#38 Ryan Latta from one extreme to the next
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Tim Bourguignon 0:15
Becoming a software developer is a never ending journey. Some developers started coding when they were kids. Some ended up studying computer science and others came from very different backgrounds. Some taught themselves programming. Others went through apprenticeship programs, a few even jumped in yet boot camps. One thing is sure, no journey is void of bumps, forks, and hard decisions. Every journey is unique and full of learning that are worth telling. So let's ask developers from all around the world, how big they are today. And how will they grow? Whether you are a junior Dev, starting your career, and learning the ropes, or maybe a senior developer, pushing and guiding others around you, we have something for you. Welcome to the software developers journey. Hello, and welcome to developer's journey, the podcast shining a light on Developers Live from all over the world. My name is Tim Bourguignon. And tonight I speak with Ryan letter, Ryan has built building software and teams for nearly 10 years now. He currently work as an agile coach and Scrum Master with a mission of creating teams that change the world. Just change the world. As a developer, he maintains a belief that writing code is the least responsible thing he can do. I want to hear about this soon. And when he's not spending time with his family, he's mentoring new developers and starting their careers, playing games, and maybe learning to play the fiddle. Ryan, welcome to Dave journey.
Ryan Latta 2:19
Thank you so much for having me, Tim. I'm looking forward to talking with you.
Tim Bourguignon 2:22
It's a pleasure. It's a pleasure. So tell us, what is your life story? Why is it the least responsible thing for you to write code? And maybe let's take a few steps back? How did you become a developer in the first place?
Ryan Latta 2:36
Yeah. So I think I had a pretty traditional way of becoming a software developer, though, I think, I think there's an interesting footnote before I get into the obvious, like, I went to college and got a computer science degree and all that stuff. And it's, I was thinking about this, in preparation for this podcast. And I think, because as weird as it is to admit this, I think my origins, really, in my career started with a movie father of the bride to Steve Martin movie, it's pretty terrible. But there was a character in it. And he was an independent computer consultant, which is the most made up thing I think any Hollywood writer could have ever come up with at the time. But I was fascinated with that. And I think I think that's actually what I am now. Like, and I was fascinated with it then. And it's now I'm like, 36. And I realize I became that at bad writing. And it's awesome.
Tim Bourguignon 3:33
But that's a year,
Ryan Latta 3:36
years, years of like, not paying attention to that going into college getting a degree. And actually I didn't, I didn't actually start working as a software developer right out of college. I went lived in Japan for a year. And then I came back and actually started my career with my first job. But I'd say what was interesting about the college piece was, I learned very quickly that I was surrounded by people that were much smarter than me, way better at their sort of like solving weird algorithmic problems, better at math better at all those sort of like traditional development skill kind of stuff. And they were better than me. But I realized I had something they didn't, which was essentially that. At the time, I remember thinking of it as I work better with people than these people do. And that'll always be okay. Because software I knew by then you didn't work alone. You worked in a team, so I knew I'd always be okay, based on my sociability and not supreme development skill. And so I felt pretty comfortable with it, but then immediately went to Japan had no idea. And then when I came back, I started to find my jobs. And the first real job I got that I generally talk about was at a startup, making mobile applications for MMO games, which is the coolest job I think I've had to date as a boss. My first It's all been downhill since. And so that was a crazy little startup. And I had no idea what I was doing. And I was writing complicated threaded c++ code and just creating far more bugs than I could ever create. ever get rid of anyway, then I was working with the giants of the video game industry. At the same time, it was just absolutely insane. The good news was that we we built a successful product we had, I think I can say what I did, I don't know why couldn't but the product I specifically worked on was for Everquest. Two. So I, I built significant part of the mobile application for Everquest. Two, and we did a bunch of other like pilots with a bunch of other game companies, which is pretty fun. But then typical startup story is we ran out of money, and vanished. And so I collected as payment of office chair and an iMac
Tim Bourguignon 5:58
and went on my way.
