Software Developers Journey Podcast

#39 Harry Roberts and his journey toward freelancing


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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 today I receive Harry Roberts. Harry is a award winning consultant performance engineer from the UK. He has a client list ranging from the United Nations Google, the BBC, and the Financial Times. And he has helped some of the world's largest organizations make their websites faster. He's also an experienced international speaker. And in fact, we met at a conference last week in Estonia. Perry, I'm very pleased to finally get to record your DevOps journey. Welcome on the podcast.

Harry Roberts 2:15
Hey, Tim, thank you so much. What a nice intro. Yeah, so it was nice to meet you in Estonia, albeit briefly, it was a nice place to meet. It was it was.

Tim Bourguignon 2:24
So tell us, how did you become a developer? And how did you grow into this? This performance niche you talked about? I just hopped on. Tell us your story.

Harry Roberts 2:35
Wow, yeah. So um, it's a while I've been a developer professionally for 10 years now. And then sort of in total, I'd say maybe 12 or 13 years ago, I got into development much like I think a lot of people I got into development by accident. I, I when I was about sort of, I think maybe 1415 or 16 years old, I wanted to be a really badass graphic designer, me and my best friend at the time, we were convinced we were going to be the best designers the world had ever seen. So we just started doing logos and flyers and small bits of work for local companies. Looking back on it really bad work, like we were 16 years old, we weren't exactly going to be in the Museum of Modern Art or anything. But we were having fun, we were really enjoying it. And at one point, I decided that, well, we're so good at this, that we ought to have a website took a look and find us. And I volunteered myself to learn HTML, CSS, little bits of JavaScript to put a website together. And that was around 2005, perhaps. And it was during that I realized that I much preferred development to design and I was much, much better at development than I was at design. So I had a natural kind of shift where I got more and more interested in really simple HTML, CSS, like, little little websites. So we built our portfolio. And then we got our first client, we built their business website. And yeah, that's what I was about 16, I guess was when I fully got into development. And it all started from there, I guess, very much by accident, but a happy accident. And it's been something I've enjoyed enough to keep doing it for the next 12 years now. And then, for the last five years, I've been working completely sort of for myself, self employed for 510 professionally is

Tim Bourguignon 4:23
and how did you decide to to go to go freelance or to build your own company?

