#139 Mark Rendle is a programmer turned comedian turned programmer
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Mark Rendle 0:00 We need computer scientists, I absolutely believe that we need computer scientists, we need people who go to university and learn algorithms and how computers actually work and so forth, people who can push the whole world forwards. But for the vast majority of the millions and millions of programmers in the world who were building application software, line of business software, working on in-house development teams, or building websites, or that sort of thing ; what I did was basically an apprenticeship, and I think that that is probably the best, the better model for learning to be a person who makes software for a living.
Tim Bourguignon 0:58 Hello, and welcome to developer's journey 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 of 139, I received Mark Rendle. Mark has been building software professionally for ever and has worked with dotnet since the first 1.0 beta release, so ages ago. He has created solutions using almost anything and everything Microsoft, and he's now working with companies adopting dotnet core. Mark is a frequent speaker, and an open source software enthusiast. I first came in contact with his work in 2012, via the Simple.Data dynamic data access component project he created, and later with his fantastic yet completely silly, "the worst programming language ever" talk. I hope, we'll talk about that today. Mark is a pleasure to have you on.
Mark Rendle 1:58 Thank you for having me.
Tim Bourguignon 1:59 So my show exists to help the listeners understand what your story look like, and maybe imagine how to shape their own future. So let's go back to your beginnings, shall we? Okay, where would you place the start of your developer's journey,
Mark Rendle 2:14 I think I would place it when I was eight years old. So back in 1981, my mother went to visit a friend from church and I got dragged along and told this is a boy who was about three years older than you, I think, go and play. And I was like, either, so we go up to this kid's room. And he had sprinklers at x 81. And he had a cowboy game on it, where you could move your cowboy up and down your side of the screen and shoot at the other side. And it was a two player game. And we were still playing it however long later when others stopped talking. Before that moment, I was vaguely aware that there were arcade machines and, and the Atari console and everything. But I never seen a home computer, I wasn't aware that there was a computer that you could get like that. And in the car on the way back I was I know what I want for my birthday. And so for my ninth birthday, I got my own xetex ac one with the whole one K of memory. And, and, and a black and white TV to plug it into. And the xetex ac one came with a manual that included how to program in basic. And it just took you through a series of exercises. And the first thing, the second exercise, you got it to print What is your name, and then you typed in your name. And then it said hello, your name. And I just thought that's brilliant. And I was controlling what was on the television. And I think that was the thing is television was something you watched and other people made stuff appear on the television. And now I had this this little black box and I could make what I wanted to appear on the television appear on there. And then one of the later projects was like an Etch A Sketch where you could use the cursor keys and just drew a line on the screen. And it was very, very simple, but it could only do white angles. And so I figured out how you could use sort of a square root of keys. And I think it was QE Zed Ws x EDC so that I could draw diagonally as well, which was the first time I modified that was the first bit of creative coding that I did. And at that point, I decided that this was the best thing that anyone could ever do. And I was vaguely aware, because you could buy games on audio cassette, in wh Smiths that there were people who were getting paid to do this and so Sometimes when I'm having a bad day these days, and I think programming is stupid, and I wish I was a cattle farmer in Montana...
Tim Bourguignon 5:11 So three times a day...
Mark Rendle 5:12 Yeah, I like to remind myself that I decided at nine years old that what I wanted to be was a computer programmer. And today, I am a computer programmer. And I don't think there are a lot of people who are what they wanted to be when they were nine, because the astronauts and the train drivers and the soldiers and you know, there's, there's a lot of disappointment in life. Whereas I'm doing what I've always wanted to do, and I've never really stopped wanting to do it. And actually, I, a couple of times, I have stopped doing it. And then I missed it. And I came back to it, and then kind of working my way through. So I had that x 81. And then I got a spectrum, which had color, and I learned Zed at assembly language, so I could make that do more interesting things. And then at one point, I had a Commodore 64. And I learned 6502 assembler, then eventually, I bought myself an Amiga and learned C on the Amiga. Yeah, and
Tim Bourguignon 6:17 You must have a whole museum now.
Mark Rendle 6:19 If I, if I kept them all, then I would have a pretty impressive collection. Actually, my wife, my father in law in his attic still has a BBC Model B, which I really want to get down at some point and see if it'll still turn on and, and work just to show my kids.
Tim Bourguignon 6:38 But yeah, obviously, you became a game programmer, because game programmers were the one to become to get some money for the width of it, right?
