Software Developers Journey Podcast

#293 Joshua Duffney over-pivoted to success



Joshua Duffney's intriguing career journey from gaming enthusiast to Microsoft's cloud advocate reveals the transformative power of technology and passion. Joshua's story is not just one of career development but a testament to the evolving nature of the tech industry and the continuous pursuit of knowledge.

His story began with a seemingly inconsequential Christmas gift—a graphics card—that did not fit his computer. This simple yet pivotal moment led him down a path of discovery, where he ventured into the realms of computer networking and technology. Joshua's candid recollection of his academic pursuits shows a broad exposure to various tech disciplines, from networking to programming, which laid the foundation for his entry into the tech world via a help desk role.

Joshua's journey from help desk to systems engineering underscores the importance of effective communication and patience, particularly when dealing with non-expert users. He shares enlightening anecdotes, like dealing with an executive's wireless mouse and keyboard—illustrating the necessity for tech professionals to translate their knowledge into user-friendly terms. His rapid learning curve in technology also emphasizes how focused learning can result in expertise that surpasses those with more experience in adjacent fields.

The shift to DevOps, as Joshua describes it, was a game-changer for his career trajectory. His introduction to PowerShell scripting revolutionized his task management, leading to significant role changes and propelling him into automation projects. This narrative is crucial for understanding the progression of a tech career and the pivotal moments that define professional growth.

As Joshua reflects on his career pivots, such as his move from a senior role at Stack Overflow to technical writing and advocacy at Microsoft, we delve into the complexities of transitioning between domains. His discussion touches on the challenge of leaving a zone of mastery for a new passion and the realization that smaller career adjustments might be more beneficial. Joshua's experiences highlight the need for continuously updating one's skill set and the different problem-solving dynamics between technical writing and engineering.

Navigating senior roles and the ambiguity that comes with them is another topic that resonates with many in the tech industry. Joshua shares his experiences with the long-tail nature of mentoring and leadership, missing the immediate feedback loops of previous positions, and strategies for managing restlessness amid uncertainty. His insights into aligning work with organizational priorities provide valuable advice for those looking to make an impact in their roles.

Lastly, Joshua discusses the intricacies of online teaching and content creation, sharing his journey from participating in forums to blogging and creating video courses. He reflects on the reasons behind choosing not to fully pivot to content creation, highlighting the importance of stability and work-life balance. His transparent approach to the learning process, embracing both successes and failures, encourages others to share their own development stories.

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⚠ The following transcript was automatically generated.
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Tim Bourguignon: 0:00
If a junior came to you and asking the questions you were asking your mentors now, is there a piece of advice you would give almost everyone and say, hey, start there.

Joshua Duffney: 0:12
I would say the fact that you're reaching out is you're going to get an answer and you're going to be able to be successful. It's the people that don't reach out that are going to remain stuck and stay junior. So, just building your network and talking to people, because there's not going to be any. It's all contextual. It's all situational, but if you can find the right people that have been where you are, they'll help you through it. So reaching out is that key piece of advice is what I would give to the juniors.

Tim Bourguignon: 0:40
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 your host, tim Bokenu. On this episode I receive Joshua Duffney. Josh is a senior cloud advocate of Microsoft, a former Microsoft MVP and XSRE site reliability engineer at Stack Overflow and a Pluralsight author, to name only a few. Fz books or e-books and stuff. I'm sure he's doing tons, josh. Welcome to have Journey. Thank you so much. Pleasure to be here and it's my pleasure to have you. It's been a long time in the making and I'm glad you're finally here Finally here. Thanks for the persistence. Before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show. Every month you are keeping the DevJourney lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests 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 DevJourney journey. Thank you, and now back to today's guest. So, josh, as you know, the show exists to help listeners understand what your story looked like and imagine how to shape their own future. So, as is usual on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your DevJourney?

Joshua Duffney: 2:09
The very, very beginning. Well, it's interesting that you say DevJourney, because I feel like the DevJourney for me is just beginning, because the first decade or so that I've been in the tech industry I've been in the operation side or like scripting, and so I've always kind of skated around development, so to speak, going deeper and deeper. But it all kind of started for me in high school with video games. So I was around like the early thousands when I was getting really into video games and starting to go into the PC gaming and needed to upgrade my graphics card. And so my grandma got me a graphics card for Christmas. But then I learned that there's different sockets and slots that you put video cards into, and so my computer didn't work for the video cards you got me. And so that's kind of where it all began. And then you know tinkering and taking apart computers and then eventually going into an associate's degree program for computer networking because it was the closest thing to like video game design that I could find at a local college.