Harry Roberts 4:31
This is, um, this is a huge answer in itself. So I okay, so rewinding a little bit, so I've been working for myself for the last five years. But going way back to when I first started development at all. I was a teenager, I when I was 17 years old, I purchased the domain name CSS wizardry.com which I regret because now it's followed me around for a decade now. 11 years now, CSS wizardry.com is 11 years. Old. And but at the time I was 17, I had the kind of the confidence and the arrogance of a 17 year old boy. So I just I just thought, I'm amazing. I'm going to start a blog because I'm learning CSS and the whole world needs to learn CSS as well. And I'll be the person who teaches them that takes when I was 17, I started blogging started writing about new features, it was connect 2007. So it was the sort of peak of the web standards movement. There's a huge market for people learning CSS. I think CSS tricks was founded in the same year. And so I just started blogging, which meant that from 2007 onwards, I was beginning to get my name out there. And that ended up helping me secure jobs. I think anyone anyone listening who is wondering, you know, should I have a blog, maybe I should start a blog. every developer should have a blog, where I just fact it's the single biggest thing in my career. That's that's helped me along. It's just having that documented record of what I've learned what I've shared. So this blog led to people getting in touch to do speaking. So I got my first speaking engagement through my blog. And yeah, I just started getting a bit of a reputation, I guess. And then people started wanting to get me to be more and more events. And then I started working a large organization in 2011 place called sky here in the UK. And I believe they are now like me, venturing further and further into Europe. When I started working at Sky, I was working on large scale user interfaces, so big front end builds. And that's when I really got into CSS architecture, and realized that very few people had written about CSS architecture, very few people have done any research about CSS architecture before. So it was a really great time. For me, everything I was writing about was kind of brand new, sort of pioneering, or inventing a lot of techniques, or taking techniques that people like Nicole Sullivan had written about, and then sort of making those a bit more, just spreading them further. So after years and years of blogging and being kind of very much in the public eye, I started getting requests to actually do work. People are like, Can you help us with this? Or can you come and run a workshop about CSS, and I had to keep saying no to everything, I was like, I can't I've got a full time job. I'm not allowed to be freelance work, after a while, and a number of other things happened around the same time. But after a while, I realized that I have said no to so much work. But maybe I should be in a position where I'm saying yes, if I'm getting all these inquiries and requests, then maybe there's actually a market for me out there as a freelancer. So yeah, I kind of quit my job sky, and began working for myself. And at the time, I didn't really know what that was going to look like, I didn't have a plan that I was going to do freelance work, or if I was going to do consultancy work, or if I was going to do shorter contracts. Excuse me, I really wasn't sure what that would look like. And I was very fortunate that kind of happened organically, I scared myself towards a consultancy kind of role, where I would help typically quite large companies work out, you know, how do they manage big UI bills? How are they managed big design refactors. So it's actually quite, even though the moment I decided to work for myself, as quite sudden, I stopped one day decided that Nope, it's happening, I'm going to work for myself. actually working out what that looked like, was very organic. And that fell together. Just as I was interested in what I wanted to do. And I'd work out kind of why I kind of like doing this, I like to travel, I like speaking. And one really sort of important part of my journey there. One kind of specific moment, I remember is, in fact, there are a couple of moments. Now I'll go through all of them, actually, because they'll be some interesting things for the show notes. And I was working at Sky, fantastic company to work for really, really great. They had such a good engineering ethos, the quality of development was very high. And I learned a lot working at that company. But they were very sort of programming and back end focused. So I was the only real front end developer there, which meant I was really, really busy the whole time. The whole time, I was just trying to keep up with about 100 software engineers. I grew up in this illusion that was a bit kind of on my own. I was a bit of an orphan inside the company, I didn't really fit in with the design team. I didn't really fit in with the programming team. So I was always a bit kind of alone in that company. But I did learn a tremendous amount working there. So I was already already getting a bit disillusioned. Then around the same time. I saw a remarkable talk by James victori at the other end, and just went off. And I was watching this talk and we should definitely put a link to this in the show notes. But I was sat watching this talk and James Victoria was talking about how you know whenever you're working for somebody else, you can never really achieve your true potential because you're working for somebody else. And I was watching this talk thinking there are 500 people in this room but I feel like he's Speaking just to me, it was a very poignant moment. So I got on the flight back from Dusseldorf, thinking while like, I think, I think I know what I need to do now and, and me and James have kept in touch for the last sort of five years. And he's very aware of his the role he played in my sort of self employed career. But I got back to England and I made two lists. I got one sheet of paper, and I drew a line straight down the middle of it. And on the left hand side, I wrote down everything that I'm able to do. So I can build web sites, I can do public speaking, I can write. So I've been blogging for sort of six years by this point, I wrote down everything that I could offer anybody, I can do training, I can do development work I can do whatever it was that I was capable of doing. As a job, I wrote down just a list of all those things. On the other side of the piece of paper, on the other side of the line, I wrote down everything that I want out of a fulfilling job. So I want kind of recognition. Everybody wants to everybody wants to feel like they made a contribution. Everybody wants to feel like they, they made a change. I wanted to travel, I decided that, well, if I could potentially travel as part of my work, that's a very, very privileged and fortunate position to be in. I wanted autonomy, I wanted to make a difference. And I wrote down everything I wanted very, I didn't like money anywhere I didn't write, you know, I want to be rich. Because if anyone wanted to be rich, I would not advise becoming a developer. But I did, I wrote a list of all the things that I want out of a fulfilling job. And I just my task, then was to look at these two lists and work out. Well, how can I turn the left hand side into the right hand side? How can I tie the ribbons together between these two lists, and sort of create the job I wanted? And I went ahead and did it. I'm a very privileged person, you know, I've got a lot going right. For me, I've got a well, so it's interesting, I've got a lot of support, I guess, you know, I've got a family who could have looked at my parents could have lent me some money if it had gone wrong, or, you know, I had a lot of different safety nets. I didn't use any of them, I didn't need to borrow any money to start my freelance career, I didn't need to need to worry too much. But one thing I did have that was, it turned out to be a very, very useful thing is, I had a three month notice period at Skype. Now what that means is, I had to tell Skype three months in advance that I wanted to leave my job. And what they did is every senior member of staff, I was a senior developer at Sky, every senior member of staff had this three month notice period, so that, you know, if you want to quit your job, you have to give them a quarter of a year's notice. And most people are terrified by that. Because if you get a job interview, and the interviewer asks you cool, and how soon could you start, and you have to tell them, but I can't stop for three months. That's only a really bad thing. But luckily, what happened to me is, I was thinking, well, I want to work for myself, but I'm not really sure what it's gonna look like books, I had three months to work, I just quit my job, I didn't actually know what I was going to do next, I just quit. And then it gave me a three month deadline to work out. And two good things about this is it gave me a deadline, if I hadn't quit my job, I maybe would have never got around to it, I would have never just out of just thought I'll think about that tomorrow. The moment I quit the clock's ticking, i three months to work this thing out. The other great thing is normally, if you've got a three month notice period, you forgot to interview secretly, right, you have to go to interview secretly, you have to tell your manager that oh, I need to go to the doctors. But really, you're going for a job interview. I didn't have to do that I just quit my job. And I could look for things very publicly, I didn't have to keep anything secret. So I was very tasteful. I wasn't just leaving the office to go and have meetings with other people. But I told my manager that I was intending to leave, and I was gonna leave in three months. But for that next three month period, I was able to have, I was able to tweet, hey, I'm self employed now like nearly three months, I'm starting to accept work. And it gave me like, this quarter of a year period where I was still getting a paycheck from sky. Sky knew full well I was intending to leave. So it's all official. But it also gave me three months to cue up new clients, it got me three months to find new work. It also gave me three months to work out what that was going to look like. So my advice to anyone who's considering leaving a job, you might look down and think your contract and think Well, I've got a one month notice period that gives me a month or so everything out. What you got to remember is that one month is a minimum. So you can give your boss three months notice you could say to your manager, hey look, I know you only need one month's notice. But just to let you know that in three months, I intend to start working for myself. And with that three months, you get a guaranteed paycheck from your employer for that three months. But you also get a bunch of time to start exploring or start discussing things without having to hide it. And that's huge because it meant that by the time I actually left the office on my very last day at Skype, I knew the very next I had work to do for another client, I had meetings lined up, I had traveled to different conferences already organized. And that was a huge thing that I didn't really consider at the time to be that valuable. But looking back on it having that, that period of that kind of that window of public availability was really useful. So that's one thing I've advised a lot of my friends and peers is that look, you might have a one month notice, period, but make it three, just, you know, take the time to to do things properly.

