Software Developers Journey Podcast

#270 Tejas Kumar between hemophilia, learning and digging deeper



Introduction and Early Days: 00:00

In the early parts of the conversation, Tejas Kumar paints a picture of his youth, living in an area with poor electricity in Pakistan. Born to a family with limited means, and with a life threatening disease, the desire to learn was a light that never dimmed in him. This desire led him to innovate, and he began to explore programming. A key takeaway here for junior developers is the importance of passion-driven learning. Sometimes, constraints can spark creativity.

Self-Education and Dedication: 12:45

Tejas didn't have formal education in programming, so he learned from the internet, from sites like Tizag for HTML and CSS, and later through YouTube tutorials. His journey is an affirmation that even without structured, traditional education, one can still master a craft with dedication. For aspiring developers, online resources can be invaluable. Always be curious and keep exploring.

Practical Application and the Power of Networking: 18:09

Upon mastering his skills, Tejas took the initiative to redesign the Pakistani President's website, demonstrating the significance of applying what you learn in real-world contexts. He also shares a transformative moment where he met the CEO of a company at a conference. This accidental meeting became the catalyst for his migration to Germany. The lesson? Networking is essential. Sometimes, unplanned encounters can open significant doors. Always be open to opportunities, no matter how they present themselves.

Work Ethic and Professional Growth: 23:37

One of Tejas's strong beliefs revolves around the value of hard work. As he transitioned from a developer in Pakistan to a lead in Germany, he faced numerous challenges. His work ethic and dedication were instrumental in overcoming them. By constantly focusing on upskilling and staying updated, he grew professionally. It's crucial for junior developers to recognize that technical skills alone aren't enough; having a solid work ethic and a continuous learning mindset is equally important.

Feedback and Adaptability: 29:00

In the world of software development, feedback is a gift. Tejas learned early on that constructive criticism was a tool for growth, not a personal attack. By being receptive to feedback, he was able to adapt and grow. Junior developers should cultivate the habit of actively seeking feedback and using it as a foundation for improvement. Remember, adaptability is a superpower in the tech industry.

Physical Health, Mental Well-being, and Productivity: 38:50

Tejas delves deep into the correlation between physical health, mental well-being, and productivity. He advocates for practices such as intense focus sessions, punctuated with breaks that involve physical activity. Moving to Germany allowed him to access better healthcare, emphasizing the importance of self-care in one's professional journey. He believes that good sleep is akin to saving and closing a file in coding, underlining its role in productivity. Junior developers should understand that optimal performance isn't just about coding skills; it's about holistic well-being.

Conclusion and Parting Thoughts: 48:12

As the conversation winds down, Tejas leaves listeners with parting thoughts on intentional learning. He believes in combining short bursts of intense attention with adrenaline-inducing activities, followed by quality rest. His formula for intentional learning can be especially beneficial for young developers looking to maximize their learning experiences. Always remember, how you learn is as important as what you learn.

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⚠ The following transcript was automatically generated.
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Tejas Kumar 0:00
Paying attention, which is wow teenagers, you'd be like, Oh, that's so obvious pay attention. But there's a certain order of things. So you pay attention, you're able to there's these things called ultradian cycles. So we're able we all work every human being in 90 minutes cycles of things, including our sleep is really a 90 minute cycles of, of slow wave sleep, and then deep sleep and so on. So what I would say for advice for learning is to intentionally start a 90 minute window where you're you're you're paying extreme levels of attention, meaning your your phone is somewhere else. You're absolutely no distractions, paying attention.

Tim Bourguignon 0:38
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 teachers Kuma teaching says an engineering background spanning over 20 years, from design to front end back end to DevOps, and probably more. Today, he shares talks at large with developer communities worldwide, equipping them to do their best work. They just welcomed their journey. Hey, Tim, it's nice to be here. It is nice to have you on I believe me. 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 pen 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. Thank you. And now back to today's guest. Today, just as you know, the show exists to help listeners understand what your story look like, and imagine how to shape their own future. So as usual on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place to start off your dev journey?

Tejas Kumar 2:07
Now? That's a great question. Um, I would probably place it inaccurately, I feel like you know, me and everybody else has multiple starting points. But if we think about the earliest one, it would have to be, gosh, it has to be 1990. What is three, I was born 93 plus eight is nine as I guess 2001 When I was eight years old. And you know, that's when I first created a web page. And it was really an exciting time, because I had no idea. That's how the Internet worked, where my brother actually taught me, he said, here's how you create it, you write HTML in some angular brackets, and head and title and body. And then he's like, we're using Notepad. So he's like, this is a text file, save it, but use the dot html extension and watch what happens, you know, and then we opened it in a browser, and it was Internet Explorer six. And I was like, whoa, what? Because I, of course, I didn't seen webpages before. And I had no idea that that's what was happening under the hood. And I think that's definitely where the journey with code started. For sure.

Tim Bourguignon 3:15
Did you remember where that first page was about?