Mark Rendle 6:47 No. Actually, I look at sort of game programming jobs now. And yeah, they don't, it doesn't really pay that well. Yeah. And it's very, very difficult to break into it. And by the time I got to the point where I was kind of looking at getting work, it was just at the point where games have become more complicated. And the idea that you could just be a bedroom coder, and and create a game to sell was just fallen out of reach. You know, in the days of FedEx 80 are the days of the spectrum, you could do that you could make a game and stick it on tape and send it off and sell it through magazines and so forth. But by the time we got to the Amiga RAMs, you know, the snares and the Megadrive. It was teams were building these things, and I had no idea how to how to get into that. So I went a different way.
Tim Bourguignon 7:43 Tell us about that. Were there many ways back then?
Mark Rendle 7:46 Not for me, my teenage years were seriously messed up. The social workers said that I had issues. But the issue basically was that all my parents were assholes. And I went through various so I lived with my mother and stepfather. And then I lived with my father and a stepmother and with an aunt and an uncle, and then I lived with a foster family. And, you know, it didn't go well. And so when I got to 16, I chopped and changed around all these different schools and missed whole chunks of school for various reasons. And so I ended up at 16, with five average GCSE, and no real options for doing a levels and no path to go into university out of it. And I wasn't really sure what I was going to do at that point. And I worked in a computer shop for a while. And eventually they let me go because I spent too much time writing scripts and batch files for customers on floppy disks. Because customers were coming there bought this PC and I can't get it to load Wolfenstein. Make it so I can play Wolfenstein or whatever it was and I would create them sort of custom floppy disk that sort of turned on extended memory and and didn't load a bunch of unnecessary drivers and then they could go away and play Wolfenstein. What I was basically doing was providing unpaid technical support when I should have been vacuuming so so that didn't last and then just because at this point, I was living in a bedsit and supporting myself and you couldn't there was no sort of government support for 16 year olds in the UK in 1989. So then I worked in a hotel kitchen for a while, which was interesting. You got fed twice a day so so couldn't really complain about that. And then I saw an advert in the local paper that said come and work for a software house. We provide training. So I applied for that it was company called Brownfield software and I went in there, and I had an interview with the owner of the company. And he asked me sort of various fairly simple questions like, what's the difference between a four loop and a while loop and what's the variable and you know, nothing, particularly taxing. And I talked to him for about half an hour. And then at the end, he said, To be completely honest with you, you're too young. And we don't hire people, you know, we hire graduates out of university, because our model is we train you for six months, and then we send you out on contract. And we can't send you out on contract, because you're a child. And I was kind of like, just inside, just slowly, trying not to fall apart and burst into tears. And then he said, but you're so enthusiastic, and you obviously love computers, and you love programming. And so what I'm going to offer you is a job, and we will pay you, I think it was 80 pounds a week. And your job will be to make sure the printers are topped up with paper and toner, and make rs 232 cables with a soldering iron, and just general sysadmin kind of things. But when you're not doing any of those things, you can use one of the terminals, and you can learn to code. And so I was like, Yes, yes, I will do that. And so I think I started there, the following Monday, and showing around and how to do things. And then they sat me down at a terminal. And I'd never used, you know, at home, I had my Amiga, which I bought at a discount while I was working in the computer shop. And I sat down at a wise 50 terminal at columns, 24 rows, just characters. And they said, start going through these exercises. And I was like, what, what do I use to edit files. And they said, VI. And so I and you know, it's a rite of passage, or that it was a fairly obvious rite of passage in those days. This is just VI and the file name that you want to edit. And so I did that. And then I started trying to type and I'm like, nothing's happening. And then suddenly letters started appearing, but I couldn't figure out why. And then how do I exit and so on. But yeah, you know, once I learned, vi, and then I worked my way through the Knr. C programming language book. And I did my sort of making rs 232 cables and melting holes through my fingernails with blobs of solder, and stuff.
Tim Bourguignon 12:40 The good old days.
