Software Developers Journey Podcast

#234 Dustin DeVries aligning career and life phases


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Dustin Devries 0:00
You know, one of the things to say is accept the fact that what you want today, you know, anyone who's going out on this journey, whether they're new to it, or they're, you know, been at it 20 years like I have is be flexible and accept the fact that maybe what you want this phase your life may be different than what you want in your next phase and to embrace that change isn't necessarily bad. I'm very changed verse. My wife criticizes me about that all the time. But I will say that change that you accept and process and do it the right way, can be a really good thing. And you should it's okay to accept the fact that what you wanted yesterday is not what you want today. And it's maybe that was you're gonna watch tomorrow, you know, that's just the way life is.

Tim Bourguignon 0:40
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers. To help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building your own this episode 234, I receive dusting the breeze. Dustin has been living and breathing software development for over 20 years. He's an entrepreneur and the co founder of caffeine interactive technologies 100%, remote, eight years old software agency that was before COVID. We're going to talk about that Dustin is a strong believer in work life balance and as an essential means to operate a business, obviously, but also come adversities and find a bigger purpose in life. That's a program. Dustin, welcome, Dave journey.

Dustin Devries 1:30
Thank you for having me today. Happy to be here.

Tim Bourguignon 1:33
It's my pleasure and reading this bio, I'm already looking forward to the discussion. That's gonna come. 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. As you know, the show exists to help listeners understand what your story looked like and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual on the show, let's go back to the beginning. So where would you place the start of your debt journey?

Dustin Devries 2:28
Oh man, I guess I would say, you know, I started in in college, and majored in computer engineering. So that was definitely a starting point. I'd say my interests computer started before that I was one of those, you know, I'm 45 now. So personal computing kind of came into the household at an early age for me later for some people that my dad was really into it. My parents really enjoy that sort of thing. And so I got my first like Commodore 64, I was like seven years old. You know, remember learning little, like, just very basic, you know, actually learning basic right? basic programming language and doing some really lightweight things with that without maybe where I started, I don't know, somewhere between seven and 18.

Tim Bourguignon 3:06
Your drummer? That's it? That's Brightwood Broadway, no. If you might, what do you do when what attracted you as a as a seven year old toward basic programming.

Dustin Devries 3:18
It was so cool. Like the idea of having a computer in your in your home. And I think just, it's not like I'm doing anything crazy. You know, it wasn't like one of these crazy Silicon Valley folks who like started some business and made my first million by the age of 10 or something, you know, it was like, pretty basic, right? But it was just kind of playing around like remember, I mean, you're ever in Germany, obviously with Chicago for a while, depending on whether you were in Chicago, if you ever experienced a RadioShack and we're going into RadioShack they'd have like the TRS 80 set up in there and go in and start like an infinite loop on the screen. So keep scrolling through printing something on the screen. You know, flood stop was never always something you know, nothing of any any critical importance or necessity was more just for fun. I was really more into like video gaming and stuff had my Nintendo and all that. You know, the Commodore had some video games I kind of went back and forth between consoles, computer gaming when I was a kid and you know, maybe occasionally get involved in a little bit of programming around that, but not really,

Tim Bourguignon 4:14
I think do have some some some introduction to computer programming Metro you call that or we could call this in the 80s 90s when you were in junior high or high school.

Dustin Devries 4:26
Actually I did when I was in high school. This was back in the early 90s Back then I think it's pretty safe to say at least here in the US most schools did not have any kind of computer lab formal training with computers maybe they had a computer lab and not really programming classes but having to go to school where they did have some programming so memory learning Turbo Pascal that was one of the first languages that I really became proficient on and doing assignments on that so that was a big part of it, but I didn't really I did a little bit on the side maybe for fun, but that wasn't it was never really like a pastime for me so to speak. It was more just using Compute heaters. And that was one way or occasion I might, I might use my old IBM, PC Jr. Back then, you know, different different computers I've had over the years, just occasionally might do a little bit of coding, but it was never really something that a whole lot of until I went off to college. So that's

Tim Bourguignon 5:15
the other end of the of timeframe.

Dustin Devries 5:20
Yeah, I guess bring up a good point of SLA team, but really is probably more like 15 or 16. That's when I started taking Turbo Pascal. So maybe, maybe I'll be more specific 16 years old.

Tim Bourguignon 5:31
And where there's some applications, some some I don't mean in terms of software applications, but some some kind of applied purpose to what you were doing, which is still tinkering, playing doing stuff just because it's fun.

