Software Developers Journey Podcast

#214 Michael Chan has an unfair advantage - he is a mule!


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Michael Chan 0:00
I hope for people who are in that phase like they recognize that like, you know, the feelings that they have are valid Look, listen to your feelings and, and be open to making bigger changes faster. I think that's a really important thing that I have a really hard time with honestly, and but you know, making bigger changes faster is is really important for people.

Tim Bourguignon 0:22
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 team building your own this episode 214. I received Michael Chen. Michael is a second career web designer, developer and maker of toy design systems. He's also a conference speaker, a serial podcaster or YouTuber, either or, and actually pretty active in the community. Michael, welcome today.

Michael Chan 0:57
Thanks for having me. I'm super excited to be here.

Tim Bourguignon 1:00
I'm glad to hear that I'm thrilled as well. We've been laughing for 15 minutes or 20 minutes already. It's half an hour. We've been laughing half an hour. So

Michael Chan 1:09
good. I liked the fact that you kept toy design systems in there, because that's always something that I've always, I've always found really funny, I guess I'm a big fan of the self deprecating bios, you know, I had in there for a while mediocre web developer, I just fan of, you know, just kind of bringing it down, right? Like we don't have to be so you know, fancy and precious about everything. Like we're just out here having fun learning stuff on the fly doing good work.

Tim Bourguignon 1:36
I saw that the mediocre web developer somewhere was stalking you online. I cannot add that. You can't do that.

Michael Chan 1:45
I'm calling it out for you. A web developer right here.

Tim Bourguignon 1:51
We'll see about 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. Michael, as you know, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story looked like, and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual in the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place to start if your dev or tech journey?

Michael Chan 2:46
Okay, so if I had to place the start of it, it would be right around the kind of US economic crash of I guess was that 2008 2009? Maybe it was? Yeah, in that time, I would say that's when it actually took hold and took form. So obviously, like we all have, like a precursor to our tech journey where there's some, you know, some preamble a little bit of interest in some kind of tech, etcetera, etcetera. But I would say that that was the moment of birth, right. And that was the trial by fire like, actually, like came into the world. At that time, I was working with my dad doing important export. So he had an important export business, I had always been a part of his businesses. So even I mean, even when I was a child, a child, so we were, we had at sea, I had three brothers, and we all kind of grew up in this kind of homeschooled environment. And on weekends, we would go and help my dad out at his dry cleaner. And I was like tagging shirts, and like putting things on hangers, like, you know, wrapping clothes up whatever fold and stuff, anything that needed to be done, I was doing it. And so I've worked with my dad for a really long time and did that I went away to college for a little bit. But then I came back and he needed some help with the business side and also the presentation of this online business of this business. And so I was doing a lot of accounting specifically. And was was building up some of our web presence and print stuff with a handful tools that I knew about. So I was I was already doing a little bit of web dev stuff at the time as a hobby just out of out of interest in technology. But it was in that time of like 2009 where the industry the whole global economy was just kind of in shambles. It was collapsing. And so all of like our business just evaporated effectively. So all of these contracts that we had, they kind of canceled them and like a lot of things were just bad for us. And so I had to kind of figure out something else to do. And I was like, if I'm a mediocre web developer, I was actually a terrible bookkeeper, accountant type of person. I was, I was making it work, but I wasn't great at it wasn't exceptional by any means. And so I was like, Oh, well, you know, I am good enough. I can like find some kind of job doing like accounting. But unfortunately, like, like, at that time, like no one was hiring accountants, because there was literally no money. Everyone was being fired in that field. And there was a moment where I realized, so it was, oh, shoot, what was it, there was a job interview for a job at the at the city. And I was like, I can, it's a very entry level position. Like, I'll go there. And you know, see if I can see if I can get I've been applying for all kinds of things. In person, I'm thinking I'm pretty good in person. Like, maybe I'll get this even though like, you know, I'm not as qualified as the other people. Apparently, it was like this group thing. And I get there, and there's like, 700 people for this one position? Open? Yeah. Oh, totally terrible. Yeah, it's like it was it was crushing. And, like, a lot of these people have like master's degrees in finance, and they're just going to this entry level position. I was like, like, this is not going to happen for me. Like, because there was not I mean, it was clear at that point, with all of these people going for this one position, that was the pool of people going for all of the positions that I could possibly get. And I was not anywhere near the top of the capability list there. So I was like, You know what, I gotta figure something I have to figure something else out to do, like, what, what else am I good at. And I knew, I already knew that music wasn't going to cut it, I had done some music stuff in the past, I had a band, and you know, all that kind of stuff. And I knew that wasn't gonna cut it. And so I was like, you know, this web thing. Seems kind of hot. And I like it. It's fun. I am not, by any means a web developer, like I've played a little bit with, you know, like, I know how to get like a LAMP stack up on the internet. I've done that a couple of times. But that's it. That's the extent of what I know. And there's just like world class developers out there already. So maybe what I can do is I can just do some like PSD to HTML stuff. I know those tools. I know, HTML really well, I know, a lot of people don't really like front end stuff. So I can, I can do that. And so I've just picked up a handful of jobs on Craigslist, you know, here in the US, it's just kind of this, you can buy and sell literally anything. And I just picked up anything that I could for like I was like, I don't know, 15 bucks an hour or something like that, like just odd odd jobs to kind of see if there was any potential there. And I was doing like, I was doing, like stuff that nobody would, in their right mind would want to do. Like, I was like doing email signatures for people like and I'd make like 30 bucks or something like that. And

