Software Developers Journey Podcast

#171 Emma Bostian is a software engineer at Spotify and an asynchronous mentor


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Emma Bostian 0:00
If you're looking to grow your network, grow your like GitHub repositories or grow your blogging platform or whatever it may be. Create content you're passionate about. If you do that, people will see that passion and they will migrate to you. But if you're creating content, and you're saying yes to everything, even if you're not enjoying it, like it's going to be very obvious. So be very selective with what you choose to say yes to obviously in the beginning, go for as many things as you're comfortable with, but make sure you're really passionate about it.

Tim Bourguignon 0:34
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building. On this episode 171, I receive Mr. Bostian. Emma is a software engineer at Spotify in Stockholm, who seems to have caught the travel bug like I did. Before moving to Sweden, she grew up in upstate New York, work for IBM in Texas, and for lock me in Germany. In our spare time, Emma teaches at LinkedIn learning, front end, masters and more. Oh, and she also co hosts the ladybug podcast, Mr. Welcome to dev journey.

Emma Bostian 1:16
Hi, thank you for having me.

Tim Bourguignon 1:18
But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the dev journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests then editing audio tracks, please go to our website, Dev journey dot info and click on the Support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable deaf journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guests. Okay, so as always, let's go back to you to your beginning, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story looked like and imagine how to shape their own future. So where would you place the start of your dev journey?

Emma Bostian 2:07
I think in the grand scheme of how most quote unquote traditional developers back in the day got their start, I started pretty late into my college career. Maybe I say that just because I grew up in a family of engineers where my parents worked at IBM, my grandparents worked at IBM. So I was always exposed to tech. But I didn't gain interest in it until my second year of college. I was originally a biology major, I was convinced I would become a doctor. And I quickly realized that I not only hated natural sciences, but I was terrible at them. And so I switched into actuarial science, which deals with a lot of statistics and computing. And that's where I took my first intro to computer science class. And I fell in love with it. So at that point, I was like, Okay, Dad, you're right, I should definitely look into a career in software development. And I declared a computer science major in my second year of college. So that's where I started. And it was, it was a long, three years, I definitely struggled a bit with college, and it took me, oh, gosh, I would say two years into my professional development career, to feel comfortable with what I was doing.

Tim Bourguignon 3:14
But two years not that. I know people who have been working with it for 10 years, when I say

Emma Bostian 3:19
comfortable, I didn't cry every day. A lot of time, like really upset in the beginning of my career because I learned Java and back end, like I learned assembly programming languages, and I learned and database and all of those things in college, I took one very high level web development class. And we spent one day on HTML one and CSS one day on jQuery. And I don't know what we do with the rest of our time. But it was very high level I didn't learn about continuous deployment or continuous integration or JavaScript frameworks. None of that was taught to me. So when I joined my first role, IBM straight after college, I was thrown into a web development roll off the cuff and I definitely sunk. I did not swim right away. It took me quite a while. I would, yeah, that hurt. It hurt. It hurt my ego, especially because college students think that they're almost invincible, and I definitely had an ego is very much like I deserve to be here. I know a lot of things. And then I quickly was very humbled in my first position when I realized that it's not that I'm not

Tim Bourguignon 4:19
sure if that's relatable or not. But I remember when I started working for Siemens, that was my first first job as well. I came out with a master's degree and I thought I could program and I got my ass served off by apprentices. We've been doing 18 months of programming with Siemens, and they were telling me how to program I can tell you, I realized afterwards something like six years down the line, that I had a broader view on the systems pretty fast and what they didn't have, but the first two years were interesting to say the least I

Emma Bostian 4:52
think we we forget that proprietary enterprise level experience is so much different than coding in a silo. It's It's quote unquote easy. And I hate using that word. But for the sake of this argument, I will, it's so much easier to start an application from scratch, like using create react app, or whatever technology's using than it is to come into an enterprise level application and be like, Okay, let's go

Tim Bourguignon 5:17
and interact with 200 engineers on this. Okay, let's go. Did you did you imagine you wouldn't lend as IBM for the first job?