Dustin Devries 5:44
Yeah, I mean, mostly fun. Like, you know, back in high school, it was all like programming classes on, you know, assignments around certain things like memory, we had to create like a really low skill game. But I remember creating this game where they're like riddles, you have to walk around a map, and you have to solve the riddle to move to the next spot. Stuff like that was kind of the one thing I remember offhand, that's kind of interesting kind of a memory that Elon suppressed memory or just wanted to have a thought about the wall was, when back in that that era, and this is kind of like early college, I guess I was really getting into online gaming, that was a new big thing that happened to hit, you know, the university level back in 1999. When that era was kind of that point where, you know, there weren't a lot of high speed internet access wasn't readily available, you know. And even on the college campus, I went to Texas a&m, which is a the largest university here in the state of Texas, something like 60 or 80,000. Kids go on there, young adults, I guess I should say, I was in a dorm, lived in a dorm room, non air conditioned dorm here in Texas, which imagines pretty hot in the early spring or early fall and late spring. But one advantage we had, we were one of the first ones I got high speed or not. So it was like, Oh my gosh, like online gaming games, like really do them. And all that stuff was just amazing. You know, because we had like these amazing ping times, we're used to dial up with, you know, much, much inferior kind of results. So going through that I remember, I was a member of a there was an online gaming community. And I was actually involved with building a whole ecosystem for like a ladder based gaming system around the game Warcraft, not World of Warcraft, not the massive multiplayer online game with the realtime strategy, game Warcraft and Warcraft two, or building an online community around that, or there was already an online community that was that existed, but built a website, the base allows us to track results between people who are competing and have a ladder system and all that, which was kind of cool, because that was, you know, maybe one of the few times actually use my programming for something more fun without any kind of monetary advantage gained from that, or, you know, being hired to do something. It was something I was just doing as more of a pastime for myself.

Tim Bourguignon 7:49
Is scratching your own itch probably. Just because you wanted to have it.

Dustin Devries 7:54
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 7:57
You worry now you know, you know, computer science curriculum at that point, right?

Dustin Devries 8:00
Yes, I was yeah, I decided to major in computer engineering I was kind of torn between so when I went to went off to school I was torn between do I want to do just pure programming or definitely more like hardware design like processor design, things like that. And so Computer Engineering was a compromise because got a lot of the hardware experience and the software that gave me some flexibility to kind of test the waters and see do I want to focus more on on the hardware development side of things, or on the software side, and even after that when I when I graduated, and when I got my first job I was in a role that allowed me to exercise both hardware and software concepts which was which was great and then over time, I slowly found that yeah, I'm better at the software thing enjoy software more gonna focus on that. And now I know what a transistor does

Tim Bourguignon 8:47
I remember that I did my first internships as well and now in a very low level farming so so from our, from our journey, really to try and understand what's what's happening. And after a couple ones, like, okay, it's really

Dustin Devries 9:00
a different base for sure.

Tim Bourguignon 9:03
Now, I've gotten full full circle, and I came back to a company doing it and so I have engineers with me doing doing from engineering and hardware engineering as well. And just trying to understand what you're doing. So I remember this but did you did you realize this, this divide was just really it creeps up on you and you got more software jobs, and at some point you realize you're away from the hardware or was it definitely

Dustin Devries 9:29
you know, it's probably a variety of reasons. I mean, I remember I did my first interview. So I'd done a two summer internships with a company here, the US Cirrus Logic, and then when I graduated, I had interview opportunities there for a couple of different organizations within Cirrus Logic. One was a organization doing a digital design, process design, things like that. And then another was more of an internal support team called the CAD engineering team, which basically supported all the digital engineers all Are all of the design engineers, I should say, and helping with automating. And integrating their workflows with, you know, had a variety of tools we use. And so a lot of those tools, getting them to communicate with each other building automated workflows to be able to do certain things, which was more of a software centric position. And I interviewed for both these roles. Remember the role I interviewed for on the computer engineering side of things that were the processor design side of things. The first guy interviewed with interrupted me and said, I'm sorry, we had something came up. We're gonna have to cut you short, a little bit early. And basically, it was because bombed the interview so bad. It's like, you know, this isn't worth wasting else's time. It's still kind of stinks. I think back to him like, gosh, this is kind of a bitter talking about suppressing memories is another suppressed memory of mine. But I don't want to I don't think that we're really sure that a lot of people but you know, that was that was pretty lighting to me that like, yeah, maybe the software thing really is what I'm better at, it was always something I'm more passionate about if, you know, defined paths and different ways, but I don't know if I would say I'm super hardcore, passionate about software to enjoy my job. But, you know, it was something that came more naturally to me, I felt like I was more talented in the software space, you know, kind of helped dictate that I'm sure. Because

Tim Bourguignon 11:08
I just want to be nasty, and dig into this to suppress memory. Now, now that you've been, it's not that you've been a boss yourself, and you've hired and you have you had people on the other side of the table for interviews? How would you handle this situation as an interviewer, where you see that this interview is going nowhere? How do you handle that humanely, and, and still was respectful of your time.