Ryan Latta 6:03
The second job was that I took was pretty interesting in that it was a development agency. So you know, you do a lot of hourly work, you have a whole bunch of different projects juggling at once and all this other stuff. And it taught me a lot about what it means to sort of have your own sense of what good and bad is, I mean, both ethically, and I mean, just in terms of like, I think a lot of a lot of developers, at least for a few years feel like they have to make their company happy at their own sacrifice. They give far too much of themselves up for too little in return. And this company gave me that lesson very hard very fast. It's a very roundabout way of saying I did not like this job. But it taught me a number of things of things like they we had a quota that we had to deal with, how many billable hours were you clocking every week, and if you didn't meet your hourly quota, you would be taken for disciplinary action, which I immediately started laughing at that because I was like, What are you going to do yell at me? And that's basically what they would do. And I'd be like, this is fine. But then I also worked on products that were absolutely, unimaginably not okay. To the point that I actually I actually put my job on the line and said, I will not work on this anymore, unless, unless you get a lawyer. And they they can, they will keep us from going to jail. And they threatened to fire me. And I said, please do like, go ahead, that's fine. That's no lost to me. Eventually, they did get a lawyer and the lawyer, the lawyer basically had a very difficult conversation with the leaders of the company, because they had put themselves in very dangerous waters. So I learned a whole lot about like what not to be and how to take care of myself at that job. And since then, I kind of carry that forward a bit. But all those things that I worked on, you know, they were garbage, billable hours, but garbage. I was shipping apps to people that no one ever used, I was making these things that were legally dicey and very unethical. They weren't, they just weren't good things, but I was killing myself making them. Then I went to my sort of the my boss at the startup, called me up and said, Come on, come work with me. And I was looking for any Lifeline out of this agency I was at. So I went there. And this job was at a company called wireless generation, which became amplify, they made the news for a number of reasons, not many of which were good. And we Yeah, we were chartered to build data platform for the nation's K through 12. data, which, which is an interesting thing, like you would maybe, maybe assume something like that would exist, that there was a way to see what's happening in education in the US from data perspective, and there just isn't
Tim Bourguignon 9:08
something with the K to 12 is for the listeners.
Ryan Latta 9:11
Yeah, of course. So in the in the US, we have a sort of a public school system. And so education begins in what's called kindergarten. And it goes through kindergarten, and then what grades one through 12, which is our or your 18. At that point, if you if you don't mess up, you're 18 by then. And at that point, you're no longer required to attend school, and then you could go off to university or whatever you want. So the sort of formative education years, there's basically no information about it. You have to do a lot of work to find that out. Yeah. And so we were we were funded by Bill and Melinda Gates to try to solve that problem.
Tim Bourguignon 9:51
Ryan Latta 9:54
it was a crazy experience a lot of weird stuff. If you're crazy into agile then agile development stuff. Then Then I would say we we, we were a safe implementation, which will pick up some people and invoke the wrath of others. And I get to, I get to say it worked it out, it actually worked. And it was crazy about a year and a half of experience. But what happened, something that I would highlight about it was during that time I was on the security team. So I was responsible for or basically making sure we maintained phurba compliance. Now, in the US, we have a bunch of different compliance rules. And I don't think it's any different than any other nation. But like, if you're going to a doctor, we have HIPAA compliance, which protects your information and privacy to make sure it's not shared with the wrong people. If you're a child, there's capa. And then if you're in school, it's FERPA. All of them have different rules and guidelines about what you can do with data to make sure it's secure or not. And so our lifeblood was making sure we were Ferber compliant. Good thing was, I didn't have to know all the rules, I just had to build a software to do it. And the reason why that I'm bringing that up is it was the, I think it was like a day and a half, two days before our first contractual deadline. And we had, we had built all this stuff, and we had asked if he could build, like, basically do some testing with, with enough data that would really exercise the system in a real world scenario, not gonna be real data that would be against FERPA, but we could generate enough fake data to pull that off. And of course, man, there's like, no, don't take time away from coding to do something like that. And so we didn't. And then one developer did. He just went off and did it by himself, just like I'm not, I'm not doing this anymore, I'm