#219 Stephanie Eckles forces herself to push projects out the door
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Stephanie Eckles 0:00
The fact that we're even talking today that wasn't on my radar. When I started doing this, I didn't think I'd be a podcast guest. That's crazy to me. And I appreciate these opportunities so much so you just never know. So take that first step, find what works for you. That is super important. You don't have to do twitch. You don't have to do anything you're not comfortable with there is a place for you. We want to hear from you. Please share your knowledge and whatever form
Tim Bourguignon 0:25
that takes. 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 you open this episode 219. I receive Stephanie Eccles. Stephanie is a front end focused software engineer at Microsoft. She has well over a decade of web dev experience that she enjoys sharing as an author, Egghead and workshop instructor, Twitch streamer, a fellow podcaster, and conference speaker. She's also an advocate for accessibility, scalable CSS and the jam stack. And you can find conference resources she provides about exactly these topics, add modern CSS to dev style stage, the dev, small CSS Dev, and that small smo L, CSS, and eleventy rocks. And that's written one one t y dot rocks, Stephanie, welcome to dev journey.
Stephanie Eckles 1:27
Thank you so much.
Tim Bourguignon 1:28
It's my pleasure to have you on the show. That's really cool. 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. And now back to today's guest. Stephanie, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story looked like and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual intro, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place to start if your journey
Stephanie Eckles 2:21
so I have always been the kid that was interested in creative activities. And of course, that's evolved over my lifetime. And, you know, starting with doodling and notebooks, trying to copy things around using that as a way for myself personally to just stay on task during, you know, lectures at school things. And one summer, I was able to go to a class as a teenager. And it was a one week camp. And I learned flash animation with Macromedia Flash.
Tim Bourguignon 3:02
The ActionScript one? Yes.
Stephanie Eckles 3:05
Tim Bourguignon 9:06
Which one did you did you transition from web development cannot be my career, too. Let's go. Let's do this.
Stephanie Eckles 9:13
Good question. So again, being in a smaller market helped me in the sense that there weren't, there was a very low volume of college students seeking internships as web developers. And so I got an internship where I was actually doing some print design. But they, my supervisor encouraged me and got me started to do web updates just by a CMS. I wasn't coding per se, but it did help open my eyes to this position probably exists in more agencies. This can probably be a mix of my interests, and then became a little more aware that that really was true through Going into local meetups started to learn kind of the local personalities and, you know, seeking internships and looking at job boards and seen that that was really a reality. And I was doing freelance on the side too. So I was having mild success, you know, getting getting some work through through freelance opportunities as a web developer. So yeah, I think just kind of those things, you know, finding enough success that I was able to pursue it and eventually what happened was, I was able to have an internship towards the end of my degree, that they went ahead and hired me as full time. So that's kind of how that worked out. And that was doing WordPress development.
Tim Bourguignon 10:42
Okay, okay. That that is that is a nice segue. Oh, nice, nice introduction, really, working on the side, having having a freelance gig but still doing something else really dipping your toes into there. And at some point, saying, Okay, I think it's the right thing, like, and I have the opportunity to let go that this frequent, but you're, you're still in Nebraska, or you move along to a point you still there? Still, yeah.
Stephanie Eckles 11:03
I no longer have cornfields that my windows, were saying. So I'm also a mom, I have two little girls, and I'm an only child as well and myself. So right now, for this point in our life, despite maybe a little bit of a desire to seek a different point in the world. We're here for family. So it is what it is. Gotta do what you gotta do.
Tim Bourguignon 11:29
Fine by me, for me. Yeah. I grew up in Paris and moved to Germany to follow the family. And then we've been here as well. And sometimes it was, hey, our parents would be good to go back and forth family. Okay, but when did you start using WordPress, not just as the the CMS that it is, and just throwing themes? And I think it's holding on with that with WordPress on top of it and add ons and plugins, etc? And we say, Okay, now No, I'm putting up my sleeves. And I'm doing really development with it. Was it very early? Or did you have a phase phase where you were more like a power user, but not a developer yet? When you're a little bit?