Tejas Kumar 3:17
Yeah, it was something like hello world, you know, but what I what I do remember was was my brother expressed to me that it was very, like heavily opinionated about the, the order of HTML tags. And maybe it was like that it's changed over time. For example, today, I don't really ever need to write HTML and head and things like I just like, write my dues. Which is probably violating a lot of standards, but it does, it does work. You know, but back then he insisted, no, you have to have a title, you have to have a head, you have to have a body. That's what I do, remember, and when he was like, scared to omit those things,

Tim Bourguignon 3:51
and he was right. Let me just numbers of accessibility. I wish we were sometimes more consistent about this, and really help help us, for instance, screen readers to really work with all those.

Tejas Kumar 4:05
Right. And also, it would help, you know, if we use semantic HTML instead of DNS for everything. Photo, I think the real thing that people tend to miss is the lang attribute. I think if you have an HTML element, the lang attribute is absolutely a must. As you as you go international, because I live in Germany, and most websites don't have this attribute. And as a result, like the browser's internal translator doesn't pick up, you know, hey, do you like do you want us to translate this and English because it just doesn't know what language?

Tim Bourguignon 4:34
Okay, so were you following in your brother's footsteps back then? Was he already ahead of you programming and doing a lot of stuff or was just for fun?

Tejas Kumar 4:44
Yeah, that's a really good question. Um, so he was he was at an age she's four years older than I am. So he was 12. And he was at an age where my parents decided it's time for him to do something extracurricular. What might that be? They were like, I don't know. There's stuff happening with company readers, let's let's get him good at computers. And so they sent him to the best thing they could think of, which was some computers, literally, it was told to us and some computer stuff, right? We didn't particularly know it was the web or HTML. I was like, I don't know, computers, go do it. Yeah. And so he was in the class, he wasn't as interested as I was, I think, because at the time, he didn't see the potential. So I wasn't following in his footsteps. Instead, he just liked to teach me stuff. And the reasons why he liked me stuff, which he still likes to teach me stuff is because we were not born with equal opportunity. at all, I have a, I have a really bad to this day, I have a really bad illness that in the past has cut me off from a number of opportunities that most healthy people have. And so my brother used to and to this day doesn't walk around with, you know, this, this mindset of oh my gosh, I need to I need to support him, because he's not on the same footing as everybody else. And I think he has more of an amplified version of that, where he feels that not just for me now but for everybody, right? Like he's this person who absolutely wants to like end world hunger and, and really believes in leveling the playing field, because he's been exposed to the just the criminal inequality of opportunity that that I was born with an exposed to. And so now it's like his whole life's mission to do to fix that. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 6:20
But that that is fantastic. For first that he feels this way, and then that he was able to do it for you at a very early age and set you on this on this path. Yeah. So did you did you fall? You said you said you you were you were more interested in it? And he was? Yeah. Did you? Did you feel the potential that it could have and bite right away and feel this could become your future? Or how did that transition? Go?

Tejas Kumar 6:46
Yeah, that's that's a really good question. I um, so because of my illness. I, I couldn't do things. I you may you may remember a movie called Bubble Boy. Or bring the bell? Yes, yeah, it's a movie where there's this really sick. I think it's Jake Gyllenhaal, who just can't do it, he lives in a bubble. And I have that can not particularly that condition or whatever condition that you know, everyday tasks is tend to be fatal for me, if not just very dangerous. They're either life definitely life threatening. So So tasks, like, you know, climbing a set of stairs, or walking around with a backpack or opening I once i Once landed in the emergency room by opening a door that was too heavy, you know, when so? Yeah. So it's really, it's not a pleasant thing. And so I did definitely see the potential because I just had more time on the computer, because doing anything else literally would like be detrimental to my life. So I spent a lot of I spent a lot more time on the computer. Meanwhile, my brother was at school, which I didn't have the luxury of going to. Um, so that's, that's what led me to see the potential. But above and beyond that, not only they see the potential, I had the time, again, because he went to school, my parents went to work. And I was alone at home every day for something like 2018 years, with literally nothing to do except there's a computer. And you know, there's only so much like video games you can play, you can do until, until you're like oh my gosh, I just I want to do something or do something new, I want to do something creative. I want to do something more than just drawing pictures. And so then I resorted to like Photoshop, we used to have these really cool, like forum signatures back in the day with these, these pixel fonts and the tux the penguin from Linux and things like this. And so I've just been creative in Photoshop, and then, you know, eventually was able to make the jump from drawing pictures in Photoshop to actually making interactive experiences on the web. And I was like, Whoa, what is this? And so that's, I think that's why I was able to recognize that Meanwhile, my brother was you know, doing what healthy normal kids do go to school, you do some studies, we play some sports, etc.

Tim Bourguignon 9:01
And so did what did you do? Or when did you apply those knowledge or do the research onto you scratch your own itches? Did you have passions that said, hey, I need to build a website for that. Yeah. How did you keep on learning while keeping interested?

