Software Developers Journey Podcast

#252 Diana Montalion from a bookstore to systems thinking


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Diana Montalion 0:00
Software Engineering is opinion driven. We're like, we get together at conferences and we argue about our opinions. And I love that. I think that's great. And I'm 100 I'm I'm there for it. Same time that not system systems is about being able to then see all the noise, see all the relational drama between people and thinking, and see if you can find that one place where you can recommend a change that will start to open up more than just solve a bug, right will open up potential in the system. And to do that you have to get really good at recognizing your own. We're all really terrible at systems thinking. They're not trained for it. And that's great. That's perfectly liberating. But the first thing is to become aware of it and your own patterns. Because what you find in you, that's what's going on around you to like, that's how organizations think.

Tim Bourguignon 0:59
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey to podcast, bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host team building. On this episode, I receive Deanna Pantaleo. If you've read the economist or donated to Wikipedia, or contributed to the World Monuments Fund, you've interacted with systems that Diana helped to architect. She has more than 15 years of experience delivering initiatives independently or as part of the professional service group. She has co founded the metrics group, a consultancy, providing systems architecture and workshops on systems thinking. And she also takes meetings notes, we're funding 10. And I hope it's not. If it's okay, it's not a fun thing that I

Diana Montalion 1:48
do, I do not judge your pen. Everybody gets to pick their own.

Tim Bourguignon 1:58
Thanks for that. A warm welcome.

Diana Montalion 2:01
Thank you. Thank you. It's a pleasure. I'm so glad that you invited me to spend this time.

Tim Bourguignon 2:08
The pleasure is all mine in four hours, you can listen to it on the other side of this of this recording. 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 the listeners understand what your story look like, and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual, on this show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place to start off your debt journey?

Diana Montalion 3:03
I love this question a because the answer that occurred to me wasn't what I expected it to occur to me. And so where I started my dev journey is that my grandmother used to if one of the grandkids went to the grocery store, we could pick out one thing for ourselves. And I always picked math workbooks. I like which Yeah, one time I picked a coconut. But generally I would pick it because I wanted something exotic. And I couldn't figure out how to open it. And it was it was not my shining moment. But for me when I was little, I little when I was young, I loved kind of all the wrong things in the world that I was in I liked math, I liked thinking I like reading I learned to read really young kind of taught myself. And they lived in a world in which girls weren't like, I was literally told by my family, you don't really deserve a private education like your brother because you're just gonna grow up and get married. And you know, he'll have to support a family and and it really was like, I think we've forgotten how powerfully different the rules were for the intellectual life of females versus males, at least in in the part of the world I grew up in. And so and so when I was in my mid 30s, I discovered and fell in love with physics and I went back to school, I was a theater major. I was a writer and an actor and I went back to school and I had to take computer science in order to get as to study physics had to take computer science and then I fell in love with that. And I went in that too. direction. And it was such a revelation to me. But it was also sort of a coming out. Like discovering that all of these rich experiences that had always been something I kept in the background or tried to control like it mattered if you were thin and pretty. It didn't matter if you were really into mudding, which I was like my son and I used to spend hours where we'd be in the same room, but we weren't talking to each other. We were playing the same online game, and he was a centaur. And I was riding on his back because I needed to kill dragons for the skin to make gloves. Like this was our idea of a great Saturday afternoon. So that's, that's, that's been, I guess, probably the, the theme for me is the sort of process of finding a more integrated experience of myself. And interestingly, it's also been the pain, because then there was still whole aspects of what I think of as intellectual creativity. That's not really how we think of tech roles. So so always integration.

Tim Bourguignon 6:23
If I may come back to the very first thing you said was, it's, it wasn't all what occurred to you as an answer to this question was not what you thought it would be. What did you think it would be?

Diana Montalion 6:35
I thought it would be more straightforward. Like, well, it was when I took Professor Briggs C++ class, and we like, you know, the, the more of an interview, question question, but that's not where I'm at anymore, really, in my career. Interview Questions. I mean, more in the, like, holistic, how all these things fit together. And so so. So that's, I think, probably why.

Tim Bourguignon 7:07
I prefer that one definitely, definitely. Did this switch between physics and computer science, or quickly and enduring this this new curriculum you went through? Or well, yeah.

