Software Developers Journey Podcast

#172 Steve Gordon is the worlds most honest interviewee


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Steve Gordon 0:00
I think all you probably need is someone telling you just if you think you don't like it, you won't know until you try it. And it's not going to kill you. Even if you bomb. And you really decide you hate it, try it. And in my case, it's worked out, I've realized I do enjoy it. But yeah, if you're on the edge, or you've never even considered it before, think about something you've worked on, submitted to a user group, they're the best places to start, they're a little bit more lightweight. They're more open to sessions, they're always looking for speakers, everyone has a story. Everyone's worked on a project that's gone or gone wrong. And both of those are things that you can share with others. And they can learn from maybe prevent them going down a bad path or steer them in the right direction. So try it, see if you like it, and hopefully you it's really not as bad as you might think.

Tim Bourguignon 0:52
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 172. I received Steve Gordon. Steve works as a software engineer for elastic. He has a strong focus on communities. And he's a regular open source contributor to the humanitarian toolbox. He founded the dotnet 1000 East user group, blogs extensively, and was awarded a Microsoft MVP for the fourth time this year. Fourth time he wrote, Steve, welcome, visionary.

Steve Gordon 1:30
Thank you, Tim. Thank you.

Tim Bourguignon 1:31
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 helped 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 dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. So Steve, I didn't 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, since it's the habit of the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your debt journey?

Steve Gordon 2:22
Oh, I did have to think about this. And I ended up going pretty far back. So my first experience I think, with a computer is probably where the love for it in general. And then development began. And for me that was primary school, which in the UK is between the ages of four and 11. And I think we had a BBC Micro was one of the computers that the school had, and obviously didn't do much. But you could play some games on it, you could do some sort of educational sort of games on there and things. And as soon as I got my hands on that thing, I was one of the people at the school that really enjoyed doing that kind of stuff and look forward to the lessons where I knew the computer might be involved. And then probably where that further developed was when we finally got a PC at home. It's funny to think back that computers weren't a mainstream thing at home as I was first growing up, I think the first time we had one in the house, my dad brought a laptop home from work, which was this big, huge brick of a machine. And he'd use it for doing Excel and things on there. And I play around with Solitaire and mess around with Excel because it's quite fun seeing that you could add numbers and around probably the age of 11, we actually got our first PC, which was a hand me down from I think it was a family friend that had this old Amstrad. And unfortunately, I'm not one of those people that can remember the names of the actual models of the computers that I had. I know it was an Amstrad. I know it had a five and a quarter inch like floppy disk drive, I know around sort of MS DOS, I think. And that's pretty much all I remember, I know that I enjoyed using it. And you know, being able to mess around with even things like just word processing and stuff, you know, basic stuff like that is quite magical typing things and just seeing them appear on screen. And fairly early on, I think you could say that I was into computers, which is how my wife used to describe my job. In fact, he's in computers. And then probably in secondary school, we got our first PC. So this was like a Packard Bell. It was a Pentium three, I want to say maybe at the time, during secondary school, some friends and I discovered that we could use q basic, which is a sort of basic programming language on this system. And we very quickly got quite excited about this experience of being able to write some code and see the computer do some stuff. And so I think the traditional path for us was the text adventure game, a very simple thing to do, ask a question, answer it, and then go to statements scattered everywhere to control the flow of this thing. We really got into kind of that process. And as we got a little bit more advanced, I know we used it for one of our math classes, we had to do some project where we were doing some kind of algorithms and things and we said well, why don't we write a program that runs the algorithms that we can just show off this, this thing working? So we did that and showed it to our teacher and they were like extremely impressed that we'd written this little sort of basic software application to show off the thing that he was teaching us. And from that point, I think the coding bug was properly on me that that typing some code and seeing it run in the terminal. Basically, controlling a computer is how we saw it at the time really kicked off. And as I say, we're probably probably around sort of 1314, as we were probably starting to grasp how to do this kind of stuff. And that kind of stayed with me through into kind of the end of secondary school. And one of the things you do towards the end of secondary school and UK, which is leave around the age of 16, just prior to that you do a week of work experience. And so you get this long list of places, you can potentially go and work out for a week and see what it's like. And there was nothing on the list that really grabbed me, I knew I wanted to do something that involve computers, but nothing on the list really involved computers in any particular way. So I spoke to my dad who works, he works for the National Health Service in the UK. He's on the he