Tim Bourguignon 15:30
And that was a huge part of it. Cool, wise words. Thank you. Um, how picky Were you able to be at the very beginning? I mean, now you have created a niche for yourself, but how was it at the beginning? Were you able to choose? Or did you have to accept almost anything?

Harry Roberts 15:46
Um, no, I've I've. So one thing I did is very quickly picked an issue. My current niche is performance engineering, but before that it was CSS architecture. So I, it's kind of a good idea and a bad idea. At the same time, I decided to focus really heavily on CSS architecture, which meant my JavaScript suffered so that nowadays, my JavaScript is really weak, I would never be hired to do any JavaScript work, because of the opportunity cost of focusing on CSS so much. But it meant that my first clients when I worked for myself, where they were, I could be very picky, they were always exciting. So I had inquiries from one of my first clients was the Financial Times, which is, it's my favorite newspaper, they got in touch with me, and I couldn't believe it, it was incredible. And purely because of having a niche. So it meant that if people needed CSS architecture, they could only really come to me, because the only other people writing about it at the time were fully full time employed. And so I was able to be quite picky. But then also at the same time, I'm not a very picky person, I will work with any company, as long as they're enthusiastic and seem like nice people. And my client list that I have on my website is very much to try and own. Here's another thing, like being self employed, you have to be shameless self promotion. And I tend to be quite good at that. But so the client list I list on my website is always a big client. And it's meant to impress people, it's meant to try and given me that credibility. But I work with tiny, tiny clients I work with, basically anyone who wants to do good work together, anyone who wants to do something meaningful and, and really cares about their craft and their their profession. So actually, my one of my very first client, he may have actually been my first client. There's a guy called Marcus, who lives just outside of Frankfurt, he lives in a place called Chromebook. And it was literally, he was self employed. And he was one person who hired me as one person, we just went to his house and hacked on CSS architecture for three days together. And so at the beginning, I worked with a single person company, and then about a week later worked with the Financial Times. So all the like, Oh, I could have been picky. My benchmark for a good client is just somebody who seems nice, who cares about what they do. Yeah, and also, there's an aspect of, because I am so heavily aligned to at the time CSS architecture, it was only ever the correct kind of clients that got in touch. If that makes sense. Nobody would think to get in touch with me for design work, nobody would think to get in touch with me for JavaScript work. Because I was so obvious and so clear about what I did, it was only really the exact kind of correct client that ever got in touch.

