Software Developers Journey Podcast

#249 Claude Jones became the practical leadership guy


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Claude Jones 0:00
As a leader, you're doing more listening than directing and telling people what to do. And it's getting enough information from others to help make a decisive, informed decision to help move things along. So you know, if you have great participation, if you can listen and coach and delegate and not feel like you need to own everything. And if these words sound like, hey, you know that that sounds interesting, I like to sort of do that, then explore it. Take some leadership courses, join groups of leaders that have sort of navigated through like there are different so many different ways for you to kind of get acclimated to the thought of leadership without being thrusted into the fire when you're not ready.

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 Tim Bourguignon. On this episode 249, I receive Claude Jones Claude is a self-taught developer who found his passion back in... no no no no no, let's hear this from him directly in a minute. He is now a senior executive with over 18 years of experience building, leading, and scaling high-performing product development teams. Claude balances his time being an Entrepreneur, an Intrapreneur, and a Passionpreneur, helping to create opportunities to help others succeed. He runs the Elevate Foundation, an organization focused on helping others in need. He leads the San Diego Tech Hub. And finally, he writes a series of children’s picture books to foster the development of leadership skills in children ages 5-8. You can learn more about him and his leadership approach on his homepage, "The Practical Leadership Guy." Claude, welcome to devjourney.

Claude Jones 1:59
Hey, Tim. It's a pleasure to be here. I appreciate it.

Tim Bourguignon 2:02
It's my pleasure. The pleasure is really all mine. 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. Claude, as you know, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story looked like and imagine how to shape their own future. So as as usual on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your devjourney?

Claude Jones 2:54
Oh man, well, I'm going to use a word called a beanie babies. Not sure if people know it'd been a bit bizarre, myself. Beanie Babies were these small little plush toys that were all the rave back in the 90s. You still might find them around. But I had a friend at the time that was a collector of Beanie Babies. And we were looking at trying to find some way of being able to showcase you know, this collection of BB babies on the web at the time, and didn't know how to do it. I went I picked up a book on HTML. And I guess CSS wasn't around back then. But just HTML and inline styles and just learn how to code. And I think the thing that I was really excited about was taking something physical and making it digital, and then seeing the excitement that people had and was another way of being able to tap into a form of creativity. So that started my itch into getting into into coding.

Tim Bourguignon 3:59
Wow, that was an itch that was just helping that friend. When did you did you realize oh, there is more than just helping this one time I could do something with it. I could really make a career out of it.

Claude Jones 4:14
You know, when? When people are like, that's really cool. How do you do that? And I felt like I had the superpower. I mean, really, when someone was like, you know, you have to think about it back in the days like in the early 90s. Like the web, it was new. And so it was like the sacred thing. And if you could take someone's picture, put it on the web. You know, everyone could see it. I remember in one of my college courses, I had made an online resume for myself and you know, out of a webpage and everyone else is turning in like their paper forms to do the review and I had this like, hey, go to my like homepage and check out my online resume and it would just like it was a wild experience. And everybody wanted oh, I want one of those. It's really cool and So, you know, it, I made this connection of this, this need. And this interest, the creativity, doing something different getting the excitement from people made me want to learn more, you know from that. And so in my mind, I was trying to soak up as much as I could, you know, on my own to figure out, you know, what could really come, but I never thought like, Oh, this is going to be a career that I can make money off of, I really didn't.

