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IC to Lead: Building Confidence In Your Skills with Lindsay Barrett Episode 13

IC to Lead: Building Confidence In Your Skills with Lindsay Barrett

· 41:17


Colin: Welcome to Build and Learn.

My name is Colin.

CJ: and I'm CJ and today we're
joined by our really good friend

Lindsay Barrett, and we're gonna
talk about her developer journey.

Lindsay is a team lead now
on a technical support team.

And we met a really long time ago through
some meetups in Reno, and I know Colin

and Lindsay, you've worked together
on some stuff before and historically,

like you also have a podcast episode
that you did on Colin's old podcast.

So if you're interested in
that, you can go check it out.

I dunno if that's still up.

Colin: What's up?

CJ: Yeah.

How you spend your days.

But I've always really admired Lindsay's
grit and bias for action, and so

we're really just excited to chat.

And so, yeah.

Welcome Lindsay to the show.

Lindsay: Hi, everyone.

Glad to be here.

CJ: Before we get into it, just so
for framing about when we're recording

this episode, this is just a few
days before the Christmas holiday and

there is a, like once in a generation
storm happening across the us.

I don't know how that's impacting
people in Reno, but damn it's,

it's hitting us hard here in the,
in the northeast of New England.

And we're, we live in like this
really old house that we just

moved into, and today we discovered
there's a crack in the foundation.

And so there's water like pouring through
the wall in the other room right now.

, like into a bucket that will we'll,
we'll have to figure out what

to do with that after the show.

Lindsay: Yeah, so I'm back home for
the holidays, so I'm in Phoenix.

It's 70, sunny.

I didn't even know, I think I just saw
today on the news that there's a storm.

Colin: I think where our CEO
is at, it's like negative 14 C

whatever, it's eight degrees or so.

I think what it, what I'm seeing though is
it's a lot of like, feels like way colder

than what it says on the thermometer too.

Yeah, that's, that's just how it goes.

CJ: Totally.

Lindsay, you moved to Reno as like
part of taking a new job, or you

moved to Reno from a really far away,
not originally from Arizona, right?

It was like from, am I guessing Nashville?


Lindsay: Yeah.

So gosh, I moved to Reno
almost, yeah, in 2015.

And it was just after college.

So I was looking at like, all
right, what's the next adventure?

Where's someplace I could live?

And I kind of heard about Reno through a
job board from where my college is based,

which was in around Knoxville, Tennessee.

And so I was ready for the next thing,
and I always wanted to learn to snowboard.

And I heard, oh, Reno's close to Tahoe.

I said, all right, perfect.

And then I, so I was looking at Reno,
but then also Colorado and I thought,

what has more commerce, you know,
where I could maybe get a, a job?

And I learned more.

Colorado was a lot of, unless
you were in Denver, everything

else was just the ski town jobs.

So I heard about Reno and I kind
of think of it as like I hit the

jackpot at just the right time.

2015 was when kind of Tesla just came in.

A lot of other big.

Distributors and the downtown
of Reno was getting rebuilt.

So yeah, I moved right outta
college, drove across country.

It was just kind of like out of ignorance
of just like, okay, let, let me just

go see, and I had a job lined up.

It was with the local Girl Scouts
in town, so working for a nonprofit.

I was gonna be a part of
their communications team.

So yeah, that's kind of
what brought me out to Reno.

And it's kind of how I started to
get involved in tech from moving to

a brand new city and like looking for
ways to meet people and make friends.

CJ: I love that because I think that a
lot of people are really comfortable where

they're at and they're, they might be
frustrated or depressed where they are and

they feel, they don't feel like motivated
to make a really significant change

and just uproot and move really far.

And so I think that it takes a lot
of guts to do something like that.

And, and also, I.

At, at that transition point, like
right when you're coming out of

college, it seems like it might
be a little bit easier, right?

But like still, it takes a lot of guts to
go somewhere where you don't know a bunch

of people and you don't have this giant
network of friends and you haven't sort of

built up this established life somewhere.

And so at that time when you were
moving, did you know that you wanted

to start getting into tech or was
that something that came later?

Lindsay: It's actually a funny story.

So my college, they were.

You know, there was small
Christian college, about

2000 kids in East Tennessee.

And when I, I remember like when I
started college there, they had kind of

just announced that they were getting
rid of their computer science program.

I remember thinking like,
oh, that's kind of a bummer.

I would've liked to learn more about that.

And so I was, I was on track to do
graphic design and communications

major, and then my last semester
I learned that they were bringing

the computer science program back.