Tim Bourguignon: 3:09
That's where it all began for me that must have been a rough wake up call when you realize that networking has nothing to do with gaming.

Joshua Duffney: 3:17
A little bit, but it got me in the industry. It was either that or joined the military. And I just met my wife now then and so I felt like I had to make a choice, like I could go the military route and get a GI bill and eventually pay for video game design down the road, or I could go to the community college route, stay here and kind of pursue that path which eventually to starting a family and all that goodness. So that's kind of the choices I made and it was the closest thing and it's treated me well. I've gotten pretty far on that associate's degree.

Tim Bourguignon: 3:49
And I approve this message.

Joshua Duffney: 3:51
Do you want to tell us?

Tim Bourguignon: 3:51
about how you do studies went and maybe compared to what you were expecting.

Joshua Duffney: 3:57
Yeah, I had really no expectations. I really I could have gone to a four year university for game design, but I didn't want to start life Six figures of debt. You know, college in the US is really expensive and so I wanted to avoid that and had the community college, the computer networking degree. It was, it was said, computer networking, but it wasn't focused on that entirely. I mean, I had a semester about printers, a semester on shell scripting, semester on Linux, semester on virtualization of course, had some Cisco classes, had some C classes that I really did not do well at the time and so it was kind of like a general introduction to technology and computers in general. You know, I did have some networking concepts. I even got to wire the new dorm room so I had to run, you know, hundreds of, hundreds of feet of cable and so I just got exposed to everything really in that two year degree, you know, from layer zero all the way up to the application.

Tim Bourguignon: 4:56
You had pictured that in your mind as a first step in your studies, or would you expecting something else?

Joshua Duffney: 5:03
I. All I knew was I wanted to do something in the technology sector because previously I had come and my summer job was a road crew, which I enjoyed, but it required a lot of travel, is a lot of manual labor, and I was just seeing like, as I get older this is going to be harder and harder to do, and I guess it was. It was pretty laid out from the syllabus and I had a good idea of what to expect because I knew what these things were. I just didn't understand how they worked, you know, and so it was. It matched up with my expectations and then it get. Basically, let me hit the ground running. When I went into the workforce to start on the help desk, let's talk about that how.

Tim Bourguignon: 5:41
how did you pick that field of operations? Or how did that field of operation pick you the help desk?

Joshua Duffney: 5:48
Yeah, well, it was kind of like the entry level position that I could get with that degree, you know, aside from just trying to walk in as a network engineer or a network administrator, which is kind of what one of the teachers at the college campus did. He was a network administrator and managed all the way in connections and stuff like that was where there was T1 lines and stuff and all that. Where you'd have to bundle it to get beyond was a one and a half mag download and so, yeah, it was just I. My wife lived in, kind of lived with me for a little bit in college and it's a couple hours away from where she's from and where I'm from, and she wanted to move back home. And so I just started looking for jobs in the area and there was a little engineering firm that was looking for a help desk person, someone to upgrade everybody's computer from XP to Windows seven. And I, I fit the bill, you know, and figured that out and kind of ran the help desk there and installed software and troubleshots stuff and all that, all that good good thing, all those good things that you do on the help desk. But I learned, learned a lot, mainly a lot of people skills, so that was a valuable trait that I picked up. Communicating my favorite, my favorite story, I got to share this one. There was an executive that was super mad at me because I went into his office work on his computer over lunch and so I, you know not to disturb his working hours. And so then I went in and I replaced everything, upgraded his computer, put a new keyboard and mouse on there and I got called into his office not even 15 minutes after he got back and he's like if you're going to have the audacity to come in here and mess with my computer, you should at least plug back in my mouse and keyboard so I can work. Lo and behold, I had replaced his mouse and keyboard with wireless Nice keyboard. And I was like oh, I don't know what you mean. I say I've got batteries in them, they're powered on, like I made sure all those things work. I had literally a paper checklist I had to go through to leave your office. I was like it all works. And he didn't say anything to me after I shook the mouse and it worked. He just said I could leave. I mean no apology, nothing.

Tim Bourguignon: 7:54
Yeah, I guess I would be speechless as well, yeah.

Joshua Duffney: 7:59
What is this magic Exactly?

Tim Bourguignon: 8:02
Do you have other example of people skills, besides being able to deal with executives that have no idea what you just did.