Tim Bourguignon 5:27
But it came at some point did it,

Claude Jones 5:29
it did come, it really did. And I worked at a grocery store. And when I started diving into technology, I had a customer had come in to the grocery store. And he was bragging about he worked for this company solar turbines. And, you know, he was responsible for he's responsible for something that had to do with computers. And I heard the word computer, I was like, Oh, hey, you know, Can I can I come and see and kind of see some things out. And so he set me up with a tour of the facilities. Now Little did I know, when he was talking about computers, it was more about like maintaining the systems on the floor to kind of help with, you know, how they were shifting or optimizing some of the turbines. And what they were doing had nothing to do with building like websites or anything. So it wasn't what I expected. He connected me with someone. It was like this internal group that dealt with, like processes like automating certain processes on the floor. And they were looking at trying to digitize a lot of the manual processes that existed. So I called that guy, his name was Johnny, I don't even remember the last name. But this guy, Johnny, I called him every single week, for a month. And I said, Hey, do you have any job openings have any job openings, I swore they got sick of me. And he finally said, Look, we created an internship for you. It's six months. So why don't you join and you're going to be responsible for being our internal, like webmaster, you know, and the scope of this work is to take a lot of these, these files and digitize them create, like, whatever internal search things, people can find them and get all this stuff. So great. You know, I'll sign up for this. So when I knew I was in trouble, because this again, I was self taught, I was sitting in the room with all the other web webmasters from the, you know, from the company, they started talking about cookies. And I'm sitting here thinking, okay, cookies, what does cookies have to do with like, the web or what was going on? And they're thinking about the size limit of cookies, they were thinking about, you know, deleting cookies, adding information to cookies, and, you know, everyone's nodding their head, I'm thinking like, What the hell am I missing? So, I raised my hand, I said, you know, I, I'm confused on like, this cookie management and what it means, like, why, what is this with data and cookies? And where do you get these cookies from? And of course, there were chuckles and things that were going on. But there was a kind person that had, you know, pulled me aside and just said, Hey, look, and kind of explain cookies and what that was and what was going on. But it was just fascinating, there were so much to learn. And I would just hit the brink of it. So that, you know, I worked at solar turbines for, you know, a few years, before I had an opportunity in, if I can kind of expand on that, like, I was still going to college at this time, I went from, you know, more static page development to ColdFusion Markup Language, if you could remember, and, you know, connecting that up with like an Access database. And so I started getting to more dynamic web pages, getting into queries, I just found it so interesting. And I really just kind of elevated my game. And I would say nothing. Nothing is more valuable than hands on experience. And the programming courses that I took in school did not compare to anything that I had learned on the job, just having mentors, people that were willing to kind of coach and just my own self learning and kind of connecting the dots there. So that really laid the foundation for my interest and in love on just solving problems using code.

Tim Bourguignon 9:19
That is awesome. And thank you for this for this delighting story about cookies, because we all have one of those in our past where we just we just didn't connect the dots yet. And mine is probably my My uncle lives. I've told this on the show before my uncle giving me a C++ book. And I think I read the books twice a cover to cover. I just didn't understand how to make how to build a program so I could program in my head. I could do everything. He just missed this first step. And at the time it clicked a few years later, I felt so dumb. Whoa You can program all this and write it and then the computers don't need to do it for you, etcetera, you just have to understand or make common. Oh, wow. And sometimes you just miss something like this. And then and then the whole world is hidden from you. And so even for the software, this guy who helps you understand all this and was was friendly enough to, to just take your hand and show you this all really cool. Before we move on, on your story, I'd like to come back to one other thing. You said, Okay, you're you're learning and and you're self taught? And did you know how you best learn at that time already? Did you know what you need to really get on with self learning? Obviously, on your own?

Claude Jones 10:51
Yeah, I didn't, it was really trial and error, you know, no. I think we're all familiar with learning things kind of going through school research, you know, trial and error. And it was some of those fundamental principles that I kind of leaned on. And I think for me, what was really a big driving factor was that I was passionate about it, it was interest, it was like a hobby, you know, when you think about a hobby, you consume as much information as possible. And so it didn't, it felt like I was doing something fun, it was a puzzle. And I really enjoyed that. And so the learning for me was going back to what I knew in school, get a book, sit down study, got a test and figure some things out. And I had purchased a computer $2,000 Oh, my gosh, they got like one mega rant. Like it was just, it was, it was just silly, on the power of this thing, but I had fixed this up, we had free internet through school. So I had configured that to work. So I could didn't have to go to lab, I could do everything at home. And so my learning was giving the book from the library sitting down at my computer in my apartment. And it was hours and hours and hours and hours of, you know, trying to learn trial and error, building out pages, figuring out some things on my own. And, you know, the more that I did, the more that things made sense, and the more intelligent questions I could ask to get the answers that I needed in order to continue to refine and get the things that I was doing. And, you know, I just became more confident, you know, throughout throughout my journey, but you know, that curiosity was was so important. And in the early stages,

