Software Developers Journey Podcast

#207 Maia Grotepass embraced a world of puzzles


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Maia Grotepass 0:00
For me personally, if I'm involved in a community, then I always get tricky questions, right? Like, if I'm living in my own little world, then I think I know understand. But the minute I start interacting with people, there's a different viewpoint. And then they might say, Well, how do those co routines really work? Right? And then I've got to stop, and I have to explain it and then uncover that there's something that I don't know. So that's for those interesting questions. And so it helps me learn. So if I'm in the in the job that we are in the in the space, the tech space that we are, it's imperative to keep learning. And it's easier to learn with other people around me. So I'd say, as an advice to anybody, if you struggling with learning something, find a community. If you think you know everything, find a community because you're so for both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. It's a good, it's a good way to keep yourself grounded, and to make sure your tick is on point.

Tim Bourguignon 1:06
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 your own this episode 207. I receive Maya protoplasts. Maya first ever computer was not. Let's not spoil that one. We'll come to it in a minute. So fast forward many years. Maya now works at Lulu on android using Kotlin. She loves building and experimenting in code and presenting about it as well. I heard Maya Welcome to dev journey.

Maia Grotepass 1:45
Hi, Tim. Welcome, everybody.

Tim Bourguignon 1:48
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. So Maya, 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 the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your debt journey.

Maia Grotepass 2:39
So I'm going to take up to the spoiler you didn't give on the audience. So I was early in high school and my dad brought home Sinclair's civics 81, it was a small little computer that you plugged into the television. It's I didn't have a screen on the keyboard was integrated with a little computer, it had 1k of RAM. And I plugged it into the computer into the TV screen. And that blue light from the TV screen shone on my face. And I typed my first lines of basic. And it was all over. I knew that that was what I wanted to do.

Tim Bourguignon 3:20
What was so attracting,

Maia Grotepass 3:23
there was the sense of power. There was this mystery. It was like a text mystery of these words that did things and I didn't know what they did. And I could just type them in and then see what happened. And then I don't know make it loop endlessly or do any manner of things which were expected or unexpected. But just the power of being able to control that little machine with with text was just so I mean, I loved math and puzzles before. So it was like a puzzle that I was trying to figure it out. And it was text based I loved languages as well. I had equal love for language and for maths and puzzles. And then that blend of that. I mean, that first night I was sitting with it. I think my parents had gone to bed. It was like two or three in the morning. And I couldn't let this thing go. I couldn't drop but I just have to continue to figure out how it works. That is the start.

Tim Bourguignon 4:17
And that is awesome. computers back then if I remember well came with a programming manual, didn't they?

Maia Grotepass 4:26
Yeah, so there was like a manual. It was like a like a book. I might have it here somewhere. But I'll send you a photograph of it. It was just a book, which is a manual with some commands, which is a little bit like a tutorial that you'd get now, but less right, and some explanation of what it was. And that was it. That was it. You didn't have anything else. If you wanted something else. You had to take your bicycle and go to the library and hope that they had something about this computer, which they probably didn't. Then at some point they started getting these magazines means, which had code written in the magazines for these computers. But of course, the code had been typeset by people in magazines, and possibly the zeros became O's. And the spacing was off and everything was strange. So if you wanted to play a game, you had to transcribe the text from the magazine into this machine. And it could only remember in its RAM, if you wanted to save it, you had to play the sound of that code like, out and recorded on an actual tape deck. And that was my first debugging experience of transcribing code from a magazine that had been mutilated by somebody who didn't understand the code. And now I had to figure out what was wrong and why it wasn't doing the things that it was supposed to do.

Tim Bourguignon 5:51
It reminds me so many memories. I'm not sure I got any of those to work, I got to debug and go through half the code. And at some point, say screw it. It's just too much.

Maia Grotepass 6:03
But I think what happened to me then was trying to understand how that code work was, was more interesting than playing the lunar lander in the end, because a lunar lander was just trying to say that when trying to get the thing to land, and then actually figuring out the text behind it, and what made it do that was way more interesting than then playing the game.

Tim Bourguignon 6:23
Before we move on. Have you seen the the Netflix series? Bandersnatch?