was at the time, at least on the finance team there. And I said you use computers, you've got this laptop, you're bringing home, is there something I could do at your offices, and he spoke to their IT department? And they said, Yeah, we could have him in. And so that was all set up and arranged. And I went to do a week of work at an NHS office I did two days, I think it's two days in the actual IT department doing sort of techsupport stuff. So helping install operating systems on the machines and swap swap boxes out here. And there are the two days in their data team, which was quite fun, because it probably exposed me for the first time to access databases. And they said, Oh, here's this access product, can you go and make a little database to take this data and see what you can do with it. So I worked on that for a couple of days. And then I did a day in the finance team actually for doing data entry. And it was it was interesting for me because it meant that I discovered I enjoyed all those aspects for different reasons. But I knew in advance that I liked computers, and I wasn't sure if there'd be one part of that that particularly stood out to me, but actually liked everything at that point that week, when you went well. And when I left school, so at the summer when I was probably yes, 16 years old, or so I got to get a request through my dad that said, Oh, the IT team. They said would you come and do a bit of summer work for them and just help out? I said, yeah, definitely a is money. And this was probably going to be my first job. I hadn't really done any paper rounds or anything like that. So I was like, Yeah, I'll go and work in an office for six weeks during the summer join the team there and traditional desktop technician kind of role that way the NHS is organized, it's split into different sort of units for the different counties within the UK. So the IT team there worked in the sort of the southeast region of the UK. And it meant traveling out to different hospitals and clinics and things and setting up PCs. And I know they use Citrix on the back end. So there were a lot of dumb terminals that we were putting in around the place pretty basic work. If something didn't break, it didn't work, you swapped it out pretty much was how it went. And off, they went again. But I definitely found that it was something I enjoyed doing beyond tinkering for a hobby, it was actually something I enjoyed doing day to day. So it's something I was keen to continue. And I think that kept going I think prove most of my holidays through college. So college in the UK 16 to 18 High School in the US kind of timeframe. So kept doing a little bit of summer work, and then went to work with them through that period of time and joined college to do a computing course. So the traditional college education in the UK is in a level, or a set of a levels that you do at school, the one I actually chose was a slightly different course it was an advanced vocational certificate in education, which is the equivalent of three A levels but it meant you you did quite a lot of units specifically around it and tech. So there was some stuff on coding some stuff on the hardware side, but quite broad range, I guess you could equate it to the basics of a computer science type thing, but much not at university level. But it was a good opportunity to try out some different aspects and see some different things. And after the first year of that two of the lectures, the two best lectures, in my opinion on the course, actually announced that they were leaving the college because the college was changing how that course worked. And they weren't on board, I don't think with how they were reducing the cost down. And so they actually decided to set up their own private college in the city center. And they said to me, obviously, no one's obliged to come it will require payment, because it's a private college, but we're going to try and do this thing as a non for profit. Keep it as affordable as we can. And if you're interested, here's what you do. So I took that opportunity. Because yeah, I was very keen on finishing the course out as it had been described up front. And this seemed like the best way to do that. And as I say these were in our opinion that the better lecturers as well what would cause look like the next year if we didn't transition over. But one of the interesting things about that book that placement is they said what we're doing is we didn't college, but we're doing it much more structured. So you're going to you're going to wear a suit and tie to the office to come in. You're going to do two days a week full time nine to five college. And then three days a week will be a work placement scheme, and you'll go and we'll find you placements within the town but in it type roles. They organize that and they set up some interviews and then that was where I had my first job interview. was joining a local manufacturing company who was looking for primarily they were looking for desktop support desktop technician. And there's a say so it's three weeks there, and then two weeks, two days a week in the actual college. So moving from a college environment where it was a couple of lessons a day, and then you might have an afternoon off here. And it was a much more kind of free system. Suddenly, I was doing a 40 hour, week suit and tie all the time. But I do think it was a really good concept. Unfortunately, the college didn't make it past the first year or so because for onboarding new students, but it worked well, for those of us that manage that first year, I think there were about 20 or service that attended. And as I say, it got us into that kind of working world. And at the end of all of that, so AJT obviously at that point, you starting to think about university, classic career career path for a student, Okay, done College, next University. And I did look around at some universities to see what was on offer. And if I'm honest, I remember thinking that none of the courses felt right. There was nothing that

