Software Developers Journey Podcast

#211 Christos Matskas dreamt of becoming a hacker


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Christos Matskas 0:00
waiting too long to become a consultant, that's probably something that hurt me because I thought I didn't know enough to be a consultant when in reality, I knew enough. And there's no this high expectation of you need to know everything. Because you're a consultant, usually you're there to fill a gap to help teams achieve things. And as long as you can pick things up quickly, then you will be a fantastic consultant. Open Source opens a lot of doors to learn from the best, and help the community build tools and libraries that everybody is using. And there are a lot of challenges with open source as well. But I would say, in general, it's a fantastic immune to be involved. And getting involved with events and activities, even at the local level will be fantastic for you to build a network and to be to get to be known, right i, in the end, when I was consulting, I was doing so much work with the public that the last couple of gigs were people actually asking me to go and work for them without an interview. They'll say we know what you're doing, wishing you're open source work, whatever your journeys, it doesn't have to be the same as mine. But building a network is going to be extremely important and not being afraid to jump into the unknown. It's going to help you grow much faster than you think.

Tim Bourguignon 1:14
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 211, I receive crystals mascus, Christos works from Microsoft, the program manager for the Microsoft Identity division in the Developer Evangelist team. He has been working as a developer for over 18 years now, mainly focusing on the dark nets. He's a passionate open source advocate. So after everyone's gone to bed, like for me right now, you'll find him contributing to numerous OSS projects and partaking into some community facility. Chris, welcome to dev Drew.

Christos Matskas 2:02
Hey, thank you for having me here.

Tim Bourguignon 2:04
Yeah, even though it's not that light for you, I'm still having you heard that. That's alright.

Christos Matskas 2:09
It's 135. But I will do my late night voice. How about that?

Tim Bourguignon 2:12
Okay, let's do that. 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 crystals, 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?

Christos Matskas 3:05
Yeah, that's a great question. And something I don't particularly I'm talking about often because once you get to a certain level, you don't really reminisce and back unless there's a reason for it. But this morning, I was sitting on the table having breakfast. And my daughter said, Daddy, what did you want to be when you grew up? When you were little? What did you think you wanted to be? I said, you know, I've gone through a journey. Because my first job, what I wanted to do was a surgeon, my mom used to work for hospital, and I got a chance to see a live surgery from the theater, sitting up a bowl, and I was fascinated. I'm not as fascinated by blood these days. And therefore, at some point, at the age of 1012, I decided that I didn't want to be a surgeon anymore, because Top Gun came out. And I want stone crews flying those as fifteens. And I was like that's exactly what I want to be when I grow up. I don't think it was an appropriate movie for a 12 year old. But let's, let's bypass that and talk about inspiration. So up until the age of 1617. I really wanted to be a fighter jet pilot. But I realized that university entry for that was extremely rigorous, and I didn't have the marks to be able to get there. So I thought myself, what do I want to do next? What will be exciting? I think there was another movie that inspired me to actually become a translator I wanted to be an interpreter for the European Union. And for that I needed two languages and therefore actually I needed two languages at perfection level. So I started studying very hard English and friends. And I got to the point that I should have been able to become an interpreter. However as life would have I decided right after university right after school to join the army. So in in Greece, we have national service like many European countries do, and it's not voluntarily you have to do it one way or another. And I decided I might have We'll get it out of the way, since I didn't make it to university with my first attempt, serve my 18 months of my life there, and then decide what I want to do on the way out. And on the way out, I decided to help the family business and become a kindergarten teacher. So I went to school for two years learning how to deal with infants all the way to the age of six, before they go to school. So these were two very useful years for later in my life when I decided to become a friend, but nothing to do with my future career because at some point, we decided to close the shop and do something else. At that point, I started doing different things and, you know, working around finding what my passion would be. And I was lucky enough to be young enough to still have time to make important decisions. So I spent about a year and a half doing different jobs. And at some point, I was, you know, what, what would make me happy? What would make me exciting, I have everything I can choose from being an architect to being, I don't know, whatever job I can master. So what would make me super excited, and I wanted to be a hiker. I was like, this is exactly what I want to do. I want to be a hacker I want to be able to, I want to be a white hat hacker, the good guys, one of the good guys protecting the world from all the bad guys. And I thought to myself, I have no idea how to operate a computer. I was 17. I had a few PCs. In the past, it was all about gaming, I wrote a few programs of magazines. Remember back in the day when you would buy a magazine and copy the code. And then if you miss the semicolon or whatever characters and things wouldn't work, and then you had to go back? Oh, yes. Oh, god, there's no there was no Visual Studio, there was no co pilot, there was nothing you'd have to type in from a magazine. You couldn't even take a picture and make it the code or text like we do these days. So anyway, my my background in computing was non existent. So the first thing I decided to do, which is super weird was to go to Secretary school to learn how to touch type. Because I have myself if I'm going to be a hacker, I need to be an efficient hacker. I need type without watching on my keyboard like every like one finger typing. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to be the you know the guy that everyone just stares and then types very quickly on the keyboard. So I spent about three months learning to test type on a touch type, like on a proper typewriter with a one they actually have to push back in the carriage return, you know the characters turn. That's the actual translation, you had the carriage return? Yeah. Oh, man, I miss my typewriters, because they really gave you the satisfying klikly For every key. But after finishing that, I thought the next step will be obviously to learn a little bit about computing. And in the same school, they also had like basic computing skills about Windows and how to operate with doors and learn basics around Office. And that was in 2000, early 2000s. And I learned those and then I said myself, now I'm ready to go and learn software engineering. Mind you, I haven't sent an email yet, in my life. Back in 2000. I haven't I haven't had the need to send an email anywhere. So I started the process of trying to find a country or a university that would take me based on my very classical background at school because I wanted to do language and therefore I went into Latin and ancient Greek and languages and therefore not particularly focused on math or science. But after applying at a few schools, I found a couple in Scotland that accepted me. So I ended up flying to Scotland to study software engineering in the year 2001. So I left everyone behind the family friends, and I said I'm gonna do it. So 2001 to 2003 2004. I spent three years in university learning software engineering, which was a scary proposition for someone that have never sent an email, never had to type anything in a computer and then decided to jump in the deep end.