I thought, wow, like I really
wanna take that class, like

they're doing an intro class.

And so I started signing up, but
then, The, the professor said,

Hey, we're already filled up,
like you can't join the class.

And I was like, ah.

But I messaged him like multiple
times like, Hey, I'd really like

to join, you know, what can I do?

And he's, no, not at all.

And now, like looking back, if I'd
known what I know now, I said I'm

taking the class and I'm gonna just
bring my own computer kind of deal.

Cuz that was a problem.

There wasn't enough computers.

So that was in the back of my
mind, like right before I was.


And then I was also hearing like,
okay, yeah, you can have a job in

graphic design, but you have to
know some, some front end work.

So that was starting to really intimidate
me of like, I want to get a job in graphic

design, but I don't know how to code yet.

So I ended up, you know,
graduating and then it was still

like on the back of my mind.

I'm interested in computer science,
I'm interested in coding, but I

didn't have like the resources at
the time to, to learn that or even

know where to start back in 2015.

, but that's why when I moved to Reno,
I was so excited to learn, Hey,

there is a developer community here,
and I can start getting involved.

Colin: Yeah, that's interesting
what you bring up about computers.

Like, I remember when I was at college,
like we had to go to a computer lab and

we had computers that we had to work on.

And it's interesting to see how
the shifts of access to resources,

you know, even things like advent
of code and the free code camp and

things like these have kind of given.

You know, you could do
this on an iPad now, right?

You don't have to use, you
could do have code spaces.

You can do Code Sandbox.

It doesn't have to be this like thing
that you have to have resources.

You might still have to have someone
who introduces it to you, right?

Get that itch.

But I think, you know, even 2015 was
not that long ago, and it's so cool

to see how much has changed in that.

You know, the pandemic is a little bit
to blame as well, where we're kind of

forced to go online for most things.

I think like even the meetups
and things have started to

come back too, which is good.

People are getting curious and kind of
like, okay, staying at home was great

for a while, but now it's time to get
out and brush up those skills, see people

again talk about projects that we're all
working on and all that kind of stuff.

CJ: You were studying graphic design
and you felt like you needed to know

front end stuff, was that sort of,
because the job descriptions you were

looking at had front end requirements.

I mean, would is that, do you
think that's still true today?

Like if you wanted to be a
graphic designer, that you have

to know front end development?

Lindsay: So, so at the time it was
definitely very heavy on like the job

descriptions, you know, that nervous of
like, I have to have the job right out

of college, and that's what I was seeing.

Must know HTML JavaScript, and that
was super intimidating and just not

seeing a basic graphic design job.

Now looking back, I
think it's changed a lot.

I think people are starting to
see like the importance of having

specialization where it doesn't have to
lean so heavy on knowing how to code.

And I think we're seeing that more because
of, we have product designers now where

they just want to know the interaction
and just somebody being very specialized

in making the best user experience.

So I believe it's moving away from having
to know so much code and just having,

you know, specific people for the jobs.

So I think that is better.

Now that I'm more on the track of like
tech support development, I've kind

of put that way behind me, the graphic
design and product product designer.

But yeah, it'd be interesting to
know, you know, exactly how the

job descriptions have changed.

CJ: So Lindsay and I worked together,
and the last time we were working

together, you were an individual
contributor on the support team, and

now you're a leader of that team.

What was that transition like?

And anyone else who's considering moving
from an individual contributor to a lead,

what are some things that they might need
to take into consideration or think about?

And , what was that like?

Lindsay: Yes.

I moved in from being a tech support
engineer, individual contributor to

a team lead, which has been about
the past year, and I'm finding it's

a completely different frame of mind,
different work responsibilities, and

I kind of realized, you can really
succeed as individual contributor and

being the best, you know, agent that's
really strong at troubleshooting,

knowing code helping solve customers
problem, but being a manager or a team

leader is totally different and I'm, I
still like find myself very surprised

by that cuz you kind of think, oh,
if I'm really good at being a support

agent, I'll be a really good manager.

And I don't know if those always co
coordinate as, yeah, the main difference

I'd say is the responsibilities and
like, how good are you at processes?

And making really clear cut
direction for your team and then

also helping coach your team.

It seems like good managers are very
people oriented, but they're also like

extremely type A and organized and yeah,
that's been like a, a transition for me of

like, I can be slightly those things, but
I feel like to be the best, you have very,

to be very focused on process and data.

