Software Developers Journey Podcast

#246 Bekah Hawrot Weigel found the power of communities


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Bekah Hawrot Weigel 0:00
Get into open source. And I know that seems really overwhelming in a lot of ways. But oftentimes, when we see people coming into tech, they have very similar resumes and experiences. They've built certain projects. And actually, I just posted a video on YouTube yesterday talking about five reasons to get into open source. And it's, it's resume building, but it also can help you find a community of people who are interested in doing those things or working on that codebase. And it shows your ability to communicate, navigate a larger codebase. And so I would say, you know, from the community standpoint, find your community. From a technical standpoint, go contribute to some open source.

Tim Bourguignon 0:39
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 247. I received Bekah Hawrot Weigel. Bekah spent 10 years teaching college English and then three years organizing events and communities before enrolling in the Flat Iron School software engineering program in May 2019. Since then, she started a consultancy, specializing in front end development, she created the virtual coffee developer community. She co hosts to virtual coffee podcasts, and recently joined or recently it's been a year already joined the dev rel world at Deepgram. And oh, I didn't mention all the way of continuing to mum her four kids. Bekah, welcome to devjourney.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 1:33
Thanks so much. Thanks so much for having me.

Tim Bourguignon 1:35
Oh, it's my pleasure. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show every month, you are keeping the DevJourney 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, DevJourney.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. Because you know the show exists to help listeners understand what your story look like, and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual intro, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your devjourney?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 2:24
Yeah, so I have a very different start of my journey than a lot of people. And it was at a time in my life where I wasn't really considering a career change. I had been teaching college English part time for probably eight and a half or nine years at that point. And then I had my fourth daughter and my fourth kid, which is and I went through birth trauma, it was pretty bad to have my organs ruptured into each other. And I knew something was wrong, because I had some pretty awful symptoms, and the doctors didn't believe me. And they said, you're fine. And they sent me home. And so it took a lot of fighting to get anyone to listen to me, and to take me seriously. And then about a month or five weeks later at a different hospital. I had surgery. And during that surgery, it was pretty complicated. I came out of it. And it was much more serious than they thought. I overdosed on morphine in the hospital because they did not properly cap my morphine pump. And then I had to take Narcan, which is a drug that undoes the effects of the morphine. And, and that whole experience. I was separated from my newborn for a week. I didn't anticipate any of the things that were going to happen. I thought that I'd be able to return to normal life. And that was just not the case. I went home, I had PTSD, I had depression, I had anxiety, I had my first panic attack a couple of weeks after that. And I was just kind of a mess. And I just didn't know what my place in the world was anymore. And it was actually probably about eight months into this post surgery journey that I discovered that I had PTSD. Like I knew that it's hard to go through these things in life. But then my therapist, I was telling her about how I replayed these moments in my head over and over. So one specific moment was I a couple of days after they released me from the hospital after giving birth. I went to see my OB GYN who delivered my daughter and I was telling her I'm still having all these symptoms something is not Right. And she said to me, it's not my problem. And I just started crying. I'm like, what? Whose problem? Is it? And like, why am I a problem? You know, there's something wrong and you're supposed to i Help me, I met the most vulnerable point in my life, and you're calling me a problem. And this would replay in my head probably 1000s of times every day. And my therapist was like, that's, that's PTSD. That's not normally what happens. And so I was just really having a hard time, being a human at that point. And my husband was a career changer. And he moved from teaching into the dev world. He's a software engineer. And he said, Why don't you try and learn how to code and I thought, you've got to be kidding me. Like, I can't even think straight, I don't know what's going on in my life. And he kept saying it like, Fine, I will try a Free Code Camp, and see what happens. And then you can stop talking to me about it. And what happened was, when I started learning how to code, those memories stopped cycling. So the trauma stopped. And I think I, for a lot of people, I've actually talked to a lot of moms who have gone through experiences of anxiety and depression. And they've also found coding to be really therapeutic as well. And it's like, my brain needed to fully focus on learning this new logical skill, that it would pause all of the other bad things that had happened. And so I just kind of kept sticking with it. And I found a group of moms who were coding or learning how to code to. And so then I found community in it. And what I really learned was, a lot of times when we go through trauma, we, we isolate ourselves from other people. And that's really the worst thing that you can do. Finding a community of other people who are supportive, who are there to cheer you on who are there to help you to see the good when you can't see any good is incredibly crucial, I think, to both the human experience and the learning experience and like being a developer too. And so, for me, at one point, I got a message from the head of our department, and he said, Hey, these are the classes I have for you next semester. Are we good? And this has been the same process I had done for like the previous seven years. And I said, Actually, I'm, I'm done. I'm gonna make a change. And I'm going to figure out how to be a person in tech. And that's kind of been the journey.