Emma Bostian 5:26
Yeah, absolutely. I actually didn't apply anywhere else. I was very naive, like extremely sheltered, privileged, naive in college. So I mentioned my parents worked for IBM. And when I was studying abroad in London, my third year of college, my dad's friend who was a manager, IBM said, Hey, I have an intern position. Do you want to interview apply, go through that whole process? And I was like, Okay, sure. And so I did the application, I did the interview process. And I got hired as an intern on WebSphere Application Server doing Python test automation. And so it was from that internship that I got my first role. So I interviewed with two different teams at IBM for a full time position. I interview with a cryptography team that was still in Poughkeepsie, New York, and I interviewed with my dad's old manager for a job down in Austin, Texas, working on enterprise storage systems. And I really wanted to get out of Poughkeepsie. That's any bright eyed college graduate as I want to leave where I'm from. And so I moved to Texas. And I also struggled a lot in my first role. I did not enjoy it. But yeah, I knew I would end up at IBM, just because it was the only place I applied. I Oh, my God, looking back on it. Now. I'm like, You were so naive and privileged, and you didn't even realize it. You got so lucky. And I know that now. But oh, yeah, I figured I would end up there. I hadn't gotten accepted. I don't know where I would have ended up to be honest. Like, I didn't have any backup plan, because I didn't realize the real world is a thing. And you don't just get job offers from everything that you apply to.

Tim Bourguignon 6:52
That's a harsh way to put it. But yeah,

Emma Bostian 6:54
yeah, it's definitely easier. If you're already interning at a company and you're doing good work. It's much easier to get into the interview process there. And I still went through the proper interview process. I still had technical interviews, but it's much easier to get your foot in the door, if you've already done work with that company and proven yourself.

Tim Bourguignon 7:10
It sounds as if you were regretting it.

Emma Bostian 7:13
No, but I think I'm angry at myself, my past self for being so like, just taking everything for granted. That's what it really was. I took everything for granted. I had a large ego, and all of those things very quickly were broken down. And I think that was my turning point in my career was holy crap. Okay, I'm not as good as I thought I was. And also, it's not easy to get a job. So yeah, when I applied for my second role in Germany, that was definitely a reality check. John, tell us about them. Yeah, so I was trying to move to Germany, I was dating someone at the time, that was German, and he lived over there. And so I was trying to get a job over in Germany. And at that point, I didn't care where I was just applying all over the country, many companies were not looking to invest in bringing a foreigner to the EU, like the visa process for Germany is expensive and time consuming. And a lot of companies were just not willing to invest in someone from abroad. So I would go through these technical interviews, or not even make it to the technical part, just talk with a recruiter and they either wouldn't help with my visa or wouldn't help with relocation or any of that. And I wasn't looking for relocation help. But I really couldn't move over there that a visa that was pretty humbling, just applying for an interviewing for as many roles as possible. And obviously, the interview process is difficult, let alone doing one in a foreign it was in German. No, it was all in English. But I think some of the customs were different. And things I didn't realize is that you traditionally might use a CV, a curriculum vitae as opposed to a resume when you're applying. And this is something I didn't know. And it's minor things, but I think not understanding the proper format for the application definitely held me back from getting interviewed by a lot of these companies,

Tim Bourguignon 8:51
where you asked for, for your grades from high school grades and stuff like that.

Emma Bostian 8:56
I don't think so. No, I don't think I was.

Tim Bourguignon 9:00
If anybody's wondering, I'm in Germany, as well. And that was a really to check ahead. I applied something after a five year five years out of college. I applied for new job. And the manager said Is there a reason why you didn't put your grades in in your application? Wait grades, while you're at level and college? I looked at him with bright eyes. What Why did would you need that? I've been working for five years in industry that trumps anything else that can bring?

Emma Bostian 9:32
I would agree I think it's an archaic view to say someone has that many years relevant experience like education is still relevant but like the problem is a lot of employers see the omission of a grade point average and think oh, they must have done pretty poorly if it's not on there. It's no we just don't think it's that relevant. I don't even remember my GPA so

Tim Bourguignon 9:52
you don't either. How did you land in LogMeIn? How did that work out? I

Emma Bostian 9:56
forget I think I found the posting through LinkedIn and And I just had really great interviews with, like I interviewed with a really great recruiter. And then I interviewed with the hiring manager at the time we did a technical interview, the take home project was very well, like it was a very scoped project, which I loved, I really appreciated, they were very flexible on time, I think I ended up emailing them and saying, Hey, I really want to do well, on this assignment, I need a few extra days in order to do that just I got a lot going on, they were totally fine with it. So it was a very, I appreciated their interview process. It wasn't too much. And I remember I got to the last interview was with a senior engineer and one of the higher or one of the I don't know the right word, but it was another engineering manager. It wasn't for that role. And they basically said, we were supposed to interview you, but you've already gotten such great feedback, we're not going to waste your time, like we're going to extend you an offer. So we'll just give you your your time back today. And I very much appreciated that I had a great interview with them. Yeah, and I got very lucky that not only did they help with my visa process, but they also helped me a little bit with relocation costs. So yeah, it was a really great interview experience with them.

