#275 Cheuk Ting Ho from playing god to living with communities
In our latest podcast episode, we delve into the fascinating journey of Chuck Ting Hall, a gaming enthusiast who transitioned into the world of tech, data science, and community management. Today, Chuck serves as a Community Manager at OpenSSF and is a prolific contributor to various tech libraries.
Chuck's journey begins at a crossroads, a place most of us find ourselves when trying to choose a career path. Her decision to delve into either Physics or Computer Science was a challenging one. Chuck's narrative takes us through the pressures of academia, her struggles as a scientist in business-centric Hong Kong, and how family expectations factored into her choices.
Working in odd places such as an ad company and a theme park, Chuck's experiences reflect the many trials and tribulations that individuals often face before finding their niche. Her journey in the tech world is particularly enlightening. Chuck openly discusses her first conference talk proposal, her battle with imposter syndrome, and the significance of community in developing professional skills.
The podcast episode highlights Chuck's resilience and passion. She recounts her experiences transitioning her career from data science to community management, the challenges of visa applications, and becoming an active contributor in the tech community. Her story is a testament to the power of community and perseverance.
The episode also emphasizes the critical role of communities in Chuck's journey. They provided the necessary support when she was navigating her visa application process, transitioning her career, and dealing with personal issues. In fact, Chuck admits that her decision to embrace the tech community over a job is what ultimately led to her current role.
One of the key takeaways from Chuck's journey is the importance of networking and being actively involved in the community. The relationships she built over the years in the tech community not only provided her with invaluable support but also opened doors to new opportunities.
In conclusion, Chuck Ting Hall's journey from a gaming enthusiast to an influential figure in the tech community is inspiring. Whether you're a tech enthusiast, a student caught between choices, or someone seeking to transition careers, Chuck's story serves as a reminder to embrace your passion and to recognize the power of community in achieving professional growth.
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Cheuk Ting Ho: 0:00
don't limit yourself. I mean, if you want to go for it, you're opening a door doesn't mean that you close many more doors. It's not like that. You can still come back and stuff. So even if nowadays someone was like, oh, I studied computer science, now can I do physics, I was like, well, you may not be applying to be a professor, but if you have your skills as a computer scientist or an engineer, then you can maybe help in their research as an engineer and then start from there to get to know more about that. Now, especially when a lot of research needs data, needs a lot of computational power, well, if you have that background, they love you, they need you. So I don't think that a lot of things are connected and you just haven't realized that yet. Tim Bourguignon: 0:52 So, yeah, Hello and welcome to Developers Journey, the podcast bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm a host, tim Borghigno. On this episode I receive Chuck Ting Hall. Chuck has been a data scientist in various companies before following a passion for the tech communities and side stepping toward developer relations. She's now a community manager at OpenSSF, that's the Open Source Security Foundation. She's obviously massively interested in open source and she contributes to multiple libraries like Hypothetis, pytest, pandas, jupyter Notebooks and Django. I'm sure there's quite a few more, but let's stop the list there and to run that picture of her, she loves to serve the communities she is in as a frequent speaker, as an organizer of various events, but also as a full board member of the Europe Python Society or currently a Python Software Foundation Fellow and Director. Chuck, a warm welcome, devtrain.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 1:54
Hello, hello world. Tim Bourguignon: 1:57 Exactly. But before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show. Every month you are keeping the DevTrain A lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests than editing audio tracks, please go to our website, devjourneyinfo, 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 guests. So, chuck, as you know, the show exists to help the listeners understand what your story looked like and imagine how to shape their own future. So, as usual on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your Dev journey?
Cheuk Ting Ho: 2:46
Oh, I got asked this question a lot because, like, I have interviews and stuff and everybody asked me to introduce myself. So I would always like, okay, where should I start? Like I think the most relevant thing? Well, maybe maybe for funsies. I would start like when I was very, very young I was like maybe 14 or so I love games. I think a lot of us do. A lot of us was like driving to the programming world because we love games and actually my game addiction, stuff. Before that, when I was 14, I tried to create a game with Flash If you're old enough to know Flash. Tim Bourguignon: 3:26 I am. I suffered ActionScript for a while.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 3:29
Yes, yes, I discovered ActionScript, so that's probably my first one of my first programming language. So I tried to make games with it. But even before that I was like watching my dad play some DOS game when I was a kid sitting on his lap and he was playing something like Prince of Persia and things like that. Oh, I remember that. Tim Bourguignon: 3:51 Yeah, okay. So how did that initial interest into gaming segue into creating games or being interested in how games are created?
Cheuk Ting Ho: 4:04
Yeah, I don't know, I think I would just like imagine that. Well, I could, I could design how it looks, because I love imagining things when I was a kid so I was like, oh, I want to create a world that is not the world I'm in. There's like a magical world or something. So I feel like gaming kind of satisfies a lot of that. I love pointing and click Avengers, like I haven't played Monkey Island, but there is like some like Asian, like Chinese knockoff of those like pointing and click games. So, yeah, I do enjoy that a lot, the interactiveness. I feel like there's another world inside a computer. So that's why I was like, oh, I want to create my own world. I got a little bit there. Tim Bourguignon: 4:52 Oh, we all wanted to do that at some point. Did you manage, then, to play God with games or with with software programs at some point?
