Software Developers Journey Podcast

#264 Nnenna Ndukwe driven by curiosity from a tanning salon to dev advocacy



Discovering Coding and Initial Challenges [02:37]

Nnenna narrates her early experiences with coding. She struggled initially with Python and moved to web development where she found her niche. Her dedication and focus led her to becoming proficient and she started building websites. Nnenna stresses the importance of persistence and patience when learning new coding languages, demonstrating that overcoming early hurdles is a key part of the learning process.

The Impact of Tech Communities [09:51]

Nnenna highlights the importance of being part of tech communities, stating that it had a transformative impact on her career. She joined the Google Developer Group and became a lead, organizing events, and creating opportunities for learning and networking. According to Nnenna, participating in tech communities offers the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others, enabling a person to avoid mistakes and fast-track their learning process.

Mentorship and Guidance [15:29]

Nnenna discusses the joy she derives from mentoring and seeing newcomers make progress in their tech careers. She advises junior developers to seek out mentors, noting that such relationships can provide valuable guidance and feedback. Having a mentor is a crucial part of career growth and development, as they can provide insights, feedback, and wisdom that can help you navigate your journey.

Overcoming Self-Doubt [21:42]

Nnenna shares her experiences with self-doubt and how she overcame it, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and celebrating one's progress and achievements. She urges junior developers to be more confident and to believe in their capabilities. Self-doubt is a common hurdle many developers face, but it can be overcome by acknowledging your progress and achievements.

The Importance of Advocating for Oneself [30:02]

Nnenna discusses the importance of advocating for oneself, including asking for what you deserve in terms of compensation and opportunities. She advises junior developers to know their worth and not be afraid to ask for it, underlining the importance of self-advocacy in career advancement.

The Joy of Mentoring [34:56]

Nnenna talks about the joy she derives from mentoring and seeing newcomers in tech make progress. She encourages more experienced developers to consider mentoring as a way of giving back to the community.

Engagement with Communities from the Start [44:40]

Nnenna and Tim agree on the importance of engaging with communities from the start of one's career, not just after gaining some experience. Early engagement with communities can provide access to wisdom, knowledge, and opportunities that can help shape one's career.

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Nnenna Ndukwe 0:00
honesty. I think that's one of the biggest things is saying, I don't know anything. But I'm curious. When you let people know that you are curious, and that you are humble and that you are receptive and honest. They will respect that. No matter how much or how little you know, they will respect it. And that is what, that's how I showed up as a showed up as human.

Tim Bourguignon 0:27
Hello, and welcome to developer's journey 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 Nana, Nana is a developer [email protected]. Before that, she worked as a software engineer in edtech, FinTech and med tech spaces. And all this is actually a certain career. I hope we'll hear about that. But I would prefer to hear it directly from her. So let's get into it. Nana, welcome, deftly.

Nnenna Ndukwe 1:03
Thank you so much. I'm really glad to be here.

Tim Bourguignon 1:05
And I'm thrilled as well. 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 the spine crew, and help me spend more time on finding a nominal 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. And now back to today's guest. So now as you know, the show exists to help listeners understand what your story looked like. And imagine how to shape their own future. So as is customary on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your journey?

Nnenna Ndukwe 1:58
The start of my dev journey, I would say it began actually in a tanning salon in the middle of Houston, Texas. Yes, I know, it sounds insane. And it kind of is. But I think that's the beauty of it. So before that I was studying economics at George Washington University in DC, right. But honestly, the school was way too expensive. And I hated asking my parents to be able to cover that. So I moved back to Houston where I was born, right, and I got into customer service. And that was a tanning consultant job I was helping to, to sell tanning products and wiping off the beds and checking people in. And, of course, it seemed a little strange that I would have that kind of job. But I would say one thing. I think that everyone should at least have one stint in customer service. And I think that it is something that really teaches you how humans are it, you learned so much about humans, you learned so much about how to sell. There's so many dynamics, I think that as part of a part of the maturation process that can be very humbling for people. And so I did that, but I knew that my brain needed something more. Right, I needed something challenging something technical. And I started seeing these ads on my laptop, right? About build a website for free, using code academy.com using free code camp.com. And I was like, Whoa, that's super cool. I can build a website for free and like deploy it. And it's out there for the world to see. So I clicked on the ads, and then I started to go through the tutorials for free, in my free time using the the computers that were there at my job. So when no one was there for me to check in. There were no beds for me to clean. There were no floors for me to mop. I was on the internet, learning how to code. And that intrigued me. And it felt I felt accomplished as well. And it really resonated with the creative side of my brain. And that technical nerdy side that I felt like I had lost a little bit as time went on. And I was regaining it, you know, as I was learning how to code. And that was what sparked the journey of I think I want to do more of this. And I can go on but maybe I can I want to let you to. I want to let you be able to ask questions before I continue. But that was a spark.