Tim Bourguignon 11:01
Cool. It wasn't your first time abroad for a long time period.

Emma Bostian 11:06
I studied abroad in college for three months, but that was really the extent of my Yeah, I guess that was longer term. It was for an entire semester, but that was my first real time moving abroad permanently. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 11:19
How was it one that doesn't count as English.

Emma Bostian 11:22
It was definitely hard and I definitely was codependent on the person that I was living with dating all of that stuff. Definitely not healthy. It was not healthy for either of us to be so codependent I ended up learning German pretty quickly because I really had to some people spoke English, we spoke English at work. But in day to day life, if I needed to go to the post office or whatnot, I had to speak German, which was good because it forced me to learn but it was really hard for the first couple years and definitely not healthy to be so dependent on someone.

Tim Bourguignon 11:54
Did it hinder your you call it rally to check to grow up and get out of this zone, this IBM phase?

Emma Bostian 12:49
Did it hinder it? No, I think it propelled it a lot quicker because all of a sudden, I was exposed to new cultures that I had never previously been exposed to. I had like the reality of it is I had grown up in a very, I would say wealthy, not like extremely wealthy, a couple hours north of New York City where the city people go to spend their weekends, predominantly white community. And even in Texas, I think I was really surrounded by just pretty well off white people. And so when I moved to Germany, I was exposed to so many different cultures. And alongside that came a lot of reality checks in terms of how I've grown up and how privileged and sheltered that was, but it was also like a kick in my butt to be like, okay, so everyone experiences life differently than I do. I've had a lot of advantages in life. And I also need to pay it back, pay it forward and help those around me in ways that I can and just be cognizant of the fact that my struggles are going to be different from someone else's, I was given a, like a set of tools that some people don't get. And so it definitely propelled my not just my professional growth, but my personal growth as well. I would say about a year after I moved to Germany was when I really started the journey of learning about how different cultures collaborate, communicate, and like how I can use my personal advantages to like help others around me. So yeah, I would say it took about a year after moving abroad but it definitely was, like I'm much happier with the person than I am today than I was as the person I was when I started this whole journey.

Tim Bourguignon 14:23
Coming back to tech a little bit you went from the giant, ginormous IBM to LogMeIn I'm sure how big LogMeIn was at that time, but I figure a couple 100 People maximum how was it was that big?

Emma Bostian 14:35
I think there were a few 1000 melamine Yeah, really? Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 14:41
credible. I thought that was wasteful. Okay. So from a ginormous company to already a company. Okay, that's Trump's my point. But anyway, how was it going from one this one culture to the other. What did you take with you? What did you realize professionally was different, not just on the German side that said When

Emma Bostian 15:01
I liked working in a midsize company a lot better i There are advantages to working in a large company. But for the most part, I was overwhelmed. I felt like I was not able to get some of the tools and assistance that I needed. Like getting any piece of software was a massive corporate nightmare. Finding a mentor was a nightmare. But at the same time, they had a lot of like front end development, education and boot camps and cool things like that, which some other companies don't necessarily have. So there were definitely trade offs. I felt like I was able to make more of a difference at LogMeIn, just because it was a smaller company. I felt seen, I felt like I got to know my coworkers on a more personal level, which I like. But, yeah, I would say, I don't think I would want to work for a massive Corporation again, I like where I'm at today. I think Spotify, like the app that I work on is so widely consumed, that it's a bit mind boggling. However, I don't feel like I'm in a massive company, I still get the benefits of going to conferences, like we actually have an internal development conference and having really cool trainings around everything. It's not just development trainings around like, I can take Swedish classes, I can learn about bias training, I can conduct interviews, I get the best of both worlds where I am today.

Tim Bourguignon 16:21
Spotify is known for being a thought leader in this direction being quite be quite be company nowadays. But still having kept this very humane way of working. So I understand why what you're saying. Okay, on a technical standpoint, you said you were working first on WebSphere. And then on more you web centric technology I did I get Yeah. And then logged me in and Spotify. How did that evolve along your story, the tech stack you'll be working with and beyond your focus.

