Software Developers Journey Podcast

#231 Amy Wallhermfechtel went from hippie, teacher and historian to software engineer


⚠ The following transcript was automatically generated.
❤ Help us out, Submit a pull-request to correct potential mistakes

Amy Wallhermfechtel 0:00
One of the things that we probably all learn in different ways through our 20s without really knowing that we've learned it is we've developed a pattern for how we solve problems. And you can almost always leverage that to solve something else. So the discomfort is the I don't know, I want to say go back to being a kid, like kids are terrible at everything because everything's new, right? And they have to, they have to learn it. So being able to kind of embrace that childlike wonder and also willingness to be terrible at something for a second and and just kind of enjoy that I did it. I did it with swing dancing, terrible with it for the edit for the first six months. super worried about it. The minute I let go of being like, oh my god, I'm terrible at this. It got to be so much more fun.

Tim Bourguignon 0:48
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host, Tim bourguignon. On this episode 231, I receive AMI, VA Herm Fecteau. Amy is a labor and business historian where then additional focus in the Women's and Gender Studies. She isn't even tokenizer, an educator who turned software engineer in her spare time she has tinkerer, a competitive Olympic weightlifter, and when there's not a pandemic, a swing dancer, wow, me. Welcome to that journey. Thank you. 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 as you know, this show exists to help the listeners understand what your story looked like, and imagining how to shape their own future. So as usual, initial, let's go back to your beginnings. Maybe Maybe you're making these we'll see where to place to start if you're definitely.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 2:19
Alright, so this is a really interesting question for me. Because, like the standard narrative, right for a lot of developers is, well, I had a computer as a kid, and I built things with it. I entered programs from magazines, I did all these things, right. And it was really interesting to me and I got into the gaming community or something like that. And you know, maybe there's a veering off, because ces contains math right into something else for a while, but then they're like, but I realized that I really love programming, and I came back to it right in this. And so it's like, well, it's it's more than I've thought about how to interview. But like the I, I think I could the thing is I think I could and I think about this as a historian, and I think I could read that back into my past. That's a story I could tell you. But I don't think it's actually like the most authentic story are really kind of representative of the randomness that has been my path into development. And so yes, I had a computer as a kid, I learned to program in basic I made like pong games and things like that. My parents hooked us up to CompuServe. You know, I came from a privileged, middle class family that really valued education and supporting like a variety of experiences. And so I think that that was that in itself was really valuable. But computers were just a tool. They were one interesting thing in my world, but they were not like the interesting oh my god, this thing in my world, like, at all. So I was always more interested in, in writing in the humanities, in why people do what they do in groups in, in cultural analysis, really. So those were kind of where my interests lay. And, you know, I thought about how I wanted to sort of approach this and like what actually is sort of a narrative that I could put together about my path into development. And I think really, that it's a story about I've kind of wrapped it up in saying sometimes that some days I'm a core of insecurity wrapped in a crunchy coating of confidence and Other days I'm a core of confidence wrapped up in a crunchy coating of insecurity. But I think they think the reality is more that it's kind of marble cake that some of my my weaknesses. My fear of failure is a great example of this his have actually are actually inextricably intertwined with my strength. So, right, those things are built on each other. Right. And I think a lot of my very random journey has been about learning how to manage and to leverage that. Wow. So

Tim Bourguignon 5:15
that's a, that's a heavy start.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 5:21
Sorry, that's, that tends to be where I live. In my head, so and so I think that as I said, I like I tended to be afraid of failure. And so this like, this is a weirdly good place to begin my story, right? Because I came from a middle class family, I had a college prep education. And so what did I do when I hit 18? I came from a private school where the like, college matriculation rate the people who went to college was like 99%. So I would be the reason that it's only 99% I so I had a full scholarship to State University, I went through all the application processes, and then I was like, I can't do this. I'm gonna fail at it. Life gave me terrible and I literally ran away from home. So I left home at 18 got married, bought a motorhome and proceeded to be basically an itinerant hippie living on communes for a couple of a couple of years lived on in Arizona on the California coast. I went to Rainbow gatherings. And so weirdly, like I was running away from the difficulty of college, and what I saw, what I smacked my nose on was the difficulty in real life, right. But I learned a lot of like, really good hard lessons in self sufficiency, and doing hard things because I didn't have any money. And so and nobody was coming to back me up, really. So failure wasn't an option. So motorhomes broke down on the side of the road, I gotta find a way to fix it. So what set it on fire actually pouring a tin can of gasoline into the carburetor to try and get it started. But that's another story

