#193 Nicolas Carlo enabler of human connections
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Nicolas Carlo 0:00
If you're going to a conference, because that may be more likely there is this rule, which is called the back man rule. I don't know if you know that. But if you're speaking with people, usually you form like a cycle. And the idea of the Pac Man rule is that you leave an open place in that cycle. So like you leave a space as anyone can insert, without really forcing it. And I've done that a few times. And every single time you have something actually inserts themselves into the group, and then you know, you create one more available space. And that enables conversations with people that will not come and will not join if you didn't leave that spot open. So that's a little thing you can do. But, I mean, I encourage everyone to always try doing that, because it's cool.
Tim Bourguignon 1:00
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey to podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host, Tim bourguignon. On this episode 193. I receive Nicola Carlo. Clay is a French web developer. He's expatriated. In Canada, he loves building communities and maintainable software. When he's not enjoying life with his family or working at centered. He organizes the software crafters, Montreal meetup develops VS code extensions, that's Visual Studio Code extensions. And he shares tips and tricks to help devs deal with legacy code. on his blog, understand legacy code does calm you go welcome, deftly.
Nicolas Carlo 1:45
I love that Dominic, I had to do it. I had to do it. Of course, you mentioned I'm expectorated indeed, in Quebec in Montreal, in Quebec in Canada, which is very nice country we're going to talk about
Tim Bourguignon 2:01
that's very weird French, I must say it's like French. But from 200 years ago, when friends in Canada split up over in French language went over to Canada.
Nicolas Carlo 2:13
Yeah, exactly. It's interesting here, because the more I leave here, the more I realized that people actually think like North Americans. So a lot of the expressions, for instance, will be in French, but there will be literal translations from an English expression. So it's funny, because when you speak English, and then you get the like, take a walk, for instance, will be literally translated into pumpkin match, which in France, we don't say, but then you connect the dots. And you're like, Oh, I know what you did there. So that's interesting.
Tim Bourguignon 2:48
Indeed. And the French language in in France picked up some anglicisms as well and pick up some English words, but not the same words.
Nicolas Carlo 2:57
Not the same. Exactly, exactly. So here we would say, job. Literally, a job will be the word you used to say. On TV in French will say hi. But in France, you will say I don't know you use English words for things where here you will have actual French words to say them. So it's can be confusing.
Tim Bourguignon 3:19
Indeed, it can. But we're not here to speak about Canada. Oh, that too much. Maybe a bit wealthy. Maybe. 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 dev journey. journey. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. Neglect. As you know, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story look like and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual, on this show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your destiny?
Nicolas Carlo 4:19
Tim Bourguignon 8:52
That's interesting. At what point did you feel like in that, no, I'm not a business student anymore than not now, the past was diverging towards something else, and maybe you realize it's devilment, but I don't know. Stay with us.
Tim Bourguignon 9:08
We'll be right back. Hello imposters. If you work in tech want to work in tech, or are tech curious in any way you'll want to listen to this. We've launched a community of professionals who come together to share information and advice about jobs, roles, careers, and the journeys we all take throughout our lives as the designers, builders, fixers investigators, explainers and protectors of the world's technology. We call it the impostor syndrome network. And all are welcome. So find the impostor syndrome network podcast wherever you listen to find podcasts, and look for the isn community on your favorite social platform hashtag impostor network.
Nicolas Carlo 9:52
That is actually it's more the reverse. At what point did I feel that it was not just get into science because that was my that was my switch, like I was all in into science and physics, chemistry. And then eventually I realized, hey, you know what, I really like other things, I really enjoyed the philosophy classes, for instance, which was a nightmare for most of the other students. But I was really enjoying that I became my class representative at the preparatory school. And I really enjoyed, you know, dealing with people organizing stuff, etc. On the side, coding also, I was doing that on the side, it was not part of my studies, I ended up in that business school. And then I wanted to continue doing that being like a developer, I was doing that by patient because I loved crafting websites and making things happen on the web. And at the same time, I was really into, okay, manage people and descend the relationships and talk to people and organize stuff, like build communities. So I wanted to keep both facets of that personality. And yeah, ever since I kept doing that,
Tim Bourguignon 11:12
okay, so not just embracing the freelancing for freedom and coding, but really for embracing the business part as well, the marketing part as well, the all encompassing freelancing experience.