Emma Bostian 16:50
So I did the Python test automation and my internship. My first role was enterprise storage using dojo, which I was not a fan of so Dojo as a JavaScript framework. And then just HTML and CSS. i A year into IBM, I switched teams where I joined a design team as the only friend, a developer and I got to learn a lot about design. And I was able to work with a ton of technology. So I worked with WordPress and some PHP. I did view I did Angular one, I got to work with a ton of different things like and cool projects like quantum computing, I built the IBM Quantum network site by myself using view which was really fun, right? Yeah, that was really cool. So I got a lot of really neat projects there. And then at LogMeIn, we were using React Redux. And I think we were using TypeScript as well at the time, which I had to learn all three of the, like React, Redux and TypeScript all at once. So that was quite a bit, but it was enjoyable. And then at Spotify now we use React, we're stripping out Redux at this point, and replacing the the native react functionality. We also use TypeScript. And I think those are like the main two that I work with day to day

Tim Bourguignon 17:55
would be the one you would pick if you were

Emma Bostian 17:58
free to choose. Absolutely, I love view, I think it was a really great beginner friendly framework for JavaScript. And I helped me not get overwhelmed. But in React was definitely more intimidating because it was such a large ecosystem. And at the time, it was confusing between class components and functional components. And then hooks came out and really changed the game there. Today, I would absolutely choose react with TypeScript, that would be my go to.

Tim Bourguignon 18:24
I have to put my fingers in there. I think I quit front end development with Angular one, saying, Yeah, that's fine. That's fun. I would never try to convince a client to work with us. There was way too many ways to shoot yourself in the foot without was the thing. And that's pretty much the point in time where I diverged toward more management roles. Yeah, I

Emma Bostian 18:44
did not enjoy Angular one. I remember the model view controller paradigm just confused the living crap out of me. So view was definitely like a welcome tool at that.

Tim Bourguignon 18:53
That's interesting. Usually I hear people starting with React or Angular or react and then view but you you use view before react.

Emma Bostian 19:00
Yeah, I at the time, was working with a colleague who was very much interview. And so if I needed help, I could get help from him. And that's really why I chose it.

Tim Bourguignon 19:10
Okay, okay. You mentioned mentoring. And you just mentioned a colleague helping you has been mentoring in along your career for you as a mentee first. And we'll get into mentoring in the other direction after that.

Emma Bostian 19:21
That's been hit or miss. I had a good mentor, IBM, where it was very much like task focused. So they would have a goal for each meeting. And I would have like deliverables to go through with him. And he was a great teacher. And he was someone that I like, looked up to at IBM and I explicitly asked to be my mentor. And so I very much enjoyed it. And I learned a lot about like task runners and things of that nature. And it's interesting because he never like studied engineering, web development, computer science. He was very much self taught. Now he works at Google. So he's doing very well for himself and he was a great person to learn from, but I do remember like, there was no set in stone mentorship program, at least one that was functioning properly and so like I started creating, I tried to create a mentorship program at IBM. And I even held like a design thinking workshop with some executives and like it was really great. But it just never got legs and took off at that point it was when I was in Germany, I started a project called coding code. It's still an open source project built by the community is taken over, it's been taken over by a couple of really great engineers, I just, I don't have the time to devote. But basically, the concept is you can submit your application to be a mentor. And then you can go look through their database for people in your geographic location or with a certain skill, and you can apply to be their mentee, and it's all free. And it's all online. And there's, uh, oh, my gosh, several 100 mentors who are donating their time right now. I guess my point is, I didn't have great mentorship, except for the one IBM throughout my career. And I felt like I needed a lot more guidance, and I wasn't getting it. So I tried to make my own community around it.

Tim Bourguignon 20:52
How was it nowadays,

Emma Bostian 20:54
my mentorship is non existent. I'm at the point in my career where I can get mentorship as needed. But I don't need someone every week, every two weeks. And the beginning. That was what I needed. Now. It's just if I need help with TypeScript or accessibility, I have people in my organization I can go to for 30 minutes an hour, and they will sit with me and walk me through stuff. But it's not to the point where I need every couple weeks or anything like that.

Tim Bourguignon 21:23
Okay. Okay. And how's it been for you as a mentor?