gonna do it the real way, and shoved millions of records into our system, and the whole thing came apart. And it came apart in the security code, it just became, it killed everything. And so we had a problem, our software would literally not run under, under the day one expected load. And it was two days before our deadline. And so, you know, panic ensued, meetings happened, etc, etc. And I made a series of mistakes that have taught me a lot. I bought in my head into those meetings, so to speak. So the general consensus was, we could put a couple band aids on it, and maybe skirt the issue for a little while. And I unwisely said, That's not how we're gonna fix it. This is the only and I had a solution to fix it. Our team had already kind of predicted this case, and we had a way of fixing it. But everyone's like, No, we can't do it. That's impossible. No way we're gonna do it. And eventually enough, people's band aids like they tried a few and they just, they just didn't work. They were inexcusably bad. And so the only thing left was the solution we proposed. And everyone said, It's impossible. And I, I remember saying this, I remember saying, well, I'll do it then. And that was the time that I basically, everyone around me kind of stepped away. They were like, we're not gonna have anything to do with this crazy person's demise. And I have a whole bunch of conversations very quickly with people basically saying, Yeah, I'm going to do this, leave me alone. And I'm, and I'm going to do it in a way that is so bad, that if you let this continue after the deadline, you deserve all the pain you get, like I wasn't gonna build this to be a long term solution. We knew what the long term solution was going to be. But I didn't have time to do that, or even started, I had time to get us out of this hot water. And I was going to make it purposely bad so that it could not survive. past that point. I was aware enough to know, as a developer that if I write any code, it will outlive me. And my time there. So my, my strategy at this point was make it so bad, that it still can't make it. And so I rewrote all of our security in six hours. And it worked. Well kind of crashed. And, and I was wrong. I could not actually make it bad enough that, that they wouldn't just let it run. They let it keep running that way for six months. It became such a problem for everybody that there was a an issue, like a mandate that came out that a we had to rewrite it because they were so angry about how this thing was and nothing we ever built again, could look even remotely like that solution again. And I I kind of was like, Well, duh, like, yeah, that should happen. But it only should happen because we never made it a priority to actually fix this issue. We just left the band aid, like rot that I put in. And so we had to rewrite it again. And we did at that time, it was fine. In all this, all this work that we put into this product, and we launched it, and we were on time we had all of our features. It was done, it was tested, it was it was good. And legislation was passed in, in state governments to prevent it from ever being used. That was, yeah. And it was for such a silly reason. And it was a reason that we had talked about way early on, which was we built this platform with the assumption that people would care that anyone would even want to use it. And at no point, did I ever get wind that there was a desire to do anything to show people why it would be valuable, it was just sort of like the Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come and tell buddy, and that, during all that people had begun to get frustrated or worried, I should say that what we were doing was fundamentally insecure. And the reason they thought that is our parent company was Fox media, which is rupert murdoch. And he was already surrounded by a bunch of scandal for wiretapping people and all this other stuff. So of course, people were worried that we had been infiltrated and done bad things we hadn't. But the rumors had started. We didn't have a PR group, we didn't have anyone marketing, we didn't have any of that. So the story is continued. And it got so bad that enough people were in an uproar about the potential security risks and all this stuff, that the government passed laws to make sure this product could never be used. And all of the work that we put in for the year and a half the late nights, the the six hour rewrite when everyone's like, Oh, I'm just gonna walk away from this problem. It meant nothing. It was nothing ever came of it, it was the end. And it that that sort of began to form, or I should say solidify my mind this idea that all this code that I have been writing to solve all these technical problems was amounting to nothing. Other than time spent and effort, I was certainly learning plenty, but it wasn't having any impact on anyone's life other than mine, and the other people I've worked with. And I began to think back at all the points during this project, and all the ones at the agency, and even the startup before that. And thinking of these moments where we had the conversation where we said something that if we had followed through with it may have changed the course of our inevitable outcome of nothing, none of it mattered, but we didn't do anything about it. And I just got it, I got kind of sour about it. So then I went to the next