Steve Gordon 11:49
They obviously all covered computing. And I knew like computing, but there was nothing that kind of massively stood out some of the ones that I saw, they had a programming course. But it sounded very basic. And I was like, I'm already doing programming. I'm playing around with VB six. At that point, I think, probably still doing some quick, basic stuff. I wasn't convinced on the university at the exact same time, I was taken into a manager's office at the engineering firm, and they said, Would you like to stay on once you finish college? I said, Yes, I like working here. But I am thinking about education wise what I should do. And they were very good. They said, Well, if you want to join us, that'd be fantastic, will actually pay for you any education that you want to do, as long as it can be done around work. So they were thinking maybe like an Open University type system where you do a course over maybe five or six years, and fit it in around your work. And I went away and had to think about it. And in the end, I found a few marks of courses that looked quite good. And I looked at the NVC NTSC, I think it was actually the MCSE certified engineer qualification, which was, I think, six or seven classroom based courses. And then you take seven, seven or eight exams at the end, I think, to finally become certified. So I said, if you'll pay for that, which was reasonably pricey, but if you pay for that, and I can stay, yes, let's do it. And so that was that kicked off my my full time it career or joining them, as I say, primarily as a desktop technician, initially. But one of the things I found very soon after I joined even during the college time actually was, I was getting bored. It was a company of maybe 120 people mix of desktop PCs, and terminal PCs, quite an old out of date system at the time, I think there was still on to like Tim bass to written token ring networking, and mostly on a very old sort of micro Vax sort of mainframe computer in air quotes just about keeping up with the people that were trying to use it. But I was getting bored, not enough stuff was breaking to keep me occupied. Not enough tickets were coming in. And I don't tend to like sitting around too much. So I said to them all. When I was at the NHS, they had this really cool intranet, but you don't have an intranet. And I described the concept of what that would look like to them and said, all these documents, you've got scattered around file systems, maybe we can have a sort of web front end to access all of that stuff. And then we're like, yeah, if you've got time, go for it, essentially, have fun. So I said about furthering the HTML that I'd already discovered and actually starting to build out a proper intranet from scratch and repurpose one of the servers in the back room that could host this static, it was only a static sites and anything special. I think I hard coded all of the links to all of the documents. So any changes were pretty, pretty labor, some but it soon became something of relying on within the company. And they started looking at other kind of areas where they had in house systems or less efficient ways of doing things. And they had an Access database, which had grown as Access databases tend to do for one or two people needing it to suddenly 80 people in the company trying to log in at the same time and enter data. And I think they were using a figure that was the one that was using like an Excel front end. So they were using VBA and macros in Excel to write data down to the database. And funnily enough, with 80 people were trying to use it. It was locking all the time. It was crashing a lot. We were constantly rebooting servers. try keep this thing going. I said, Well, that's not great. Why didn't we? Why don't we look at that, and certainly rebooting the server all the time, maybe we can do something better. And so I think at that point, we just finished upgrading the network. So we had like, cat six network put in, we just kind of got a bunch of proper Windows servers, I think. And we were starting to move, move the whole system forward a bit within the company, we just got a shiny new Microsoft SQL Server, and I say, Okay, well, let's put the database on that which is designed for volume. And I will write a web front end, I sold it to them pretty quickly, I then realized, I don't know SQL, and I don't know how to build a dynamic web front end, but we'll worry about that later, kind of thing. They were on board. So I asked for a few books, they bought me a few books. I know, there were a few websites out there that I was. So I was gonna say googling but probably with Google wasn't even that big a thing back then searching my way for around the web for and in the end ended up using classic ASP to build this thing out. And I got really into it, I was spending as much time on the dev project as I could try to do any, like desktop issues or server issues as fast as I could, so that I could get back to the kind of making making software essentially work. And, yeah, it did what it was meant to do at the time. So we got everyone migrated over. And I think that the managers in the company were quite happy, because they weren't hearing from all their staff that the system that everyone's relying on is constantly falling over, it was probably by no means perfect to bug free, but it was better than what we were coming from. And I think I had the advantage of we were coming from absolute rubbish. So it couldn't, it could, it was hard to make it worse, if we put it that way. Even with a self taught skills, it was hard to make it worse. And I kept doing that I worked there for about five, five years, we did a few more sort of software projects, a few more things where we will be migrating over to SQL. And at the time, I think I was focused, I was using Visual Basic, we moved on to asp.net, when that first came out, which I think we probably on one over fat when that first released. So this was my first kind of branch into sort of where I pretty much now based in ASP. NET Core and dotnet core land it was when I first got my hands on that technology. And as I carried on doing that five years, and then this engineering company was part of a big conglomerate. So there are a small engineering company that got bought out by a company bought out by a bigger company. And suddenly they're owned by this huge US company. And as part of all of that work, one day got called into the HR office, which is never a good thing. According to the HR office, and they said Your job is being outsourced, we're going to all of the it for all of the companies owned by this parent company are going to be outsource one advantage we have in the UK at least and I don't know if this is the case elsewhere. But we have quite good legislation around these kind of things. And so rather than getting fired, you get transferred, at least to the company that's taking over the outsource contract. So firstly, important thing was I wasn't jobless that that was a change coming, but it wasn't too worried. So I joined the outsource company at that point. And one of the downsides of it for me was part of the outsourcing was there was a specific contract of what we did day to day. And one of the things that wasn't in that contract was software development. And so suddenly, I was back to mostly desktop server tech stuff. And I do remember there was some discussion, do I do this privately? Out in my own hours? Do I do some development work? Could we make that work? Would that be a conflict of interest? I think in the end, we decided it might be a bit of a legal nightmare, potentially. So I did a bit of contracting, but through the outsource from company to continue some of those projects that were in flight because it was just me building those. So it's that classic problem in a business where you've got one person working on something that understands how it works, if they go hit by a bus or outsource whatever it may be, the company is in a little bit of a tricky situation. So yeah, we've managed to find a way to keep that going. But within the outsource company, one of the advantages of moving there was I moved from a team of to me and the IT manager to a team of many people in it and part of a larger desktop support team in the southeast of the UK. And as time went on, over the next couple of years, I got promoted to team lead for the UK team and then later to the operational lead for Amir, and it was my first foray into managing I wasn't a line manager of anyone but I was managing the service a little bit and making sure that you know, projects were ticking along to some degree. So those kinds of things, but I was definitely drifting away from hands on keyboard for programming and hands in computers for building PCs to more of a sort of management and I followed that train for a while I ended up in what they call a delivery executive role after another couple of years. And in that role, I was basically managing the service for the customer in the customer be my old employees umbrella company and I was managing primarily the the desktop server and project support for them. For around I think we had about 8000 seats across 100 locations mostly across Europe, but I was the liaison role between customer and our kind of our individual teams that were doing all of those things. It was good from an experience perspective and it was it felt okay, I'm moving up the career ladder this is the right thing to do. But I realized quite quickly that it did become pretty tough. So the hours were getting longer, because you're in a more senior position. One of the downsides was that in that role, I was essentially on 24/7, on call support for any major incident. So basically, if there was a several an incident anywhere in Europe, Middle East or Africa, I got a phone call, I needed to be on the bridge, I needed to talk to the customer, explain how we were working on it, I need to make sure the right teams are involved, and just make sure everything was ticking along, really. But it did mean some 2am phone calls where you know, servers blown up in Italy, and I'm on a call trying to get the right engineer that's on call for that region to the right location at the right time, and make sure that customers kind of happy, that kind of thing. And so there was a lot of stress

