Tim Bourguignon 0:05 What is a good software developer? What do excellent developers do? There are probably as many answers to these questions as developers in the world. So let's ask veterans and newcomers what their story look like. Let's learn directly from them. Welcome to developer's journey. Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of developer's journey, the podcast shining the light on Developers Life from all over the world. My name is Tim Bourguignon Wendt. Today, I received Stephen trenger. Stephen. Hi, thanks for joining me. Hi, Tim. Thanks for having me. Oh, it's a pleasure. It's a pleasure. You and I met a very long time ago, we're trying to refer to or to find out when exactly before starting recording, I think it's 2014, something like this. I will have to look it up online. As a fun fact, I think you're partially responsible for me going into mentoring. Did you know that?
Steven Schwenke 1:12 I didn't know. I didn't know that. And it would be a great honor.
Tim Bourguignon 1:17 I think it is. When we met it was at the hips campus in in nurnberg. This this conference that that the company worked for organizers, and you showed up on stage with young schauder. Speaking about mentoring yen's was your mentor is your mentor maybe? Well, we'll I think we'll touch about this in a minute. And you were both on stage speaking about mentoring. And that's the first time I was confronted with this idea of, of mentor and having a mentor having a mentee. And well, a few years down the line. Here I am speaking at conferences about mentoring. I think you're really you're really responsible for that. So I will say.
Steven Schwenke 2:01 Great, great. And, as you mentioned before, or between those two points in time, actually, we met at the same place in nurnberg. ETFs. Composed I don't know if you remember, it was after a long day of conference, and we met on the streets outside of the conference, because yen's wanted to go to the conference or back to the hotel. I don't remember. And we met you and we talked and then I met you for the first time. So yeah, no, that is kind of our natural focus point. It
Tim Bourguignon 2:34 is it is. And I think this this discussion we had on the street was what led us to, to organizing a speed dating, mentoring speed dating at the javelin conference late last year.
Steven Schwenke 2:48 Yes, which also was very, very great.
Tim Bourguignon 2:51 It was great. To touch about that in a minute. First, we need to get to hear more about your story where you come from and and what led you to being on stage in 2014. If it's in 2014. We'll check that later, with yen's speaking with mentoring. what's what's that journey like?
Steven Schwenke 3:11 Yeah, my journey started very, very early. Maybe as for a lot of people in it. It started back when I was young, and the first video games came about. And I played very much and organized with some friends, small events for gaming. And Soon it became clear that I simply had to study computer science. And in my hometown, there wasn't a university about a few kilometres to the north, there was a great university and you can study computer science there. So I went there and study computer science that was in Magdeburg in Jackson Heights in Germany. And the main reason I went there was to learn programming. Because back in the gaming days, we soon began to build own levels and begin scripting, scripting the games. And then it was a natural next step to begin programming and maybe developing own games. So I wanted to learn how to program and then I went to the University. And yet, to be perfectly honest, I didn't think much about it. I just started there without much research. And in my first lecture, there was it was introducing lecture for all the students. And the deacon at the time, told us what the study will be all about. And I'm not lying here on the second slide. He made the statement that studying computer science is not programming that it is absolutely different. And I sat there and thought to myself, well, I have exactly two options. Here, option number one is I get up right now. And I leave. And I search for a place where I can find someone who showed me how to program while I stay. And yeah, just what I can learn here. So luckily, I decided for option number two. And I stayed there. And in fact, I did not learn how to program at least not how to program. Kind of good. But I learned a lot of other things. And the main thing I took away from the university was how to organize things, and mainly how to organize myself, which is a very, very important thing. And also, I learned to know a lot of great people who really late some stepping stones in front of me, which I use to develop myself and to develop my career later on. And actually, in the first semester, I met my very first real mentor, because there was the organization who organized mentoring for young students. And he, my mentor, was an intro for a group of students, I think we were 15 entrepreneurship. And he saw that I was very, very interested in doing stuff and very proactive. And he he asked me if I wanted to start organizing this mentoring concept. And I said, Yes, and I was very happy to do so. And that was one big stepping stone into a lot of organizations where I worked in my study. And this was really one huge stepping stone. And that was my introduction to mentoring on an institutional level. And I became, became mentor for other young students. Yeah, and then all things come to an end. So I finished my study. And I began working in a huge company, the law, north of Brunswick in Germany, and I thought if I should begin my career at a huge company, and I decided against that and went to another very, very small company, and I learned to no yen's there. And I saw yen's these days, as someone who was very proactive in the in the community. He was writing articles. And he had a blog and you knew stuff. And I thought, well, maybe he can help me. The way my first mentor back in the university helped me. So I kind of stalked yen's I followed him on Twitter. Well, that's not not very much stalking. But I began twittering something he was interested in and soon he was reading my tweets and asked me Hey, what is that mentoring thing? You are talking about? Well, actually, he knew mentoring, of course, but I think we, we may, we met somewhere in the middle, and we had a coffee and he asked me what I wanted to do there, where we are working. And then some kind of mentoring developed at first, we were the only one in this mentoring thing. And then the group developed and now this group actually is exists. And we are having regular meetings in this group. And that is why we are how we became a mentoring group.