Nicolas Carlo 11:24
Exactly, yeah, it was really, okay. I think I can do everything. I have notions of everything, which was a lie, by the way. My, my first gig was fun, because it was when I was not alone, you know, I had my best friend with me. And kind of the same profile, we went together. And we found our first clients, like someone had to pay us to actually build a website. And that was a first first like, we're doing that for free for associations before and no, we were paid to do that. And we said, yeah, it's a little shop in Paris. And that person wanted a small ecommerce website to sell goods online. And we said, Yes, we can do that for sure from scratch, or give us 2000 euros, and we will build an e commerce website from scratch. And we decided that we're going to build that from scratch for real, like, implement everything card system and like, in pure PHP, so that took us what, six months, plus support, never ending support. So we learned a lot of things about estimating, billing, managing client expectation, because she was definitely not understanding why it took us so long, and also why we will not fix that website for years after we delivered that website. Yeah, that that was fun. Funny mistake,
Tim Bourguignon 12:55
you can see on the podcast, but I've been laughing the whole time. Because I totally understand what you went through. I mean, the beginning, it's just too long here was this is huge.
Nicolas Carlo 13:04
Exactly, exactly. And we're too late. You're like, Wow, that's awesome. And like one year after we were like, Oh, come on, we're still working on that,
Tim Bourguignon 13:11
but to deliver it, and that's good. That's what you should be. So holding these
Nicolas Carlo 13:16
a few years. Like it at the end of my studies, I did a couple of missions. And then the last one was a mission for X students of the school and they were creating their startup, they had a proof of concept, but they didn't have a CTO or anyone to redo the technical parts. So I did. Yeah, I had a contract with them to build them something. And that went well. And they proposed me to join them. And this was the end of my studies. So I was trying to think about what would I do after that, and most of my colleagues were heading towards becoming consultants in it. And I decided that Hell yeah, if I can work with my best friend. Hopefully, I will join you. And that's what we did. We together we joined the two co founders of that startup. And we started doing that was also interesting. We so the idea was to craft a game, a Facebook game, it was like 2013 and it was a Facebook game. Just like what we i Today, you will have something like hay day. I don't know if you have hay day the farming game you have on mobile. I don't even French we used to have. Farmville, for instance, in France was a very popular one at that time. So we wanted to do something like that. Like yeah, okay, you grow, you plant your seeds, you grow your land and you make stuff you pretend to be a farmer except that it was all about wine, because we were in France. So obviously you are growing your own on wine, like producing your own wine, you're growing your grapes and blending them together. I learned a lot of things, but wine making, so that's cool. And no, that's actually funny. Well, it was, you need to picture that it was a startup. And we were very not experienced. So we learn a lot of things. We also had to handle different facet, like, I was responsible of the front end, like building the game, but also the marketing, Facebook ads, stuff like that. And also project management because at some point, we were like eight people, game designer, artists and the developers, and we're all trying to build that game. And someone had to manage that. So I was the go to person to do that. I learned a lot about Kanban. And what works and what not. And that, yeah, we spent two, maybe three years from that two years and health and that that was a mistake, we can start. Yeah, we felt that was a mistake. After one year and a half, we were like, shouldn't we like five more frequently. And we're still doing the same thing after one year and a half. And it's just slowing burning down. It's not working. We're not successful. I forgot to mention, it was not just about the game. The idea, the crazy idea of the solder was that the one you produce in the game, then you can get it for real. It was an actual bottle of wine that you could get for real. Except that, yeah, shipping, a bottle of wine, makes the wine so much expensive, much more expensive that you just go and buy a bottle of wine. So that didn't work. And it took us a long time to realize this. So it eventually failed. But during this years, I learned a ton of things. So I have no regret. And yeah, on this side, we went into meetups a lot. I don't remember really how we went into meetups, but we were using Backbone js. And we were like, oh, there is this group of people talking about Backbone js, maybe go there and ask questions about it. And eventually, I ended up organizing this