Steve Gordon 20:44
around that kind of those extra hours. So there was one time where my wife's cousin was having a 30th birthday party or something along those lines. And I remember standing outside for three hours on the phone trying to manage this incident on my Blackberry. So emails being fired off from a Blackberry and trying to turn to do a conference call bridge all the while with my wife and her family saying where Steve, as I stood outside dealing with that, yeah, it was it was not great from that area, it was good from an experience perspective, but it wasn't as in love with the job that I was doing there. And as I say, now I was in a management role, there was no software development part of that role at all. So I'd taken on a couple of private clients context I'd had through sort of previous work I'd done, who wanted one of them wanted like a custom CMS built. So I use ASP net for that and building the custom CMS, they could design their site and control the content for them, I think I did another little inventory system for another person. So this was all in my off hours. And as you can imagine, with a job that's already more than more than an eight hour day plus that I was it was quite tiring, and probably wasn't the best person to live with at times. And to add to all of that the outsourcing company where for the last couple of years that I was there were fairly constantly reducing headcount. And as part of that, that meant in the UK, we were put at risk of redundancy. And it's quite a process that goes through. But first, you're told on a big telephone call that your roles are at risk of redundancy, here's the process going forward. And yeah, so you have a couple of months, not really knowing what's going to happen. And then you get told whether you're safe or not, or whether you may have to re interview for a different position. Unfortunately, I was always told, my role was critical. And I was doing a good job. So I was being kept. But every six months or so we had this new risk of redundancy looming over us. And it's stressful. It's not how you want to live your life not really being sure if you're going to have a job. And it makes you feel very undervalued, regardless of the reasons for it as a company that's doing, you feel less valued. And you think I'm putting in lots of hours here, I'm being paid, okay, but I'm not being paid probably for what I'm doing and what I'm giving. And so I started talking to my wife and saying, I'm enjoying this side project, stuff that I'm doing that I barely have time for more than I'm enjoying my day job. Should I be thinking about software development more seriously as a more full time job. And this is where I think my wife is a fantastic person to have in my life, because she was the person that sort of took it from a stub of an idea and actually said, yes, if you enjoy that more, you should do that. It doesn't, we don't have to worry about the career path there, go and do what makes makes you happy. So I started looking around for jobs, software developer jobs. And in my hometown, it's not huge. There's not many tech jobs in that in the sort of software industry. So I had to look at Brighton, which is a city that's about 30 minutes, commute away, train. And I looked around there, and that's more of a tech hub in the southeast. So there's more jobs going there. And I found a couple that sounded okay. But then imposter syndrome sets in and you're like, they're looking for developers, and I can develop, but I've never been trained to develop. And I've never worked on a team of developers, I'd only recently discovered version control software and started using Git for my own projects. Before that, I think I was copy pasting two folders called backup a backup be and just keeping it going. I didn't have software development practices behind me. But I knew how to code if that makes sense. So yeah, impostor syndrome setting, and I wasn't sure if I could and should be going for these roles I was looking at, but I did see one that sort of stood out to me it was C sharp, it was asp.net. So it's like at least I know those things having sort of transitioned from Visual Basic at some point to C sharp, I think I did that. At some point in my career, I realized I was constantly finding that when I was searching for stuff online, I was finding the C sharp code samples, not understanding them, putting them into a code translator that made them visual, basically, and then trying to make that code work. And I realized at some point in my career that I should probably just learn C sharp, so I got some books and taught myself that so yeah, I suppose that and I signed up to do an interview at this company called magics, which are based in Brighton and they do software as a service recruitment software per minute primarily job board platforms for all kinds of people that might be doing recruitment, whether it's more trade organizations or whether it's larger and newspapers and magazines, that kind of thing. So I took an interview there immediately decided I liked the Companies like I walked in and it was had a bit of a tech company feel that people were in their own sort of comfy T shirts and stuff as a whole, not suit and tie. That's interesting. And it was open plan off. This had fun stuff on the wall, good colors, it felt a little bit alive. I thought, Okay, this seems nice. And I liked the people that I sort of spoke to during the interview. And I think just after that first interview, they called me back and said, Sorry, that job isn't being hired for anymore after all, as Oh, that's a shame. I really quite like the look of it. They said, Don't worry, we'll keep you on, keep on the books. And we'll let you know if anything else comes up. And they were true to their word. I think, Sony A month later, I think they called me back and said, Okay, we've got this