Tim Bourguignon 9:55
But who could type faster than

Christos Matskas 9:59
anyone else? In the class, I mean, that was a skill, right? But it was scary for someone that had been had a lot of experience. Messing around with computers, I remember the first time I had to connect a modem and back then we had more than the 64 bits and the lovely sound. I remember, I bought a PC specifically for studying and getting to university. But like, a few months before I left Greece, I bought my own PC. And I didn't touch anything on the PC, like I actually had it for three months exactly as it came out of the box. Like I would connect the internet and I will mess around and Netscape back then. But I wouldn't even move icons on the desktop because I was so scared of breaking things. Yeah. And then I went to university to study software engineering, which was interesting, I went to Scotland and not just Scotland, I went to Glasgow, where their oxygen is very heavy. I don't know if you've ever traveled to Scotland, but for someone that has just studied, or learned or heard English only on TV, and in a foreign country. Traveling to the source gives you all these different feelings. So first of all, on my first day, I remember working around Paisley which is just outside Glasgow and basically is notorious for his heavy accent. So if Glasgow has heavy accent basically is even heavier, in terms of I can, it's only like half an hour away from Glasgow. On my first day, there were some Greek people in the whole residence where I was staying. And they said, how we're gonna sort you out, you know, we'll get you a SIM card for your phone. And we'll give you some basic show you the SOPs, and I walked into a shop to buy stuff, and the person on the counter was speaking to me, I thought they were speaking German. I said, this is definitely not the right country to learn computing when I cannot understand anyone. So my first day in university first class, I was sitting right in the front row, trying to figure out whether I'd be able to continue for the next three years learning from Scotties educators. But they were absolutely stunning. They were brilliant. I went into a very good university. And I ended up graduating from university with a software engineering degree and honours degree for that, so top of the class, I shouldn't be blowing my own trumpet. But it was something like four I was also late bloomer, right, so everybody else was 1817. At the university, I was 2122, which he also gave me focus, I was more focused on what I wanted to do, rather than spending my weekends in a union, Student Union having parties, although I do miss that partnership, partake, partake in more into those activities, but it is what it is. So now I have my software engineering degree. But the journey doesn't stop there. Remember, I want to be a hacker, and hackers need to know about networking. So my next step is about learning how networks work together. And I decided to do a master's degree on that. Which took me to a very different journey into software, sorry, software for networking, all the OSI layers, learning about TCP IP, then learning about routers and routers, as the Americans say, or routers in the US in the UK, and there's the world, then treaties and firewalls and everything else, how you put them together. And after a year doing my Masters, I was like, I am ready now to enter the world and hack everyone. And apparently, that's not how the world works. I started looking for jobs around and I realized that networking is very centralized. So for many companies that were based in the UK, where it was, it was usually London, they had a central office in London, and a lot of them things around hardware, even back in 2004, could be managed remotely. And I remember because I specialized in Cisco equipment, which was probably the top of the line at the time, and there's still, you know, top of the line, a lot of the companies would hire an external contractor to manage local areas. So they had a Scotties engineer that would go from one place to another to maybe replace hardware or fix problems that were not feasible remotely. And therefore I was like, I don't want to go to London because it's too far. It's too expensive. And I'm not ready to leave Scotland. I love Scotland. So I said, Maybe I should go back to software, which I love so much. also turns out that software was being more for the entry level. So entry level software was paying more than entry level hardware and networking. I mean, there are some people in networking that make insane amount of money, but they're on a 24/7 on call. And I wouldn't envy them trying to fix BGP errors that affect things globally. So So I was like, Yeah, software is good. But I started looking for software jobs and without any experience it's very hard to break into the industry. And I think a lot of people that are currently starting that might find the same challenges. How do you break into an industry that expects you Do you have some knowledge, but you don't really have knowledge and hands on? experience. So I ended up going into banking. As in I was a teller for a bank, I got hired to work as a cashier for a bank in hopes that I could traverse the corporate waters and ended up being the IT department. I mean, that was the long goal. But after spending six months serving people, I was like, This is not for me, I am I need to be out of here ASAP. As a side story, I was probably one of the very few people that lost $20,000 in one transaction. Like I put the wrong digit somewhere. And we never found those 20,000. It wasn't as though it was 10,000 pounds, which is probably about $26,000. And that was me like, I am never, I mean that those money, not money was insured. So nobody really lost money. But technically, I lost. I don't think anybody knows the story apart from my wife. So this is a very first time saying anybody else but that at that point, I realized that I am not made for this. They also had a very archaic IP system, like everything was console, and had to use specialized keys and special eight keyboards. Like how are people working in 2004 2005, with his stupid, you know, UI, and they never thought about, I mean, the software was probably written in the 1970s, and was still running on those old terminals.