Diana Montalion 7:19
No, no, not at all. And the in part, because, like the path to physics was, was, you know, long and a lot of education. And then what led, and what I immediately became fascinated with was how I can build things, and people can use them, and they can use them right now. And I can make a difference now. And then I can change things that I really wasn't interested in. Working on one class of a major piece of software in my cubicle that I never really saw how it all fit together. And, you know, the web. So, so courses in web technology were in somewhere in the engineering department, and some were in the Media Studies Department. And then computer science was Java. But no, it was it was C plus, plus, but I had to take a job. Of course, neither of them, I, I still don't love either. Either thing. So it was even after that I had to wait a while before the emergence of internet software, like beyond the webpage, they've when I fit in, when I finished because I you know, had been to school already. So I didn't have to do a whole you know, four years. When I finished, I was very excited because I could graduate without having to learn CSS. Like, that's how long ago and how fast things change. And then, of course, three minutes later, I'm like, shit. I have to know CSS, like, you know, I have to know CSS. So even even when I was learning it, it was so siloed right, like we really did not even understand was the skill set? Is it Media Studies? Is it engineering? Is it computer science, it's all those things. It's all those things and more right? So it so it was a you know, when I when I finished I moved to Montana and bought a bookstore, so I didn't even immediately jump in full time into my tech career. And in part because there was still so much dissociation between programming and experiences and building something that that that was interesting and evolving and and innovative. Like all of that came a bit came a bit later.

Tim Bourguignon 10:44
So how did buying a bookstore scratch those itches? of building thing? Seeing it grow? innovating? Did it

Diana Montalion 10:55
well. So the thing about the bookstore is designing like so it was a mostly used bookstore when I bought it. And I had this giant two three floor pile of books that are just sort of amassed over time. And so designing like, what should be like if you walk into a store? How do I give this this experience to people right away if like, oh, right, that oh, I've read that. It was modeled after I lived in Portland, Maine for a while, and there was a video rental store, which was a thing that we used to do. And called video port, and it was in the basement near downtown Portland. And when you went into video port, three things were true. One is you could just look and take anything off the shelf, and it would be reasonably trustworthy, because it was a very good, strong curated collection. To you could ask anyone who worked there, you know, I wish I hadn't seen the matrix because I'm really feeling like The Matrix. But also I kind of want like When Harry Met Sally, like, do you have like a matrix When Harry Met Sally, and they pull things off the shelf and give them to you. And then the third, which was a big lesson is that I went to rent one and the, the person said to me, you get three free, you get three free rentals, congratulations. I'm like why? She said, because you've rented 100 movies. I'm like, I've only lived here three months. I obviously need a life like that. But that that experience of just discovering a way to, to really experience movies and follow one after another and all of that. I really wanted to develop that in a bookstore. I also wanted to hike a lot and I motorcycles and he did a lot of off road motorcycling. And I was writing and you know, I was a writer before. And I hadn't decided to give that up. And so I did a year long. creative nonfiction and fiction, mentorship, so I was writing. And then I was building a lot of things on my own, like because the technology was just emerging. And it actually one of the big transition things for me is that I had gotten into open source and I downloaded Drupal and started using it because I was writing an applique, a PHP application and kind of trying to figure this out. And then I discovered Drupal and it could do these things that I you know, I was I was very young. It could do all these things. And I just fell in love with this. Like, I don't know, I felt like I suddenly had so much power. And so I found a client who needed the would YWCA the YWCA needed a new web presence, and you know, they're trying to do a number of different things. And I think I charged them $1,200 Like, I mean, really no, like in no money. But I could learn and the same with the PHP application I was writing, and then it just became really obvious to me. So we had dial up in Montana, like people I was the only coder I met the whole time that I was there. And people were like, Oh, do I really need a website it really was not a technology forward environment, which was great. It's why I was there. But it became obvious that you know if I wanted if if I really wanted to, to up to to do this right to move into tech that the middle of Montana wasn't going to be the place and so I made a spreadsheet, I made a spreadsheet of the different areas of the country and cost of living and how tech jobs that I could find and made the spreadsheet to kind of analyze my way towards where I should live. And picked Austin, Texas, which is was very emerging is called the little Silicon Valley at the time. And so I moved there, and I had never been there. But I moved there. Because I just wanted to code like, there's not going to be a lot of coding in in. I was living, and I needed other people, right, because I needed people who were faster, better, smarter than I was in order for me to to really evolve. And so phase next phase happened. Organically kind of

Tim Bourguignon 15:49
a lovely story.