Tim Bourguignon 4:41
Did you realize this would become a career or were you on the path Hey, this is so much fun. Let's continue this as a hobby.

Nnenna Ndukwe 4:49
That was that was the mindset it was this was fun. And I don't know what's going to become of this, but I know that I enjoy it. And I'm tapping into different parts of myself. Have that it feels very like satisfying. You know, I think that was what I focused on mainly, I had no idea what was really going on in tech at that point. But I knew that that was cool to me. Right? So yeah, like, that was cool. It's like, Oh, my God, I built a website, oh, my God, I, I know how to code, HTML and CSS and make something kind of pretty and click on a button and something happens, like that felt cool, you know? And so that, I would say it was very innocent and very natural. And that's what I really loved about it.

Tim Bourguignon 5:36
Did you remember what to? Or did you go all the way to the end? I mean, the end if there is an end and end of this Code Academy curriculum, or the Free Code Camp curriculum, before starting to say, hey, this could become a job? Or was it? Was it along the way?

Nnenna Ndukwe 5:51
That's a very good question. I think I got pretty far almost to the end in some of the Free Code Camp courses started to take it very seriously. I think there was a point where I knew I need to make this transition, a real thing somehow. And the question became, how do I do that? So what I did was I did a little bit of research on what's happening in tech and where is happening in tech. That makes sense when the US Silicon Valley came up, Boston came up. So I called up my aunt who was at the time a professor at Northeastern University. And I called her and I said, Hello, can I move in with you? I want to get into tech. I want to move to Boston. I want to figure this out. And she said, Yes. So yeah, yeah. I was 20, at the time, wasn't even legal drinking age yet. And I was like, I think I can make this work. I paid for my flight. I had negative $34, in my bank account, when I was in the airport on my way to Boston. And I was like, I just, I'm just not going to eat. I'm not going to eat, but I'm gonna get there. She's gonna pick me up. I'm going to figure this out. And you know, the rest was history. As soon as I landed in Boston, I started to immediately integrate myself into the local tech community, started showing up to seminars or showing up to volunteering opportunities, where people were learning how to code, I started going to all these tech meetups just to be like, who is in this ecosystem? And how much information can I absorb from them, even though I know nothing but a few lessons from Free Code Camp and Code Academy. I was receptive, I was willing, and I was consistent and ambitious. And that is what started to that is what formed that journey of making this idea of becoming a software engineer real for it to actually materialized. Right, if that makes sense.

Tim Bourguignon 8:03
Absolutely. And I love it. Did you know Did you know? Obviously, you did. And how did you discover that? There is a such an vibrant community around tech. Did you find this in Texas already? Or was it first time when you arrived in Boston?

Nnenna Ndukwe 8:21
First time when I arrived in Boston, so I got a little bit of a rundown from my aunt who is a professor in the in this space. And from that I took that information, a little bit of information from research online, and I just ran with it. I found meetups I was searching for meetups, I was searching for any type of organizational meetings that happen related to universities. There's so many universities in Boston, right? Computer Science students, and all of that nonprofit organizations that were around teaching women and young girls how to code. I showed up to all of those things. And that's, yeah, that was the information I really needed to propel me forward in that.

Tim Bourguignon 9:05
I'm abash. How did you let's let's try to picture it. You're completely new in Boston, just a couple of days arrives, you're showing up at these meetups? How do you behave as a newcomer in the industry not having worked here yet, just sure and confident that this is what you want to do. And you show up in a new community and say, Hey, hi, I'm Nana. I'm new. And then what's next?