Emma Bostian 21:28
I don't know, I struggle to be a mentor, to be honest, just because I have so many things going on at once that I struggle to mentor like, effectively, I'm more of like a an asynchronous mentor, where if people have questions, I'm happy to answer those specific questions. But a lot of times people don't understand what makes a good mentor. Typically the mentee is the one getting something out of this relationship. And I think a lot of times people forget that. And all they say is can you be my mentor? Okay, but what does that mean? What is your goal? What do you want to get out of this? What skills do you want to improve? And how do you plan to improve those things that really needs to be on the mentee side of things, and it's very much just Will you be my mentor? It's okay, but what's your plan? And I think a lot of people should approach mentorship from that perspective. That's why if people come to me and ask that I say, I really don't have the time to devote to solid meetings every week, every two weeks. However, if you have specific questions, I'm more than happy to write my answers down. Getting on video chat was really hard for me just because typically, it's a big timezone difference a lot of the people that interface with or are not in EMA timezone. So it's definitely more of an asynchronous, I can help you with specific problems that are like that I know about

Tim Bourguignon 22:39
that makes sense? Yes, it does. It's interesting, I've had a very wide think of very different definition of mentorship. So far, I've tried to steer away from the thing called the test based mentorship, a very focused on one topic, and go more on to the person centric, holistic mentorship, it's really helping someone on their career pathway, and just whatever the topic of this week of this month is fine. And I remember one of my mentees, we spoke about his personal problems for think a couple of months, because that was hindering Any other discussion that we were having, we were trying to talk about tech stack. At some point, we'd come back to this personal problem, okay, we have to talk about it. And that was that was not a medical problem, thank God wouldn't try to do that. I'm not trained for that. But it was a problem I could relate to. And we discussed about this. And at some point, we unblocked that. And then we could steer back toward a toward attack into our dog. But the problem is he had or the things he wanted to solve or grow in this project. And it really tried to open up the fields of mentorship is really thinking about the person and as you say, it has to be driven by the person. But I've caught myself or I have I've done it as well, trying to push someone and really putting my effort into let me help you find out where your limits really hard. And if people respond to that, then try to push a bit more. Yeah, even help to go oh, sorry, I

Emma Bostian 24:03
didn't mean to cut you off. Now I

Tim Bourguignon 24:05
just want to say I had been helped by my employer as well on this. So it was also part of my work to do it

Emma Bostian 24:11
sounds like a lot of times you need to mentor to some degree to achieve promotions, which I think is great. But also at the same time it's it feels forced and hopefully the people doing the mentorship actually enjoy it. I think for me, I don't do one on one mentorship so much. It's not that I don't want to it's that it's hard for me to find people that I genuinely feel like I can help because my technical knowledge, again, is not very vertical. It's very much horizontal at the moment, meaning I know a lot about a lot of thing or I know a good amount about a lot of things but I'm not like a subject matter expert on anything. My mentorship comes in the form of like mass content production. A lot of the blog posts I've written which you can still find I have a blog called compiled that blog. I have a lot of blog posts on there about a lot of career based stuff like learning how to learn and things of that nature. My blog posts, my courses, my podcasts are all mass forms of mentorship, because I just don't have the time to necessarily devote to one singular person. And it's partially not that I don't want to make the time. It's just that I don't feel comfortable providing advice when I don't feel confident in my own skills. So yeah, I think that's a good point to call out is like mentorship does not have to be one on one, it can be a group mentorship session, it can be through content production as well. If you don't feel comfortable mentoring one singular person, I think that's a really great way to

Tim Bourguignon 25:25
be and the variety that diversity makes sense, everybody needs a different way to learn. So why not? We all need some asynchronous help some some offline, help, some video, help, some text help, etc. And at some point, maybe a person to help you. But that's if that suits your needs. Yeah, absolutely. Well, when did you get into podcasting? Besides wanting to help people? That's a very specific medium.

Emma Bostian 25:47
Yeah, it was funny, because I always, I remember thinking, everyone's making a podcast, like, Why does everyone need a podcast, and then I went into the same thing. And that very much humbled me to be like, you stop, like, judging what other people are doing for fun. So I was always a guest on people's podcasts. Oh, God, that sounds so conceited. I don't mean it that way. I was a guest on people's podcasts for six months or so. So I was on the change log and react podcast and a bunch of other podcasts. And I just really like listening to myself. Now kidding. I remember being in a group message with a few other women one day and thinking, there aren't a lot of a ton of women led podcasts. And so it'd be really fun to get together with a couple of my friends and just talk about tech and career and all of those things. So we just decided to start our own. And that was when it really kicked off. And that was over a year ago. Now we've started our podcast, and since we've adopted a wonderful fourth co host, I think, yeah, we just we wanted to, we all come from different paths. And so we wanted to share our journeys into tech, and are different skill sets with the world. And we really didn't do it for anyone other than ourselves. Like it was just for fun. And it was a way to keep yourself accountable when you're learning new skills. Because if you sign up to lead a TypeScript episode, you should probably learn TypeScript. So yeah, I would say it was probably a year and a half, two years ago, at that point that I really started getting interested in, in podcasting. And I was also on Jas party, up until the last episode I just didn't for them. But I was a panelist on there for over a year.