Joshua Duffney: 8:10
Well, a lot of it was just, um, just realizing how much that you could know so quickly in the industry, like there's these people that have a really, really smart had their electrical and mechanical engineers, but I could quickly learn more than them about these particular things that they depended on Just because of my focus on technology. It's so I really loved that that fact that the there was so much to learn in technology that even me with less than a year would know so much more than these people that have been kind of in this field or in an adjacent field, dependent on this for decades. And so a lot of the the people skills I learned was just to communicate without that kind of Talking, that demeanor like talking down to people, and so learning to communicate things and to teach things is kind of I stumbled upon Very quickly in technology one of the kind of the passions or areas that I really enjoy, which is the teaching aspect of it, and so, yeah, just being able to communicate with people about technology was probably the bigger skill that I learned in that role, and Calming people down when they're getting emotional about you know their spreadsheet doesn't do this or that, or you know Outlook isn't doing this or that, like it's just. It's a, it's a program following a procedure, and once you understand a procedure then you can understand how to make it work. But doesn't mean that it's not complicated.

Tim Bourguignon: 9:28
Yeah, that is very true, that is very true. The oldest positions, actually, where you're in Mendated to help people when something is not working, those are all really learning pressure cookers. Really. People come at you, they are mad already they have a problem that cannot solve and and it's timely, and it's painful, etc. And so you have to be thinking on your feet. You have to understand the whole system. You have to understand what they're telling you and what they're not telling you, because you just don't know about it. And I've had my fair share of of after-sales support now in a Tech store, and that was that, was this, again and again and again, people coming in and screaming and this is whoa, I really learned a lot. I agree with that. It's very interesting. So how did you go from there? Because I've heard you code a bit, so, oh, at least you did coding stuff after that. So how?

Joshua Duffney: 10:26
yeah, yeah yeah, so the story there is. I was helped Desk, worked there for a couple years and then I became kind of like a one-man shop, like a network administrator was the title, but I was really just like the sys admin for a small bank and so I was rack and servers, like figuring out the storage capacity, like for the backups you know, and installing battery backups for this little bank and data center, rewiring everything, upgrading the access points, and then I started working on virtualization at that point so net app Was the solution that they chose there and we were placing all the like the teller terminals with these little wise devices. So instead of hardware computers there are these wise devices. And that's where I I just got exposed to like everything I was. I was responsible in the primary on call for this little bank and all these operations and keeping the way and links connected and all that stuff and and I learned a ton and I was only there probably about a year until I got this opportunity to join, to get a pretty big pay raise and join the service desk for a really large enterprise and that's where the kind of the coding journey started and the ticket that kind of Pushed me down that path was we got was. I worked for this really large construction company and what they would do is they'd spin up and they'd spend down construction sites and they'd hire what they would call craft workers, you know contractors, and but they would have to provision them all these accounts and stuff to log in time and whatever. And so we would pretty often we get these tickets that you know this job site spun, spun down, we needed to disable these 300 or 500 people and doing Is we had a service desk of about 60 people. They just divvy up this Excel spreadsheet and say you right-click, disable 25 and you disable 25, and so you know, by the end of the day, you know we had three chefs or whatever of people it would get done. And there was this guy His name was Rob that worked with me on the tier two help desk and we kind of looked at each other and we're like I think there's a better way. I I think we could do this quick. The monotony of it was getting us, we're getting bored, we're getting a little stir crazy, right click disabling these hundreds of lists, and so we could some of them upon PowerShell, powershell I just kind of taken root in the Windows ecosystem and it had a really good support for Active Directory and Exchange and those are the two primary things that we administered. And the first time we did that we got that list of 300 and seconds later it was all disabled and our bosses were just stunned and blown away and magic, you know like, oh, we needed, we would have had. You know, I need a team of developers to be able to figure this out is what they said. And so we quickly. I was in my younger, my early 20s at the time, so I got the title of a script kid, so from that point on I kind of anything that had any kind of volume behind it. It was an opportunity for me to exercise some more scripting skills and eventually that got me hired, taken out of the service desk and hired as a systems engineer working on SCCM, so system center configuration manager, and I worked to automate a bunch of software installs and Windows updates and imaging, which kind of ties back to the help desk job, you know. But now fast forward to Windows 8.1.

Tim Bourguignon: 13:47
You know that was. That was the OS Windows 8.1. Oh, that was a nasty one.

