#157 Shahid Iqbal from drug design to software development
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Shahid Iqbal 0:00
I think the first stumbling block that I think a lot of people early on in their careers, especially those who are looking to move to a job in IT fall foul of, which is you look at a job spec, and you don't meet the requirements of the job spec 100%. So you don't even apply. You say, Well, they're looking for six months experience as a developer. Well, I don't have six months already now, five months in three weeks, so therefore, I obviously can't apply for this job. And I'm not sure what happened that made me eventually just apply. I am prone to sudden moments of madness or just recklessness. And I just decided, What the hell I've got nothing to lose. Let's just, let's just do it.
Tim Bourguignon 0:56
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 Bourguignong. And on this episode 157, I received Shahid Iqbal. Shahiq is a senior platform architects at Auror in New Zealand. He's a Microsoft Azure MVP, and a regular speaker at community events and international conferences. But he also has a passion for cars and seeing beautiful parts of the world. Thus the last year with travel restrictions and lockdown, but have been interesting. That's
what it is:
interesting. Shahid, welcome to devjourney.
Shahid Iqbal 1:33
Thank you, Tim. It's a pleasure to join you on this podcast.
Tim Bourguignon 1:38
It's my pleasure. Interesting is the right word for last year.
Shahid Iqbal 1:42
Definitely, yes, absolutely. Especially when you're making a bit of a career transition like I was doing, which resulted ultimately in me, ending up in New Zealand, in the middle of a pandemic. So
Tim Bourguignon 1:56
I'm looking forward to that part of your story. But first things first, as you know, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story looked like, and imagine how to shape their own future. So as always, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your developer's journey?
Shahid Iqbal 2:18
I think the earliest probably memories around this is going very long time ago, sometime in the 80s. In my primary school, we somehow had a thing was a BBC acorn computer. And we had this little, I think it was just called a turtle, and it had a pen. And you could give it commands to kind of put the pen down and draw, send it forward, X number of units rotate and draw. And we were drawing shapes. And that was probably the first time it was definitely the first time I ever used a computer. And I suppose in a way that was probably a form of programming back then. I think that's given I can hardly remember what I had for lunch yesterday, I can still remember that back in back in the 80s. So it clearly clearly was a, I guess a moment in I guess my career took some different parts along the way. But ultimately, that was probably the start of it.
Tim Bourguignon 3:16
Do you know why you remember this? What was it? It? Wasn't the the creativity? Was it the newness or the technology? Did you have a feeling on that?
Shahid Iqbal 3:27
I think it was the the ability to make something happen by just typing in commands, and then figuring out that if you wanted to draw a triangle that you needed to move it forward and number of units and then rotate it a certain amount, and you could get that triangle to join up. So it was that almost I don't know if you'd call it an algorithm, but just understanding how you could type some commands and have something show up on in this case, a piece of paper, but it could just well be in a screen. But that translation between typing some commands and seeing the result of those commands, I think I guess that translates for what most developers do most of the time it's it's it's typing a bunch of keys on a keyboard and seeing something come up
Tim Bourguignon 4:09
and then realizing it's absolutely not what you wanted. I'm I am and tweaking it.
Shahid Iqbal 4:15
Yeah, I don't remember debugging the turtle to be quite honest. I don't remember pressing f5 very often that was very simple user interface.
Tim Bourguignon 4:25
Debugging the turtle I have Victor
Shahid Iqbal 4:30
yeah, that's, that's going in weird places, isn't it?
Tim Bourguignon 4:35
Okay, so obviously, you were passionate about programming right away and you embrace the current development, right?
Shahid Iqbal 4:41
No, no, no, quite well, certainly not at all. Yeah, that was that was around the time. And again, this was back in the 80s. And I'm still shocked we had access to computers then to be quite honest with you. The rest of my kind of early school career was very unmemorable, to be honest. I I don't really recall a huge amount about it. I was always growing up somebody who was always interested in how things worked. So, you know, given a new toy, it probably wasn't very long before that toy, he was in pieces to try and see how it worked. Generally speaking, it didn't go back together the way. I'd like to think I had Cliff talking about how he put things back together. My story is similar, but he never went back together to be quite honestly. And genuinely, sometimes the it was within an hour of receiving this, this gift so much to the dismay of my parents, I think,
Tim Bourguignon 5:37
well, that's an hour of really intense play.