Tim Bourguignon 12:29
cool for you that you realize this early on, and was we're able to, to, to feed it, this this curiosity beast early enough and just get growing and growing and and feel like a hobby before he became a job. That's pretty cool. So So you were telling us about the solar turbines and and the years you you, you work there? And did that feel like a job? Yes, or No, not quite,

Claude Jones 12:57
you know, not quite because it got to a certain point to were like building static web pages and doing updates. It started become trivial. And then like I kind of grew, I was like, Man, I want something more challenging. And there was the gentleman that I had mentioned, can't even remember his name that kind of talk to me about the cookies. He had left solar turbines to go work for a company called Chi Anta. And so this was a smaller company. You know what I can remember, they had some Seco that removed them with Java, but they were building like these internal tools. And he says, Claude, I think you should go apply for this, this company. And I'm like, no, like, I don't know what it is. And you show me the job description. They were talking about JSPs EJBs. Lifecycle Management was Java. Like, I had no clue. And, you know, I was just starting to code JavaScript, like, you know, get really getting into an understanding some of the fundamentals of JavaScript and getting that going. And so he says, Clyde, I'm going to put in a good work for you go talk to this guy, Bruce, his name was Bruce. So I went in for this interview, I sat down. And I had I know, at this point in time, I had built up this little resume of like school projects that I had done, you know, I had this laptop with all these just projects and things and just my portfolio, it was a portfolio thing that I've done in the past, just to show the level of competency that I had, you know, for me, so I come equipped, you know, in my best suit, you know, my laptop, and you know, this print on all this stuff. And the guy starts talking and explaining about what they're doing within the company, and, you know, asked me what my interests were. So I shared with him about, you know, front end experience and what I'd like to do, he says, Oh, that's great. He says, so you've done some JavaScript, some HTML, and, you know, some styling type work. He's like, Well, are you familiar with, you know, Java and what maybe some of the differences between Java and JavaScript is, and I was like, Well, it's a programming language and when has script at the end? You know, he's looking at me. Yeah, very literal. Right? And, you know, he's he's talking to me and looking at me. And you know, these questions are just kind of going left and right. You know, I mentioned he was talking about lifecycle management, what are you doing object oriented programming. And of course, a lot of these terms are sort of going over my, my head, I can't really talk to them in detail. And this went on for about 10 minutes. And then he stopped. And he said, what's wrong? In I guess, he must have seen the look on my face, or whatever was going on. And I said, you know, I just don't feel that I'm doing a very good job with this interview. And I just don't think I'm qualified to be here. But I really want to thank you for your time and give me this opportunity. And he says, Oh, wait, what he's saying. And I said, Well, I just don't think I'm a good fit. He says, Well, it's, it's sad to see say that because I was gonna hire you. And I said, What? And I was like, Well, why? And he says, Look, you're honest. He says, there's some level of competency that you have self starting individual. And, you know, I just feel that you have the potential to be something great. And he says, if I take those three things, and put you in an environment to where you can learn and grow, I have no doubt you're going to be successful, you know, whatever I throw at you. And I would tell you that this is the first time in my life that I had someone really believe, you know, in a setting like that in the potential that I had in something that was unknown, and willing to put me in an environment to really coach and mentor me to accelerate, and like, invest in me on something. And so it wasn't a full time position was a contracting position. But I was thrown man into the fire. And there were things I didn't know. But there were people there that were supporting me and helping me grow. And that's where I really learned Java on the job. And I was responsible for a lot of the sort of integrating with some of the the backend services that they had, how to get into databases, writing queries, really, truly optimizing. You know, the query management, building custom tags, like it was, it was a great way of helping to bootstrap that that side of my career, and I was there for about a year before that company had had closed down. But it was a great, surprising and enlightening experience. For me.

Tim Bourguignon 17:36
That is such as great story. This is actually what I've been trying to preach for years is saying, Well, don't don't search for the Keywords search for competency search for honesty and search for somebody who's been deep once and can tell about that. And if they've done it once, then no, no, no question as they'll be able to do it again, if you if you have the right setup. But it's so rare to find a real story where that really happened. And it's so cool. And the fact that you actually say, Well, we have to stop this interview, I don't feel competent. My job was on the floor. So maybe you've had quite a few or probably quite a quite a few interviews. On the other side of the table, since we're jumping ahead of us. Have you seen this, again, from the other side, at least once?