Diana Montalion 15:51
Yeah, it was a journey, that's for sure.

Tim Bourguignon 15:54
That there's one thing I keep for later, and maybe we'll come back to it. I don't want to put words in your mouth. So I'll see if that emerges during the rest of the discussion. Do you remember what? What finally made you embrace this tech story full time and let this riding career aside or behind you? I'm not sure which one is correct. And release. Okay, now I'm going to code full time. And I'm going to move to Austin, Texas, was there was there a moment really helping you make this switch?

Diana Montalion 16:28
So, so a few things happened. One, embarrassingly, was second life. So I didn't have I didn't have internet, I lived in a national forest land. And I actually didn't have internet access beyond dial up at at home. And then somebody came up and put a pole in the ground held with cement and put a receiver on the top of it and pointed it towards the valley to get and then I had internet. Yeah, and it was shocking how quickly my life went from hiking, motorcycling reading to being online gaming or something or coding or all the time just like can I really, I can't really overstate the all the time part. And so it was, it's like I had rested this, this, this aspect of my interest almost too long. And so once I started back in two, that connection and building and like I said, then I got into open source and discovered Drupal and all of these things. Once that happened, it was kind of that's just where the momentum, that's really where the momentum was going. Also, the bookstore was never going to support me. And I was at a time in my life in which that was becoming increasingly problematic, or it was be would be problematic. And I also there's, there's a piece of it, I don't know the answer to your question. I just, I just knew, I just knew, like, I was just like, I just want to code like, and I went I did a whole soul searching weekend where I got a cabin in the woods. And I read six figure free six figure freelancing I can I do? Can I make this work? But a lot of that was business writing, which is not even even as a systems architect, I always have to partner with people who speak business language well, because I think I do and then they're like Diana, chequered tech, word Tech Tech concept Tech Tech Tech. I don't, I don't, I'm not as good as I think I am. And it's just not what I wanted. I don't know, it was sort of like, why did you leap out of the plane? Like, with your parachute on? I don't know, because you just it was time. It was in a whole bunch of ways. It just felt like time so that that in the work itself. And then once I got to Austin, I don't know. Like, the first the first year or so it was really rough. I felt like I just fell off the turnip truck. Like I I did not know how much I did not know until I was in this situation. And you know, a couple of the early relationships or roles just was really challenging. And it really, it really, either. If I didn't want to do this, the first say eight months would have absolutely sent me in another direction. Like I really had to keep dusting myself off and picking myself up and going going forward. And I guess I just really wanted to because I did I kept kept at it. It got it's never gotten easier, but it got blessed humiliating in the beginning, yeah,

Tim Bourguignon 20:10
yeah, beginnings can can be rough we were discussing before we started recording about really keeping at it for 18 months is really what you need to go through to know if you're not cut for it. But if you like it, if it's bringing joy, or at least something that you want to live through, and and therefore it is eight months for you, I guess. Yeah,

Diana Montalion 20:29
yeah. And it takes, you know, I, I, I, there's also this is, this is something I love, and something I hate is that inside the boundary of tech culture, we are having our own conversation, we make up vocabularies, whole entire languages, and we kind of like that, like we kind of like the fact that it sort of keeps people out. And so for me, it it really, I when I think back in the beginning, I realized how important it was to have that experience of shared language and point of view to the because, you know, I'm the same person. So what I could do, after two years isn't all that different from what I could do after two months really like, but that there's a whole acclamation that happens, not just to the coding language, but to the way that people think, and talk to each other about the coding language that you really used. I did anyway, stumble a lot more until you've sort of picked that up, even though that's not a real test. But it's not really a test of anything, right? Like, you know, I don't like craft beer. And there were times in my life in which not liking craft beer made me somewhat of an outsider in the closer than I like everybody who kept it. You're in tech, don't you like craft beer? No, I prefer cocktail if I was going to drink, but

Tim Bourguignon 22:11
as part of our industry, I would say

Diana Montalion 22:15
it depends on you. depends on your point of view, right? Like, that's the thing, when, like, we every every group, right likes the way that we make a make a group, right, like and enforce kind of the rules of the group. And there are ways in which that's been great for me, you know, thinking of my origin story. You know, I I'd rather be at a tech conference than a baby shower. Thanks. That was a, you know, that was a good, a good change for me. Yeah. But it's also it's also hard, because it's not really about whether or not you can learn things.