So for somebody who's wanting to
transition from individual contributor to

a manager, I think it really goes back to
like really project-based work where you

can show I can lead projects, I can change
processes I can involve team members and

like move things along so it becomes,
you know, less individual thinking.

But goal thinking and a process
I think is a huge part of that.

So it's an ongoing, like it definitely
challenges you in totally new ways of

thinking which has been good, but it's
definitely pros and cons, I find.

Colin: As you move up in levels, you
start to move a little bit away from self

to team, to department to company goals.

And like you said, then you switch over
to that manager track and now you're

not necessarily doing the individual
work as much as one-on-ones and

player coaching and things like that.

And I don't do that in my
current role that we have great

engineering managers for that.

So I'm more focused on being able to not
only get my work done, but also make sure

prs are closed and help get other projects
done so that our team is successful.

Which sounds like there's a lot of
similarity there with you, Lindsay.

As you're working with your team, are you
helping them with their career goals or

is it more on the work side of things?

Like are you doing some of that,
engineering management, personal

development stuff as well and like helping
them figure out where they want to go or

how does that kind of pencil out for you?

Lindsay: in some ways, like I know.

person on my team, they have like a
specific goal of where they're headed.

And so I aim to help facilitate
that of finding ways they can

get the skills that they need.

So sometimes it's, you know, being an
advocate for them to take certain courses.

I also push, like for project-based
work of, okay, how can you show

the skills you wanna learn?

Like how can you show actual output
that you can do those skills.

So it'll be the way I mentor or coach
is through project-based examples.

I think that will help them
take them to the next level.

But yeah, the main difference
with management is it's a totally

different way of thinking.

Where as an individual contributor, it's
very easy to be self-oriented and like,

I'm measured for my goals only, and I
don't have to think about anything else.

I just gotta be a good
person to work with.

But as a manager, you understand more of
like kind of how difficult it can be to be

a manager because you're no longer looking
at yourself for performance, you're being

measured on other people's performance.

And that's really like
kind of a hard shift.

But then I think with the proper training
and learning how to coach people, you can

get fulfillment in helping others succeed.

And if they're not doing
well, you don't take it.

So personally, you just see it as
like, how can I help push this along?

What's going on with them?

So yeah, I aim to like help push
everyone along in their career.

But it's also still like
being a first time manager.

I'm still figuring it out.

Still trying to take more
coaching and training.

There's been a lot to it that
I'm very painfully learning

it feels like in some ways.

CJ: It sounds like and also intuitively,
there's a massive component to

this that involves empathy for
all of the people on your team.

And I think both of you, Lindsay
and Colin, have like really,

really high eq and I would love
to report to either of you.

So I think, you know, like good
on you for being good people.

And also personally, I mean, I
think that it sounds really scary.

For your success to depend
on the success of others.

So me personally, as an individual
contributor, I think maybe it's out

of fear of being measured based on the
success of people that I'm managing,

that I don't wanna be a manager.

I think it would be terrifying to
say like, okay, now, like the team's.

You know, I'm accountable
for the team's output.

So is that something that you were
worried about when you went into

management, or you were excited about?

How do you, how do you deal with that
sort of responsibility without having

that autonomy to just go and do the thing?

Lindsay: Mm-hmm.

. I think I kind of had like a naive
assumption going in that kind of

everyone's working to do their best.

They already have the skills.

It's just how can we take the team
and the work we do to the next level.

So it's been an adjustment
to be like, okay.

how do I work with every individual
team member and make them succeed?

And it does get different of, you
know, you want to like have one

meeting and then that touches everyone.

But you have to be so know
everyone's an individual and works

and thinks in different ways.

So the work is kind of, it's almost
how many team members you have,

it's the individual to every person.

So it can be so much work to, to
influence someone to help them to succeed.

But it is scary.

But I think I've kind of, I've gotten
past that of like, okay, I have to

push somebody to make myself, you know,
be measured and reported correctly.

And I can see it as like, it's
a job, we're doing our best.

And then if somebody's struggling,
they're not doing so on purpose,

they just don't have the tools
or the skill, the skillset yet.

And as a manager, it's my job to help
them get those tools, have that training

time, and so they can move forward.

Colin: That's awesome.


And for you, like what sorts of
resources and coaches and things?

Invaluable for you to go from where we
all first met to where you're at today.

Have there been any communities or I
know for the software developers, there's

like, lead dev has been really useful
for that for me, but what sorts of

things have you found useful for that?

Lindsay: Yeah.

So in this support world, I've
found a few communities out there

to, you know, help managers and
directors and heads of support.