company, because all that project stuff, it all ended. There were some upshots to it. Like that's when I kind of became really passionate about agile and teams because that was the bright spot about it. We had these great people around us, we were we were solving some really hard problems. And, and beneath all of it was was this whole agile idea. as messy as it was, it was it was doing something meaningful and powerful. And I decided that was more important than my hands on the keyboard. That at knowing what the problem is, is more important than writing a solution for it. And so I decided that that was the path I was interested in at that point. I wasn't ready to leave development, because I didn't know how but I was kind of sure at that point. That was where I needed to go. Oh, another I guess another thing that happened, that I often work with developers with is our first pass trying to get this giant thing into production environment was a nightmare. It was a I think it took over a month of late nights to get it out out the door. And I was on the call for most of those nights, because I had again made the mistake of being someone who knew enough about everything that they always had my needed my advice about stuff, everyone else had little bits and pieces of knowledge. But somehow I wound up with enough comprehensive knowledge to be indispensable, which meant I got a lot of late nights. And I developed a tactic then, that I haven't patented yet, but I'll share it. And so when I when I did was I had been I had been working a full day and then coming home at about 10 o'clock until 4am 10pm to about 4am I would be on the call on the phone trying to help people get this stuff into production. And that happened for about two or three weeks straight. It was it was I at about week two. I did not know how I was getting to and from work. I was absolutely worthless. And I was tired and miserable. And I felt sick. And things just weren't getting done. And I couldn't understand why it wasn't why we weren't doing this during the day until I had a conversation with my managers and they're like, well, you have other work to do during the day. And it became clear like fundamentally we were incapable of making right decisions about what to do with our time. Like we were deciding to add more features to something we could not ship instead of shipping it. And it blew my mind. And so I was like, This has to stop. This absolutely has to stop. And they're like, Oh, you know, just get through it. And next time, it'll be better. And I was like, tell me anything that would make me think that's true. Anything they couldn't. And so I was like, Okay, I'll take matters in my own hands. So I said, here's what I'm gonna do. Call me as many times as you want, I will answer and I will help you. But every time you call me, I'm gonna have a martini, every single time. And like, you can't do that. And I said, you can't tell me what to do with my personal time. So every time you call, I'm going to have a martini, and you get to decide how drunk you want me to be in production.
Tim Bourguignon 20:46
You should. But yeah,
Tim Bourguignon 20:49
I should edit that.
Tim Bourguignon 20:51
Ryan Latta 20:52
Yeah, right. Key to my success. And they thought I was full of it. And so the first night they called and I said, hang on, and I went and made a martini, and came back. And I'm like, Are you serious? And I was like, I was dead serious. And I worked with them. And I had my Martini. And then a few hours later, they called again, I said, hang on, and I made the next one. They're like, are you gonna keep doing this? I was, like, I told you how this was gonna work. And they were like, okay, so I had the next one. Like, I drank Martini, help them, and they never called again. And the next day, they they kind of were like, Ryan, I can't believe you did that. That's so unprofessional. And I was like, I think we have different definitions of that word. And basically, they knew they couldn't use me anymore. Not really. And so they had to, they had to figure out what they could do. And sure enough, priority did change. They did start doing this during the day, they began to create like, kind of war rooms where bunches of people were working on it the whole time. They made it a priority to never have a late night. Again, that wouldn't, of course, be the case. But they made a huge amount of improvements. And I mean, I'm going to take some of the credit. And I think part of it was that I was willing to basically drink myself out of a job in front of them, instead of surviving that kind of onslaught. And since then, like every time I work with teams that have late nights and weekends, I kind of tell them that story. And I begin to try to work with management and say, Look, this is stuff that can't happen in the dark of night, it has to happen. Now, it is important that we fix it now. You're just killing people by doing this. And if they listen to me, they'll start drinking too. So that's not great.
Tim Bourguignon 22:41
Did this just one quick question. How do you realize you were completely in in the in the in the heck of things in the tunnel? How did you realize that that there was a problem that you were partially, I can frame that I'm helping create? I mean, you were you were doing O'Reilly at some point? And so how did you get out of this? How did you snap out of it?