Steve Gordon 25:39
proper developer role. So the first role I'd gone for it was a support developer, which felt more of a fit for my experience level, maybe. But they said, Oh, we've got a mid level developer role we're hiring for would you be interested in doing so? Okay, yeah, I'll interview. And then I did probably the most honest interview anyone's ever done, where I was explaining, I don't want this job. If I'm not the right fit. i This is what I know, this is what I definitely don't know. But I said, I'm willing to learn everything I don't know. But just don't hire me on the basis that it's assumed that I know it now. And I've always preferred to do that interview, I don't want to, you know, it's always gonna bite you later on if you start claiming skills that you don't have or things like that. So I know I did the the interview questions, and I'd revise solid, because I'd never really, I'd use the patterns. But I've never put names to the patterns, because I've never been formally trained. So you come across all this new terminology that you're going to be asked, and I guarantee they're gonna ask you a question on what solid means. And one of the principles. So I prepped and I got through the interview, I got through the technical tests that they gave me a little build a little program, and got good feedback from that. They said, Oh, you wrote unit tests, no one else wrote unit tests. Okay, that's good. And yeah. And then they offered me the role there to join on that team. So took that job. And that was the scary moment where my wife again helped hit me over the edge, because I it's a big pay cut, compared to this management role that I'm doing that I've worked up to. It's a big pay cut. And we were like that, do we want to do that she's we can afford it. We're pretty good with money. We don't have debts, we just have a mortgage. But we knew we could cover it off this go for I'm sure it'll come together in the end. So yeah, she pushed me over the ledge and said, yeah, just accept it, basically, which was, which I did. So it's always good to have someone that can help encourage decision making when particularly if you're like me, and you're risk averse. making any kind of decision where it's an unknown can be difficult. But she definitely I joined Magix and immediately loved it in terms of the company was what it seemed everyone was very relaxed. So you're coming in your jeans and your T shirt, and you're sitting down and each coding for eight hours. And so this is fantastic. So I joined with a very small team, there were three of us working on some new products that they were putting out. And I was given the job of just polishing off the product, they just finished writing as it was being beta tested with a few people. So handling the bugs as they came in, finishing off a few sort of enhancements that we wanted to do. And I slowly burned off the imposter syndrome in that first few months where I realized, well, I can read the code, I can understand what it's doing, I'm able to add to it. I've not broken anything critical so far. And it got to the point where I was watching a lot of content. I've always been quite into podcasts, blog posts, any video content at the time, Microsoft used to put all of their like developer conferences on their channel nine website, and you go and watch all of those. So I pretty much like binge watched all dev sessions from all previous versions of those. But it meant that I was coming in with some fresh ideas that I'd seen in those talks that they hadn't considered quite quickly felt valued in that I was offering ideas that we could consider for for the product and taking it forward. And then a few trying to think of the timeline, probably maybe six to 12 months after joining I got moved on to a new Greenfield project with at the time one of the developer named Andy and we're basically given a brief that we needed an analytics platform that we wanted to build. So we wanted to collect metrics from all of the customer sites for them and present them basically a Google Analytics like UI that they could query that data and run their own analytics reports on to see which jobs are working best, which adverts are doing better what's being searched for that kind of thing. And so it was, it was great, because it's Greenfield. And so Andy, who was the senior, I think it was even a lead dev at that point already said, I think we're going to use elastic search for the so they already used it in a couple of things. And this sort of felt like a good fit. And we said we're going to use asp.net for the web part of it, the UI part of it or the API's I should say, actually, because we decided we were going to go microservices. So we're going to build API's, and then give our front end team free rein to design a kind of a JavaScript UI over the top of it in their framework of choice. And I quickly put my hand up and said, Oh, there's this ASP. NET core thing. I've been watching and I think it was in late beta phase at this point, and I said it's going to be I'll see soon, the release candidates can hang out. So maybe we should go with that. And thankfully, they accepted my suggestion because it meant we were starting with something new, it did cause us some pain granted, because we were on one Oh, have a new web platform. That was some teething issues and some features missing, but we weren't around all of them. And one of the advantages, I discovered that it meant that everything I was searching for to try and solve problems, there was nothing on the internet. So that was great blogging, for me kicked off pretty early 2016, I created the blog that I have today. And it was all ASP. NET core basics. Every time we solved a problem, I'd been keeping notes. And I was like, Okay, I'll blog about how we solved it and see if it helps anyone else, because this is the stuff I'm struggling with. So maybe other people are, and I probably beefed up the Twitter profile and got into that kind of side of things as well. So the blog picked up pretty quickly went from small number of hits, there's more and more people moving on to this ASP. NET core thing. Fortunately, just by virtue of being there early, my stuff was coming up in search results when they were searching for similar things. It's right time right place for that blog to take off a bit outside of that. And you mentioned in the bio, I started doing some stuff humanitarian toolbox. And this is a an open source charity. So it's a charity organization based in the US set up by some people that were working the dotnet space, some names that people might know, like Richard Campbell, who hosts the dotnet rocks podcast, and Bill Wagner was involved who now works at Microsoft, I'm not sure he did at the time. But some people names I knew had started this thing. And they were building this disaster relief preparedness application using ASP. NET Core. And I thought, Okay, this is a good opportunity to get into open source be it's an opportunity to do something for that's good, use my skills for something more humanitarian and out there in the community. And finally, I get to get a bit of exposure to how other people are building on ASP. NET Core. So I launched into that. And that was my first ever GitHub pull requests. My first ever open source experience of contributing was my first PR to that project. And the team there, there was three guys that are known as the ASP. Net monsters. But it's changed David and Simon, who were helping steer that project a lot. And they were fantastic to work with. They made it really easy to get into open source, made it very friendly helped out with the the obvious mistakes I made in getting my PR, right so that they could merge improperly. And in would have been February 2016, I think I found out they were hosting a coda phone in London as part of the NDC conference. And for that sounds good. I'll sign up for that. So it was two days in London, just coding on this stuff. And I managed to talk to my work and said, Can we send some other people and they said, Yeah, anyone who wants to go can go. So we got like four or five other developers to join me on the trip to London to go and do this thing. And that was when I met Richard Campbell and Richard Campbell, say hosted donut rocks. He was one of the voices I'd listened to for years. Because as I was quite obsessed with learning about dotnet, and their podcasts was one of the things they were putting out two or three a week. So I was listening to it often. My wife remembers when I even had it on while we were doing painting and decorating, I put the podcast on in the background, and she wouldn't understand it. But she enjoyed the humor and things of the show. And it just kept me from getting bored and frustrated with painting within the lines. So meeting Richard was, I guess, meeting sort of one of your famous people, your celebrities of the dotnet world and it was weird. Suddenly, I walked into the room, it was empty. Then he walked in. And then I had a chat with him. And we were talking about the project. And he knew I'd been contributing to somebody to help help out with anyone here. That's not done it before we can talk them through what to do. I said, Great. So he and Bill Wagner actually ran the session over a couple of days, we had some beers with him in the hotel on the first night. And it was a bit of a bizarre experience suddenly being thrust into this world that was previously virtual and a voice at the end of a podcast to meeting these two people that I knew and respected. Following on from all of that the humanitarian stuff really got, you know, got me going and I decided, in a moment of madness, I can only describe it as that, that I would submit a lightning talk to a local user group to talk about this project. And without going too deep into it, I have always hated public speaking. I had a massive fear of it, I tend to do it at school a few times I'd avoided it where possible. If my voice would crack my eyes would water it was a physical reaction to having to do it as well as just the idea of doing it was terrifying. So this idea came to me I did it and then immediately regretted it but managed to resist the urge to kind of chickened out a couple of times that came because it was a couple of months between submitting and actually doing, but ended up going on that evening to this user group to in 15 minutes or so talking about the project. And I didn't die. That's the most important thing of all. It went pretty well. I'd rehearsed it a lot. I knew what I was going to say after the first 30 seconds to a minute. I felt reasonably comfortable, not happy but reasonably comfortable that I wasn't going to totally forget what I needed to say.