Tim Bourguignon 8:48 If I gave again, just interrupt you there, this is a concept I haven't seen anywhere else. This way, say if I if I understand it, understood it correctly. This is a group that was constructed organically was adding people one after the other. Where there is not necessarily one mentor where where you're all mentoring each other is right.
Steven Schwenke 9:15 Both of those options kind of apply. At first, it was clear that the answers my main draw, and I think this relationship never really changed fundamentally. So I talked with yen's, actually, one when was it yesterday or the day before and asked him stuff and he really helped me out in something there. And because of the fact that it's way more experienced than me. This is kind of natural that I I'm asking him stuff and he is telling me stuff. And for the rest of the group. It's Yeah, it's it's the case that we somehow Help each other. So there is not that hierarchy, that one is the one go to guy, and he knows all the answers and tells everything to the others. That is sometimes the case. But as you said, it's somehow organically.
Tim Bourguignon 10:21 And what would you with this with each other? What do you do in those? In the meetings you have? Do you have some meetings? You made fun of ours? Would you do together?
Steven Schwenke 10:30 Yeah. And this mentoring group exists for a couple of years. And I think we experimented a lot in this group. So we began meeting and the expenses, favorite coffee store in a ball trike. And then we moved on to what was the second group. We, when we had a third member of the group, we met at his house, actually, in the in the basement, and then we had some programming sessions, we experienced pair programming. We made code cut, as we discussed architectural questions. And then we went back to some restaurants later on in the group, because the group had some more members. And the time that was had the most members, I think we were six or seven members, actually. And that kind of is an interesting, yeah, that's an interesting experience and an interesting development because the dynamics of the group change very much. So for example, we had more than one talk, during those meetings. And where we had, at first just one topic, and one person was speaking, the others were listening. And then it was one topic that was discussed at any point in time. And when the group larger, that wasn't the case anymore. So we had to adjust and to think about what we really want to achieve there. interesting topic?
Tim Bourguignon 12:08 How did it turn out to be
Tim Bourguignon 12:12 doing this? Well, it is. It's,
Steven Schwenke 12:17 it's, it's kind of dynamic at the moment. So we did not find, in my opinion, the perfect solution, which always applies, because of the different development of the members at any every meeting, some one wants to talk about special things, or about a current problem or about options he or she has to. And then we focus on this person. And in other meetings, we only have some technologically discussions, or we show each other books and talk about books. And this is something we have to decide from meeting to meeting, which makes us very, very interesting.
Tim Bourguignon 13:06 Okay, that's cool.
Steven Schwenke 13:08 Oh, there's, there's not just one concept, but we are.
Tim Bourguignon 13:12 Yeah, we are
Steven Schwenke 13:15 making every meeting.
Tim Bourguignon 13:18 That's really that's really interesting. And maybe if we can, if you can step back a couple a couple steps. You seem to be always gravitating toward having a mentor, right, these people around you.
Tim Bourguignon 13:37 Do You Do you know why?
