getting that opportunity at the agency was such a huge moment for me in my career. Because once I got that job, Ben Ben chef, he taught me so many things about not only working with clients and being in client meetings, which, you know, I was I was decently good at but he was very good at that stuff. But even like working in the proper ways to work in sites, we were building a lot of Drupal sites expressionengine WordPress, and while I wasn't good at PHP, it was very frustrating to me. At the time, he was still like, able to sort of direct me and guide me and grow my skills that way. I had my hands in a lot of code. And even like, day one, it was like, all right, You know, this is your first efa job well, here's your, your client, you're solely responsible for this client and this project and good luck, you know. And so it was the right amount of like, tossed into the deep end. But make sure that your your, your support is where you need it, you know, is the absolute right amount of all of that, because I was able to really spend the time to to, like pick up the skills I needed to on my own, but if I was like, really in deep trouble, he could definitely step in and help if needed, you know,

Tim Bourguignon 16:28
ya know, how is it to to go from a solo activity to more Tim team centric activity was someone to help you maybe on occasional projects to be multiple developers on the same project cetera, how did you handle this personally,

Scott Tolinski 16:45
it for me it was very good. Because I had been working without a ton of structure or, you know, it's like I read these blog posts and do this stuff, but I hadn't necessarily been working in a sort of real world way. So it allowed me to really explore perience How, how the work actually gets done. And another thing, like I was trying to be a good, you know, I was trying to be a web designer at the same time still, you know, just like really flexing some skills there. And I just wasn't very good at designing websites not flat out not very good, but I really wanted to be good. And it was a huge help in my career to have real designers, a team of designers who would just plop down a design in front of you, and like talk you through their thoughts and ideas about it. And it was just up on up to me to execute the the code for it. And since I had that designer, I one thing that they always really loved about my output at that agency was that it was always pixel perfect. You know, it was always like dead on to whatever they were expecting and or better. So we'd get occasionally some some interns or some younger people in there who would, you know, produce stuff that would just not look 100% right. You know, you could tell the padding was off here or there and I always had a good eye for that like that spatial eye to see. Oh, yeah. This this You know, you use 12 pixels instead of 15 pixels, you know, I could see that from a mile away for some reason. So it really helped me work with the team, not even like with other developers, because the most part of that point since it was, there's only two developers and we had a bunch of clients. It's like, I had my clients, he had his clients. And we just work together in that sort of way, rather than both having our hands in the same codebase. And this was really before GitHub was popular. We weren't using any sort of version control or anything. It was the classic sort of FTP based workflow stuff.

Tim Bourguignon 18:33
It's copying files rather than right and left.

Scott Tolinski 18:35
Oh, you bet.

Tim Bourguignon 18:37
Okay, um, it was, uh, you said you created your, your video courses or your channel on YouTube in 2011. That's pretty early.

Scott Tolinski 18:47
Yeah. 2012 2012.

Tim Bourguignon 18:48
Yeah, that's pretty early, actually.