Tim Bourguignon 7:53
Wow. First of all, you warned me that it's gonna be hard. But Ouch. Well, congratulations from getting through this with the smile that you have in your face right now. So that was really good and being able to reflect on this the way you did, congratulations. That's really Yeah, very cool. I'm not sure where to IMPAC let's start where you where you left it off. Did you know that you were going to say, actually, I'm done. Before you said, you know,

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 8:24
I had been contemplating it for a while. But that's a really hard decision to make. Because prior to this experience, I had never contemplated a career change. I just kind of thought I'd be doing this my whole life. And then when it happened, and when I really finding the community of moms was crucial for me, I think if I didn't have them, it may be it would have taken me a lot longer. But in academia, I was working as an adjunct, which is part time, there's no real community, and there's not very much gratitude for the things that you're doing. It's just like, Yeah, you do it, and we ignore you while you're doing it, you know, and some people are fine with that. But for me, I'm like, This doesn't make sense. We're making a huge impact on the students. And we should be having a voice and what happens in the curriculum development, how teaching goes and and to be involved in the community, whether or not we're part time. And so finding that community of moms that was working with me that was supporting me and helping me with these things, knowing that I can turn to someone and I had been teaching at at a university for about seven years at that point. There was nobody that I could turn to if I had a question or a concern. I just felt like if I did that I was seen as a problem. And so for me, knowing that there were women out there who were willing to share their stories with me who are willing to answer my questions or point me in the right direction really made that difference and saying like, you know what I don't I don't want to be part of an institution that doesn't value me anymore. And it's not it's not just the institution that I was at this is a problem in academia throughout the entire United States. So it wasn't like well moved to a different institution No, like, this is, this is the standard. And that's not what I want to spend my life doing.

Tim Bourguignon 10:26
Do you remember when when you chose this and said, Okay, now now it's done.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 10:30
I think when I sent that email, there's no turning back now. And, and it was funny because he offered me one of the classes that I loved teaching. And I had only had that opportunity one time before. And it made it extra difficult because it was a screenwriting class, and I love screenwriting. I love teaching it the last time, it was like dangling this, this reward in front of me like this is really what I want to do. But also, this is not what I want to do. I just say, you know, it's not, it's not going to work out, I have to do something different with my life,

Tim Bourguignon 11:06
nice leap of faith. How could you picture the next month, or maybe your is going at that, at that point in time,

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 11:16
not not in any way, shape, or form they've turned out.