Ryan Latta 23:08
So it's a good question. And I think part of it came to that, that that second job at the agency, where, where everything was kind of built to be terrible. And and I, I, I realized, like, especially around the quota system that they put into place was was built to, in a way like just demoralizing crush people. And I began to see that every day I participated in it reinforced it, that if I couldn't break their quota cycle, I was basically going to be a victim in it the whole time. And I had this sort of very early idea of that these kind of invisible forces exist, and how I engage with them, often buys me more of it was the, what I what I've learned at that for that second job, that my participation actually got me more of the thing I didn't like, and I don't, I wouldn't say was it consciously in my mind, during this time, I just knew I had to get this to stop. Like it was, it was just I could not survive anymore like that. And so I came up with the only thing that I could control that would give them a reason to stop. Like, I could yell at them all day long, but this has to stop and they wouldn't they'd be like, yeah, so we're gonna keep doing this. So I did the only thing I knew I could do that would give them a reason to change their mind which was become worthless to them on my terms, and that was my approach. And it I mean, it people people laughed at it and the people who were on the hook for all this were kind of crabby, but they also laughed at it. But that was kind of the only thing I could come up with that was on my terms anymore. I realized there was no Lifeline and that it was gonna it was gonna happen. And I'd worked with the management enough by then to realize their hearts were in the right place, but when push came to shove They didn't really have a plan to avoid any of this. And so I didn't have any faith when they said that they were going to make sure it didn't happen again. Because they didn't. It didn't happen again, because a few of us that had gone through that made sure it never happened again. It certainly wasn't because it gave us permission to if we ever asked they would say, No, get back to work, do do what's do follow your priority list, complete your sprint meet your commitments. So it wasn't until we kind of stopped asking for permission to do good jobs that we got rid of those problems. And that that sort of decision of me saying, I have to make this stop. Anything, anything I can do to make it stop was how that kind of began. I kind of stopped asking for permission after that to do the job that I knew that needed to be done. Um, well, it's I think it's kind of lucky. But it happened early in my career that I kind of came to that conclusion that if I began asking for permission to do good work, I would never get it. And I would never do good work. And this this, this job, in particular solidified most of those lessons.
Tim Bourguignon 26:10
Tim Bourguignon 26:12
do you ever do you have a special, a special method or a special way of explaining things to? I don't want to say color your ass, but ask for for? You're not asking for permission, you are asking. I'm using English. Mouse? sure you're doing things and then and then asking for forgiveness? That's what I was searching for? How do you know? Right? Yeah, and pull to agree with what you did.
Tim Bourguignon 26:40
Ryan Latta 26:43
I feel like it what I'm about to say is gonna make you seem like the biggest jerk on the planet. So when I, when I come to the conclusion that I am going to do something like this, that is that is going to be against what I've been told to do, or against what I know people will want me to do, but I'm going to do it because I, I have decided that it's the right thing to do, then, then I basically just accept all of the responsibility for that I can. So the in the sort of drinking example, I didn't, I didn't really take responsibility for it. I think it was mostly implied, but in a later job. Well, I guess I guess I'm in that second job. I mentioned how I wasn't gonna work on anything, and they could fire me over it. That was like one of those things like, it's, it's a, I understand that I'm working against you. And if I'm not the kind of employee you want, you can fire me, that's fine. Like, I understand that I'm I'm giving you an ultimatum. And you get to decide whether you want to keep someone like that on board. The job that I took after, after these other two jobs. There were similar things that I would say, which was around like, I remember, they were asking like, okay, so we need you to go on, on basically night rotations to support the products. And I asked them how many issues they had. And it was several a week. And that translated to several late nights a week. And I asked him a bunch of questions around like, okay, so you you stay up and you fix the issue during the night. What do you do the next day? Like, why do you mean business as usual? And I was like, that's not that's not appropriate. Like, we need to make sure these problems stop happening. We need to make it intentional to prevent these problems in the future, we need to do something otherwise I keep happening. Like, Oh, no, we can't stop. We don't have time to stop. And I said okay, okay. Okay. So then if you want me to do a support rotation, you can put me on the list, then I choose to answer the phone or not. It's my choice. And if I answered the phone, here's what happens. You have to stay on the phone with me the entire time. Even if you're doing nothing, you have to stay up with me the entire time. And the next day when I come into work, I'm not doing anything except making sure this does not come back. Those are my terms. And they're like, Well, you know, we need everyone to be a team player, all that stuff. And I said, That's cool, you can fire me over this, you can not hire me over this. But that's how it's gonna be. I just that's that's kind of how I do it is I just set very clear terms and I make it very clear to people that they can they can they can choose not to engage with me if those terms are too strong. I I accept what I do, and I don't really apologize for it. I just make it clear that that's how I'm going to work. And I'd say generally it's a tough conversation but I find myself promoted very quickly, everywhere I've ever been. So I think it works out long term is just in the immediate sort of like friction of wait you're not doing what I said you were going to do is as a rough moment, but I lacked any kind of fear about my jobs. I'm kind of always have so that kind of I don't know if that makes me foolish about it probably does, but it lets me do those things. When I mentor young people, I, I tell them those stories and I say, don't be just because I do that, please don't do that. Because one day, they may fire you, or that may not be what you're willing to sign up for. But yeah, I don't know, that's that's kind of just who I am now.