Shahid Iqbal 5:40
Yeah, it's a learning. I think similarly. We, if we have tradespeople come around to let's say, to fix the boiler, I would be watching what they were doing. It sounds maybe a little bit weird, have this kind of 10 year old boy just watching you doing your job. But I was just always curious to know what they're doing. How are they working? I didn't generally ask them questions, but just watching. So that was always something I think, kind of inherent in me. Curiosity, I think and I suppose that curiosity is been a key feature in my, in my career in my life so far. And I think it generally, I think, if we look at most developers, that's probably a key a key part of the characteristics if you if you like,
Tim Bourguignon 6:25
no, absolutely, absolutely. So now, the image I have in mind is some kind of crazy engineer breaking up everything and trying to understand how old machines work around yourself. So obviously, you became an engineer,
Shahid Iqbal 6:38
not quite. As I was kind of getting towards my secondary education, I was very interested in medicine, I suppose, interested in how the human body worked as well. And I suppose I wanted to be a doctor. And I think there's, there's a bit of a cliche, I'm from a South Asian background. And I think there's always an assumption that you're pushed to that kind of career by your parents. But in this case, no, it was it was genuinely just my own. Just interest. And I felt like it was something quite amazing. I mean, putting together a radio control car was one thing, but putting a human back together would be an amazing thing.
Tim Bourguignon 7:15
And you have to put the human back.
Shahid Iqbal 7:18
Yes, good point. Yeah, you can't you can't have that leftover screw Kenny. And, yeah, so that was that was my I think I was fairly set on that as a career leading up to my, in the UK, what we call GCSE is it's essentially the exams you do when he raged about 16. And I think just probably just before I started those exams, I somehow managed to conflate medicine with basically being a GP. And I felt like that wasn't going to be particularly exciting. I was just going to be seeing people coming in and you know, showing them people showing me bits of the bodies and where it hurts. And I didn't find that particularly exciting GPUs general practitioner. Oh, sorry. Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Usual
Tim Bourguignon 8:00
doctor. You see when when you're sick.
Speaker 1 8:49
Primary care physician in some countries. Absolutely. Yeah. So. And my interests kind of shifted a little bit from that into well, what what can we do to what do we do to fix people while we give them drugs? So I shifted my interest in to more around drug and drug design and how drugs work. And that was then my kind of career path for a while. So I did the fairly standard education in the UK, which is GCSEs and then a levels and then went to university. So I started university course on medicinal chemistry. So this was a four year four year course on essentially drug design. That was my career path. At that point, I was extremely focused on on it, I still have the IT stuff going on. I was I was doing the classic magazines typing up typing things for magazines. CompuServe, we used to have CompuServe, free trials for the Internet CompuServe CDs and came on the front of those. We I don't know if I don't know if I'm gonna get in trouble for this. I think it's long beyond the statute of limitations. But we used to put in fake details to sign up to the trial and because we did do it on a Friday. I don't think anybody valid They did any of those settings. So we had the we had kind of free internet for for a few days, over the weekend. But we were, we were quite late getting a computer in the household we were in, I think a lot of my friends had had spectrums and things like that we, we, I think my first computer was like a Pentium, Pentium four or something in the mid 90s. So, a little bit late on that scene, but I was, I was always interested in computers and, you know, kept up to date with what the latest processes were. And I could bore you to death about the, you know, the difference between AMD processor back then and an Intel, whatever else, but I was, that was that was a hobby. And my career was very focused at the time on wanting to do this drug design, I started investing in the kind of mid 90s by 96. And that's roughly when I started when I got a computer as well. So it was it was an interesting time, because it was probably the time when I then revisited my programming kind of habits, I suppose, probably a couple years before I went to university actually, when I was doing my A levels, which is the the education, the exams you do kind of about age 18, usually, a lot of my friends were doing computer science at college, and I was doing kind of chemistry, biology and Maths. But I was really fascinated by what they were learning in the computer science in particular, they were learning to program and I ended up spending a lot of my spare time just in the computer room, I got hold of one of the books that we're using was a Turbo Pascal programming book. And I kind of was probably the first time I got hooked on programming, to the point where I was all spare hours of the day was just just typing out Turbo Pascal programs and seeing them work and trying to come up with novel. And I think at one point, I tried to invent a version of Windows where I had like dragging windows and minimize buttons and all this other thing. It was drawn with pixels and lines and pixels and stuff. It was it was terrible. But it was it was something it kept me occupied, I think in shooting for the stars already. Yeah, I think my chemistry lectures probably would have preferred me to spend more time studying chemistry to be quite honest. But I really enjoyed it. And I ended up helping a few of my my friends who were doing the actual computer science A levels just started helping them with their A Levels their projects as well. So
Tim Bourguignon 12:18
okay. Did you suspect that at some point you will you would merge these two worlds and then maybe transition to
Shahid Iqbal 12:25
mobile? No, honestly, at the time I didn't, I was so laser focused on on this career that I'd kind of mapped out. What's a map that I had just mapped out as farmers University, I knew that's what I wanted to do. I didn't really know what would happen beyond that. But when I went into university, I was in the same situation really, I was still kind of keeping up to date with the IT staff, I will always remember numerous colleagues of mine saying to me, why are you doing chemistry, you should be doing computer science, why you didn't chemistry, computer science?