Maia Grotepass 6:27
I have? I think so. That's the prompt like that. Storyline? Choices. From from Yeah, I think I long time ago, I don't know the detail. All I remember was that there was like a way of changing it. So there was a way of choosing language options like code paths, and making the story change. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 6:47
So one interesting story about that for you at the beginning of the of the show there the in the main character is listening to music in the bus. And if you play this music into the next one, then this is actually the or if you change a bit the pitch and I don't know what exactly, but this is actually the source code of the game that they are talking about,

Maia Grotepass 7:08
put on an Android phone that does exactly that, that has that keyboard and has a screen that looks like a TV screen. And you can play mp3 into it. Yeah. And then it gets the code because there are all these, these pieces of code are living on the internet in the form of an mp3, because that's the way that you would get it into the machine. Oh, I'm definitely going to search that. That should be up until four in the morning.

Tim Bourguignon 7:34
Sorry, but not sorry,

Maia Grotepass 7:35
is a recurring theme, this maze of twisty passages all alike. It's definitely a recurring theme in my career, I think.

Tim Bourguignon 7:43
So we're going to talk about that further. So you knew already that it was going to become your career? Yeah.

Maia Grotepass 7:50
But I didn't know what the career was, right. I mean, I knew I wanted to control these computers, but it was the 80s. And all the computer classes were all these mainframe things. And what did I want to do, I wanted to, I don't know, have a torn tissue and work on on Intel machines in dust, right, that's what I wanted to do. So the next step was that the computer got upgraded. So there was a dad at a computer that had one of those Amber screens, and it was all dusts. And they, again, Manuel, no internet. And I knew two things I could typing cd to change directory, and I could type in dir to see what was in the directory. So I literally took that thing, and I mapped the whole directory structure by going CD Dir. And if I see a word, I would type in the word so CBDR and I see invaders, I type in invaders and invade against up comes up, okay, that was very easy play CDDL are and then go around. Luckily, the FORMAT command has parameters, right? Otherwise, I would have formatted the disk. It was just like, wondering what the words meant and putting the words together. And then at that point, I saw that they were struggling because they needed to launch whatever programs they needed, like accounting programs or word processing programs. So I wrote AutoExec that back menu system, which would put the series of nested batch files would would pull up a menu and then just give them a number or, or a letter that they could type and they could automate some of the commands that they needed. So this has now led to high school this was now before the end of high school I was building these menus with batch files to help the people get to the code they needed to on the machine.

Tim Bourguignon 9:37
What was the what was the reaction of people around you seeing you explore and play with those computers like like daytime puzzles?

Maia Grotepass 10:32
Yeah, so I mean, I'm privileged in that sense that my parents never had a preconceived idea of what I should or shouldn't be doing. So they didn't expect me to become I don't know, kindergarten teacher or something they didn't mind. And they, they let me explore and provided me with the opportunities to explore the kids at school. I don't know. I mean, I wasn't very friendly with him before, because I was just reading my math books. Anyway. So I met someone later was and we had like, some, once a week, we could go to this like extramural computer class. And they weren't any ladies or girls in the class, they there was just, I was the only girl and I read midsummer light. And they said that she's just this strange girl who likes to code computers, you know that there's just like, but that was okay. Because I mean, I was so involved with what I was doing. I didn't really bother too much about but the other opinions were around me.

Tim Bourguignon 11:27
Okay, so at which point did you figure out okay, this could actually be my life. Later on, this could become a job.

Maia Grotepass 11:35
It's almost like it's never it's almost like it's still this puzzle that I'm busy exploring. When I had to go to university, I was thinking surely languages. I want to go to the computer science department, because they just do the old mainframes and it's the 80s. What should I be studying? What should I do? Should I do languages? Then I thought to myself, well, the best way to because there's no internet, right? The best way to know how these computers work was if I did engineering. So I didn't know anything about engineering. But it's like this puzzle thing. And so I went and studied engineering, not to the idea of ever becoming an engineer. I mean, I didn't want to be an engineer, I just wanted to know how all of these things fit together and how they work. But at the same time, I was really into language and languages. And I kept thinking, I should have done art. So I'm studying engineering. But in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, I'm never going to be an engineer, I don't have to worry about it, these engineers all suck. I don't want to date engineer, because I'm going to be an artist anyway, I'm going to just study something else afterwards and be an artist. So at the end of my engineering training, I enrolled to study art, I did a portfolio I've got in the school, but I didn't want to take any more money from anybody. I wanted to have enough money to be able to do the things I did. And my wise father managed to organize for me a holiday work and an engineering company. But don't worry, you don't have to be an engineer, just work here for the holidays and get some cash. And then you'll have cash when you study to be an artist, right? Because that's. So then when I started working at the engineering company, it was C, we were coding in C and that offered me a job then because again, you know, it's C and it's all of these little text based things. And it was a Unix HP UX system. And again, RS two, three terminal, like with an orange light shining on my face with an RST three, two cable into the machine. And vi so now of course vi really strange people hate vi but this is again, it's like typing Oh, this doesn't work. Okay, what do I have to do, or it has a big fat book, or a cupboard full of books that I can learn and then just learn more and more of these like text base commands that I could string together. And if you can imagine there wasn't an IDE at that point. So we had a lot of C files and h files and the way that you manage to navigate the code was by going vi which opens the editor backtick grip, the thing you're looking for start at C path through the Cut command cut out the first word before the colon which is the file name close backtick and that would send all of the files which had that search term in it into your VI and then you could go curl on next column back to navigate through through like that. So I mean, yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 14:30
it's amazing if you still remember the whole Cummins EDI Do you still