Tim Bourguignon 27:18
You are very active.

Emma Bostian 27:20
Yeah, I don't like to be bored.

Tim Bourguignon 27:23
I think there's no worry, you're here. You won't be bored anytime soon. We're certainly in this in this ladybug podcast is that you really speak about 20. I'm not sure if it's intentional to steering away from women in tech. But you're really talking about tech. And it's from from a woman's standpoint, because the four hosts are women. But you're talking about tech. And I know I said I wouldn't go into a woman and take too much. But then I really like and please keep doing it.

Emma Bostian 27:49
Yeah, it was funny. Because when we originally started, our tagline was something along the lines that we want to give women in tech, a voice blah, blah, blah. And we got a lot of crap for that. And rightfully because at the time, it was for what we were all for white women who are doing very well for ourselves. And we branded ourselves as a women in tech podcast, which was just not correct. Like we, we have our own experiences, but they are not indicative of all women. And at the time, it was like, it was not good. It was not good that we all had platforms. And that's what we were marketing. And so we took a step back, and we said okay, one of our CO hosts ended up leaving to focus on her own journey. And we took a real look at ourselves and said, okay, the public is right, like we shouldn't be braided. And we also don't want to be associated as a woman in tech podcast, even though we did that to ourselves. So we sat back and reevaluated what we wanted out of this. And so we've removed, like the women in tech part of that, because yes, we are women, we are not the voice of all women. And also we just want to talk about tech and career. And so we've rebranded ourselves as an all lady run podcast. And that's essentially what it is. And we do we talk about Python, and assembly language and coding interviews and things like that. We also talk about how to build a business because one of our CO hosts is the CEO of her own business and works a lot with establishing new companies, and, and all of that. So we've all got very different experiences. And that's where we are today is yes, we're all ladies, but we just like to focus on the content. No.

Tim Bourguignon 29:17
And it's awesome. Thank you. I really like the variety, going from E commerce to going back to Git and GitHub and then going back to writing ebooks and then and then jump off. Because it's,

Emma Bostian 29:27
it's cool. It's cool about So Kelly actually has a degree in like, I think psychology so she has like a master's degree in psychology, but she owns her own company and Ally works at Amazon Web Services, but she was a self taught teacher at General Assembly for a long time. And Sydney is a little bit newer in the industry, but very enthusiastic and and incredibly organized and productive. And we all just bring different skills like I'm the only one of us with a computer science degree. And so we all bring these different perspectives, but guess what we're all like doing really well in our own ways. And it's just it's meant to show that it doesn't necessarily matter the journey you took to get there, it's going to take some people longer, it's going to be much harder for some people, unfortunately, but you can still be successful. If you don't have a piece of paper that says you graduated with a college degree in software engineering.

Tim Bourguignon 30:14
Amen to that I've gathered enough stories on this show from people who didn't have this paper.

Emma Bostian 30:20
Were very interesting. You know, what I actually find the people who did not study computer science or software engineering are some of the most successful engineers I've ever met. And I would agree to that, I would say I was really lazy in a lot of ways, because I just had that piece of paper and I said, Oh, I already learned about data structures and algorithms and database and MIPS assembly language, blah, blah, blah, okay, but can I actually do anything practical with that, and I never learned how to actually apply these skills practically. Whereas boot campers are some of the most motivated people I've ever met in my life, I saw a really terrible take on Twitter one day of someone who basically said that they would prioritize hiring candidates from Ivy League colleges with computer science degrees over boot camp, graduates. And I was horrified by this for multiple reasons. One that leads to implicit bias where you're hiring people that look like and come from the same background that you do. Their argument was basically like, why assume people who go to these colleges work harder. And I'm like, I would argue the opposite, because I just coasted through school and, and got my piece of paper, I never learned how to study, I never applied myself, people who are in bootcamp, feel as though they have to try harder. And unfortunately, I think it's getting better now. But that was the case in the last years, where it was harder to get a job as a boot camp graduate than it was with a degree. But a lot of them are taking these boot camps in their spare time as a second like degree, partly because a lot of them have nine to five jobs, even if it's not in the same industry, or they're taking care of family members or people who need medical attention. Like there's so much more going on. And the people I find in boot camp will have more relevant experience and a better work ethic. And that's just my hot take. But that's coming from someone who went and got a computer science degree and realize that I was not prepared.