Mark Rendle 12:41 The good old days, yes. And then there was a bit of a slowdown, I think it was probably a stock market crash somewhere around there. And business slowed down. And basically, they couldn't afford to pay me anymore. And I think when I was 17, but they said you can continue to come in to the office and do the learning and things. But we can't pay you. And so I went down the road because I'd seen in the fish and chip shop that they needed somebody to peel potatoes as a part time person. And so I went to the fish and chip shop and said, can I build potatoes? And they said Yes, thank you. And so then my day was basically turn up to the fish and chip shop at eight o'clock in the morning, peel potatoes for four hours, and put them in these massive like barrels with this stuff called dry white, that keeps the source of the potato from turning brown an entire day's worth of chips and then I would get a free bag of chips. And then I would go to the office and sit and eat my chips and work through and and build stuff. And then you know, picked up some some extra work working in the chip shop in the evenings actually serving and all that sort of thing. And that lasted for about three months. And I think by this point I was coming up on my 18th birthday. And my boss at the computer place just went you have to stop bringing chips into the office. It's right The smell is driving everybody crazy. And and oh my god, you can't live on chips. Because I pretty much was living on chips and muesli I think that I had muesli for breakfast and then chips and then chips. And he said we're just we're just going to lie about your age and we're going to put you out on contract. And so my CV said that I was 21 years old, and they sent me out. And I went contracting at various places around the UK, mostly in a language called Informix for GL cuz started out with C and then there was C with SQL statements in it which worked against Informix database. And then if MCs released their own programming language called Informix for jail which just made life a lot easier. And so I I bounced around the UK for two or two or three years. I had my 22nd birthday, three times. And so my 18th birthday was my 22nd birthday. And my 19th birthday was my 22nd birthday. And my 20th birthday was my 22nd birthday. And then by the time my 21st birthday actually came around, they had offered me a job back in Hastings back in the office training, they'd sort of ramped up the the number of trainees they were taking on, because business was very good. And they needed somebody to be the trainer, and to sort of run around helping people in there. And also, Microsoft Windows was becoming a bit of a thing. And they wanted somebody to do sort of research and development and and figure out which technologies they should be looking at. And should it be Visual Basic, or Informix, new era, or PowerBuilder. And so back then to Hastings, and it was really, really bizarre, because I've been bouncing around the country and making I think 30,000 pounds a year, which is a lot, or it was a loss in in the early 90s for an 1819 year old with no dependence and nothing really to spend it on and whose accommodation is paid for out of expenses. And they carried on paying me that sort of money. And I went back in. And in the summer of that year, a lot of my friends from school who'd gone off and done computer science a level and then gone to university and done a computer science degree, got back from university and found that the only job in town was this place where I was working. And that what they learned at university wasn't really that useful commercially. And that that slacker dropout problem child Mark who'd failed most of his GCSE or dropped off of his GCSEs and flunked the other half was essentially their boss, and was was teaching them the useful things that they needed to know, which was kind of fun. And ever since then, I've, I've been of the opinion that we need computer scientists, I absolutely believe that we need computer scientists, we need people who go to university and learn algorithms and how computers actually work and so forth, people who can push the whole world forwards. But for the vast majority of the millions and millions of programmers in the world who were building application software line of business software, working on in house development teams, or building websites, or that sort of thing. What I did was basically an apprenticeship. And I think that that is the probably the best the better model for learning to be a person who makes software for a living. And, and my dream these days is if something I'm working on becomes sort of a business and I need to hire developers, I would love to sort of have an office and for every sort of professional full time developer that I've got that I'm paying decent money, basically have an apprentice and say, sort of starting at 18, which is when you can leave school in the UK now and basically say, you could go to university for three years and spend 27,000 pounds, or you can come and work here for a year, and we'll pay you something. And you know, the government will help out with that. But yeah, just just get people in and say, just just pair with our full time guys as senior guys for a bit. And then we'll give you features to work on and so forth. And, and I think that'd be great. I think it'd be a lot more appropriate. But also, there are still kids today who have similar experiences with their childhoods that I did. And I think it'd be really nice to be able to say to people for whom going to university isn't necessarily an option, because of their financial situation or their their personal situation, to be able to give them a route in in the same way as that company Hastings did for me all those years ago, 3031 32 years ago now. Yeah, because it's worked out really, really well for me. And nobody has ever said that I couldn't have a job because I don't have a degree. And I have, you know, I've interviewed and works at places where the graduate requirement is you definitely have to have a degree. But once you've got 10 years of experience under your belt, and you can demonstrate, you know what you're talking about? Nobody's going to say what you mean, you didn't go and get drunk for three years. 1015 years ago, there's no way you can come and work here. I've yet to come across a situation in any of my working life where I've had to implement a sorting algorithm. from scratch, someone has very nicely come along and solve that problem for me. So, you know,
Tim Bourguignon 20:09 There was a former guest who put it this way, I can't remember who
that was: basically having a CS degree or a college degree, where you're saying, you showing you're able to just shut up and learn stuff and do whatever somebody else is telling you to.