Joshua Duffney: 13:53
Yeah, not as bad as Vista, but definitely not fun. That was the surface and everybody wanted the surface and those were a nightmare to try to image, if memory serves. But that's kind of where the coding started. And then I got kind of hopped on the DevOps bandwagon and got roped into infrastructure as code and learning a lot of software engineering principles, but in the lens of operations and through infrastructure the kind of all the DevOps I read like the Phoenix project and got on that bandwagon, started following a lot of influential people in the community that were starting that up, just humble being one. And then what's his name? Gene Cam. And so that was kind of my first kind of introduction into software engineering and those disciplines, was trying to apply them and mature the process of managing infrastructure and that eventually I was a DevOps engineer and tech lead for a payroll company for about four years and then I got the opportunity to join Stack, overflows and SRE, which you know they're at kind of like the top of the industry for the practices that are led by Thomas Limoncelli, who was a sysadmin at Google for many years and he's now been at Stack for a long time. But they've got a really, really good you know ship, so to speak, and it was just an honor to be among them for the short time that I was. And then I kind of hit that pivotal point, I guess, where I was like, okay, well, I've kind of got to the top of this particular field that I'm super, was super interested in profession and kind of. I took a leap of faith and joined Microsoft as a technical writer because I had just released a book in this time and so I'm skipping a bunch of stuff we can dive deeper into. But I in hindsight overpivoted into that role, because something that you do for the side that you have a passion for doesn't always make a good full time job. And so I quickly realized that and I started to miss the sense of mastery that I previously had in my other discipline. And so since then I've been trying to repivot, so to speak. Right now I'm currently as a I'm a cloud advocate, so I'm not necessarily fully content. I'm in the middle where I get to sit between the customers and the product and both be the storyteller and teacher, but also an engineer, and so that's been a good balance for me currently. But yeah, ever since I left stack I guess I've been kind of like trying to course correct a little bit since an overpivot, but what's been humbling and honoring and people like realizing that jump of people that have followed me online and stuff and I get these conversations sometimes they really admire the ability to kind of rebase right, like rebase your skill set, which is super hard. A lot of people they get really good at one thing and they have that sense of mastery and I get it. You don't want to let it go because it's so rewarding. But this, this field, demands that you constantly develop your skill set. My only caveat I think in hindsight that I would do a little bit differently is make smaller pivots. That's such huge, drastic changes but it is indeed.

Tim Bourguignon: 17:10
It is indeed and I want to know the choice of word we say rebase your skills. That's the, the, the expert probably talking when you, when you say you over pivoted and you miss the mastery, can you, can you explain a bit more what you mean? Yeah, so I was moving from yeah, absolutely so.

Joshua Duffney: 17:33
I, to give the full context, I was, you know, a site reliability engineer at Stack Overflow. I had been working seven years to get into that position. I had applied many times, never got in, and then it finally got in and I had a number of friends and colleagues that already worked there that I knew from different communities and so I was well connected. But I just had such a sense of mastery. I knew everything that I was. I was still challenged and the team was still moving and progressing and bettering the organization. But if in like the dev ops space and is from a company and culture stack overflow is, you don't have to like sell dev ops to stack overflow. They understand it, they embrace it, and so for a long time I had to fight, fight that in organizations. But what I mean by over pivot was I was moving from this discipline of dealing with infrastructure as code and dev ops and a lot of that stuff and Over into technical writing, and so the difference in the daily level is I'm no longer responsible for maintaining Production systems. I'm now writing very technical, detailed, technical documentation that explains the things of my previous domain, like terraform and ansible, and writing that and so is a totally different skill set to be able to see, without even talking to the audience, like what, like, what is this library want? There's a lot of information architecture that goes into that. There's obviously the editing, a little bit of storytelling that you need to have in there, and then the real world experience was kind of like the edge that I had on other people that had technical writing as their discipline. For many years I had, I'd lived in these tools and I knew some of the rough edges, but what that left me with was having to create All these different scenarios for myself. No longer was I constantly hit in the face by the problems of production, and now I had to create all the problems myself, and the main thing that I lack there was just the that keeps your skills so sharp constantly having problems presented to you and having to solve them. Just like the help desk, you get a, get a call, you get a sit down and like outlooks not working, that's the only directive you get. You gotta figure it out. On the other side, with the technical writing, there's no one calling you, there's no problems hitting you in the face. You've gotta go and seek them out and try to understand them, and so the biggest challenge there was just Having a faith in my decision. For the problems I was selecting, there was no one telling me that they're good or bad, or useful or not useful. You know, you don't have. You don't get that feedback till the end, just like an author doesn't get that feedback till the end of their book. You know.

Tim Bourguignon: 20:13
I see, I see it probably also do the problem of of if you have a blind spot. You didn't see a category of problems that could happen. You just don't see them. They're not gonna hit you in the face and so, unless somebody tells you gonna see, not gonna see it. Yeah, how was it in terms of of reward cycles? I mean, when you solve problems day in, day out, you get your kick off problem solving. When you have to make your own problems and you're writing stuff, I guess the time that would be way longer and the rewards way less often.