Tim Bourguignon 30:19
That sounds like a plan that's working out for you. And standing for your, for your ideas and ideals is
Tim Bourguignon 30:30
a good idea, I think.
Ryan Latta 30:33
Well, and I think it helps me focus on the important pieces. Like when I when I did write code, now, it's because I believe in a thing that I believe in the potential outcomes it has, it's because I, I've, I've created an environment where I think success can happen. It's, it's because the terms that I know need exist for potential success, we get to them, or we're intentional about working towards them. It's not just work for the sake of work, or because someone's giving me a paycheck, it has to be more than that. I don't writing code is really hard work, it takes a lot of effort, it takes a lot of discipline, it takes a lot of skill and practice. And I want that to be more than a paycheck. So when I do it, it has to be worth worth that amount of expenditure on my part. And I don't apologize for the high bar that I set for what it's going to be. And that includes things like, even if I work with, you know, I'm sure you can relate the I think every company I've been at, there's a stigma around certain practices like test driven development, or pair programming, or all these things that whether we want to evaluate them as right or wrong or good or bad. I'd say they are. They have potential one way or another. And I'm willing to explore anything that has potential, even if people are like, don't do that. And I think that sets me apart from a lot of others. I'm willing to try things that seem absolutely insane and give it a very serious shot. And that can provide some serious some surprising results at times, I would say. But it usually comes at a hard conversation because I'm gonna go against the grain so to speak.
Tim Bourguignon 32:12
And you said no, you you're an independent consultant. Great.
Ryan Latta 32:18
Ah, I wish No, I'm not quite independent. Yeah. Okay. Yeah.
Tim Bourguignon 32:23
The reference interview follow the brightest.
Ryan Latta 32:26
Yeah, I know I'm jumping the gun. It's it's in my plans to move to go independent in the near future, I think. But I'm not there yet. It scares it scares me a lot to go fully independent. But it's, it's still where my heart is, even after all these years to do that.
Tim Bourguignon 32:42
Tim Bourguignon 32:45
Why why the independent these? Why does it scare you to to make this?
Ryan Latta 32:48
Oh, so the the Yeah. So there is a certain amount of comfort that comes with working, working under with salary and benefits that accompany instability and all that stuff. The the thought of having to find my own work or market myself signed contracts and all that, to do the work that I think I'm pretty good at. And it's the work I love. That kind of instability and uncertainty and all those other skills. Give me a lot of doubt and hesitation, especially since I know that that's that's the money that my whole family depends on that's it's funny to me how much risk I'm willing to take at a job, and how little risk I'm willing to take to get the job that I think is in my dreams. Maybe that's I can't reconcile it. But that's kind of who I am right now.
Tim Bourguignon 33:41
Yeah, that's that's a notch. I was unable to enter in my mind. This is hideous. And yeah, one amazing thing. I'm just reading my notes, you had some pretty extreme experiences. And I'm the truth itself, or if it's the epic way you used to work. But starting with game programming, it's kind of in every second mouse when you talk with junior developers, that they want to start game programming, but he actually did it. Yeah. And then experienced the the horror of unethical developments then on canceled projects. This is kind of amazing that you had all these very extreme experiences.
Ryan Latta 34:27
I'm trying to give you a good show, man. I am picking the most, I guess the most interesting experiences of what's been nearly a decade and we talked about half of it so far. There's a whole nother piece that's that I don't think we have time to cover but i think i think in most of it, you know, I've covered some of the most formative experiences that I've had as a developer and the rest of them are refinements of of those same elements but Don't don't generally think that what I've been through is different from many people. Actually, I don't know if that's true or not. I think people see the same types of things in these. Same, I would assume so. Most of the people I've worked with the developers have variations of these stories. But maybe I'm wrong about that. I don't know.
Tim Bourguignon 35:21
No, I didn't realize that you were you were cherry picking the horror stories. But that makes sense. Yeah, I had my fair share of canceled projects and late nights, and I'm twisting in and stuff. Yeah, I guess I guess that's, that's pretty common, unfortunately.