Mark Rendle 20:24 Yeah
Tim Bourguignon 20:25 That's what the paper is for. What is an interesting way to put it and having been exactly the opposite of what you described, so I have some kind of Computer Engineering Degree, and having my ass served off by apprentices in my first job, who had learned programming for six months or so and was just way better than me in everything they were doing. That was just an humbling experience. So yeah...
Mark Rendle 20:56 I will say I was very, very lucky. So while I was working at this place in Hastings, I worked with, still to this day, two of the best programmers I've ever met, two guys, both called Andy, Andy Wilson. And, and the Harmon. And Andy Wilson had previously worked in the game industry, and wrote the Commodore 64 port of Dan there, which I had played, as I was a little bit kind of starstruck by Andy. But yeah, and I learned a huge amount from them. And then going off contracting, and doing sort of two, three years of contracting, you work on so many different kinds of systems, I worked on a system for dentists managing appointments. And I worked on our system for compulsory competitive tendering for local councils. But you work, contracting, you work with so many different people on so many different projects in so many different environments. And you just you learn an enormous amount from all these people, that that kind of goes in and sits in there. Whereas I think, a computer science course, you learn pretty much from the same few people for for three years, and you're writing kind of very academic bits of software, and not necessarily using current tools or current languages, and so on. And so yeah, if I had the choice between someone who's been working on actual software projects, since they were 18, and somebody fresh off a computer science degree, and I needed to get the thing done, I would probably take the person with the experience. So
Tim Bourguignon 22:36 Yes, but there are still some some interesting sides of CS Degrees. When I jumped from one field to the next, I had the feeling that what I learned at university was helping me gets very fast on to the domain side and understand what's happening and get a system overview. Yeah, but it definitely took, I would say, five or six years to get up to speed on the programming side,
Mark Rendle 23:05 Yes, yeah. To be absolutely clear in I want my kids to go to university. And I think if you have the opportunity to go to university, you absolutely should. But if for some reason, someone can't go to university, they absolutely shouldn't feel like that's going to hold them back. There are there are other ways into this industry that are just as valid. And five years down the line, the people who went to university and the people who didn't, practically indistinguishable Anyway, I've met some brilliant programmers who taught themselves I've met some terrible programmers who taught themselves. I've met some brilliant programmers with computer science degrees. And I've met some terrible programmers with computer science degrees. You know, once you're 510 years down the line, you can't really predict a lot of what's what's going to happen from from that. So, yes,
Tim Bourguignon 24:03 I remember something like five years after, after starting my career. My future boss at the company I applied to, I asked me why I didn't put my grades in the PDFs I sent them, my A-Level-Grades. And I looked at him and though "whaaat?" After five years, what difference does it make? Talking about the apprenticeship. That's one of my favorite topics. Ever since I've read the book "Remote" from from David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried, maybe 10 years ago. I've been wondering about this future, which is now where we are all remote. Where we are all in our basements. How's apprenticeship going to work. We don't have offices anymore where are we can have, like you said, for every people paid and apprentice sitting next to them. So that would mean, each and every one of need to get an apprentice and work with us in our basements. How to how does this work?
Mark Rendle 25:19 Um, I think I think we're nearly at the point where, where people have invented tools for this. So there's like, Visual Studio live share and JetBrains code with me, where you can have an cloud development environments like cloud nine, and so on, where you can have two people sharing a development session, and then, you know, just got zoom or teams or whatever, and you can just be chatting away and, and working together, even though you're not in the same place. And I think it feels weird, right now, because we're not used to doing it. And we're used to in person interactions. But I think, given this sudden forced inflection that we've had in the way that we work, I can see this becoming an area where people kind of go, Oh, actually, we need to work a bit more on this, this is this is becoming more important. And so yeah, you could have a situation where an apprentice is sort of like a disembodied voice in your head who's watching you while you code. Or you're watching them while while they code. And, you know, in some ways that would, that would make life much easier. It would mean you could have an apprentice from anywhere in the world. And and they wouldn't need to be in Guilford. And in my case. So
Tim Bourguignon 26:39 Yeah, but if I can throw a curveball what's preventing you from doing that right now?