Scott Tolinski 18:50
Yeah, yeah. When we started it, there was a couple channels on YouTube. And we were looking at them and they were they were not necessarily teaching this stuff. We were they definitely Weren't teaching like Drupal, WordPress, it was more or less like, here's HTML stuff. And we were looking at those and just thinking one, we could do that, like what they're doing is not that difficult, especially because I had my background in audio engineering, right? So I was looking at it like there's, there's no way I couldn't do that I could video at it. No problem. I could record the, you know, I had a nice microphone, I had all the setup to do audio recording at that point. So it was like, Hey, I could I could do that. And then we were working. Like I said, a ton of Drupal. And the one thing I always hated about the Drupal community I like I actually really liked working in Drupal for a long time. But the one thing I always disliked about the Drupal community when I first started is that people just expected you to know certain things and then was always just like, oh, the whole thing broke. And then somebody would say, you know, an IRC channel and be like, well, don't you know that you have to do this thing? It's like, Well, no, how was I supposed to know that it's not documented anywhere. It's not in this or within this forum post. Okay, well, like how was I supposed to find that for both? So that's really how it started. I was like, Listen, I'm gonna say Down at the end of my work day, my wife was still studying for a PhD. So she had, you know, no time she she was just working all the time. So for me, it was just like, well, I'm gonna go up in my my office in my in our house and just record myself sort of walking through some really basic stuff that I did today. It's like, Alright, here's how to install Drupal. Okay, now, here's how to add a new post to Drupal. And it's stuff that you might think v2 basic and those videos ended up getting a lot of views. And granted, I had to learn a whole ton about how to do things better. And it took me a few hundred videos before I was like really making the right decisions to you know, how to show the CO what to show what not to show how to how to speak, you know, eloquently into the microphone or something like that. I was I was really just sort of doing it without any sort of awareness of how good or bad it was, it was just sort of like, hey, maybe I can make some extra cash here or there on the side and record these tutorials. Little bit little bit just whatever I was doing at work so that didn't have to prepare anything. There was zero preparation for it because there's literally the stuff I would do all day. And then I would I would come home and do it into my microphone. That's that's really just that it was. So I didn't like it. I guess this part of the story like really leans into like where I had to take a break from dancing because I've been dancing for so long. I've been dancing since 2004 is a breaking or B boying breakdancing, it's a type of dance. It's very aggressive and very acrobatic in a lot of ways. And it was sort of my role on my my team and my crew to do a lot of the acrobatic stuff. I was like the spin guy, you know, we had all sorts of different roles. We had the guy who was the best dancer, we had the guy who was the strongest so we could do like these muscley poses and whatever like upside down stuff and then like my job was almost not entirely because I you know, I was pretty well rounded but it was always my job to come out and do the spins. So like it They, another team has their spin guy, then I got to go out and do better spins. So I was like practicing some spin. And it's like a move where you're inverted, you're on one forearm, you're like only on one forearm, and then you toss over your back off the ground and land on your other one. And then you can continue them to whatever and I just, I missed it, and I slammed on my head, I got a really bad concussion. And it sideline me from like, all physical activity for like eight months until like, that was in February, so some February to August. So so that injury happened in February 2012. And I barely made it a month of like not doing anything because I just have so much energy. I barely made it a month. So by March of 2012, I started the YouTube channel, because, you know, I was practicing three nights a week for a couple hours a night. So it's like now all of a sudden I have, you know, whatever, like 10 hours a week available that I didn't have to do anything and that was getting bored playing video games or sitting around the house. Whatever. So, I started the YouTube channel and Ben, my boss also was making videos with me, we're both hammer in and out, just making a bunch of videos and I, I really just kept up the schedule. It was like Monday, Wednesday, Friday, this the nights I would go dancing, I would just record videos. And so if you think about it, like nine videos a week, every week for a couple of years or so, or a year, whatever, that's a lot of practice. And that's a lot of videos. And I was doing a lot of different I mean, I always have a lot of ideas for videos. So it's like I never was running out of ideas. It's