Tim Bourguignon 8:16
somebody has to do it. Somebody has to do it right. There. So well crafted and printed out everywhere. It's written on them don't print this.

Michael Chan 8:30
So yeah, so I was like, you know, I did that. And I kind of started to move more and more into that. And honestly, it was really funny because I was I was on Craigslist looking for like that. And then also just like book, bookkeeping accounting type of work. And there was this one woman that I had the privilege of meeting Pamela Stambaugh who was really kind of that that shift for me. She was like a career coach. She she coached a lot of a CEO types or whatever and, and really interesting lady, I just have a huge amount of respect for her even to this day, but I applied to just do some, like basic bookkeeping for her. And she was like, Hey, here's the deal I really like but I can tell you right now, like, this is not like this is not your future. Like I don't want you anywhere near my books. You're not that kind of person. That's like, Oh, thanks for calling me to tell me that.

Tim Bourguignon 9:27
How does it feel when you've been doing bookkeeping for someone? You You're clearly

Michael Chan 9:35
terrible at this which is like you know, I really I really like you and I think that I think that we have some opportunity to work together more in this technology space. And I I see your interest in that. And I have some need there. So let's figure this out. And so she helped me a lot in being able to I was I got to do a lot more on the front end of her sight. Feel out some of the skills that I had had kind of privately or just in our own business, and and really get a sense of working with someone getting a sense of kind of doing things specifically on someone else's timeline, someone else's expectations that I didn't have a direct relationship with yet. And yes, she was really that, that voice kind of from that point forward, I was like, okay, like, I have to change the way that I think about myself, like, I am not that person, I'm this person. And it was a really, a really special moment. And it really was the inflection point that directed every district career decision I've made ever since. So yeah, just a huge shout out to someone who I guess was able to, that's what it is. You know, in this, sorry, I'm kind of started on my words, because I'm thinking through all this stuff, but like, because I'm realizing, like, even just right now, that what she gave me was a gift that I tried to give other people as well. And it's something that like, I think that we kind of overthink of the word like prophecy. You know, we think about prophecy and is like, Are these like, you know, old timey folks like writing down all of these really like cryptic things that will eventually come true, and etc, etc. And I have a much more humble definition that I use of prophecy, which is just this idea of saying what you see, and you can do this for anyone. And I really love that. And in in recounting this story, when I think about Pamela, I think about the gift that that she gave me and just st saying, what she saw, and how that really directed. The last. I mean, what's it been, like 1314 15 years of my life, which is insane, like, absolutely insane. And I know, at some point, we'll probably talk about community and whatnot. And I think, as I am kind of in that, you know, I guess I'm, you know, more senior or seasoned, or whatever you want to call it. Some of the gift that I want to give to people is that same thing of just saying what I see, like, I see you in this space, and I know that you're like, you're just entering this thing, but and you don't you're just filling it out, you might not know but like I see this in you, go get it.

Tim Bourguignon 13:20
This is amazing. This you're able to ping pointed at at one person one moment in time entirely.

Michael Chan 13:27
Oh, yeah. No, just I mean, like, seriously, like, I can visualize it as just like, I'm headed down this track. And then I meet her, and she just shifts everything. Like I just totally opposite direction, like, Hey, turn around, because there's nothing for you here.

Tim Bourguignon 13:44
Did you believe or at least hear this prophecy right away? Or do you fight against it for a while?