Cheuk Ting Ho: 4:59
Yeah, I think I think kind of my early journey kind of take a pause there. After I kind of, you know, created some fresh game. I found it very hard because, like, I'm not very good at drawing, so the access like not. Like nowadays you have a lot of resources you can ask online and even free resources you can use. So back in the day I was like, oh, I won't be able to create anything like pretty and fun. So I kind of like pause there. What? Because, also, like Asian kid, you know, there's a pressure puts on you to like do well academically. So at that time I was, I was doing well in computer science, but at the same time I also like science, like natural science, you know, physics and stuff. So I so I focused a lot of time on studying and less gaming and I ended up, when I went to uni I choose between two subjects that I like equally at a time is like physics and computer science. And at that time I was, like you know, socializing with a lot of people who may be a few years senior than me. There was someone who already studied in the university that ended up in. He told me that like, actually, if you choose to study physics, maybe some point in your life, in the future, you can go back to computer science, but not the other way around. So I took his advice and actually it was true, because now I'm kind of working in the tech field. Tim Bourguignon: 6:37 So you pursued a bachelor, master's degree in physics.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 6:43
Yeah, so I studied physics and I was at the beginning is, it seems, well, I love quantum mechanics and all those abstract things because, like you know, I like imagining things or those things I really love. But then when I go to my, you know, postgraduate study, when I was trying to get my master, at that time I was like, oh, maybe, maybe I should study harder and pursue a PhD. But then it was like a decision of whether I want to do that really or not. So at that time I was very involved in a lot of like student society things you know already, like you know, get involved in the community, in the university, so everything just kind of go back around in my life. So, yeah, so at that time I was like, so involved in those like student union things. So I was super distracted and my my advice, like you know, the supervisor of my research, he literally had a word with me and say like, well, if you want to pursue the academic study, you should focus on it and not get distracted. So so that that is really a life changing like question for me, that what I really want to pursue in my life. So I ended up choosing to, to not limit myself Because, you know to it's very hard academically, you know you have to, and especially for women as well. And I didn't. That wasn't like really in the conversation, but from the environment that I was in, you know, because when in undergraduate school only like there's a class of, let's say, a hundred something of physics undergraduate student, there's only maybe like 10 or so women. So so the environment I was in I didn't feel that like because I study in a girls' school, in, you know, secondary school, and so most of my teenage years were just spending around like girls. So I feel I'm a little bit different, because I love science and stuff, but I didn't, didn't feel discouraged, luckily. But then when it's in uni, then you feel like, oh, I'm doing something very different here and I see a difficulty of see that I can't really focus. I really that that's may not be what I want to do for the rest of my life. So I ended up, you know, choosing to finish my study with my degree and then move down and leave the academic world. Tim Bourguignon: 9:17 Okay, how did you, did you make this decision? Was it that really a long thinking process where you may pros and cons and really, but then? Or was it a gut feeling and then you followed that gut feeling? Yeah, tell me more about this.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 9:31
So that that that conversation with my supervisor really sit with me for a while. I was like thinking also, you know, I have expectation from family that oh, I'm the one because compare me and my sister is like I'm the one who do well in academia, like in academic studies and stuff, so but, but I always got a lot of freedom, I think, like my parents know that I'm stubborn, so they know that they can't change my mind. If I decided on something, I would just go for it. So if I decided to not do it, they know that I would just go to do something else. So so, yeah, it sits with me for a while. And then, of course, at that time I was like, okay, I have to finish up my study anyway, because actually I got funding to do my, my postgraduate study. So I feel like, oh, it would be a waste if I didn't finish the degree. So I finished the degree and then I just know that this is okay, this is basically done for me. Then I go to, you know, just like any graduates look for jobs. It's super tough because I in, in where I grew up, like Hong Kong, it is like almost like a useless degree, right? Tim Bourguignon: 10:41 Because Well, what was your degree actually?
Cheuk Ting Ho: 10:44
It's. It's well, it's in physics which like not like kind of, for example because Hong Kong is a very small place is very interesting. You know situation there politically and everything, so it doesn't get a lot of opportunity. If you're a scientist, you probably end up maybe working for the government to do some like stuff, but that is a very, very narrow, narrow field. Most of the industry in Hong Kong was finance, you know business services and stuff. So being a scientist is kind of a bit useless. Tim Bourguignon: 11:20 Okay, did you try? Did you try? Sorry, sorry. Did you try to to go into physics as a as a profession after your studies, or did you look for something else?