Maia Grotepass 14:34
use it the other day again for something Well, I did I use it again. With the VI I mean, the piping and the cutting and those things in the grip. I mean grip I use every day. So

Tim Bourguignon 14:43
this is unique set of standards. So amazing.

Maia Grotepass 14:45
capacitors, right.

Tim Bourguignon 14:48
This is awesome. What a ID to use nowadays. Okay.

Maia Grotepass 14:53

Tim Bourguignon 14:56
there's something coming

Maia Grotepass 15:00
logline and I need to do so from an account command line running a greater boat and I just quickly want to change something, then I'll just go back into Vi. I mean, the thing with FIA is at that stage, because it was my first editor IDE, it's like it changed my brain. So I taught the letters without knowing what I know what I want to do. And because I've touched type, I taught the letters and I can't I can't tell you what letters are taught. All I know is that I cut a line dropped a duplicated whatever the thing is, I did. I mean, that's just the way it's kind of like bled into my fingers the VI command,

Tim Bourguignon 15:34
which is helpful. Yeah, well, when

Maia Grotepass 15:37
you need to ssh in somewhere, that's always where they say you need VI, right? This is aged in any way for the longest time. So

Tim Bourguignon 15:44
that's something to do tonight as well. So your dad pushed you into this, this internship to just get you get you just some money. And somehow you got this this job and you forgot about art? Oh, how did that happen? Oh,

Maia Grotepass 16:00
I kind of put it on hold in a way because I was still not really being an engineer, right? Because I was engineering, it was like C code. And it was doing all of the C things. And, and in those days, it was actually quite interesting. Because we didn't have a debugger. There were these in circuit emulator. So you had to book time, and you could like debug twice a week for two hours, maybe. And the rest of time, you just ran the code in your head, right? Because all legacy codes, it wasn't anything was new. It was like a whole lot of legacy code. It was a telephone exchange. So like if you dial it zero if you don't have one, or whatever you do, how this all fits together. So yeah, so then I was working at this, but I actually worked at that company for quite a long time. As things evolved, I mean, and then the Internet came. And then the SBU X machines changed. We all got into a machine. And so then that changed. So then what happened after that? Then I decided I needed to work in Singapore. Because I hadn't studied I did some art courses in between, but I hadn't really see it. So then I decided I needed to work in Singapore, because they speak English. And they've got lots of tech, and then I can travel. So I put my CV on the then internet, I think it was Monster Board. And I got a job in America that didn't go to Singapore at all. I worked at Northern telecoms in a language called in America. And that language was also again maser twisty passages, they had this thing, where you could have global variables, like a whole lot of global variables in a piece of memory. And then you could map parts of the variables, or offsets into the variables and access them from somewhere else. So it's like you had a memory bank. So if you think global variables, but worse, because you can't search where anybody was accessing the global variables, because there could be using it as an offset, or there could be renaming it. So I mean, so that was like, trouble now in retrospect, because I know now what the horrors are of a thing like that. But when I was there, this is like, I wonder how this all fits together? And then just like with the kind of a curiosity, like just trying to explore that,

Tim Bourguignon 18:13
at what point did you or do you become bored with was such a puzzle who say, Okay, I mapped enough of the puzzle, to not be interested anymore.