Nnenna Ndukwe 9:29
Honesty? I think that's one of the biggest things is saying, I don't know anything, but I'm curious. When you let people know that you are curious that you are humble and that you are receptive and honest. They will respect that no matter how much or how little you know, they will respect it. And that is what that's how I showed up as I showed up as human. And the other thing is, I showed up as a student I have this like this concept in my head is that I'm a lifelong perpetual student. Usually the word perpetual can be associated with something negative. But this is the best kind of thing to be I feel is because you will always be open to taking away lessons that you can learn. And that is the type of person I had to show up as with the least amount of experience in the room. I wasn't going to act like something I wasn't. Because people can pick up on that I'm surrounded by brilliant people, I was surrounded by women who were 25 years old working on their like, second PhDs are whatever you call it. Like I can't fake it. This was not a fake it till you make it situation it was I show up humbly. I know nothing. I kneel at the feet of your greatness. Now, but and then that's when people will be excited to teach and to impart wisdom. And I soaked all of that up.

Tim Bourguignon 11:00
There some of the most memorable moments of how people reacted to this.

Nnenna Ndukwe 11:05
Um, yeah, I would say when, when I started attending some that, you know, there was one technology related seminar that happened at Harvard, right. And I explained this to the, one of the professors who had a seminar on data science, and it had some kind of relation to software engineering. So that's what made me curious. Afterward, I explained to him my story. And then we ended up taking a walk through Harvard together afterwards. And he was just explaining to me how he really appreciated how open I was, and that he felt more comfortable actually, with sharing with me and actually sharing wisdom with me about what's happening in tech industry, and how he could see me playing a part in being impactful in the industry. And that is like, those are those moments that people could would pay for, I think, but here I was this young woman strolling through Cambridge with this, you know, very well established professor, and he noticed my energy, and he latched on to that and gave me his card at the end of the night. And it was like, if anything you need anything to, you know, bounce ideas off of about the future of your career. Just let me know, and I appreciate it that unlike what I get that back where I was living, what I get that if I were still attending consultant, no. But as two parts of that it was it was showing up. There there's there's the literal physically showing up, and then emotionally and mentally showing up. There was those two parts that played a part in how my experiences have materialized?

Tim Bourguignon 12:58
Was it was it a conscious process back then saying, Okay, I'm going to show up? Or was it just your curiosity, speaking and just going in all heartedly? Because it was gratifying to you it was on a conscious level,

Nnenna Ndukwe 13:10
or it was pure curiosity? Absolutely. I did not plan this. I didn't strategize it. I, you know, when I was interviewing for the current company I met right, I had my one of my interviews, one of the rounds was with the CEO of Slim AI, right. One of the things that we really connected on is he said, I heard about your story. And you know, what I really liked is that you didn't know all of the steps that were ahead of you. When you embarked upon this journey to become a software engineer to get into tech. He said, You knew just enough, you know, you can't get the plane ticket, and call your own and get to Boston and land. You didn't know exactly what's going to happen after that. But that is a startup mindset. That's what he said, Is that No, just enough to carve out the next step, and maybe the step afterward. And then as time goes on, and you move through it, other pieces, other clues and cues will be revealed to you to build the building blocks that are needed to even discover what the next steps after that will be. That was a that was a mindset I had.

Tim Bourguignon 14:18
This is amazing, is entirely entirely true and so much resonating with what I think amazing that you had this early on in your career that does fantastic. So how did that path will lead to a career or career change for you? How did that first step happen?

Nnenna Ndukwe 14:36
I enrolled in a community college and who was taking computer science courses and eventually got an internship so that was kind of natural. I would say it's like the the connections made at the college helps with an internship to get my feet wet a little bit, but it was when I found out about resilient coders, the coding boot camp, where you They teach brown and black people how to code for free. In fact, they gave us a stipend every month to learn how to code and become full stack web developers, and then to be pushed out into the Boston ecosystem, and find a job. So when I found out about that, through a little bit of research and connecting with people in the local Boston tech community, I said, You know what, I think this would be great for me. And I went through the interviews, and I passed it. And it was a 14 week intensive program. And I was able to graduate. And my first job after that was as a software developer at a fin tech startup company. And I was doing a lot of front end work, but a lot of back end work, too. And I was just, you know, it was headfirst. pretty intensive stuff. But that coding bootcamp helped to propel me as it relates to networking and having some of the foundational skills to be able to survive at a company.

Tim Bourguignon 16:04
I understand. Could you speak a little bit about how this bootcamp was structured to take you from probably very little knowledge in at the beginning into ready to be hired for first job in 14 weeks?