Mark Rendle 26:48 The fact that I hadn't thought of it until you said it just now.
Tim Bourguignon 26:54 Yeah, I'm personally wondering if this, this being remote is not enough of a hurdle, that we don't tend to do it anymore. Maybe I'm trying to find any excuse for not doing it. Or likely, but I'm wondering about then.
Mark Rendle 27:13 It's very interesting. I mean, I've just started twitch streaming, because I had a sort of a thing that I wanted to work on an idea that I'd had. And I'd also been thinking I should do streaming, I'd be good at that. I'd be brilliant at streaming, I should definitely be streaming, just 24 hours a day, letting every single one of my brilliant thoughts out into the world. But I put the two things, I was gonna like, I want to have a hack at this, I don't know if it's going to work. And I think it would be fun to find out with people watching. And so two evenings a week, I just stick the webcam on and start twitch streaming and then work through this, this new sort of open source thing that I'm building, it's not a huge jump from there to apprenticeship. And, you know, people are getting to watch me work and, and not know how to do things and Google things and copy and paste code from GitHub and Stack Overflow. And and completely remove the the mystery of how Mark writes these things. And, yeah, it really wouldn't be that big a jump from there to sort of saying to somebody, you want to kind of mentoring apprenticeship type situation, then these are my hours that I'm working, if you want to jump on and watch and ask questions, and then maybe start helping out. Yeah, that's a very interesting idea, which I will think more about. Thank you.
Tim Bourguignon 28:44 You're very welcome. If you ever come somewhere with your thoughts, I'd love to hear them. Just looking at the clock. Oh, God. Time Is Flying. Where should Where should we go next? So you were you were contracting with what's the next interesting steps, you want to tell us?
Mark Rendle 29:08 There's a weird blip from 1994 to 2000, where I'd been doing the research and development for this company down in in Hastings. And then once I've actually developed something, the company made a tool that generated Informix for GL code. You gave it a database, and it basically generated the application for you. And they wanted the same sort of thing for Windows, which was obviously much more complicated, but I came up with something that that vaguely worked. And so then I had to go out, they'd go and sell it to companies and then I'd have to go and show them how to use it. And so I was sort of back on the road some of the time but for quite a lot more money. I spent a week in London with a company can't remember the name of the company can't remember what they did. Or remember is that on the first day, they said we're all going to the Comedy Store. You should come. You're funny, you'd like it. And I've never been to a comedy club before. And on Thursday nights at the Comedy Store in London, certainly in 1994. Yeah, we went to the competition, and they have open spots on Thursdays. And so these two new comics come on and do five minutes each. And one of them was quite good. And the other one was terrible. And these people who I've been choking and lot making laugh all week said, you'd be better than him, you should do an open spot. And I was quite drunk. And so I went, yeah, okay. And so I went off, and I found the guy who ran the place who was sitting near the bar with a note with a sort of book, notebook thing. And I said, Hello, can I have an open spot? And he flicked through the book and said, first one, I've got 14th of July, can you do that? And I said, Yes, I can. And so I had about five months, six months, from that point. And I told everybody, that I knew that I was doing an open spot at the Comedy Store to stop myself from bottling out of it. And then I went and did it. I was better than the guy who'd been really bad. But I was backstage with sort of comedians that I'd heard of, and had seen on the television. And they said, So how long have you been going and I was like, This is my first one. And they went, Oh, that's quite brave. Most people sort of work their way up to the Comedy Store. And I was just like, what there are other comedy clubs. And they said, on your way home, get a copy of timeout. And you'll find a list of all the comedy clubs and phone numbers from the ones that have coupon spots, and you just found them and you put yourself in. And so I started doing that. And then five years later, I won a competition, best new Act of the year, just love the trophy around for somewhere. And got offered representation management, which was brilliant. It was what I've been working towards all that time, whilst programming during the day and, and doing open spots at night. And so I went off and I had a manager, eventually, I got to the point where I didn't have to write code anymore. Because I could make the same amount of money in a couple of evenings playing big comedy clubs. And so I did that for 18 months, I think, until I realized that I hated it. And it was, it was awful. And my social life went to hell. And I never saw anybody. And yeah, it was just not what I wanted to do. But at some point, I'd started writing my own version of the onion, a sort of a satirical website called untitled document, which varied wildly in quality. And then I realized that I was spending more time working on the HTML side of it and learning sort of dhtml and then started building a content management system. In in PHP, and that I really wasn't enjoying the the being funny side of things. Or I liked being funny, but I didn't like sort of corporate gigs and hen nights and stag nights and all that sort of thing. As I quit, and