Ryan Latta 35:40
Right. And it's, it's, it's, I think it's that's the, to me, that's what why I think a podcast like yours can be so. So great is these experiences I think, while they suck to go through are not so uncommon that you could go I think, have a career and never see them. And I think that people that have gone down this path and figured out how to make a fulfilling career out of it in spite of these experiences is why why we have to talk and why we have to say what what did we learn? And what do we do now that makes it liveable, or even fulfilling in spite of all of it, like, that's, that's why this matters. I, I get, like when I'm mentoring other developers, and they're starting off in their career, I always get a little bit downtrodden. When I have to, they come back after a few weeks of their new job, and they're like, Hey, is this normal? And whatever they're about to say? Is something that I'm going to have to say unfortunately, yes to, and, and help them work through an experience that I mean, sometimes it's warranted, but oftentimes, it just is just going to be painful. And I think anything our community can do to help people raise the bar in the organizations they're in or in their own lives, I think is where we got to be. I mean, I don't care what language you program in this is, this is life, it's got to be more than that.
Tim Bourguignon 37:05
And I'd be interested in in just digging a bit in this mentoring, and how do you pick your mentoring partners or your mentees?
Ryan Latta 37:14
Um, so I've really only mentored to find mentors, I mentored one person, and then and so they, the first person I mentor, really, I was at a small consultancy, there's like six of us. And they needed some extra help. So they brought someone in like a friend, never, never written a line of code before, never even seen a line of code, like, and then the thought was, well, we could help them get started and then do that. And that began a two year kind of mentoring relationship. And so that that one sort of started off as a, he showed up to work one day, and I said, Yeah, I'll help you out. And two years later, you know, he's got other jobs. He's being promoted quickly. He's doing great. And he's learning what it's like at all these companies. And he's going through these experiences, and I'm like, yeah, welcome to the crappy reality that we sometimes dealing. Let's figure out what he wants to be when he grows up, so to speak. The other one that I'm mentoring, I, I kind of lurk can sometimes participate in a website called dev two. And it's a it's a neat little website kind of community built around. I think it's originated with, like more novice developers, people who are really interested in hungry and all that stuff. And I decided to sign up to see how I can help people and they launched a mentoring program. And so I said, I'm available. And so they paired me up with someone. And so I'm helping them figure out how to get a job and grow some of their technical skills as required and stuff like that. But so far, that's that's kind of it. Just those two right now.
Tim Bourguignon 38:57
Cool. Cool. 111 last, cuz it's something that that's not bugging me, but amazing me, you seem to have had throughout your career, all the time had a pretty deep introspection ability, from from the very beginning being realized, or being able to realize what is ethically correct and what is not and what you're willing to do and what you're not and figuring your pass right away. Am I assuming too much? No, I mean, interpreting something.
Ryan Latta 39:30
I'm not No. I mean, I guess eventually I would get to these places. I would say, in our conversations, it's hard to unpack the time it took, right. So sometimes these decisions took took weeks months for me to arrive at while I was kind of struggling with it or grappling with these things. And somehow I arrived at the conclusions that I did. Sometimes they were more glaringly obvious. Like one thing I had to build was was a mobile application that allowed people to buy drinks for one another, that doesn't seem superficially bad. Where it got really dicey really quick was when I said, So since we're talking about alcohol, don't we need to put an age verification piece in? And the answer was no, that would hurt our target audience. And that's when I was like, Okay, this has to stop. This is no longer okay to me. And that's when we I gave the ultimatum about the lawyer and I called him up and like, yeah, you don't want to do that. So that was like an easy one. Right? Before then it was like, okay, it's a cool little app, you can buy drinks for your friends. And then it was the we're specifically targeting underage people. And that that was the that was the No. Some of the other ones were just, I hate to say it, but like, you just get this feeling like, this can't be right. This can't be this can't be normal. And eventually, I actually wound up with question that I sort of run through my head on repeat, which is, if I'm wrong, what does that say about me? And I use that question all the time, when I'm experiencing things to sort of figure out, am I am I looking at the right things? Am I not considering things am? Am I going along with something that may not be the right thing? That question kind of keeps me in check? In a great number of ways. And so I it just runs on repeat all the time for me and helps me very quickly sniff out things I think, don't always come to answer, but at least I know, something's amiss. And I need to figure something out. Try something.