Tim Bourguignon 12:52
What was your answer to that?
Shahid Iqbal 12:55
I think to be honest with you, I think at the time, I felt like the computer science program was a hobby, and I was probably becoming aware at the time that I think hobbies are awesome. But when it becomes a job, they become less awesome, they tend to become not as enjoyable. Again, I think I was just so focused on the focused on the education on the on that desire to be going to drug design and you know, in theoretically, help helped millions of people by coming up with drugs to solve common ailments. That was the that was the kind of desire at the time. And so I pursued that you see that through university. So I did my four years, it was a it was integrated Master's. So essentially was a master's degree at that point. And I left I left that and I got an opportunity to continue doing a PhD in in a similar subject. So I've gotten essentially a scholarship opportunity. And again, I was so focused on that I didn't even think twice about it, I went straight for it and ended up working in I was in a chemistry laboratory. You can imagine the white coat, the safety glasses, the long hours, the horrible smells, the very toxic chemicals all around you. I think health and safety wasn't quite what it is. Now, you know, in those days, we have family sometimes come up to the lab and you will kind of tell them please don't look on the shelves because every every bottle on the shelf had hazardous and toxic and carcinogenic and corrosive substance labels on there and you're thinking it looks it looks scary. But don't worry, we know what we're doing. You
Tim Bourguignon 14:24
manage to, to work on big drugs and really help a lot of for a lot of people are holding on to that. That was your dream. That was
Shahid Iqbal 14:30
my dream. And I think I woke up from the dream I think about three years after I started my PhD when I sat down to write up my thesis. So the PhD was structured in a way where it was essentially about three years of lab work, research and then you write a thesis and then you essentially have a an exam on the thesis and then you get your doctorate. I sat down to write my thesis and it was as if somebody flipped light switch. I suddenly just suddenly thought I don't want to do this anymore. This is the last thing I want to do it And it's such a strange feeling to reflect on it now, how, how it flipped absolutely, completely from being the thing I wanted to do. Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, to something I definitely didn't want to do anymore. And that was probably the biggest, or the first major kind of transition point in my career, I suppose, which was okay. Right? If we're not doing that, what are we doing, and that led to a bit of a, I think, you know, a year or two of being in the wilderness a little bit where I didn't really know what I was doing. So it was just doing odd jobs and manual jobs, just to just to pay the bills, really, while I figured out what I was doing. About a year, year and a half of doing that I stumbled I met somebody who at one of these jobs actually, were just talking and I'm somehow the my kind of interest in it came up and they said, Oh, well, I know somebody is looking for somebody who's good with it. And that was then my, I suppose my first transition into something remotely technical remotely, IT related, which is a job in the NHS in London, it wasn't directly in the IT team, it was working for a for a clinical governance team, but I was managing some, some IT systems. Within that team, I started really enjoying it, I was working with the programmers based in Lotus Notes. And this was around the time when dotnet was starting to take off as well. And I had a long commute with for that job. And I started reading just books on my commute, just dotnet books, I think dotnet two just started coming out. And I just started reading dotnet books and started kind of really taking, taking a keen interest in it. And at work, there was some opportunities to start building some systems that I needed. And initially, there were just access, I was using the access and writing, I think the VBA that access uses. And again, that's where that I think that kind of passion programming came back a little bit because it was, I can't quite do this, this problem, um, can't really solve it in, in access, or I can write a function to do in the back end, and I started writing the functions. And I think that it kind of spread a little bit into Excel macros as well, at one point, I think I'm starting to create a horrible tangle of macros and functions. But it was it was that point, I think when I realized actually, maybe this is something I should pursue as a career, something I'm really interested in. So maybe I should try and get a job as a, as a developer.
Tim Bourguignon 17:19
Did you still have this this question in your mind? Am I doing the right thing? Making my hobby? Now my, my job? Was it. So a question? Oh, you were? Well, that was that or flipping burgers or doing something like that time?