like okay, now install WordPress plugins. Alright, well, here's my favorite word, you know, it's just like, keep going and going and going. And it just so happens that like, by the time I was able to dance again in August or September of that year, it was just like such a part of my life that I just didn't drop it and I just kept doing it. Meanwhile, just constantly working, you know, as a dev. So I mean, that was really like a just became part of my life to record these tutorial videos. And a lot of the times, it was Like almost a way for me to solidify what I was learning whether or not it was something new. Oftentimes, I was picking up these topics and it was something that I just learned, right. It was like SAS, I just learned SAS. Okay, I'm gonna make a tutorial series on SAS. And luckily, like nobody had done that yet. So my tutorial series on SAS, SAS got really popular because it was just starting to, to blow up a little bit and people started finding my videos. And next thing, you know, the channel is getting a little bit more popular and more popular, and it was able to pay our rent. And that was like the cool thing, right? It's like 700 bucks a month or something. All right, pays my rent. That's, that's pretty neat. You know it. I never saw it as a career opportunity, necessarily. I always just thought as a side project. So I was working as a developer full time just building client sites, you know, they work and I got another job. Actually, at the University of Michigan, they had an internal agency that was sort of like functioned very much like a normal, just a normal agency. In fact, they have to still bid for clients even though the client Where all other departments within the university was like this whole, weird interconnected economy inside of the university. So we started that bid for for clients is like we were bidding against the company I used to work for as well as other companies. It was very fun. It was very cool. And it was just maybe like double the size. So we had maybe like six developers instead of two. And, again, most of the time there, it was, like my projects or my projects, and whatever. Unfortunately, you know, when you work at those kinds of settings, the design or the development work is kind of, I don't know, it's not it's not like the work was bad, but I was really upset that my old job that I had left, even though it was, you know, a nice pay bump and all that stuff. my old job that I had left, I got to make all the choices about what technology were using, in the in the in the time in between that I'd gotten this new job or whatever. I became essentially the lead developer there because then he left to take a new job. Actually at the University of Michigan, so he and I ended up working together at that place to this was actually become a pattern, we would both end up working at the same place three times because we were just like bringing each other wherever we were going, because we really liked working together, right? So either way, so I had this job where I was making all the decisions, and I got to use all this cool new tech we were getting into node j. s stuff at that point, it was like really fun to to like explore. And since again, I have like, just not I don't know, I just have a lot of energy to try new things all the time that I just don't want to be working on the same tech over and over again. And so we when I got this job at the University of Michigan, it's like, we were strapped to like an older version of Drupal because they couldn't install a newer version of PHP on their servers. It was like I'd even fight to use Drupal period there were some sites using like Joomla and WordPress and whatever and it was just like WordPress is fine for me. I always like WordPress, but like I was a little bit more efficient in like Drupal seven at the time. So I don't know I always found myself like not getting to choose The technology that was getting plopped on on my desk if you like, here's this. Here's this gigantic content based site that would really make sense to do it in Drupal. But we told the client, we're going to do it in WordPress. So just make it work in WordPress. And I'm just thinking, like, why are you making like, why don't I get to make these choices when I look, I'm the one who knows what's best in this site. And I really just didn't like it. The boss was great. You know, a certain percentage of my coworkers were great. The work was just like, very frustrating. I remember one time this was like, a little bit into it. One of the designers had plopped down the design in front of my desk and like the icons were like, these like pixelated raster, you know, just garbage and I was just thinking like, what years this man like, icon fonts at this point, not even just SVG. But I kind of find to this point where like, leeway to do icons for a handful of reasons. But like, you're just going to give me these raster fonts like Not only that, but they didn't even look good. They're like what do you expect me to just cut these fans out and put this in you Give this to a client like this looks terrible. Normally that but some of the some of the designers were good. And some of the designers just really didn't