Tim Bourguignon 11:19
So there's a story here,

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 11:21
I think, you know, the pandemic definitely threw a wrench in a lot of stuff. But, um, I think that I didn't, normally I like really take a long time to think things through. And so this was was one of those moments where I really went with my gut. And that's one of the things I've learned over the past couple of years, when my gut is telling me to do something, it is almost always right. And I often spend a lot of time second guessing myself or not trusting myself. And then, you know, months later, I come back and like, well, if I would have just trusted myself, from the very beginning, I would have been in a much better shape, like five months ago or whatever. And so, you know, I, I don't know. At that point, I wasn't part of a boot camp. But I ended up getting a full scholarship to Flatiron School boot camp. And that was not something that I anticipated, I was just kind of trying to learn on my own. I like run into a wall with Free Code Camp, doing JavaScript. JavaScript is the worst thing that I've ever met in my life. But I found kind of new life in the Flatiron School boot camp. And, you know, for me, I waited for a while because I couldn't afford to go to boot camp, there was just not the money there at the time, we were kind of struggling financially. And so here, I was like quitting a job? Well, we're struggling, but I'm one of the founders, a former co founder, let me know that there was a scholarship that was coming and that I should apply. And I feel like I cheated a little because part of the application was writing an essay about why you wanted to do coding. And so I was like, Well, you know, I, first of all, I taught English for 10 years, I kind of know what I'm doing when I'm writing. And then second of all, I have the story about going through some really intense trauma that nobody's going to forget, right. And so it got me the scholarship. And I spent a year doing the remote self taught track learning Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and then JavaScript and React. And that was definitely not something that I would have seen. And then I was so lucky, because I found a job right out of school. I tweeted that I was looking for something and I was looking for something that was more part time because my kids were little. And somebody responded to my tweet and said, Hey, sounds like a good fit. We should chat. And that was it. We had a conversation. And then I started a couple months later. So it was like, I feel like I feel like I gave him the system somehow

Tim Bourguignon 14:15
unintentionally. And there it goes. My usual next question of how you found your first job. Just just a tweet. And that's it.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 14:26
Yeah, there was so many responses. And so when I had started learning how to code I started tweeting about it right, and just like, and then somebody was like, You should do a blog. I was like, Wow, alright, I'll do a blog. So I started writing about it. And I started building up a Twitter following just because people were following my journey. And I think I did 100 days of code. At least three consecutive times. I don't think I ever hit 400 days in a row, but I might have hit like 345 or something. thing like that. And that also helped me because there were a lot of people at that time who were following the 100 days of code hashtag. And so there were all of these people that were just kind of, like, my online friends around me, cheering me on, if I had a hard day and I posted about it, I tweeted about it. Somebody was always there to say, like, Hey, you got this, you know, this is not this is one day out of how many and so because of that network, and I always like to say that, like, your network is not just the people that you talk to. It's the network of your network. And that's really how I found the job because I don't think, Dan, who I ended up working for, as an independent contractor, I don't think he followed me at that point on Twitter, I think somebody he followed. Sorry, that somebody he followed retweeted my job search tweet, and he saw it. And he was at the point where he's an independent contractor as well. And he didn't have anyone, he wasn't subcontracting. But he thought he probably could at that point. So it seemed like a really good fit. So it just happened that we were we're very good fits to be working together at that time.

Tim Bourguignon 16:15
Sounds I want to say, say love story. But that's not the right word.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 16:23
You know, it's interesting, because we were actually recording a podcast, so I don't work for Dan anymore. But we do record a podcast together, and we co run the virtual coffee community. And there was a podcast that I had listened to a couple years ago, and I can't remember what it's called. But the whole point of the podcast was about partnerships and relationships. And so they would examine things like marriage marriages, band mates, teammates, co workers, co founders, and it all kind of told that same story, you know, what is the commitment level? Like, what brings you together? How do you communicate and, you know, the essence of it is that it comes down to clear communication, vulnerability, the listening and understanding and all of these are key components to any relationship that we develop. And it was telling those stories, and I think in one episode, they did kind of refer to it as that that idea of, you know, how do you form this bond with somebody else that you're working really closely to? And I think that, you know, we can take those tenants and apply them to lots of different relationships. And that's what makes them strong.

Tim Bourguignon 17:38
It doesn't need it doesn't need to come back to the group of moms. I'm not sure how to call it any other way. Did you find this first community? Did you search for this first community? Or did it find you and how did you find it, then?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 17:53
I am pretty sure that they found me. And the group is unfortunately no longer together. But there was a another mom who actually it turns out, she lives like 45 minutes away from me. And so I actually got to meet her at one point. And we met at a midpoint I think, for both of us. And I took my my youngest with me at that time, who was still crawling, so she had to be under one. And so it came on Twitter, too. So I was tweeting about it. And the founder of the organization, she messaged me and said, hey, you know, I've got this group going on, and you should, you should come and see what we're doing. And so when I did, I learned a lot through that organization. So there was a lot of CO learning happening, there was a lot of amplification of voices of the moms out there, and a lot of credibility building. And so you know, there were things like building courses and doing accountability and mentorship and things like that. And so, you know, for me, to be able to have that support and to grow with them during my journey was incredibly important. Especially because my bootcamp didn't really have a community, there was a Slack, but being in a remote work at your pace, track of things, you don't have a lot of interaction with other people. And that can feel really isolating and lonely too. So knowing that I had a community outside of that, which I do think is good. In retrospect, I think that having external communities that aren't part of your work that aren't part of your bootcamp, is really essential because you're probably not going to be in that bootcamp or that job forever. And so finding people that you know, are there and supportive is incredibly important.