Tim Bourguignon 7:05
and all this to avoid the difficulty of college. Yes,

Amy Wallhermfechtel 7:09
yeah. Because I was, I was terrified, I might get a C in some class. I just, I didn't say that 18 year olds made smart decisions. I wouldn't say yeah, this is this is about how I got here. And we'll we'll start with stuff like some of those hard, hard knocks, right? So it seems like exactly like you did all of this to get away from college seems kind of terrible. But I learned a lot about how to teach myself necessary skills. On the one hand, and also, I think, for me, it was really valuable to get out of that middle class bubble of expectations. And I learned a lot about the ways in which people who don't have much build communities and learn to support each other because nobody has the resources really to make it on their own. And I've tried as I've moved back into the middle class, to kind of carry that with me. And I think the other thing is that it kind of gave me a little bit of an axiom, the more I hate it, the more I should probably try it. And I continue to do this, I don't like I don't like change, I fear failure. And so if if, if I have that reaction to something, I should probably lean into it. So I will try anything twice. So I have to try it once like the first time just to figure out if I hate it, and the second time to figure out if I was right, or it was just that initial reaction. And so So I think that you know, I do this in fitness too. I've been doing CrossFit for intermittently for about a decade, right and things will come up in CrossFit programming because it's random that you just truly hate. And I do tend to approach those with the more I hate this exercise, the more it probably means I need to do it. Because I'm, it's a mobility problem. It's a weakness and not a strength, right. So I really do tend to I taught myself to tolerate tomatoes and olives, which I never liked as a kid because I was like, well, I should probably learn to eat these things. So it sounds like a really good way to make yourself kind of miserable is sometimes it does turn out to be a way to make yourself miserable. But more frequently actually, I find new interests and it's taught me a lot about how to if you'd like develop passions, because I think the for me the life advice of following your your passion was part of my fear of failure. I'm like, what if I don't know what I am passionate about, and I didn't and that was terrifying. And so I think it's actually kind of terrible life advice to settle people with the follow your passion and do what you're passionate about. I found it much more effective for me to start to learn a thing and then I will Find something within it that I can get passionate about as I get good at it.

Tim Bourguignon 10:06
It makes it makes sense. You have to try you have to go across the the first hurdles, you have to to really experience the thing. And not just the first things or the first games to really realize, do you like it? Or do you just like the idea of it or the fruit or you dislike the idea of it? That's, that's really true. But it's an advice I don't usually follow. But I don't know.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 10:31
It's it's not it's not the common advice. And some people I think a lot of people are fortunate to have like just one or two things that they're like super passionate about. And this is interesting, too, because I have the the academic background, if you talk to academics, most of them could never see themselves doing anything else. And I was never that person. So maybe that made me a terrible academic people like that in academia tend to get labeled dilettantes, because they they're not, they're not focused enough. Because they have outside interests. And something

Tim Bourguignon 11:10
that makes for great stories, saying yes to almost everything, just to try and see if you like it, that must take you places.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 11:20
My husband really likes to do big grand adventures. So we took a three masted sailing ship to Antarctica, like right before the pandemic, which is a story in itself. And the current one that he wants to do is to go horseback trekking through Mongolia, and I'm kind of terrified of horses. And so the most recent thing I've said yes to that I kind of hate is horse riding lessons in order to kind of build my confidence and figure out if that's actually going to be something that I'm going to be capable of doing for for three weeks, because they're big and scary.

Tim Bourguignon 11:53
Does it count as doing it twice, yet?