Stephanie Eckles 12:08
Yeah, so I have, as I'm sure many, many folks who end up being developers can identify with, I am a tinkerer, I like to do things my own way, not in a, you know, aggressive, controversial, terrible teammate way, you know, but if I'm working myself on a project, I like, what helps me learn is to dig in, maybe, you know, end up breaking it a little bit and find my way, by just exploring, and then, you know, seeking out resources as I need them. And I very quickly hit the limits of WordPress, again, we're talking at towards the beginning of WordPress existence. So it was very immature as a system as well. So I understood the concept of themes, themes was important to help me understand templating as a concept, for a brief moment, I was like, do I want to do WordPress? Or should I learn how to do tumbler themes. And again, I made the correct choice on which way to go with that, thank goodness, but still, you know, that was a concept that was critical to kind of moving along. And I never did get much into Plugins at that time. Again, since it was so early, there was the you know, big issue of plugins and security. And so I was starting to like, you know, I was beginning to be on Twitter, following folks in the WordPress realm. And that was another important thing to discover is the wider community and, and things like that. So I got into doing custom themes pretty early on, and both for my own what I wanted to do, but also I had two different opportunities, one, freelance and one in a job, where we required something custom. And so through that, started to pick up all the other things you need to know about to be a well rounded developer like starting to you. Well, jQuery. Again, please keep in mind the context, this is a word. And so yeah, just just all these things, all these different opportunities, basically, I was, you know, also kind of the privilege of being a college student, you have, you may have more opportunity to say yes to, to things that stretch your limits and stretch, what you're, you know, ability to learn new things and just try in a hopefully supportive environment or, you know, off to the side, like I said, on a freelance project where it's okay if you fail, because no one's there to see it. So either way, having that experimentation has always been a super critical part of anything I'm doing and just to put a little leap on that, you know, that's why you see the output of my open source today. It's just a different evolution of that thing that I've always enjoyed, do eat along my journey. So
Tim Bourguignon 14:59
yeah, As he, as he was asking, because WordPress is the moment in WordPress development in my past is the moment in time where I transitioned from writing software from scratch. So I started with was Pascal and then and then Delphi, and then C and C++ etc. But it was always writing program and really doing something on your own. And at some point, I started using WordPress for doing doing web development stuff that was really using it as a CMS and using themes, etc. And that's where I realized, oh, wait a minute, I can build on top of this thing, I can really take care, I'll take care of a huge chunk of stuff that has been done for me and not do that, again, it was just mind blowing, who now I see how web development is supposed to work. And it really opened up a world of possibilities. And I remember it was really with with WordPress, that this realization came to me. So speaking about this, that brings back a lot of memories. It's cool. Yeah.
Stephanie Eckles 15:57
Tim Bourguignon 18:31
And I'm not a heavily Yeah. So what I managed to get you off WordPress, what was the topic and why?
Stephanie Eckles 18:39
Yeah, so only about coming up on what would it be? Almost four years ago, I had the opportunity to change position in the same company that I was at previously. And switch to a design systems team, well, I might be a little generous. They were wanting to have a design system. And they were wanting it because of a greenfield product that they were creating, and basically reached out to, to an internal contact at the right time to be able to make that pivot. And so I Yeah, so at that, at that point, it was off WordPress, because it was not the right context. So was leading the development of a multi platform design system that was react I did also was writing the CSS framework. And then we were aiming to I guess the nearest concept would be create design tokens that could be passed to a native mobile and so forth to keep in sync. But so yeah, quite a quite a pivot. But I, you know, WordPress was what I had been doing at my day job, but again, kind of doing different stuff in my own experimentation and freelance that the design systems was a really nice fit for where I wanted my career to go. So
Tim Bourguignon 19:57
you mentioned freelancing and have you been freelancing undecide throughout your own career
Stephanie Eckles 20:02
for quite a bit, I have not been doing it the past few years, I mostly because I started I just began having my other interests that have evolved into my other projects and I prioritize those above the freelance. So I
Tim Bourguignon 20:19
understand it is, I know, we all we all have our own limited time 24 hours a day, a big chunk of it is pen sleeping. And the rest is to be spread evenly or not evenly. Toggle with it when okay when when do the the community aspect enter your life Sorry, what the what the the the communities and sharing and teaching and all this?