Tejas Kumar 9:21
So you know, so many people have have asked about my story, my journey. I mean, I've told the story multiple times, but I've never got this question, which is a really good question. Yes. Yeah. Very, very good question. It was partly scratching my own itches, but it was also wondering how do they do this? So for example, I love and I still to this day, I love the Luna UI from Windows XP. I was like this is just a matte as a beautiful like the the blue bar and the gradients. Were just Fanta it's it represents this texture that isn't like apples Aqua. It's not this like watery thing but it's got this fine detail. And so you know, I'd be like, what does it take to implement this? What gradients can I do in Photoshop to make this exist? And so then I go Google, I go search for, like tutorials on how to do Photoshop. And that exact same, like pursuing of knowledge, also then came to the web, I'd be like, okay, so I have this form. But now when I submit it, how do I make it like, do something? And it's only a matter of time until you realize, oh, there's an action attribute, okay. But then this action attribute goes to some type of server side thing, and then you go, Oh, congratulations, I found PHP, right. So that's exactly it. I was just like, Okay, how do I make a contact form, but I want to make it do something. So I'd search. There were great resources on the web. At the time, there was a website, I think it's still around and his egg.com T IC AG. This is where I learned PHP and server full code. In VB, it's still around. And it's this beautiful, old, old, old, old, old style of web design. Wow, this website hasn't been updated in like 20 years. But this is where I learned. And part of what also drove drove rather by excuse me, drove the curiosity was, I spent a lot of time on internet forums. This was a, this was a bigger thing as well back in the day. Platforms like simple machines. phpBB envision the vBulletin was like the market leader at the time. And that was just fascinating. And this is like random people all over the world get together and just talk. And oftentimes, there's like small talk, there's forums about literally nothing. And it was this brittleness, like, it wasn't quite social media, because social media didn't exist was almost social media 1.0. And it wasn't quite as invasive as instant messaging like, like Windows Live Messenger, MSN, messenger, Yahoo, messenger, aim, etc. And so I spent a lot of time on these forums. And I was I got to thinking, I was like, what if I wanted to make my own? How would I do that? And, you know, because I recognize the elements in a forum. I was like, okay, look, there's there's a, there's a form to create a topic and a post, there's a WYSIWYG editor. There's these components. And I was like, I could easily represent these in HTML. Even better, I could draw them in Photoshop, use the slicing tool, get a really nice table based layout. And, and then ship it. And the only thing that was missing was like the server side, PHP stuff. So then I went into zag. And I learned PHP and MySQL. I was a Windows user at the time. So I fell into the Wempe, wap LAMP stack, which was windows, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. And built it I literally, I had, so I had all the time in the world, man, like everybody was doing healthy person stuff. And I sick boy, when I wasn't, I spent most of my life actually in the emergency room. But when I was at home, that's what I would be doing. So I built a forum software, it was called radiant board. If you Google, you probably maybe find it. And also a content management system to compete with WordPress at 13 years old. I was just like, I was like, how do they make WordPress? Oh, cool. And so yeah, I built a few projects and learned from there. And it was really driven by how do they do this? And it's funny, you ask this question, because now I'm talking to you, I realize that whenever So nowadays, I speak at conferences. That's what I do with like, most of my time. I spoke at a conference last year in India. I'm speaking I started out last year, pardon me last week in India, and I'm speaking at a conference this week, or next week, in the United States. It's called that conference in Wisconsin. And it's a 90 minute talk. I don't know, I don't know how I can talk that much. But, but speaking at conferences Now, it's interesting, because the talks that do the best that are the best received are talks about how things were on the inside. So probably my most popular YouTube video of all time, is a talk titled, deconstructing react, where we, what we do is we write a React app. But then we remove the import statement that imports react. So then you have a bunch of errors in the console, it says cannot read Create Element of undefined. So I say okay, there's an object that's undefined and it expects a property Create Element and then we just literally like piece by piece will create react from scratch. Yeah, and it's the same scratching of the itch of curiosity that has been around since you know, the back in the day with the forum's Yeah. That's, that's, I think, been my main way of learning. It also translates above and beyond code to things like fitness and food, and really everything I tend to have this innate sense of like, how does that work?

Tim Bourguignon 14:28
Yeah, um, it makes it makes a lot of sense. It's, it's a holistic picture that no it's it's how you function how you work. When did you realize this thing you've been you've been living as a I want to say hobby, but it's it was your life at that time. When did you realize this could become my life, this could become the center of my life.