Tim Bourguignon 32:06
I think I really am set up. One other thing I think I realized with ultimate boot campers, the first career they bring with them isn't enrichment in itself. And it always shines through. And you always see things that they learned in this first career. And they bring into the team and say, Oh, thank you, thank you for that, that is really bringing something it's really bringing some new skills that have nothing to do with with computer science, but are really helping the whole team, the whole company go forward. And this is absolutely fantastic.

Emma Bostian 32:36
Many of the engineers that IBM used to hire did not have engineering degrees at all, there really wasn't an engineering degree at the time when a lot of like my parents generation were getting jobs. There were some but it was more common to have a degree in English or mathematics or music. Actually, IBM hired a lot of musicians. So I don't know where this gatekeeping stigma of like people with engineering degrees are better. It's okay. It's a different path. Like they bring skills that boot campers don't. And boot campers bring skills that engineering students don't bring it. There are trade offs in one is not better than the other. And I just wish that we would get rid of that.

Tim Bourguignon 33:12
I hope that's we're slowly getting there.

Emma Bostian 33:14
I think we are I think, I think we're shifting, but again, it's still there will always be gatekeepers, and they like to scream really loudly. Don't even get me started with the people who get super angry if you call yourself a software engineer, and you don't have the right accreditation. Oh my god, I hate it so much. I understand what they're saying that in their country, they had to get an accreditation to become a software engineer. But let me tell you why I got hired at Spotify as a software engineer, that is my literal job title. So you want to tell me that I'm not software? Do you want me to call myself a coat like a code person? Like I don't? It's there's just too much gatekeeping? And I hope everyone listening I can you tell them passionate about this. There are bigger problems to focus on than whether someone calls themself a software engineer.

Tim Bourguignon 33:56
I've been in this argument a couple of times. And the way I steer the discussion usually is is talking about engineering and how software is not an engineering field. And so dismantling the whole point at first and not going into Am I a software engineer if I studied something, but can you say you're a software engineer in the first place? Usually, you heat up a little bit and the point is far away.

Emma Bostian 34:23
It's interesting when we start to look at how different cultures are organized because we what we don't realize is that many cultures are hierarchical in nature, and many are collaborative in nature, and they're very different. So in the United States, you're gonna get a lot of emphasis on titles. People's titles are very important. And you don't tread on those other countries. Usually in Europe, they adopt similar mindsets, but then you've got collaborative cultures where it's a lot flatter in hierarchy, where like the managers will sit with the team and everyone will collaborate together and titles are not necessarily so important. I think that's where the discrepancy can come from is a lot of the people arguing that software engineering it's a protected title or are coming from these very hierarchical cultures. And what they fail to realize is the majority of the world doesn't have that. And I can understand their frustration. They spent time and money and effort to go through these courses. But at the end of the day, you're doing the same job as someone without this title. And we really need to stop. I think we should get rid of those accreditation programs to begin with, like you're writing code, you're architecting software, these are not things that need to be protected by a paid come back

Tim Bourguignon 35:22
to the the argument we have beginning, a few years down the line, your career, your degree doesn't make any any difference. Anyway,

Emma Bostian 35:27
it got me hired, it got me in the door. And I will admit that but knowledge wise, I have played catch up for quite a few years

Tim Bourguignon 35:34
time boxes is running. But I have one more question. You are doing a lot of stuff. How do you what's your framework for saying yes, so saying no to things? It's funny,

Emma Bostian 35:43
because in the beginning, I said yes to everything. And I burned out very fast. But I think when you're growing your career, saying yes to a lot of things is really enticing. You want to say yes to all the conference talks, you want to say yes to all the blog posts or podcasts, etc. Just be aware of your real capacity and your real desire to do these things. It's very obvious to the world when you're creating content you're not passionate about. So my biggest catalyst for growing my career was to build my online content platform, which now mostly is Twitter. But at the time it was blogging, it was how I felt comfortable in my skills. But it was also how I share my knowledge with the world that really got my career off the ground and ultimately helped me get my foot in the door at Spotify, my biggest piece of advice for that is if you're looking to grow your network, improve, or grow your like GitHub repositories, or grow your blogging platform, or whatever it may be, do like create content you're passionate about. If you do that, people will see that passion and they will migrate to you. But if you're creating content, and you're saying yes to everything, even if you're not enjoying it, like it's going to be very obvious. So be very selective with what you choose to say yes to obviously, in the beginning, go for as many things as you're comfortable with, but make sure you're really passionate about it.