Shahid Iqbal 17:33
It was a concern. I was I was less worried about it. But he certainly was a concern. I was it's like the I guess like the chemistry thing. He was like, well, if something can, if I can flip so completely from something I'm completely passionate about something I just almost despise. Would that same happened with it. I think that was probably in the back of my mind. But I was also in the well, I won't know unless I try camp. So I did that. That clinical covenants job for a couple of years. And then I started looking for a job in kind of software development. I think the first stumbling block out I think a lot of people early on in their careers, especially those who are looking to move to a job in it fall foul of which is you look at Job spec and you don't meet the requirements of the job spec 100%. So you don't even apply. You say, Well, they're looking for six months experience as a developer, well, I don't have six months, I only have five months in three weeks. So therefore, I obviously can't apply for this job. And I'm not sure what happened that made me eventually just apply. I'm prone to sudden moments of, I don't know, madness or just recklessness. And I just decided what the hell I've got nothing to lose. Let's just Let's just do it. So I applied for a few jobs. I think at the same time, I thought, well, actually, I'm going to struggle to get a job in it without any evidence of some kind of competence in it. And I think I looked at the time, I realized that maybe I need to do some kind of certification just to help me get my foot in the door. Really, I happen to stumble across Microsoft certification on SQL Server, which I think there was a bit of a loophole at the time where you could do one examine you got a Technical Specialist Certification, and I thought that sounded quite impressive. And I thought it'll probably impress the the recruiters the initial CV screening because that's generally always a challenge when you're trying to apply trying to get past the initial screening. So I took the exam and I was fortunate enough to pass and I felt okay, I had more confidence now to apply for jobs. And I got offered a job as a SQL Server Developer for a floor company not too far from where I lived. And I then also got an opportunity to apply for a job as a dotnet developer at a company and, and I thought, well actually dotnet The thing I'm more interested in so I, I went for that job. I went for the interview and I got given a VB six test for the interview. And that was probably the first kind of Interesting alarm bell who was like, Okay, I'm applying for a dotnet job, but I'm being given a test in VB six, but I think it was quite good in the sense that it, it was language I was unfamiliar with. But I obviously haven't done the VBA stuff. It wasn't too dissimilar. And it wasn't a particularly difficult test, it was more, can I rationalize kind of work through the steps and figure out what it's doing. And I think that was enough for me to get the job. So that was then I guess, officially my first my first job as a software developer. So that was awesome. Started learning loads. And again, I was just constantly hoovering up the content that was around. This was now late 90s thing we're talking kind of 9890 98. So still a long time ago. And I have to, and I think a pivotal moment, at that point in my career was a contractor who came on board of the company, and he started talking about things I've never heard of before, is the name of Michael Maguire, I should give him a shout out because I think, you know, he's played a pivotal part of my career at that stage. He started talking about things like dependency injection, and I had never heard of this thing on top net as a movement. And he introduced me to a a meetup group that was running. At the time in the Microsoft offices. This was in I used to work in Cambridge in the UK. And we went down to this Meetup group. And this was meetups one, hugely common back then you in fact, you had to pay to be a member of the meetup group, but you got pizza every month. So hey, you know, he's a positive. And that's when I kind of really started learning a huge amount of spurs, just from people talking about all these different technologies I've never heard of Castle Windsor was a big thing back then. And hibernate was a big thing back then. And, yeah, so it was it was just hoover up all the content you can think of, and just try and learn as much as you can. Because again, it was the education the career I'd had, before that one of the key key skills you learn is about finding information, you spend hours and hours looking for some obscure journal in the library basement, you know, kind of three floors down from a journal from 1952 or something when you're looking for some obscure chemistry procedure. So we became very good at looking for mining for information and absorbing information. So I think that was a good skill I picked up back then. And yeah, so I spent a couple years at that company doing mostly dotnet, but a fair bit of VB six as well. And then I kind of wanted to make the next stage in my next step in my career, which was, I'd learned a lot about all this, the way of the right way of doing or I thought was the right way of doing dotnet and programming in general. So kind of agile type things and unit testing and all these other things. And it wasn't really something that was looking like it was going to be easy to do at my company at the time. So I looked to to move on. And at the time, then I was this was about two years into my career. And I managed to get a job as a senior software developer. So I don't know what that timeframe, I think I just talked to talk a good talk and clearly kind of convinced enough people that at least I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. And yeah, got it got a job as a small company in in West London. Until recently, I was the last company I actually worked for. So I was I spent a good five years there doing going from a kind of senior software developer to tech lead an architect kind of role in a small company, we know that the roles are very fluid. Certainly, having a very small team, I think when I joined, I was the second developer in that team. Arguably the third the founder was was also technical. So we then went through that growing pains, you know, the, when you're a team of two or three, you can get everything done, you don't have anything documented at all, you just get it done. And then as the team gets bigger and bigger, you realize, oh, God, we need to write things down. We can't keep on explaining to somebody how we do something. So that was probably very, very keep up, keep on my Korean just learning about the fact it's not just what you do. It's how you allow others to work. I think I struggle a bit with that, in my career, at that part of my career where I started doing very long hours, because I spent most of my working day trying to help my colleagues with things and then I didn't feel like I'd produced anything at all. So then I would stay late and try and get something done myself and, and that's, you know, again, I think if people are listening to this, I mean, that's something that you have to be very mindful of is when you're you're equally valuable as a team member, if you're helping others achieve what they're trying to do, then you're producing something yourself and I think that's probably one of the key maturation points of my career what me understanding I think I still struggle with that a little bit to be honest in started a new job recently in in New Zealand. And I think if I if I don't feel like I've produced something myself, I don't feel like I have achieved anything and it's it's more it's more in control. I understand that feeling. I think it still happens you still have those feelings, but now I think we're very mature, more mature about it. So I can recognize that that feeling that I'm getting is actually not necessarily accurate. It's just a symptom of, of being somebody who wants to wants to produce stuff all the time. So
Tim Bourguignon 24:58
I know this feeling Want more in the, in the individual, individual contributor manager pendulum, when when you go to coin management, then you're less of prone to having those successes in your in your day because your successes are proxies, somebody else being successful. And that feels really weird at the beginning, you really have to sit down with this feeling and understand what well, you're being productive. You're helping others your leverage person now, accepting this is not easy. So I really understand what you're saying.