Steve Gordon 34:55
And one of the people that was there was a guy named Dylan Beatty, who's also known in the dotnet space, and he was there to do a little lightning talk of his own. But afterwards, he came up to me and he said, Oh, I enjoyed your talk. Great project. sounds really cool. I really liked how you presented it. Would you like to do a talk about that at my user group? Maybe. But the adrenaline, I think the adrenaline and the kind of the survivor instinct of haven't got through it when I was a little bit, boy. And I said, Yeah. He said, Actually, I'm running a conference just later in the year, would you do something at the conference? And I again, in a moment of madness, yeah. Okay. Not really knowing what a conference was really about. I hadn't attended a conference. I've watched online sessions. But so I stupidly accepted this. And I said, Would something about Docker work because I knew I was working on Docker at the time, I knew it was quite new for a lot of people. I said, what were the intro to Docker work? It's a perfect, you're on, you're on the agenda. I was like, yay. Go me. And so I think there was about three months lag between this, this accepting to prepare for the conference, and I was getting progressively more nervous. Then I looked at the lineup for the conference and nearly flipped out there was column Richard from dotnet rocks were there. John Galloway from Microsoft was there, Dylan, Ian Cooper, those big in the dotnet space, all these names, I knew were speaking there. And then I saw the agenda with my name. And so while I'm on it, as well, and I was following this guy named John ski, and John Skeet, a legend in the C sharp space. So I was like, my first conference talk is in the same room as John skeet immediately after him. I knew his talks, I'd watched his talk. So I knew he was going to be good and absolutely terrified, basically, that this is a really bad decision. But I prepped I went, I did the user group, I think in August, which was essentially a trial for the the main conference in the end, that went fine. Did the conference a John Skeets room was packed, I was in there for his and his room was full. And I was like, Oh, this is scary room. Thankfully, some of these people will leave and no one left. Everyone was keen to know about Docker, or tick like the the worst topic for a newcomer because it was extremely popular. So about 100 people remained in the room, they were standing at the back there was sitting on the floor, I was like, Oh, good, God, what have I done, and I somehow got through it, I seem to go, no one complains, people came up afterwards and said they enjoyed it. And something I will say is if you ever go to a someone's talk at a conference and tell them because they could be like me, and they could be a terrified public speaker. And that little, I guess, sort of acceptance that my writing had gone well, and someone had enjoyed it and found it useful, actually meant that I kept doing and, and so now I've, you know, spoken at many more events, I've spoken different European and US conferences, and I really enjoy it. Now. It's part of what I do going forward. And I think all of that the blogging, speaking, being very active on Twitter, led to my MVP award, which again, was in the in the bio there. So I think I got the first award in 2017. For those that don't know, the MVP award is a Microsoft award two, they call it outstanding contributions to the community, anything that's generally furthering the community, education wise, whether that's videos, blogging, speaking, that kind of thing. And I could not believe I got nominated for this thing, I got an email, you get an email out of the blue saying you've been nominated. And I'd never even considered the idea that NDP was something I would be or do or be part of. But I've got this nomination. And then I didn't hear anything for months. And then I got another nomination. And I sort of the process ticked on, I spoke to Claire, who's one of the leads of the UK and VP program, and she got some more information about my activities, and then it went quiet for a bit. And then I got a final nomination. At this point, I was just like, well, it's never going to happen. Clearly, as I expected. I'm not an MVP, so that's fine. I'm not unhappy about this. But then, in November, I got this email out of the blue, saying, congratulations, you're an MVP. And it's a very bizarre experience to have everyone that I learned from on my way up was probably an MVP, people like Sean wildermuth, whose stuff I'd read Scott Allen, various people, all of these people were probably MVPs in their time. And so there was a lot of respected people that I knew were in this program. And suddenly, I'm being told I'm part of it. And it's quite weird. I think the program today is around three, three and a half 1000 people, any one time kind of active MVP, it's an annual renewal basis based on your activities you're doing. But one of the bonuses of MVP is MVP Summit, which is an annual congregation that Microsoft do basically, it's a kind of an NDA conference, if you will, at the Microsoft campus. So that's the important thing. It's in Seattle, is that the Redmond campus, it's a week long event of sessions that they host where they basically tell you what they're planning to do for those products. And you can pretend, on the basis that it's all under a nondisclosure. But it's a good opportunity for them to feel out. Do the MVPs in the room think this is something people want, is this a problem that people are having. And it's a good opportunity for us to say all we really would like it to do X and then to go brilliant, we'll do that. So it's very sort of two way relationships. It's a benefit to both sides. I think the MVP program from that respect, but I met some great people there. I've met people I'd only ever spoken to on Twitter and Andrew Locke who's another dotnet blogger, Mark he for so many others that I don't want to name them all, but there's so many people we all hang out at the after parties. And of course, you meet all of the Microsoft heroes as well, we've got to meet David Fowler, I think for the first time there, Scott Hanselman. And those kinds of people, which, you know, pretty impressive people to be in a room with, let alone to get a short opportunity to speak to, in fact, I do remember there was a party, one of the evenings was a party, and Andrew Luck, and I were hanging out. And we spotted this guy, who had a bunch of people around him, but they just disappeared. And we looked, and it was a Scott Hunter, who's pretty senior in the dotnet space at Microsoft in the program management side, and he was there. So we went over. So we had about a 20 minute chat with him. He was hinting at all these little ideas that he was having the team or having for things they were building, it was a really amazing discussion. And it was also like a very bizarre experience hanging out with those kinds of people that you'd always looked up to. And even today, it doesn't feel real when I'm in the room with those kinds of people and speaking at events with them. And some of them now are friends and people that I see fairly often on that when we could meet in person for conferences, hopefully that returns at some point in the future.