Amy Wallhermfechtel 11:57
I've had six lessons and I'm no longer terrified that I'm going to fall off or that they're immediately going to bite or kick me. And that's progress.

Tim Bourguignon 12:06
But you're still not at the i like it place.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 12:09
I'm not yet at I like it. I'm like I am at I can do this, right I can I can steer a horse I can get I can get the horse to go where I want to at a walk and I don't feel completely uncomfortable at a trot. And I feel like that's pretty good for six weeks. So

Tim Bourguignon 12:25
yeah, it isn't. When is that true? I have to ask back after that.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 12:30
So next year, I think about 16 months.

Tim Bourguignon 12:34
Okay, so we'll have to touch base in less than that. I really want to that goes back to your story before the horse riding you were talking about academia, you were talking about this time in commune is we're still far away from from computer science or software engineering. What Yes. How did we get there?

Amy Wallhermfechtel 12:55
So I after a few years of being itinerant and living sort of semi homeless in communes, and things like this, I thought, You know what, maybe money isn't such a bad thing. So I went back to school. And by this time, I was living in Nebraska. So there's a small land grant college in western Nebraska called Chadron State College. And the first thing that I went back for was a music degree, actually, so I had piano and voice lessons. As a kid, you know, I was like, don't be a performer, we have to I learned very quickly back to the theme of fearing failure is a constant confrontation with your limitations, it requires a ton of practice. And there were also just some some obstacles, given my financial situation, to my being able to complete that degree, you had to do a fair amount of traveling for performances and things like that, and all of that costs. And that became a real barrier. So Oh, and the car that I had at the time completely broke down. So I actually I dropped out for a couple of years, spent a couple of years like building up enough money to get a car back underneath me working as a cleaning lady, which has its own set of stories, and then went back actually for an education degree. So my undergraduates actually a composite Social Science degree, I've certified to teach a ridiculous number of subjects, from my actual knowledge of them. It's like history, geography, psychology, economics, and like anthropology,

Tim Bourguignon 14:28
no bad. So

Amy Wallhermfechtel 14:31
all of which I had some training in, but all of which I probably had insufficient training to actually be turned to a classroom full of students. So

Tim Bourguignon 14:42
it's a great metaphor for for software engineering, you know, just enough to be dangerous, but absolutely nothing that would qualify you as an expert.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 14:51
Exactly right. Just just enough to kind of have an orientation to the subject and have somebody check a box that says you are qualified. I know JavaScript, same thing. And honestly one of my greatest disappointments in adult life, like I was waiting when I was young, because of a very type A personality. I was waiting until I got to like jobs or the stage of life where somebody was going to be able to hand me the documentation. And it has been one of the great disappointments of my adult life, but that is never gonna

Tim Bourguignon 15:21
happen. Because you're waiting, right? Yeah,

Amy Wallhermfechtel 15:25
I am still waiting. And I've kind of given up. So it's one of those lovely childhood fantasies that at some point, somebody is going to hand you the keys to the kingdom. So

Tim Bourguignon 15:37
this was the purpose all along now, you know? Yeah. Okay, so we

Tim Bourguignon 15:45
tried to do that. I do try to do that for my teammates. So document the things.

Tim Bourguignon 16:37
Very kind of you. Not everybody does it, not everybody does it. That's, that's

Amy Wallhermfechtel 16:42
fine. And there's, there's there, it's a fine line as to when it's valuable. So by the time I got done with the degree, I knew that I didn't want to have to triangulate the best interests of my students with the interests of parents, and particularly public school administrators. So So I started looking at either law school, or maybe a PhD. And I also knew that even if I stayed in teaching an advanced degree is will better your your pay. And so I was like, alright, so I applied for teaching jobs and, and grad school at the same time, I decided against law school again, because it looked hard, right? Again, wrong choices for the next 10 years working on a history PhD.