Steven Schwenke 13:42 Yes, very much. So I'm searching. I'm always searching for people who? Well, it goes both ways. I'm always searching for people that I can help myself that I can do something that they're developing in a in a faster way, or in a better way. And also, I'm searching for people who can do nice things for me. And sometimes it's what just one actually is the same person. And other times it's not, and I'm searching very proactively for people who can help me and who I can help myself. And, but just just to give you an example, let me think of an example. without going too much into detail there. I met a colleague and that colleague was because in my firm I'm working for MSG, David in Brunswick and in Brunswick, we have around two 300 employees. And that is a number where you cannot remember every face and name and that's another point I have very much problems with. But this one guy He always showed up in events. And he was just a nice guy. And he was always greeting when we saw each other in the halls, and was simply a nice guy. And I, because I had really, because I really received good vibrations for me. I began researching gooey walks and asked other people, hey, was this guy always around and always nice to other people always helping out. And so they told me that he was one of the young employees. And I told most thought, hey, well, maybe I can help him. And he was, is not kind of at the beginning of his it, career. And I thought maybe I can help him. So I just asked him if we would like to have a coffee with me. So we met and had a coffee and just talked about everything else, but it and I asked if you want to have another coffee, and soon, we had a weekly coffee meeting half an hour. And, of course, we talked about it stuff and how he would develop himself in it matters. And I really invested not that much. So I just told him how I see things, and how the world works for me. And that's another point that which is very important for me. I don't know, answers. I just have my own experience. So I cannot I can only tell how things worked out for me. And yeah, it became a really nice relationship between him and me. And we have those regular meetings, I wouldn't say that this is mentoring. And it does not have to be, but it's just regular meetings. And maybe he's learning something, I think that's the case. And I'm learning something from him too, because he has the view on the it the view of someone who is fresh and sees things for the first time. And also does have other experiences, for example, with customers. And with organizations. He before he joined our company, he had very much experience with organizing events. And this is always an interesting topic to talk about with him. And also he's a musician, and that's something that totally, I I cannot make music, sadly. And I have always talking about this with him.
Tim Bourguignon 17:40 That's cool. That's cool. You said something interesting. You said a lot of interesting things. But two things I picked up. The last thing you picked up was you're not sure if it's mentoring. He said it's very nice for a relationship, but you're not sure if it's mentoring? And what would be different? If it was if it were mentoring, in your in your in your mind?
Steven Schwenke 18:06 A good question. I don't have an exact answer. Maybe Many people think that mentoring is some kind of organized things or that you have someone who says, Yes, I am your mentor. And that is some kind of huge thing. And we have to get some kind of contract or agreement that this is my You are my mentor and you are my mentee or something like that. But that is not the case. That is exactly two times the cake is in my experience for me for me personally. And I had around I think five or six mentors in my life. And actually now I'm having multiple mentors of different areas of my life, which is a great thing. And maybe I answered this because this is some kind of relationship of self improvement
Tim Bourguignon 19:08 on both sides. Okay.
Tim Bourguignon 19:13 Yeah, it makes sense. Makes sense. And the other thing I had to hide to, to smile about is when you say we'll just have coffee, and we started talking. I recently wrote an article for the for the coffee platform or magazine, making the parallel between between dating and mentoring. And that was the answer to a question I get very often after after some talks, which is always Well, how do I break the ice? I was why do I start asking someone for being my mentor? And my answer is always the same as you don't you start by getting a coffee or asking questions and starting to get the ball rolling and see if that's lead somewhere. And I find your your example very, very well illustrated with just getting coffee and saying well This wasn't so bad. Let's have another one in a week and then see where that goes. And you haven't talked about mentoring with him yet, or maybe you did. But you haven't flagged your your relationship as an as a mentoring relationship yet, and maybe you will never put that. So that's an interesting way to put it.
Steven Schwenke 20:19 Yeah, exactly.
Tim Bourguignon 20:22 Yeah. And then maybe to close this this mentoring subject, we we organized together at the javelin conference last year, and mentoring, speed dating, which was again, getting people to, to stiffen with another with one another. And this is a very high pace, we were not really sure how would that turn out to be to to to work out, but I think it did did quite the feat. That was right.
Steven Schwenke 20:50 It wasn't especially it was at the very, very end of the very long conference day. So I found my art was very exhausted. And it's one of those great things in taking part in community events. I am very exhausted at the end of those days and don't have much energy. But somehow those events tend to energize me from minute to minute again, so that I am able to really have a really long day. And I think this is a special occasion. The day was some Yeah, was 14 hours long or so. And yes, it was a great event. And everyone I think in my as I saw it, everyone had fun. And everyone talked to at least how many wallets are there five, five people. And I think that's a huge success.