Tim Bourguignon 19:49
It is and I fear or I think it is pretty much unique in the tech world. I have a sister who is a lawyer, and when I talk to her about this, she me big googly eyes. What are you talking about? We will have such things. And this is pretty much given in the in the tech world meetups are all just to be found everywhere in every city. And if you don't want to be in a city, you can go online, and there's at least twice as much. And it's just part of what we do. And but it's not. Is it a given? I'm not sure.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 20:22
Yeah, well, I mean, it was the same thing. You know, when I was in academia, there was not that community there at all. Um, when I first came out of college, so I had a part time job. And then about a year later, I moved into a full time job as a community organizer. And I think that's really also inspired my journey in a lot of ways. So I was working for an environmental nonprofit, in an area that where there was a lot of poverty, low income, low education, and we were supporting 13 other groups of people were small organization, two full time people and one part time person. But we worked within those communities. And we did a lot of listening to what their needs, were making sure that we could support them in different ways, and just helping to build out those smaller communities within within the regions that they were in. And so I think that when you look at community, it just depends on how people think of it. So in tech, we're really big on kind of having the communities of technical people, but everybody is involved in some type of community that that works for them, or the communities that they need at that point. And so I think that for a lot of people, too, they don't recognize the need for community. So some people feel like, hey, you know, I'm good, just doing my job. And I think the remote work aspect of a lot of tech really impacts things as well, because there are less opportunities to have like a work community, right. When you are working together with people in an office, you pass by them, you see the pictures of their kids on their desks, you talk about their weekend. And in the remote world, there's often fewer opportunities, there should be more opportunities. But we're also so consumed with getting the work done, that there's no time for that interpersonal communication, that storytelling, the authenticity and connectedness that comes with that, that I think that it's really great to see there are growing opportunities for that.

Tim Bourguignon 22:30
Was that the need for yourself that triggered the creation of virtual coffee?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 22:34
Yeah, so that's another interesting story. I think it's interesting, at least when I saw I had been working with Dan as an independent consultant for eight. No, let's see. More than that, maybe over a year. And I feel like we had just kind of getting gotten into the groove of things where we knew how to communicate with each other. I knew when to ask questions. And so I finally felt like, Okay, I know what I'm doing. And then the pandemic hit. And I got a call from the school that said, hey, you need to come pick up your kids books. We're going remote for three weeks. Well, they didn't go remote for three weeks, they were remote for the rest of the year. Yes. When I came home with their books, I had a message from Dan that said, Hey, let's chat. And then I found out that both of us were out of work. So now I had four kids at home. And I no longer had a job. And then I really found myself interviewing for the very first time and the very first time and it was during the pandemic. And because that first job with Dan, it was a conversation like, this sounds like a good deal. We can both work together. And so now I was going through so many interviews, not really knowing what to expect. And there were some really, really awful ones. You know, there was one with an ed tech company where the, the woman founder, basically told me that I was over valuing myself and I shouldn't be requesting that much money, and nobody would pay me that much. Even though I aced their coding challenge and all their other interviews, and then I started thinking like, you know, maybe I'm not worth this much money, and I think I can't remember what she wanted to pay me. But I think maybe she tried to say I think it was between 30 and $45 an hour, which was way less than what I had been making. And and and then I just found myself crying every single night. This is awful. Like why is this so awful? And then it finally hit me at some point like Oh, I know this feeling because I've already had this feeling after I went through trauma like this is a trauma except this time And the entire world is going through it together. So I can't possibly think I'm the only one that understands this right now. And so I posted on Twitter, I tweeted, anyone want to meet for virtual coffee. And a lot of people did. And you know, it turns out like all of us were feeling we were, we were all physically isolated, right? Because we weren't allowed to go anywhere. We were experiencing things that we didn't know, parents had kids home for the first time and weren't sure what to do. And now they're required to teach them and to also be working at the same time, and I was interviewing at the same time, it was just, it just all felt like a big disaster, right? And so then then people started saying, Hey, can you add another time, because I live on the West Coast, and your time is too early. So then I started doing like double sessions. And I'm like, I'm an introvert, this is too much. I spread it out over a couple of days. And then people wanted to help. And then we got a slack. And then we started doing lunch and learns and a newsletter and challenges and podcasts. And like, all this stuff, it just continued to grow. Because there was a need for that community, you know, people are often feeling isolated. And for a while, I thought this was going to be a three month thing, right? It was going to be during the pandemic, which spoiler alert, the pandemic did not end after three months.