Tim Bourguignon 16:26
But there's the hacking, there was not white high white hats. It was not like, it's another color. It's early purple hat hat.

Christos Matskas 16:35
I bought, yes, I'm wearing their $20,000 were lost. And I felt devastated. Because what happens is, when these myths, miscalculation somewhere, and at the end of the day, we can really balance the seats. Everybody in the bank, brunch, has to stay back and go through every single transaction for the day, tried to figure it out. Never like we never found the money, which was insane, to think about it, but I was devastated in any way. Or like, you know what, I need to come out of this. And then I was lucky to my wife was working for the government as consultant at the time. And she was working on a lot of initiatives. And one of the initiatives was getting graduates out of school and placing them into jobs, where they would co fund co found co fund industries to hire them. So they would go to these you know, small soap and say, Do you need somebody to do your IT support or whatever will get you somewhere? And through that I got my first ever software developer for a local manufacturing company, which was small in the name, but huge in the global industry, because they were making all the labels for the wines. You know, the labels that you use it outside of everyone. You speak for all? Yeah, exactly. I mean, we should be using alcohol. But it's a little bit early for me right now. Like you feel welcome to go for it. But they were printing specialized custom labels for all the major alcohol makers and you know, they would get on demand, they would design everything in house. And then they had the printers to print them out. So a giant manufacturing floor, everything was working on Windows, and their major challenge was to move off ms axis that was running their whole suite from invoicing, to dispatching to taking orders demanding customer records. Yeah, yeah, it was all that it was all built in house. So when I joined the other passion, that team used to be in sales, and decided to move to software engineering. And he was my mentor. So no software background for him either. He was very intelligent, very clever. But he didn't have any software background. And then I joined as a, you know, green out of the university, never worked in the industry. And what ensued was an absolute mess. Although we managed to deliver a lot of amazing pieces of software. Looking back, I'm like, I'm horrified. How will they bring the whole organization down a lot of the things that we did were out of bar, and we were migrating that MS Access system into VB dotnet. So my very first break into the industry was with VB dotnet. out of university, my first job was dotnet. And that stuck with me forever. So I stayed there for a year writing software at some point on the story. There was no distribution system for the software. Every time we wrote or updated a client who had to go to every single machine on the floor with a USB stick, stick the USB in and then deploy the software, right. It was an executable that we had to run everywhere. And we had to walk around miles like in the end of the day, you would walk around miles. We also didn't have a very rigorous unit testing or integration testing process. And therefore, somebody would call me and say, Hey, I have a bug trying to do this. They would replicate that or I would go to their desk, see them in action. I was like oh yeah, I know what it is. Then We'll go back to my desk fix that problem. Without knowing whether I introduced any regression issues or whether I broke something else, I will test that exact flow, take the software and then go back to the whole floor and start deploying this same exact thing. It wouldn't have been tested on one or two machines, I was so confident in my code, we would do it. And I got fed up, like I was walking miles, it was good for my health. But it was bad for my mental health, because we're like, I don't want to be walking around the floors all day. So I said, How about we move to a web based solution? You know, everything that we wrote so far, let's say right, in cold fusion. Yeah, because back then I know, I don't know, I don't even know how cold fusion came to be. Because he knew that was a dotnet person. And then ASP. Net was in its infancy back then. But ASP. Net was around web forms were around. But I decided against it. And I said, You know what, I'm going to go and learn cold fusion because I'd be no cold fusion. So I went and sat through a four day course that the company happily paid for, extremely grateful for their contribution, my learning experience. And then I took all the learnings further from those four days. And I started rewriting software, which was amazing. I mean, there were some fantastic plugins for ColdFusion, you could write a thing that chart the data. If you wanted to see some performance, or some some progression in a few lines of code, it was so easy to use. I loved it. But obviously ColdFusion has its own limitations and security issues and eventually stopped being supported because it had such a reliance on floss. But by the time that happened, I was already long gone. I had done my damage. And I met my boss 12 years later, in 2016, when I was flying out of Glasgow to go to a customer as part of my Microsoft job, and we sat down, we started coffee yesterday, thanks very much for the opportunity. I learned so much from you. And you know, it was my first foray into software development. By the way, what happened, the software that we wrote, and he said, You know what, that software kept on running for another eight years until we got acquired, and then everything else moved to SAP. So for eight more years after that software, which has so many bad practices, like within the unit testing, there was no decoupling, no architecture whatsoever. We're just building things just kept on running for eight years. I was like, Oh, wow, I am impressed. Not you might not about the quality of my software, but the fact that it was able to run for eight more years without requiring either rewrite or active maintenance. But anyway, so I was there for a few years are they the program started as a co funding from government, they saw value in me. So they said, We're going to hire you full time. And therefore they gave me a pay rise. And I stay there for a year. And then I was like, You know what, I'm ready for the next step, I need to do some damage somewhere else.