Tejas Kumar 14:49
That's a good in some ways, it was always the center of my life, because it's all I had. And this is so I now especially After living in Germany, I'm exposed to the tremendous amounts of privilege a lot of people have. And, you know, it's not to say that there's more here than other places, even in Qatar, where I grew up. A lot of people have a lot of privilege, and they have the privilege to, you know, finish high school and go, Oh, I don't know what I'm gonna do with my life. And then just like, chill for a few years, and then be like, you know, what, management or, or even, or even, you know, what history or you know, art, like, there's a lot of people who like, don't know what they want to do, and then spend all the time in the world figuring it out. And I thought, wow, that's, that's, that's some next level stuff. Because for me, I was I grew up dependent on medication with, without which I would be dead. And that's, that's, that's still true today. Like, if I don't take my medicine, I die within a week. And so it was kind of important that either my father had a job and we had a visa to stay in a country where I could get reasonable health care, or I myself have a job that I can have a visa to stay in a country with reasonable health care. And so I've been like, literally dependent on this. But also, I had I had, I want to recognize enough privilege to have code always be the center of my life, because I had literally nothing else. And, you know, it's a two sided coin, but I feel like there's benefit there, because I never once in my life had to stop and think, Okay, what do I want to do with the rest of my life? Literally, since the moment I wrote HTML, at eight years old, I knew I was like, this is this is the thing, so much. So two years after that, my parents saw a lot of promise. They were like, wow, this guy is like going a bit nuts. And so what they did was they, they decided, okay, you know what, it's a challenge for you to do anything regularly, because you just keep falling apart and like having emergencies. But we're going to try, we want to invest in this. And so they sent me to a course to learn computer stuff. Again, they they didn't know what they were signing me up for. Again, we just didn't know that the web was a thing. And so they put me in a class that pun intended in a class that taught me object oriented C++. This is a big jump from from and, and the people. So I'm at this point, I'm 10 years old, I'm 10 years of age, as you can imagine, 10 year olds do you have children, I'm assuming are not very, very big. So I go to this classroom, and there's people in their 30s 3540 they are computer science teachers at schools who the school like incent them to, like, learn something before they can teach the children as a training program. And, and then in walks a 10 year old, right? And everyone's like, Oh, my gosh, this is the cutest thing ever. What is he actually going to learn? Does he think he has a chance? And honestly, like, I learned this C++ with everybody else. And it was fun. I wrote some good programs, programs like calculators and things like enter your name, and then it greets you. It's like Hi, name. And then you know, you read from standard in standard out and then C++ like importing those libraries. There's just names like c o n IO dot h. And for me as a 10 year old I'm like Cohn Kony. Was this an ice cream app? So there was, there was a lot of that. But I did finish that course, I have the certificate signed and everything dated at 2003 when I was 10 years old. And so to answer your question, I just kind of knew this is what else what else can I do? Man, I can't do sports. I can't make I can't do food. I can't do art. I can't do history. There was nothing I grew up hearing from every side. Listen, you're gonna die young, and there's probably nothing you're going to do with your life. Right? So I found this one thing that kind of sticks. I'm like, Okay, I guess this is my thing. When I got when I finished that course, it was like in the newspaper and my, my school found out about it. And they like wanted to do this like ceremony to honor me. So we had a morning assembly. And in front of the whole school, they were like, we'd like to recognize stages for getting this thing at such a young age. And from that point, everybody at school was like, Oh my gosh, what C++? That's not because the older kids got it. And everybody came up to me, I was 10 years old. And they're like, hey, just remember us when you're famous. Okay, this is going to be a big thing. You're going to be a big deal. You're going to Hey, can I fly in your private jet one day, like, a lot of like a lot of children coming up to me, and I was like, What's the big deal? Man? I just made a Greek. Yeah, but that's yeah. So to answer your question on long winded way, you know, some would say I chose coda, but in truth code chose me for sure. This was predestined from from a very long time.

Tim Bourguignon 19:29
Lovely to hear you. So do you have the project now?

Tejas Kumar 19:33
Well, I have the project. I don't the private

Tim Bourguignon 19:35

Tejas Kumar 19:36
Still working on it?

Tim Bourguignon 19:40
Okay, so if, if the answer was not in finding your passion, when did you make it a job?