Tim Bourguignon 18:36
And how did you realize and then and then managed to transition to this performance engineering that you're doing?

Harry Roberts 18:44
Um, so this is so performance is my favorite thing in the world, because, um, I started with CFS purely because it fascinated me. And it was the very first kind of bit of coding I ever did sort of when I was 1415 years old, was just CSS really simple syntax. So I got into CSS through just interest. And because it happened to be the first thing I did, and then when I was working at Sky, it was a very high performance application that we were working on, it was actually skype.com. So in the betting and gaming industry performance is absolutely vital. And Skype that set up a performance engineering team, but they kept on focusing on server performance, or database architecture, or the very, very back end and infrastructure performance. And me as the only front end developer was sort of saying to them, hey, look, we need to focus on front end performance. So we need to work out how to make the front end faster. And they were kind of Yeah, maybe whatever, like maybe possibly. So I was never officially part of the performance engineering team. But I joined anyway. And I was like, Look, while you're looking at servers, and you're looking at infrastructure, I'm going to learn about front end performance. I'm going to research that kind of stuff. And I found it fascinating because CSS has a huge part to play In front end performance. So for me as I've CSS geek CSS nerd, getting to learn more about how CSS affected performance, and then a bit more about how everything else on the front end affects performance, I disappeared down that rabbit hole. So I guess, since about 2011 onwards was when I was really aware of front end performance. But then it wasn't until about two years ago that I officially made the transition to I'm going to focus more on performance engineering. And it's very, very, very simple reason for that. And I'm going to be completely honest, as to the reason why I made an official transition. It was better for business as a self employed person, I found it's way better for business to focus on performance than it is on CSS. And the primary reason for that is the CEO of a company. They don't care what the CSS looks like, they don't care if you bootstrap, they don't care if you use vanilla CSS, they don't care if you use CSS and JavaScript. But every CEO of every company knows if they've got a slow website, like and they understand that slow website to lose money and fast website to make more money. So from a simple business point of view, I realized that I'd already written about everything I knew about CSS architecture, the CSS in JavaScript movement has started to remove a lot of the problems anyway, as the industry was moving away from traditional CSS. So I just saw a gap in the market. I was like, Well, what I did for CSS architecture, there aren't many people doing that for performance. And yeah, what ended up happening is I've had way more inquiries, the value of my workers has increased quite a lot, the amount unable to build clients has gone up dramatically, because it's very rare that better quality CSS will lead to more sales, right, it's very unlikely that a company will see more zeros in their bank account, because they have better clear fixes than their competitors. But with performance, it's a real business facing metric. And it's been way more meaningful for me. And the work that I'm doing for clients has a more direct impact on their business, I get to have discussions with people more senior. So it will be a case of I was sat with having a meeting with the Chief Financial Officer of NBC Universal a couple of weeks ago, a surreal moment. But you know, when I was doing CSS consultancy, the CFO of NBC Universal doesn't even know what CSS is. But because I was there to fix their website and make it faster, they took an interest. So I had a meeting with this super high up dude, about web performance. So from a business point of view, it's been really, really good move for me. And also, it's just fascinating. I think every developer agrees that if you can measure it, it can always be better. And developers like making things better, we like making things faster. So it's just a good nerdy kind of pastime as well, just to focus on how fast can we make this?

Tim Bourguignon 22:57
How do you do your rebranding? Go? I mean, you've been you've been focusing on CSS for a while, and then suddenly, you had to switch bits from one foot to the other. Did that go smoothly? Um,