Claude Jones 18:23
Meaning that people saying they weren't qualified for the position or me, me playing the role that Bruce played for me.

Tim Bourguignon 18:31
But let's go with both.

Claude Jones 18:32
Yeah, you know, anytime that I'm interviewing someone, I always look at potential. And if I feel that someone just won't be successful in the role, I will give them tips on look, this is what you should study, this is kind of what's going on to where it becomes more of a coaching session than an interview session. Because I feel like that's important. That helps someone scale in their in their journey. Everything's a learning experience. You know, I haven't had anyone really say, I don't think I'm a good fit for this role. You know, because everyone's trying to put their best foot forward, and you have to be vulnerable to say something like that, that might not come across as confident. Now, if I do feel that someone might be struggling, it seems a little awkward, because you can tell Well, you know, when things are kind of going through, you know, this is where I think leadership steps in to help guide people through that process, right. And there's ways of being able to talk to individuals to allow them to understand where there's opportunities and to guide them through, you know, whether this is a good fit or not. And, you know, whether that is asking the question about, let's say, if we're trying to look at, you know, explain how HTTP works, you know, if you are coding and how it works, and if people are kind of struggling with that, you know, I would actually stop and say, hey, you know, if we were in a real scenario, and we didn't know the answer to something, it's important to try to understand what are the right questions to ask, because reality is is that you're never going to be asked a question on on the spot and expect to know the answer right away. We have tools like a web or books or forums to do that. So then you transition to if you don't know the answer to something, what type of question would you ask to find that answer? And if the person truly understands, like the type of question to ask, because that means that they have the ability to troubleshoot to find the answers that they need, right? And if they don't, it becomes a self fulfilling, like, they'll know right away, like, I don't know what question to ask, now you can have another conversation. And that's where coaching comes in. So at the end of that interview, the person is going to say, like, Wow, thank you for helping me guide that now I understand how to ask the right types of questions as I continue to navigate through my career, you know what I mean? And so, like, I changed the dynamic of, of the interview to where interviews are just really icky and uncomfortable sometimes, and very similar to us even engaging, you know, how do you bring that comfort, and humanizing that the whole approach, and that always tends to work? For me,

Tim Bourguignon 21:03
that is awesome. I like that you're making the most of that interview, that job interview, saying, Well, maybe we're realizing that, that it's might not be a good fit for now. But we have X minutes ahead of us, let's make the most of it, let's, let's help this person understand where there is some potential where, where they could learn next. And they will remember the company in a good way to remember me as an interviewer in a good way. And maybe it will be a fit in a couple years. Who knows, maybe it won't be, but that will be fine as well. And so that, that's, that's pretty cool

Claude Jones 21:37
you. That's right, every everyone wins, everybody wins. And that's what life is about when everyone wins.

Tim Bourguignon 21:45
I don't know how to rebound them. I know we dwell a little bit on management or interviewing already, when when did that side of the of the job, enter your life, you were a software developer, when there, I'm, I'm peeking on your bio, I know on your on your LinkedIn on the site, I know there's a couple of jobs in there. But when did this this idea of maybe I could be helping people and not just code, enter your life and slowly become your your full time job.