Tim Bourguignon 21:43 Yes, it was it was. I might I might submit that this year, again, with a different, different flavor. But that was he had so it's working progress. Um, I want to switch gears a little bit. And when you when you speak at conferences, you often speak about the craftsmanship topics. I'm not sure if craftsmanship is the right word anymore of crafters maybe to make it a gender neutral crafters topics. You mentioned previously in the things you did with the with your mentoring group about pair programming, code cutters, etc. You also speak about clean code you speak about just being more programming. I'm sure you did. But you speak about all this news topics, which are the the tools that we have in our tool belt to do our work every day. Why is it so important to you?
Steven Schwenke 22:42 Actually, it isn't. But I noticed, yeah, it's not, it's kind of when you are getting up in the morning in the morning, every day and start running because you have to not because it's so much fun. And it's like that with those topics you mentioned, I noticed that a lot of emphasis is placed upon very technical topics in the it. And you can find books, and you can find magazines and blogs and talks about very, very technical and deep technical stuff. And because I'm learning Angular right now, which is new for me, I noticed that it's very, very easy to just solve technical problems by just reading it. And if you don't Google it, and you pay a bit of money and go to a workshop, and then you kind of get to know a technical stack within a day or two or three. And that is not the problem. We have solved that it's all searchable, it's researchable. And it's linkable, you can kind of download technical information into your brain, if you learned how to learn. And that is the best thing to take away from studying. But I noticed that the so called soft skills, or as a professor of mine called it the key skills. That is something that is often missing. But it's in my opinion, the things that really makes us successful in life, and also in the projects with customers. So to give you an example, I think that some projects of mine have been successful. So projects in the sense with customers have been successful, not only because my I and my teammates have used technology to solve a problem, but the most important thing was to talk to the customer and to understand his problem, to understand his priorities and then to pick to pick the technical tools and solve the problem. And sometimes it's more important for customer simply to be understood, and simply to tell his problem, and to have a simple prototype that solves 80% of his problems, and the 20% that this prototype is not sort of it would be the 80% of the cross. And so, technical skill is not helping you in this situation, but what is helping you is to really make communication communication is my most favorite word of all times. And that is, that is the real key skill in, in my opinion, in my experience of life, if you somehow managed to communicate, then you are halfway winning. And this is the reason to come back to your question. This is the reason why I noticed very, very lot of topics, which kind of Yeah, are not known or unknown, represented in the literature and in blogs and in conferences. So for example, coding cutters, coding cutters, is something you cannot sell to any software craftsman who is in the project for customers. Because, yeah, the management, quote, management management is, is okay, and no pun against management here. But, of course, quote, management want to earn money. And that is the role of every company. And you seem to not earn money when you're doing a cord cutter. So when you're solving an academic problem over and over again, without selling something to any customer, so you're not making money. And so you're losing money actually losing money because of the people you have to pay them. And this seems counterintuitive, but when you understand what this code cutter does with people that maybe after a day of a court retreat, global day of court retreat, for example, a new few weeks, it's coming around, and it's there every year. And it's a great idea to go to a global day of portraits region every year. And to practice the craft, as you said, and this one day, I noticed very often because I am organizing portraits myself, internally and externally in the company. And very often, it's the small thing. So a software developer says, Hey, I'm I learned a new shortcut here at my ID, I didn't know before, or I learned a totally new ID. And that will make him more productive for four years to come. But he would not have learned that without this event. And this is this is hard to really understand. And last sentence here to that topic. And of course, it's possible that you have the complete opposite, so that you visit a quote, retreat, and absolutely nothing because the people you pair with, they are beginners and juniors, and maybe you teach them a lot, but you yourself, don't learn anything. But what you always will learn is communication, because you always communicate with those people. And if the single little bit of skill you take away from this event is how to communicate something to a young developer, then you are a winner. You go out there as a winner. Because you are a more you are better software craftsman, even for your company. Because your company can can set you in a team of junior developers, and you will teach your your knowledge in a better way. And that is a disgrace.
Tim Bourguignon 28:54 Amen to that. I've heard the term catalyst skills instead of soft skills. I find the definition interesting. Which are really the skills that allow other skills to flourish.
Steven Schwenke 29:14 That's great. After notes.