Michael Chan 13:53
You know, I think that I would have fought against it. I think my nature would have been the fight against it if I wasn't in such a desperate situation, right? Because I was already it was already clear. How how true it was. And I was the only person had who had to come on board to it.

Tim Bourguignon 14:13
Interesting. That is awesome.

Michael Chan 14:18
I mean, honestly, that's very true for me, like across my life, I feel like my entire life. I'm very, like just slow on the uptake and I will suffer through I think I say this a lot like I am a mule. Right. I am totally comfortable just just plowing in this direction for forever. And it takes a huge amount of effort to get me to stop what I'm doing and plow in a different direction.

Tim Bourguignon 14:48
Sorry, I've lost in my head, trying to to brainwash me into not putting the word mule in the title of

Michael Chan 14:57
Michael Chan is a mule. I give you permission That's it. Yeah, that's it. That's the

Tim Bourguignon 15:01
title right there.

Tim Bourguignon 15:07
Would you give me a Julian? Even better James Comey? Okay, so so what? So you finally believed it? Yeah. And embrace this potential career and really left accounting completely behind you. And went forward from there on?

Michael Chan 15:27
Yeah, yeah. No, looking back, it was kind of it was just Yeah, it was it was clear enough. That is like, Yeah, this is this is this is truth. Right? When you. I mean, it's so it's so hard to, I feel like we we all look for those moments, we want those moments where everything's like really clear. And I think that's something I've found, personally for me about those moments is that it, it's kind of clear to everyone else. Then, like, you just, you weren't ready to know it for yourself. And that's, that's a really hard thing to deal with just as a human right like to, to know that oftentimes, you're going to be the last person to really figure it out. And the last person to identify it in yourself. And I honestly, at this point, I kind of have this hack around this, where if I've been fighting with something too long, just in my own skin around it, I will find someone who I respect and who I believe does X, whatever that thing is better than me. And I will call them up and say, here's the deal. I have been struggling with this for way too long. As I am personally ready to make the other mistake. I've been making the same mistake for too long. I want to make the other mistake and be like, what would you do? And I'm going to do that today. And I know it's a lot of pressure, but I really appreciate that my friends are typically game for it. Because that has been a hack for me to to bypass the extreme waiting, right? So instead of waiting, another year, another two years, another four years to just come to that that truth, that realization, like just fast tracking and being like, hey, you know what, like, I I've done this three, four or five times the wrong way now like, what's the what's the other way? Because I can't see it. And I know that as soon as I do it, like whatever it whatever it is, it's obvious to you. I'll do it. And it'll MIT changed my life. So just tell me what it is. So I can change my life already.

Tim Bourguignon 17:46
And you're rolling your eyes right now. I hope your friends are okay. They're not ready to waiting for that to screw with you. Just throw you into some crazy endeavors. I said I will do it.

Michael Chan 18:02
I said I'll do it. I'm doing it. No, I appreciate it. Now, it's like at this point, a lot of times people feel the comfort now with me to say, just say it right of you like I mean, especially my partner, Nelly wife of 15 plus years now. She'll just be like, Hey, are you ready to hear what's wrong with you? Because like, I can tell you right now, and you can just be done with it. And it sucks. Like, I'm not gonna lie, it sucks, right? It? It always hurts, especially the more time you invest in doing it the way that isn't serving you. Right? Because then it's just like, I don't I don't even want to hear it. And like even though I know it's right, I don't want to know that it's right. Right, because I want to do it my way.

Tim Bourguignon 18:51
If you had to train your your friends and then spouses and then persons around you to recognize when it's the time to really be blunt, and when you're not going to be receptive, receptive yet hearing this route. Oh,

Michael Chan 19:04
man. Yeah, I mean, I think it's really hard to get people to tell you what you're doing what you're doing wrong. Right. Like I think that it takes it takes a lot of trust building in the in that what is it in that you want to improve? Right in the you want to change? Right, because nobody like that's that's the biggest thing. I think that's what people don't. That's why people don't say what they see. Right is because as soon as it said you can't take it back. Right? And if the other person doesn't do anything to rise up to that, now it's just this thing that's in between you. Right, it's like I said the thing you didn't change so what what's left for us, right?