Tim Bourguignon 17:28
You can see me but I'm gonna say why No, no, law school seems hard. I'm going for a PhD instead.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 17:38
So someone writes down some interviewer somewhere, writes down on the note, in their notes, lacks discernment in tackling challenges. Yeah. So I looked into one one piece of advice, never do a humanities PhD, if you don't have a full ride, this is not worth going into a into debt. For her. It's, it's not likely to pay off. So I did get a fellowship to the St. Louis University in their history department. And so I did my coursework between 2004 and 2008, really kind of grew to love, like social movements and social movement history. So I did a lot of studying of civil rights and the new left in, in the 60s. And that was and, and I'm still carrying this kind of like love of law and politics with me. So originally, I wanted to write my dissertation on conspiracy trials on trials in the United States that use conspiracy charges to go after the leadership of social movements. So the most famous of these being the Chicago seven, and there's a whole set of them. And the smaller ones don't necessarily get talked about in which I learned very quickly about the importance of assessing what resources are available to you, because lawyers don't like to talk. And it's hard to get hold of court records and get people to talk about those kinds of things. And so a shifted to another interest for me is so my politics tend to be on the left or as left as politics get in the United States. And and so I started looking at labor, but I also started looking at the rights relationship to labor. And so where I ended up, actually was writing a dissertation on Cecil B. DeMille, the movie director had a right to work Foundation, right and actually, like laid the foundations of some case law and a lot of the activism and rhetoric that still goes on around Right to Work anti labor activism in the United States. So I wanted to kind of look at the relationship between like this, this foundation, because you know, it was a nice contained thing, and the broader anti labor sentiment on the rights and so lessons and scope management that blew up into a national project because because DeMille had his fingers in into all of these state fights about this. So suddenly, I was traveling to Kansas and California and a number of other places to where the Right to Work issue had actually influenced elections. Right. So this was a, an early lesson and having scope blow up in my face. So how to contain a project well,

Tim Bourguignon 20:21
okay. And that took how many years of your of your life as a focus product?

Amy Wallhermfechtel 20:29
Well, focused prod project is a stretch. So I ran out of like funding in 2008. And so here's the other big lesson. And I think this one is probably the most important one I walked out of grad school with was that don't procrastinate on starting. Because I was teaching and I was researching. But I was concerned about getting the writing of the dissertation, right. And so what happens when you kind of get into that space where you're so worried about understanding the entire problem and and getting it right the first time? You never start? Right. And that is exactly what I did. And so what happened is that I continued to teach and research and kind of put together ideas, but I never actually sat down and started to articulate chapters, right, and put together this the structure and actually write the thing until the university was like, so we're going to need you to finish or we're just not going to give you the degree. And so I wrote 75,000 words, inform us.

Tim Bourguignon 21:36
Note that it's not just random words,

Amy Wallhermfechtel 21:41
not not just random words, I don't, I didn't snap my best work, I'm capable of better. So that's what I could do in the time allotted, and also a lesson in software. And so you know, I think that if you were to ask me about the biggest lesson I took away from my PhD, it was that don't wait, don't wait to start, right. have better discernment about when you know enough, and to actually get started on a project.

Tim Bourguignon 22:05
And that I can see translate into the computer world. Quite a few times.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 22:11
And right, yes, scope management translates Don't, don't wait until you understand the the entire problem, you know, I think, too, because I had to think about how do I sell a humanities PhD? As a software engineer, right? Because what is the response? When you tell somebody that you're getting a history PhD? What are you going to do with that? Do you want often? Yeah, the, the, the only thing worse as a philosophy PhD,

Tim Bourguignon 22:44
right? That's coming from you. As an academic, you can say, I cannot, that would be enough.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 22:50
I mean, that yeah, that is true. And you know, I say this with all love to to philosophy PhDs, because I've had this conversation with them about what, you know, how, like, how do you position yourself? If, because it's only a minority of academics who are able to secure, you know, academic positions. And so then the question of what do you do if you're one of those people that doesn't get an academic job? Or decides not to try for one, which was my case? What happens to you? How do you position yourself

Tim Bourguignon 23:22
more interesting would be now in retrospect, what did you take from it?