Nnenna Ndukwe 16:18
Yeah, so let's see, in the beginning, it was, Hey, you want to learn how to code, let's start with some things that we think would be easiest to pick up. That's HTML and CSS, right? So we received introductory lessons on both of those. And each day, we had assignments, okay, you learn this part of HTML tonight, I want you to take that and build something. So every point where we were, it was HTML, CSS, and then JavaScript, you know, algorithms. At every step, we had homework that forced us to learn through building, I think that was a really important thing to learn. It wasn't about just listening. And about reading and looking at code, we had to break our own stuff, right, we had to lean on the person next to us and pair programmed, really, I just can't figure this out. There was so much of a real work life experience that was integrated into that bootcamp that I didn't even pick up on or realize, of course, I didn't know I was just learning how to code. And these people who have started started and founded and were teaching at this boot camp, they knew how the industry functions, and they want us they wanted it to feel as real world as possible. So it was a lot of the learning was building projects, after learning bits and pieces.

Tim Bourguignon 17:43
I really love this, this approach of really applying what you learn right away and and confront yourself with with the thing and really see for yourself where it's working where it's not. And at the beginning, it just uses diverting for a couple of degrees, you learn in this way, and then you divert a little bit and do a little bit differently. And at some point, it's just 180 degrees, you learn this and then try to do the reverse and see what's your outcomes. And your mind is just blown say, hey, oh, now I get it. And I love it.

Nnenna Ndukwe 18:13
Yeah, and it can be a little uncomfortable at first one, like you said, you're confronted, okay? I'm not sure I'm figuring is that what I loved? Was the collaboration with others, hearing how their minds work, how different it was from mine. That was a whole other learning, process and experience that I cherish so much. Yes, there's always ways to learn how someone else thinks through problem solving, right? And getting that opportunity to but people who are who don't know any more than you do is very unique. And very particular, a lot of times you're pair programming with people, at least in my experience with some senior senior engineers, right? And so that's a different type of communication, in comparison to someone who might be at the same level or just at a different level than then someone who's more senior.

Tim Bourguignon 19:06
But no, no, you have a couple of years under your belt, you're probably having the other way around now. So having juniors and having to pair with juniors and having to to bridge that gap of something that is maybe obvious making some air quotes for you now, and that doesn't seem to connect with the person beside you. And then you have to find a different way to explain this and find a metaphor to illustrate and find the right words for this person in that context at that time to really connect and explain them the concept you wanted to bring over.

Nnenna Ndukwe 19:37
Yeah, and every single person is different too. So that's it. There's so many variables in that process, but it is a humbling one. And is one that is Yeah. It is one worth being as I don't know, it, just try to be as open as possible. I would say yeah, sometimes certain ways of explaining things don't always work. But that is definitely a test of how well you believe that you understand certain concepts is how can you simplify this and break this down, maybe use certain metaphors to be able to connect the dots and in different ways for people. But I do love that process. I think that's a super important skill to have.

Tim Bourguignon 20:20
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, I remember I did a quite a few trainings in, in a past life. And I always had this this this moment where you get a question, and you think you know the answer, but you're not entirely sure. And that you're piecing it out together, in your mind saying, is this floating? Is this floating this work or not? And how can we can we test it together right now to be sure. And, and at the same time, if somebody asks you something, and, and your explanation doesn't seem to work, and so you're on the verge of, can I find a new way to see it, and it is really a thrilling moment. And when you finally find it, and you see light going in their eyes, or they got it, and so at visually, they got it. And this, this is a moment that is just just so rewarding, both for both of you, for for you for yourself, you grew, you got a very hard question, and you were able to validate your knowledge, or validate that you didn't know what you're talking about. Good learning. It did. This is awesome. I really love that I really loved it.

Nnenna Ndukwe 21:19
Yeah, that's such a gratifying moment. It is it is that

Tim Bourguignon 21:23
did you have the feeling that this the way to bootcamp was structured was really preparing you for for what was coming afterwards?

Nnenna Ndukwe 21:31
You know, I was trusting in the people who started it, the man who started it. And the man who was my engineering instructor, that was really what I was going off of, and, of course, a little bit of information from attending tech meetups in my free time. So there's a lot of trust, but also like, I wasn't paying 1000s and 1000s of dollars. So I was willing, you know, a bit more willing to, to show up and be present and stick it out and focus because I knew that there wasn't a lot on the line as it relates to that financially. But, you know, the guy, the man who taught me how to code, I would say, or at least the foundational skills engineering instructor. Leon, no. And that's the name that he goes by. You know, he grew up in Philly, I think he was he's from the hood in Philly, and got into Yale, and went to Yale and started a company with one of his schoolmates, and dropped out senior year, grinded, and sold the company for an undisclosed amount of money, and said he was going to turn around and help to teach people who looked like him how to code. So I'm like, when you hear a story like that, it's hard to turn that down. Like, okay, I think I think they know what they're doing here.