Tim Bourguignon 36:58
How does it manifest itself when you're passionate about something, and you realize that you're passionate about it,

Emma Bostian 37:03
because you're attracting like minded individuals who are also passionate about the same thing. I think that's what it was like, for me that showed up in followers on my blog followers on Twitter, and I would engage with them in the threads. But it can also manifests itself in getting contacted by companies like I was contacted by Stack Overflow to write a series of blogs for them and companies I've admired for a long time, were reaching out to me because they could see that I was passionate about what I was writing,

Tim Bourguignon 37:27
because you were putting yourself enough out there and really showing that you really mean it. And some people could that up and wanting more of that.

Emma Bostian 37:38
Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Bourguignon 37:40
Okay. Interesting.

Emma Bostian 37:43
And I think it's important to be authentic as well don't hide facets of your personality to fit into a norm. That's my personal opinion. If someone's going to like me, they're going to like me for the good times, and the bad. And I'm very transparent about the crap that I go through my personal life. And I think that's resonated with a lot of people. Because you don't often see people talking about being in 1000s of dollars of debt and dragging yourself out of it by creating side projects to pay it off and medical issues that I've had and how hard it is to work a nine to five job when you just feel like crap all the time, be authentic, share what you're comfortable with. Obviously, that is an issue in and of itself. If you overshare you're going to have people are going to feel like you owe it to them to explain everything in your life. I've been there. It's not fun. But at the same time, it's definitely create an authentic atmosphere, the content that I was creating, because I was not just a developer, a company, I was a person trying to just survive in life.

Tim Bourguignon 38:40
It sounds funny, but I've had a very small glimpse of the Twitter side of women that will be a pretty well known woman developer. And I was I was very afraid of what the shit she's she's getting every day. I'm smiling when you say this, but I have no idea how it really likes. Thank you for still being out there.

Emma Bostian 39:00
Yeah, of course. I tried to take everything with a grain of salt and admittedly I don't get as much shit as other people do. And I'm very fortunate for that. But yeah, occasionally, you're gonna get people who are absolute jerks, and I just have to walk away. And I think if I leave I because I've thought about it multiple times. If I were to leave, the jerks who wanted me to fail will win. And I think that's what drives me that's what's driven me my whole career is proving people wrong and it doesn't work for everyone but it's gotten me to where I am today.

Tim Bourguignon 39:27
Seems to be working Yeah. Let's go back to the very beginning of your story when you started as IBM and were was playing catch up and really trying to live up to the expectations you had of yourself and the and the reality was will be the the one advice that you would have liked to hear back then.

Emma Bostian 39:50
I think something and actually I didn't learn this until I joined LogMeIn. You should find a community that you see yourself as part of whether that's The React community or women, programmer community, whatever that whatever is important to you to feel like you belong in this industry, surround yourself with people like that surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed and are not jealous of your career, I didn't know that there was such a ramping community on Twitter of, you know, like minded engineers, not people who look like me and come from the same background, or people who have the same motivating goals as me, I didn't realize there was that whole ecosystem. And honestly, it makes learning so much more rewarding. When you see other people doing the same thing. It's very motivating. And it's, it reminds you that everyone is struggling. And it's okay to have days where you say, You know what, I don't think I'm cut out for this. But you pick it up and come back to it because the people around you are lifting you up. That was the biggest piece of advice I wish I'd gotten was to look for a community because when I was learning at IBM, I was an isolation. I didn't have a community. I didn't know what existed and I didn't know how to learn. And once I found that when I was in Germany, that's when my career took off.

Tim Bourguignon 40:59
Awesome. Thank you very much. Where can people find you online? If they didn't yet?

Emma Bostian 41:04
Yeah, you can find me on Twitter. My handle is just mo Bostjan. I'm pretty active. although admittedly, I don't talk as much about tech the past couple months, as I usually do. I've been talking a lot about buying a house in Sweden and things like that, but I will get back to tech soon.

Tim Bourguignon 41:20
It's the pandemic spirit.

Emma Bostian 41:22
I know exactly.

Tim Bourguignon 41:25
Okay, anything else you want to plug in?

Emma Bostian 41:27
No, I just that. Thank you for having me on.

Tim Bourguignon 41:30
It's been my pleasure. Thank you very much. And this has been another episode of the history and we'll see each other next week. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you liked the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Would you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Deaf journey dot info slash donate. And finally don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter at @timothep ti m o th e p or per email info at Dev journey dot info. Talk to you soon.