Maia Grotepass 18:22
I sometimes get frustrated, if there's like a deadline thing that says, I've got to finish certain thing by a certain time, then that can be quite frustrating. If you let me just unravel all of the pieces, then it can carry on for the longest time. So I think when it feels like it's starting to get inefficient, right, like if I've got to build something for a certain time, then that convoluted craziness, then that and I guess maybe I'm a bit older now as well, if it gets that convoluted and crazy, then I don't actually want to mess with it so much anymore. I'd rather than clean it up. So I guess at the beginning, when I wasn't sure if my opinions about all of these architectures and structures, it was just fascinating to wander around in these strange parts. But nowadays, I've got maybe I'm a bit more opinionated about how things can be. So that it's easier for lots of people to work on. And then now it's actually if it's too convoluted, it gets it gets a bit boring. Yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 19:21
I totally understand. But when when you see things once and you say, Okay, maybe it's one off, and then you see a different way to do Oh, okay, that's another way. Let's explore that. And you see it failing and say, Okay, maybe maybe it was again, one off and you see, again, a pattern that is not necessarily what you would do, would you give it a try and see, but once you have enough of those under your belt, then at some point, okay, again, this one, I've seen this one countless times failing. I've seen this idea. It doesn't really work. Okay.

Maia Grotepass 19:51
I think also maybe, I think my levels of puzzles or my shifts of puzzles have have changed. So, in the beginning, that was the kind of thing to try and understand how things work. But then later because you can imagine I started off with basic, and then there was just C, which is very imperative. And then at some point, object orientation and Java came to the scene, which meant that I had no training, of course in this, but I had to know learn, think about why would you want object orientation? It's a completely alien world, like these objects. Why would you even do that? Why would you even put all these methods inside these objects? And why are you allocating so much memory? Right? So and then learning that, and then I've always had a kind of a gut feel for what the zeitgeist what system of the world is busy doing. So at some point in 2010, I started learning Scala because I have the sense that the whole Internet of these floods of these information streams, and that if you needed to pack all of these things, inside objects, you're going to run out of memory at some point, right? Or you need to you need to do something. So you need to kind of have a mental shift, to change to think about things in more data streams, which is more like the functional way of thinking, I'm not quite convinced that you want functional programming everywhere. So that was kind of like a shift. It's like a baton shift, which makes me then change direction and explore another thing. Another example of that would be, I was working on a company building embedded telecommunication systems that go on aeroplanes, this is not 2008 A to maybe earlier. And there's just like controlling a piece of software that would control an antenna and connect to the Inmarsat system. And this is all embedded for avionics systems. But at the time in South Africa, I just got the sensation that people were not building embedded things anymore, they were building them all in China. And the things that we tried to pack into an embedded piece of hardware, the phones were coming up, I had a Windows phone, I had the first the palm pilots, and then the Nokia phones, these phones are appearing in the phones we're going on into. And all of the things that we were trying to cram into these embedded systems with just under phones, and there were millions of phones appearing. And someone's got to tell those little computers what to do, right. So I changed my career and went into mobile at that point. Because I could see that the embedded code in South Africa, it's not the right place to do embedded code, and there was definitely a shift. So it's, yeah, it's that kind of a curiosity that makes me like, follow another little path. But then applied not so much to the low level patents, but more to like, system company wide, worldwide patents of where the technology is going. So that's when I went into mobile like 2009. So I think my first Android phone was an HTC Desire. So it was that? Yeah, it was like, That was so cool. And I remember walking into a job interview and the guy that was interviewing me, he asked me to code up palindromes and see, and he had the same phone as me. So I did code the Palindrome, but he'd already decided it was like we both had the same HTC Desire Android phones. So it's a good sign. That's a good connection. So maybe that should be one interview question. What kind of phone does the person have? Or maybe like, maybe not, it's not so but then it was pretty relevant. So yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 23:31
that was very early. The HTC. Designer, we're kind of early. I'm trying to find out, which were some ones

Maia Grotepass 23:37
before. That was actually quite an interesting stint as well, that was working at a company that built the same thing as WhatsApp but for Nokia phones for the smartphones in Africa. Except it wasn't only WhatsApp. It was WhatsApp. And GM like eBay, you could buy stuff you could, like, there were these huge chat rooms. They were these tech space adventure games. There was dating sites there was like, like, like everything. It was like if you couldn't access the internet on your phone, because you're an African, all you had was limited bandwidth, then you could do all of that on those Java AMI phones. So I started working at that company, huge customer base in South Africa, like a precursor to WhatsApp. And started working first on Samsung Bada and they don't Android. And then slowly but surely, they're the Twitter's and the WhatsApps. And those kinds of companies started appearing on the scene. And you could see how the positioning of this big company had to shift to accommodate for those shifts in the company. So I've skipped a few few few you wanted to know if

Tim Bourguignon 24:48
you're doing Android development and that's it all right.