Shahid Iqbal 25:27
Absolutely. I think when you reflect on it, you realize that if you've helped three people be productive, that's three times more than you could have done yourself. So actually, it's your your net, contributing a lot more by doing that. And I think, again, we rationally we totally understand that. But I think subconsciously, there's still a little bit of a, well, actually, I don't feel like I've produced. And I think I think I can tell that because the moments when I have produced something like feel extraordinarily great. It's like, oh, this is awesome, I've done something great, you feel really proud. So you realize, actually, there is still a bit of that lurking somewhere deep inside where you want to be something I think, I think personally, I'm very much an individual contributor, kind of person, I love helping people. But I think I'm a terrible manager of people, I'm terrible at being responsible for other people's careers. You know, it's, again, it's something that I would have thought I would be very unnatural to me, but then it turns out, it's not. And, you know, I think it's something I just have to kind of come to accept, I suppose.
Tim Bourguignon 26:26
Do you have any any special trick to maybe force yourself with VR courts to realize that you are contributing, indeed, when you're helping others and to to help your own feelings cool down and, and feel okay with with the situation,
Shahid Iqbal 26:42
I think is if you celebrate the successes that other people have made, which you may have helped with, I think that it's like a double win, because you know, yourself that you've helped make that happen. But also, you are giving praise and giving exposure to your colleagues who may not be, you know, in a big organization that may not be as well known, and it really helps increase other people's profiles as well. And I can I think that's, that's kind of like a win win situation.
Tim Bourguignon 27:09
Absolutely. That's a good tip. Thank you. I would like to come back to one thing you said, you said in your previous company, you felt as if it was the end of the road, you couldn't go toward what what you were aspiring for this, this code quality? This? Maybe let's call it XP, etc? How did you interview this new company to understand that it would be possible at this new company and not not try it out and realize maybe a couple of months down the line? That it's the same as your previous one?
Shahid Iqbal 27:39
That's a great question. Yeah, I think it one of the key things for me was the size of the company, I knew that if I go into a big organization, or maybe not even particularly big organization, so I think the company I left was maybe approximately 50 people. And I joined the company of about seven, of whom three were technical, they including myself, so I think that was one area. And then certainly, that was probably the first time I'd I really realized that the interview process is mostly me interviewing them, rather than them interviewing me. I think I in that particular situation, I think I have the advantage of being very fortunate in having a couple of other job offers already available to me, that particular boss of that company always tells the story about how he really had to twist my arm to even come in and meet him for the for the interview. But yeah, I think it was certainly kind of just asking them, you know, what, what do you value? What do you see as as being important, you know, hearing that quality was something that they were keen on? I think, you know, again, having a technical co founder, as it was in that company, has pros and cons. But certainly, they understood the technical challenges, more than say, a company that doesn't have a technical co founder, I think there was obviously a connection there in terms of being able to communicate on the same level as well. I think that's probably one of the key aspects is do you have the support mechanisms from the management that are aligned with yourself in the time I was at that company, I interviewed in a number of developers and and I think one of the ones that strikes, still sticks with me is one of the developers actually asked to see our code, because we were talking a lot about how we valued X, Y, and Zed. And he said, Well, can I see your codebase? And I thought, for sure the first person in nearly four or five years of, of interviewing, who was asked that question, and yes, we can show you the codebase. Here it is. And here's the stuff that we're quite happy with. And here's all the horrible stuff that you know, let's be honest, most companies have have the code that's hidden away somewhere that you don't really want to talk about. Firstly, it was awesome that this relatively junior developer at the time was was that interested in? Well, actually not. I don't just want to hear you say good things I want to see see what you do. Let's, let's see. That was awesome.
Tim Bourguignon 29:49
Do you remember how that discussion went with him is sitting together in front of your code? How did he react? How did he lead you into discovering things?