Tim Bourguignon 23:09
And looking back at one or the experience you've had now, were there some some key moments that you didn't realize back then, that we're building it built into this curriculum? And realized after we oh, that's what they were trying to teach us back then. But I didn't get that back then. Now I get it, where there's some such moments?

Nnenna Ndukwe 23:29
Oh, that is a tough question, actually. Wow, were they things back then, that I didn't realize that now I do realize we're valuable is that

Tim Bourguignon 23:40
not necessarily valuable. But really, you picked up on on on one interpretation of this. And then realize later on, there's actually an entirely different meaning. I'll give you an example. During my engineering studies, I remember it was long time ago, in the very beginning of year 2000. Since I graduated in 2006. And I remember having a class about agile project management, and how we can iterate on things. I mean, the Agile Manifesto was 2001. That was very early on. And I remember talking about projects and waterfall and how things just cascade and you do the V, V model, testing, etc. And this This wasn't a stood we've done engineering before. And then the Agile stuff said, Okay, well, it's a different way of doing things. And only 10 years later, did they really face the struggle of the V model, working for a giant German engineering company and seeing the downsides of the waterfall and started realizing, oh, that's what they meant back then. And started rediscovering the whole content. I just pulled out the papers ahead before and said, Hey, damn, is what's there already. I didn't pick up on that. And and there's been quite a few like this during my studies, it was with some mathematical concepts as well. We just completely missed the need back then and realized later on Oh, that's what they meant. So I'm just curious if there was something like this before, but for you, but maybe not.

Nnenna Ndukwe 25:18
I'm not sure. I can't say that I had that type of moment or experience what maybe if I, if something comes to my head later on, I'll randomly cut you off and be like, I remember, by the way, and maybe it'll beautifully tie in to what we're talking about at that point in time.

Tim Bourguignon 25:38
knocking on wood. So, how did this getting into the industry then? Work? So Did did you? Did you you said you you found this first internship, I think you said in FinTech.

Nnenna Ndukwe 25:53
Yeah, is a full full time software developer position in at a fin tech startup company. So after our demo day, which is like, you know, you're you're graduating and you want to show off a project that you've been working on. There were potential employers that were showing up to this kind of event. And that's your moment to talk about your project. Can you talk about code and what have you learned all this time through the bootcamp, that's when I met a man who ended up I ended up working with at the fin tech startup. So that's how that was. And it was super new for me. And it was, there was so much going on, and the people that I was working with, I mean, they had Master's in Computer Science, and they're very skilled, people who, I don't know, it had totally different background, it was a half Swedish company, right. And I had to learn not only how to try to keep up with how technical the work was, but also the fact that there were cultural differences in working with Swedes, as an American, so there, and these are very technical engineering minded sweets, like this is very, very particular, there were so many layers of like education there that I had to, you know, throw myself into. And I was like, staying up to float like right here, like the water, my nose was right here and the waters right below it.

Tim Bourguignon 27:23
They were putting your your your hand just below your nose.

Nnenna Ndukwe 27:28
I was weighing in over my head at times, but that was when I learned the most right. And that that gave me what I needed to move on to my next role, which was at an ed tech company, O'Reilly Media. Oh, okay. Yeah, that's that was the next role that I moved on to. And I stayed there for four years, as a software engineer, building simple projects, and then moved on escalated to way more complex systems, you know, you know, this whole one of the biggest projects we had was moving this from this monolith that was carrying the whole site, the whole platform, and breaking that down into all of these microservices. And how in the world do you do that while keeping the whole platform afloat? You know, no downtime. That was a very incredible experience to do that alongside other engineers, who, you know, they had a couple years on me in terms of experience. But that was about it. And we had to figure things out together. I didn't mean to ramble on to this. But this is that was just something I look back on.

Tim Bourguignon 28:42
fondly, apparently. Did you do it? Because I've had, I've had one of those behind me. And I would be interested to know, in a few sentences, how do you approach that that problem?