Maia Grotepass 24:52
Yeah. I before the Android before before the antennas and before the internet machine on a on a on a play. In, I worked at a company that measured electricity, they had huge capacitors in the boxes. And then if the power went down, they would record the signal in these boxes with these capacitors, and there for a while. And it was a smallish company. And I got quite frustrated. And then I decided, No, I definitely this is long enough. I wasn't planning on being an engineer. And now it's got to stop. So I studied multimedia art remotely, and did that for about part time for about, yeah, for three, four years, and then did a master's in digital art. So then I was working part time for the company, then the whatsapp on this on the smartphones, and then studying part time doing digital art. Yeah. Wow. Okay. And then I thought, I'm going to stop everything, and I'm going to be an artist. And then I decided, no, I can't be an artist. Because actually like building things on phones, and building things for people and the art stuff. I don't want to have to earn money on that. I just want to build the art things when I want to build them, and not have to have that as a career. So I went back to doing Android.

Tim Bourguignon 26:09
And what did you take from your art studies or this art time into your day to day job.

Maia Grotepass 26:17
So the topics of my my digital artworks were always like software based. So I built like a whole installation piece where it was a, it was a x Xbox did not know that connect, there was a device called a Kinect, you could stand in front of it. And then you could get a representation of the 3d space and have that inside code. And then I was cutting C++ up in frameworks. So I was still coding, even though in the art world, I was to college. So I was still leveling up my skills, even though the playing field was completely different. And the most striking difference between coding for an artwork and coding for code for a customer was that there's an open endedness, when I'm coding for an artwork, I go into it, and I mess with the pixels or the things. And I just see how it's gonna turn out. So I have less of a goal, there's no sprint goal or milestone, it's, I mean, they're awful when I've got to deliver things, but the thing is very much more open ended. And that's given me a kind of a skill to problem solve. Sometimes I'll get stuck in something or sometimes in an algorithm or in an architecture. And then sometimes I just need to like, I don't know, leave it for a bit, and then go sit outside in the sun and knit and then just flip my thought travel a bit. And going to that kind of odd solving problem mode. And in that I can hook back and then I can just see something from a different perspective. So that's probably the one thing that's a good thing to learn. The other thing that was really interesting, there's a whole lot of things about philosophy that I was reading up about at that time, and how there's certain approaches or philosophical views that actually get encoded inside the code that we write. I'll give you an example. If you've got a computer game that has I don't know, that's talking about climate change, right? That's talking about the weather changing and the dinosaurs dying, and you've got to survive because the weather's changing. So that piece of code has got a philosophical opinion about, say, climate change. Now, it's clear in a game, it's easy to spot. But all of the software around us has a philosophical viewpoint, trying to that echoes the institutions that create the code, right? So, so it's always there. And we take it for granted, and we stop seeing it. But just the way that the user interface is designed or the way if I take another example, if you take your phone, and you click and you take a photograph of yourself, and then you want to post that photograph on Twitter, you trust that no one's changing the photo before it gets put on Twitter, right? That the operating system says, Don't worry, we won't change your photograph. Look, here's a little box that gives you permission to say yes, I want to share this photograph. So just by building the user interface the way it is, there's a certain underlying philosophy, philosophy that's being presented to the user. So it's made me really much more aware of

Tim Bourguignon 29:33
I'm always fascinated and news connections when you go in two very different directions. You always end up mixing them later on and bringing two worlds together that didn't belong at first and this meetup of of different words is always fascinating. I was loved that. Thank you for that.

Maia Grotepass 29:53
Yeah, no, no, it is it's definitely it's like it's enriching. It's an it's an the moronic spected it is in a way, the more the more the richer the crossover becomes.

Tim Bourguignon 30:06
Absolutely, absolutely. So so let's let's come back to Android, because you've been doing a lot of Android. So how did this path from your beginning of was in the Android world to nowadays? June 2020. Has has worked for you? What were the major milestones? What were the EDI, the big currency or the EDI? The idea is you follow the puzzle and you found and how did this all?