Cheuk Ting Ho: 11:33
Yeah, I have to look something else. So I have to kind of think of, okay, maybe, because, like, I have friends who finished a PhD study in in physics. So either you know a lot of a lot of them, the one who can make it go overseas, you know, to do their PhD or do their postdoc overseas, then they may end up getting a teaching position somewhere. But some of them, like, they just go to work for the government and I was like I can't find a position there, like like that, because a lot of my peers they have, like you know, achieving even a higher degree and they are, you know, applying for same position. I was like, wow, the competition is super keen, right. So I ended up also, I mean, I don't feel like I can work for the government. I can tell you like now, if I look back, I was like I am not very good at working in a very structured, you know, organization. Oh so, yeah, government will be the a very good like working environment for me anyway. So so I ended up looking for just some jobs. Like you know, that is totally irrelevant. I worked for an advertisement company for a while because at the time I was, you know, I was just doing some like freelance tutoring and stuff, just to like make a living. It's not super grammalists, it's not stable and stuff. So I was reading different things about, oh, how do people work in the real life? Cause I wasn't planning for that. I was, you know, when I was, you know, sometime like 16, 17,. When you think about your future, I was pursuing the academic career. Right, I want to be a professor. It changes, so I have to learn all of these things Like how do people find a job in real life, you know. So I ended up like seeing, oh you know, an advertisement company. They love people being creative. Then I kind of remember the days that I loved creating games. I was like, oh, I want to be creative and how can I show that I'm creative, you know. Then I ended up sending some for interesting CVs. Instead of like a piece of paper, I send them. You know, I printed some name card for myself. My nickname is Cherry, so it's just like sound like the fruit. So I sending a bag of plastic cherries in the Ziploc bag to the company that I'm applying to, together with my CV. So I think one company really, like you know, loved that idea. They didn't bend it right away. So they contacted me and I ended up working for them for a short period of time. But then I realized that like, wow, it's also very tough to work in an office Like that. You know you have to be on time. There's like clock in, clock out, and sometimes you know meet your client and stuff. I think the Asian working culture is very tough for me Because, like, if you compare to working there and what I'm doing now, you know working from home and just like you know working remotely and just you know need to get stuff done rather than sitting at your desk from nine to five. So I was not very adopted to that. I think part of it is like I'm not ready to be an adult yet. I was like, still you know that student who lived in the lab, you know. So part of it is that, but also part of it is like the working culture in Asia is very, very demanding especially of like your physical presence, just more like they look at your day-to-day performance, like performance in the sense that like your presence rather than what you achieve, which is compared to the tech world. Basically, so yeah, it doesn't end up well. I changed job a few times. I even like tried to work in a theme park for a while as well. Yeah, I worked very interesting jobs, like I was a mascot at a famous theme park at some time. Whoa, yeah, I was like, oh, I can do it right, just like you have to, you know, be physically fit. At that time I was very fit, I exercised a lot. And then I was like, okay, and, but you have a schedule. So I just followed the schedule and the rest of the time nobody bought this year. So I was like, oh, that's great. But then I also like realized that, oh well, what am I doing here? That's not what I want to do, like for the next 10, 20 years, right, and then what if I get old and I'm not physically fit anymore and stuff? So so, yeah, I ended up thinking, start thinking, what should I do? I feel like I am in a box in Hong Kong. I was like I want to go somewhere. I always, I always want to go somewhere. I spent some time abroad in US and the UK for some like academic things, you know, exchange student and also like visiting labs and stuff. So I was like interested to go somewhere. So at that time. You know some country. They have this program called working holiday program. So if you are young like I mean under 30, then you can apply. So I was close to the age limit there I was like, okay, if I don't do it now, I would never be able to do it. So I was like, okay, let's go, let's go. I actually it take me a year to plan, but I know that I'm hitting the limit, so I have to really get it done. That's why I did it. I ended up going to the UK, moving to the UK and, and you know, at the beginning I was also the same, doing odd jobs, giving off flies on the streets and stuff. So maybe if you are in London you have seen me giving off flies on the streets. I also sell handbags in, you know, in department store, so it's not glamorous. There's that time in my life that I, you know, I just, I just, you know, try to make a living. I don't really have any planning, I just, you know, do what my heart tell me to. But then another kind of life changing moment is that I start at that time when I moved to the UK. I know nobody except one acquaintance that we went to the same uni. We was working in the student union at some period of time together, but we are not, like you know, working closely together, but we just kind of know each other because we were both in the student union, kind of you know the group and stuff. So so I contacted my friend back in the time we were not even like close friend I contacted my friend and then and then I would use the day pronoun here because I think that's more neutral so they, they just, like you know, helped me a little bit here and there with like some tips and stuff and at some point, I think, because they told me oh wow, if you want to stay longer. You need to get a you know. You know, get, not not just giving off liars and things like that. You need to get a professional job and stuff. So have you think about working in tech, because you get all the you check a lot of boxes right, you get a science background. You can code, because I do some computational thing when I was doing research, so you can code you. How about data science? And I was like, ooh, okay, we haven't thought of that, but let's try. So I took some online courses at the beginnings. I think there's like a lot of people do that when they change Korea, I talk to a lot of people. It's like it's the similar thing. So, you know, at that time I do Kocera. I don't know whether I would still recommend them nowadays, but back in the time, you know you just have a monthly subscription and then you can do a lot of courses. You get a lot of you know certification. You can well, you can show it to social media if you want to LinkedIn or stuff, but nowadays I think it's not, as you know, valued, because nowadays the science is a field that is not as newest before. So yeah, so that's what I did. I also went to the meetup because I don't know how I discovered