Christos Matskas 22:59
So I started interviewing around just to see where I am, you know, it gives you a little bit of confidence, trying to learn about what he can do. And it's a good practice as well to interview frequently just to see where the market is. And one of these interviews took me to Edinburgh, which is a city right outside of Glasgow, it's about 45 minutes, where there was a big software company that was doing financial software, writing financial software for, you know, many big players in the market, like Deutsche Bank, you know, them, everyone Marilyns back then everyone was their customer. So they had about 95% of the global market. It was funded by a couple of guys that were in the stock exchange, London Stock Exchange, and they saw a gap in the market and said, We're gonna write software to fill the gap. And they were the first ones to do it, therefore, very successful. But I when I went there, they didn't want a software engineer. They wanted someone to do tech support, not tech support about IT support like more admin it. So I had to manage their exchange, I had to manage their Active Directory, I had to manage servers, I was playing with racks, I was setting up servers, setting up their backup software. It was great because I decided to appropriately do this time. So I was studying and learning, understanding how backup rotation should work because I had one tape and they would use that same tape over and over and over again. So they only had like one day's worth of backups every time. So we introduced like monthly weekly quarterly backups, and we had offsides as well, it was great to learn but I was like, You know what, I'm losing my my ad so after a year playing with Linux and Windows and setting things up, I said I want to go back into software. In my spare time, I had been writing software I was playing around. I was trying to get into the habit of keeping my skills sharp around software development, and therefore I had an Intel interview. I said to the software engineer, lead, you know what I want to go back into software. I've got some really good experience. One whole year of Writing cold fusion will be more than enough for anyone. And he said, Yeah, we'll see. We'll have an interview with you. I think it was a pretty basic interview just for them to understand like a what is object oriented orientation? What are the basic principles, just a bit about some software you written before, just to see whether I had the chops. And then I was hired as my as a junior software developer in a company. And that was a proper the first proper one I got, because I was very fortunate to work with some fantastic developers, really smart people, really good mentors as well, where they helped me get to grips with how to write better software, how to do testing, how to work with large data, as well. And by large that time, we had a one terabyte database, which looked ginormous, coming from the manufacturing company, where we had maybe, I don't know, a few gigs of data to one terabyte and ingesting billions of records every day. Now was, that was very interesting, I got to participate in conversation about architecture and how to solve very challenging problems like concurrency and what have you. So great, great. But progression was and even though he paid well didn't pay as well as I would have liked it to be. And then eventually, that company got acquired by an American company. And they came with the, you know, the standard American structure where everybody's a VP or a CVP. And they get so much talk and whatever. And I was, I was not happy with my placement there, even after being there for six years. And I got to the point, I started eating for something more exciting. And I also had also started doing a lot of like side work, I started working as a consultant where I would go out to friends and colleagues and say, Hey, by the way, if you have any projects, I will be more than happy to work for you. And I did a couple of projects for Salt Lake University where they hired me to build the CMS that was a horror story on its own. I mean, we can afford to five minutes just on that. But being hired as a still green, right. I mean, I didn't have that much experience on what, five, four or five years into my software development, I decided to take on some really big projects, where he was creating a CMS out of the box from scratch. For them. I was like, What was I thinking, I was looking back on my decisions, like I could have taken something off the shelf, like WordPress, or whatever, and no write custom software. But it doesn't matter, because it helped me to learn so many things. And since I had this kind of I felt confident in taking bigger challenges. I said to myself in 2012, I am going to become a consultant. And I had a few people that had already done this. So talking to them and trying to understand how it is what it is. And whether it's worth going from a full time job where have the safety of know what you know where you going every day, you don't have to worry about your contract being cut short or whatever, to actually run your own business. And working as a consultant. It was a big step, but I thought I had the chops to do it.