meetup. And then I met the people I would want to work with after that adventure. And that was fun. Because I had a bad opinion of consulting companies. To me, basically, it was like people who were not really understanding how to program correctly, but still give you advice about it. I mean, it could be nice at a strategic level. But like ERP, consultants coming here and explaining to me what is good, what is not I had bad experience based on, like the skills I've seen before. And I didn't want to do that. But I was wrong. Basically going to meetups was a big change in my life because I started to meet different people. And in particular, I join a community, which is called the software crafters in Paris. So that's a meetup. And these people are all about software engineering best practices, which means that they don't like they don't really care about a specific language or framework. They all work with different language and frameworks, actually. But they focus on how do you build software that is maintainable in the long run. And that was an eye opener to me, because I was like, Yeah, I have this question. How do I test this because I've read somewhere that I need to test that. But I cannot pinpoint a good resource on testing. And these people, they have all the resources you want. They are all about testing software architecture, design, domain driven design, pairing my being working with existing code refactoring, and I was like, oh, everything I want to learn. So yeah, I met these people in that meetup. And I realized, oh, a lot of them are coming from the same companies. So what about you know, joining a company where a lot of these people are so I will learn every single day and not just once a month? That's how I joined my that Consulting Company, which was still called Octo technology. And during two years I spent there I've learned more than I ever learn in my career so far, because the like I was surrounded by very experienced developers who have seen many things during decades and that we were talking about how to improve or a game how what is efficient, what is not depending on the situation, how to actually test web application, back end applications, how to architect stuff better, they really taught me a lot of things. I had a very good mentor in that company, he introduced me to a lot of different topics. And they also supported me in, you know, start to teach people. So I started to do trainings. And that was also very interesting, because you don't really know something until you can really teach to someone else. That's something. And it really pushed me in to my knowledge boundaries. And I had to very clarify, okay, do I really understand what the thing is? Like? Do I really understand what is Mark? What is a spy? What is a stub? What's the difference? Does it matter? People are using different vocabulary, but they are meaning the same thing was testings. It's a lot of that. And, yeah, I spent two years there. And that was awesome. I would probably still be here. If I didn't decided to move to a different country. Basically, the reason I quit that job is because I wanted to move to Canada. And they were not present in Canada. So there was no way to do that move.
Tim Bourguignon 21:19
And they're still not really in Canada, although I think October is both back center, something like this. And yeah, but
Nicolas Carlo 21:27
they they were, it's still a bit different. I would be fine working with Octone. Accenture, not so much. I mean, they're doing good job. But we had some mission in common. And it's not the same approach, I would say for regular consultants like Accenture will focus on saying yes to the client, and then figuring out how to make it possible, even though it's not realistic or not a good idea, actually. And also, it was more okay, hear what the clans say. Dig deeper into what do they need, and come up with something that actually makes sense and will be sustainable on the long run. And sometimes it's not what the client asked, but then you raise that discussion and you start figuring out solutions. And the approach is very different. It's not just okay, yes, we will do that. And we commit and then you have to burn yourself out to make it happen. Doesn't happen. But yeah, so I didn't want to move to for Accenture. There is another company here who moved at the same time. In Montreal, it's called Zeneca. There are present in France too. But I would say in Canada, it's consulting, it's a bit different because here the situation is a bit different. In France, you will hire a consultant because it's much faster for you to just fire that person might just end the contract, it's fine to hear, you could fire someone very easily. So it's harder to find, like a usefulness for a consultant compared to what you have in France. So they probably struggle a bit more here.
Tim Bourguignon 23:04
Okay, I see. I see. Okay, so So what did you do when you moved over? Do you have a plan already? Or did you move and then figure out well, where can i Where did that go?