the meetup, I can't remember, maybe my friend told me that. But I went to some meetups and then I got addicted because, wow, not just there's free food, but there are like people who are super friendly, super willing to help. I guess maybe at the beginning I go for the pizza. Of course, it ended up more than that. Right, I ended up I was like, wow, it's because, you know, I, I don't, like I said I don't have a lot of friends when I started. I still didn't have a lot of friends when I started to change Korea. So I was like, okay, it's, you know, free show, show in the evening, why not? You know, I don't want to stay in the flat. So at that time in London the meetup scene is crazy. You ended up, I ended up having pisophobia because of that. Start from like going for free food and then developing pisophobia Because it's like you know well, friday there's usually nothing, but Monday to Thursday you'll probably sometimes having to choose between, like a meetup and B meetup. They're both good, I like the people in both is like I have, but at the same time. So sometimes like I've even tried once to run between two meetups half half half of the time here and then also rather go and then run to the other one because one start earlier than the other. But yeah, like that's, that's my daily life. At the time I was super involved and also I was I made some friends in one of the groups I think I really thank, thankful for some of the ladies I meet. It's kind of again like it's a, you know, underrepresented group focus kind of thing, not pie ladies, but a similar group that focus on, like it's called AI for gender minority group. Unfortunately the group is not continued because COVID basically make everybody live change, so nobody's gathering anymore. But but yeah, it was very nice meeting some ladies there. They're super supportive. They asked me to join organizing team because I show up every time and they say like, oh, you really the group, come join us and help us and and I was like, oh, you can organize meetups, okay, and then I try. So I ended up yeah, I ended up learning a lot like, oh, this is how meetup work and stuff, and this is why people do meetups and you know, not just for free food, but also like learning things and meeting people, um, and so to inject, is this still in your transition phase, where you're not working as a data scientist yet or, or I think, started yet? I think it happened more or less at the same time when I started to get. So I was just like at that time I remember I was like selling handbags. So I had a job selling handbags, which I really don't like because the floor manager is a bit of a headache to deal with, so, um, so yeah. So I was like, okay, all my breaks I would put all my I have a small tablet kind of thing at the time, I bring it with me and every break I would just put out either do some homework or send us some CV and answering email and stuff. So I ended up sending many, many CV and getting one job at. I was started as a data analyst at a company that is now acquired by Spanish company, so yeah, so a lot of things changes in between, so, but I ended up as a data analyst and so yeah, so I, you know I also started getting more and more involved in the in the community thing, so, and then everything was great. I also get a little opportunity from my team that they kind of say like you know, there is a very famous, famous quotation, I don't know why famous in the tech world group, called high data. In everywhere. They have multiple chapters around the globe, so of course there's one in London. And then, so I remember there was a conference, or pilot a conference, and then the team was like, oh, let's go there together and then the company will sponsor our tickets. So we went there as a team and then I was like, wow, you know, mind blowing, there's also the meetup that I could go monthly as well. I also start doing that and I met the organizers also. Very, very you know now, now we are friends. They also help me a lot during my time. So I do. I do make you know a lot of friends during that time, like mostly in the data science community. So not just like, for example, those ladies who organized the AI and gender minority meetup, but also some data scientists that like professional data scientists I met in pie data and also there's another one called data science workshop, the organizers also now my friend. So yeah, so you know, I made a lot of friends and they help me a lot during my my like down times, because you know, I changed a lot of jobs later and then every time when I'm looking for a role, I would just give them a call and then they would help me out saying like have you tried applying for this? Have you tried applying for that? They give me some advice and stuff and yeah, so I'm so glad I can't survive with all my friends in the community. Tim Bourguignon: 25:30 That is amazing. When you see community not just being something you go to and absorb knowledge, but really becoming this platform of exchange in all directions, in the meetups outside of the meetups, in the jobs, outside of the jobs, in every way. That that is really when the community is really shine and this is amazing. This really looks like you've you've had this in your tech career from the very get go and even before maybe.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 26:01
Yeah, I was very lucky. I think I was very lucky to be in a city that's a lot of meetup, like now. I would say that is very tough, especially when people started during the pandemic. I don't know what advice to give them because it's so different when I started. Yeah, also, you know, when I go to conference, like because we just you know, because we had this I was thinking we should do more like beginners orientation for people who go to conference for the first time, because most people I also started like that Go to a conference just run from talk to talk. I want to listen to all the talks, but nowadays all the talks are recorded anyway, so just pick a few that you're super interested. You may want to talk to a speaker afterwards, but then the rest spend some time. Talk to people, spend some time networking. That's that's like for me. It I benefit that the most. Tim Bourguignon: 26:55 Hell yeah for the whole way track. Yeah, the whole way track highly recommended.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 27:01
So um, but but yeah, my first conference was hi data London. And then you know, I met some organizers for other pie data chapters I remember maybe is the Amsterdam one, so I was encouraged to like. So they, I was like, oh, how can you, how can you participate more in the conference, like, for example, the speakers? Like I was like an IBS speaker, and the organizer of the Amsterdam chapter told me that, oh, our copper proposal is open to submit. It's like, okay, when? Tim Bourguignon: 27:36 is that.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 27:37
Yeah, okay, why not? Is free. You know, the worst I got is rejected, and then I learned a lot from that, so, but I got accepted. So I think I think I also submitted to pie data London. Maybe I can't remember, but I think, yeah, I got rejected in pie data London. So I didn't speak at pie data London the first time I participate. I just joined because my company is going. Tim Bourguignon: 28:01 Do you remember how you pick this first subject?