Tim Bourguignon 29:18 Yeah, I was always interested as well. I've been searching for for for replacement for soft skills for a while. But I think I'm not the only one. And I heard this on a podcast the other day, I think was interesting. I'll have to ponder that. That further. Um, okay, so maybe maybe you understood you you answered the first. The first of the next question I wanted to ask you, which would be what is a good developer? nowadays? I think it would have to do with communication. But is it more than this?
Steven Schwenke 29:48 Yes. Oh, yes. Yes. Communication is is very, very important. However you not a nice way to say But you, you have to want to do what you are doing. So even if I'm a pro in communication, and I am entering it, because of the reasons maybe I heard that you can get a lot of money there. And, or maybe I'm already in it, and I'm a developer, and I'm happy to be a developer. And then something goes wrong in quotes. And someone says, Hey, you are making tons of money when you drink project management. And hey, you have been developer for 10 years now. How about making some project management and then leaving the Development Zone and entering the management zone can also make you very, very unhappy? Not necessarily. Some people do that, and they are happy with it, and everything is alright. But I think focus is very important. So you have to, like at least my not other people. But what really works great for me, is that I am aware of what I want, and what it costs because everything which is worth something does have does come with the cost. So for example, I am a developer, because I love developing, I love going to communities, to community events, and I love to engage in learning new things, technology, but the cost is maybe to some when or maybe a few years, I'm kind of stuck in my career, because I'm just a developer, and maybe I'm I will not earn more money or will not be that highly regarded for what I am doing, maybe I don't know. But it's important to have an idea about what the decisions in life will cost you down the road.
Tim Bourguignon 32:04 Then I will give you a teaser for for the one of the interviews that is coming in the next in the next weeks for the journey, one of the guests who say that it's time to take a chance. He said that's that was his answer to my last question, which is what what advice would you give the listeners and say, Well, take a chance there is if you cannot do it as a developer right now in the industry, we have entered the contest we have they will never do it. So take a chance. And maybe you know, the new king makers? Have you read that one?
Tim Bourguignon 32:41 And no, no, actually not.
Tim Bourguignon 32:42 It's a short book about the role software developers are playing in the industry right now. or nothing the industry in the society. And we are really in a very, very special place. So yeah, we're sad, the developer, but kind of very, very, very special and important place. So not that bad. It's kind of the
Steven Schwenke 33:03 Yeah, Indeed, indeed. I guess it's kind of this. Software is eating the world. meme,
Tim Bourguignon 33:09 right? Absolutely. Yes, yes. If you had to hire someone, um, what would you be looking for in this person?
Steven Schwenke 33:22 I think I would. Well, it depends on in which position, I would hire him or her. If it's a junior developer, then I would simply have a coffee and ask those questions we were talking about. So why do you want to be in the it? Why do you want to work here? What is it that drives really motivates you? And of course, it has to be some there has to be some fun, fundamental knowledge of it topics or if someone's applying to be a developer, then I expect him to know at least one programming language and at least a handful of frameworks and toolkits. That that's clear. But which is really important for me is the motivation. So what what is it and in it nice situation would be in such talk is when he or she really gets a glow in their eyes and telling something which really interests them. So let's be at games, I'm gaming a lot and games, this really, games brought me together with my friends or for peer groups for me, stuff like that. And I want to be a game developer and to be a game developer, I have to know how the industry works or I have to understand how making software works. And that is reason why I'm here. And that is something I can totally relate to, in the meaning that I can make personally development with this person. So on the other hand, if someone is sitting on the other side of the table, and I'm asking, why are you here? And this person says, Well, I'm here because I don't know, there's free Coca Cola here every day also, then this is not the motivation I'm searching for that does not mean that I will not hire this person. But it's it's different.
Tim Bourguignon 35:25 I feel as if it's the autonomy, mastery purpose, placed to purpose part of the motivation framework. That's all right, that's a really, it's really hard to to screen for that. They really have to listen to your guts. And this is something that's kind of bite you in the ass at some point. But
Steven Schwenke 35:49 Oh, yes, it can. And it's kind of easy to solve, by going to events by going to Java user group events, or in general community events and conferences, because someone who is willing to wake up early in the morning, or first to travel to another city, to maybe invest some of his holiday, is the travel to another city, maybe to even pay money, real money, and stay up early in the morning, and wake up early in the morning and have the full of talks and full of coffee drinking and full of excitement, and in the evening, is able to have some really, really heated discussions about some technological special feature or about the process thing in it, then this, this is the person I want to hire.