Amy Wallhermfechtel 23:28
Right for the PhD,

Tim Bourguignon 23:30
work from those years of working on the on on a single subject of maybe procrastinating or not procrastinating, but wanting to know more before starting etc. And at some point, we'll come to producers transition at some point but you transition toward a different career and didn't throw everything down the drain, you took a lot of learnings, a lot of experiences and a lot of skills from this first step. So first career, so if you were to apply and somebody would say, Well, okay, you spent 10 years of your life on a PhD or on academia career, what did you take with you?

Amy Wallhermfechtel 24:03
Right and so, man, I have a lot of answers to that question. At this point, the skill is to manage an ill defined problem, because the dissertation by definition is original work and connected to that I think research skills so the the ability to find and put together information and ask formulate questions in new ways and build kind of patterns for how to learn and how to find information. So you have to learn as a an academic, you have to learn how to read so if you if you talk to academics, there's this term breaking a book, like have you ever heard this there's a system for reading academic books in case you've ever wondered why academic writing is the way it is. It's it's a subterranean structure that we know about and so if you want to break a book, you read the read the Table of Contents, right? So which chapters are going to be most useful for me, you also scan the index, because the long list of numbers are going to be the concentrations of information in the major sort of faux SCI of the book. So then you go through and you read the first sentence of the last sentence in each chapter, and then the first and last paragraph. And then from there you can make, so you don't have most of the content of the book, right? And you can make smart decisions about which sections right you go back and read. So it's actually it's an iterative approach, right? If you if you think about it,

Tim Bourguignon 25:31
I see so much parallel, you could you could go and read the interfaces and your code, and then read the signatures, and then see where the coals are, may use and just not not read the contents, but just a skim through the whole, there's a structure in here. Awesome. Okay, so you read and you knew how to break books now?

Amy Wallhermfechtel 25:50
Yeah. So and it doesn't seem like that would translate. But what it's actually about is how do I build a system for learning new things quickly? Right. Breaking books is just one example of that for for academic writing, I think, for history, right? So we write history as though it is a straight line, right? It's a narrative, right? We go A, B, C, and this is often how it's taught to this memorization of like facts and dates from one end to the other. Realistically, history is a giant disorganized splat of complexity and multiple causation. And so being able being comfortable enough with that, with that complexity with multiple causation, being able to take that that complex systems see how things interconnect and then to be able to construct a a simpler narrative to make reasonable decisions about what is most important to include and what you can reasonably exclude. And while also acknowledging how that's going to distort or shape, your final narrative, I think weirdly translates to software, especially the I think one of the things that makes me a little bit of an unusual engineer is that I'm comfortable with gray areas, engineers are some of the most black and white people I have ever met. That gets hard for me, sometimes

Tim Bourguignon 27:14
I can understand that. I want to come back when you think you said one of the most excruciating exercise that I ever did was an incremental summary. I'm not sure. That's, that's the thing. So take taking 810 20 pages, I say a book and summarize it in three, and then summarize that in one and then summarize this in one paragraph. And always try to stay true to the initial sense of it. And we did that in college. And I hated every minute of it. But I see so much value in it now. But it was excruciating. And this is, this is what I heard what you were saying.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 27:51
Yeah, it's, uh, I actually used to ask my students to do similar things, right. So there's, there's a whole like side tangent rant in how I chose to, to teach my classes in terms of structuring them around trying to teach students how to think for themselves. And because I think the the skills that anybody walks out of any college degree with are the ability to to deal with complexity, the ability to write, to take in information to make decisions about it, communication, leadership, ability to work in groups. So I actually used to start my history classes with like a 20 minute presentation about why you should bother to pay attention, because that's a problem. And in a required undergraduate course. It worked for about a week.

Tim Bourguignon 28:38
That's what I wanted to say, you probably need 20 years to really realize what you meant back then and really understand and say, Oh, no, like, fortunately, too late, but let's not.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 28:53
Yeah, I get a lot of I have a lot of people who find out I have a background in history, who are whose response is I hated history in high school or in college, but I love it now. Right? So it's, I have this sense that it's a late breaking appreciation for a lot of people.