Claude Jones 22:19
You know, I've had a lot of great managers in my career, and I've had a lot of managers that just had opportunities, you know, as I was kind of navigating around, and what it helped me realized is, it helps shape if I was in a leadership position, what would that look like for me, and, you know, I had the opportunity of going from, you know, an individual contributor to you know, a team lead. And, you know, wanting to do management thinking that I, I wanted a chance to see what I couldn't do to lead a team or maybe do things a little differently from, from some of the things that I've seen in the past. And so I have this desire to want to lead and do more, and do it in the most effective and efficient way to where work could still be fun, but you can work hard to get shit done type type of thing. So to answer your question around when this started, I would say at Yahoo. And that was my first job as having the title of like, you know, manager, engineering manager. And again, as I mentioned, I had this burning desire to want to lead wanted to be a manager. And I remember talking to my boss's boss, went on a walk with him. And I said, Look, I want to be a manager. And I was just kind of describing some of the challenges that I was having and what I wanted to do and how he could do it better. And he said, Look, Claude, I'm gonna tell you something, you know, you tried to be a self proclaimed manager is not going to happen. And he said, you know, no, you're not going to be a manager. And no, I'm not going to give you that opportunity. And he says, the way that I know that you're ready for management? Is that when you're acting as if he says, a title, you know, does not mean that you're a manager, you know, it's the actions, what you do, are people following you? You know, how are you thinking about certain things like that, you know, when when you're already a manager before you have the title of manager is when you're ready. And after that walk, I was deflated, I was angry. I was like, You don't know me, I've done all this stuff. I had all these things going on. And it just talked about the right time for everything and just having patience, because I was very impatient in my career, because it was always easy. I picked up a book, I learned how to do something and I do it. Right. It's zeros and ones. And that's the way things work. You know, in programming, right? Well, in leadership, it doesn't work that way. You're dealing with people, you're not dealing with the computer, and you have to be very adaptive with with everything that's going on and I hadn't really mastered that. adaptability, just quite yet, you know, it was still new, I was still green. And I would say, after a year, of me just finally having to sink in, there was some attrition that happened within the company to where one was his name was like, Okay, we're gonna have Claude, you know, take on a leadership leadership role. And so I had my management, I think my first team size once he was like, six or eight, I can't remember. And the beauty of it was is that the team that were put it in me, there was no awkwardness, like, Oh, now clouds, our manager, because I had built a solid relationship with them. I brought that, you know, operational efficiency, you know, clear objectives, you know, balancing work scope, so there's good work life balance, and it felt so good, to be able to collaboratively work with others to achieve things that seemed impossible. Because we all could do it. And that was a very contagious thing for me to where it's like, I wanted more of that. So it started it started there. And, you know, never never looked back.

Tim Bourguignon 26:05
That's awesome to hear. Just rebounding on on this, like that. Almost last sentence, and not quite last one. You said, well, getting shit done and seeing seeing things move and getting your kick out of that. This is actually a pain points for managers quite often, because you're not in control of that kick anymore. When you're an ICU, an individual contributor, you're in front of your computer, you're doing stuff, if you do it, well, you get that kick multiple times a day. As manager, you're living that by proxy. Did you have a transition for you than this? Where you struggle with that? Or was it just boom, and you got your kick from somewhere else from seeing that team? booming and doing things? And just Bing Bing and been happy about that?

Claude Jones 26:55
Yeah, you know, I would say, at Yahoo, if I understood the question, correct question correctly, it was kind of that transition between IC to management and where, where I was kind of getting that that momentum or from I would say, at, at Yahoo, I was still playing a technical and managerial role, like I was still sort of hands on while while doing that balance. Because the team size wasn't that that big, and the type of political fun that I had to deal with, it wasn't that much. And so I was still able to get that, that balance and hands on. So I was like knee deep in, in the trenches with the team from accoding. As as we're kind of driving driving towards certain things. If I could transition to my time at, at Walmart, that's where I had to make the choice of being like an IC versus being a manager, because I could not code and be like, heads down and still manage the team effectively to accomplish the things that that we needed to do. Couldn't couldn't happen. And so that was a very tough 10 transition to make, because I felt like I honestly felt like I I wasn't going to have the respect of the team. I felt like I wasn't a part of the team because I wasn't in there, like coding and doing a lot of the things I've been doing staying up late, like I was staying up late, dealing with more like, strategy, you know, vision, you know, party alignment, like it was completely different from like, sitting down in front of an eye and getting something done. It took, I would say a good seven months to be honest with you on changing the actual habit and putting the discipline and being comfortable with understanding that my role as a leader is about helping to remove Remove roadblocks, helping to provide clear strategy, making sure that roles, responsibilities, expectations are clear. How are you coaching and mentoring and resolving conflict within within the group? It required a whole nother set of skills that while there might have been some things that were innate in me, I still needed to hone and be adaptive because people are different, everyone is different and how you talk and what's going on and what motivates them. It's really being in tune and understanding and building a personal relationship. So having a very high EQ was something that I needed to really invest time and energy in and hone that that answer the question, what

Tim Bourguignon 29:46
it kind of did Yes, in a to Ben's way, but yes, it did. But bears what one more question. In this first role at Yahoo. You grew from within you were in the team and at some point took over so you had Build this the street credibility people were willing to follow you right away when you are, and I'm picking that word, I'm not sure either that right one dropped at Walmart. And you didn't have that. In which way? Did it help you or hinder you to start in this year old?