Shahid Iqbal 29:58
He was it was a fairly short because he, it was at the end of the interview when we normally say no. Do we have any questions? And so there wasn't huge amount of time, I think, certainly when, when he joined, and certainly other developers join us, especially junior developers, and we hired a lot of junior developers at the time, there was a really, there's a really key value in junior developers, I think a lot of organizations perhaps miss, which is, they're coming to your codebase, with a completely fresh pair of eyes. And there is so many things that you do in a code base, which was the decision you made 234 or five years ago, based on the information you had at the time, and you've never revisited that decision. And all that's happened is everyone who's been at our organization has kind of inherited that perspective of that code. And suddenly this, this person comes along, and they'll say, Well, why do we do X? And you kind of all look at each other and say, yeah, why do we do X? That I will say, No, that's such a huge, there's such value in that. And I think you need to encourage juniors to be given the confidence to go and ask those questions. Because I think sometimes you can have an organization where junior developers are kind of given maintenance tasks and told to just sit there and learn and maybe not be so inquisitive. To be fair, I think this is probably an attitude of 510 years ago, it's I don't think it's as prevalent now. But yeah, certainly, that was that sticks in my mind when when he asked to see the code base, because actually, it made me realize that yeah, he switched on, he's realized that, you know, there's more to just being being told X Y, Zed, you should actually inquire about it, and shift the power balance on the interviews. Again, I think that's quite important. So indeed, a
Tim Bourguignon 31:30
very cool idea. And the nasty, nasty person in me just coined the term interview driven architecture review. You can make a business out of that. Getting a fresh pair of eyes looking at your code for free. Yeah. No, don't do that.
Shahid Iqbal 31:50
As long as you pay them, let's let's pay somebody for the time. And then, you know,
Tim Bourguignon 31:55
that was the thing.
Shahid Iqbal 31:58
It's not such an attractive proposition. anymore.
Tim Bourguignon 32:03
Um, anywho Anywho. Can you tell us a story that took you to leaving the UK and going to New Zealand?
Shahid Iqbal 32:08
Yeah. So we'll, we'll try and try and keep it brief. So I left I left that job that I was just discussing in 2015. And I came out to New Zealand on a vacation and I kind of loved it just felt like it felt like home to be honest. And I decided I wanted to move out here. And I tried initially, just seeing what the opportunities were for kind of visa applications. But this is where my past past kind of education choices came back to haunt me a little bit because like many countries, they expect if you want to take a job in it, that you have some kind of formal IT qualifications, I fell short of that mark, and therefore didn't, didn't qualify for him for someone skilled migrant visa. And then I fell into consulting, I just ended up not wanting to take another job wanting to keep my options open. And I just started kind of working for myself and helping people out that way. Eventually, the without getting too political, the kind of Brexit and everything else happened in the UK and the political situation. The UK didn't feel like home anymore, to be quite honest. In in the few years that I was consulting, I was very fortunate to start getting to run the speaking circuit. And I was doing speaking for NDC conferences around the world. So I was coming out to Sydney for NDC in 2019. And I was coming over to New Zealand to do a couple of talks and meetups and I, I basically just put on Twitter to say hey, look, I'm looking for a job in New Zealand. I'm going to be over there and in a month's time, I'd love to meet any companies that might be interested in meeting me and and that's when Rob who's the VP of engineering aura reached out to me and said, Hey, we're interested in somebody with smasher skills. Would you be keen to meet up and I met up for coffee with him on a Sunday? Yeah, just like what he said and got an opportunity to meet the team. And it was just the most amazing bunch of people I've met. It's just the most friendly, just super smart and just super friendly. It's like a rare combination to be quite honest. And a whole team of them that's that was what was awesome. I was kind of hooked and then yeah, managed to be very fortunate enough to be offered a job at the time, went back to the UK and started the visa application coming towards the end of 2019. And then something happened in 2020 I don't know if anyone remembers this something refresh my mind. Yeah, just this something that kind of stopped the world. Yeah, unfortunately. Just as I submitted my visa application the Coronavirus kind of hit and everything pretty much grind to a halt so I'm including the processing of visas especially for people offshore but I kept in touch with aura and and to be honest, I you know, I at the same time and signed your contract with the mine as far as I was concerned. I was I was gonna start working with aura we hadn't actually started working and you know, I think even though COVID bought some uncertain times for lots of companies, they stuck with me I stuck with them and towards the end of 2020 they managed to essentially make a case to New Zealand immigration to allow me to come over to New Zealand despite the fact that the borders closed. So I got that visa in about November and it takes about there was about three months wait before I could actually come over because New Zealand has mandatory quarantine when you come over from from anywhere, or certainly at the time. So yeah, I came in I suppose people say changing jobs during a pandemic is slightly, you know, slightly crazy, maybe I kind of meant to be outside the world if my family and change jobs during a pandemic. So, again, I think I said to you, I can be slightly random and just suddenly say, you know, what the hell, let's just do it. So I think this was one of those moments. And yes, I came over to New Zealand in February 2021. And started in or about three, three and a bit months ago now. And I'm loving it here. And the team is growing, we're desperately trying to hire, I've got to get that plugin, I've got to, I don't know how many people are listening to the podcast in New Zealand. We're desperately hiring so so definitely come in, reach out to me if you're interested. And I think if the borders were open, we'd be looking to get people in from abroad. But unfortunately, that's a challenge at the moment. So
Tim Bourguignon 36:04
I come on, I just heard a story of pulling some levers and just enter the country. So awesome. It sounds really cool. Where does your MVP award for Microsoft fits into all this? When does it come to you to when When did you receive it? And how did you change the way you you interact with communities? And maybe this this community work this conference work you've just mentioned? How did this all play together?