Tejas Kumar 19:47
That's that's a really, that's a good question. I always struggled with doing anything consistent. Again, going back going back to this illness, right. It was a cycle in a school year. I attended I was able to attend rather 19 days. So in a year 19 days, that was my record. Yes. Because the rest of the time I'm bouncing back between an emergency hospital and my house. The reason being, I have this fatal illness. And so the costs to manage the illness are today 9000 euros per week. Okay, wow. Yeah, that's, that's about half a million a year, something like that. And in so I was born in India, and in India, you in India years, you can afford this period. And if you do, you're probably gonna get something, you know, that that's been improperly stored or contaminated. And so when I was four years old, somehow, this is another story for another time, probably my father got a job in Qatar, where, you know, he, we still don't know how he got the job. He's not he doesn't have a degree or anything. And we moved, and we knew country, we didn't know where anything was, and so on. Ultimately, I had a near death experience, I had lost all the blood in my body was very dangerous. And they took me to the emergency hospital and they fixed me up, everything was fine. But now my parents are thinking, oh, man, what is this going to cost? Right? Turns out emergency health care, and Qatar is just free, always without condition. And so we're like, oh, this is awesome. And it was so I couldn't get the free medicine. And I did for a long time. But it had to be emergency medicine. Right. And so yeah, it was literally I would go to school on Monday. On Tuesday, I'd recognize Oh, no. So the condition, by the way, is that I never stopped bleeding. internally or externally. I just never stopped haemophilia. That's right. Yes, I have, I have the worst kind of that. So I climb upstairs, I'll start to bleed in my knee. And then up until it's too late. So in Qatar, it was only in the context of emergencies are going to be free. So I would go to school on Monday, you know, to walk to a classroom, maybe go upstairs Tuesday, my knee is just in the size of my head. I've lost a lot of blood. It's very dangerous. So Tuesday, I'd probably go to the emergency hospital. They treat me Wednesday, Thursday and recover. Friday, I'd go back home, wait a bit, go back to school on Monday and repeat this repeated for like 18 years, right? Just a cycle of trauma. And so I tell you this, because you know, when did I make it a job? There was always a lot of trepidation. Like, can I go to work every day, I sure as hell couldn't go to school every day. And to go to a job you have to go to work every day. This was this was pre COVID. This was pre remote work. I decided to make it a job when after high school. Everybody went off to college. I couldn't one because my family couldn't afford it. But to because I it was a it was a bad investment. Probably even if they could like take a loan or something. What are the odds I finished very low, right? So I didn't go to college, I kind of just stayed home, just doing random stuff, whatever, you know, a young man trying to find himself does making music I thought I'd have a career in music. I was a singing teacher for a while. I got into stand up comedy. I was a pastor. And like I was like all kinds of things. Just trying to find, you know, what, what am I supposed to do? And a lot of people would talk a lot of smack to me, they would say, Oh, what are you doing with your life? You just kind of is this a failure to launch situation? And you just kind of going to live with your parents for the rest of your life up, sir. No, they will. And so I would that would weigh on me. But I would kind of forget about it until we visited my brother who had moved to Australia. So my mom and I, we had nothing else to do. So we went and visited him. And he had a lot weighing on him. He was not looking healthy. He was very tired and burnt out. And I was concerned. So I asked him about it. And he said, you know, you're sick. Mom and Dad are going to get old at some point, and they're gonna have to retire. And he's like, Who do you think? What do you think has to bear all this responsibility? Right? And I was like, Man, that's awful. I can't imagine the weight of that. And it was then that was November of I want to say 2015 or something. No, no, no, no, not 2015 2012 2012 2013. And I just I went back determined as ever. I was like, I can't just let him do that. Then so I from them just with no education, but a bunch of experience building hobby projects and internships. I think I also won an award that kind of helped. After all of this, I applied to every job I could find within Qatar, and ultimately got one at a really hip and cool design agency. These people do like branding, messaging, mostly print, but they started to recognize the value of digital stuff. And so they brought me on board to to help that to support them with digital efforts when pages apps things like this. And it wasn't long until they made me the digital lead. And that was my first job. So I got it out of wandering To well do something, make something of my life, but also wanting to support my brother and you know, look after my family as they they grow in age and things like that. That said, there's a lot of privilege in knowing that had I not got that job, everything would have been fine. And then not not a lot of people can do that a lot of people turn it into a job out of like sheer necessity, like it's this or I'm not eating. Thankfully, I've always had and do always have people who will make sure the basic needs are met. And I think that's that's a huge contributing factor to my, quote unquote, successes. I have a safety net and a baseline that I don't take for granted that a lot of people don't have.

Tim Bourguignon 25:40
Amen to that. I mean, that you mentioned before, so you are really driven with understanding how it was done, how it was made, how it looks under the cover, how did this first job match this? I mean, you don't have the time anymore to look at everything, I turn every stone and say, Hey, this looks interesting. And I have to be productive. Now you have to reach some goals that are not necessarily the ones you would set on yourself, if you were completely free to do this. How do you deal with that?

Tejas Kumar 26:10
That's a really good question. There's there are a lot of data. In medicine, by the way, this is this my my thing, one of my biggest passions in life these days is medicine, you can probably understand why. And there are really compelling really good data showing that our brains, especially as we grow so from from infancy to about 25 years old, are very plastic. And they change a lot to adapt to various stimuli. But they grow differently for different people, depending on their environmental factors. And I think this is really powerful, because there's plenty of evidence that people who are born blind, have exactly the same brain development as everybody else. But the brain is developed to not dedicate its circuits for vision, they're blind. But that same circuitry is then dedicated to other senses, like hearing or smell. So this is well accepted in the world. And in the literature that blind people hear better than the rest of us. Deaf people see better than the rest of us or smell better than the rest of us. Because our brains are so awesome. Like they don't invest in things that don't work. And they. So I tell you this because I tend to learn things very quickly. So that, you know, we already talked about this curiosity that I had. I would go from like, on Monday thinking about how to have a forum things work. And then next week, Monday, I have a forum software, right? Like, I feel it's a combination of I had the time, but also, my brain didn't really get much exposure to like sports or physical stuff. And I didn't even I learned how to ride a bicycle just a few years ago. So all of that brain space, I'm convinced. And I'd like to confirm maybe one day with an fMRI scan or something. All of that brain capacity went, I feel like to learn it. Because this is also something today, like as I work today, a lot of the people who I work with go like Oh, my gosh, how did you do that? So quickly? How did you learn that so quickly? And so as I got the job, there were deadlines and things. But you know, my, my boss often put challenges in front of me that I didn't know how to do. But because it was my first job. I was like, oh, no, totally, I can totally do that. Absolutely no problem be done by the weekend. I'm completely making it up. But I did every single challenge. I evoked my curiosity. And it was that same circuit that drove me to build websites, many, many years ago, I used it to face the challenges she would give me some of the challenges were, for example, Hey, there's this client, they need a native application, a desktop application. I know you're a web guy, but can you somehow do this, right? And this is when I was like, Oh, my gosh, I've never done that before. Do I need to learn visual C++? Do I need to go with Visual Basic, like, how do I know but if it's Visual Basic, then it's not going to be cross platform. And I started thinking rapidly about these things and ultimately arrived that I think it's called PhoneGap, Cordova or ionic or something like this, and learned it instantly used it. And within that week, they had the app they wanted. I made it as a web page for UI, the user interface and then package it up as a binary. And I was like, here you go, right. So yeah, it's that same neural circuit, I'm convinced that just comes back and comes back to this day. So these days, I speak at a lot of conferences about topics that, frankly, when I agreed to speak at the conference, I do not know. But the conference organizers happened last week I spoke at this conference in India. I proposed a talk on a different topic, say topic eight. The organizers like Cool Cool, cool, cool yeah, we want you to speak but can you do a different topic can you do you know, react server components? And I was like, bro, I don't know what that as I was like, so in my mind, I'm like, I don't know. Okay, yes, I'll do it. And so I went hard when I was like, Okay, it's open source. So the codes probably there. Let's start reading. And I read a read, I read. And within two weeks, I had a good enough grasp of it that I could prepare, talk and explain. And I did this talk, and it was very well received. And to me, that's the measure of do I even know something right, the great scientist, Dr. Richard Feynman says, a mark of somebody who truly understand something is that they can explain it clearly. So I could do that with zero components. And I feel like I have learned and do understand it. And that's, again, the same neural circuitry that has been somehow evolved for me to just learn things rapidly. So it wasn't an issue at my first job, you know, making the time to learn things. I think, because of that reason, I still learned and kept in touch with things. And to this day, I still do learn and keep in touch with things.