Claude Jones 30:19
Yeah. So one of the beautiful things about Walmart is I was asked to help bootstrap, the Southern California Office out here in San Diego. And one of the requirements for that was I needed to find eight other people that would, you know, come join me on this journey before they invested in opening an office. And so I was able to get, you know, eight people, it was a total of 13, but eight people that were reporting in to me, and so I had that sort of familiarity with with folks that I had worked with in the past. Now to build on what you're saying, Walmart was, you know, it has 2.4 million people that work there in a distributed place, I was remote. The main corporate office headquarters was Bentonville. And you know, the main Tech was out in, in a up north, in Sunnyvale, and I didn't know anyone. And it was extremely stressful, to walk into an environment where you didn't know anyone, and you had to prove yourself, I mean, literally, you were proving yourself and what was going on. And it was just, it was challenging, it was a challenging experience, because it's like people just did not respect you for who you were. And you know, they were constantly challenging you pushing back. And it just speaks to the art of relationship building. And it speaks to for the things that you're doing, especially at that scale, Does anyone care about it. And if no one cares about, about what you're working on, you're not gonna get any traction, it's just a hobby. And if you're doing a hobby too much for a job you're getting paid for, you're not going to have a job that long. And so, you know, it definitely took some time. And what I learned from that is seeking out people that I could really work with, to build strategic partnerships, just being in a new environment, it's important. The other thing is learning the environment and the dynamics around it, you know, coming into new space, do I understand how it operates, who the key decision stakeholders are? What are some of the pain points and problems that need to be solved? And then once I have that foundation, it's been clear on what are the goals that I need to focus on that will add the right value for the customer for the business, and also for the success of the team. And even when I had all that stuff mapped out, I failed, like I failed a lot, because it just wasn't it, you know, there were certain things or certain approaches that I would take. But I didn't look at failure as a way of me like, not being successful, I looked at his way that I was just learning and refining my approach and what I needed to do. And the more that I had those experiences, the more that it built my confidence, knowing that it didn't matter what was going on, I could walk into a room. And I understood, you know, the Walmart language and how to kind of navigate, you know, in that environment. Did that answer the question?

Tim Bourguignon 33:22
Yes, it is. When When do you make the the, the, the difference between failing and learning? And maybe failing and not learning? Wrong question. Glad to know, it's

Claude Jones 33:36
a great question. And I think it's, um, you know, when I, when I joined Walmart, my, our, our original role for the team was to build the front end architecture for for walmart.com. And, you know, Walmart was transitioning to really bring a lot of their their tech in house instead of, you know, outsourcing or leveraging a third party tool. Now, when I joined, there was another team doing something very similar to what we were doing. And so you can think about just that duplication of effort and some of the challenges that that tends to come up with. So you think about ego, you think about just change, management, collaboration. You know, all the things that you think can go wrong with kind of unifying efforts had gone wrong. And it went so bad that, you know, I needed to pivot what my team was working on. And so I had to make the district strategic decision on on pivoting, you know, to something new, and so we focused on internal tooling. Now that get to your question about that transition to between, like failure and what had happened. I after three years at Walmart, we we hadn't delivered anything in production. A lot of the stuff we're working on was like prototype, we were kind of integrating some things but nothing was running in production. And so my boss had called me and was like, Look, Clyde, really appreciate the things that you're doing. And I'm paraphrasing here, but you know, you haven't put anything in production, you know, your team, the team had grown to about 20 people at this time. And the undertone was like, Look, man, if you don't get something running production, you're not going to have a job, you know, for too long. And when we talk about sort of failure, I was thinking about as a leader, what what the hell was I doing for three years, you know, between building a team? Was it focused? Could I have done things a little differently for how was I collaborating? What was going on? Like, I really question my identity as a leader and my competency, you know, in my role and what I was able to do, and I had to truly be vulnerable, and understand that I did not have all the answers, like I was just so fixated on like, it's me, it's me, me, me, like me, me driving on the leader on the manager, it's me, I have to be the one to do this, I have to be the one to do that. I have to be the one that kind of helped set the pace. And that experience, and I cried man, I cried after that call with my boss, because I was just like, What the hell am I going to do? And I realized that I had a whole team of 20 people that had my back. And once I realized that the collective of how we would solve a problem would make it work. This is where I tapped into, I just need to make sure that the vision is clear, I have to make sure that the strategy is clear, I have to make sure that you know the timelines of staff, the scope of what we're doing, that needs to be clear. And if that's clear, I have an army of people that are willing to help to help execute on the things that we need to do. And I went through a man and I mapped out, you know, a plan, I work with the leads, we got this going and I had about four weeks to get something running in production, did it in three weeks, the team rallied around it. The project that we worked on was pretty much building a system that helped curate or personalized content for Walmart's homepage during one of the busiest times, like during the holiday season. And we deployed this thing and had worked, we reduced the time of curating content from like, weeks, like three weeks to a month down to 15 minutes. And so you can imagine the impact that that had on the organization, especially during this early time, like this is early 2000s, or like mid 2000s 2011, or 12. Where, you know, you're building like dynamic pages for you know, a high profile page on walmart.com. From that moment, the job was saved, the team grew, we won an award for, you know, the first team to production, deploying on the new ecommerce platform that Walmart was working on. We went from just serving walmart.com to multiple tenants, Walmart was in, you know, multiple countries. And so our systems are used, you know, from UK, you know, to India, I mean, you name it, it was used on both the physical and the digital, you know, store experience. And it just really helped set the pace for where we're going. And I never would have done that if I did not embrace failure as a learning experience, and realize that I can't do everything on my own.