Tim Bourguignon 19:55
You're the jerk Yeah, I thought he was you mean, then there's something in between some some unspoken spoken stuff. Yeah. And yeah,

Michael Chan 20:09
it sucks because like the thing is the alternative is just like you leave it unsaid, right. And then that causes resentment anyway. And I Yeah, it's. So the thing is I, I'd much rather things be said. And I think it takes a lot of trust in two ways, right? Like, first it takes the trust of like, when someone does say something to you, like really stepping outside of yourself for a second and being like, okay, like, this was a huge risk, right? And this person would not like, this person truly cares for me to have risked my feelings in saying something and recognizing that, like, that's just recognizing that and coming from coming back from that position, instead of like, What are you talking about? Like, I'm perfect, like backup, like are talking about all the things that you're doing wrong?

Tim Bourguignon 20:59
Yeah, let's jump back. Yeah. I really like this expression, stepping outside of yourself. It's really, I love the the visual, really, somebody you see the emotion coming up. And so I'm stepping back with microphones, stepping back and say I'm not in my body anymore. I can't react. Looking at stuff. And when it cool, cool down, out, come back.

Michael Chan 21:22
Yeah. Yeah, and that's a really good point. Like sometimes sometimes you have to know beforehand, have have a strategy for this beforehand, to say, What am I going to say, when I know I'm outside of my own control. And I think that this is, this is an important thing to recognize in those moments, is when you're in that defensive, like fight or flight type of space, like you're already outside of your own control, right, there's a part of your brain that is pushing you into into battle, and are telling you you should run or whatnot. So your your brain is already being hijacked by the feelings that you you have. And so you're out of your yourself. And so to be able to recognize that and actually actually step out of yourself for a second and say like, Okay, those are my feelings, my feelings are valid feelings, I appreciate you, thank you for trying to keep me safe. Like thank you for thank you for doing this job, I would have probably died at this point, if you had not protected me, but this is not life or death. And I can sit here in a sec, I can sit here first I can feel these feelings and not have to respond to them. But I can respond to the person. And it's hard, but I feel like that's like so that's one side of it. And then the other side of it, is also being honest with other people. That's the hardest thing for me, right? Because I'm like, Ah, like, I don't like, I like I can endure, like I said, I mean, you'll I can endure a lot, right? And so if you're just doing these things that kind of casually annoy me or like, whatever like, like, I don't care. Like, that's fine like you, do you I'll do me. But I think that that really enriches the relationship, if you can, if if you want to be someone who receives feedback, a listening to it, thanking them for it, and then showing them your development, and it is huge. But then also being a person who, who also says what they see. Instead, like, hey, like, you're doing this thing, great. But there's this thing, and I feel like, I noticed it. And if you like just shift your approach just a little bit, I think like, like, damn, like, the world is gonna unlock for you in this way. And it's hard, it's super hard. But you know, you get better and better at kind of telling people how to how to improve stuff. So

Tim Bourguignon 23:53
it's very true. Did you have a trick? Or do you have a way to hack your brain in not getting emotional when you have such feedback?

Michael Chan 24:01
And honestly, I like I don't, I feel like it's just I feel like part of it's just recognizing it. And recognizing and the thing is, I think that I maybe this is a little bit of a hack, but I will quickly in that moment. envision a handful of times where I responded to my like, in my emotions. And remember, remember the outcome of that and I remember how much extra work it took to unwind those things after I had exploded and in and I recall the feeling of like wow, like what like, what was wrong with me that moment? Why couldn't like, like, obviously, I blew that situation up like I went nuclear when I didn't have to like why did I do that? And so I kind of have like a handful of those moments that are very clear in my mind now. And so when I feel that I'm kind of conditioned to remember, like, these were some bad times where that I did the wrong thing. These were some times where I did the right thing. And I don't mean like, like, morally, or whatever. But just, I acted against my own interests in these cases. And I acted in my best interest in these cases. And I want to, I want to, I want this to be that way. I want to have acted in my own best interest. And I was calm in those situations, I waited for myself to diffuse. I asked clarifying questions. So I'm going to do that right now.

Tim Bourguignon 25:32
And this in a few milliseconds.

Michael Chan 25:36
Oh, yeah. I mean, the thing is, is that I think that we don't, I think that we're so used to stuffing our feelings and our emotions, or not recognizing them, that we don't we don't build up that programming. Right. And I think that it's, it's, it's just programming, right? Because the thing is that, like, it sounds like a lot of things are happening all at once. But so many things happen so fast in your brain, where it's just kind of like, you can just see them, right? It's almost like it when I think about it, if I try to visualize it, it's almost like posters, right? And one of them is just like, fiery, and dark and angry and like, and there's just all of these like, small little pictures. It's like a mosaic of all the times that I was just like, I really made things bad. And then it's just this kind of like, happy, peaceful one over here. And I'm like, Yeah, I'm just gonna go to the happy peaceful one. Right? Like, it's always, there's always that potential, like, in any discussion to like, find that, that thing? And so I want to, I want that one.