Dustin Devries 12:20
Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, I don't know, like we've I've certainly had those experiences where I've gotten on the phone with somebody and I can just tell right away whether and sometimes it's not even like a technical deficiency, right? It might just be get a bad vibe, something doesn't feel right. And that's, that's the boss, right? It's the person running the company have kind of got, you know, the ability to just decide if I want it, you know, I get to make the decision. Ultimately, you know, I have other people, maybe you're on the interview schedule and stuff like that. I think this has come up in the past, I think of usually just tried to cut the interview short, typically, our interview process isn't we're not, since we're not all on the same facility, we're not having someone come in for a full day of interviews. So I can have that advantage where it's like, I do the first interview, and then I'll pass them off to someone else who's remote and set up a subsequent follow up interview with that person. And so usually, it's like, just finished up what I'm doing. And a lot of times when I start off, maybe I'll tell people is not going to be a really long interview, just want to talk to you about some of the basics. And so I kind of set the expectation where if it's not gonna, you know, I'm not going to be on there for an hour with them talking about it, usually 1520, maybe 30 minutes max, and then you don't want to wrap up, I might tell them that, like, you know, I don't think this is a good fit. Or, you know, shoot me an email afterwards. If I'm kind of on the fence about it, I need to think about it process things. Yeah, I believe in transparency, though, I don't believe in making up some like, oh, you know, just found out the job got filled. I didn't realize like, some lame excuse. I think that's horrible. But I give people feedback, because someone spent a time it'd be nice for them to know, you know, what the reaction was actually had some I interviewed a few weeks ago for role with our company and, and sales and marketing that was basically just to, I don't know, just came off as too abrasive. And it just didn't seem like a cultural fit at all for a company. And so, you know, let her go. And then she reached back out and asked, you know, how the the interview went. And if we're going to do a follow up interview, I said, I just don't think it's a good fit. And went into some reasons why and I don't think she probably did like the fact that was telling me it came off as abrasive and confrontational at times. But at the same time, I hope it will maybe that'll help her in the next interview she has, because she's just incompetent. There's just there were some things about the way she present ourself that kind of rubbed me wrong and felt like it wasn't good cultural fit for us. So those things are important. Obviously, when you're building a team chemistry and the ability to work together, trust each other. Those are very,

Tim Bourguignon 14:43
I'm not being able to you cannot see me obviously on the audio track. I'm asking because I realized that my way of interviewing has as as I transitioned before, COVID was mostly on site and longer interviews really trying to get the most of the candidates a while They're there. And that was always a pain point, when you realize after sometimes minutes, that's it's not going to work. How do you handle the next hour with you. And I, the best I found back then was to put my coaching heads and try to, to work with the candidate around the problems I see and try to to make them surface a little bit so that when I say afterwards, not going to work, it doesn't come out as a complete surprise. And we've worked around it together. That was the best I could find. But it felt awful, really putting this person on the spot and try to help them on the human level. Try to grow that that was awful. And since we've gone 100% remote, we came to to shortening the interviews, like you said, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and then really focusing them on one aspect. And if it's excruciating for 15 minutes, well, that's fine. It's just okay. And so I don't put that hat to the coaching hat anymore. Really try to explore what we're supposed to be exploring. And after 15 minutes, you'll know if you go to the next round or not, but it really changed so

Dustin Devries 16:07
yeah, we also European, so you have more empathy than us Americans. So but I'm a transplant right, so

Tim Bourguignon 16:20
it's the best of both worlds, or maybe the worst of both worlds. I'm German I'm direct and I'm French. So I curse. Interesting combination. Okay, so exhausted for for for how long? In this in this company? Sue's logic was

Dustin Devries 16:37
Cirrus Logic yellows there for over 10 years. Yeah, a long time. And, you know, I think I've learned a lot. I mean, I'm one of those that it was a great job, like I don't, you know, there are some things I definitely disliked about it. And a lot of it had to do with personnel and people relationships within maybe, you know, management stuff more than it had to do with the actual company, itself. But, you know, I look back at it. And it really set the stage for me to take this next chapter of my life with branching out because I was able to manage a team of other software folks interface with with our customers and deal with all of the politics that come up at times, and all that and, you know, gained a lot from that job, I think it was a nice stepping stone for me to branch out into, you know, doing my own thing as an entrepreneur. And then of course, building the company caphyon Interactive.

Tim Bourguignon 17:25
Before we jump, there was where those moves inside inside series logic deliberate from your, from your eyes, saying, hey, I want to learn this, I want to learn that, or we were you pushed into learning other aspects than what you were doing.

Dustin Devries 17:39
I would say it's kind of combination. But I mean, I only stayed within the same group, the same departments, I didn't move around within the company. But I dealt with things like members like 2003 2004 big decline in the economy. And we were having layoff after layoff. And so just through attrition, I found that team of like 810 people was now down to like one or two balance, I had to pick up new roles, new skill sets there. And then that also gave me opportunities to move up into management. And actually, we ended up losing almost the whole team. And then I was responsible, I guess that was the last man standing. But put in the role of managing the team and then building it back. And so when I left, we had like, I had, like, 10 people reporting to me about the time I had left, and this was probably around 2006 2007, when I actually moved into into management assessment for six or seven years as an individual contributor, moved into management and started working on my exit plan to get out of there and do my own thing.

Tim Bourguignon 18:35
What was it was a was it a company? Like how do you hold that up or out? I mean, you have to move into management to to grow into the company, or was there an individual contributor path where you could have gone further into an advance your career?

Dustin Devries 18:49
Yeah, I definitely could have stayed as an individual contributor if I wanted to, in fact, if I would have stayed there, that's probably what I would have preferred to have done because I just realized that the politics were something that was a little too consuming for me both in terms of the time it was taking them in the middle bandwidth that was taken up a member coming home from work the those last few months before I put in my resignation, and just being so incredibly stressed out. And just, you know, just it wasn't a mental my mental health was at an all time low. Not that it's that great now, a lot worse back then I got myself of that.

Tim Bourguignon 19:23
I feel there's a story here. Let's let's let's put one after the other. So after that, if I read your bio, well, you became an independent consultant, correct? Yes, that's correct. Why out of all the possibilities, why becoming a freelancer?