Tim Bourguignon 38:20
This is a rebound that I've ever seen. Wow, that is awesome. And this really resonates with something I've ever lived through a few months ago, really trying to change behavior, trying to change how people communicate, etc. And actually, the vision was unclear. And as soon as we thought we had the vision nailed down a couple of times, but we didn't and in hindsight when when we finally nailed it down, you So you heard the click, you heard the brains clicking and you saw all the behaviors we wanted to see for months suddenly appear because people were passionate about it. It was clear where we're going it was clear we were expecting the timing was clear every single thing is what is happening maybe not as harsh as my job was was not on the line I hope it's not but really this realization holy shit what I've been doing the past month, that's that wasn't right. And learning so much from it. And there are a couple blog posts that you wrote on on the practical leadership guy that really goes into this this four pieces cetera. So if you're interested in this, just jump in there and then have a look at that. Time is really, really getting closer to the to to our end, but I just want to talk about Strava How was starting as an a VP of Strava. Again, a new leadership role. Again, a new team no credibility or street credibility to start with. How did it feel how do you approach that?

Claude Jones 39:57
It was hard, man. It was very hard. I think one of the things that, you know, leaving Walmart to Strava was really an opportunity for me to see like how my leadership skills had been been honed, and what was going on, right, coming into a fresh environment and being able to navigate through through change. With Strava, you know, they were going through, they were going through a growth stage, right? You know, this is a company that had been around for 13 years, looking to go public, had great strong revenue year team had, you know, doubled, tripled in size, and hiring a whole bunch of new people. And so now you have this cultural environment where you have, you know, a lot of the folks that have been there for quite some time, and then you're bringing a lot of new energy into the mix that might be changing the way processes, how to code, how to evaluate how to do things. So you can only imagine the class of cultures that that might exist. So what I would say is, I was just thrown into the fire, and like with every company, that you probably have startup to big company, everything is always important. Everything is important, and you want it done now. And it's like how do you find that balance of slowing down to move fast. And I would say that there typically isn't an appetite for that. What I ended up doing and joining Strava, as stressful as it is, I just embrace, I did not fight the current, I would say that not not initially, I did not fight the current and I went with the flow. And going with the flow really translates to do I have an understanding about what what the company is trying to do, why they're trying to do it, and what is going to make the most impact. And then seeing how I can support at least the train moving instead of trying to dismantle the train, like see how I can't help support it, while things are going while working in the background to understand where there are opportunities, whether that could be around strategic alignment, goal alignment, competencies, or proficiencies, how you evaluate talent, I mean, it goes on and on and on. And it's picking the right types of things that will make the most impact, to add success to the business. In addition, instead of me doing it, how do I bring other people along, and coming into an organization, you know, me taking an authoritative approach, because that really wasn't that the role, you know, that I had, it was more about helping to come in and providing the guidance, but not telling people what to do. It's bringing them along as part of the evolutionary, you know, cultural, you know, evaluation journey. And that's where things were at. So I mean, I was there for a year. And, you know, with Strava, it was great to be able to work with the individuals and other leaders that were there to make changes whether we made change to our planning process, we made changes to how we evaluate talent, we made changes to, you know, how do we think about organizing ourselves architecturally? And organizationally? And how are we partnering together with program management, design and product and marketing to ensure that we're in product to ensure that we're all aligned with doing the things that we needed to do? Did I complete that journey? No, I didn't. Did I make my mark on the company and in a positive way? I will say yes, there are a lot of positive things that people had to say with my short time there. And, you know, I really look forward to applying those leadership skills on the next journey that that I that I'm on.