Nnenna Ndukwe 28:54
How do you approach breaking down a monolith to micro service without actually killing the business? Good question. I don't know what so we had to really think critically about which types of microservices to create, right, and had to really think about the product that our team was focusing on. And the different functions that that product had on my team was the live events team. So users go onto the site, and they register for live events to attend, that are held by some of like the greatest, you know, technologists out there experts in the world. They register and they attend it live across the world. So there's, there's all these systems in place, and we had to break it down into, I think, three services. There was the front end service, which does keep things cool, but I think the most important fact, most important thing was the back end services, and we decided we needed to. We needed one that was going to process you So registration functionality, oh, I registered or unregistered, you know, canceled and XYZ. And then we needed a metadata service for all live event data, the date and the time, who were the people who were the hosts, you know, the instructors? What was the capacity for the event? So there's the metadata service and the user registration functionality, and then our front end that will show all of that and make it pretty. And, you know, take all the data from both of those services. That worked very well. And we took our time with making that transition. Sorry, I didn't mean to go into too much detail.

Tim Bourguignon 30:42
No, that's alright. I've had to have had one of those as well. It was actually paying unemployment, unemployment money in Germany. And so that was something that was really mission critical, we just couldn't screw up with that. And we took so much time in creating a strangler, some kind of wrapper around the old system to really route the the queries that were getting in, and then starting to build a second system basically, on based on microservices on the side and routing, basically, the queries on both sides. And then comparing the results and saying, okay, the old system see this, the new system did that for a while the old system was still the master, still still answering. And then at some point, we say, Okay, this microservice has been answering for a while. And the, the answers have been always the same. So let's now switch to the new one. And let's kill a little part of that monolith on the side and start with next microservices. And it took more than two years to kill. But actually, slowly, but surely, one bite after the other, we ate that elephant.

Nnenna Ndukwe 31:46
Yes, very carefully takes a lot of testing and stuff. But it's possible.

Tim Bourguignon 31:53
It is and it's really a thrilling journey. Because when you when you start looking at the system at the very beginning, is just mind blowing. This is a gigantic thing. There's no way we can we can kill that. But we did.

Nnenna Ndukwe 32:06
Exactly when you break it apart. Yeah. And I can't even believe that I used to work in the model. It's like looking back on it like, Oh, my goodness, how was I even building in that this was, this is intimidating. It is there's so many parts that are intertwined with each other. But

Tim Bourguignon 32:23
again, you felt at home in there. That's even more impressive. Very cool. Very cool. So how did you come to being at slim AI? What's the journey between where we left it? And also Riley and NCMA?

Nnenna Ndukwe 32:42
Yeah, so I was working as software engineer at O'Reilly Media, right. And in my free time, as soon as I began, like, with my interest in coding, I was always documenting my journey through writing. So like blog posts about my journey, learning how to code, different things that interested me. And also at a certain point, I began speaking on panels, and just speaking and sharing my experience in my stories. So in building my social media branding, right, that all happen in my free time. And as time went on, I began to wonder, I wonder if there is a way to combine all of these passions. I love writing. I love speaking. And I love coding. And I love networking, too. So how can you? How can you? How is there a role that embodies all of those things at once, and that's when I found out about developer advocacy roles. And it seemed like a perfect opportunity to indulge and become truly great at many things without feeling bad about it. Right? There's this whole idea. No, really. I love how you there's this whole idea of like, focus on one thing and become an expert, right? Or no one's an expert at everything. But with a Developer Advocate role, it just challenges that to be like, who cares? I want to be great at many things. And I'm going to try and that is what developer vix unicorn roll.

Tim Bourguignon 34:21
That is That is awesome. I've had a guest on the show before speaking about being a specialized generalist. So somebody who really specialized into many, many things, and that's that's his his thing. And I really, I really like this this approach, because quite often, this generalism is put on with a bad rep saying, Well, you're not good at anything. And no, that's not true. I'm working on connecting dots on many, many things and adding value at this level. So this is a specialty in itself.

Nnenna Ndukwe 34:53
Exactly. And not many people want to do that. And not many people can do that. So when you take it upon yourself have to explore that. You're doing good for not only yourself but for others. For companies for people, yeah. So yeah, I found out about this role through some like venture capitalist firm folks. And, and I went on a series of like interviews for it, and it sounded like it was right up my alley. I mean, the only thing that wasn't right was the fact that I had no experience in cybersecurity, I had no experience in thinking about software supply chain security, right, I was FinTech, I was edtech, I was all these other things. And that is something that is still a learning process for me till this day, since I joined, but also, it has been vocalized at the company that that is a continuous learning process for everyone there as well. And these are from very smart folks, a lot of MIT folks, a lot of people who have been in cybersecurity for years on end who have started up and gotten acquired multiple times with different startup ideas. And they're still like, scratching their heads a time. And I thought, okay, wherever experts are scratching their heads is exactly where I want to be. Right?