Tim Bourguignon 26:23
Pretty much still running. Yeah.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 26:27
And, and but then I started to see, we held our first event, which was hack Tober fest, which is month long, Open Source Initiative in October run by Digital Ocean. And everybody was so excited to be participating. And at that moment, I thought, You know what, I think we're gonna keep doing this, like people want to be here. And it's not just because of the pandemic, and this is, in a couple of months, I think we're going into the third year, and it gets it that we've been doing it since March of 2020. So you can do them?

Tim Bourguignon 27:02
Yeah, almost three, almost three years. That that is awesome. And it started really, if I understood well, uncertain idea or mean to fight isolation, not as a developer community, not as a place to talk that there really, let's talk, let's get out of our clothes chambers, forcefully close by COVID? And let's talk, how did you see this evolve with volution? toward more development?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 27:31
You know, um, because my network on Twitter was mostly developers, that's kind of where it was. But a lot of our conversations aren't around development at all. And what are the things that I frequently talk about whether in a conference talks or in my blog, it's the person centered approach. And this is really something that I've stolen from the medical community, I think they it's patient centered care. And when, after I went through trauma, about a year later, I met with five of the hospital administrators, including the CEO of the hospital. And I went in there to tell my story about more importantly, to try and get things changed, because the care that I received was definitely subpar. And so I did all of this research on, you know, what, what really is at issue here. And the issue was that they were seeing me as a problem, they were seeing me as a medical issue, they were seeing me as symptoms, they weren't seeing me as a person, like, I'm a mom, I've got four kids at home. And I have to be able to take care of these kids. And I'm really scared right now. And so taking that over to Tech, I thought focused on this idea of having a person centered approach, which means we recognize the whole person in front of us, you know, a person that goes through struggles, who has successes, but a person who is not just a coder, or a DevOps person, it's a person that has so much more to themselves than than coding. And so we've kind of like bridge that gap of like, hey, let's be here, and let's be our full selves. And we're all developers. So we'll probably talk a lot about development too. And that's cool. But like, you can talk about what you did last weekend and what you ate and what trouble your kid got into in school. And then like three seconds later talk about what's the new front end thing that everybody's talking about, you know, so So for us, we do a big mixture of that, but it's been the nature of the evolution of virtual coffee, to look at the full person to talk about the things that interests us and the challenges that we go through and celebrate each other's successes along the way.