Christos Matskas 28:04
So 2012, I founded my my company software allowance limited. And I went ahead and started consulting, which was extremely fun. My first contract, I was terrified. I don't know if you've ever done consulting. But for those that are listening, I thought I knew nothing. Right. And I thought when I land as a consultant on my first day there will be asking all these different questions that I need to be able to answer because obviously they're paying more. And they expect a lot more freedom from you. It's not like you're hired and you have six months to adapt and adjust. You're hired. And then on day two, you're supposed to do work. Well, my first consulting gig was very different because I went there. And they're like, who are you? I said, I've been hired as a consultant, I was supposed to be starting day. Oh, yeah, we don't have a PC for you. We don't never have an account for you. So just go there, take the stack of papers, and read the functional requirements for the software that you're supposed to be working. Like, again. So they gave me this giant stack of documentation, which was already out of date. By the way, as we all know, documentation never really matches the actual functional requirements off of working software. And it took them about a week to get me my first laptop. So I could start signing in and looking at the code base and whatever. And then I was assigned tasks. So in effect later, we're going to implement this button or go and implement this function or create something that does x. And it was was a lot of fun, although extremely terrifying, because most of my tasks included XML, so I had to transform XML. And if you've worked with SSL T's and transformation files for XML, it's horrendous thing. Not it's not fun. Also, it's not very easy to test. It's not like hey, I'm gonna run something and I'm gonna see the output input in input output like accessibility debugging is not there so you can debug excesses. Do you have to try and Do error and whatever happens. But it was a great project, we saved a lot of money because there was a project where we took an existing project that somebody was paying millions for. And we made it modular and configurable. And therefore, every year, they didn't have to update and pay the license fees for it. And we save them tons of money, we deliver the project. And it was something that it was in collaboration with Lockheed Martin. So just to show you the size of the contract that we're talking about, and they had hundreds of people working on that. So I was part of a small team. That was my first sort of like software consulting gig where I survived. And I thought to myself, You know what, it's not that horrible, and you can still learn on the job. And I think I can do this, I think it can be successful. So I started a very aggressive kind of consulting career where I would go for interviews lined up my first my next gig, I never went for one period where I didn't have anything to do or, you know, I was stuck out of job I would go Friday was my last day on my previous contract Monday was my next day, there was no gaps. I couldn't afford gaps. I had two kids. Joking aside, it was exciting. And it was very nice to be able to choose what project you want to work for. I also find found it exhilarating because I learned so much unlike being in a company for six years where you have a very well known codebase nobody start from scratch unless you want to do in cold fusion. And it's very rare that you get brand new projects, Greenfield projects to work on. And even though you already have mature systems out there, so maybe authentication, you're already using a previous module or for for ingesting data, you're already using a module that you built before. That's the whole point of code reusability. And it's very unlikely that you have to write brand new stuff. Whereas when New York as a consultant, you get to try so many things. So I was like, You know what I'm gonna try my hand in Node, I learned node. And then I jumped on the next contract where I wanted to work as a node developer and help build API's with node. I also found that, you know, there's more than just dotnet out there. I work with Java as well, I work with Python, and I learn to appreciate what is good in one language and what's bad in another language. I also learned a ton about working with teams and working in different organizations and what to look out for, and what to avoid, like the plague, and how to value things at work. Some companies were fantastic, very flexible. I remember I was interviewing for one company, I said, What's your remote work situation, and that was back in 2014. And I remember the hiring manager said, well, we want our consultants to be sitting here so I can see them. And I said to him, You do realize I could be sitting here watching videos for seven hours, and you wouldn't be none the wiser. So why does that make me more productive than working from home? If I want to say like, Yeah, we don't do that? Fine, fine. Fine. I see. I see your point. I see your point. But at the same time, I don't see your point. I ended up working for them for about three months, it was a very interesting project, we actually designed their in house mapping tool. And we use Google Maps instead obviously makes a lot more sense. But they had a lot of maps that were consumed by the public. And they wanted to make things faster. And they said We want somebody to rewrite everything. So I wrote a lot of JavaScript on top of the Google Maps API back then, God, that project is still around. By the way, I was talking with my wife the other day, I said, I built this in 2014. still around. Cool. Yeah. And around. Yeah. Going