Nicolas Carlo 23:16
Yeah, well no. And so first of all, you cannot just move to Canada you need to have some kind of visa and the word privileged I was privileged so that if you're into it also if you're into the health system is very easy for you to find someone to basically become your employer and sponsor you to get a working visa to get there. So that's what I did. I was looking for a company which will be a nice company to work with that could get me there. And I found that it's a startup called best bud they're based in Montreal, Canada, and what they're doing is they it's like Expedia but for intercity buses. So say you want to take the bus to go from your traveling abroad like from a you come to Quebec and you want to go from Montreal to Ottawa, because that's your trip and you are taking the bus then you can use the platform you will be paying in euros sing that in French even though you're not in your country because the best buddies present in 80 different countries. So that was a cool project. Cool product and most of all, very nice people working there. The culture of the company, I was very lucky to to find them. And yeah, they got me to Canada. So I'm really thankful. And I will probably still be working with them if I didn't have this amazing opportunity recently to switch.
Tim Bourguignon 24:46
Gotcha. Gotcha. And when you arrived in Montreal was the community the subtle crafters already there or was lovely consultants, it was missing and there you said no, we have to create this
Nicolas Carlo 24:56
second option. Yeah, and that was that is One thing actually that happens here, I noticed a few things are missing, like, compared to what I know. And that's also the good thing about, you know, immigration and coming from a different background and culture and seeing what's good in this country. And what's missing. In here. For instance, there is no software crafters. It's interesting software crafters, because many people in all the different companies are interested in testing, software architecture, stuff like that, but they don't have the keyword to find all of the resources related to that. And that keyword is software crafters. So I decided that, well, I'm gonna build a community here. I mean, I've been when I was in Paris, I've been participating and organizing different meetups, even conferences, I started to organize conferences in Paris. So I figured that well, you know, let's do that. So in the 2018, end of 2018, yeah, I started the first software crafters, Montreal meetup. We were three people. Yeah, three people around the table talking. That was nice. And then we stick to regular schedule, like once every month, and eventually grew. And at the end, we were like, 3040 people going to the meetup. And I'm when I say that I'm referring to January 2020. You know, because? Yeah. Exactly. So it nicely grew over a year and a half, we even started to organize a conference. So the it's related, but it's called the Socratics. Canada, it's, it's a conference with a very specific format. It's more about bringing 20 people at the same place for a weekend and have them discuss about all of these topics. We had that in March 2020. And one week later, lockdown, lockdown everywhere. So since well, since the committee is like on hold. But I mean, it's there, people are waiting, we started to we actually had an event in December 2021. Like this year, we finally met with like, seven. Yeah, we were like seven, eight people comfortable, like going to see each other for real. We'll see how it goes. I'm looking forward to the day where we can meet again in person and resume that community life that we used to have. But overall, like, if you put the pandemic asides, the people I've met at meetups and everything I learned was insane. So yeah, I would definitely redo that. Maybe do that faster. I mean, going to meetups, meeting people learning stuff, but also building a network of people who have different knowledge and point of view, and that is very helpful.
Tim Bourguignon 28:09
It is indeed, when you look back, you don't see that much of the projects and all the ups and downs people all the way. And I went through to, to highlight this, the Socratis format is absolutely fantastic. So if you have a chance to to when this is all over, this pandemic is over to see one of these credits, it's fantastic. And then the term is called an unconference this really, you come to the conference, and you don't know what's going to happen. And you are basically part of what's going to happen. If you have seen a few conferences already. There's the tracks where you can see talks prepared, etc. And there's the hallway tracks where you just meet people. And that's basically a conference built around that. And it's the best you bring your problems. You'll bring your ideas, you bring the topics you want to discuss. And you find people who have the same interest or maybe some experience and you hear about that, then you build relations. It's just fantastic. You're nodding heavily.
Nicolas Carlo 29:03
Yeah, I'm not saying every because it's exactly that, for example, that the meetup is a similar format. It's very specific. Like if you go to a React js meetup of your city, they will feature a one or two or three speakers deliver the talk, then you have the q&a. That's it. Interesting, but I mean, you could watch a video for that. And then conference or crafters meet up usually the format is you come up chat, and then you can propose your topics. So I've seen newcomers have questions, then they propose that topic and then people vote. So you get to say which topic you really want to discuss. And the most voted topics got split into different groups. And then during the night like you can switch groups and go and talk to people who are passionate about that topic that you likely are interested in. And at the end of the day, at the end of the night, like As an organizer, it's interesting, because I don't know in advance what we're going to talk about tonight. But what I know is that every single time a newcomer arrive, at the end of the night, they're very happy because they were able to talk about something that was interesting to them, they learn a ton of things, and they met people. And if they come back, these people become, you know, people, you know, you're familiar with, and then eventually, so yeah, definitely work. Absolutely.