Tim Bourguignon 30:57
So how do you? Do you pick what you want to work on nowadays? If you have interest in everything, and kind of jump on anything and ready to rumble pretty fast? How do you pick?

Tejas Kumar 31:09
Yeah, that's a good question. Um, it really, I am Drew, this is this will sound horrible. My brother probably won't like this, but I will. I'm driven by capitalism. And I don't mean, I don't mean that I'm chasing money. But what I do mean is, I'm chasing the things that people pay money for, put it that way. So if I want to focus on what should I learn, I look at okay, well, what, what are people talking about what is driving the economy? And that's usually a good ballpark to lend. And so if I think about what's driving the economy, you know, probably I'll find that people are talking about and evaluating tailwind CSS for some type of like productivity gains, maybe it makes you write CSS faster. And then I'll follow that rabbit hole and dive deep. Similar, I look at products that people are talking about, like quick from from builder IO, solid Jas solid start for literally, like, if we talk about capitalism, they just raised some money. I was like, Oh, why are they pouring? You know, hundreds of 1000s into this. And so I kind of just follow what people are talking about, and try to have a good enough understanding. Because in my line of work, it's only a matter of time until someone comes in. They're like, Hey, you're that guy who explains things? Can you explain this to me? And I'd like to be able to, so

Tim Bourguignon 32:22
you see your mistake. Like any other I mean, if some people are pouring money into something, it's probably because for most of the time, there is a reason, a good reason for that. Sometimes it's just pure capitalism. And there is no reason then the product is crappy, but it's still getting some money. But most of the time, he's getting some money, because there's some traction, because there's something interesting. So yeah, interesting. Yeah.

Tejas Kumar 32:43
And I think there's a lot of a lot of how can you say it's a lot of attention to be paid to knowing what the what thing that receives a lot of money is worth pursuing? And what isn't? For example, from day one of this, you know, NFT nonsense. I just knew I was like, the people are spending billions on pictures of monkeys. But this this isn't this isn't this, isn't it? Right. And having that intuition, I think is also really key. I still to this day, don't understand how, how people think there's something more to buy pictures of monkeys from billions.

Tim Bourguignon 33:24
I talked with, with Max dia, the, the author of of high school brew homebrew. And he created a company called called T T dot XYZ. And that was the first example when when when he spoke about it the first example of blockchain where I said this makes sense. The whole rest, you can you can throw it down the drain. But this finally makes sense. It's been years

Tejas Kumar 33:51
by Yeah, that's fundamentally the problem. So another criterion I can add to the things that I try and pursue knowledge in is things that can or do solve fundamental human problems. And so as far as I know, today, Blockchain hasn't really solved what I would consider fundamental human problems outside of maybe secure money transfer. I haven't really seen blockchain come in and like solve education or health care, or public transport. Whereas there's things like quantum computing, right? That that can solve encryption for them better. Or even decryption in some cases that can solve things like quantum teleportation, or even what why go so far. We just look at AI, chat GPT for all of the all of the flack that it catches all of the criticism has been, at least for me an absolutely invaluable tool, especially as I pursue knowledge, right, especially things that have been documented prior to 2021. Like, I can ask it literally anything, and then get like tailored individual explanations to me Where, where the psychological effects of things like impostor syndrome just don't apply? Because like, so what if God thinks I'm gonna do it doesn't matter. So, so it's really valuable to learn from it. Like, I can't tell you the number of times I've gone to chat GP and I said, Okay, can you explain one more time the citric acid cycle to me? And it will do that it will talk about pyruvate. And all of this, and I, okay, great. Thanks. And then I go for a week I forget it. And I just keep asking the same question without fear of like, charged up thinking I'm stupid. Probably does, but it does. You know,

Tim Bourguignon 35:32
by the time you become sentient, and will be dead or older, so I feel we missed a step in in the story, which is, How and when did you realize that you could make a career out of not doing the work, but learning faster than the other and working on restitution working on teaching others to to to to learn this? Material?