Tim Bourguignon 29:10
I have this recently with poetry. I hated the learning by heart piece of poetry. And because it was related to that, so basically, we learn poetry to then recite it to my grandparents, and I hated that part. And so I made a bundle in my mind saying, well, poetry is crap. It's a learning by heart. And through my kids, I rediscovered through the books, I read them, the ones that feel natural reading, and the ones who don't, and then slowly but surely, I discovered that the ones I like to read are actual poetry. They are well written, the words come naturally to us. So 20 years or 25 years after the fact, I rediscovered this thing and say, Why did I even pay attention back then? It was so interesting.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 29:53
So and here we are at like practice makes passions

Tim Bourguignon 30:01
first practice reading books Everyday everyday, but now we still haven't come to you to something.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 30:11
Right. So I decided that, given a number of factors I was watching, I had hoped I kind of hid from the job market for about six years because I finished in 2008, which is when the housing market crashed. And so academic endowments took a hit and people quit hiring like full time professors. And I kind of slow walked finishing my dissertation, at least in part, because I was hoping the job market would recover. But by 2014, I was looking at my like colleagues and conference mates who had degrees from Yale and Harvard, who had been on the job market for four and five years, or on one year contracts, right, just unable to land a tenure track position. And so I was like, All right, it is probably time to try something else. And so I started looking around. And there were a number of developers in my social circles. And the interesting thing to me is that this seemed to offer the same sort of room for creativity, problem solving and a modicum of autonomy, that were what attracted me about academia. And so then it was like, Alright, so how do I get into this, and in this regard, I kind of lucked out living in St. Louis, because there is a program here are called Launch Code, which does basically a bootcamp style, like training for programmers, so but it's free, so they don't take everybody and their position is that we can keep the quality of our education high, because we're not in this for for profit. It's a nonprofit. So I enrolled in one of their they had a, basically a launch code 101. And what they did was put you through Harvard ces 50. With like, start, it started out as a room full of people, and you just watch the attrition when you hit pointer.

Tim Bourguignon 32:07
The slide like I see.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 32:10
Right, people made it to about week three, right? And we like we all survived loops, but then you got into pointers and structs. And those were just they just murdered people. But I kind of appreciated that experience, because learning C first kept me close to the machine. And let me understand some of the underlying things that were going on that made things easier looking at it later on. But what helped me was having some level of structure, I like some level of accountability. And I'm when I'm entering such a different space, having a bit of a tour guide helps. And so I did that. And then as I started to kind of really engage with what might it look like to get a job in the space, I came to the realization, it's now 2016, I think I'd continued to teach and, and I was like, Alright, I need to learn JavaScript, because everyone is expected to have this and it is a good percentage of the job market. And so they run a woman centered program called coder girl, as well. And so went through a cohort with them to learn JavaScript, because it looks like the Wild West. I'm like, Java. Makes sense to me. But I react view Angular, like Ember, what? I need help here, please give me a tour guide. And I really bless my my mentor is actually a co worker. Now we work for the same, the same company, because at some point, she's like, why are you still here? Get out, again, with needing to be over prepared.

Tim Bourguignon 33:48
But when she says, Get out, what does she mean? Get out?

Amy Wallhermfechtel 33:52
You are unique. Yeah, you are ready, go, go, go get a job. And so LaunchCode puts you through kind of like a mini coding interview at the end. And then if you if you make it, they'll put you in their apprenticeship pool. And so then they'll start sending you out for job interviews. And so my first job was as an apprentice so the I really bless launch code for that foot in the door, because I think it's one of the hardest things to do if you don't have a CS degree. And so my first job was for an enterprise large enterprise. Right. And I got really lucky in some ways that I think they they recognize fairly quickly that I walked in the door because I'd been teaching for years and organizing academic conferences and things like that, that my leadership and communication skills far outstripped my ability to write for loops. And so they took a huge chance. I'd been there less than six months, but they had a small team where they lost a dev lead. I finished out his contract. And so they asked me if I wanted to try Leading a team. And my literal response was as long as we understand that I am likely to do some really Doofy things because I just don't know any better. Like, best example, I actually at one point, since I didn't understand what a virtual IP was at the time, I pointed my application right around the load balancer at one one to five instances of a server. It took me about four weeks to figure out and then I went back and fixed it. I'm like, I'm so I messed this up. Nothing's broken in the meantime, but but we should probably take care of this. So I did warn ya, but I'll also take responsibility. And so that really lucky for me, because it let me try on a role that has turned out in the long term to be a good fit for me where I can kind of balance conversations with stakeholders leadership, communication, the ability to kind of like translate across people to like, but it does demand usually, because I've only been developing for about four years, that when it comes to hard technical problems, I also have to be willing to rely on the people on my team who are more experienced than I am to put myself back in that position of being a learner. So it's, it's a really nice trade off for me, I trade the the meetings and the talking to the customer that most developers really hate doing for access to really smart people so I can get better at technical things.