Maia Grotepass 30:34
Yeah, so I started Android because I had an Android phone, and I was coding for the Android phone. And I was lucky to be in this company that had so many users. So my first experience coding for Android was with a large user base. So in that sense, I was actually quite lucky to have that experience, where it's not like just a small app that I'm building for one or two people. It I really had that sensation where I'm writing code, and we put it on the Play Store. And I wrote it and it crashes. And like, all of the users are complaining, we've got to stop and we didn't have like rollout then there wasn't like you just shipped it, you had to then fix it and ship it again. So that sensation, and that sensation of being able to like touch people's lives in a way that big way of touching. And that I think that accessibility, made it feel as if the distance between my code and the people that are using my code was actually quite small. And that's what made me stick and stay with Android. I think if I just bought a small Android app, had it on the Play Store had two users tried another Android app, maybe I wouldn't have stayed. But I think that experience made it made it made me stay with it. So that's the start. Yeah, you have a question.

Tim Bourguignon 31:46
Just a quick, quick query? Was it the first time that you had this, this closeness is really, really close closeness to your users? I mean, if you were building some some embedded systems before I figure, it would take months to reach the people who would end up using it. But with it with an app on Android, it's like, yes,

Maia Grotepass 32:07
that the aerospace stuff, you need to test that stuff for years before it reaches you. And you don't even know I might not even be at the company anymore, when the users start using it. Right? The projects after that were a bit closer, because it was much smaller companies, and then I would get speaking to the customers. But yes, that's actually a good point that Android there was definitely a closeness there. And also, because then other people that I knew had the phone and and that app was super popular. So other people were installing the phone app, or they would like say, Oh, you look at this company called mix it show me this or look at this, there was a lot more interaction. So I think that's, that's actually that's a very interesting point. And you're completely right. So that's actually one of the things that are, there was like a hook that made me stay

Tim Bourguignon 32:53
exactly. Personally, that was, for me a thrilling moment of both pure adrenaline being being scared of breaking something. And I know I'm going to impact somebody in 10 minutes. And at the same time, the thrill of it so I can impact somebody didn't mean it's so fun.

Maia Grotepass 33:12
balance between being careful, and making sure you're doing your best not to break somebody, but at some point, you got hesitate, you've just got to press the button, and it's gonna go. And if it's gonna crash and burn, the best thing to do is to stop and say, Okay, why did this happen? How am I going to fix it? How can I do differently next time? Because at that point, if I have an implosion of anxiety, because I made everybody's phone crash that I'll never get out of it.

Tim Bourguignon 33:40
That's very true. Very sorry, by cut your train of filth. That's okay.

Maia Grotepass 33:45
Yeah. So then, then, at some point, when this system, this company became less popular, I started doing freelancing. And that was super exciting, because it was all small companies. And I learned an incredible amount. All the projects were different. I was working with a lot of different people, I was working with people that had some people that were more senior, some people that were more junior, I was like mentoring people. And sometimes people didn't want to have me on the team for a long time, but they had a junior engineer. So I had that experience of where I was helping someone get going, or I would come in and just give an architecture. The bad thing about freelancing was that I did some studies on my time, and I found out that I need to spend 50% of my time learning new things. I mean, it's a good thing, but it's not time that I could ball. And the other thing is is that being a freelancer it's always that hustle looking for another job, right? So that stress is I'm not so good at doing all of that I'm much more introverted, so that whole like having to pitch myself and then do the negotiation about the money and all of that. I didn't like that part. But the learning the new stuff, mentoring the people that was there was really good. So that kind of made another facet which is and also made me stay with Android. So far my track record did think that maybe I would have chopped and changed but this talking to the users and then being able to work with other people and mentor people. And at that stage, I was doing a boon to I had all of my laptops for Ubuntu. And I was running the Ubuntu South African chapters. So I was doing community stuff as well, not so much Android community stuff, but a boon to community stuff. And then that kind of evolved. And I started getting involved in the Google Developer Groups, Google Developer Group, Cape Town, fact, I'm still involved in the Google Developer Group, just as a platform to connect. I mean, it started some of that Google Developer Group stuff was definitely to help with the freelance job thing to try and see who's around and who needs contracts. But I think it's satisfied that sharing and that mentoring and helping someone else like it's because it's so exciting when you look at something and you figure it out, and you understand that like, Aha moment, and then you can make it happen. And if I can translate that to someone else, and then see how exciting it could be. I mean, that's extremely satisfying for me.