Stephanie Eckles 21:34
Yeah, so part of that story is why I started to do any open source things. So as I mentioned, I'm a mom. And I didn't have like postpartum depression, but the same time new motherhood is way to parenthood is way harder than the world lets you know, they kind of tried to let you know, but you really don't understand how you're actually in it from the sleep deprivation to just figuring yourself out as an entirely new person. And so for me, that meant that I no longer have the capacity or personal capacity to do anything outside of my day job, I put all put my all into my day job. And then I had nothing left except for to do what I needed to do to take care of my kids. And then that was it spent a lot of time. You know, so for me, my, some people talk about having, you know, not very many spoons, and I didn't know that concept, but I'll tell you, I used all my sins and everything else. And the only thing I had time for, or energy for was my husband and I were watching like, you know, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad and things like that. And that's all and then it was like crash, just crush it. So once I finally you know, my children were a few years older, I was getting back a little bit of that energy, then I was also at a kind of that crux in my career where I was starting to want something different. And I recognized that I myself needed to do some learning to kind of catch up to make sure that those opportunities existed for myself in my career. And so I was able to pivot to that design system job kind of about then. And once I did that job, and I was feeling like, a little more satisfied with my career direction, then that also helped with the energy that I had, and motivation, probably more critically. And so I was like, you know, I want to do something to kind of give back I'm over a decade into my career now. And I just was trying to figure out what that could be. So the first thing I did was, I was like, I'm just gonna make a course it's going to be free. I didn't know anything about making a course, it's gonna be free. And it's going to be web development. For beginners, it's going to cover HTML, CSS, and accessibility, because that was like a huge motivator, as well as making sure that was part of the course materials. And so you can find that that's learned from Steph dot Dev, I'm a little embarrassed of the production quality, I stand by the content, probably some of it, it could be a little bit updated, but you know, overall, it'll get you get you go and if you have zero or near zero experience right now, you know, and so I learned a ton during that part of the way into developing that course. I kind of came upon CSS as the niche I wanted to really dive into and that evolved into modern CSS dot Dev and also led to getting the egghead opportunity which is you can kind of see probably the switch if you actually do the learn from Steph course of what I learned how to actually film videos. So yeah, just, you know, been fortunate to, to get some of the opportunities but and then that led to other things like discovering that Twitch was a thing sometimes developers watched and learned from you know, so finding, finding those opportunities, just kind of throwing darts really, and trying different things out and creating those community projects that are open source. But again, really, they're veiled excuses for myself to learn new things. And and I kind of had a longer way there to get over my fear. I've said this before, but get over my fear of pushing publish. So soon as the project is ready, I make myself push it out the door. And that was also huge in, in finding more communities to be a part of, and getting that feedback. And so yeah, just just, that's kind of that dirty, I guess.
Tim Bourguignon 25:59
That's pretty cool. And that's a lot of things. Oh, how do you organize yourself to be on top of all this? What's your secret?
Stephanie Eckles 26:07
Yeah, so it's a moving target. You know, in the beginning, it was just writing the articles. And then that kind of spiraled into, I guess, I kind of chasing other just ideas. Some of them, you know, don't didn't take very long to produce. It was really just formalizing information or functionality that I wanted to put into the world and in some cases, functionality that I just needed myself or for other projects. And again, going ahead and pushing publish and seeing what sticks. So I don't really have an end. I mean, my end goal is, how could I make my own work efficient? I mean, at the end of the day, it's largely selfish, where, you know, instead of having to search through repos, maybe I can create a tool that helps me and that's awesome if it helps other people too. So yeah, I want it so much. But at the same time, it's been awesome to, you know, I've met so many people that I learned from constantly, and I'm so grateful for their work in the community. And, again, part of that was just even discovering some of these places to find community. I said, Twitch already, but discord has been another one. So just kind of unexpected things, starting the podcast along the way, which again, is really just an excuse to meet people, you want to meet the community. And that's fine.