care, they were just sort of hanging out. Same with the developers, I had co workers who were just playing mobile games on their phone all day because like, they were bored. And that's just like not the type of environment that I really saw myself flourishing in. So I got a ping on LinkedIn from a recruiter which is uh, you know, recruiters are one of those topics, but I got a ping on on on LinkedIn from a recruiter who needed some developers for Ford, Ford Motor Company, they were doing this like neat exploration of ideas. It's like this work may or may not end up on port Comm. But it's like an exploration of design and whatever, and they're interested. So I went to that interview and I think I did like a great job. I started talking about all these like SAS frameworks at the time I was very familiar with. And I recall like the interviewers like taking notes on the stuff I was like talking about state never even heard of it, or like, what is this? Like? Yeah, really cool. Just this little bit of code that you can put in does the whole grid. And they were like, What? That's so cool. So I like I knew I'd like killed the interview, and I got the job. And I was a part of like a three developer team, where we just got to build experimental interfaces for Ford. And, uh, we got to pick all of our tech. So this is about the time that Angular one was getting popular. We had never used it, none of us had ever used it. And the the three of us, we just just like, hey, let's build this thing in Angular. Let's try it out. And it was a huge, huge learning experience. And like, honestly, the best part about that job was that the code was not production code, it was never going to be production code. The code was simply meant to show off to Ford executives, the type of stuff they could have on their website. And then Ford had their own development team that would take care of this in several different markets. So we didn't have to worry about code quality. We didn't have to worry, it wasn't Like we were shipping bad code, because saw Adele function very well it still didn't work nice. It's so hard to like, you know, it couldn't just be, you know, total garbage but we had a lot of freedom to just experiment and try new things and not have to worry about the future repercussions of it. It was only like the the output that mattered. So it was just a really fun environment. And me and me and Jeff ourselves that one of the developers there just like, had such a good time of working on the stuff together and just cranking out some really cool interfaces. And I remember even like having a bit of freedom we were on this like, crack team they put together have like 30 people that were totally separate from the rest of the building. And we'd, we'd get to work on these cool things and build these interesting things. And I remember like one time, like without even asking anybody, I put this neat little animation into the thing and then animation and making money on the Ford comm just because they liked it so much. And I don't even know if anybody knew who did it or who decided to do it. I just did it on my own and they liked it. So they you know have published it. So it was just a lot of fun. And that's when I learned Angular, that's when I learned a lot of the meteor stuff that I was doing at the time. That's where I learned react for the most part. Because towards the end of that contract, it was like a couple year contract. I picked up react, it was just it just come out. So one of one of the guys who would work with me was like, really excited about react. And the other two of us were like, I don't care. Why would we not use Angular one? Of course, we saw how that happened with Angular two. And, you know, all that kerfuffle, where, you know, angular two really turned a lot of people off of the community or whatever. So we just, it was just like a total like, it's so funny, because while I'm doing all this, I'm picking up new technologies along the way and it's giving me fuel to record these tutorial videos. Hey, record these record on whatever and next thing you know, I got Angular videos, I got Meteor tutorials, I got react tutorials, I got this, that whatever. And it just led my way in. So by the time I was done with that contract, it was like a neat time. Like, by the end of it, they had sort of broken up most of the team. For some reason, I think it was like, click funding reasons or whatever. But they kept two of the developers on to simply maintain a style guide. So it was my job to maintain a style guide, which had no developer no designers working on it, no developers working on hardly anybody consuming it. So it's like, well, there's not a whole lot to maintain here. But I'll you know, I'll check in and check out whatever. And while I'm maintaining his style guide, it gave me a nice little leeway to like, really prepare to maybe try level up tutorials full time. And I tried level up tutorials full time, the moment that that contract ended, just to see if I could make it happen. And I didn't know anything about running a business I was not good at it wasn't necessarily entrepreneurial minded. I didn't necessarily understand delivering the types of value to customers that