Dustin Devries 19:41
Well, I would say probably I remember having a conversation with a friend back my last couple years at Cirrus Logic and talking about the stress and he was on. He was on some similar kind of situation dealing with stress and we're talking about this, we were both kind of starting to reach our late 20s early 30s. Just I think when you're when you're young, you're right out of college right out University getting started. You know, it's you have a different mindset, you're got the whole world there, you're trying to do all these great things you want to move up, you want to make money and build a family want to have all these nice things, you're setting that trajectory for, you know, the next 40 5060 years, whatever it is in your life, we start to get a little bit of experience on the you start to your primary start to shift a little bit, I remember we had this conversation, just talking about, would you rather stay in your current job making the money you make, I made a really nice salary back then. Or make like half of that, that'd be your own boss, be able to manage your yourself and have a little more control over your life be able to do the things you want have a little more freedom. And I started thinking about that. And it's like, you know, the material things are nice. But the price that I have to pay to get that I'm not sure that it's worth it. Not that I don't still want those things, I don't still have aspirations to make money and be successful. But I defined success not just starting to define success, not just by monetary wealth, but also by my freedom, and my ability to do the things I want to do and to be able to have, like, you know, the mental health aspect of life. And all of that was started becoming more important. I mean, so that was kind of probably the thing that really pushed me over the top is that really, you know, hit home with me, I still remember it now. 1214 15 years later, having that conversation, I think and yeah, you know, that was something that was on both of our minds. And, you know, I don't I don't have any regrets

Tim Bourguignon 21:30
that you don't have. How did you approach this this new problem than transitioning from being an employee to being your own boss, having to find your own gigs, you won't find what you want to do? Total freedom with all the pros and cons that it brings?

Dustin Devries 21:45
Well, you know, to be quite honest, when I left my full time job at Cirrus Logic, I was, at the time I was going through looking at I was doing a lot of affiliate marketing. So that was a new space I'd kind of gotten into and we had built websites and some various you know, technology and so forth to be able to have go out and do affiliate marketing for a bunch of name brands, no anything from Amazon to other other companies, mostly based around the US. So doing affiliate marketing and pay per click advertising on Google and stuff that you Commission's off the cells and that sort of thing. So that was original and I love serious. I wasn't really thinking about freelancing. I knew I had freelancing as like, you know, the card, my back pocket kind of thing that I could I could go towards if it wasn't working out. But originally, I'd set out to become an affiliate marketer. That was my my original goal that fell apart because we actually, we were doing a lot of business with Amazon. And one day, Amazon decided to change our commission structure, because we were promoting a lot of their deals, their drastically discounted products. We were promoting those, and they were paying us, you know, we reach them. They had a tiered commission structure. We were hitting the top that commission structure. And they decided, You know what, this isn't cost effective for us. We're adjusting your commission structure to this where you get like, instead of getting 10% On every product, you move, you're getting like 1% now and so all sudden our revenues went down by like 30 or 40%. Yeah, so I was like, All right, well, maybe we can still make this work. And then same time, I'm like, Okay, I need to start thinking about what are other options here. And so that's when I started going out looking at other job opportunities. I'm looking to see if there were some freelancing opportunities and things like that.

Tim Bourguignon 23:23
Okay, okay. Yes. So you were you had a trajectory before you left, you had already something in mind and something already rolling? Did you wait to put your resignation before or until until this this other trajectory was rolling off? Always, at some point, just screw it.

Dustin Devries 23:40
Let's go. Yeah, you know, I, it was a process for sure. Because I remember that serious, I was working, I was managing the team, I decided I didn't, I knew I didn't want to stay there. But I didn't completely want to just cut all ties, because I was a little bit nervous about just dropping out completely. So I went to my boss and said, What would you think about me working part time? What would you think about me working, you know, a few hours a week from home. And he was kind of an old school guy wasn't a big fan of that. But he didn't really have a lot of options, because we were short staffed. And, you know, there were a number of things going on. So he reluctantly gave me, you know, the permission to work part time there. So I was only doing like 2025 hours a week. I think it was there in the doing this on the side. And then that allowed me to get a little taste of it. And then eventually, you know, pulled the plug on it said, Alright, I think I'm gonna go ahead and quit. It's actually when one of the guys that really didn't get along with was about to get promoted. I was like, I'm not gonna go work for him. He's about to be my boss. It's like, that was like the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I was like, Yeah, let's go he's a PC. You know what, like, I don't, I don't really want to work for him. This is this is a sign from God, I need to get out of here. Get the hell out of there and enjoy the experience. But it was it was time for me to leave.

Tim Bourguignon 24:56
And so how do you find your first gig so

Dustin Devries 24:57
I remember the first one I found I think was was on Craigslist on familiar Craigslist. But that's, you know, that's still I think still around. But I think you can on Craigslist and found someone local who was looking for developer and you know inquired about what their need was set up a meeting and start work for them actually did quite a bit of work with them for a while, probably had them as a client for they were another software agency, I probably had them as a client for at least two or three years, maybe four years, I just they had various gigs. So there's one primary client of theirs that I was helping to support. But I had some other small projects that I worked on as well.