Tim Bourguignon 27:30
How did the podcast start? Yes, I
Stephanie Eckles 27:32
do the podcast with my friend Claire Lipski, we worked together previously, both went different directions for a few years. And now we're back together on the same team at Microsoft. And so she and I just, we're always, you know, we're just kind of each other's, you know, Tech Best Friend, if you will, where, when we see different things popping up the community, we usually just our own personalities, like we like to talk about them. And so that kind of is where it evolved. We're like, hey, let's just, let's let's riff about some of these things. And so the first ones are, are just us. And the first one in particular is terrible. Because no one knows how to do a podcast when you first start, always. So apologies if anybody really goes back and listens to the first one. But yeah, so it's just been kind of a fun thing to keep up with. Like I said, Talk to talk to folks and another avenue to learn really, or share things that we find important. We've done several podcasts on accessibility, for example. So yeah,
Tim Bourguignon 28:34
keeping busy how's it? Yes. What what do you stream on Twitch? What what kind of projects, just your own project, coding them and say, Hey, tagalong, if you want, or is it a special kind of project, something building up all the time?
Stephanie Eckles 28:47
Yeah, I've done it a few different ways. So Kali, it's probably I think it's actually been two years ago. Now, for a hot minute, I was trying to do a twitch show. So I called it dev roulette, where which, as most things go, I had the domain first, and then everything was gonna work. Yeah. So but the concept of that show was, I had a topic. So I did, I ended up doing two different rounds successfully. I had, the first one was on CSS, of course. And then the second one was accessibility. And so what I did was I made a list of, you know, folks, that would, I think, would be great to talk to, and also that would balance out other folks that I had in mind for guests. And what I did is I just said that not a Calendly link, and you know, explain the concept of the show, but ask them to pick a date and then they were essentially mystery paired up so that was the quote unquote roulette part. And also folks who wanted to see the show my did not announce it guests until the day of and so pros and cons of that for marketing, by the way, but anyway, we had some awesome conversations. I did make a YouTube for that. So you can go back and look at that or go to dev roulette dot live is where you can find those two, although I think I forgot to update the homepage but you can jump to the YouTube so we had folks like for CSS I had Kevin Powell and I met she and then for accessibility Carrie Fisher and Anna cook and so I was I love the conversations It was super fun it was just a lot of emotional and actual work to put it together not to mention get folks scheduled so who knows maybe someday I'll I'll try that out again, but it was fun all acid so now my twitch sometimes I do Office Hours lately I've been we've been building up a design system type of idea. Also using 11 D So and 11 D is another topic that I sometimes dream about really just kind of whatever is on my on my mind I said I don't have a regular cadence so the best way to find out if I'm streaming is on Twitter or a sometimes announce it on my newsletter. So
Tim Bourguignon 30:55
newsletter will will either link to that as well. The very beginning you mentioned so you were a you grew up in Nebraska and that was a pretty lonely in in learning all this do you have now you mentioned you mentioned Claire I think some some some kind of sparring partner really, uh fulfil your day to day? Do you have other people that you you go you go to persons to really progress on your career and people you always go back to and have really this this network of people working with him? And nowadays?
Stephanie Eckles 31:21
Yeah, great question. I mean, I've definitely we've formed quite a few more professional, you know, contacts in the past year or so. And, and it varies i, i Most of most of the time, my interactions are like, you know, via Twitter, there's a few people that, you know, I can personally reach feel comfortable personally reaching out to at this point. But yeah, it's been that's been a hard thing in the pandemic, I mostly use these folks that I'm talking about. I've never met in person, I'm hoping to meet them someday at a conference. But unfortunately, it hasn't come except for about three or four of them when I was able to go do Dusseldorf this past May to do be on tele ran conference, so I was able to meet a few people there finally, but yeah, just I appreciate the context I've made. And you know, but Twitter's the main way to interact or or discord. So I have a few folks that I think it's important to find folks who are, you know, kind of past basically the folks that reach out to they're passionate about a particular niche area. So I, you know, can go to particular people like someone deep on accessibility, someone deep on HTML, specifically someone deep on, of course, CSS. So yeah, it's worthwhile to try to make those contexts for sure. And your network.