they would want. You know, it's like, I wasn't giving people anything to necessarily pay for and also I've been giving people hundreds of free tutorials for years and years. In yours, and the moment I started saying, Hey, how about you give me $8 you know for for some of this stuff, they were just like what? Are you serious? Like? Yeah, I remember like the first time I asked for money for tutorial I just like my YouTube comments were just non stop people saying like, what? like where do you get off charging money for this thing that you've been giving us for free for it's like, come on, I've given you like, you know, like 1000 and a half free tutorials you can't give me $8 or whatever for this one and it's so funny I remember like one very specific night that I posted a tutorial you know, asking or like advertising with one for sale. And I just been getting ripped apart in the comments on it. My wife like fired up her computer and like had this huge like paragraph or not to somebody like to like Juno rd works on these things and like, it was just so funny. We just ended up not pushing go on that comment, but it was like it was such hard transition for me I ended up giving up almost like immediately and I took a job at a startup out here in Denver. And that startup was a total disaster. The the founders didn't know what they were doing but the idea was like really super good. And I didn't know that the the ownership was going to be so bad. So I took the job just to pay the bills at this point because we know a lot of income coming in at least. And it was it was like really difficult because I had this job at Ford that was paying paying so much money and went to you know, making just I don't know YouTube doesn't pay very much so I was going back to making like maybe like 20% of what I was making. And we just see like the the checking account go down, just like getting a little nervous. So took this job and for a little bit it was just a total disaster. I worked way too hard on it. I was the the only person putting in the overtime I was putting in just constant over time I was you know killing myself to get this this product out. Essentially you Just Just non stop sort of bereavement look, one of the owners was just like the cruelest person ever. I remember one time I was on, like, I took like a week to have my parents come visit me. And it was like a Sunday night at 10 o'clock, and I just start my phone starts blowing me up as she's like, texting me insults at 10 o'clock on a Sunday night. While she knows my parents are in town just texting me insults about a pre alpha that had a bug in it. Like, just Can you believe that this doesn't work. We're paying you all this money to get this thing working. And I was just like, I can't do this. I really can't do this. I was driving my parents to the airport. The next morning. I told my parents I'm like, I'm just gonna quit. I like really can't do it. In my I remember my dad was just like, yeah, quit. Why would you not quit? And I just remember being like, yeah, that's okay. So the next day I like called him up and I was like, Listen, the you know, the sucks. I gotta quit for these. reasons and like the moment I quit the one the one owner who had been breeding me just starts screaming at me on the on the chat in the other owner kicked her out of the chat and was like, Listen, I understand why you're quitting. I totally get this. This has been like a total disaster for all these reasons. Like you're fine. Don't worry, you know, this is all you got to worry about whatever so. So I quit and I had no plan. I had not No, no idea what I was gonna do. You know, we still had all the bills and whatever. And this was in like, Oh, man. This was in. I forgot you can't even leave. I left this part out. I was thinking it was to my parents had just come to visit. No, it was not that my parents had just come to visit now that I'm really thinking about this clearly. My my son was just born my son was born in May. So this is my, my first child. My son was born in May. My parents were in town for the birth of my son, and they can't even give me She can't even give me a week to like take off. Whatever so that was really the catalyst of it. I totally forgotten that all lined up like that, but oh my god, it was just such a disaster. Right? So it sounds like it. Yeah. So you know, there's this I'm, I'm a big hockey fan, I watch a lot of hockey. And they there's this weird statistical anomaly that happens when players hockey players have a birth. So when their their children are born, you see this guaranteed statistical bump in their play. They call it the dad strength bump. So it's like very funny because like, I remember watching some playoff series and you know, who was it like Evgeni Malkin had a baby, his family had a baby, and then all sudden he starts playing like crazy. So you're just like, there's this like weird bit of energy or strength that you get when you have this re evaluating of life when you have a child come into the world. And I remember my son was born in May and I quit my job like immediately. So, he was born at the end of May. And then in June, I quit the job. And, um, I decided I was going to like really rework how I