Tim Bourguignon 25:34
How did you handle the the balance between niching in I'm not sure that's a term but I'm coining it. Basically going, going more into into specialty specialty, building some expertise in one aspect of the work, and maybe having less less opportunities. But more interesting, and going broader, more general, having more opportunities, but having to do stuff that, you know, don't necessarily like how did you handle this, this balance?

Dustin Devries 26:02
Well, I know early on, I definitely went more broad. And that's still a struggle of mine, to not go too broad when I think about opportunities. But yeah, I mean, when you're, you need money, and you need to pay the bills and pay the mortgage and all that stuff. I mean, you you know, at some point, you say, well, I'll do what I need to do. And if there's something that's a little bit different than what I'm used to, but someone's willing to pay you for it and, you know, have the patience with you, if it's something new, you know, I would, I would take that on and always felt like I was the kind of person who lands on my feet, you know, that not necessarily anything special, but like, I do think that like I'm, you know, good at being self sufficient, I could find a way and I always had that drive and knew I would always land on my feet, find a way to make a living for for me and my family. So kind of just check that all in at the door about being afraid of stuff and just go out and do it. If I got to take on new tasks and new challenges. That's great. And you know how it is in the software world anyways, I mean, technologies are constantly changing and evolving on like, a daily, if not hourly basis, it feels like some time. So let's go back to the tie it back to the hiring thing, right? Like when I when I talk about hiring. Back in the day, maybe I used to ask people like what their GPA was back when they're in college. You know, ask them like about your experiences still matter. I still ask people about that a lot of times, but you know, I don't even really necessarily worry about someone having the exact match with the technologies that we use or anything like that. It's more about, can you pick these things up? Because the minute we hire someone for that particular technology, you know, it's becoming obsolete within a year or two. And now you're trying to find something new, you know, it's what it feels like anyway, so I didn't I guess I kind of adopted that early on that I wasn't going to be too afraid of branching out and try things.

Tim Bourguignon 27:47
I'm going to rebound than that. How do you screen for for that? How do you screen for mindset and ability to pick up on things and not country technologies? Well,

Dustin Devries 27:56
I think it was, I hate bringing up like Steve Jobs like the most generic thing people bring up you're talking about like life lessons that you know, every time. Side sidebar here like I think about like reading business books and stuff. I think there should be like a drinking game. Anytime someone mentioned Steve Jobs, and you get to take a shot in terms of mentors, like Southwest Airlines is a big one. You know, here in the US. They talked about the the founder and CEO of Southwest Airlines how great the guy that was, you know, kind of say this sparingly. But like, think back to Steve Jobs. I read his one of his biographies by Isaac something I can't because what the real popular one, then talking about how he relied a lot on intuition that he would make a decision on someone within the first couple of minutes, if not even sooner of an interview. And I think I've started use that. Maybe I'm over, over valuing my my intuition on this stuff. But I do feel like sometimes I have a good judge on this. There's people I've hired that have thought this is my intuition is telling me no, but they have all the check all the boxes and whatever else. And so I go ahead and say yes, and six months later, and let them go and it sucks. And so I've started to trust my intuition, or I think you can kind of gauge that sometimes, if that's what you're looking for. And even just ask the questions like how do you feel about the depth? Or go out random question, like they have a lot of experience with with PHP, but how would you feel about picking up some Python and Python projects you comfortable that and see if they're like, you know, they're kind of timid and like maybe a little bit freaked out? Or even if they've been like working on the same technology for the last 810 years? You know, why are you still in the same tech? Like, why would you branched out? And another thing, you know, and that's about that just kind of, you know, I don't know, this is something that's easy to quantify this person wanted to answer this question better and actually does quantify it. I don't have a good way of quantifying our decisions wishing and making sure I ask the right questions. I trust my intuition that I'm getting good read on them if I think they're going to be flexible or not.

Tim Bourguignon 29:45
Do you find the dissent we shouldn't goes both ways. I mean, you spoke about having a bad gut feeling when still all the boxes are checked. And you said okay, my gut feeling is saying no, but have you had the other way around saying you guys funny saying yes, but You have some some concrete not necessarily doubts, but but the the the the the objective boxes that you're seeing. I'm not necessarily saying your hell yes, but your guts.