Tim Bourguignon 32:37
It is indeed it is any, I remember before, before the pandemic hit, I had a few people really and close contact. And somehow the pandemic made it so harder to see those people those persons, but easier to find others and have had way, way more contacts since virtual coffees and talking with people and say, Hey, can you help me with this? But But it's different. It's not the same. It doesn't go as deep it doesn't. There's no just less human connection. It's so weird. It's it's different. And somehow, I just cannot come back to the conference circuit yet. To giving talks, some it still doesn't feel right. I submitted a couple couple papers for CFPs. Didn't feel completely right. I did it because because I sort of had to but somehow changed.
Stephanie Eckles 33:26
Yeah, I was the first one I had been to. So and yeah, I think we kind of hit the sweet spot before we started spiking again, for that particular ones. Yeah, it's a tough time to try to do those things.
Tim Bourguignon 33:41
Do you have some kind of algorithm in your in your mind, and if you want to go out, you have to go through the whole hurdle of finding a conference or submitting papers. What kind of conference doesn't have to be in this location player role? The kind of attend? So what's what's what's important for you and to make to make such a decision?
Stephanie Eckles 34:00
Yeah, so definitely context there is I'm very, very, very new to doing doing conference talks, I've only been doing them during the pandemic. So that means the majority of them have been virtual. And that's just because I didn't I wasn't a you know, somebody that was producing work, which I explained earlier. And, but that said, So CSS is definitely the main topic you're going to find me speaking about, and that's the one I feel most comfortable with. And I like to do a couple related to 11 D, the static site generator, and so that's definitely an area I enjoy speaking about as well. But yeah, number of attendance, none. None of that, you know, that's not necessarily important to me. It's more I do check the diversity, if that's available, a including, you know, topics and things and then I do appreciate any other, you know, making sure that they can properly accommodate speakers I have found To be an important consideration, and based on an experience, I also am a little wary if it's a brand brand new conference unless it's going to be virtually held it up because it's just tough right now, in some of those cases, but I mean, otherwise. Yeah. Like I said, mostly, if you let me talk about CSS, I'll probably show
Tim Bourguignon 35:20
Good to know, good to maybe a weird question that you mentioned a few a few domain names that you own, you have another one that is that for which you don't have a project yet. And you need a project, maybe we can, we can crowd thing this and I'm brainstorming finds very appropriate for it.
Stephanie Eckles 35:36
So I have a few from let's call them the before times one that I, I do have an idea for this one, I just have never had time to execute it. And I probably won't at this point. It's a really good domain plan a plate.com. I was really gung ho on that I really wanted to do a recipe saving sherried app. And this was before there was such a proliferation. So I've had that one for quite a few years I was going to do with WordPress that I moved away from WordPress. And I was like, oh, maybe I'll learn react, because that's all I was hearing about. And anyway, never made it off the ground. Because again, priorities. And I can't help hanging on to that domain because it's just a really good domain. But my other one that wouldn't be up for grabs that I definitely never gonna touch. I just don't want to let it go to the generic market. Is Midwest WP. So it was intended to be Midwest WordPress. So Midwest is the regional name for this part of the states. So that's a new term for folks. Yeah, so here's what it is. I probably have. I've managed to put stuff on most of the other things. Especially over the last couple of years.
Tim Bourguignon 36:47
Big Midwest WordPress. Oh, WP sounds like a conference name.
Stephanie Eckles 36:51
Yeah, I know. That's why I don't want to just generically go somebody has a really good use case, definitely get in touch. I'm not gonna ask you for 1000s of dollars for it, I just want it to be a legitimate thing.