Cheuk Ting Ho: 28:04
I think I just I at that time I was very keen to learn, right, I was a new data scientist or data analyst. I was like learning all this stuff. So I was like, oh, I learned about this library, I want to try it out. And then I was like this is how you can use it. So that's it is now. Look back is very silly, but, but I guess I, because I was very brave and also maybe the the topic is very beginner friendly because maybe people hasn't heard about I I think the library. So that was the talk I think the library is about. The talk is about the library called Wish wish. You wish she fussy, fussy, wishy, fussy, wishy. So this is just a fussy matching library. It was not as popular. Now I know a lot of people use it, but it was not as popular. So I just found that and I was like, oh, that's cool because it helped me to do some fussy matching and I just tell people, oh, fussy matching, you use this. Um, but then, yeah, it got. I said also like I got some tips from other people is, oh, make a catchy topic. Because I was like, oh, the name of the library is quite fun. Like how to make it more fun by like writing a very catchy title, all right. So, um, so I got some tips of like how to write a better proposal and things like that. So, um, I improved and I and maybe talking to the organizers will help as well. They maybe they want like more representation from you know people like me, and then so, so I don't know is a mix of like Everything that I was lucky. Maybe I was lucky. Tim Bourguignon: 29:36 I remember, in my own story, being very impressed by these, this first proposal, and really Uh, wondering, feeling like an imposter completely, and saying what, what do I have to say? I'm, I'm new, I don't know anything and I've been at conferences. My company, you know, sent me quite a bit into conferences back then. But I said I see all those persons on on a pedestal, on on the stage somewhere and talking about their expertise and what, what can I bring? And really going uh over this, this, this, this hump of Um, of applying or submitting a talk to for, for something, was really hard. I remember it's so hard and after the fact I realized how silly that was, but I just couldn't, couldn't um, couldn't um Bring it to myself to really submit. And he took my, my boss, to come to me and say, okay, now we're submitting together and we're doing it. And it was really wow. And I remember I submitted uh something Not similar, but a very tiny library Um, I was, I was on on um big java projects back then and I submitted something about the Nancy project, which is what is a micro web framework on dot net, and I really wanted to find something that is different, completely different, from the java je experience and really Absolutely tiny. And I remember saying at the beginning Okay, I'm not an expert, I I worked with this thing for something like maybe 50 hours, and so I'm gonna crunch all the 50 hours into 20 minutes of talk and after that you will have um, 149 something hours, um and uh, maybe you will use it, maybe not, but let's start with this. And this really Resonated with the community and said, hey, cool, thank you, and that's it.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 31:10
And I said, oh, that was so easy, wow, but it really took this first experience to realize that yeah, I think a misconception of a lot of people is that, uh, you have to be an expert to give a talk. But I always tell people Well, nobody's expert in everything, right, find a topic that you're passionate about, do some research about it. Of course, like, if you are not, something you are not sure, you don't claim to be true, and stuff like that. But but if you do some research on a topic, you can give a topic, you can give it in a perspective of someone who just learn about it. Right, like it could be also valuable. Um, so I feel like a lot of talks even by like quotation people who are like, or maybe the, the, the lead or of the team or something. They look very Well, I'm sure they're professional and expert in that field, but maybe they're presenting about one of the things that they have just tried out a few months ago and then it works, you know. So, yeah, nobody's expert in everything. So if you are passionate about something you know, why not give, you know, submit a talk, do some research on it. Nowadays I also use that as the opportunity to learn things as well. So, for example, if there's a topic that I know a little bit about and I am willing to do some research about it. If I'm giving a talk about it, I would just submit it and then, if I it got selected, I was like, okay, now I have to do research about it. So yeah, so, so, um, so usually that's that's how you know. I would say that think of a topic that you are passionate about, you are willing to spend time on. That's the number one party. You don't have to have 10 years of experience in that topic, because if you have 10 years of experience, maybe you got bored with that topic and then you just skim over a lot of like background, you know, premise and stuff which is very hard for people who are not expert in the field to follow. So for me, a lot of conference. They are looking for talks that are for people who may not be expert in the field. If it's a, you know, if you get a bunch of expert in a certain field, that is a summit, that's not a conference. That's my understanding. It may be different from a, you know, academic conference, but but for a Tech conference usually is more for people who are Developers, who may not be expert in that specific Because, like for developers nowadays, we have to learn a lot of things. And then, oh yes, we do. I'm still learning a lot of things. Every time I make a contribution, I was like, oh my god, I haven't. I have read some of them, but not read enough. So so yeah, like Don't, don't, don't feel that, you know, you can't give a talk because you, you don't have a lot of experience in that. Tim Bourguignon: 33:53 I mean to that you spoke at the beginning of, of being distracted making air quotes, distracted by student societies, and and throughout your your story until now, there's been this, this, this, not student societies anymore, but communities on the side, and at some point you decided to embrace this and and embrace the distraction as your day job. How did that happen? Yeah?