Steve Gordon 41:01
That's yeah, and probably in that same time frame, sort of 2019, I started doing Pluralsight, which is an ongoing thing of my hand, really stems from my love of teaching through my blog, I realized I love teaching through the blog, I started doing some video stuff on YouTube. And then I can't remember if I reached out to them, or they reached out to me, but somehow I got hooked up with an acquisitions editor that kind of interviewed me and explained the process and asked for a demo video, which I complete. And yeah, they said, okay, yeah, the contents Great. We'd like to have you on as an offer. And then they hook you up with essentially someone in the business, who's your sort of agent, if you will, within the business to take your course ideas through to the right people to see if they want to take them on. So I did my first course, which was released in early 2019, which was on dependency injection, in ASP. NET Core. Again, so I've been working on heavily in writing about heavily. And that was an opportunity to put that content out in a different form. And that's always been probably one of my most popular courses, actually, it's still really well watched, it needs an update to maybe dotnet. Six, when that's out. But it's still relevant today and watched by a lot of people. And again, this is something I never imagined myself doing this video training website that I'd been learning from, for the last maybe five, six years, been watching a lot of Pluralsight videos from respected Pluralsight authors to learn about the C sharp coding craft. And then suddenly, I'm now offering for them it is again, it's another one of the things I look back on and I still have to pinch myself from time to think, Okay, now I'm providing content and people are consuming that content on a daily basis. It's very strange. But I've rambled on but to round off the journey, all of that led to summer last year I someone I knew, and from meeting them at conferences and Twitter, going in my time, who works at elastic pings me and said, Oh, we're hiring for a dotnet dev on the elastic side? Would that be something you'd be interested in? And I was like, Yes, I can. I see the job description. And I have to say I was extremely happy at Magix at the time, like, they were being very supportive of my conference career. So given me time off to speak at events allow me to write about the stuff we were working on. The stuff I was building was fun. We were Greenfield, we were doing these micro services, we were ASP. NET Core, it's all good stuff. So I'd had no plans to move on. But when you get an invite from a couple to interview in a company like elastic, you think this is a big name, maybe I should look at it at least looked at the spec. It sounded like it was right up my street. It was software development. I didn't want to leave software development, I'd want to keep my hands coding. But it was also community outreach, writing blog posts, writing documentation, going to events to talk about the product, okay, this is probably a good fit for what I enjoy. But impostor syndrome sets in again, and I'm like, this is elastic. And I'm on this point, I've been promoted to senior developer at magics. I've been MVP, but I still struggle with that impostor syndrome and getting over the getting over the fear that I'm not good enough or going to fail at this thing. So again, it was my wife that pushed me a bit and said, well, interview, you can't go wrong with the interview. If it sounds like it's up your street. So it was a very two way interview. They were interviewing me. I was trying to find out more about the role. Again, I was saying to him, like, I don't want this thing if I can't do conferences, I still want to do some community stuff. They said, Great. That's what we want you to be doing. It's part of the job. Okay, that's good. It felt good. The free interviews I did with them for free with various members of the clients all fun for a start. The people seem really nice. Every question I asked was got a good answer back. So it was very two way I think I probably asked more questions in one interview than they asked me, which is maybe not the best best interview tactic, but I really wanted to make sure it was a good fit for them and me. So long story short, I got an offer accepted the offer, again, with the help of my wife pushing me again over that edge. And I was worried Am I jumping out something I love to accompany that maybe I won't love maybe it sounds good, but is it going to be as good and will I be out of my depth and all of these things? And again, my wife helped push me forward and said Look, you're not going to know unless you try it really? Basically. Yeah, stop deferring accept the offer. So yeah, join them in November. Last year, so I've been there eight, nine months now. And my role is, so I'm a senior engineer, but I'm one of the few on dotnet. So elastic is mainly a Java company, the Elastic Search, and all of the products are Java. But the dotnet side is the dotnet clients, which is where I live on the clients team. So this is Elastic Search dotnet a nest which you might use if you're talking to Elastic Search from a dotnet application. And basically, I've taken that on now. So I maintain that project. And yeah, loving every minute of elastic life, to be honest, it's it's lived up to the expectations that were people gave me from the interview process. It's been a tough learning curve, but I enjoy learning. And I looking back, I realized that maybe in my previous role, I was enjoying it. But Was I being stretched anymore was I, the pump, I was the person in the company, people were coming to the questions, but maybe I wasn't learning from others as much because I was the one sort of trying new things and bringing new ideas in around ASP. NET Core in particular. So going to elastic then suddenly, I'm in this massive engineering org, I come from a company of 100 odd people, maybe 25 developers to a company of 1000s. With many hundreds of developers, I've been really impressed with the engineering culture there. And yeah, that's brought us up to date. I guess I've pretty much gone through my history. But I look back on those pivotal points in that career. And logging was a big point for me again, right place right time. But probably the biggest change was when I started public speaking, and got a profile through that. But the thing that things that have stemmed off of that, so yeah, if he's listening, I have to thank Dylan Beatty, I think for offering me that first conference talk. And for me being stupid enough to say yes, led me where I am now, who knows what I'd be doing. If some of those little turns along the way hadn't happened.