Tim Bourguignon 30:24
And I love the pulling people from this passive mode into the active mode. Basically, you're, I'm not sure how you're doing it. But I was doing it this way, really opening with the rules of the open space format, and really telling people, if you feel you're not learning anything anymore, if you feel you're not contributing anymore, stand up and move, go somewhere else, or change the subject, it's your event, it's your evening, do the most of it. You cannot come out of this evening and say, I was bored, then you did something wrong. Well, you don't say it like this at the beginning, but really insist on it's your event, be active, make the most of it, and it's gonna be your evening and 90% of the time, it really works fantastically. So. I love it. I love it. Keep doing that. I will know for sure. What's with your your last job jumping over a few jobs, I think but that's the last one. Tell us about
Nicolas Carlo 31:18
almost. Yeah, exactly. So, you know, I arrived here with Bas but we spend three years together. And that was awesome. And it was not looking for anything else. But then, if someday this year, I mean, in 2021, I got contacted by a someone who were looking for engineers for that, California and startup called centered, it's very new, it has been created and of 2020, maybe have a look. And while I was about to say, Well, I'm not interested, I had a quick look at the description. And it was saying that it's all about, you know, personal productivity, getting you in the zone, get you focus and be productive. And that strikes a chord with me, because I'm like, Hey, this is a topic I'm really passionate about personally, like that was something I do personally, because I do a lot of things on the side. So I need to be efficient in what I do. If I want to be a good employee, but also organize this meet at these conferences, these side projects. And also I want to spend time with my daughter and I cook a lot of things to do, so I better improve my productivity game. So I was like, Yeah, tell me more actually, when you say be more productive, like, what do you have to teach me that? I don't know already. And so we had this discussion, I met with elf with the CTO, and co founder of the company. And that was a blast. I was like, Oh, my God, we're thinking like, we're together. I mean, yeah, like getting focus, turn off the distractions, have some ritual to get into the zone, plan your day in advance time box, all of that. And I was like, Yeah, we're I don't have any tool today that does everything together, I have my own system that is crafted with a combination of many different tools. And I would be using your tool. But most of all, I will be willing to work on session tool. I mean, I'm a developer, I can build stuff. It just gets an insane amount of work. So I'm not gonna do that on the side. But if you're paying me to do this, for sure, you have my sword. So I join the team and beyond us, like everyone working there is in that mood of okay, they're very passionate about it. And you can tell it. And now I realize, okay, what an actual early stage startup looks like, when you actually do experimentation. And when they don't work, you throw it away, you try something different, etc, you actually experiment. So that's what we're doing. And it's going well, it's, you know, it's still early stage startup, but I'm in the product is very enjoyable, I am using it. It's such difference, because now I'm using something I'm working on something that I'm actually one of the biggest user of and we figure that if it helps us, it helps more people. And the truth is yes, most of the people that try the tool actually are liking it. My highlight recently what that can darts in 2021 like he was, yeah, give it a try, because he wanted to he had a lot of things to do to prepare some workshop, I think. So he spent the weekend on it. And he had such a blast that he started tweeting about it. And we didn't ask for anything. I mean, but when you have someone like candidates tweeting about your product, you start having a lot of new people coming so suddenly we're like, oh my god. The problems are changing. Now. We do have many people also, you know, we need to handle that. But that was good problem to have. And it's an exciting adventure I started in July 2021. And I wish it will continue for a very long time because I'm really having fun here.
Tim Bourguignon 35:14
Sounds like it, Have you fixed things or change things just for you for your own sake. This, this is maybe not so hyped for you. But I like this feature so much, I'm going to do it anyway.