Cheuk Ting Ho: 34:16
it's a similar thing that happened actually. So I was working as a data scientist, you know the first, the first one was great I love the team but they were acquired by a Spanish company. There was some like internal change. I mean a company a lot of times, you know, usually doing that time is back, some like you know, kind of people thinking, oh, it's not the same anymore. Maybe I don't like it as much. And that time is also challenging time for me because my first visa run out, the working holiday visa. So I I apply for my current visa, which is like a Global talent visa, which is like for people who are working in professional field. They can apply For some of the field. I mean, I'm not government agent, I'm not going to give too much information. If people are interested they can look for official, you know information from the government website. But I have to be honest. But I have to apply for my current visa. So luckily I am already quite active in the In in the tax scene. Right, I was endorsed by some people. Some of them are thanks for the friend I made on my journey. Then I was able to proven, you know, my my ability somehow. I mean, I still found it fascinating that I was. I still think I'm extremely lucky and I got a lot of help from lots of good people in the community. So I was, you know, I was granted the visa and then at that time I was like, okay, I, because the visa gives me freedom to choose to, because I'm not. It's not like a worker visa that you're tied to your employer is a visa that you just need to be in the tech field, which I am, I'm still am nowadays. And then I was like, okay, do I want to work for this new employer which is like, because now it's a Spanish company, and my, my boss, who I like a lot during the time, and like he moved to Spain and you know he's not directly, you know well, he's still I think he was still managing the team when I left, but it's like not and you know, not in the proximity with us. So I was like, oh, a lot of things change is some people left as well? And I was like, oh, I don't like it as much. So I was like, okay, let's, let's look somewhere else. And I found a new role. So, okay, at that time, you know, the, the, the time was good. So a lot of company are hiring and and I want to try working for startup as well, because I, like I said, my character is like, oh, I love freedom, I too much structure, too much paperwork, I don't like that. So, yeah, imagine you have to use, like this library and you get like, you know you need to get approval and stuff right. So work for startup, maybe is is less bureaucracy, is good. So I try. But then I also hover around a little bit because I think I was having some crisis during the time, I was having some personal issues and it kind of made me very hard to juggle between, like you know, starting also, I'm like I have renewed my visa, I'm starting a new life, and then I was like, oh, I'm, I have, you know, all these new job and things and also personal issues and stuff. So it's very, very difficult and I changed job quite a lot during the time because of that. So, yeah, so, like like I said earlier before, I do have friends in the community who helped me a lot. Every time I was like, you know, oh, I have to look for a new role. They were like, okay, do this, do that. And then one of my friends was like, you know, come and use my office, like really, so yeah, yeah, there's like a lot, of, lots of support from the community so I survive during the hard time. And and then back to the story of why I changed my career. So I so one of the jobs that I got and then I also have a conversation with my manager is is a very similar conversation like the one I had with my supervisor back in the time. So my manager was like grabbed me into a room and say like you have been to too many conferences and I'm like sorry, but I have. You know they, you know they have chosen my proposal. I feel like I have a responsibility to go and I use up all my holidays and stuff. And then my boss was like you're not allowed to go and you know, now it's basically put on the table, is like this job or keep going to other conferences. And then, yeah, so I was like for me, I go through a lot of difficulty. I changed job a lot. I go through a lot of difficulty because I got support from my community. So if you now tell me to choose a job or a community, of course I would choose the community, all right. So I was like, okay, I'm not the happy here anyway. So I'm like, okay, I will resign. So that's my, that's my decision. So yeah, and it's really tough during the time. And then it also sparked me a thinking like what I really want to do, because a lot of times when I was doing my data science work, I was not really happy. I was like it's nice to sometimes not like rewarding as you expected, because you know sometimes you write some code. If it works, of course it's great. But a lot of times, because you know you, because data science is not just like writing a code, a small application that works, where you have to work with a lot of people getting the data and then collaborating, and then sometimes, depending on your work environment, there may be a lot of, you know, knocking on doors in different department, politics and stuff. So it's just, yeah, you can grind you down and so it's not as rewarding as like, oh, you know, like when I was a kid, I write game and it works. You know, it's not as