Tim Bourguignon 41:48
Cool. Interesting. Interesting. This is a thing of I've been pondering myself, in my in my very own mentoring. Considering new developers, there's always these this this fine line that you have to trade, helping them start to retrospect and introspect on everything they're doing, when they have no idea what the context with the sustain the system is doing, and where, where's the beginning? Where is the end, and you have to guide them through this, but you don't want to hash it too much, and explain them too much. And it's really, really hard line to play anything. So I'm struggling? I think so too.
Ryan Latta 42:27
Yeah. I think one thing that I usually do with with my, my mentees is a question I usually ask them is like, so they'll tell me whatever they think, and I'll say, What's an alternative? Give me a real alternative, something else that it could be and that's usually a good that usually unlocks things, I do it to myself all the time. Because I I get pretty opinionated. I don't know if that came through and this whole conversation. But uh, when I thank you. But when I'm when I'm when I'm on good behavior, that's something I also do to myself is like, okay, so I'm like, 100% Sure. This is the thing that I have to go through the hard work of what's an actual alternative? And kind of that knocked me down a few pegs pretty good. Now, let's be open to a bunch of other possibilities that I wasn't aware of.
Tim Bourguignon 43:15
I love doing this as well, what's what's another option? And people usually ask, Well, how long are you going to ask for all the options as well? As long as you came up with options in less than five minutes, then it will continue asking? Yeah,
Ryan Latta 43:28
yeah, it's a real option. We can keep going. Yep.
Tim Bourguignon 43:32
And we're, unfortunately, almost at the end of our sandbox. And very quick, if you were to hire someone today, what skills would you be looking for?
Ryan Latta 43:43
Tim Bourguignon 44:36
Fantastic. Thank you. Um, like always, at the end of the podcast. Feel free to plug anything you have on the plate coming up. So the podcast will be coming in January. Do you have any talks coming up? Do you have any blog to to advertise anything on your site?
Ryan Latta 44:57
Yeah, so I'll embarrass myself I guess um, So I do have a blog. If anyone sees it, that'd be the first person. It's It's my name. It's Ryan ladder, calm. I write insane things there. I'm the I'm also on Twitter. It's recursive faults is my handle. Please annoy me there, start talking about stuff. And I will respond because I can't help myself. I do do I am starting to do a number of conference talks. But I don't know what my next one will be. I'll be submitted for lean agile us that would be in February coming up soon, but otherwise, I don't have any of that going on.
Tim Bourguignon 45:37
Um, I guess you will be tweeting about it. Um, if and when that happens, right?
Ryan Latta 45:44
Yeah, yeah. If I, if I'm accepted, then Allah, I'll certainly be be freaking out publicly on Twitter about
Tim Bourguignon 45:50
it. What what we what are you going to speak about or would like this Bureau?
Ryan Latta 45:57
So there's, there's two talks I have in my head. One of them is a variation of the one I just did, which is how to facilitate a team boot up. Just a no hold barred. How do you facilitate something like that? And what is it? Why would you do one I just recently did that at lean agile Kansas City. And it was I had to speak as fast as I could to get through it, it was so much material. So it'd be variation of that and cutting it down. And the other talk and this is the talk that I I I've always wanted to give and I just don't know if I'm ready for it. And it's it's something like everything I learned about being a scrum master. I learned from being a dungeon master as a reference to games like dungeons and dragons and tabletop role playing games. So I'm debating between the two,
Tim Bourguignon 46:43
though definitely get get an audience I guess. The second one was also very interesting. But the first one yeah, has a gamey, gamey flavor to it. That always attracts people did.
Ryan Latta 46:55
Yeah. So the good thing would be that I spoke at that same conference last year, and I threatened that that would be the talk I would give soon. So it might be time to pull the trigger on it, but I am just so embarrassed about it. So we'll have to get over that one.
Tim Bourguignon 47:09
Don't be just right, be bent.
Tim Bourguignon 47:13
Well, cool. Um, did we miss any topic that you wanted to address?
Ryan Latta 47:18
I would say I try to be as available to people as I can online. So anyone who has any questions or wants advice or wants mentoring, just reach out to me, um, I try to be as available as I can.
Tim Bourguignon 47:32
Thank you very much for that. And, and this has been another episode of developer's journey. Thank you, Ryan. And we'll see each other in two weeks. Bye bye.
Tim Bourguignon 47:55
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