Joshua Duffney: 20:50
Yeah, yeah, your feedback loop is way, it's a long tail, right, and that was actually the biggest thing that I miss was the problem solving in the reward cycle of that. You know that constant feedback you get from programming or solving those challenging problems. Yeah, for the content, I mean it would be take me two weeks to write an article and then I would release it and then I get some feedback. And then, you know, doctor, it's learn now has good domain authority, so the sc always pretty decent. I can get ranked on google, but there's the most people like they won't leave feedback on there. The verbatim is always kind of the negative stuff and so, yeah, you don't really get the same feedback that you normally would you like? It's funny now that it's been two years since I've done that, I'll get a comment like, hey, this was a helpful article. So there's an example Like two years after I wrote it did I get a single piece of feedback on it? You know.

Tim Bourguignon: 21:49
But I'm. Then. Why did you decide to I wouldn't say double down, because you pivoted again a little bit of pivoted back, as you said. Why didn't you say, hey, screw that, I'm coming, I'm going back, and but decided to try something else still?

Joshua Duffney: 23:12
That's a really good question. I don't know if I made that consciously, part of it was just opportunity. So I kind of realize like, hey, I enjoy the technical writing, but it's not somewhere I want to stay for a long, like a long, long time. You know, I've kind of learns a lot of good skills. My writing skills obviously improved with 18 months of just Always writing a little backstory. I was writing a nonfiction book at that same time as becoming a full time technical writer, so I was just like reps and reps and reps with writing. So my communications gotten a lot better. But yeah, it was more. So just the opportunity came up to join a team with someone that I've looked up to in the industry for a long time is named seed morowski. He had a spot open and I just somehow stumbled upon it to the job site and I was like I'd be really cool to work with him. You know, it's kind of like in the middle of the two things that I used to do or what I'm currently doing, what I used to do. So maybe I'll just give it a try. It's just kind of an opportunity that I saw it and it's the funny thing is is I was, I think four hours shy of meeting the cut off for the hiring pause. That happened couple years ago. Wow, like had I waited to sign the offer just a couple more hours, I wouldn't have the current role I'm in. Wow, okay, so that means, just before cool, be the gorgeous when could it or something I was kind of afterwards, yeah when the economy really hit in twenty, twenty two, twenty three, yeah, okay yeah, yeah, that's that one for sure.

Tim Bourguignon: 24:48
Okay, I'm. Do you still miss this, this feedback loop, or did you manage to create your own now, in this new position?

Joshua Duffney: 24:57
I do still miss it. I've got variants of it. Depends on the project I'm on. But I'm also starting to realize, listening to some of your other episodes actually, that this is kind of the world of the senior role is. Things are so much more ambiguous, you know, and there are things are more long tail, just like a mentoring is a long tail thing, and I'm realizing that I'm probably just gonna have to get used to that ambiguity a little bit, you know.

Tim Bourguignon: 25:29
Maybe I've seen those deep technical roles where you actually say, no, I'm not gonna go this direction, I'm going back to the I know staff, senior staff, principal route and really going very deep as as an expertise in what I'm doing, and then I guess you can still keep that part of the of the feedback to be intact. But as soon as you want to multiply bb a force multiplier and really try to to multiply your effort by mentoring, networking, helping others, I guess that's the price you have to pay.

Joshua Duffney: 26:07
Yeah I guess I'll. Yeah, that's that's kind of. You talked about the fog of the words beginning, beginning of the episode before start recording and when you feel lost. That feeling I definitely definitely feel that way. I feel kind of like right at the cusp of that being lost and just trying to find, like, do I double down and find an area where I want to be super technical or do I kind of embrace this? Am you a little bit more? Is this the best way to just uncertainty right and try to look for ways to drive more clarity and have broader impact, you know, and to have some faith behind that? And that requires that you learn more in your network so that way you can bet out those blind spots and All that good stuff, which are all skills that I have yet to really hone.

Tim Bourguignon: 26:54
Do you mind loving a bit more in this? You're facing this problem right now. What do you do? I'm explicitly to try to get out of it, or understand it more, or or cut some branches that you might realize are not the good one. How do you? Do you go at it, right?