Tim Bourguignon 36:16
You should put that somewhere on your on your

Nnenna Ndukwe 36:22
next sense, right.

Tim Bourguignon 36:24
And I mean, there's always this, there's two sides of the aisle to advocacy, there is the advocating the software or the product toward the community, that is also advocating for the community toward the company. And, and not being an expert in what your company is doing. It's also bringing a different set of goggles to look at it and say, well, from from my relatively new standpoint, this just doesn't make sense, the way you explain it, let's review this and start building something that is maybe not more approachable, more understandable, bringing different metaphors to bring in different learning materials, etc. And so there's a point in others that there's very value in doing this well,

Nnenna Ndukwe 37:05
yeah, it's a very empathetic type of role very requires some level of like, thoughtfulness in inclusivity. And I lean into that I want to, even if I weren't a Developer Advocate, I would still want to have that type of mindset and approach to anything I do. So this is super important experience for sure. What was

Tim Bourguignon 37:28
what was watching me?

Tim Bourguignon 37:40
How was it making this? Oh, hobby of yours? You said you were indulging with with this with Social Media Writing, etc. Making that your job?

Nnenna Ndukwe 37:54
How was the process?

Tim Bourguignon 37:55
No. How did you feel? I mean, quite often, there's this this saying, Well, this just became a job. That was a hobby. It was fun. And now it became a job and it's not anymore. Do you see a risk in this regard?

Nnenna Ndukwe 38:08
I think there's a little bit of risk. Yeah. If it starts to feel mechanical, I think that there's there's always potential for that to happen. But I try to remind myself, this is what I've literally always wanted. And I would do it anyway.

Tim Bourguignon 38:26
Okay, then your dry place? Yeah,

Nnenna Ndukwe 38:29
I think and doesn't mean that it's not, not fun sometimes or not stressful, like writing is super fun. But it is hard. It is it is you have to think you can't just think about yourself, you have to think about everyone, you have to be very careful, you're taking ownership and responsibility when you are putting words out there for people to read and to interpret. And speaking as well. These are very hard things. But there's so much beauty in it, I feel that I'm willing to push myself through that stress. And so I would do this, even if I did not I was still, you know, had the role of a software engineer was doing it in my free time. So I was like, I might as well do this to support not only myself but also building the brand and awareness of a company and be forced to get really, really good at it. Because there's something on the line here. That's more than just my free time. It's my career. And I need that push. I'm someone that needs that kind of push.

Tim Bourguignon 39:35
It's good that you realize it and you know, your depth story started with with communities. And I find it very, very interesting that you're sort of circling back and bring you back to the communities now and being basically in the communities for for your work. Is there a part of this of this community work that you're doing for yourself? I mean, for others, but not not for Slim AI just for because because you want to give back Yeah. Which is not related to the work you do on everyday basis.

Nnenna Ndukwe 40:05
At at slim or outside of Slim, outside of swim. Is there work that I do? Is it in as it relates to communities? Yes. Um, yeah, to a degree or not as much as I did before. But I'm always involved in different organizations, I'm always participating in different things that happened to grow. There's different communities related to educating young women and girls to learn how to code, right, there's building those types of communities, educating women to transition into technology, and to learn how to code and just the general tech ecosystem, I always try to stay plugged in, I don't, I wouldn't say I'm as involved now as I used to be. But I love the idea of bringing people together for some things that we all relate to, or a common purpose. And making people feel like it is a safe space, I have always just resonated with that. And outside of Technology, I do that when it comes to social groups, I'm involved in different social groups where I do the same thing. I'm fostering community, and helping people feel comfortable to share and to lean on each other to provide support to provide resources. That is, that is super essential to human life and interaction with each other. So there's different ways, different ways to do that. And different ways to give,

Tim Bourguignon 41:41
there is indeed, and it's even getting more important every day with our modern modern world, trying to build back those communities, which tended to disappear a bit in the last decades, and we will use you to put efforts into bringing this back. So thank you for doing this.