Tim Bourguignon 26:35
Amen to that. I want to be there as well. But it's, it's hard, you really have to work on it. So I, I've been struggling with with this for a long time was really recognizing the emotion when it comes. Yes. Being able to label it becoming being able to, to do this process that we've been talking about. And really, at some point, say, Okay, this is not where I want to go. And yeah, and oldest realize this before my mouth opened. And I gave the answer I didn't want to give. It's a it's an endeavor.

Michael Chan 27:09
Yeah, yeah. I think that we need to get a lot more comfortable with saying, like, just telling people, I'm not sure that I have a level head about this right now. Can we come back? Can we take up? Can we take five minutes, I just need five minutes to think about to process what we've talked about, because I'm feeling responsive. And I want to be able to make sure that I'm hearing what you're saying. And so can I just take five minutes to think about this. And that's a really powerful thing. And I've taken some time and like, I'll like, I'll step out, you know, whatever, you go for a walk, he gets some breath, like, or sometimes I've texted a friend and be like, hey, this thing, this thing is happening right now. And I'm not really sure like, Am I just acting? Like, am I just actually emotionally to this? Like, is this triggering something that just is one of my buttons? And most of the time, they'll be like, oh, yeah, like, they totally didn't mean it like that. Like, like, there's no way they could have meant it like that. Because what you're describing is so ridiculous. Like, it only lives in your head. You're like, All right, okay. Yeah. Okay, whatever.

Tim Bourguignon 28:08
This is something I've been doing as a coach, very often is really asking, Okay, what's another expressing? And if as long as long as some ideas come up in something like 20 seconds or 30 seconds? I keep asking, what's another explanation? What's another? And when it starts to dry down, and after 30 seconds? I don't get anything. That Okay, good enough. How many do we have six? So how about exploring the five others and not just the nuclear one?

Michael Chan 28:35
Yeah, that is such a good strategy. And I in? I think, yeah, asking those clarifying questions is so important. And I think that that skill that you're describing, there is something that will actually help you not even get to the point where you're out of control, right? Because when you get in the habit of asking clarifying questions, then it's like, you don't even get to that place where you have developed this really weird situation in your head where someone's trying to be evil to you.

Tim Bourguignon 29:09
Yeah. Vanquish. What do you mean, my variable naming is not appropriate? What do you mean by appropriate? Steer by a little bit. Just a little bit. It's been fascinating. Just a little bit with keeping your keep moving in your head in the words did you envision the side at this inflection inflection point, this we're talking about? Did you envision your future becoming what it became?

Michael Chan 29:41
No, yeah, definitely not. I don't think that I ever thought I would make more than, you know, a standard US salary. writing HTML. I kind of thought that I would just be stuck in that for forever, just HTML, CSS and whatnot. And it was really fascinating to me that at least at the stage that I came into tech, there was a lot of opportunity for me to do some of the things that I really cared about in the front end space. So I've always been moderately obsessed with organization. And like in productivity, I guess I think a lot of us are, I don't that I don't think I don't think by any means that that's a unique thing. But it's something that I've always been fascinated by, by efficiency. And it was, it was really interesting to kind of press into that at my first at my first roles and be rewarded for it in very interesting ways. So even before we had like, design systems, and component libraries, and all that kind of stuff, I was able to take what I understood about like group efficiency, and apply it to our like PSD to HTML pipeline. And so we were doing some kind of like unbranded type of templates for so the first company that I worked for was an E commerce company, and I worked in the professional services division, where they would pay kind of a standard fee, like $2,500. And then they would get a handful of customizations on one of our templates, which we would then like create for them, but we were making them from scratch every time. And so I was like, I can probably improve, this will take us about kind of as a team, 40 plus hours to do this thing, I think that I could get it down to like, 10% of that time with, like, some improved efficiency and communication between these these parties. And I did, and it was all just kind of like, okay, if we, if we name these, if we name these portions of the of the of the template this way, then we can export the whole extra, like Slice it Up export as a directory, and then like, we're ready to go. And then we just do a little bit of CSS. And you know, we're good to go. And kind of defining and developing that pipeline. And it was really fun work for me. And that was before we had, you know, developer productivity and design systems and component libraries where a lot of that work has moved into right at the beginning, it really put me on that path of okay, cool. Look, there's a lot of space here a lot of opportunity. And that ended up being really the focus of my, my career all this time is is that even before it really had like a name, which has been kind of fun to figure out.