Joshua Duffney: 27:11
now. Right now, it's been when it gets too much to handle. What I typically do is reduce scope and I try to find some kind of problem that has a finish line. So I just did like a little deep dive into how containers work and made that like a little learning sprint and I found a way to make some, you know, content, did some live streams, and that's an example of where the ambiguity and the uncertainties just like it's too much, it's too restless for me that I need to have some kind of finite outcome, and so I'll kind of like zoom in for a sprint, like a one to two week period, on something like that, and I'm kind of coming out of that phase where I know I need to deal with this. But one thing that I'm just recently learned is that I can't think my way out of it. I have to talk my way out of it, and so now what I'm doing is I'm starting to set up meetings with my lead and with other Product group leaders in the space I'm in to get a better idea, like, okay, I have these vague notions of important work, but I need I need more data points, and those data points can't just be conjured from my imagination. I need to have real data points from different people. Really good advice that I got from a colleague was Find the problems that the people at your level or above Find important but don't have time to do. Then you know that you're always working towards something that has impact, because you don't have to sell them on. They see the value. You don't have to sell them on that. But if you go and start your own little thing You're gonna have to create, unless you really believe in it and you really see the vision, you're gonna have a uphill battle convincing people that they should even care that your problem is is worthy of solving. You can go and solve it and they're gonna say, okay, cool, but if you go and solve something that they already are experiencing as pain, you don't have to sell them on that. And so that's where I'm currently at right now is is trying to Find the right people to have these conversations with so that way I can more accurately Articulate the problems that I'm working on and then go back into that scoping thing that I talked about. Or okay, here's this broader chunk of a problem, here's what I can get done and show some visible progress on. And you know the next quarter or whatever it is, and then break that down further, I love it.

Tim Bourguignon: 29:30
I love it. How would that discussion go? Would you go towards some of your senior peers and then and say, hey, I have the feeling you're working on this and you're working on that and you have those problems. This is by interesting right now. Is it accurate? Can you describe it a bit more, etc. Oh, would you go at it completely differently?

Joshua Duffney: 29:51
I'll be on my first stop. I have a really good team lead was the gentleman that I mentioned earlier, and so he's he's got a really good luck, he's got a good leadership capacity and so he does have a good, like broad View of the different organizations, things that are coming in. And so typically what I'll do is I'll try to find someone like that, someone that's just has a broader view than I do, like I'm too down in the weeds here or I'm just not seeing things. I don't have the same network, and so I like to try to peer into their minds, so to speak, to get that a broader, detached view, kind of landscape. Like are there some things coming down the pipeline that are important, or should I stay in my lane here and double down and keep focusing? And so my first stop is usually to that person and say, hey, it's usually in the form of a career check-in, like I'm a little bit lost right now. I'm usually super honest. Like I'm lost, I don't exactly, don't I'm doing. It doesn't feel like I'm having any impact, I feel like I keep wasting my time, learned a bunch of stuff that really doesn't do a whole lot. Like you, where do you think I should invest my efforts. You know, like what are your two or three little areas that you've got like future state, current state, and then Kind of like the present. You know, like the the now, next future type things, and usually there's a technology kind of bracketed in there, like maybe wazzy and web assembly type stuff is the future stuff that I should be have on my radar and be tinkering with. But you know, don't make it a big boulder just yet, like there's not enough there. And so that's typically what will come out of those conversations some clarity. And then Usually I move on to people that are more Focused. So then they, they send me on, it's like kind of like a quest. You know these the video game analogy, like here's the entry point and then then here's they, just they're a pointer to the town's person. That's actually got you know the monster or whatever in the dungeon that you need to go and slay.

Tim Bourguignon: 31:48
But and the monster is web assembly. Okay, so really going broad, finding new contacts to go deep with, understand if it's something for you, if there is something at all, if it's something you could really rock on for a while, and if so, double down. If not, come back up, find that person again or a different person to go broad again and and find where to go deep again.

Joshua Duffney: 32:15
Yeah, sounds like a plan.

Tim Bourguignon: 32:20
Have you? So we've been talking a bit about, about Gaming again and again. That was the beginning of the discussion. Have you thought of going back to that?

Joshua Duffney: 32:31
You know only recently what really sparked it. I kind of just left it as it was because I had had. I had. Coding is as close to video gaming as I've gotten, as far as like a flow state, like being able to code and create things, whether it be a script that just copies files around or Whatever else. But I've never dived into application development. It's just been a domain that I've For whatever seems like. Maybe it's forbidden fruit in my mind, I have no idea. But very recently I've got more application where I'm Teaching my son math and I saw this thing on Twitter. It's this game developer who created this little video game for a son to do just basic arithmetic, you know, and I was like that would be. That would have been the best way for me to learn as a kid, and so there's been interest in there, but I've never revisited it. Perhaps it's time I might find a new Passion in that. But yeah, that's a really good question.

Tim Bourguignon: 33:27
You know, and you haven't been tempted to go toward your, I want to say, I don't want to say first mastery, but the mastery of, of DevOps and infrastructure, etc. In the gaming industry.