Tim Bourguignon 33:27
to do just we wish that you said you learned what to avoid. I learned what

Christos Matskas 33:31
to avoid? Yeah. Well, there are a lot of contracts that will pay you a lot of money. But their technology stack is awful. I work for one of them, for example, that we're stocking dotnet, three, five, we're still using XP in 2014. or doesn't. Yeah, 2000 2014 2015. Just back then, I was like, Windows seven has been out for almost seven years. And we were using very obviously, because the worst I can be they can use I think windows or they couldn't use dotnet. For the worst I can dotnet three, five, it was so weird. And even though they were handling millions of dollars, because it was a financial institution, they will be they will rename a name, it was very challenging to work in that environment. And in some cases, the teams are bad. You know, you go there and the culture is not what you want. Like the guy that said, I want you to sit here, it turns out that the whole team was extremely toxic. Nobody was talking to each other. I remember that had a guy that was designing the API's that would change the API signature and not tell anyone and publish that. And then their software. We stopped working suddenly. I was like, but it was working before lunch. Why is it not working anymore? Why is not pulling data and then you spend like two hours on debugging. And wait a minute. Did somebody change the API? And then I would go and speak the guy is like, dude, do you probably something. So yeah, I didn't like maybe sending an email out saying I'm publishing the API. This is the new definition. Go grab it like so three months was what as long as I was able to last tools, like I would ask what kind of tools do you use or how often do you pop? Was your software, there were teams that would only publish once every six months. And they were terrified of doing that. And it was all manual. So they had to follow like a 52 page Word document where somebody will be doing remotely and you're just sitting there looking at WebEx for whatever tools like not not your left, my left the other button. Yeah, pray first. That one I've experienced. I was a Friday afternoon, again, another financial institution that will remain unnamed. But we had to do deployments manually. And then we couldn't patch production because we're developers, so they had somebody from tech support with admin rights to production doing that manually. So if you screw up something, then good luck trying to restore CRM. Yeah, yeah. So these are the things that you learn. And the more you work with different companies and different teams, there are the red flags that will automatically take literally, you don't want to be doing this for the next six months, even though the money is fantastic. And then there are the other teams that you'd like, yeah, I really want to work here, I worked for a team, for example, they it was weird. They were trying to rewrite their software, they were an ERP, kind of a company, managing large contracts, we're talking about millions, but everything was running on MS Access, it's a circle, you know, it comes back. And they had tons of VB scripts, running things, and everything was working perfectly. But it's not the case where if it's working, don't touch it, because they tried two times to rewrite the software. And every time they ended up scrapping the process one or two years into it, because they had a bad management process. So they hired consultants, they say we can build it in house, but we have to build in house. So instead of using our existing talent, we'll hire 12 consultants, highly paid to build this, which is a risk and something that you need to carefully manage as well, because it's too expensive. Consultants don't really have an alliance, if another contract comes up, they might go there because it's better money or better circumstances. But that team was absolutely stunning. I learned a ton from them. best gig in my life, I remember talking to them and said I will never go back into a full time job if I can stick with you guys. And then one month later, I was hired by Microsoft or like you were telling us, You will never go back into a full time job. And now you go to work for Microsoft said, Well, you know what? It's a dream come true, right? It's a job that I really want to be there. And then that was the my last consulting job, probably the best gig ahead. And yeah, I was I ended up just taking that job. And I made it to Microsoft. after that. I ended up working at Microsoft for since 2016. I have been here.