Tim Bourguignon 23:03
It is not, although being in the right context, is really a big part of whether you can learn or not.

Diana Montalion 23:10
Yeah, yeah. And that's, I mean, I think that's the challenge. Our context tells us that there's that our context, says this is what's valuable to learn and ignores things that aren't, that we don't think are valuable to learn. And that as complexity is increasing. That was wrong. Most of that most of that differentiation that we made was isn't really holding up. And so it's both and at the same time, it also experiences by far my greatest teacher, like if you really want to know how to do something, you just do that you do it, right, you dive in and you do it and you do it that forever until you retire. And even then don't stop doing it. Right? So it's it's really like, it's this combination of yes, we've created the right context for us to really try and wrestle with problems. And we've we we put conceptual boundaries around that context that don't always serve us. So you know, yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 24:20
Coming back to this move to Austin a little bit, how did you picture your life or professional life they're definitely not working in a cubicle making a thin part of a big system, as you described before, but did you picture it well, doing PHP solving problems for for people really creating systems but like this, you building stuff or did you picture being part of bigger groups, you picture leading groups some point do you have an idea of how that would or should pan out?

Diana Montalion 24:51
So So, so three things are all occurring to me at the same time, so let me try to One thing at a time, what I will say is that the career that I have now and have had for the last 10 years, I have because the paradigm has shifted has shifted around me, I went from software to systems because we used to build software. And now we build systems of software in the world that I'm in and as that's actually what I love, and if I knew, if I knew, then what I know now, I would go right where I've ended up, but I didn't. So I just went away. So when I went to Austin, I just wanted someone to pay me money to write code. That's it, that was my entire that was my entire thing. And it also is really funny, because coming from Montana into tech, the amount of money I was asking for now I'm like, why first clients got me so Jeep like, because I didn't know any better. I literally charge of I literally charge almost 100 times more now than I did. First move there. Yeah, which is part times part experience. I mean, I wouldn't have charged that then. But also just pure didn't know, I just I didn't care if I could pay my rent, and I could code, then that's that was good for me. And, um, and the first and I say this is such a sad, it's still really heartbreaking. So the first job I got, I was so excited in it, it and it makes me chuckle because again, there were so many red flags, including salary, all these things about this role that I didn't didn't know at the time. And they had had a developer that built their custom software, basically, by himself. They had no version control. They had no like they had their so and so and they loved this, they loved this developer. And so they hired me to come in and basically replay and there were tears, they were really like this, this guy had built this for them. And he left and that was a big drama that he left. And so then they brought me in. And they brought me in and they asked me to do a task in a piece of software, I did not know, writing JavaScript, which is still not my strength. I don't I don't like JavaScript, which is the has done me no good at all. Because it was fine to not like JavaScript, when we were using Mootools library to create like, which is what I was early on, it's really problematic to not like JavaScript now where I'm building node app. So I don't but I still don't, I don't, I don't really just don't love it. But anyway, so they asked me to do this task. And I didn't know how to do it. And simultaneously, I was feeling so much pressure, they had a project manager who turned out to be the girlfriend of the owner. And, and had decided they had sized the story as a small story, which I didn't size, which now is another red flag to be given the story. But also, like I just needed more time to understand the software to understand how to what the interface was. And in retrospect, I think I was slow. And I think that everything about that situation now would be a red flag for me like everything. But so I did it by the second day, or the third day, I was sick to my stomach. And I was actually gonna say