Tim Bourguignon 46:44
Then I'm sorry. Thank you very much. We're a bit on overtime box. But I will go through the advice anyway. Because they really want to ask you, you were reluctant to go into public speaking what would have helped you back then one piece of advice that would maybe have helped you be a bit less reluctant or, or enjoy the process bit more,

Steve Gordon 47:02
I think we're all I would have, all you probably need is someone telling you just if you think you don't like it, you won't know until you try it, and it's not gonna kill you. Even if you bomb. And you really decide you hate it, try it. And in my case, it's worked out, I've realized I do enjoy it. But yeah, if you're on the edge, or you've never even considered it before, think about something you've worked on, submit it to a user group, they're the best places to start, they're a little bit more lightweight. They're more open to sessions, they're always looking for speakers, everyone has a story to see a way to put it, everyone's worked on a project that's gone or gone wrong. And both of those are things that you can share with others. And they can learn from maybe prevent them going down a bad path or steer them in the right direction. So try it, see if you like it, and hopefully you it's really not as bad as you might think.

Tim Bourguignon 47:49
I agree fully. Awesome. Where would be the best place to to start a discussion with you and find you online. So

Steve Gordon 47:56
I'm pretty active on Twitter. So I'm pretty much Steve J. Gordon is my username everywhere I can be. So I'm at Steve J. Gordon on Twitter, DMS are open there. And I'm always kind of happy to take questions. There's a contact form on my blog post, which sometimes works. Sometimes it doesn't. Apologies if people have emailed me and they haven't come through. I'm still trying to get that fixed. Bit like a bit like a plumber. I never work on my own stuff. So my website needs some work. But yeah, those are the best places. I'll try and try and answer any questions like if it's about what I'm doing elastic, and particularly Elastic Search dotnet, that kind of things, then you can find the GitHub repo for that. It's under the elastic org, it's Elastic Search dash net. And you can find you can find the repo there, and you can post issues and things happy to take them from there, as well, if that works better for people. Awesome. Anything else you

Tim Bourguignon 48:38
want to plug in? Before we call it?

Steve Gordon 48:40
I guess I've mentioned the blog a few times. So that's a CJ Gordon dot code at UK. Mostly ASP. NET core focus, mostly dotnet focused, if you're interested in that kind of content. That's where you can find everything I write. I do have a YouTube channel that you can find a link to that from the blog. And yeah, Pluralsight content, if you're particularly working in ASP. NET Core, six courses, then actually the most recent is on C sharp string manipulation, I'm really pleased with it. It's it's turned out to be a deeper topic than I thought. I think we spent two hours an hour and a half. And it's something like three and a half hours. But if you think of strings, I didn't know everything that I ended up showing in that course, it might be fun if you're into the kind of a little bit of the internals and some of the twists and turns of that kind of stuff. But that's all up and Pluralsight you can just search search my name there and you'll find my content. But yeah, I think that's I think that's it really

Tim Bourguignon 49:25
awesome. Thank you very much for the loan, but very insightful story. Thank you. Thank you. So yeah, and this has been another episode of tapestry we see each other next week. Bye. 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 Dev 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 t h e p or per email info at Dev journey dot info talk to you soon