Dustin Devries 30:11
Oh yeah, without a doubt I mean, I'm not gonna put him on the spot because of people working for me that probably fall into that box. But yeah, there's definitely been situations like that where like from a quantifiable perspective they're like right off the edge or maybe even would be a no if that was always gone by but there was something that just told me this felt like someone who was really aggressive and maybe a good cultural fit someone who would take action and do what they needed to was a self good self starter. And so, yeah, I mean, I think you got to look at all of that holistically. You know, I don't think if you just go by, you can't just give people a test and see if they pass or fail and use as the only criteria. I mean, if they fill up miserably, then I think you can't ignore that. Right. But at the same time, if they're, I think sometimes it can be there right on the edge, but they have all these intangibles that come out really good. And you're like, Okay, well, all the proficiency and you know, this or that technology isn't as good as I would like it to be all these other things are good. And there's also the you know, the thing I'll tell you is the book Outliers, I don't know if you've read this book or read it. If you know, it talks about in there like it talks, I think it was a Malcolm Gladwell is that it is it is okay. And so he talks about, you know, IQ, and he's talking about these guys that have like 200 IQs, are living in their parents basements, you know, they're adults in their 40s and could never get a job. And then you know, the people who are on the other end with with really low IQs. And then there's kind of like the sweet spot from, I guess the analysis he did, where he kind of ties it in with competency with different disciplines, and skill sets and all of that, where it's like, sometimes there's a there's a minimum requirement is a good enough requirements. And then it's all the intent, the other intangibles that make or break how good someone is like, I know, guys, I went to college with that. They were just, they made much better grades than I did. But they're also the ones who are constantly nagging constantly and study groups constantly going to the, you know, the professor, the teacher's assistant, whoever asked all these questions, and it felt like and there was one guy comes to mind that he was like, a couple years behind me. And he'd always come and ask me questions. I'm like, Do you do anything yourself? Like I used to fish enough to be able to find the answer yourself? Because there's a real problem, right? And in the workforce, if you've got someone who's starting with their constant going around asking everyone else, questions about how to do this, how to do that? Well, that becomes, you know, becomes very draining to the rest of the of the team. And so, you know, there's that element of like, sometimes people are really good, they, they test really well, they do really well to make good grades, whatever it might be. But there's something about them. Well, those intangibles that you highlight, you say, Yeah, this person really knows what they're doing. But I don't know if they're a good fit culturally, I don't know if they would fit in well, in a team where everybody's remote everyone's expected people more love less self paced and not, you know, we want to communicate but not interrupting people to the point that it's, you know, debilitating to the other other people on the team who have their own responsibilities.

Tim Bourguignon 33:03
I see. I see. That must be actually my blind spot. But this is the best way I've found to to inquire in this is actually ask questions about their own life and just seeing if they reflected if they were able to, or if they're able to look at their own past, which is not a tricky question. The it's, they obviously can lie, and we'll never know it. But are they able to reflect and retrace their steps and explain this in a logical way? Tell me why they did things. And maybe they don't know. But tell me, Hey, I don't know why I did that, etc. And when I see this, my gut feeling says, Okay, there's something here. And that must be blind spot at some point. I know it. But it's been one of the most consistent flags I've seen so far is when when this goes, well, usually it goes way up. So yeah,

Dustin Devries 33:53
I think you're right, I think there's an element of authenticity we look for, right? We want people who are genuine and authentic. And that transcends into being, you know, transparent, and trustworthy, all these other kinds of qualities that we care about. Right. So yeah, totally agree with you.

Tim Bourguignon 34:06
Moving on looking at the clock. I want to ask one more question. At what point did this freelance experience became a multiple person job, and you transitioned into having employees of your own?

Dustin Devries 34:19
Yeah, so I think I always had that aspiration, I want to build some kind of company. And I think, really what it was, was just doing the freelancing putting in the groundwork, getting enough experience to where I had, you know, a few different customers that I was working with, and then it just sort of naturally evolved into hiring a team of one point reached a point where I had several customers I had, you know, more than 40 hours a week of work to get done. And some either left with like, I can, you know, get rid of customers. So essentially fire some customers or I can add additional help to pull through that and opted for the ladder. Here I am, you know, nine years later, whatever it is,

Tim Bourguignon 34:59
with 20 80 Something employees? Yeah, we

Dustin Devries 35:01
have not 2020 employees, I think, not too shabby. have done the actual headcount a while I think it's about 20.

Tim Bourguignon 35:07
You don't have an office. So the company was was right away remote. That's right.

Dustin Devries 35:11
Yeah, we started right from beginning remote. And that's because, you know, I didn't want to constrain myself with trying to be being based here in Texas, and in the Austin area, especially very competitive. And I knew that getting started, you know, hiring a full time software developer in the US is very expensive, right. So I knew that, you know, just like when I left, left my full time job, I wanted to kind of hedge things, drop down a part time, test the waters and gradually move over there. I think that's kind of what happened with the hiring team, I started looking remotely because I knew I could, it'd be more cost effective I'd have even more importantly, a larger pool of people to pull from, you know, I'm not competing with, with guys that are guys and girls that are going off and working at, you know, Apple and Google and all these, you know, fancy jobs, not trying to compete to, you know, tell them, you know, can work with this small software company, based on an austere, I could cast a net that's the size of the entire world and get great talent. And we've stuck with that from the from the get go. Because I just felt like it helped us out so much a lot of to hire some amazing talent, I don't think we would have been able to do what we've been able to do without being more flexible.

Tim Bourguignon 36:21
Do you see this? So this this remoteness that came out of Covergirl as a as a threat now, I mean, every company is going or had to go remote. And so there's this specialty or advantage, the you had of being an early remote company is now bringing you maybe eye to eye level, I'm saying it this way, I know it's not the case, but eye to eye level with with offshore, but he's doing the same work potentially for for half the price somewhere else. And if we're always remote, what's what's your what's your identity, then?