Tim Bourguignon 36:30
That is an interesting way to put it. In my mind, I was I was thinking, but the way I started, I came out of pre traditional actions in French engineering studies. And since it was really a technical engineering studies at school, so it was not computer sciences. When I started working, I was very much compared to two apprentices who had been coding for 18 months. And were just cracks at coding. And I leveled against them. And it was very hard for me to not compare myself to them. And having a different skill sets having a broad understanding of the business of the physics behind it because it was in the you know, in mechanical engineering, understanding what we're working on, but still being served my ass over on a silver platter by those apprentices every day. And the way you you presented it was completely different saying, Well, I approach the problem saying, Hey, I have some some some advantages. Somewhere I have some some maybe drawbacks in another place, I have people matching the opposite. And so everything's fine. It's probably the 20 years difference between 18 years old me and when you study your career, but I like it, I liked it.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 37:41
It was not the most comfortable experience for me for sure. Because I also academia requires that you present yourself as the experts. And so one of the hardest transitions for me was learning that I didn't always have to be the expert that it was okay not to know that it was okay to ask questions. I think I still I still tend I think to present myself and this works for clients. I tend to present myself as though I know exactly what I'm talking about. My husband says I talk about the Civil War like I was there. And I think that comes from academia. And I think it serves well on client facing activities. But I do have to, like be aware of and open to learning when actually working with with developers on on teams because I work in 100% pairing environment now. So I switched the I left that company after two years, because I'd kind of exhausted what, you know, large enterprises, they build these big frameworks. So I was done building React components and writing application tier API's in Java. It's like how do I get a broader range of experiences and like access to how other people I want to learn how other people solve problems, set up systems, things like that. And so I started looking around and landed at my current I work for a consulting company that like it's not rented Dev, but it's rented team. So software for hire, essentially. So I get to learn from a lot of smart people. It's 100% pairing TD XP programming. And so that's been really good for letting me learn how to build a bunch of different you know, battle tested software quickly and efficiently. So and then I have my first team lead role there so I've kind of gone through the same thing where people are like, alright, let's let's see if she can handle a team. So

Tim Bourguignon 39:33
yeah, that would have been my next question that if you had gravitated again toward this this pattern, did you fight against it or you embrace I think

Amy Wallhermfechtel 39:40
so the the interim there at the consulting firm my my first position was on a large government projects and I was just a bullpen coder, like hands on keyboard 40 hours a week and I found that I missed the I missed the balance. The ability to exercise those other skills. And so I started at asking and actively reaching out and looking for, for opportunities to exercise a little more of that. So I think I've learned over time where I fit but honestly like the, because I'm weird shaped, I talked about myself as an Oreo cookie of a developer, like I can write for loops, my developer, I'm the world okay as developer, but I have skills that one wouldn't expect from a standard Developer's Career Ladder to develop until later. Right, so I'm kind of hollowed out in the middle. And that can make it hard, right? I have to earn people's trust,

Tim Bourguignon 40:39
first of all the world. Okay, yes. You gotta become the title of this episode.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 40:44
So I think that actually that that belongs to Chloe Condit, and she has a t shirt that says that says that the world's okayest developer that I've seen a few of her posts, so that is not original.