Tim Bourguignon 36:47 But then I have to I have to be the the devil's advocate and ask the question that's painful. And I'm struggling with this question as well. how likely are you to create a monoculture with this? And how do you make sure that you also get the the single parent that is not able to travel to those conferences, and that could still be be a very good developer, but doesn't have time to, to, to train outside of the job and do stuff like that? That's
Steven Schwenke 37:23 most likely I would not, not, at least with this to work in getting to conferences. You're absolutely right. That is why I'm not hiring people.
Tim Bourguignon 37:36 Well, it's, it's probably on your journey somewhere. I made this mistake once. That's why I am so interested in it. I hired a lot of people for for one client. And I realized down the line that I was following this pattern. And we created a very interesting monoculture. That was there was a very nice atmosphere and everything was working quite fine. But it is not the place I would have chosen to be if I had been awake while doing this if I had known this bias beforehand. So it's if I had to do it again, I would probably do it differently. And this is something I missed. But I don't know how that's the problem. No, no, I'm growing as well.
Steven Schwenke 38:25 But at least Yes, yes, that's right. That's the most important thing, you have that insight. So all this investment of a king. Not so great decisions is a good investment, because you learn from it. And then you can tell others that can learn from it, and the world's getting better. So I'm a very optimistic person.
Tim Bourguignon 38:47 Let's let's keep it this way. Let's keep it this way. So as an optimistic person, what advice would you give the listeners, if you had one advice that you could give to advance you in their journey? Which which would it be?
Steven Schwenke 39:03 Actually, I thought about that. And I really don't have one advice, because every person is so different and but every situation is different, every company is different. And even if you are in another in another region of this earth, then there is a situation is different. So it really, really depends. But
Tim Bourguignon 39:27 being
Steven Schwenke 39:30 knowing that you are different and knowing that you can bring your special combination of skills and maybe anti skills to the table. That is really really what makes every person strong in any given situation. Or it's not one skill. That is the key skill, the killer feature to know, and then you will be successful everywhere. That I think it's a combination of everything you can do or can't do it. Everything you want and don't want, that really makes you special. And this combined with a great deal of self control and willpower, and a lot of self management that is maybe maybe that is one of the important things, get yourself under control. And this is where much than just one thing, which you asked for. So, yeah, there are several things, and you have to be aware of your situation and of your personality. And start from there.
Tim Bourguignon 40:38 Okay, so let's start with introspecting, then. Yes. And I guess we're gonna leave the listeners with this. We reached the end of our time box. We were well over it, though, actually, um, soon what's what's on your plate in the in the next weeks a month? Do you have things that you want to advertise?
Steven Schwenke 41:00 Well, I could advertise my own events. But that would maybe lead to much, much more visitors for that events. And those events are very, very, there are not so many people there. And that is what drives those events. But anyhow, I'm organizing an event in a series of events, which is called hack talk. And this is a monthly event which takes place in Brunswick and in both spoken Germany. And who wants can meet me there. And I am also doing a lot of talks in the future in the near future. And what this especially is, you can find out at my website, which is Steven shrinker dot d, and slash events are you can click through. And that is all Yes.
Tim Bourguignon 41:54 So we'll push the listeners of there. So this is also one way to reach you, I guess, over Steven Trank D. Are you active on Twitter? Can we find you on Twitter as well?
Steven Schwenke 42:08 Oh, yes, my Twitter handle is Yeah. It's Steven Pinker. not that exciting but easy to find.
Tim Bourguignon 42:17 Okay, no, added to the T shirt. So you can just click on it and go to it. Well, great. Um, a lot of great insights. Thank you very much. There's a lot of fun there to ponder in there.
Steven Schwenke 42:33 Tim, thanks for having me again. It was a great pleasure for me also, and it was very nice talking to you. And I'm looking forward to see you at one of those awesome conferences. Oh, we will do we will do
Tim Bourguignon 42:48 very soon. See you
Tim Bourguignon 42:57 listening. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can find this podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google music and much more. And if you like what we do, please help your fellow developers discover the podcast by writing it and writing a comment on those platforms. Thanks again and two weeks