Dustin Devries 36:51
Yeah, I mean, definitely with hiring, because that was one of our it's definitely a unfair advantage that we had, if, you know, go work for the big name company. But you got to go in the office from nine to five and maybe working weekends occasionally or nine to nine, you know, whatever, you're working crazy hours, or you come work for us, you know, the remote, I think, yeah, that that's been that was an unfair advantage I think we had before COVID, that's kind of settled down. Now, in terms of competing, I mean, I don't know when I talk with customers, because you know, anyone who's talking to us about billing, any kind of software, whether it's a simple website, or complex web or mobile app, they really have, there's two options. And we kind of introduced a third option here, it's kind of our differentiator, which is you can go hire a US base, because our all of our customers are pretty much US based customers. So go hire a domestic agency where everyone lives here in the US, and it's all on site, you're gonna pay quite a bit more than you're going to pay, you know, their hourly rate is a lot higher than than ours because they just have more costs. You can go overseas, overseas, offshore, and hire go work with an agency over there. But a lot of times the pumps have Friday problems, right? Sometimes it can be language, it can be expressing concepts, it can be timezone differences, there's a whole lot of things that go into play there. And our approach to it is more of what we call a hybrid approach, which is everyone that interfaces with the customer. That interface is one of our customers, is pretty much a US based employee, but we have a process built in order to be able to use resources outside the US to fulfill that. So an analogy I use, a lot of times, it's like, if you were building a custom home, for example, you know, you would spend a lot of money on a fancy architect to draw blueprints. And it may be like a 3d designer or something, they go and build 3d renderings of what your living rooms gonna look like, or your kitchen or whatever. So you get all everything planned, really well, you come with all the requirements, and everything's baked in well, so it's time to actually build it, it's really clear what constitutes success and failure. So when you bring in that team, you know, there's no ambiguity about well, do we run the plumbing along this wall or this other wall? Or do we, you know, whereas electrical job is very well laid out and defined. And so that's what we try to do in our software projects that actually allows us to maintain a level of quality that I think a lot of offshore companies are not able to maintain. That's why you hear some disaster stories about Yeah, you know, it's 100,000 100,000 Plus to pay the agency down the road, or I go build the same product for 15,000 with a company based out of India, and I went the route of going with the company in India, and I got kind of halfway what I expected to get at the end and was sort of disappointed. We have a lot of customers that come to us like that. I'm not picking on necessarily India or any any particular country, I think a lot of times it just has to do with the way they have things set up and if you're going for quality, or you're going for quantity, or you're going for something that you know in between and you know, it's like that, that concept three C's triangle with like you have costs, what does it cost, quality and time to delivery, whatever they call the three C's, you know, whatever, but you can't have all those at the same time, you can have it be cheap and high quality and delivered as quick as possible. You know, like, that doesn't work, you got to pick one or two of those, and, you know, focus on those. And so is a big challenge. So, sorry, that was a long answer to your question

Tim Bourguignon 40:14
that does regret and that really matches with who have gone through actually. And I found that working with with small to medium companies was way easier in this regard, because the person calling the shots and saying, Well, we're gonna offshore this, or we're gonna do it locally, is usually the one who is at the pointy end of the stick two years down the line if it didn't work. Whereas if you are in a big company, usually you have some, I mean, it's just the line on the spreadsheet, and line says 125k or 15k. And obviously say somebody saying, well, we'll go with 15k, that looks way better on the budget. And they are not on the receiving end of this going out and on the drain. And so it makes having this feedback loop way harder. And dealing with this I was working with a consulting company for and dealing with exactly this, this different kinds of clients was always a nightmare, really having having to almost double speak different different languages with one or the other. Because on the one hand, you knew they wanted to go somewhere else because of spreadsheet, and you're there and they really wanted you because they knew where they were going. So it's kind of kind of frantic. But

Dustin Devries 41:17
yeah, I mean, you're right. I mean, it's, it's a, it's a problem. And I think, you know, one of the ways I approach it is I try to just feel like kind of open about, I'm a big believer that, like, what, as the, as a vendor, what we need to provide, and what we need to get out of the relationship needs to overlap with what the customer is willing to give. And if that overlap isn't there because of budget or any other kind of constraint, that's just the way it is, like I don't, I don't, you know, get hostile towards people, like we have people come in sometimes, and they're just, they have, like, $10,000 that they've saved up, and they're gonna go start a business, that $10,000 was to go to the website was good in business cards, and maybe, you know, phone number, voicemail system, whether, you know, they have different costs, and they're coming in, and they're leading a website on, like, I'm not gonna sit there and, you know, attack them, because they can't afford, you know, a custom defined website like we have, they want to go with something like Wix, I think that's a great option for them. Which is like a big, you know, say it's a competitor of ours, but don't look at as a competitor. Because when we think about the website rolling, we build apps and stuff, which is totally different game. But for just simple brochure websites for company, you know, if you're just trying to get a website presence, have a domain name, and you have a contact form. I mean, go with Wix, there's no reason to go spend much of money, then when you get the revenue and proof of concept, you prove the business's work and come back to us. And we'll build you the website you need. But you don't need something like that, though. And I think there's a little bit of that of just accepting the fact that everyone's at different stages in terms of their needs. And I've had to kind of position that and accept that, and not try to fight that resistance, but just accept it and realize if I'm just being good stewards to people and trying to help them out with them in the right direction, instead of trying to scam them into, like signing up for something as little outside their budget. Like I think that comes back. Whether it's this world or the next one. I want to some point, right? I think it does.