Tim Bourguignon 32:36
Did you embrace it right away? Did you fight against it? Or did you keep it as something on the side that you were still doing as byproduct of your your other work?

Michael Chan 32:46
Yeah, so I did kind of embrace it right away. So I think that something that I knew was going to be important, early on, as I was developing this career was finding unfair advantages, because a lot of these people had a lot more experience than I did, right. And so the thing is, is that like, I wasn't gonna be able to compete in general programming, I wasn't gonna be able to compete in PHP, I wasn't gonna be able to compete in JavaScript. However, I listened to what people were saying around me, and what they were complaining about, and the things that they were complaining about was CSS, like it just make any sense to any of them. And it was, it was that era of, I mean, like, I think we just stopped supporting, like, ie five, five, or something like that. And so we were like, in that, in that, that really crappy time where it was, like, you know, you had six and seven and eight, and nine in seven compatibility mode. And it was just like, it was just brutal, like, absolutely brutal. Like, it was it. Like, there was a reason that everyone hated the front end development, because it really like because you see that meme now the like, the CSS from Family Guy with the shades and you know, pulling on one string, and then it just keeps going up and down. And, and it's never Right, right. And the thing is, I kind of like, I don't mean this in a gatekeeping way, but it's like, Y'all have no idea like that, that that meme is for, for us, when we were doing like IE 678. Like, that was chaos. True chaos.

Tim Bourguignon 34:29
And I remember that pulled out a little stow away, it was Yeah,

Michael Chan 34:35
awful. Yeah, it's truly terrible, you know, because you get it working in three of them and one would just not cooperate and you could never get it. You can never get it right without ruining one of the other ones. And it was just all of these trade offs and all of these little hacks to make it work and all these weird strategies like you know, nine in you know, a time before border radius, right and everyone wanted These round borders, and we're stitching together nine images from, you know, like nine JPEGs. And it was just it was so, so chaotic,

Tim Bourguignon 35:12
and bringing my favorite sorry,

Michael Chan 35:14
so much pain, right? Like you can you can feel that pain right now like, I would never ever go back to that time, right? Like, it was just brutal. But it, it was the unfair advantage that I needed to be able to, like be the CSS guy, right and putting my like finger quotes up, right. And I feel like when you're breaking into role, having some kind of identity inside of a culture is really important. Because you can, once you've been identified as that, like your value goes way up, and to the company, right, because like, then it's like, oh, I actually don't know how to solve that. But ask so and so they'll know how to do it. And that is that is huge. Like, it's such an important thing that you have to figure out in your career is. And, I mean, it changes, right. But like in that early part of your career, like figuring out how you can adapt yourself to kind of fit into the whole thing, like find the gap and sit there for as long as you can, is really important. And I think that, you know, right now, things have shifted, and a lot of people really enjoy the front end. And it which is wild to think about, given where we came from, but it you know, the web is actually a really nice platform to develop for in the front end now. And I think that that has shifted the industry towards front end towards components. And the thing that people have a really hard time with is serverless and things on the back end. And I think there's a ton of potential for people who are looking to break into the industry to solve that problem for front end teams. Which is kind of like the opposite. Yeah, just pendulum swinging.

Tim Bourguignon 37:08
What is it? What is your unfair advantage nowadays?

Michael Chan 37:12
That's a great question. I've actually I've been doing a lot of soul searching right now to try to figure out what is my unfair advantage now? Because I think that, you know, I think a lot of the things that I've been good at in the past, they've served me well, but I think that are, they're a little bit more established. Now. You know, so things that I've been, you know, good at is, you know, front end architecture, front end developer, you know, working things into the browser, having good migration strategy, so you can actually get your hacks out of your codebase eventually, instead of just having them in there for forever, like, all that kind of stuff. I've been very good at and fortunate to have, like, come up in in the right time. But looking forward, I did kind of have this little crisis of like, okay, I have, effectively two options that I could go into. And one of them is understanding serverless a lot more specifically serverless, in support of front end development and developer productivity on that side of things. And the other side is almost completely opposite, completely different, which is marketing, communication, video, podcasting, media, like broadly, media and marketing. And, you know, I had a moment though, I guess, last year, where I had the opportunity to kind of re imagine what it was that I wanted to do over the next, you know, 510 years. And I decided to kind of take a risk and push into something that was like really outside of my comfort zone and really go more into that, that marketing media side of things. And yeah, it's a really weird experience. But I am trying to kind of take my own advice and like bet on myself in you know, in the same way, but to a lesser extent that I had to back then. And yeah, have having a pretty fun time with it so far.