Tejas Kumar 35:58
Yeah, this is another pen your I like, I like these questions. Your your, your fantastic podcast host. Thank you. Yeah, I didn't ever once ever in my life. And to some degree, I still don't think about making money. Like, you know, and, and it's a bit weird, because I'm a business owner now. But I'm at a point where I literally so people, so I have a consultancy that we work with clients to help them with developer relations, Deborah, and they come to us and they say, Hey, can you help? I said, Absolutely. And then we start talking about money. What's this going to cost? Can you give us a quote? And I say, No, I can't. But maybe maybe you all can give us a quote, like, how much do you want to pay? Right? Because because I just I've never really done it for money. And I still don't I just work with whatever our clients want to work with, usually. And it's fine. Like we're doing well, we're actually hiring another person this week. And so that's good. But yeah, I the point of where did I realize that I can use the curiosity and the learning acumen for money hasn't arrived. Even now, like money is a byproduct. But like this idea of like leveraging, you know what, whatever you want to call it God, the universe has given me for money hasn't registered? Like what I'm trying to say is money happens. But it's often a side effect. Yeah, but you asked about teaching, I teach a lot. I'm speaking at nearly 40 conferences this year. That's, yeah, 50 to 52 week year. But that is something that is multi layered. So on the surface, I do it because I genuinely love sharing the things that I've learned with everybody. And I feel also a sense of responsibility. Like I have this ability to learn things really quickly, and then explain them as if I really know them. Because I do like Fineman says, and you know, in being able to teach this other people can learn as well. For me, that's that's definitely it. I definitely do not make money from speaking I want to make that really clear. The conferences will pay for like flights and hotels and things but nothing else often. So it is very much public service. In fact, that costs me a ton more than it benefits me to do this, but I think it's valuable for the people. But that's one side of the coin. Right? There's more layers to this. And I think one of the biggest layers is, you know, I spent the first half of my life hearing, you know, you're probably going to die young, you will probably be nothing. code might be great, you're gonna get a private jet, whatever. But I mean, come on, you die from a backpack. Like what you know. So there's always been this underestimation. And every time I have the opportunity to, you know, get up on a stage with how many over 500 1000 2000 people and teach them things that I know that I'm pretty convinced many of them don't know. It allows me to retell the story. It allows me to reshape the trauma. So I go back to this trauma in my mind, at least if people telling me yeah, you're probably going to die. My mom, you think I'm exaggerating my mom, the day I made it to 10th grade was shocked. She was like, Whoa, I did not expect you to live this long. And she meant it. This was not a joke. And so every time i Nobody expected me to live past ninth grade, really. And so when I get up on stage and teach people things that they don't know, how does react server components work internally, they don't know. What I retell is the story of you know, hey, you're never going to, you're probably going to die down and nobody's going to want to listen to you. And the retelling of that story is 1000s of people over the course of a month want to listen to me such that they even pay to get me there. Right. So it's really undoing trauma is part of it, but also a public service is another part of it.

Tim Bourguignon 40:00
Yeah, makes sense. Did you have did you have clients trying to get you to speak about their products? Yeah. How do you deal with that?

Tejas Kumar 40:10
It's hard i. So as of since April of this year, or other May, let's do make since May I have not? I've turned down all of them. I do not speak for clients. And if I do, I make it clear upfront, like, hey, just so you know, they paid for it. And I agreed, because I do believe in that. But I do. I'm not a fan of like the shady marketing stuff. It just feels dirty. I'm also I have a lot of people trying to become clients of us, just so that I tell all of my followers about their thing. That's also something that's hard. No, instantly, because all of the people whoever follows me for whatever reason they do I know personally, more or less. And there's a quality of relationship there that I would rather not muddy with, like baseless recommendations.

Tim Bourguignon 41:00
Okay. I see. And I totally understand that it must be hard to really find the right balance. What, especially when you like something, when you learn something that has customers doing it, I want to speak about that. But how will you be received? Well, they're going

Tejas Kumar 41:14
well, what's harder is, there's a certain exploitation as well, that that nobody talks about, but like, so I'll share with you two examples. And I know I want to be sensitive to the time as well. Two examples. One is, people in Berlin, this this happens will all invite me to parties. Hey, come over. Yeah, we're just gonna give you a meal. It's gonna be great. Okay, cool. I show up. And we're having a great time. we're vibing. But then it's like, wow, look at this food, man. We made this do you wanna take a picture of it? I was like, Yes, I do. Okay, cool. Now, do you want to tweet that picture and tell everyone how great we are. That happens a number of times. But second, there's conferences that will want me to show up speak at the conference, they have a ceiling on the amount they can reimburse for flights and hotels, they'll be like, I don't know, it's 100 bucks, or something, which doesn't really cover the full amount. And they will not also do an honorarium. Meanwhile, they sell tickets for, you know, 400 to 1000 euros, and they record my content that I create, and then upload it to their platforms to which people have a monthly subscription of, you know, 10 euros a month. So there's a lot of money changing hands for my content, that I don't even get a hotel enough light for. Right. And this is somehow just Okay, so those some events do this. And I'm a little bit weary of them. But there's a whole dimension of, of once people know who you are, there's room for exploitation that we don't talk about generally, um, but I think we should.