Tim Bourguignon 37:03
As long as the idea is fun enough to build your game? Yeah. That's awesome. So in the future, more and more projects to learn more stuff to captivate your curiosity, and happily ever, ever, ever after them? And just continue like this? Or do you see some change coming?
Stephanie Eckles 37:24
Yeah, so I, I will always be producing something of some kind, even if that's, you know, gets lowered back to, to more tutorials and articles, you know, I, like I said, my brain just, I have to chase ideas, I will think about them until I either try and fail or have success. And then sometimes, you know, keep hammering on it. Just an innate part of who I am, I have to do it. Yeah. So you'll definitely see more I'm currently give you a at this point. It's a sneak peek. It won't be a sneak peek when you're hearing this. But I'm currently working on an educational resource for modern CSS dot Dev. So right now, it is in depth tutorials, if you haven't encountered it before, that show you practical ways to build different things in CSS for particular problems. And I'm working on a resource that will challenge you a bit more, and give you a little bit more guidance to craft your own components and things like that. So look out for that it will definitely be advertised on modern CSS dot Dev and it's available
Tim Bourguignon 38:39
anywhere it will be in the show notes. So I guess now's the time to ask you for for one advice. And you serve me one beforehand, you men, you force humans, you forces yourself to push it out the door? How do you encourage somebody to to act like this? When you've created something you're always scared of releasing it? Why? Why should I definitely push it out the door?
Stephanie Eckles 39:05
Yeah, so start small when I was getting started. To me start small means not only focusing on something small, but also you don't have to build a whole blog. I know it's tempting. I do know that. So I started publishing just a few things that were in my head on the community dev dot too. And, you know, maybe publishing articles, maybe that's not what you want to do. So another option would be if you want to build something, start building something and putting out there on code pen or similar environments, or maybe even just create a, if you're on GitHub to create like a just and just like hey, this is a function that was useful because XYZ you know, or create a Twitter thread, right? All of these are pretty low effort, things to do. And the other key there is using knowledge that you have and you're simply sharing it out. And once you kind of get accustomed and find which method that was another key thing for me is finding which method do you actually enjoy doing for content. So for me building is my favorite. And then writing articles or, you know, doing videos would be secondary. That said, you can also take those small things, and you can grow them, you can pivot them to those other mediums. And eventually you'll find an audience, you'll find a community. And you will help solidify what your goal is. And you truly never know what opportunities, I had no idea. There's like the fact that we're even talking today. Like that wasn't on my radar. When I started doing this, I didn't think I'd be a podcast guest. Like, that's crazy to me. And I appreciate these opportunities, so much. So you just never know. So take that first step, find what works for you. That is super important. You don't have to do Twitch, you don't have to do you know, anything you're not comfortable with, there is a place for you. We want to hear from you. Please share your knowledge and whatever form that takes.
Tim Bourguignon 41:03
That is awesome. I love it. Find what works for you. It has to be the same again and again. And again. Thank you very much. So Stephanie, you throw a few links already in a few domains. Where should we send people? If if they want to find you online and get all those links again, now? What's the hub?
Stephanie Eckles 41:23
Yes. So first, if you are on Twitter, that's where I'm going to be communicating the most. But if you want to see you my projects, events, including conference talks, or podcasts, appearance and things, these other things that I kind of teased, were coming soon, my main portfolio so again, this domain, I've had this my longest running domain. So it's a little bit hard to say think, do B create.com is where to find that so
Tim Bourguignon 41:49
so we'll add that's in the show notes. And you don't have to write it down right now. Just scroll down, click on it, and it's empty. And there we can find all the all the other projects, the side projects, the silly ones and the serious ones and everything that's coming. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome, folks, if any. It's been a blast. Thank you very much for for yourself for this show. And then highlight of your whole story. That was really cool.
Stephanie Eckles 42:11
Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk to you and it was great to meet you too.
Tim Bourguignon 42:15
Likewise, thank you. And this has been another episode of developer's journey, and we'll see each other next week. Bye bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you liked the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on our website, Dev journey dot info slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Would you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash Delete. 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.