Tim Bourguignon 37:36
How did that happen that Microsoft came to you and you will not

Christos Matskas 37:40
believe it. Somebody reached out to me on LinkedIn, somebody, it's not on me to me on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn, I answered your crazy. It was also the time that I would do, I would say things like, I will say yes to everything. So if you say come and speak to us for x, I will drive to Aberdeen for three hours just to speak to developers for 45 minutes. So I was doing a lot of community work back then. And I was doing a lot of publications or blogs. And they probably found out about my profile on LinkedIn, I was very active on LinkedIn back then updating everything. That's a great advice, by the way to always keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, especially if you're actively looking for jobs or you want to, you know, get hired by or get noticed by somebody. And then yeah, they reached out to me on LinkedIn and said, We want to hire you to maximize Yeah, I mean, this is a great joke, but I will buy it, I will say yes, why not? What's the worst that can happen? And I had a talk with the hiring manager. They said, We like you will want to get your for loop. And I was like, I will never work for maximum. You know, I remember I had a friend colleague whose brother was a Microsoft, Brian, if you're listening, your brother has been an inspiration. But so Brian was like, Yeah, my brother is working for maximum. I said, Man, he must be super clever. I will never work at Microsoft. And lo and behold, a few years later, I got interviewed to work at Microsoft. And I got hired to work as a field engineer helping customers with their cloud and developer journeys, which was fantastic. So take their the consulting that I was doing for three or six months or nine months, and condense it to a day. So I will do consulting for the day, and then move to the next customer and do the same consulting on a different topic, which was super mind blowing. I was learning so fast and so many things. And it was a fantastic experience.

Tim Bourguignon 39:25
When you were doing technical consulting, yes, on one day for customer, oh, one

Christos Matskas 39:30
day or two days been like somebody will say can you come and help us with our Azure storage? We are trying to do X and we don't know how. So we'll go there. Speak to them for four or five hours. Tell them all about Azure Storage and how it works. And then we will try to solve their specific problem. Or I will do a workshop where we were, you know, ramping up people on dotnet core was very new back end. 2016. So a lot of companies were like, Yeah, we want to do dotnet core. We don't know where to get started. And we had a fully formalized workshop where we'll take developer's journey off I know nothing to being able to write a solution at the end of the four days. Yeah, we're signing stuff. It's it was a brilliant gig. But there was a lot of traveling there. That was the talent.

Tim Bourguignon 40:11
So that way you transition.

Christos Matskas 40:14
And I had young kids back then. And I thought I couldn't make it work. But I ended up being away from home Monday to Friday. And yeah, because I had so many customers. And you know, we only had so few engineers in the UK. And in some cases, I would fly outside of the UK to go and help customers in Europe, like Amsterdam, and Belgium, obviously, Europe is much closer than the US. So if I were asked to go to Florida to help a customer right now, that will be like a two day trip to Europe, it's like I can fly in the morning or the night before, be there for the customer and then fly home the same day. In many cases, I did that. But then again, you end up spending so much time at airports where I would say, rather than flying back and forth, I would line up my customers in the same region and then try to get them all in two or three days back to back. If I didn't, yeah, it adds up. And then I was missing way too many moments with my kids. And I said, Well, you know what, my family is more important. And I tried to get out of the gig to go and do something else.

Tim Bourguignon 41:14
And I ended up in marketing. So you back to your family and went to Redman.

Christos Matskas 41:18
Yes, I do my family sad, you know, well, there were a few opportunities in the UK, but I had to move from Glasgow to Redding, which is the base. And I thought to myself, if I'm going to move 500 miles, I might as well move 5000 miles.

Tim Bourguignon 41:32
Yeah, because why not? Exactly.

Christos Matskas 41:36
And then I went to I came here in Redmond, to work in marketing as a developer marketeer,

Tim Bourguignon 41:44
which was a weird role. What is that developer marketing.