Tim Bourguignon 36:09
I would figure that that's some kind of freelancing contracting job would fit this mindset, really seeing very fast new puzzles, seeing the the Geist of it, seeing and then saying, Okay, I understood enough. Now I can go to the next puzzle, and jump like this, that would be satisfying.

Maia Grotepass 36:30
Yeah, so you want to know what made me leave freelancing?

Tim Bourguignon 36:33
Maybe I do. It's

Maia Grotepass 36:35
always first freelancing for startups. It's always like small, short term or smallish projects. It's never a big thing. And it's never like a team figuring something out together. So I kind of missed that team interaction. I got some of that when I was mentoring people or doing GDG care plan stuff. I just felt like I could amplify the things that we were building, I needed a slightly bigger company to amplify what I was doing and to get better like conversations like, yes, okay, functional, this or object orientated that oh, what do you think about this? Oh, should we use RX? Java? Oh, no. RX? Java, my screen transmitters? Let's do this. No. So that kind of interaction, black is not something that I would find normally in my day to day experience with people so that developer interaction was better in a big company in a team. And also at the time, I guess, from 2013, maybe earlier, the same way that there's like a tech and a Zeitgeist that I'm curious about. So I started learning Scala. And then I needed to understand how this cryptocurrency thing works, right? And the only way that I could, like, the best way for me to figure out was to, you know, okay, take 200 grand, I don't know how much that's worth that's that not even, I don't know, just a few years. If you bought cryptocurrency for under 200 grand, you could buy cryptocurrency without giving your ID book. So right, let me just buy some bitcoin. And then at a later stage, just look at some crypto kitties like, well, how does this Aetherium thing work? How do these smart contracts work? The best way for me to understand it is to just like buy a few crypto Kitties and see, so I was like, messing around with crypto. And so an opportunity, I found an opportunity in a team to work in a company that did identity on the blockchain. So they would store the attestations of it, you'd keep your self sovereign identity information on your device, and then store just the attestations in a Merkle tree on the blockchain so that you could like, give someone a part of your identity, not the whole of your identity. So I started working at that company, and got some of the team things. And then that experience then later evolved into me working at lynah. That is nowadays. Yeah, that's not that's half the past two, two years and three months about. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 39:00
Okay. And the puzzle is still challenging.

Maia Grotepass 39:03
So I mean, I do work in crypto and the blockchain and crypto interests me, but if you building an Android app, you don't really build on the blockchain itself. It's more like the user interface. But now I'm working in a team of about 15 1617 people. And now it's like, how can we make this app be such? How can we structure these teams to be such that everybody can be happy that, that we follow beautiful patterns that people want to code in that we that we do things that that make it safe to press the button and send it out to millions of users? Right? So it's like, these, like meta puzzles that have that have started appearing. And also with the mentorship thing is I've been I mean, I've been doing public speaking for the longest time. And now with the pandemic. It's been a real equalizer. Because before if I wanted to say I On a taco droid corner wherever I would have had to take leave, get a plane ticket by hotel and do all of that for the South African rand currency. And that was just always kind of prohibitive. But now with a pandemic of really like, updated all of my public speaking and my public profiles, and to end in that now I bought a few months ago, I got a month ago, I got Android GED. So that's kind of given me another platform like a parallel platform to get that feedback, where I'm sharing with people and getting them excited, as

Tim Bourguignon 40:39
did you do pursue the GED? Did you really do a long

Maia Grotepass 40:43
time and then I just just left it for a bit, it was twofold. It was to do with that I felt I had more input in a community where I was. And that kind of input wasn't the kind of input that matched what GE, were expecting or needing at the time. But when the pandemic came, I could translate that to be something that was more understandable from a GDP perspective. And so I think I, I, I didn't proceed in the sense that I'm going out, I'm going to get you to EA, I was doing a lot of things. And then in the pandemic time, I just collected and collated the things. And then for a for a short while pursued it to make sure that everything was in place that they required.

Tim Bourguignon 41:29
Just asking you to use your I think the third person telling me a similar story saying, Well, I thought about it, I tried. No, not really. And then at some point he came, but later on, but easily, not when I really wanted it at the beginning. But after a while, when when things settled when when I created some content when when it found the right voice, and then it came. And that's what I'm hearing, or maybe I'm interpreting.