rewarding as that. So I was like, yeah, I don't really like that. And and I feel like serving the community is more rewarding. At that time I was, you know, already going to speak at various conferences. I was running the VTOP, you know a few. Actually at the time, yeah, I really enjoy being with the community. I feel like I was welcome and all the thing that I do is appreciated. So, yeah. So I was like, okay, how can I make that my job? How can I recreate that and make it into somewhere that I can also make a living? So, um, and again, because I got friends in the community. Some of them are actually developer Africa. So I asked them oh so what's your job about? And then they say, oh yeah, my job is, like you know, including being here and talk to people going to conferences. I was like how can I have a job like that? So, yeah, a lot, of, a lot of people do keep advice and do help and I discovered there's a mailing list that was like for developer Africa so some of some of the thing. Like I know, there's a Slack group that you have to prove and that you are developer Africa to join because they have some policy of like they don't want too much noise in it. So I was like I can't join that one at that time. But there's a mailing list. I could join because we're mailing list. You just get an email once in a while, right? So it was okay, I joined that mailing list and so they would have a section in that mailing list of like, oh, that's our jobs. I was like, oh, I will just apply for all of them when I see them right. Just is again like it go back to the time when I was looking for my first job in data science, the data analysis, data science. I ended up being a data scientist because I got promoted in my first job, but anyway, like it was very hard to go to a new field and then without the credentials of like, oh, I've done that before, right, convince people to trust you that you can do that, even though I think I was kind of partly doing the job because I was already speaking at conferences and stuff and then understand how, like tech community works. But still, you know you have to, you have to apply it and then you know a lot of them won't even have time to see you. I was lucky that there was a start up at the time that they were looking for developer advocate and then they so that that that was actually work for them for almost three years. So, yeah, it was, it was again, I feel very lucky that I have some interview with them. And then they, it clicks because you know and this great that I was like, you know, so their head office is in Ireland and at that time I was speaking at Pai Kona Island. So I was like, okay, I would go and meet you at, like, you know, meet the team in Ireland. So, yeah, so it's. So. It is a very, very small startup, so that's why they have time to like, really, you know, trying to see who actually can work with the team. And you know, at the time I was like, okay, I, I was like they don't have any people who are special, like doing developer advocacy or death row in that company. I was like, okay, this is what I think you should do. So I think, yeah, they agree. And then we it ended up like I have been leading the death row strategy and then we go through the hard time to get us. Well, like there was the pandemic time after I started a few months, which is like doing the traditional death row thing, going to conferences, trying to speak to people, introduce them to this technology and stuff. But then, like you know, the pandemic hit. I was like, okay, let's look at it positively, let's look still look for things to do. We can't be a sitting duck right. So I ended up doing a lot of online things, so, yeah, and also the company is doing a, so the product is open source. So I was like able to wear my open source hat more. So at that time I was already contributing to some libraries, to pandas because my friend now is the maintainer of pandas, like at that time he was super passionate and then he started this meetup of like oh, every now and then we go sit together and this is written and contributed to pandas. I was like that's great. So I was already doing some contribution not a lot, but during the time I was working for this small startup in Ireland that I was able to lead one of their projects. So I was a maintainer for a while because of that. So, yeah, it's really, really fun. I also learned a lot. I would say that I'm still like nowadays, if I look back, I would, oh, I could have done a better job, I could have done it better. But for me, I learned a lot when I was maintaining the project, starting the ground up and stuff and build lots of things and but yeah, pandemic kind of hindered my I would say that my progress kind of hindered a little bit during the pandemic. But maybe nowadays, if I look back, maybe not, maybe things are progressing without me knowing a lot, but there were things that kind of put on hold during the time of pandemic. For example, I remember that my friend and I already bought the plane ticket to go to Python, us. We got refunded, of course, but still, you know, is a disappointment. I already applied for the US visa because I need to apply for the 10 year visa to go to America you have to go through the interview and stuff. So I already done all of those and then just now everybody have to stay at home. Tim Bourguignon: 46:11 Okay, luckily it's for 10 years, so it's still so did you manage to go to Python US since?