Harry Roberts 23:11
that's a really interesting question, because I haven't actually rebranded. So I'm still called CSS wizardry. And which has led to interesting things. If you hit my site, for the first time ever, you don't know who I am. You've never heard anything from me before. You hit my website. It's called CSS wizardry, it's really hard for me to sell performance through that name. And so what I focused on is actually doing talks about performance. I'm trying to do more public activity around performance and less about CSS. But so you and I met in Tallinn, Estonia, right. I've got a really nice client out in Tallinn. Wonderful, wonderful client. But the first time I ever worked with them, it was a little bit awkward. Because my life, they had a website that was really, really slow. And they wanted me to work out why. But it became a bit of an awkward situation when I had to turn up in their office and say, hey, I've been looking your website for a week. And here's why it's slow and telling all the developers that they've effectively built a slow website was very awkward discussion to have. And one guy one of really talented engineer very kind of problem solving. He kind of just a very talented engineer. Me and him went for a few beers midweek and he was like Harry, and I've got a bit of a confession. I thought that you were just going to come in and say, your CSS needs this and this CSS of the problem. And this is all CSS based. And he thought my job was only to know about CSS because he went to my website, and it's called CSS wizardry. And he said he was really pleasantly surprised that I wasn't just there to tell them about CSS. I did know other things as well. It's I think, I've never heard from someone before, because I haven't rebranded because I so called CSS wizardry everywhere. I think a lot of people don't realize that my work has has changed. And I'm not entirely sure how to solve that problem. Because I can't afford like a big thing a big companies do rebranding exercises, and what people don't know my name or they just know CSS wizardry. So I've never actually fully rebrand. I don't know how that would go. I wish I could I hate the names. Yes. wizardry, I hate it.

Tim Bourguignon 25:20
I wonder if you could do that.

Harry Roberts 25:24
performance? wizardry.com. Yeah.

Tim Bourguignon 25:27
Or jump on the on the on the no SQL. So not only SQL bandwagon and do no CSS wizardry was not

Tim Bourguignon 25:40
my buy that domain after this podcast?

Tim Bourguignon 25:43
You haven't seen January of this? year? That's a very interesting question I've been pondering with the same, the same idea. I'm very into mentoring and in coaching and helping people. And I'm considering starting a side side gig and my own and this is very, a very hard idea to to decide on, is how can I call the thing to, to be to be a message to the clients and the person that we'll be interacting to, but also leave a door open for the future? And because my answer to what I want to do right now is not necessarily the answer that will stick. And this is really hard, man.

Harry Roberts 26:29
Yeah, I mean, I wish when I was 17, I'd been well, not 17, I guess because, yeah, I didn't realize at the time, if you call yourself CSS wizardry, that's a fairly strong indication that you do CSS. And I see all the time in different brands that pop up in in the real world, like physical shops. They call themselves after the street they were based on and it's like, well, you can never move your business now. I've got a co working space, a really wonderful co working space called Duke studios. And that's because they used to be based in a building on Duke Street. Now, they had to move building to somewhere completely different. And they're still called juke studios. And nobody knows why, like, why is it called Duke studios? Oh, they used to be on a building. They used to be in a building on Duke Street. Okay, that makes sense. It's like, the I wish I hadn't called my business something. And all the domain names are gone now as well. So even if I did pick up that name, I probably couldn't get the.com. So yeah, it's one of those things where I, if I was to found a new or different company, I would try really hard to name after something non specific.

Tim Bourguignon 27:37
Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. Interesting. Um,

Harry Roberts 27:44
you, you mentioned mentoring, and the idea that you might want to start being a mentor to people. Do you know what that would look like? Because I'm, I'm considering the same thing for the new year, I'm thinking about perhaps, taking on mentees. Do you mind if I ask you a question about sure that you're mentoring? Or your your thoughts? What do you think that would look like for you? Um, so I have to dissociate? Two things. I've been a mentor and a mentee for the past five years now. So it's already something I do.

Tim Bourguignon 28:13
What I'm after right now is how could I start? More like a business around it? I don't want mentoring to be a business. Because mentoring is for me, it's not coaching. It's not something that you really make a business out of. But I want to promote mentoring as a thing. And so I've been I've been doing keynotes for events, have been doing talks in companies to try and promote this idea of mentoring inside the company. And this could be a business. Yeah, still not completely sure how that could become a sustainable business, something that they could do full time. So it's going to be a side gig for a while. I'm creating right now. An email course, to get people into this idea. I'm still still doing keynotes and stuff like that. So it's, it's I'm not I'm still not sure how that's could could work out. But I would like to, to encourage people to care about each other, help each other and really get into this, this human relations of things. I'm kind of sad when you'll see all those. All those MOOCs full online platform classes and everything being the answer to how'd you learn today? Of course, this is one of the answers. But did you get is this class that you're taking on Pluralsight? or whichever, whichever platform that is? The right answer for you. Is this deep? drill down the question enough? Did you get enough help to know that this 50 hours class that you're going to take is right for you? And I think every source Yeah, I think this is only something you can Drill down with the help of somebody else. And once you have the answer, once you know, this is the answer I need, then you can put the effort. But there's a lot to do beforehand. And this has been, in my experience, very, very effective things to do with a mentor. So, yeah, yeah, I'm trying trying to promote this. And the relationships I built with with mentees and my mentors and done the depth with right with reached almost deeper than friendship sometime. It's really amazing what happens when you really truly care about people and start interesting yourself and, and just be there for people. And so I would, I would like everyone to to, to experience this. And I'm sure there's a business idea behind this. But how does it really look like? I'm not sure yet?