Tim Bourguignon 39:12
Was it of your own accord? Or was it a friend saying we'll finally listen to me you have to do this?

Michael Chan 39:18
Well, that is an interesting story, neither.

Michael Chan 39:26
Okay, so I'm trying to think like, I know, I told you right up front that I wasn't going to like to be like, hey, like, Could you cut this out afterwards? So so try to try to be real true to that and navigate this as best I can. I worked at the last company that I worked at for a little over eight years, was there for a really long time, and completely set up the front end developer productivity and environment there, it didn't exist. And it was honestly, like some of the most challenging cultural work that I've ever done. Just just really, I think I grew more through that process. I really, the work was devastating most days, but every, like, every time I was about to quit, I was like, I mean, I don't know where else I will have to learn this degree of like, complication, politics, all of that kind of stuff, like all the stuff to like, move forward even an inch than I will hear. And so like, that was always really fascinating to me, like, like, it's so hard, but like, I'm, I'm accelerated in my, my learning through in this environment. And so I kept making the decision to stay. And again, I'm a mule. And so like, once I kind of put my mind to something like, I'm not going to get there until I get to the other side of the thing. And I reached a point at that organization where they gave me the opportunity to leave. Okay, yes, I was presented with the opportunity to leave. And I think that it was, you know, after so much time, it was it was clear to them. And it's clear to me that I represented something that we would never get to as an organization. And I had to be purged

Tim Bourguignon 41:33
those hard words.

Michael Chan 41:35
Okay. Yeah. And so yeah, so that's, that's, that's how it went. And it was a very surreal experience. But it was definitely one of those moments, where I'll never forget this actually, after the end, after everything, you know, happened, and, you know, it was officially gone and whatnot. I, I said to, to Nellie, my partner, I said, you know, like, I don't, I'm not going to miss this job at all. But I am sad that I didn't get to finish the work that I've been working towards, for eight years, right. Like I really, I, I knew it was possible. And it just never, it never happened. Right. And I kept trying to push for it, I kept getting, like, getting approval, and then like not seeing it happen, right? And it was just really dissatisfying to live in that constantly, like, year after year, like just this, this back and forth. And I grew a ton, like, but it was just so sad to just not see it happen. Right. And she was like, it was never going to happen. You're just the only person that couldn't see it.

Tim Bourguignon 42:51
Again, going back full circle.

Michael Chan 42:55
Yeah. And man, that that really just it, it hits so hard. I mean, especially like, given the experiences that I've shared with you is just like, I was the only person standing in my way. Right. And I really, I honestly should have left a long time ago, but I was so fixated on making this thing work for people who just didn't, like, you know, didn't see the value in it. And, yeah, that's, it's tough. Like, it's tough. I mean, I especially like, I mean, especially like, I think, like, I'm turning 39 in a couple weeks. So I mean, I'm in like, you know, my family members have not had like a really long, you know, the, the males in my family have not had like long lifespans. So I'm guessing that probably past the halfway point at this point. And it is kind of weird to realize, like, oh, like, I took eight, it took me eight years to learn that thing that I probably should have seen in two. And like, then I gotta speed that up, if I'm going to enjoy the rest of my life. Right? Like, I gotta speed it up, I got to do it faster. I gotta figure out how to do this faster. Because like, I don't want to like waste more swaths of like, the time that I have left, it's just not worth it. So yeah, it's it's a hard lesson to learn and you know, every year you have less and less time to to make long standing failures like that. So thinking long and hard about that.

Tim Bourguignon 44:35
That is my story. I'm glad we came to that. Even though it's hard indeed, it really ties up to what you said, which we discussed before and really brings it to the point so really cool.

Michael Chan 44:47
Yeah. And I hope for people who are in that phase like they recognize that like, you know, the feelings that they have are valid, we'll listen to your feelings and and be open to making bigger changes faster. I think that's a really important thing that I have a really hard time with, honestly, and but, you know, making bigger changes faster is is really important for people.

Tim Bourguignon 45:13
Would that be the the advice you would give to someone?