Christos Matskas 41:47
So they wanted some of the marketing to help with developer tools and languages, there was a specific team within marketing that had to have technical background in order to be able to speak truthfully to developers, and define the right audience. A lot of people in marketing will come from MBA degrees or with MBA degrees that don't really have experience in the real world. So this role requires someone that had real world experience with working with development tools, and what have you. And I took the job, very different side of things, right? You go from being super technical and writing software every day to not having the ID for a couple of months.

Tim Bourguignon 42:23
So you became a translator, after all,

Christos Matskas 42:26
translating, translating technical business requirements to technical requirements? Yeah. Thank you go.

Tim Bourguignon 42:35
I just just looking back at the very beginning, you wanted to be a surgeon. So you were ready to follow steps.

Christos Matskas 42:42
I was ready to follow steps. Yes,

Tim Bourguignon 42:44
then a fighter pilot, something really stressful, where you don't know what's gonna happen. But you know, you're prepared. Then I was studying languages, which came full circle, then working with kids and developers, sometimes I see what

Christos Matskas 42:58
you're doing there. And I've never been brought in. Yeah, I guess the question is now.

Tim Bourguignon 43:05
We're not talking about that, that early childhood. But now looking back, has there been an advice that helped you along the way something that really was forming or maybe moved you and that you would like to give away again,

Christos Matskas 43:18
there are two things I regret one is to not getting, and there's so many things that we haven't covered today. But I will say waiting too long to become a consultant, that's probably something that hurt me because I thought I didn't know enough to be a consultant, when in reality, I knew enough. And there's no this high expectation of you need to know everything. Because you're a consultant, usually, you're there to fill a gap to help teams achieve things. And as long as you can pick things up quickly, then you will be a fantastic consultant. As long as you have this kind of appetite for learning new things and jumping into new things and playing with the unknown. I wish I had done that at least three years sooner, rather than waiting until 2012. I think 2009 would have been a perfect year for me to jump into that. And the second one, which we didn't really cover today was my involvement with community and, and open source. This is tremendously helpful for developers, obviously, not everyone has the ability to stay on stage to stand on stage and speak in front of 200 or 300 people. Not everyone wants to travel around for these things. But an open source opens a lot of doors to learn from the best and help the community build tools and libraries that everybody's using. And there are a lot of challenges with open source as well. But I would say in general, it's a fantastic community to be involved. And getting involved with events and activities, even at a local level will be fantastic for you to build a network and to be to get to be known right i In the end when I was consulting, I was doing so much work with the public that the last couple of gigs were people actually asking me to go and work for them without an interview. We say we know what you're doing. We've seen your open source work, you know that we know that you speak at conferences, we feel that you're competent enough to come and work for us. When can you start? What that wasn't an interview that was me interviewing them to say, what do you want me to do? And how am I supposed to be working here, but it really helped. And then I wouldn't have gotten the job at Microsoft, if I hadn't done all this public work and being in the public eye. Maybe it was because I was updating my LinkedIn all the time. Or maybe it was because I was writing blog posts and doing public speaking and what have you, whatever your journeys, it doesn't have to be the same as mine. But building a network is going to be extremely important and not being afraid to jump into the unknown. It's going to help you grow much faster than you think.

Tim Bourguignon 45:44
Amen to that. Christos, it's been a blast. Thank you very much.

Christos Matskas 45:48
Likewise, thank you for letting me tell my story.

Tim Bourguignon 45:50
Absolutely. Where would be the best place to find you online started discussion with you will continue that with the one we just had.

Christos Matskas 45:57
Yeah, I mean, Twitter is the place I am always active on I have a YouTube channel as well, I have a LinkedIn. So linktree, or slash smartcast, you'll probably find all the links to all the work I do. And feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I also have one to one mentoring hours. So you can actually book some time with me and we can have a chat about career or any other challenges that you might have, hopefully can help you. I mean, I can't solve a life problems I can try. But I specialize in identity insecurity these days and software. So if we want to have a chat, or it's up.

Tim Bourguignon 46:32
Okay, I'll add all the new links out into the into the show notes. So you just have to scroll down and Exactly. That's awesome. Thanks very much.

Christos Matskas 46:41
Thank you as well.

Tim Bourguignon 46:43
And this has been another episode of developer's journey we see each other next week. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you liked the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Would you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at 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 t h e p or per email info at Dev journey dot info. Talk to you soon.