Tim Bourguignon 40:57
Nevermind, it is now. And the weird shape deliberate, I know that T shaped the same shape the eye shape, but the weird shape. Are you a cookie, I don't know that that's an interesting point that you're touching with the spread between your skills. So having a very, very strong set of skills, mostly on the soft skills and organization, etc. And more junior and I mean, mean it in a in a positive way more junior on the tech side, which is basically the opposite of what you see in more junior developers, which is basically or younger developers, not Junior having maybe a stronger technical, technical side, and so lacking all the soft skills, because it's too young for that. And that was great for interesting social relationships in teams.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 41:43
So it, it certainly does, and I have it is a source of frustration, because I am very under leveled for some skills and over leveled, in some cases for technical skills. Right? Oh, intermittently, sure, right. I mean, I have certainly at my current my current job, I probably annoy my managers, sometimes I'm like, how, how do I make this work for me? No, really, like, like, I. And so I've done it, where I'm at, by getting involved in a lot of diversity initiatives by starting to do conference talks by doing internal talks by flexing those skills in my current team, and then outside and kind of some broader context where I can actually start to, I've been looking for ways that I can bring the skills that I had, because I studied not only history, but Women's and Gender Studies. And I've always been interested in cultural analysis. So ways that I can kind of bring those together and talk about, you know, socio technical systems more broadly.

Tim Bourguignon 42:43
So, wow. I feel like we could go on a tangent on this. But if you to to wrap up at some point, I'd like to come back to one of the things that I that transpired through your story. So you said, you started at the beginning, speaking a lot about going away from your fear of failure, and embracing absolutely crazy things instead, which actually would make me cringe and say where I would be scared of that one, and not the former one. But that's my problem. And at the same time, you tried a lot of things you were not afraid of changing lanes of, of embracing something completely new, which is not common is not that common, at least in in India, in the experience I've had with with various guests. So how would you encourage that? That's probably the advice I'm searching for, how would you encourage people to not be afraid of that, of changing lanes of trying new things, of fearing they're all going away from their fears and embracing absolutely crazy things?

Amy Wallhermfechtel 43:43
Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that we probably all learn in different ways through our 20s without really knowing that we've learned it is we've developed a pattern for how we solve problems. And you can almost always leverage that to solve something else. So the discomfort is the I don't know, I want to say go back to being a kid, like kids are terrible at everything because everything's new, right? And they have to, they have to learn it. So being able to kind of embrace that childlike wonder and also willingness to be terrible at something for a second and and just kind of enjoy that. I did it. I did it with swing dancing, terrible with it for the edit for the first six months. super worried about it. The minute I let go of being like, oh my god, I'm terrible at this. It got to be so much more fun. Right?

Tim Bourguignon 44:35
Just making your mind blown expression, right? This is exactly it. That is true. This is how I learned I learned German. Now let's just say it. I stopped caring and stop saying I have to be good at this. I started talking in totally worked.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 44:51
Yeah. And so whatever skills you have, do, in fact translate to a much wider array of things than you think. Mind blown. Yes. Just have to be willing to embrace it.

Tim Bourguignon 45:04
Thank you very much. That's a perfect advice to finish on. I mean, it's been a blast and what a story. Thank you very much for telling you that on the show. Thank you. Where could the listeners find you? Probably online and nowadays, and then continue talking about this story or start a new story with you entirely.

Amy Wallhermfechtel 45:20
So the best place is probably Twitter. My handle is at Battle Axe Ami. Well, the story is it's one translation of that very long German name.

Tim Bourguignon 45:37
Okay, anything you want to plug in any anything on your plate in the upcoming month?

Amy Wallhermfechtel 45:43
Not currently, I've been experimenting with it starting to do conference talks. But honestly, the pandemic has taken a bite out of my momentum in that regard. So stay tuned.

Tim Bourguignon 45:53
Stay tuned on Twitter, probably. Amy. Yes. Thank you very, very much. It's been a blast. Thank you. And this has been another episode of developer's journey. We see each other next week. Bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you liked the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Would you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week storm 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.