Harry Roberts 30:51
Will it be fun working out, but I just want to say that's really admirable of you. I really like that you are you do definitely seem to care a lot. And that's really nice. You don't see that much anymore. Well, thank you. Plus, also, I don't know how you've got time for speaking your regular job, a podcast and mentoring. That's, that's insane. You really do care, don't you? Yes, I

Tim Bourguignon 31:11
do. And this is also also a thing for myself, I get out so much from those discussions. And you know, how are you when you when you hold the training? You You know, the you're the expert about something? And then somebody starts poking at 111 idea, and you realize, Oh, boy, I had never considered this thing from this angle. And now I'm yeah.

Harry Roberts 31:42
Yeah, I love that. Because, yeah, everyone, everyone can teach somebody something, right. Every single person in the world can teach anybody else, at least one thing. And, um, yeah, in trainings and workshops is where it becomes really apparent. Because, yeah, someone asked you a question, and you're like, I don't actually know the answer to that. My usual thing is, well, let's, let's research it together, and we'll start picking it apart and working out. Alright, it's this, this and this. And I leave thinking sweet, I learned something from that person. They didn't necessarily intend that or, or sometimes, actually, they do just tell you that, oh, it works like this. And I'm like, that's great. I had no idea. So um, yeah, this is one thing, why one of the reasons I want to maybe start doing mentoree, I need to work out what that would look like. But it's because people younger than I owe people more junior than me. They will know different things. They'll know things that I don't know that I don't know. So I might be able to help someone with career advice. Or if they're wanting to start freelancing, I can help them with how to find clients or how to set a pricing strategy. But that person will be able to tell me that Oh, right. Well, in view, you just do this, this and this, and then this works. I'll be like, Oh, sweet, because, you know, there's every chance that someone more junior than he will know more about a specific framework. Because it's not my job to know. So I'm really fascinated by the, like, the two way aspect of mentoring. Absolutely.

Tim Bourguignon 33:05
That I take something out of every meeting, mentoring meeting, I have each and every one of them. It's it's, it's a win for myself, in the first place. So if I'm able to give somebody or something, then it's bonus. But it's, yeah, it's me now.

Harry Roberts 33:29
It's a nice, it's a nice dynamic.

Tim Bourguignon 33:31
Yeah. And what I would advise, if I may, is I'm not trying to get into mentoring. I love this analogy about dating, you wouldn't get in a first date and start talking about marriage. So right what you're after is a connection. You're you're after, chemistry you after someone with whom you want to spend more time with. And this is exactly how a mentoring relationship starts. For me so far. It's just um, let's start talking together. Let's see if we have a common ground. Let's see if we want to talk more if we want to, to, to interact more with one another do we have? Do we have the same kind of problems in mind? Can I help you with something? Can you help me with something and you know, this grows, then it will probably grow into a mentoring relationship. And at the beginning, such a mentoring relationship is often unbalanced. So there's more like a mentor and a mentee. And if it evolves, well, it will balance itself with more like a sparring partner relationship. And this can can take a few years to get there. But once it reaches this, this, this real balance, it's amazing what comes out of it. So I'm the mentor for this topic, and you're the mentor for this one. And you can just go back and forth, depending on the on the on the time of year on the topics at hand and what's happening. In our lives, and having dues people in your life is just a six or seven year, or new tools in your toolbox. It's amazing.

Harry Roberts 35:10
Yeah, yeah, that's interesting, because that's one thing I was considering is how do I find the people to mentor to be very cold? And start? I'll start if I was just to have a form on a website somewhere, like, it used to happen more organically and then present itself as a mentor mentee relationship.