Tim Bourguignon 42:44
Yeah, I remember the hashtag on Twitter a while back the pay to speak hashtag. And there was very, very hard discussion about privilege and who you get as speakers at conferences and who can afford to not work for a couple days travel, not pay for people from their pockets for everything, and basically be on stage, which was a bit cringy.

Tejas Kumar 43:07
Yeah. Which, which I feel like the bare minimum is a flight and a hotel. Just make sure someone's physically there. Right. And ideally, there's an honorarium. I want to shout out if I can, smashing Smashing Magazine. They do a number of conferences, and they treat speakers extremely well. They pay an honorarium, they make sure you're there. And they also like, give you like a per diem for like, Hey, you're you're outside your home. So we want to make sure you You're, you're accounted for. And they they're probably the best run conference a I've seen so

Tim Bourguignon 43:37
awesome. I think, for the for the advice, I'd like to come back to learning and can, this seems to be the centerpiece of your story. You spoke about about brain structure, and how maybe your brain is structured a little bit differently to to be more efficient in learning or be more effective in learning. Still, would you have some some some piece of advice and how people can learn more effectively when their brain is normal with big airports? I don't think there's some such thing as normal brain, but when you don't have maybe, maybe a special ability in learning, but there must be some tricks that you can use to help your brain to help yourself be a better learner.

Tejas Kumar 44:23
Absolutely. What I can tell you is learning gets a lot harder past age 25, I'm 30. I've experienced this. So it becomes so I think in terms of practical advice, the first thing I would say is, if you're under the age of 25, prioritize that highly, like a social life even can come later. Like, like, take advantage of your plasticity because it is finite. And you probably the biggest nightmare for us, for me for most people is you wake up in your 50s And you're like, Whoa, I didn't do anything with my youth. Right? So prioritizing that pre age 25 is absolutely essential. though, and I think there's there's plenty of papers and research that study learning. And I've read, I would say most of them, at least that are published up until this date. And there's evidence that shows, really behaviors that would help you get better at learning. And these probably were behaviors that I just kind of did naturally. But that also benefit learning, these behaviors are paying attention, which is Wow, teachers will be like, Oh, that's so obvious. Pay attention. But there's a certain order of things. So you pay attention, you're able to, there's these things called what is it in the literature, this called ultradian cycles. So we're able we all work, every human being in 90 minutes cycles of things, including our sleep, is really a 90 minute cycles of, of slow wave sleep, and then deep sleep, and so on. So what what I would say, for advice for learning is to intentionally start a 90 minute window, where you're you're paying extreme levels of attention, meaning your your phone is somewhere else, you absolutely no distractions, paying attention. And then it's really important. After you're out of work, you go do something very intense, such that your adrenaline is really high. This could be something like mixed martial arts working out running cold shower, or whatever it may be just to like shock your system. Because the literature it really lends itself to the idea that we remember such shocks like it enhances our memory. For example, if you're driving home, kind of standard procedure, no big deal. You don't tend to remember the boring drives. But if you drive back home, and you see a really bad car accident, or someone is dismembered, you will probably remember that accident for the next week or so. And that's because our brains respond to adrenaline, they respond to like, oh my gosh, they respond to shock. And so after an intense bout of paying attention, you know, doing something to shock your system and trigger some adrenaline helps. I love adrenaline from cold showers personally and exercise, I do some resistance training here and there. And that has also been really beneficial. I must note though, I only started doing resistance training after I moved to Germany and got the healthcare, the better German healthcare. I couldn't do it before. And then of course, I think the last probably the most important thing is sleep. Because like, we all write code, I'm assuming we do anyway. And when I read code, if I forget to save the file, and close, it'll ask me are you sure do you want to save first, and this is what sleep is. Sleep is really, I feel like for the human being sleepers, save and close, and then wake up the next morning and everything's right. So. So it would be 90 minutes of intense attention, followed by some type of shocking adrenaline inducing activity. And then getting really good sleep that night. I feel like would really help anyone learn anything. And indeed, that's that's what happened for me. When I was younger. Now I practice after I've kind of outlived the years of plasticity. i This is how I intentionally learn things today.

Tim Bourguignon 48:12
Thank you so much. There's very analytical and nice way to put it that I love it. And I'm gonna go take a shower, when we're done. You just, it's been fantastic. Thank you for telling that story on here. That was really cool.

Tejas Kumar 48:27
Thanks so much for having me. It's a real honor to be here.

Tim Bourguignon 48:29
So where would be the best place to continue this discussion with you?

Tejas Kumar 48:33
Twitter, so I'm on Twitter at Tejas Kumar underscore, I assume there'll be a link in the show notes yesterday. And also on LinkedIn. That's just my name. Tejas. Kumar would be great. I'd love to connect with people and talk more.

Tim Bourguignon 48:43
Sure. Anything else you wanna plug in? Actually, no, life's good.

Tejas Kumar 48:49
Thank you. I know this great podcast called Software developer's journey. It's a great thing that should maybe subscribe to it. But know nothing.

Tim Bourguignon 48:58
Thank you. Fantastic. Thank you so much. Thanks a lot. And this has been another episode of developer's journey. We see each other next week. Bye 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 n o t h e p corporate email info at Hey dev journey dot info