Joshua Duffney: 33:41
No, not really. That would be. That would be a good parallel. I had a couple people that made that jump the company where I learned a lot of this stuff. One person left. He was a sysadmin and worked with me pretty closely, or my team. I was a tech lead for the DevOps team, and so we we had to basically connect with all the like the DBA team and very fractured, siloed, typical organization, right. But he went to Blizzard, which is now owned by Microsoft, but so I was jealous of that. I've had rockstar games reach out to me in the past, but the relocating was always a no-go for me.

Tim Bourguignon: 34:16
Yeah, maybe it has changed, maybe not. Well, maybe the industry sucks, but that's, that's a different. Do you see yourself? Continuing this direction of mixing is different the technical writing, the community, building the expertise that you have and continuing mixing those. Or are you going to face a pivot again soon and say, hey, I need something else?

Joshua Duffney: 34:47
That's the thing that's been in the back of my mind for a little while, which is do you disappear? There is something that is kind of appealing to that, where you can just disappear into the ether of development for a little while, because I've been in the public eye for a little bit since my PowerShell days, but I do enjoy the teaching. I think I'll have it to a blend at some point, but I would like the ratio to be more engineering, like more of the deep work, more of the engineering, the quiet heads down type problem solving. So my next pivot, if anything, would be if I can change my current role to have more of that time or a role that has more of that built in. But still, I think I would always had a really good question posed to me when I was trying to iron this out, which was what makes you think you're so unhappy when your current role? Because it seems like you get to do all the things that you like to do under the role and it just takes a while to admit or to realize that you can. That's kind of the weird thing with autonomy is to realize the freedom that you have in it. But I did come to the realization that, yeah, I think even if I was full-time engineering, I would probably still teach to a degree Like I enjoy it too much to let it completely go, yeah, but I'd probably pivot a little bit more to more engineering in the future.

Tim Bourguignon: 36:15
Two questions on my mind. Which nasty one should I pick? Yeah, I'd pick that one. What would be? How did you put it? An overpivot in this regard?

Joshua Duffney: 36:27
An overpivot would probably be to try to force my way into a software engineering role inside the Big Tech, which has got a lot of gates, you know, with the engineering role, with coding, interviews and stuff, and try to stress this is something that I've done in the past, a very familiar territory. So if I were to overdo it this is exactly what it would look like is I would buy and it's not like I already did this, but I would buy a whole bunch of software engineering books and then I would force myself to do lead code for like two to three hours a day for six months and force my way into a software engineering role, not give any thought to what that role would do or if I would enjoy the coding that I was doing in that role. That would be kind of an example of an overpivot in this scenario.

Tim Bourguignon: 37:13
Makes a lot of sense. I don't want to say being there, I don't know, but rings a bell. You mentioned teaching quite a bit. You, I know you've written technical books. You have created many courses on Perl site. Do you know in-person teaching as well?

Joshua Duffney: 37:36
I used to do in-person teaching, more so when I worked. Well, I do some of it for work now when I speak at conferences or do workshops or like user groups, but I did a lot more when I worked in an office and I would do a lot of like lunch and learn type stuff. So I've done some in-person, but more of the in-person has been informal. Most of my instruction stuff has been online and virtual.

Tim Bourguignon: 37:58
Okay, how did you, because you've been at it for a while, how did you deal with this? Mostly going online, mostly not seeing people interact with your content, mostly being asynchronous and getting the feedback, if at all, later and not while they're experiencing it, not being able to piggyback on sparkling eyes and saying, hey, they start to get it. Or seeing faces make grimaces and say, well, something is not right. I've got to jump in and add a new example to this. I assume you had this experience before and then, slowly, with the technical writing and the video and such it, transitioned to this different kind. Can you speak with that a bit? Yeah?