Tim Bourguignon 35:29
Yeah, what I try to do is every relation that I that I have, every every interaction that I have with someone, I try to feed the fire, meaning try to leave some questions answered, try to, to hint at some, some meta level that could be behind the answers we already already gave. So hinting there is more to this topic. And then I see that people come back, if they come back, interested in this stuff, and then I can start continue feeding the fire and see the fire keeps burning. And usually after a while realized on we're having a lot of fun going back and forth and philosophizing about things and, and exchanging ideas. And this is when the mentoring relationship really starts. It's the point where that's okay, we're having fun like this, we should be doing this more, we should, we should continue doing this. And I actually put the mentoring name behind it, only when I want to, to invert the the pooling push mechanism. So meaning at the beginning of more in a push, push sense, meaning I try to fire. And when I see that this is going, then I will introduce this idea. Actually what we're doing is mentoring. And now I would expect you to pull. So I'm here if you need me. Anytime. If I need you, I will pull as well. But I would like you to pull now. And so this means I'm able to take moments he's because I'm not the one doing all the work and pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing. Yeah. So I've experienced with having three or four men, he's at the same time. This is my very maximum limit. Three years more than three years is better than four. Three is really, really not exhausting. But but but tiresome. And, but it still works. And now I have more mentees that as they have been with me for years now. And we still see each other less regularly but still regularly and still for for very, very sharp topics and very, very precise advises and will still have a lot of fun. And they have grown into a different direction and have their mentees on their own. And it's just a relationship that's continuing just not as heavily as before. Just they have different interests now. And so this is this is how it should be going in my opinion.

Harry Roberts 38:01
Yeah, that sounds pretty great. That sounds like the sort of the most organic and natural way to run things. I like it. It's given me a lot to think about.

Tim Bourguignon 38:10
Cool. Cool.

Tim Bourguignon 38:12
Um, let's, let's, let's switch gears a bit. In continue on this on this idea? What would you be looking after in the mentee?

Tim Bourguignon 38:22
What kind of

Harry Roberts 38:25
bike skills or what kind of passions and that kind of thing? What would I be looking for in exam? So one thing that I do a lot of, I advise a lot of people, so it's never an official mentor role. But a lot of people email me asking for advice. And a lot of people ask things like, should I learn view or react. And that's the exact opposite of what I would look for in a mentee. Because that's somebody who, through like, the no fault of their own, but that's something we focus very much on short term or focus very much on immediacy. It's also someone who's probably gonna burn out real quick because they're just gonna keep hopping. And as soon as react goes out of fashion, and it's all that view, then it will be that that's what they focus on. And then they'll always be kind of playing catch up. What I look for if I was to hire someone, or if I was to have a mentee, I would always look out for somebody who's not slow paced, but somebody who folks does a little deeper, a little, a little more fundamental. I think, in certainly my consultancy work, the biggest value I provide to every single client is my knowledge of the fundamentals. And that simplicity is a feature. So a lot of the time I get hired to fix things where everyone just said, oh, let's go 100% react. Or let's go 100% bootstrap. It's whenever somebody asked me like, oh, should I use bootstrap or foundation should I use view or react? That's not the kind of thing I want to help people out with because that stuff changed all the time. There's no point in asking that question. And I would look for a mentee who would ask me things like, hey, so I want to make sure this website lasts for the next several years. What fundamental approach or should I take? How do I need to consider accessibility when I build this? How should I consider resilience as I build this? So for me, I think a valuable trait in developers is to have a more reasoned and considered approach. And realize that everything else is just implementation detail, your use of react or view is just implementation detail. It will give you a lot more longevity in this industry. I've been doing this for 10 years. And I keep going through this. Not a crisis of confidence. But I keep going through this panic where I think, Oh, I need to learn this thing. I need to learn this thing I need to learn this thing. Then I realized that I've managed to stay relevant for the last decade by focusing more on fundamentals by focusing less on trends and new techniques, but more on the unwavering the principles of how the web works. I guess it's pretty philosophical answer, but I would I would rather mentor someone who I wouldn't want to be somebody who's outsourced StackOverflow, I think is down. So I don't want to answering questions about should I use Flexbox? Or grid? Because my answer would be it doesn't matter. The answer changes depending on what you're solving. What you should be asking is, how can I build this reliably? resiliently? How can I make it accessible? How can I make sure x, y and Zed? So I think that's my general stance, if I was to either look for a mentee, or if I was to hire an engineer, I would always look for somebody who understands the fundamentals.