Tim Bourguignon 43:09
Absolutely. I wanted to wrap up, but I have to I have to pile up on that. Did you see that? The innovation growing is pushing you out of some of the jobs you could do before but you actually shouldn't be doing the example was waiting you were you were just getting giving. I mean, doing simple websites is something we shouldn't accept anymore. We should say no, no, it's not the right option for you. And and I have a duty to tell you go with a WordPress always wakes or whatever, just spin something that is a template and get rolling and when your traction come back. But it's tempting to say yes, I can do that. So how do you deal with it?

Dustin Devries 43:50
Well, I mean, first off, you have a healthy pipeline, that it's easy to say no, right? Because we don't always have LTE pipeline. But if you know that we're working towards that, and we're getting better about that. But you know that that helps you to be a little more picky and not expand outside of what you're comfortable with and all of that. I think that's an important part of it. Yeah, I don't know, you know, I'm trying to think what else I would say about that. I mean, I think it's just, you know, everything. I see the everything's kind of moving towards more, commoditization. Yeah, for like, websites are very commoditized I think app development, you get all this, like no code, app stuff that's out there now and everything else, like, you know, you have to you have to be flexible and accept the fact that what what we're doing today may not be what makes us money tomorrow. And we have to adapt and you know, we've been primarily a service based company, we've thought about getting more into products and we have some some ideas for products on on the horizon. But you know, is that going to be our path forward that maybe we move from being a service based business because it comes so commoditized I think any new technology over time becomes more commoditized and becomes more like a factory with workers and it does so much You know, an agency like we have now like so, you know, 50 years from now, it wasn't gonna, like 20 years from now 30 years? I have no idea. But I think you gotta be definitely look at that as a challenge, always stay flexible and try to find angles where we're not competing with in the normal channels in terms of the way we're prospecting to potential customers and stuff like that, but trying to find niches. So it goes back to your question about niching, Down, Right, try to niche down on some very specific problems that people have, and work on those versus just being like a website development company where it's all so commoditized, it gets, gets really difficult and really hard to stand out.

Tim Bourguignon 45:37
Also, as a, as a wrap up, as a usual advice I ask, I would like to come back to this discussion you had with a friend or colleague, and I'm not sure which way it was after, when you decided to go out of Cirrus Logic. And you said you had this discussion to remember the ED, the main argument that really pushed you out saying, now's the time.

Dustin Devries 45:58
I think it was really just because I was so that my job, my corporate job had become so had overtaken my life so much, you know, it was like, not just what I was dealing with at work, but what I would bring home, you know, I'd bring it home to my wife, and at the time, we didn't have kids. And so, you know, struggling with just me being a good person at times, and just being approachable. And I'm still, you know, I'm an introvert, so still the nicest most friendly person in the world, but like, it was really like, at an extreme level back then. And so I think I just was looking at my life and thinking, Yeah, this isn't sustainable. You know, and if I've got another alternative, which is to maybe make less would be happier, you know, so if you think of in terms of buckets, salary bucket, happiness, bucket, Freedom bucket, whatever else, and I decided, you know, what, if I have the money bucket full, but the others are empty, like that's not good, I want more or balanced in my life. And balance has been a big thing for me throughout my career. And over over the years, as I've dealt with different things professionally, and personally, balance has been front and center for me, and something I've always tried to find that really kind of started that was kind of the pivot point for me was having that discussion. And what I walked away from it was thinking about that, that balance and that healthy lifestyle.

Tim Bourguignon 47:16
So find a friend to talk about bucket. And

Dustin Devries 47:21
yeah, you know, and accept the fact I think, you know, one of the things to say is accept the fact that what you want today, you know, anyone who's going out on this journey, whether they're new to it, or they're, you know, been at it 20 years, like I have is be flexible and accept the fact that maybe what you want, this phase of your life may be different than what you want, and your next phase and to embrace that the change isn't necessarily bad. I'm very changed adverse. My wife criticizes me about that all the time. But I will say that, you know, change that you accept and process and do it the right way, can be a really good thing. And you know, you should it's okay to accept the fact that what you wanted yesterday is not what you want today, and it's maybe not what you're gonna watch tomorrow. You know, that's just the way life is

Tim Bourguignon 48:06
in big Amen to that. It's been a fantastic ride. Thank you very much, doctor for for taking us on this adventure.

Dustin Devries 48:13
Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much for having me. My pleasure.

Tim Bourguignon 48:17
So where would be the best place to find you online and start a discussion or cautioning you to continue this discussion with you

Dustin Devries 48:23
is just just go to our website, caffeine interactive.com. We're a small company, I get pretty much every contact submission that goes through so you can go through our contact form or people are welcome to email me Dustin at caffeine interactive.com. Just email me directly. I'd love to talk about these topics so I can help anyone out or expand or anything, feel free to reach out.

Tim Bourguignon 48:41
You heard him anything else you want to plug in before we close today?

Dustin Devries 48:45
I don't think so. I think we've covered all Yeah, if you if you're looking for website or web or mobile app, you know where to find us. We'd be happy to help you so so thank you so much.

Tim Bourguignon 48:52
Awesome. And this has been another episode of therapists journey and with each other next week. Bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover stories. You can find the links to all the platforms the show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info, slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Would you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation, you'll find our patreon link at Dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally, don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week's story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter at Timothy T I M O pH EP, orca email info at Dev journey dot info