like, this is not this isn't this doesn't work this, this is not working, except that I had no experience to trust myself to trust that this situation wasn't working and for and that it wasn't that I wasn't valuable. And it was very small. There's only like four or five people. And so the owner, there was all this talking outside my where I couldn't hear, like behind my back things like this. So the owner came in and suddenly the other two or three people in the office disappeared. And she said I've made a mistake. She said you know you owned your own business in Montana. I thought you had more experience in this. You know, I've made it like basically clearly you don't know what you're doing there. I was so mortified. I was so mortified. I didn't get up off the couch for like four days. I was just destroyed. It was awful. It was so awful. Now the here jump ahead a year later, and I would never have taken, I would have said, we need this, we need that, like I would have been able to be at least somewhat in charge of that relationship. But I didn't. And in fairness, the idea was not the dev they were looking for, like, considering what they were replacing, she wasn't wrong about me not being that person. But also that type of reliance on a developer without systems that supported and these like, there's a whole bunch of things that I, you know, I know now. And so. And so I kept having clients, like someone from Dallas called me and said, and said, Well, we have a developer here, but you know, it's not really working out, we want to go where the experts really are. And I'm, like, meet you. I go, okay. And she asked me, you know, do you know how to do CRM integration with the CMS, whoever it was? And I'm like, Yes, because I could imagine what those words meant to do. Like, this has been the key to my career, I was asked this in an interview recently about how have you done so many different things? And it's like, I don't know, I just was like, Sure. And then I do them. And then you just, you know, I just like, say, yes, say yes, if you know, and I say no to a lot of things, but I say yes to these challenges. So anyway, I started not looking for a job anymore, because I had plenty of client work, and I was making more money than in Montana. So I was, you know, I was putting money in the savings account, doing all this good stuff. And I had really interesting client work. And as it turns out, one of the things that I did for one of my clients, there aren't a lot of people in the US who know how to do what I did, which I didn't know, I just solved the problem that they had and taught myself what I needed to learn. And then, and then I met, I met some guys who had a professional services shop and worked on much bigger projects. And so we got together and we had this really great talk. And they're asking me these questions about what I implemented. And I just thought we were chatting, and then they sent me an email with a job offer. And I'm like, oh, where is that what was happening? And I did that point. So and this was not even a year later, maybe eight months later. And at that point, I really had to think about it because I was making more money on my own and doing really good, like, so that's I recovered from the couch, by by then enough to really question it. But one of the things for them with them was that they had access to a lot more coding opportunity, like it was a big door to open for me. And for example, one of the first things is that it was the the Wikimedia Foundation, use page. So, David Straus, who is now the CTO of Pantheon, he was working on building the processing the system behind contributing, so you could use Pay Pal to contribute, and then those were put on a queue and you take, they would take them off the queue and process them into a CRM. So again, this is I've said, Sure, I can do CRM work, and this is how I met met them and how I met David and then now I'm, he's doing CRM work. So Diana can help with this. So there were three things that happen simultaneously, one HomeAway, so like, vacation rental, kind of whatever, they're doing a contest. And you could too, you've had it, you told an interesting story, why you needed a vacation, and they were going to pick somebody and then when they picked you, you got your free vacation. So but the contest had to end at exactly the same time for everyone in the world in order for it to be fair, and that they're like, hey, Diana, do that. Right. Oh, my. And I tested and tested but you how you can't like you can't. So I was very like, like very stressed and it all worked. It's not it wasn't that it was complicated. It's that it was felt really risky.