Tim Bourguignon 29:58
Good job in doing so I'm browsing your events page right now. And there's pretty much one or two events every day. Some of them are very leading, for instance, the, the Navigating the job, hunt, Lunch and Learn, or the accountability buddies. Which is probably a session with people taking themselves or each other accountable on something they said before, or they did before. How do you how do you still allow for anyone to jump in and talk about something that is dear to their heart? And and maybe that is not planned as as an agenda item?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 30:41
Yeah. So we do have a slack. And there's a lot of conversation that happens there. But every Tuesday and Thursday, or when we hold our events. And during those events, we start in the big room with some announcements, we talk about our mission, we talk about our code of conduct and about making everybody feel safe in that space. And then we move into breakout rooms. And we try and keep it to eight to 10 people in a breakout room. And there's a leader and a note taker. And so the leader has a script that they read through that gives instructions about how you can participate. And then the note taker, will we always have a random checking question. So they take your name, the random checking question. And then after that they keep all the notes anonymous, just to make sure that people feel safe sharing, in allowing them some space for vulnerability. And in those sessions, we start off with saying, Hey, we always have a back pocket topic. So there's always something to talk about here. You don't have to be afraid of staring at each other and silence the whole time. But we want to prioritize what you're most interested in talking about. So if you have a question or a topic, suggestion, this is a time to do it. And I usually give people five seconds to use the hand raise function, we do it in zoom. And then we see where people are interested in talking about and if nobody has anything they want to talk about, then we move into the back pocket topic. And the room leader knows how to work through that and to engage people. And then sometimes sometimes the rooms are really quiet. But this is why we have room leaders who can continue to work on engaging people finding what folks are interested in. And we have a huge list of back pocket topics, actually on our discussions. So if you went to GitHub slash virtual dash coffee, and click the discussions, there's, I think, a pin discussion there for all of our back pocket topics. And people can also suggest intro questions as well. So we like to keep it open and allow for people to engage in ways that work for them. And

Tim Bourguignon 32:57
how many people join in those meetings?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 33:00
That's a good question. So it really depends. We are Tuesdays are morning times. And so it's Eastern timezone, which is my timezone. And that's 9am. And that's usually a smaller crowd of people. And sometimes we'll only have about 20. But there have been other times where I think we've hit 50. And then Thursday's are, that's today, that we're recording Eastern time. And that's a much more populated crowd. So that gets bigger, probably close to around 50 people and not the same, you don't have to come every time. And sometimes we don't see anybody for when somebody might not come for months, and you know, they change jobs, or they had a baby, or they're just really overwhelmed. And that's cool. You know, like we, we don't want to be a place to stress people out and demand things of them, you know, you come when you need community.

Tim Bourguignon 34:01
Do you have the feeling that you managed to create some kind of evergreen system where people can really stay full for four years in the system? Or are some people going to outgrow it at some point?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 34:14
Yeah, I think I mean, it's both of those things. And I think that it just comes down to who you are as a person, right? Like, sometimes you outgrow your friends, and then they're not your friends anymore. And sometimes you can maintain good relationships with them, but we're always happy and supportive of the people in our group, even if they're not part of it, you know, because sometimes they just need something different. Right? And that's, it's okay. You know, we love to see them back. But at the same time, again, we're like recognizing there's a person in front of me and they have needs and sometimes we can help them with that. And sometimes we can't and you know, we're all volunteers in this situation. And so we're doing our best to make sure that everybody feels supported, but You're always welcome back. You know, it doesn't matter if you haven't been here, we there was a member who was really active early on. And then they got a job and had a baby. And so then they weren't really active, and it was totally fine. And recently, they were laid off from their role. And they came back into slack in the welcome channel and said, Hey, I haven't been here for a while, but I lost my job. And, you know, I'm really looking forward to coming back to some of these things, because I've missed it. And so you know, it's been over a year since this person has probably been active, but you know, it's great to have them back.

Tim Bourguignon 35:37
Yeah, I've seen people come back to you, the community you created and then see it as a maybe an anchor or something stable to come back to that this must be on the field really reward rewarding and, and heartwarming.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 35:50
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Tim Bourguignon 35:54
Okay, so do you see yourself running this community on as a side? Side gig, I want to call it a gig, because it's really your job as a side job for for ages. How do you see it?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 36:07
Yeah, you know, I, it's funny, I was talking to another community organizer in tech recently. And they were saying, you know, what you're doing is really important. And it probably sometimes gets overwhelming or stressful, you feel like burning out. But what's most important is you keep it going, because people need it, and you can't let them down. And I felt that way, you know, for a long time, probably a year and a half. Now, like you, even in those times, I just try and push through and make sure that we have support for people. And I do see myself doing this long term. I don't know logistically how that works, because I am working a full time job now for about the last year. And that's definitely brought with it some challenges. But in a lot of ways they're complementary to each other, because I'm still doing community building at my full time job. And I've taken so much of what I've learned from virtual coffee and been able to apply it to my full time role where I get paid to do things. Yeah, cuz