went back, phoned up a company that I'd worked for a few years earlier, and said, Hey, fed up with this, can I come and work for you again. And they said, Yes. And so I found myself back programming again. And then I worked there for eight years, and during which time they got acquired twice. So when they got acquired by a company, which then got merged with another company of the same size, but somehow ended up with the other company's name. And all this time, they've been building their application on this thing that I'd invented in 1994, or 95, whatever it was, and they wanted to update it to a new thing. And I went, well, C sharp, and WP F is definitely the way to go with C sharp and Windows Forms. And then at some point, the Microsoft released WP F and I went, Oh, no, this is better. So throw all the Windows Forms things away and go to WP f because the data bindings better. But all the time, I'm working on this with a junior developer who's been assigned to me to sort of do stuff as well. They had four developers working on the the old product, adding features to it. And so and then they kept saying, when's yours gonna be ready? And I'm kind of like, so I've got to convert everything that already exists, and somehow catch up to these guys who are adding all these new features to the old product with basically me and this this junior developer who was a very good developer, and absolutely no, no criticism of her, but it was it was impossible. And every time I pointed out that it was impossible, and I needed more resource, my little manager would say I thought you were supposed to be some kind of wunderkind wunderkind. And I was like, Yeah, but you know. But eventually it got to a point where I was working 100 hours a week, I'd moved down to to Hampshire, and I got them to give me a laptop, so that I could get on the train, work on the train, get into the office, work in the office until about six o'clock in the evening, go home, on the train, working all the way spend a bit of time with my new daughter, and, and wife. And then after my daughter had gone to bed, I would carry on working some more, and then I would work over the weekend. And I can't remember how long this went on for. But it ended in what is, in retrospect, the only way it could ever have ended, where I had a complete and total meltdown, burned out incredibly hard to the point where I was told to go and spend six weeks in a hospital, very nice hospital, it was it was like a hotel, with with group therapy. So I went there. And then I had to have another six weeks of just kicking around at home and and not doing anything very specifically not doing anything. And going back into this place for for group sessions, and so forth, and then gradual return to work. So starting off with just going in for Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and gradually building back up to full time. And then once I built back up to full time, I found myself sat in a room with my line manager and the HR person being told that they'd done the sort of annual performance reviews. And I had got to the worst box mark, because of all the time I taken off. And that because I taken this time off my project had been scrapped. And instead they were going to be adopting a different project that the acquired the merger people had been working on, which was in VB dotnet, and not C sharp, and that I wouldn't be transferred on to that. And I said, You know what? stick it! And I quit. And, and quitting that job was the single best move of my entire career. Because I walked out of there. And I'd met someone a year earlier from a company in Windsor, at a software developer conference, first conference I'd ever been to. And he'd given me his card, and said, Give us a shout out if you're when you're looking for a job. And I called him up and said that you're looking for anybody. And they went, Oh, funnily enough, yes. And I did a phone interview with a really, really super smart guy who said come in for a proper interview. And I went in for a proper interview, and they said, have a job. It was a fantastic it was just a completely different company. They had a very strict rule that you weren't allowed to keep working past 530. In the afternoon, everything was agile. Everything was whiteboards, and post it notes and pair programming, and realistic deadlines and constant feedback. And 10% times on Friday afternoons you worked on whatever you wanted to work on, which is actually when a lot of simple data got written. Because they were fine with me doing that. And their sort of performance bonus, whatever scheme, they had things you could do to earn credits. So writing blog posts, and you credits and speaking at user groups, and you credits. And so I started doing those things and, and simple data. I came up with that while I was working at and that kicked off. And that's started getting me sort of followers on Twitter and people on GitHub. And then people saying can you come into a user group and speak about symbol data. And then I started speaking at the developer, developer developer conferences in the UK. And I found that all the things that I learned while I was doing stand up for for six, seven years, made it much easier to speak to use groups and and conferences, we'd be sort of sitting around in speakers rooms or just whatever and people would say, Why are you so relaxed? I've got to do my talk, and I'm absolutely terrified. And I would say I've done Leyton live at the gilded balloon in Edinburgh. a roomful of 50 software developers who want to hear what I've got to say is not scary. The only issue I had was if I was talking to a roomful of people, and nobody laughed for a minute, I would think it was going really badly. And so I have to have