Diana Montalion 34:43
And then they wanted to add credit card processing. Wikimedia Foundation wanted to add credit card processing to this thing that David had built, and it was like, Hey, this is Diana, she's gonna build this for you. Yes, I literally would get up in the morning, throw up, and then go back to trying to do that it was just so in I wanted to code. So there I was, yeah. It all worked out fine, you know, with with hiccups or whatever. But it all worked out fine. And so I just kept doing that. That's how, you know, then it worked with the Economist. And then eventually I started, you know, a team lead, and then the head of engineering and then when partnered with a couple other small businesses to build out dev shops, but to build out on the tech side, like how the one was a company in in Switzerland, they wanted a US company, right? So could I get that off the ground and build things for people when already there were trusted partners. That's how I met world monument fund. And, I guess, so on and so forth from from there in terms of that. The leaping out of planes

Tim Bourguignon 36:14
leaping out indeed, sometimes without a parachute, or at least for the person in your hand. Wow, it is only the only thing I can say. Wow. One question I have on my mind, though, is you've been talking about your love for code. Cleaner, almost every story you told there was this love for building things and coding. And looking at your resume right now. It doesn't look like somebody who's coding everything. Now when? When, when and how did that switch happen?

Diana Montalion 36:48
So this is this is the this is the you know, you're in love with your highschool sweetheart. But then, you know, as you mature and grow, you find that I'm always going to love you. But that's not like me. It's it's not abandoning coding, it is something that I still do. But so let me give it succinctly in a story. Right? So when I first worked with the economist, I went to London and met with, you know, with my my teammates, we met with the editor in chief, we were building the homepage of at the time, I worked in Drupal, and they was the biggest Drupal instance, enterprise Drupal instance. And we're having the discussion about even just daily content on the homepage of their web presence, like the mind shift from a print publication since 1843, to digital and they were just sort of starting that, that that process. And everybody was right, the New York Times everything they've built, they've really built since then, later, I was between roles. And I moved to New York City and the then CTO of The Economist is like Oh, Diana, is she is she looking for you know for for work? Yeah, I was a little yes at that I was sort of like I was going to read for a month was what I was going to do. That was my entire plan is I was going to read for a month and then see what happened. So So I started engaging with them. Now that now an article had 40 Plus destinations. And we were doing like pretty textbook digital transformation architecture. And that was really true for everyone that I'd worked with before. As a software engineer, now they needed systems design. And one of the challenges that systems. The first time I spoke it out with O'Reilly there, it was sort of an endless argument about what what is architecture mean? And a young person, relatively not new in his career, but in the early stages career, sat down and saw my speaker badge and said, Oh, you're an architect. I want to be an architect too. But I don't know enough about Kubernetes yet. And I'm like very rich conversation. Now. Here's the thing. That's not wrong. We need there's so so much argument about that word that I even hesitate to use the word but we need people looking after different multiple points of view in order to design and build things right. And so there's I don't think there's a wrong answer. But there really is very little, especially in the digital world. We sort of have Enterprise Architect like I ivory tower? Are we have the Oh no, I'm a hands on architect that codes all the time, but I don't have time. Not only do I not have time to do that, I feel like it's rude. Like, the engineers that I'm working with, they know better than me, if you have encoded in the last three weeks in Kafka Don't be telling the Kafka people how to Kafka, because they know, right? And so it's this, it's this, how do we how do we create a group of us that can share our expertise, and come up with how to move forward where the leverage points are. And I, I, I love systems, more than coding a little bit. And encoding is a language like I can use English and modeling to, to express technology ideas, right? Like there's nothing particularly magical about one type of language constructing conceptual integrity over another, right. And so So integration, and the ability to think and patterns and relationships and all of that, there's so much need for that right now. And fundamentally, I watched digital transformations hit the iceberg and drown and like major shakeups at the organization, one right after another. And one day, I was working on something, and I was just like, you know, what, we don't think in systems, like we're trying to take the way the industrial mechanistic way that we were taught to build software. And we keep trying to scale that to make and it doesn't work, because it's not the same mindset. It's a mind shift. Also, like, we need all the skills we used to have, but we need other skills that we don't think of as IT skills necessarily. Last out this one engineer once said, When I was team lead, we're talking about do we need lead on a team when it forms? And he was like, Yeah, team leads, like Team Secretary, I want my code to speak for me. And I was like, Ooh, that's not a loaded word to use for the only woman on the engineering team is it? But I, it too, it's unfair to because it's it. Miss represents what he meant. But this like, there's a lot of communication work. And like, will Yes. And the more there systems, there's more communication work. And because I had a career in communication, and I had a career in tech, and then and I was going to choose between being a writer and being a coder, only to discover they're not two different things. They're not two different things. There's a huge intersection in the middle, in which we're constructing the concepts that then we literally build. And you have to be able to work in concepts and in implementation, and not everybody, and not all the time. But all systems are a story that we write and push to production. Right. So now I'm trying to do, I kinda ended up being both I really tried to choose but I sort of ended up doing doing kind of making my own path. It's not my own path. Really, it's this is the world we live in. Now. Information systems are ubiquitous, they're everywhere. Software is knowledge and knowledge is everywhere around us. So learning to be knowledge workers, instead of strictly programmers, I think is where we're all gonna more and more of us anyway. Are gonna there. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 43:50
Amen. I had my my advice, My piece of advice I wanted to ask, and it just freedom down the drain, because I'm going to ask another one. When when I think Oh, when I hear systems thinking, thinking, thinking, yes. The German way of saying it's thinking when I hear and think about system thinking, I kind of widely used in my career, I always pictured higher ups in there, maybe Ivory Tower, looking down at the system, and it was not for me as a coder. What you describe is the entire opposite is system thinking is for everyone at every level at which they're working. But how do we get there? How do you start tomorrow or today even at whatever level you are to put one foot towards Systems Thinking don't want to be an expert in systems thinking now but going one step further than you are today. What would be your advice to make one step?