Nnenna Ndukwe 41:56
Yeah, is there anything that you are involved in, I guess, as it relates to community tech, or non tech that, you know, resonates with you,

Tim Bourguignon 42:07
I've been trying to do with this podcast, some kind of community work for a while, that was a way to try and bring different faces to the surface, trying to very much have diversity of profiles on the show and really show like this. And, and in the last years, so since Corona, it kind of disappeared since since the COVID. And I need to start doing this before but I was very active in mentoring communities before and helping people get their first job or creating their, their, their their career from scratch and helping them get a first first step like this. And I found it really fascinating to to see somebody coming into a new industry and and making their first steps and seeing okay, you you don't even know yet which keywords to Google. Because you don't even know the industry yet. You don't even know how to start searching. Let me help you with that. And, and once you you get this first steps going, you'll be able to gain momentum. But the very first steps are the hardest. And so let me help you with this. And this I found very, very rewarding back then I need to start doing this thing. Thankful the impulse. Yes,

Nnenna Ndukwe 43:22
absolutely. Yeah, this that just reminds me of like when I had, I'd written an article about this very thing that we're talking about, on this, about the journey from tanning consultant to software engineer, how I did it and what that looked like I wrote a, a blog post about it on medium.com. And it went viral. And that was years ago when I when I wrote that. And still to this day, I get LinkedIn requests. And in the message, it's like I read your article, you inspired me to start over and try to get into tech again, or to learn how to code again, thank you so much. This day, that when I hear that, you're talking about people who are just super, super new, and you see them get from one point to the next into the next and you see them get a job, you know, that's like okay, Coffee Chat, like, you know, that kind of stuff. That brings me joy that I can't even fully articulate. I want that that type of feedback. I want to feel this feeling for forever as long as I can. You know, just to know You can have that kind of impact. You know what I'm saying?

Tim Bourguignon 44:34
I fully fully fully

Nnenna Ndukwe 44:35
I imagine people get that with your podcast, to be honest, I really

Tim Bourguignon 44:40
hope so. To be honest, it's quite hard to get to get feedback on podcasts since it's not a discussion media it is for us, but it's not really a discussion with the community. But the few messages I get are just mind blowing thing Hey, I picked up this and this bring gets me back into discussion. That's all we are. Remember that. And that's funny that you, you pick that up and starts a discussion. And we change messages back and forth and realize all this is what you picked up and why and then get stories again. And it just love it. That's amazing. It is, I'd like to, to come back to the communities again. And this is, I guess the advice and I'm searching Indiana's. This was so forming for you and for for your career, those communities won't be the killer argument beside YOUR story to convince people to engage with with communities very, very early on, not not not when they have a few years under their belt, but very much from the get go.

Nnenna Ndukwe 45:43
What would you say? The killer argument? I think it's about it's about access to wisdom, and knowledge. It is about skipping the lessons that other people have already learned. They've already learned it for you. Skip those lessons? If you are receptive? They'll tell you. Yeah, I did that I did that took a five year detour, a 10 year detour or I sold myself short here there in there. I didn't negotiate I didn't stand up from I didn't advocate. When you are there listening to those stories. You have the opportunity at that point to skip those lessons. And you'll know what to do and what not to do. And I think that can save so many people in different in different ways for different parts of their journeys, if that makes sense.

Tim Bourguignon 46:39
Absolutely. I love it. I'm gonna reuse this this it's been a blast. And already way over a time box. Thank you so much for for sharing this sort of story with us. That was That was fantastic. Where would where would be the best place to find you online and continue this discussion with you.

Nnenna Ndukwe 47:01
And I'm most active on Twitter, I would say so twitter.com/nina Hacks is a place that you can find me. And as well as LinkedIn. I'm on blue sky. Now. I don't know if you are. Yeah. That's a little controversial statement. Yeah, that's the easiest way to find me as Twitter. I'm always there.

Tim Bourguignon 47:27
Anything happening during the summer or in fall that you want to advertise for?

Nnenna Ndukwe 47:34
There might be a few conferences that I attend. I'm hoping to be able to go to Q con North America that's in Chicago happening I think in November at some point. So I think that's one of the biggest ones to look out for. I was at cube con EU in April, in Amsterdam. And that was incredible. I met so many developer advocates and amazing people in tech out there. So I'm hoping to continue that momentum with the next one's

Tim Bourguignon 48:01
rooting for you. Awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you. And this has been another episode of their past journey. We see each other next week. Bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share rate and review. It helps more listeners discover stories. You can find the links to all the platforms to show appears on on our website, Dev journey dot info slash subscribe. Creating the show every week takes a lot of time, energy, and of course money. 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 Deaf journey dot info slash 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 ti m o th e p porker email info at Dev journey dot info talk to you soon.