Tim Bourguignon 37:11
communities don't really pay the bills, as fun as they are, and as important as they are. And as much as we would like to do that full time paid to bills at some point. How many people are with you in this kind of? I want to say leading, not organizing, but leading because probably some of the members are actually leading as well. So how many people would you define in this group?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 37:37
So we have three maintainers, which Dan is one of our organizational maintainers along with me, so we kind of run and run the group, make sure the bills are paid and that kind of thing. And then Kirk is a community maintainer, who helps us organize all the community things, and really is a huge role within the community. So we're kind of the three that do most of the decision making. But we have a lot of volunteers that make sure that things happen. Right. So we have a bunch of volunteers that are room leaders and note takers, I think we have like 50 people in that channel. Now, some of them are more active than others, it just depends again, on their stage of life. And then we have people who volunteer to lead small groups like accountability buddies. And then people who are volunteering for talks and stuff like that. So there's, there's a lot of different roles that we have with active volunteers. I don't know right now off the top of my head, how many active volunteers that we have, but I would say, at least 50 right now. And all of them are just incredibly helpful to what we're doing and ensuring that we can grow and we can change and we can be what the community wants us to be.

Tim Bourguignon 39:06
This is awesome. That means the community really is living and and if one of you wasn't able to do to do their part for some time, it will still continue leaving because community is self sustaining, or at least partially self sustaining. That is really cool.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 39:20
Yeah, absolutely.

Tim Bourguignon 39:23
Can we still have one time one time for one question? I'm interested in in the sidestep you did into the dev rel world. From what from your story you told it is absolutely the obvious next step, but I'm sure it wasn't how did you decide at some points that okay, I want to turn around a little bit and have one foot in developer in developing but also using the skills you had before that and communities and writing and and telling people about things and bringing communities back into into development cetera? How did that come to be?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 40:00
So that was, it seems obvious. But to me, it wasn't super obvious, you know, I was pretty happy being a front end developer. And it just so happened that during that time period, I was going through a lot of challenges. And some folks reached out to me and asked me to apply for developer relations positions. And I was like, you know, this is kind of in my wheelhouse. I've been a teacher, I've been a community organizer, I know my way around the codebase. Why not try. And for me, the biggest issue was moving into a full time job. Because before I was working part time and flexible, and so I had kind of search to see if anybody was interested in part time developer relations. And I couldn't really find anything. Although I still want to say that that doesn't make sense to me, I think you can hire a contractor for developer relations, and it will be just fine. But that's a different tangent. So when Michael jolly, who is the developer relations lead, at Deep Graham, where I work to speech to text API company, he reached out to me, and we just were going back and forth. DMing on Twitter for it was, I think the conversation started in August. And then I took the job in January, finally. So there was like, a lot of convincing on his part. And he was very patient with me, because I'm like, I don't know. And he's like, Okay, why don't you know, like, what do you need from me to help you know, that this is a good move for you. And you know, it really came down to feeling like I was on a team that was really supportive, that I could grow with, and that I can enjoy doing the work that I was tasked with doing. And so once I was able to find that fit, so it wasn't just about moving into dev rel, it was about finding the right group of people to be in dev rel with like, I'm very big on making sure that you find a team that can support you and help you to grow, because I've seen a lot of people take good jobs where they're miserable. Because the people that they're working with are not people that they're compatible with. And so really interviewing your interviewer, I think is a huge part of that experience. It's not just about the job. It's about the team you're working with.