Diana Montalion 44:52
So I'm really sorry, but I have three options of one step but they're quick because I'm a Systems architect my answer to every question is, it depends.

Tim Bourguignon 45:07
Let's go for three. Okay,

Diana Montalion 45:08
so So the first is as soon as you have two software parts in relationship to each other, then the system's thinking part is focusing on the relationship and the communication, the conversation. So if you're, you know, if you have two pieces of software, and you're using events to share information between those two pieces of software, what's the structure of that information, not for the software. But for the discussion between those two parts. Like we take it out of MySQL, we put an API over a piece of software, we pull it out of MySQL, and we vomit on consumers like year, use regular expressions and get whatever parse whatever you want out of this, right, instead of actually thinking about the information, having semantic meaningfulness to consumers. So the first thing is to focus on relationships. The second one is to focus on the pattern. So things like seek urs or the like, there's not a right or wrong here, as much as that in systems where we're more about designing the patterns that systems are going to follow and the feedback loops. So researching integration patterns, microservices, architecture, patterns, that's all systems thinking. And then the third one, which I think is the most important one, is to really start paying attention to your own thinking. So I teach about, just get up in the morning, pick up a pen, and write for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, three pages, whatever works for you. So that you, you have this regular experience of being really familiar with what's going on in your own mind. And then it's not just your mind, it's also what happens when you're in a meeting and someone says something really stupid. You think it's stupid anyway, right? What happens? Well, we react, we say no, we like tell them there, somebody is wrong in a meeting. No, no, fix it, right. But Systems Thinking is about recognizing your own thinking and reactions and all of that. But then being able to create some space from that, and construct a response. So here's what I'm recommending. And here are the reasons that justified to me, that convinced me that this was the way to go. And to share that, instead of our usual and habitual ways of software engineering is opinion driven. We're like, we get together at conferences, and we argue about our opinions. And I love that, I think that's great. And I'm 100, I'm there for it. Same time that not system systems is about being able to then see all the noise, see all the relational drama between people and thinking and see if you can find that one place where you can recommend a change that will start to open up more than just solve a bug, right, we'll open up potential in the system. And to do that, you have to get really good at recognizing your own. We're all really terrible at systems thinking. They're not trained for it. And that's great. That's perfectly liberating. But the first thing is to become aware of it and your own patterns. Because what you find in you, that's what's going on around you too. Like that's how organizations think. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 48:51
Ouch. But yes.

Diana Montalion 48:53
That's good, though. Right? It takes away trying to fight against and be like, okay, so how do we how do we work with this while still being able to, because, for me, the thing, the thing that hasn't changed, so funny, this is our a great place, I guess, for us to where we ended up, the thing that hasn't changed is that what I really want to do is, I want to do hard things, I want to solve complex challenges. And I want to do that with other people. And I want to do that with other people in a way that is enjoyable, and productive and meaningful and masterful. And that's really what we're training ourselves in our career to do, like, I mean, who codes in the same thing, in the same language like some people do, but a lot of us are constantly picking up new tech or new languages, right? So that's what we're training ourselves to do is to learn is to learn and grow and explore. And in the end, you know, we get really hung up on the details, but that's really the thing. How can you do hard things together and enjoy doing it.

Tim Bourguignon 50:05
What a lovely place to start. Thank you so much. Where we be the best place to continue this discussion with you. Well,

Diana Montalion 50:13
I publish a weekly newsletter called from software to systems, where I talk about a lot of this stuff. If you go to metrics group, so m e n t r IX group.com, the newsletter is currently there, I'm going to move it into its own space. I'm also my name at Diana mon Talian, on Twitter, on Hackaday, a mastodon on LinkedIn. So if you follow me anywhere on social media, you'll see the newsletter and workshops and events and I also have an upcoming O'Reilly book. And you'll see all those those will all be I'll communicate all of that plus, I learned from everybody else too. So I really want people to connect so that I can hear how their systems life is going as well. Because that's how I that's how I grow.

Tim Bourguignon 51:04
So you heard it, you know what's next? You need to connect. Jenna, it's been fantastic. Thank you for this journey into your life. Talking about systems and say yes to a lot of things. That was lovely. Thank you.

Diana Montalion 51:20
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Tim Bourguignon 51:22
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