Shahid Iqbal 36:33
Yeah, so I think I mentioned that I started attending meetups way back in in kind of 1998. And I think throughout my career, I was attending a lot of the UK meetups, the we have the developer developer developer events in the UK, really awesome, free community organized weekend events. And I learned so much from them. And I realized that I wanted to, to give back to to, to kind of do these talks myself. And I'm extremely introverted. And I think maybe I did quite well on this podcast, but I'm very introverted and not naturally a public speaker. And again, it was one of those moments where I kind of had promised a meet up that I was going to do a talk for them. And I realized that if I was going to do it, I had to commit to doing the talk. That was the only way it was going to happen was if I commit to it that I won't let them down to I will do it. So I committed to doing a talk in in I think he was it was probably going to be in about nine months time or something. It was it was a long, long way away. And I said okay, I'll do this talk for you. It'll be in September. This was in January or something I ended up in Australia for for for project and the project overrun a little bit. So actually, I missed that slot. So and I was kind of relieved at that point, because I didn't have to do. I didn't have to do a talk. But I still really wanted to do it. So eventually, I kind of just built up the courage. reached out to London dotnet meetup so Dylan btn ne and Cooper and, and I said, I want to do a talk. And so I did a talk and it was pretty terrible. But everyone was very polite. And I really enjoyed it, even though I know is terrible. And I still haven't kind of faced going back and watch the video. There is still one I'm not sure if there is actually applied for NDC conference. I've literally done one talk in my life a meet up and I decided right screw it. I'm gonna you know, just I really enjoyed it as to what have I got to lose? So I did I just submitted to NDC. Of course I got rejected, you know, I can, I could probably imagine them laughing if this person just submitted at all. But I enjoyed that one meetup talk so much that I just I just started offering to speak at meetups in the UK because I was working for myself at the time, I was very fortunate bit privileged to be able to travel and work to my own schedule. So I think that year I did about 30 meetups, mostly in the UK, but also think in Denmark, and also in Brisbane, because I was over. And because I was doing a lot of the meetup talks. I think that was one area that kind of brought my attention up a little bit. I also was involved in some early Kubernetes workshops and Microsoft team were running. And I again, Kubernetes was the topic I was talking about a lot of the time because it was very new to dotnet developers, I found it really fascinating. And I wanted to share the share the knowledge and yeah, eventually essentially what happened was, I think another MVP, and also one of the Microsoft employees could have nominated me pretty much exactly the same time. And I was fortunate enough to be given the award. And you know, I was very, very honored to get the award. In all honesty, it didn't change a single thing about the way I was doing because I never had the MVP was never in my mind. There was never a plan. It was just something that was kind of given to me and I really appreciated it but I carried on doing the meetup talks and eventually I kind of got on to the NDC I submitted I didn't let the first rejection kind of get me down as I submitted again, and a few months later, I got picked for NDC Oslo, which is the huge NDC event in the in the hometown and that was pretty terrifying prospect. But again, I loved it and it went well. And I think the having a pivotal moment there was probably It was a kind of Friday afternoon slot, they they'd taken a risk they I was an unknown quantity, they're taking the risk. And that kind of decided to give me a slot. And there was John skeet was in the audience, it was Seth Juarez from Microsoft. And again, it's like your nerves already can off the scale. And then you see people like that in the audience is like, Oh, my God. But I practice so much I'd, I'd gone to that particular stage. Like every opportunity had i three or four days before, during the lunch break had gone on stage during the lunch breaks. And practice speaking, I've done everything I could to try and alleviate the nerves as much as I can, and then think the talk went well. And, again, the NDC folks are just amazing, so supportive, so they can encourage me to apply to the other events. And eventually, I got got chance to speak on most of the news events, and eventually started doing workshops for NDC as well, which is again, pretty awesome. And if it wasn't for the NDC events, I probably wouldn't have been in Auckland to meet Rob and current stage of my career. So I suppose if we're going to sum up my career, it's a case of many, many times where I just went screw it, let's just do it. What's the worst that's gonna happen? I think that's probably in a nutshell, I suppose you can sum up my career. So huge, huge amount of luck, some awesome people along the way. And a dose of bravado, I suppose. I don't know what you'd call it. But
Tim Bourguignon 41:17
it's funny how you when you look back how you connect things. In hindsight, it's really it's really interesting, because if you didn't meet the suspect at all, and then you see then hmm, makes sense, or that inform here. Interesting.