Nicolas Carlo 35:26
Well, the, you know, for instance, we need to run you need to integrate with other tools, you have to start with one tool, and we decided to start with well, the tool we are using, for example, I am using notion and we don't have an integration with notion yet because you know, notion API's notion is a blank canvas, and it's hard to come up with something, but it's something I would personally champion. And something I also was a key feature I was missing was the ability to find doing something, and I'm thinking about anything I need to do later, I want to quickly be able to capture that thought, and make it go to my inbox and don't think about it anymore. This is something Todoist was doing very well, because they have this quick model capture, you can fire from any anywhere. So I wanted that. And a push that I said, yeah, guys, we need to have that because I want to add that I mean, the only place I have that today's is to do is, and it's such a word that I need to use to this just for that and then connect with other stuff. So I implemented this, I was the champion on this. And now it's part of centered and it's awesome.
Tim Bourguignon 36:40
That must be great to be championing something, building it and then be one of the heavy user of it. That's really cool. That is cool. And as I don't have anything to do with centered, but it's been my focus for the past, maybe 10 years really helping developers be more successful. And that's one of the big problems, we still have this focus piece are really giving goals, all running the same direction, and then removing distractions from the web out of the way. And so I see this as an interesting piece. I didn't know that before, but I'm gonna have a look at it. We chatted before the show a little bit. That sounds a bit more a bit deeper than what we just said. That's really fun. Interesting, we're gonna have a look at that. It's been a blast. That's been an interesting story. So this is a part where we go back a little bit. And at some point, you mentioned, people you said, well, connecting with people are the most important. Is there one advice that helps you connect with people more that you would like to give again, on the show?
Nicolas Carlo 37:45
Yeah, so I would repeat myself, but I feel it's very important. And I give that advice recently, and I am giving it from time to time. But if you're a developer, and you're not going to meetups, and you have the opportunity to go to meetups, finally, because they're doing them, give it a try. Which community well use the if you're using React, well go to the React js meetup. If you are using PHP checkout, if there is a PHP user group in your city, I recommend the software crafters meetup also because this specific format make makes it very different. I recommend you have a look and do that join a community meet people outside of work and, you know, go there, listen, maybe talk and you will see where that brings you. But to me, that brings me a lot of opportunities and and in made my life today, much, much happier. So I would recommend doing that. And related advice that I could give if you're going to a conference because that may be more likely there is this role, which is called the back man rule. I don't know if you know that. But if you're speaking with people, usually you form like a cycle. And the idea of the Pac Man rule is that you leave an open place in that cycle. So like you leave a space was anyone can insert without really forcing it. And I've done that a few times. And every single time you have something who actually inserts themselves into the group and then you know, you create one more available space. And that enables conversations with people that will not come and will not join if you didn't leave that spot open. So that's a little thing you can do. But I mean, I encourage everyone to always try doing that
Tim Bourguignon 39:44
because it's cool. That's a very good point. I want to highlight this. Starting a discussion doesn't only come in you starting it, it's all also opening up and being open to one starting from somebody joining so you have to open The Circle opened the group so that somebody can join and then start a discussion. And it's on both ends. That's, that's very true.
Nicolas Carlo 40:08
Yeah, that's what I did most of the time. You know, when I organize meetups, when I organize conferences, stuff like that, well, I don't do the content, I, I merrily enables the connections, I would say, like I make it possible for people to meet. And then they do the content, they do this stuff, they they do the magic, you need to have someone doing it, you need to have someone enabling the connections, but then people will do the rest. So just be open to like, do a little bit. So you make it easy for others to do this stuff. And then let the others do this stuff. And thank you for doing
Tim Bourguignon 40:43
that. Thank you very much. So where would be the best place to continue this discussion with you on crafters or anything else?
Nicolas Carlo 40:52
Tim Bourguignon 41:36
And as you said, we'll put that in the show notes. Nicola, thank you very much.
Nicolas Carlo 41:43
Well, thank you for having me.
Tim Bourguignon 41:45
And this has been another episode of therapists journey, and we'll 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, who will 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 store 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.