Michael Chan 45:17
Yeah, I would save Yeah, that make bigger changes faster. But also, I think, you know, another piece of advice, you know, we didn't really talk about the, you know, kind of getting, getting into a place where, you know, media and all that kind of stuff was even an option. And I would say the advice for that is to just share your, I think that we live in a time right now, where more critical to your career than anything else is going to be sharing your work. And so it really dovetails into that other thing of making bigger decisions faster, it's a lot easier to make decisions, when you know, where you stand in the industry. And you don't know where you stand in the industry, unless you're constantly sharing, and putting yourself in front of other people building your net in, you know, in whatever way feels comfortable to you, right? Building your network, being in the places where you can be found and places that you can find opportunities, and participating, right, like that is, I think, more than half of the job of having a good career in tech right now. And don't under like, don't get so focused in the technology that you underestimate the power of a great network. And it doesn't have to be weird. You know, like, networking has always been like a little bit weird and kind of like slimy. Like, I mean, that's really just kind of, you know, responding to people on Twitter, like being polite. Like being a person that makes people feel good in the space. Like, I mean, like, being a positive quote, tweeter is a superpower. Like a superpower. Like anyone who is anyone who is a creator in any space, like you see the people who are like about your work. And that is a very easy way to start building a network. It just being a positive, a positive person for the people who inspire you,

Tim Bourguignon 47:20
Amy nodding, Emily the whole time. And my cheeks are hurting, which is a good sign. The last 45 minutes really good. Michael, thank you very much for sharing this. So the story didn't go at all in the individual in the the direction I envisioned, but it was fantastic. Very much.

Michael Chan 47:41
Thank you. I'm sorry that I just blabbered on I really didn't expect to just like, you know, unleash. But yeah, I appreciate you providing a space within the hospital.

Tim Bourguignon 47:49
That was fantastic. Where would be the best place to continue discussion with you Twitter? Probably.

Michael Chan 47:54
Yeah, so Twitter is good place. I'm fantastic there. Honestly, the the blast, blast. The best place right now is I have a discord community I started a couple years ago, it's discord.gg/lunch Dev all one word lunch to have. And it was something that was you know, challenged to me as a friend react podcast listener, you know, messaged me one day, and they were like, Hey, where's the, you know, react podcast community. And I was like, it's you and me talking in DMS?

Tim Bourguignon 48:29
Which is a good start. Yeah.

Michael Chan 48:31
And he's like, oh, we gotta do something about that. And I was like, okay, cool. And so we started, we started to discord. And it has really evolved into to be a lot more than just, you know, react podcasts and whatnot, especially since I haven't been doing react podcast or the last year and a half. And it is a place that I love. I found some of my greatest friends in tech relationships in there. I think that it is a it's a place of, you know, curiosity, creativity and kindness in the tech space. And I think that we so desperately need more places like that. And I love it. So you know, all are welcome. You know, if if you are not a jerk, we eliminate those pretty quickly. So

Tim Bourguignon 49:19
positive positivity again, right? Yeah. Or you're out?

Michael Chan 49:26
Yeah. You know, I think creating spaces where safety is a priority is is really interesting. It's an interesting challenge. Because, you know, you can't be you know, we all talk about inclusivity as if it's something that we can all achieve, but we can't achieve inclusivity without being exclusive. Like, there are two sides of the same coin. And, you know, I always find it interesting when people are like, oh, yeah, we're building a place that's You know, it's focused on inclusivity and safety. And it's like, Well, you got to choose one or the other. Right? If it's safety, you're gonna be very exclusive to a lot of people. And if you know, it's inclusivity, like, you're gonna have to have some really uncomfortable conversations, if everyone's allowed in there, like, you got to choose one or the other. And so anyway, if I as that applies to this, it's really great space. And, you know, obviously, we all have a lot to learn in making it safe environment. But I do feel like we have been open to having the conversations and the dialogues requisite to to propagate, having a safe environment and having people be able to talk about how they feel in certain situations. And I think, you know, the people who are there, the people who continue to show up, have been extremely adaptive. And that really warms my heart that we can have a place that is encouraging to other people, and especially as they're doing the impossible task, as you know, of just like creating. I mean, it's hard. It is hard.

Tim Bourguignon 50:59
It is very hard. Michael, thank you so much. Yeah, thank

Michael Chan 51:06
you. Thanks for having me. It's been a pleasure. It's been

Tim Bourguignon 51:09
a blessing. 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 on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Will 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.