Shahid Iqbal 41:29
Absolutely. Yeah. And I think I'd probably want to say that yes, my, my fears about the fact that it was a career hobby turning into career. Mostly unfounded. You know, I think like everyone else, you have good and bad days. There's days when you think well, actually, maybe I should go and do something else. I think, again, kind of referencing one of you other guests cliff. Ever since I've met Cliff I'm very jealous of his day job flying the 787 So I think if I found a chance for for do have a career I would probably consider consider doing that. I think certainly now's now the opportunity is definitely gone. But yeah,
Tim Bourguignon 42:03
yeah, he's Twitter is insane. Just pictures or pictures of blue sky over over cloudy, cloudy landscape. It's just insane.
Shahid Iqbal 42:13
So heads up display. I mean, that's just so cool. It's just like,
Tim Bourguignon 42:18
although we could we could build that for all computers, some some kind of heads up display and giving you hints out watch out. There's something here in your code. Not good.
Shahid Iqbal 42:28
Do you mean like Clippy Clippy on?
Tim Bourguignon 42:31
Me? It's time point advice. You said your first talk was terrible. Would there have been an advice that could have helped you back then it would probably
Shahid Iqbal 42:43
be yes, it's going to be terrible. Don't worry about it. Because I think it's, it's like anything else. If you if you just if you think that should be your pinnacle of your speaking career, that your first ever talk should be the pinnacle of your speaking career, then you're you're very much mistaken. I mean, I've, I've met some amazing speakers in my time. And when you realize actually, they they weren't not as brilliant as they are now, from the very start. They all have to kind of work their way up. And again, I think when I met some of them, and some of the events and they were nervous, and I was like, holy, well, how are you nervous, you're like, I see you on, you know, see you on YouTube. And you're like the cool, calm and collected and jokes everywhere. And it's such a smooth talk. And you realize that actually, they're really nervous, and they practice a lot. And so yeah, I think, I think if people want to get in speaking, it's like, you know what, just just do it, just submit something, do it. And if if it if it's horrible, and you hate it, you don't have to do it again. It's as simple as that. But I guarantee you, you won't hate it, you love it, and then you never know where it will take you because it's it's part of the reason why I'm sitting here in Auckland. And I think in the in the intro, you said I love beautiful places as a very good reason why I'm in New Zealand. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world. And that's no coincidence.
Tim Bourguignon 43:56
Amen to all it. Thank you very much. So where would be the best place to to start a discussion with you about hobbits in New Zealand or, or something else.
Speaker 1 44:06
You can reach me on Twitter. I'm fairly active on Twitter, at ShahidDev, so you may see me posting a fair bit of sunrise photos and landscapes from New Zealand on there. It was it was a bit rude during the wild while my friends and colleagues were in lockdown in the UK, I did feel bad about posting some of them. But you know, now it's now things are getting a bit bit more equal. So it's okay. So my DMs are open on Twitter. So always if somebody wants some encouragement or just some advice about how they can for example, on the speaking side, I love I would love to kind of help get people going forwards on that. So yeah, they can always reach out to me on that on LinkedIn again. Feel free to message me on LinkedIn. Yes, probably the two main two main sources rarely
Tim Bourguignon 44:49
Anything timely or not so timely. You want to plug in before we call it a day?
Speaker 1 44:53
Not really. I mean, I think again, just to say that anyway, we all are looking for good develop whereas if I'm plugging anything is probably for work, you know that, Yeah, we're looking for some developers and I think if you're in New Zealand, love to speak to you. That's all I've got nothing personal to, to plug to be honest.
Tim Bourguignon 45:11
That's enough. That's good. Shahid, thank you very much. It's been a blast listening to sorry.
Shahid Iqbal 45:16
Thank you very much.
Tim Bourguignon 45:17
It's been a pleasure. And this has been another episode of developer's journey, and e see each other next week. Oh, I hope you have enjoyed Shahid story as much as I did. I love to second, career journeys. Life can be so surprising. Everything can seem to point in a direction, only to throw you off in a U turn a few years later. I also really liked the
sentences he said:
"It's not just what you do. It's how you allow others to work." What did you take out of this story? Let me know. I'm always delighted by your comments and your thoughts. You can reach me on Twitter. I'm @Timothep or use the comments section website at Devjourney.info. How do you enable others to become a better version of themselves? Can this podcast help? Then please share rate and review. Thank you!