was doing level up tutorials to provide more value and to do this and to do that, and like, I had this like one day where I was, it was, I guess I could probably even pinpoint the day on the calendar now that I'm retelling this, but like, one day where I just so much positive energy, I quit the job. I messaged Wes, West boss who he and I had become acquainted through YouTube and through a mastermind group that we started. And we had talked about doing the podcast for like a year, but I'd never jumped on it. And just like listen, how would you feel about just doing this podcast? And he's like, Yeah, sure. Let's do it. So we'd already like had like, 10 plus episodes planned out. We just had never, we never, you know, decided to go for it. So we started the syntax podcast, basically in that day, record. A couple episodes, I think the first one was probably released in like July. So it was like between the birth of my son and the release of syntax, it was just nothing but positive energy put into my business, my code, my my work, I built an entire e commerce platform and I built an entire video streaming platform. And I coded it all myself grinded it, like 12 hour days, non stop coding, coding, coding, helping where I could on zero sleep with the baby, and just like made it happen. And next thing I know, I'm selling tutorials, and I've got a business and a podcast and the podcast was like a hit right away. We released three episodes at once, and we ended up on trending right away. The cool thing is, is that like I built up at that point, like 250,000 subscribers on YouTube, Wes had like a huge audience on Twitter, and a huge audience in his mailing lists and through his courses and in YouTube. But we didn't have a ton of overlap in our audience, which is really kind of crazy. We did some search Like audience analyzer thing, and it showed that we only had like 25 or 15% overlap or something. So we were like, why don't we just combine our two audiences like that would be really cool, we would have a huge reach. So when we, when we launched the podcast, it instantly got a big push. And a lot of people liked it. And I don't know really how it happened. But like Wes, and I had never produced any content together ever since before that very first episode of syntax and it just really worked. There's something about both of our personalities and the fact that we both spent so much time teaching over microphones on YouTube. We it you know, it's maybe not like I should go back and listen to those first couple episodes to see exactly how smooth they they ended up actually being but like, for the most part, like I knew when to stop talking, and he knew when to talk and I knew when to talk and he knew when to stop talking and it just like, it was like effortless. They just really did just really worked. And it was sort of like from the birth of my son onward that I really like figured things out in a bit of a way. Because, you know, I mean, one thing I guess I left out is back when before I took that job at the startup, I had tried like eight different ways to make levelup tutorials a viable business to support our family. And like one of them was the West boss model, like release this really big series on a big topic and you know, do a big push and whatever. And I said, no sales for like, two weeks, I didn't see a single sale. And I just thought was breaking down. I was just so upset because I put so much time into it. And I was getting like, no love for the work. And then on top of that, it was the topic it was on react. It was unreacted native, and React Native at the time was undergoing a ton of changes to the code is breaking as having to re record videos. And that's when I like threw my hands up and took that job at a startup but like, it was such a stark difference in the positive energy I had. After my son Landon was born, it was like such a positive difference in that energy and syntax working and then I figured out a bunch of stuff from level of tutorials and then like, then onward, it's just been like create, create, create, all from like that initial burst of energy. And that's like really where I'm at today, it's I'm creating a 25 video tutorial series every single month on level up tutorials for subscribers. I'm creating free content on YouTube still, I'm recording two podcasts a week. And it's like, that's become really my thing. And I had no idea you know, I was just always just trying to work as a developer or whatever. But now I get to use all of my skills, the video production, the audio production, I get to do a little bit of motion graphics. Like it's like, I went from this like super wide view of everything, like I want to do too many things. And then I narrowed it and like narrowing it has somehow allowed me to do all of that stuff I initially wanted to do in the first place, without even like planning or trying on it. It was like, I don't know, it's very kind of poetic in a way that it did that but I, you know, it could never find that in a million years that it would happen this way. And here I am. creating these tutorials and I own a business and I have contractors and developers working on the site with me now and it's just fantastic. I love it.