Joshua Duffney: 38:43
So the teaching, it was a kind of a natural extension because it's all I knew. To be honest, like I had done my very first, we'll go all the way back. So that help desk job that I had. My second project was to implement a help desk system and there was a free one called Spiceworks. So Spiceworks is still out there. I actually interviewed for them and almost moved to Austin. So I was almost a Texan but I decided to stay here for my wife's families here. But anyway, in that they have this awesome community feature where it's just a community of everybody uses the product or, you know, you don't have to use the product to have the software or to have part of the community, just log in. It's this form, you know, like the old school forms. And I started to become kind of a lurker on there really early on because I didn't mind, my boss at the time Worked part time so he was only there a couple days of the week. He was a firefighter as well as this like network administrator, saw a lot of time. I was just on my own to figure stuff out and I heavily relied on the community, ask questions, found a lot of stuff that you know. Some more people had problems with, and then I started to. I have a feeling I need to give back. You know, like a reciprocity, a style of a giver started to emerge where I needed to. I needed to give back because I had taken so much Knowledge from this community and so I started to write up. My project says how to is in the community, and so I wrote my very first one. I was called windows Imaging. Windows 7 with the fog projects of the fog project is like an open source imaging tool. It's like insanely complicated to install on Linux, and I had like a semester on Linux. I was like, okay, I at least know how to install. You want to? And so that's where it all kind of started and I started to teach. And when I got into the power shell in the scripting, a lot of that was just, I started a blog and I started to put that out there. And eventually I was sitting in a class one day and I was, my wife and I were starting about thinking about starting a family and if she would keep her job or not have her job, and so I just started to ponder, like, what are some other ways that I could have income and plus, I had just started like was just a startup company at that time was 2014, 2015. And I talked to the instructor of this class as I was like, what do I need to do to do what you're doing? And he very bloody said he's like I wouldn't do what I'm doing. I would do video courses is like I would reach out to To play with site and do that. and I just read the four hour work week and which in bolded me to just ask anybody anything right and I was living by that mantra, and so I reached out to one of my the people that I had watched courses for for the SCCM this is some center configuration manager and his name was Adam Bertram and he had a Twitter profile. So I just hit him up and was like hey, how did you become a plural site author? And he's like I just talked to this guy, his name's Adam Blake, and so I went over to Adam Blake's Twitter profile, was like hey, I become a plural site author. And they like, fill out this, this interview. And funny thing was I don't know if you know who he is, but Don Jones, who's a big figure in the the power shell space for many years, started a conference and all that did the comfort circuit for many years and that Ended up becoming a mentor of mine later on. But he was the one that did my audition interview for plural site. Wow. And so I had to do a demo of five minute thing of just like what's your style, like how do you present yourself, like how's your speech, and I got the green light by just recording it on my laptop microphone and ended up investing in the gear and you know finding technology I was interested in and then recording content on that. Eventually it got to be too much to do with a small family and a job, but I was able to. I think I have like five total courses. Only a couple of them are still active, but that's kind of how that all. Just they just came about.

Tim Bourguignon: 42:48
Yeah, this is awesome. Did you imagine some point pivoting, overpivoting, probably toward just creating content like this?

Joshua Duffney: 42:55
I thought about it because I knew a lot of the people were making way more money than I was with my full time job doing that, but I just didn't have enough steam to okay to pivot over to that part of it was, you know, I started a family and I didn't like the process of being independent and having to worry about health care and all that stuff, and so that kind of kept me in and check. And then I had some what really derailed it, what I had some health issues in 2018. That just made it impossible to do kind of like anything other than just tread water, and so in that, a lot of stuff just kind of fell the way side and Extra quick, their activities was one of them. One of those things it might come back at some point.

Tim Bourguignon: 43:35
Never say never. Yeah, we've talked a little bit about the, about becoming more senior right now in the past, but that's that's your. Your your present now. And if a junior came to you and asking the questions you were asking your mentors now, is there a piece of advice you would give almost everyone and say, hey, start there.

Joshua Duffney: 43:58
I would say the fact that you're reaching out is you're gonna get an answer and you're gonna be able to be successful. It's the people that don't reach out that are gonna remain stuck and stay junior. So just building your network and talking to people, because there's not gonna be any. It's all contextual. It's all situational, but if you can find the right people that have been where you are, they'll help you through it. So reaching out is that key piece of advice is what I would give to the juniors and I love it.

Tim Bourguignon: 44:28
This is so true. Thank you so much. Thank you, josh. It's been fantastic going on this roller coaster of your life and your activities and over pivoting and, but still falling on both feet and having a bit of a About this. That is good. Thank you so much for that. You're very welcome. Thank you for the time. Where would be the best place to find you online and continue this discussion with you?

Joshua Duffney: 44:52
I'm most probably active on acts at Josh Duffney. That's my digital home for the most part.

Tim Bourguignon: 44:59
Okay, well, either a link directly to that, and I guess we can find pretty much you, we can find you pretty much everywhere from there and follow the tree, the branches of the tree, absolutely anything else you want to plug in.

Joshua Duffney: 45:12
That's it. That's it for me. Yeah, I'm just on there sharing every bit of this journey on Twitter. I try to be pretty transparent and show what I'm learning, what I've missed, what I've failed. So, yeah, hopefully see you there. Teaching still yeah, thank you so much. Thank you very much, it's been a pleasure.

Tim Bourguignon: 45:31
And this has been another episode of the first journey we see each other next week Bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share, rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms the show appears on on our website dev journey dot info slash, subscribe. Talk to you soon.