Cheuk Ting Ho: 46:20
Yeah, I did. I did after the pandemic, when it go back in person, and also this year also happened. So I think I would keep going. I mean, I don't know, I hope that I can. Well, my visa is still valid. Tim Bourguignon: 46:37 Well, this is fantastic and it really looks like you. There was this community on the side of your whole story and it's really converged toward what you're doing right now. And then the listeners can you see you? But you've been speaking with a large smile on your face about communities and open source and contributing and being help and helping, etc. So this really sounds like a pinnacle of a story, converging toward that point from the from the beginning, even if you didn't know it back then.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 47:04
Yeah, I would say that I'm in a very, you know, I'm very glad that I'm in a much better place than when I started. You know, after graduation I was really lost. Now I think that I found something that I really enjoy and I I now have hope to do what my career want to be. Of course, there's some bump in the rose, I think. At some point I was like, oh, maybe I should try to make my food time job with developer rather than, you know, in the community work. That is not necessarily like involving involving coding and stuff like that. I was struggling a little bit. I was like, oh, because, you know, I was affected by, you know, the economy. I, you know I was laid off a few months ago because because the company that I work for at the time, you know, they have to make, you know, make a cut of their, you know, reduced the amount of employee and I was reduced. So so I'm glad that, like now, I get, I get, you know, I get a role in a community role still At. You know, a few months ago I was like thinking, oh, maybe in the in the bad times in in, you know, now the economy is not good. It's like you know, working so a lot of company doesn't put as much resources in that realm and stuff because you know it's not where it's like essential compared to, for example, someone who worked with a platform and stuff. You know you can't really cut everybody in that, but I've seen stories of like the whole DEFRAO team was cut to bare bone like, or even not existence, so that that could happen, and you feel like, oh, maybe maybe the you know I think it resonate with a lot of people who work in DEFRAO is like, oh, maybe we should go back to, you know, do some more. You know production code kind of thing. But then you know I was glad that I'm still in a community, in a community role, which I am very lucky and again I think it helps, you know. So people ask me how do you get this job? I was like, oh, actually it go backs. Like earlier this year I go to a conference and I met a friend I haven't met for a while and then my friend told me to go to another conference and I go to that conference and I met someone and then that someone sent me a message on LinkedIn when I was looking for a job and I ended up landed in this job because of that. You know it's. It's the community. Again, the community is like my life every single time. Tim Bourguignon: 49:44 So it's how did you get that job? Well, I invested 10 years of my life in communities and that's how I got that job. Yeah, not just this fantastic story. And networking is indeed very important and helping out right and left, sometimes open doors and sometimes just feels right to do and you never know which one it's going to be. So yeah.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 50:08
So I mean I still love coding. I would now I still contribute open source. And actually my manager was like, oh, you don't have to stop doing that. I was like, okay, yeah, but I mean I I'm, I'm still serving the Python community. Of course now I have the volunteer road of that. I was elected, I was in trust to serve the Python community. Of course I will still do that. You know, a lot of my time will be thinking of that as well, especially now. I'm really, I'm really passionate about how to make sure the community is welcoming. That's what I have been thinking a lot, because I was, I was very lucky I you know when I started my community journey. I have made some friends that they are very supportive, like I remember back in the AI club and you know we plan to, you know, go to conference together so it feels less scary. But why do we feel scary when we go to a conference? When you, then I was like it should not be the case that anybody, if they want to go, they should not be scary, they should feel that it's actually nice to go. You just have to take the first step to go to the unknown and then you know, yeah, and it's nice. I wanted to be like that, so yeah. Tim Bourguignon: 51:37 I mean to that. I'm glad people have you as a role model for that. That's really a really big thing to have people to show you the way in a new community. Looking at the time box, we're already over our time and it's been a fantastic ride, going up and down and starting in unexpected places, and that's where I would like to go back for the year for the advice I usually ask At the very beginning. You mentioned somebody telling you well, you'll always be able to come back to computer science afterward, so you should maybe go to physics. Is this something that you would still advise people to do, going into a different field and then coming back to computer science if they feel like it?
Cheuk Ting Ho: 52:19
I feel like, from my life experience I may be wrong, it's just I just stay from same, from my perspective, that don't you know there's a lot of things you can't expect? There's. No, you know, there is very few things, I won't say no, but a very few things that, like you, absolutely can't do it, like at different stages of your life. You know, I've seen, you know, a granny become a. You know, you know ballerina not professional one, of course but, like you know, don't limit yourself. I mean, if you want to go for it is not, you know you're opening a door doesn't mean that you close many more doors, it doesn't. It's not like that. You can still come back and stuff. So, even if nowadays someone was like, oh I, I studied computer science, now can I do physics? I was like, well, you may not, you know, you may not be applying to be a professor, but if you, if you have your skills as a you know computer scientist or an engineer, then you can maybe help in their research as an engineer and then start from there to get to know more about that. You know now, especially when a lot of research needs data, needs a lot of computational power, well, if you have that background, they love you, they need you. So I don't think that you know a lot of things are connected and you just haven't realized that yet. So yeah, yeah, so yeah. Tim Bourguignon: 53:49 I was highlight opening a door doesn't mean you are closing the other ones. I love that, thank you. Thank you for this fantastic ride. Where would be the best place to find you probably online and continue the discussion with you.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 54:03
Yeah, so I actually I conveniently put all my social media in one place. That's my website, so that's htbscheckdev, so just my name check. C H E U K dot deaf. Tim Bourguignon: 54:16 And I link to that in the show notes. Just click on it and then you can follow you on all the socials. Yeah, anything else you want to plug in before we wrap?
Cheuk Ting Ho: 54:25
up. I won't put too much advertisement in here because I I'm not sure about a lot of things. You know, if you, if you keep an eye on my social media, then you will see the most recent update of what's going on. Tim Bourguignon: 54:42 There you go, then follow yourself for media, and this will do the rest, chuck, thank you so much.
Cheuk Ting Ho: 54:50
Yeah. Tim Bourguignon: 54:52 And this has been another episode of the first journey and 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 those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms the 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 dev journey dot info slash donate. And finally, don't hesitate to reach out and tell me how this week's story is shaping your future. You can find me on Twitter I'm at team of that time, m O T H E P or per email info at dev journey dot info. Talk to you soon.