Tim Bourguignon 43:07
It just sounds like it. The the the fun and the joy is is hirable when you when you speak?

Scott Tolinski 43:13
Yeah, well I hope so you know, I think that's like what I bring to the podcast too sometimes like, I remember very specifically in the early days, I was talking about netlify. And I was like, Man, this thing is so cool. I'm so excited about it. And people thought I was like getting paid to say that or that advertisement. And if I did end up sponsoring us later on, but it was like, at the time, people thought it was like almost an act. And then when they tried it, like holy cow, I thought Scott was just joking, but like, holy cow, this is really great. Like, this thing is really awesome. Like I'm telling you.

Tim Bourguignon 43:44
I have so many questions, but we won't be able to cover them. I would I would like to to steer in a different direction that you mentioned. You were in a mastermind group with Wes. Yeah. Explain to us what what you mean by that?

Scott Tolinski 43:57
So mastermind group is that concept that I think Heard of like, from people like Tim Ferriss are those kind of, you know, I've always been into podcasts like that self help kind of stuff. And it's just like a group where like minded people could get together and like talk through their ideas or projects or whatever. And so that came about because I was working a lot in the meteor community along with this guy, Jeff Owens, who's really a great developer as well. And it was so funny, I think, like, I did not know Wes. Wes was aware of my content because of YouTube. And he was trying to get a bigger audience on YouTube. He had this big audience on Twitter and his mailing list, but it didn't he didn't have a big audience on YouTube. So he was trying to grow that. Meanwhile, I had the big audience on YouTube, and I was trying to grow everything else. And Josh was trying to break into podcasts and different stuff. And so I think so I don't remember who contacted who but Jeff contacted me asking if I wanted to join his mastermind group that he was putting together. And I think Wes was on his list. And meanwhile, Wes was putting together mastermind I think I'm pretty sure this and asked me if I wanted to be in it. And then I think we all just collaborated together and for we had a bunch of people initially going to be in this group, we would meet once a week and have a single topic. Like, I'll never forget one of the topics was like, like tear apart Scott's product page, let and so like, I remember like thinking and going into it being like, they're not gonna have anything, my product page is rock solid. And like, I left with like eight pages of notes, they were just like, this is garbage, lose this, whatever, like it. And so that's like what we would do for like, it would be an hour like every week, one person would be the focus of it. Like it would be Scott Scott teaches how he edits videos really fast. Okay, so I'll teach everybody my my tips and tricks for editing videos, and we would just go around the circle and everybody would have their their day or their time or whatever. And we'd have like, definitive like, this is what I'm working on. This is what I you know, everybody's helping And it was just like sort of a tight knit group of people helping each other, you know, reach their goals and do better work and whatever. And I think out of that, it's like where Wes and I learned that we had a really nice rapport together. But it's not like we were creating anything. It was just like getting to know each other. And I think we did that for about a year before we retired. It was it was like, we did it for a decent amount of time. I should go back and see exactly what we did for that. But it was it was immensely helpful to me to get into that. And I'll never forget when I got the email from Josh asking me to be in it, because at that time, Josh was pretty big deal in the meteor community. And I saw myself as a really small deal. And so, um, he emailed me asking if I'd be into this, and I remember, I was in New Orleans, and I was just like, with my wife, and I was like, Oh my gosh, I just got this email. I can't believe it. Like Yeah, you know, gotta contain my excitement while I say yes, in this in this response. So it was I always just feeling very lucky to be a part of any of those groups. So That that was the the premise there and I highly recommend anybody who's trying to get into any of this stuff find some like people who are, you need everybody who's in about the same stage as you and the bit to collaborate because if you're one person who is like, you know, making a few million dollars and another person who's making you know, $5,000 or whatever, that's not going to be necessarily a great group. You need everybody who's close, but can offer something different. And I and actually forgot about this too. I was trying to I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder because I was trying to find a mastermind group, I knew that they existed and I knew that like really smart people hung out and talked about things in them. And there was a YouTube creators one, and they had they had already been operating for like a year but one of their people had dropped out and they were looking for somebody new to fill in the spot. And they were holding auditions essentially to see if you were valuable, and I had an audition to be in this youtubers group with some really big YouTubers and I crushed it I debugged this guy's WordPress site like this guy's WordPress site was loading a couple versions of jQuery and all this stuff I was like alright, well you got to do is click this blah blah blah and your site's gonna load like eight times faster like I did so much good work in that interview. And then they didn't pick me and I was so angry. so angry about it though. When I got to be in this one with Jeff and Joshua or at Western Josh I was just so like so excited about it.