Tim Bourguignon 41:38
Make sense? Make sense? This is also what I've been doing, this is the part where I feed the fire, usually it starts with such such low level questions. And I would be in such a in such a case I would be in exactly doing this. So the question is if you are react and it will start hinting as well, there is more than this, and this is not the right question and see if this box sparks an idea and and start have an understanding. I don't want to be too picky with my with my mentees and say, well, you're obviously asking the wrong question. I can't help you. That would be bad, too. But start hinting as well. It might not be the right question to ask and see if they catch up the hint and understand what I mean with this.

Tim Bourguignon 42:23
Yes, if

Tim Bourguignon 42:24
they can work it out. Yep. And slowly moving into a different direction. But I still think there's liking consultancy, you need to, to start where your clients are at and not when you would like to them to be. And so yeah, that's that's the same as mentoring, you have to catch up first with where where your mentee is and then stop pushing. But if you if you see the potential in in such a person, then it should go quite, quite fast and then become a beacon great. But that's also what I'm after. And I'm even after one more thing, which is I want to create mentees that will become mentors that can have mentees that create mentors in their in their in their stead. So I never lunch. Otherwise. I mean, as I said, three mentees at the same time is the most I can do with my time and it's already a lot and my years are counted. If others still have a hopefully a lot of years ahead of me. I will never probably never reached 100 minis. Yeah, that's a very, very short, short time and small number. So I need to trigger people that will do this again. Like I did it with them. And so I've been picky in this. In this regard. I would say

Harry Roberts 43:51
no, that's good. So you want to multiply right? You want to have that network effect. So yeah, that makes complete sense.

Tim Bourguignon 43:59
Cool, cool. Cool. Oh, we're unfortunately, at the end of our time box.

Harry Roberts 44:04
It's one that's gone quickly.

Tim Bourguignon 44:06
Yes, it did. Yes, it did. Yeah. We kind of already answered the the question I usually ask about skills. And then I guess we should jump on to your upcoming talks and stuff. Do you have something coming up something on your plate for for the beginning of the year?

Harry Roberts 44:26
nothing specific. It's just more of the usual I'm really excited. I think the end of January, like 23rd of January kind of time. There is the return of new adventures conference. So this was a conference that was really, really highly regarded and it The conference was held when I was just becoming a developer, so I never actually attended this event. But all of a sudden it's back. And I'm really excited to attend new adventures in the UK at the end of January, but then beyond that, it's client work as usual, and then just speaking engagements. It's very exciting places. But I don't have like, I don't have a book that I'm trying to plug. I don't have like a, you know, an online course I'm trying to plug unless Actually, that's a lie. If you want to learn it CSS, which is the CSS architecture that I developed a few years ago, me and Skillshare have put together the official it CSS video course, which you can watch. But other than that, the new year is looking much the same. As always, for me, lots of fun client engagements, and lots of interesting travel. Okay,

Tim Bourguignon 45:39
where could people reach out to you and talk to you?

Harry Roberts 45:44
I would say the best place to find me is on Twitter. My Twitter handle is predictably CSS wizardry. My DMS are open there. So that's usually how a lot of people do get in touch with quick questions. I try. And I try and answer those as quickly as possible. So if anyone does have any questions about, you know, self employment, or performance or anything they would like any advice or help with, that's probably the best place to find me.

Tim Bourguignon 46:07
Cool. And I will add a link to your to your website, as well in the shownotes. So if listeners you want to reach out, you can also jump on there. Well, Harry, thank you very much. This has been a delight.

Harry Roberts 46:23
Thank you. It's a pleasure. It was really good fun.

Tim Bourguignon 46:25
And this has been another episode of developer's journey, and we'll see each other in two weeks. Bye. Dear listener, if you haven't subscribed yet, you can find this podcast on iTunes, Google music, Stitcher, Spotify, and much more. Head over to WWE WWF journey dot info. To read the show notes, find all the links mentioned during the episode. And of course, links to the podcast on all these platforms. Don't miss the next developer's journey story by subscribing to the podcast with the app of your choice right now. And if you like what we do, please rate the podcast, write a comment on those platforms, and promote the podcast and social media. This really helps fellow developers discover the podcast and those fantastic journey. Thank you.