to throw in jokes. Yeah, this company basically pushed me towards speak at user group speak at conferences. Do these things, they got me my first MVP award as your MVP, because they were right on the cutting edge with a zero and doing things with that. And I loved working there. And I loved working they were they were fantastic people, many of whom I'm still in touch with today, eventually, the The only reason I moved on was because I needed to make a little bit more money, we had our second child, and my wife was not having a nice time at work. And so we decided that she was going to take a break from work and become a full time Mum, which is, in no way taking a break from work. It's kind of trading, sitting in an air conditioned office all day talking to people your own age, and doing sensible things for a very specific period of time to Oh, my God. So you know, but yeah, I needed to make. So I went back freelancing again, at that point. And I continued to freelance To this day, and try various sort of product things every now and then and, and to do that sort of thing. I'm absolutely blessed in terms of the whole public speaking thing. Because, you know, back when I was doing stand up, my dream was that somebody would phone me and say, can you come and do this, rather than me having to sit on the phone and talk to all these club promoters. And these days, I get emails fairly regularly saying, we would love you to come speak at our conference. And we'll fly you out there. And we'll do this and that, and the other, please come speak at that conference. I really am. I am one of the luckiest people, if if anybody who hit who's listening to this ever hears me complaining or sees me complaining on Twitter or anywhere like that, and bemoaning my lot, I would like them to remind me that I do the thing that I wanted to do when I was nine for a living. And the other thing that I did and was good at and that I liked most of it, but didn't like the sort of continual having to take the corporate gigs and everything. Basically, now I get to do that as well, except I just do it in a very specific context at software conferences, as in when I feel like it. Oh, when you mentioned earlier on the worst programming language ever. And that came about because that was a build stuff in Lithuania. Yeah. in Vilnius. Yeah. So Greg young, who started to build stuff, with with neringa weeds met at, I think, aura dev in Malmo, like a couple of years earlier, and then bumped into each other every now and then. And I told him that I used to do stand up, because he went, you're quite funny when you do your talks now. And he I used to be funny for money. And he said, Why don't you come to build stuff, and you can emcee the attendee party, because we've got, we've got some things happening. And then Sam, Aaron's gonna do some live coding and whatever. But you can, you can emcee it. And I went, yeah, okay. And so I turned up to build stuff whenever it was 2012 2013. And I did a talk on something. I don't remember what but I did like emceed the party. And I was telling jokes about software development to software developers. And it was just, it was brilliant. It was so much fun. You know, any Ruby programmers in I'm so sorry. And things like that. And then the closing keynote that year. I won't mention any specifics, but it was incredibly academic and dry, and build stuff is an intense conference. And they have people are talking about complicated advanced things. And by the end of the third day, everyone is absolutely shattered. And so there was no energy in the room at all. And during the this thing, I came out at the end of it, and on Twitter, somebody had sort of tweeted, saying, next year, let Mark Rendell do the closing keynote. And Greg went, alright, you want to do the closing keynote? And I said, What, like a comedy one. And he and yeah, do something funny, which is how the worst programming language happened. I wrote a technical talk almost entirely for the purpose of getting laughs, and it went really well. It was great. And everyone loved it. And you know, people going off and trying to implement bs Lang the worst programming language ever, which was a really bad idea. But then off the back of that I had somebody say, come and do a similar thing to that. But info queue in New York, and now at q con in New York. So I went over and I did q con New York. And now I occasionally get people going, can you do one of your silly talks? Can you do a silly keynote or whatever. And I actually get to go and go to conferences and be a comedian. And at some point, I bumped into Dylan Beatty, who I you've had on the show before. Or leave. And I'd seen him speak a few times. And he is just such a good speaker sounds quite Shakespearean. He sounds like he's been professionally trained, rather or somewhere. And I said, Hey, do you want to do stupid stuff with me. And so we've started doing quizzes, and we've done talks together. And then somebody invented pubcon, to go after the NDC conferences. And so we do those, that's, that's my life. I sit and I write code all day. And sometimes I write code in the evenings. And then every now and then people give me all expenses, paid trips to lovely places all around the world. And I get on stage and I, I make people laugh again, I just I have the best life. And sometimes you have to stop. And remember that I think. And yeah, you know, and it wasn't easy getting here. It's, you know, childhood was was a mess. And working in chip shops and struggling that way and having, but you know, having that nervous breakdown, if I hadn't had that, I'd probably still be working at that place. And no one would ever have heard of me, I'd never go anywhere or do anything. And and instead, I'm here. Yeah.