Tim Bourguignon 48:24
But it turned out okay, I guess

Scott Tolinski 48:25
yeah, right. Everything Everything just worked out. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 48:29
And I find love is very funny when when you look back on your life and and realize where's the dominoes fell so soon? Oh, yeah, I got this skill here. And this Domino failed. And I met this person the year and you get the whole story and see how I've ever seen came to be this is so fantastic. So so so early. Interesting.

Scott Tolinski 48:46
Yeah. I mean, it's like it's like luck, right? I mean, you attribute it to luck, but luck doesn't happen out of nowhere. And luck happens when you you do the work. And then you get lucky because you did the work. It's not like it just happens because it just happened but like if you set your up for those lucky opportunities, they're much more likely to happen. I, I, one of the things is that I think Wes and I both got deferred from Google. I had this big like, big, you know, my wife had graduated from her doctorate degree. And she was sort of like, well, since you decided not to go to New York to take your editing job. You can move, like, you can just choose where we move after I graduate. And I was like, Okay, cool. So at that same time, I was interviewing at Google. I had gotten flown out I did like an 818 hour long interview, I'd get to give a like a presentation to a roomful of people and a whole bunch of stuff. And at the end of it, I got this email saying, like, we didn't choose you and like, that's it. But like, I was so prepared to move to San Francisco. And then I got that email. And it was like that week, we're just like, script. Let's move to Denver. We just picked Denver because it's, you know, neat and a nice city and we had never really we'd been here like once to check it out. And we really liked it. So I picked Denver and we moved here and I love it and been very happy here. So it is it's just so funny how, you know, little little things that at the time can seem like devastating like not getting a job at Google and whatever can really just work out for the best in the long run.

Tim Bourguignon 50:12
It's kind of this mystery of life right? Um, what would be the one advice that you would give to to newcomers in our industry to maybe follow your footsteps and become a YouTuber or create their own business or get going with a life and a mastermind? What would what would be the one advice you would like to to to give out?

Scott Tolinski 50:32
Yeah, I think the one thing that I've always stuck by is to put it put in put in the work put in the reps and you know things will happen you know, if you're if you're talented enough in your you're you're good at like talent just doesn't come natural to everybody you got to like really work for right like I didn't become a good tutorial maker because I wanted to just become a good tutorial maker. I became one because I recorded 2000 tutorials. videos, you know, and it's like, I put in the reps I put in the time I put in the work and and like it may not happen right away. But if you continually do it and you keep working at it, you know, you can get all that stuff that you want to get in terms of like, where you want to work in your career or whatever. And then even if you don't, even if you don't get this job at Google or whatever, you know, things will work out and in the way that's best for you. So I my I guess my my main picture is to just put the work in and work on your skills first and foremost, as much as you possibly can. Awesome. Putting the work.

Tim Bourguignon 51:35
Do the reps do the red. You bet. Cool. Thank you, Scott will be the best place to continue the discussion with you. Oh, we have

Scott Tolinski 51:43
a level of tutorials discord that you can find at the footer of level up tutorials.com. Or if you sign up for an account that's in your little dashboard, I'll say just hop on on. I'm on there. 24 seven, along with like thousands of other really great developers. Hit me up on Twitter. At SLINSKI that's esta linsky. I'm on Twitter all the time as well. bestplaces

Tim Bourguignon 52:08
awesome. Anything you want to plug in your channel is where again?

Scott Tolinski 52:12
My channel is "level up tuts" on YouTube. Although for legal reasons we we are no longer "level up tuts", we are "level up tutorials". So all of our stuff is that leveluptutorials.com I have a new series out every single month and you can subscribe it sort of works like a magazine where a new 24-25 video tutorial series comes out every single month. The one that came out this previous month was react 3d where we build real interactive 3d stuff using react js. Next month is going to be animating, animating react with framer motion, but this is the advanced version of this course we also have an easier one that's already out and a new new course every single month. Modern CSS design system sapper design systems in figma. react hooks all sorts of stuff. Like I said, he went every single month and it's largely me doing all the content, but I have had a few guest craters on over the course, people who I really respect as content creators,

Tim Bourguignon 53:11
Fantastic. Scott, thank you very much. And this has been another episode of developer's journey. I will see each other next week. Bye bye. Even though we developers learn all year long, I still think about September as the back to school time. This time, I am focusing on my Python skills dev journey guest number 94 Michael Kennedy is gifting five of you, dear listeners, his Python for absolute beginners course. To enter the raffle and maybe win one of the five keys, subscribe to the devjourney newsletter at devjourney.info/news during September 2020. And we will pick a winner each week. Good luck. This is Tim from a different time and space with a few comments to make. First, get the most of those developer's journeys by subscribing to the podcast with the app of your choice, and get the new episodes automagically right when they air. 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. he advises to give 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. Then, a big big thanks to 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 on their devjourney.


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