Tim Bourguignon 42:41
Absolutely, absolutely. So is there a dev rel sub community in the virtual coffee community?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 42:47
Yeah, absolutely. We've got, we've got a growing number of Dev Rel people, or Dev Rel curious folks out there, which has been really nice, because I can bounce some ideas off of them. And actually, Brian Rinaldi runs CF e dot Dev, which is Certified Fresh events. And they do meetups every two weeks. And they've added some other things to what they're doing. And early on somebody at virtual coffee introduced me to Brian, and he was really the first organizer that I ever talked to about community building. Because there are times that community building can actually be pretty lonely. If you don't feel part of the community, you can feel away from the community because you're making decisions and you're worried about things but you can't take that worry to the community because you don't want them to worry. And so being able to talk to him and hear that he had those same experiences and how he navigated them, was huge. For me, it gave me kind of a new energy to feel like, okay, I'm not alone in this. And he's part of our group as well. And, and he does a lot of he's been doing DevRel, since I think Deborah was invented. So he's very experienced and knows what he's doing. But it's kind of it's definitely grown from just Brian to a full group of people that are interested in talking about these things. That is

Tim Bourguignon 44:06
awesome. So you found not only your your people, but your people as well. Yeah, yeah. I'm sure you have, you're in contact with with many people who try to do this career jump like you did. Is there one piece of advice that you always come back to in helping them decide navigate? And then and then or decide if and how they want to go?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 44:33
Well, yes, but I'm going to give you more than one even though you only asked for one. So I would say find finding your community is huge. We need to have a people a group of people that you know, that you can turn to that you can ask questions with. And, you know, when I was working independently, it was just me and Dan, I didn't really have a group of developers. So having the developer community at virtual coffee I've been able to see a lot more developers and see how they ask questions and how they talk to each other and navigate things. And so, you know, having that broader community of people is incredibly important. And I would also say that, from a hiring standpoint, My piece of advice would be to get into open source. And I know that seems really overwhelming in a lot of ways. But oftentimes, when we see people coming into tech, they have very similar resumes and experiences. They've built certain projects. And actually, I just posted a video on YouTube yesterday talking about five reasons to get into open source. And it's, it's resume building, but it also can help you find a community of people who are interested in doing those things, or working on that codebase. And it shows your ability to communicate, navigate a larger codebase. And so I would say, you know, from the community standpoint, find your community, from a technical standpoint, go contribute to some open source, and if anybody out there is listening, and needs help figuring out where to get started, feel free to message me, I'm always happy to help folks find some good first issues.

Tim Bourguignon 46:07
Awesome. That's perfect advice. Thank you very much. It's been a blast listening to your story. Thank you for that.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 46:13
Thank you so much.

Tim Bourguignon 46:14
Where would be the best place to to start a discussion with you? Would that be on on virtual coffee or somewhere else?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 46:20
Twitter, please check in my Twitter. There's been people who have said, hey, you know, let's move these Twitter, DMS to emails that'll be easier where we can check in on like, I don't check my email. Hit me up on Twitter,

Tim Bourguignon 46:35
all at the same time work, Slack, Slack, Slack, Slack. And sometimes once a week or so I look at my email and say, oh, gosh,

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 46:42
yeah. Or when somebody says, Did you look at my email?

Tim Bourguignon 46:50
Is there anything on your plates that you want to push before equally today?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 46:54
Well, by the time this episode is released, I'll have given my first keynote at that conference. That's happening in about a week and a half. And I'm very excited. It's on the power of storytelling. But it will be up on that conferences, YouTube, so you can watch the recording there. So I'm very excited to be doing that. And I'm going to be running a machine learning with Python cohort on the Deepgram discussion forum. And all of that is part of an educational push of learning together with a group of people. And I don't think it's going to be the last thing that I do there. So if you're interested in learning together, the deep Graham discussions always a good place to turn to to connect.

Tim Bourguignon 47:40
Awesome. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. And this has been another episode of developer's journey. We'll see each other next week. Bye bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you liked the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms the show appears on, on our website, DevJourney.info/subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. Will you please help me continue bringing out those inspiring stories every week by pledging a small monthly donation? You'll find our patreon link at DevJourney.info/donate. And finally, don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter at @timothep or per email [email protected].