Maia Grotepass 41:55
No, it is a protector, but it's also to do with the landscape. That's changed, right? So at the moment, they were like pockets of people living in coding in certain communities. And maybe there was like dibs in Cape Town or Joburg, or deaths in Europe or deaths in America. And if you wanted to get into those other communities, you have to travel there. You have to go there, you have to like emigrate to Berlin, or whatever the thing is, but with the way that remote workers work, now, we're in these pockets of time zones. And it's much easier to get people talking. I mean, we're talking here in Europe, I'm in South Africa, and there's a much easier way to talk across. Yeah, I mean, there was always Twitter and all of the things but somehow it's it's not it's much more fluid at the moment, and it's much more even.

Tim Bourguignon 42:51
Nice to see. And what kind of doors does the GED program open for you? Or did your program open for you?

Maia Grotepass 42:57
Well, I got a lot of people wanting to be my friend in LinkedIn, that's

Tim Bourguignon 43:01
always a nice problem to have.

Maia Grotepass 43:03
There's a certain I mean, I like public speaking, I like telling people stories, who I like, I love picking a topic, knowing nothing about it, and then forcing myself to learn the things and then tell people about it. And this seems to be easier for me to be able to do that with a GED. But I haven't been to it that long yet, right. So and I think the other thing is, I'm kind of in a habit now of creating content, reasonably regularly, like once a month or whatever. And this is just like, it's like a almost like an accountability. I don't want to say it's like an accountability, but it's just like, it's part of that. And then they will be like a place where I can put the content and it will be seen. And in that way, I think it will expand my reach. So that means that there's more people that I could potentially help. The thing is people explained things in certain ways. And other people explain things in different ways. And depending on where the person that's listening to you, whether it's a talk or a video, or if it's a piece of text, they might just need a small piece of a puzzle that they didn't know that they didn't understand. And now they're reading the same content that they maybe they know, they think, Oh, this is boring. This is boring. Why am I reading this? But somewhere there's a niggling feeling that there's something I don't understand. And then they get to the third paragraph. And there's a different way of explaining it and things just fall into place. And I never know when that's going to happen. And I never know when my piece of content is going to give that to someone where it just like falls in this little piece that hasn't been colored in. Yeah. And also the tip changes all the time. So there's always going to be something that I need to learn right. Another another maze to unravel.

Tim Bourguignon 44:54
That is a very sure I wish you well. I wish you a lot of puzzles In the years ago, it's time for for an advisor. And I want to to poke at at one thing that we didn't really cover. But at some point, you say, well, communities entered my life and it was for your freelancing. Why should somebody nowaday take part into a community? Somebody who hasn't maybe in the past two years, it was kind of hard to see communities still, it was, in one way easier, because it was always online. But another way there was this human connection missing. So why should somebody invest some time into stepping into communities nowadays? For me personally,

Maia Grotepass 45:34
if I'm involved in a community, then I always get tricky questions, right? Like, if I'm living in my own little world, then I think I know understand how things work. But the minute I start interacting with people, there's a different viewpoint. And then they might say, Well, how do those co routines really work? Right? And then I've got to stop and I have to expand it and then not uncover that there's something that I don't know. That's for those interesting questions. And so it helps me learn. So if I'm in the in the job, that we are in the in the space, the tech space that we are, it's imperative to keep learning. And it's easier to learn with other people around me. So I'd say, as an advice to anybody, if you struggling with learning something, find a community. If you think you know everything, find a community because if you don't. So for both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between, it's a good, it's a good way to keep yourself grounded, and to make sure your tick is on point.

Tim Bourguignon 46:43
Amen to that I'm not even heavily loving my eyes. Very, very well. Maya, thank you very, very much. Where would be the best place to to continue this discussion or start a different discussion with you.

Maia Grotepass 46:56
So I'm on Twitter, and it's my today on Twitter. Fact everywhere on the net. If you just look for my today, you'll find me. And then I also have a blog, Maya today.net, which has all of the twisty puzzles has covered them.

Tim Bourguignon 47:13
Okay, anything out a timely or not timely, you want to plug in before we call it today?

Maia Grotepass 47:17
I think I mean with the way that this podcast is going to be later than what it is.

Tim Bourguignon 47:21
Okay. So I'll add the the two links to the shownotes. And also you can just scroll down there and click him and get to to my directly. My thank you very, very much. It's been a blast listening to your story. And this has been another episode of developer's 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 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.