Tim Bourguignon 46:19 Yeah. Thank you. My jaw is just on the floor right now.
Mark Rendle 46:23 I'm doing my gratitude. Today, I am grateful for my life, basically.
Tim Bourguignon 46:30 Everything makes sense now. I followed you along the years from from far away. But now everything's clicking, I see the whole picture. And it's just really cool. That's usually the time where I asked for an advice.
Mark Rendle 46:51 I have some very, very quick advice. It's not particularly original. But almost everything can potentially be a good idea, depending on the execution, and the enthusiasm, and the timing. And so if you've got a good idea, simple data, for example, just go for it, and just do it. And if all that happens, at the end of it is you go That was a terrible idea. You've probably learned something along the way. Like, don't try and build that. But, you know, every now and then you'll you'll do something and you'll go, Oh, I'm really enjoying doing this. And so yes, try everything. And don't don't sort of back away from anything and say Yes, a lot. That's, that's
Tim Bourguignon 47:40 Nice advice. And thank you for that. Mark, where would be the best place the best place to continue this discussion with you... or tell you that you've had a fantastic life and you should stop whining?
Mark Rendle 47:51 So definitely Twitter. I'm @markrendle on Twitter. I'm also on Twitch these days, currently Tuesdays and Thursdays but there's a schedule up and there you can just watch me mucking about with dotnet and C sharp and trying things and, and generally floundering and and completely missing the point of stuff. But you know, jabbering away and having a good time while I'm doing it. And the link in the show notes and yeah, conferences. I always I tweet when I'm going to be at conferences. And I know, people it's really weird when I'm at conferences and people don't come up and go Can I have a selfie? And they're like shy? Dillon has this great story about he was talking to me at a party where I was really impressed because we just met Mel Conway we just eaten dinner with Mel Conway of Conway's Law. And I was going there was Mel Conway we just had dinner with Mel Conway and I sort of staggered off to get a drink and apparently someone came up to done when we were just talking to mark Rendell that was Bart Rendell so so yes. But anyway, if I'm at a conference and you're at a conference and you see me For God's sake, if you want to come up and say hi come up and say hi and talk because that's that's kind of the point. That's the main thing about going back to in person conferences after all the rubbish that's been going on that I'm looking forward to is just the random meeting strangers and and getting into a conversation and stuff so so if you ever see me out there in the world, please do come and say hi, I love it.
Tim Bourguignon 49:37 Absolutely. Anything else you want to plug-in?
Mark Rendle 49:40 I would say check out visual-recode which is my current thing I thought was a good idea and have been working on for for the last while. So it's a plugin for Visual Studio that helps you migrate code from dotnet four to dotnet five or or dotnet core 3.1 and currently building a To help you migrate web forms applications one page at a time, which is called cocoon, which you can watch me working on on Twitch. And that will be sort of in some sort of release form soon as well. But yes, so visual recode and, and cocoon. Awesome. That's it. That's There you go. That's me and one hour.
Tim Bourguignon 50:23 Fantastic. Mark, it's been fantastic listening to your story in exactly 1 hour.
Mark Rendle 50:31 Thank you very much for having me on.
Tim Bourguignon 50:33 Likewise, and this has been another episode of their journey. And we'll see each other next week. After hearing this story, the specification of BS-Lang, the language Mark created for his talk "The Worst Programming Language Ever" makes so much more sense. The language has significant whitespace and significant formatting, 17 bit integers, all variables must be prefixed by the € symbol, mandatory comments, variable hoisting from all scopes and many more. This is again a great example of how someone combined two different skills into a niche he strives into. If only that was easier to do on purpose. Find what you love and do it often. Do more of it. Combine things whenever you can. Experiment a lot. Don't be afraid to say "YES". That's the best recipe I've found sofar. What did YOU take out of this discussion? Please let me know. You can reach me on twitter, I'm at @ timothep, or use the comments section on our website under the transcript of this episode. And remember what
Mark said: "If anybody sees me complaining on Twitter, I would like them to remind me, that I do the thing that I wanted to do when I was 9 years old, and that other thing that I liked and was good at for a while, as well!"