Tim Bourguignon 43:32
Amen to that, really music to my ears, all the things you've been trying to do, and then I'm sure you've made a big dent on this culture, and really brought it forward. So really a good job on that. Is, is there an advice that you would have for some someone who is considering this this people side of the journey is they're not there yet? They are still in the IC role. And they've been interested in May be this this discussion we had and this this glimpse of that word, or maybe they've heard some something about it right and left, but they're not sure if that's for them. What do we tell them?

Claude Jones 44:12
You know, one of the things that I would say, kind of stepping into leadership is you know, ask the question, Why? Why, why is it that you want to be leader? And like, what, just what is the intent behind it? And what I mean by that is, are you trying to be leader because you want to be authoritative and do things your way? Are you trying to be a leader because you want to inspire other individuals to do something great. And, you know, it's kind of understanding that that intent behind the why now I'd say that it's like, hey, I want to try this in because I have a passion for helping to lead and drive and do things. If that's the case, I would say, Get it, get some books, you know, learn, you know, one of the things I was trying to see if I have some books handy. But one of the books that I'm currently reading right now is, it's called The One. The One Thing. It's the one thing, the surprisingly simple. The one thing, the surprisingly simple truth about extraordinary results. And what that book tells you, it's about focus on what you need to do. And how you need to drive the team, how do you prioritize and that you can apply that to your life. The other thing that I would say, there's another book that I was picking up, it's called the Coaching Habit, say less, ask more and change the way you lead forever. Take a look at that book, because that book also talks about asking questions and listening. And as you think about, like reading that book, what you're going to realize is that, as a leader, you're doing more listening than directing and telling people want to do and it's getting enough information from others to help make a decisive, informed decision. They'll move things along. So you know, if you have great participation, if you can listen and coach, and you know, and delegate, and not feel like you need to own everything. And if these words sound like hey, you know that that sounds interesting, I like to sort of do that, then explore it, take some leadership courses, you know, join groups of leaders that have sort of navigated through like, there are different so many different ways for you to kind of get acclimated to the thought of leadership without being thrusted into the fire. When you're not ready. Thank you

Tim Bourguignon 46:51
so much. actionable book references, awesome. Clothes, it's been, it's been fantastic. Thank you very much for that, where we'd be the best place to find you online and maybe continue this discussion with you.

Claude Jones 47:07
Yeah, you know, I'd say check on my LinkedIn page, just Claude Jones. You know, you'll have references and links to other things, you could see what I follow and things that I like, but, you know, I'm always open for, you know, connecting and kind of sharing things. I find joy in doing that. And I get to learn learn from others. So, yeah, check them out on LinkedIn.

Tim Bourguignon 47:27
Anything else you want to plug in before we equally today?

Claude Jones 47:30
You know, nothing to plug in, you know, I just know, you know, the one thing that I would encourage people, you know, given these times right now, where we see a lot of just economic turn, you know, layoffs, you know, are abound. Don't give up hope, you know, find the silver lining and everything that you do, because this is a time that you can create opportunity, you know, to explore new things like just don't give up hope. Put positive things out there.

Tim Bourguignon 47:59
Don't indeed. Claude Thank you very much.

Claude Jones 48:03
Thank you, my friend was a pleasure, Tim, I appreciate you having me on.

Tim Bourguignon 48:05
Likewise! And this has been another episode of developer's journey. We see each other next week, but like, 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].