So one that I really kind of plug away
is a site called Support Driven, and it's

a Slack community where it's pretty mind
blowing, but they have whole dedicated

different Slack channels dedicated
for certain, certain support issues.

So it could be like, how do I.

Staff up my support team.

How do I know, what do I measure
on to know I need more people?

So some hiring stats.

It also has like leadership ID ideas.

It also they have.

just a plethora of different,
whatever problem you're facing in

support, whether it's not hiring
enough people, motivating people,

training people just a great resource.

So that's been something I've really
leaned on cuz I didn't have, you know,

like the exact training of like, okay,
how do I know the exact support data I

need to know how to run a support team.

So that's been great.

I also lean on a lot of
like old mentors of mine.

When CJ and I worked together, we had
a great support manager, Amber Deal.

She's now like a senior manager, support
manager at GitHub, and I'm kind of

leaning, I lean on her a lot to kind
of help guide me with her experience.

We've become really close friends.

And then most recently, I'd say
my work has really supported me in

getting proper management training.

We just went through a great
program through growth space.

It's called a new manager training, and
that I kind of can look back now and see

like, oh, I was really shooting in the
dark of what I thought a good manager was

but actually getting the proper coaching
and going through a group led program, I

like my confidence has completely shifted.

So I think that there's a lot of stats
out there that say like, new managers

fail because they don't have the
proper training and it makes sense.

And I, so I really encourage like support
companies or all companies in general

to heavily invest in their management
training and especially new managers.

CJ: What kind of stuff
do they teach in there?

I would wonder what a curriculum
would look like for manager training.

Having no training ever.

I mean, I've managed some
people, but never, yeah, never

had any official training.

Lindsay: Yeah, so it was, it was a
really cool program through growth

space and kind of how I boil it down to
of like what the whole purpose, it was

like five week program and meeting just
every week in a, a group led session.

But what it really came down to is like
how to respect and listen to people.

It sounds so basic, but like
that's the goal as a manager.


How do I really listen?

Be an active listener, and instead
of being a person who's just like,

okay, tell me more, tell me your
problem, and then I'll get that

information so I can solve it instead.

You're always coming at a
mindset of, okay, I'm listening,

but how do I flip this back?

So, that your direct report feels like
they have power to help make changes.

And so you learn like how to coach
people by asking open-ended questions,

by always putting it kind of on
them to get their information.

And you find by doing that, by asking
them questions, you're respecting them.

So that's was one big
part of the training.

Also, we talked about like
influence of how do you.

You know the work you're doing
if you wanna move up and scale

up, like how to build influence.

So that was some good information and
then also like how to, if you are having

a support problem, knowing who's in
your network, who you can work with other

managers, how you can get help that way.

So, so it was a great initial training
and I wanna do more of them cause I

think it really changed the way I think.

Colin: Awesome.

Yeah, I actually just picked up I
haven't, it's coming in the mail today.

I think the Engineering Management
for the Rest of Us from Sarah Dresner.

And she's the director over at Google.

I don't really have aspirations
towards going the engineering

management direction, but I think just
learning and reading on this stuff

like helps us be better ics working
with our managers to some extent.

When you're a team lead, you're doing
some blended player coach role where

you're still doing prs, you're still
doing customer support, potentially

you're doing those escalations, I imagine.

When, when someone wants to speak to the
manager, literally . So that's one I'll

have to report back on how that book is.

I'm a big fan of Sarah.

She's a good follow on Twitter too.

CJ: When I think about the best
managers that I've ever had, they

often were doing some sort of like
Jedi mind tricks where that were.

Totally, exactly what you're talking
about, Lindsay, and now that I realize

that that's like taught to people
in management training where they'll

just sit there and listen to you and
then sort of reflect it back to you.

I'm like, okay, yeah.

The best managers I've ever had, I would
come to them frustrated and then walk

away feeling like totally heard and
supported and unblocked in ways that I

could actually probably unblock myself
or maybe something wasn't a big issue.

Maybe there was a person that I didn't
know about that I needed to connect

with, or maybe there was a resource I
hadn't heard about, or, you know, just

an out-of-the-box idea about, okay,
just use your education budget that

you have over here to go buy this book
that is gonna teach you about X and

then come back and we'll talk about it.

It is absolutely an art.

I've had managers who were really bad
and they just kind of showed up and told

you what they were gonna do for the week
and then left . But yeah, definitely

the best, the best managers have that
sort of respect and listening that

you're talking about, so that's cool.

Lindsay: Yeah, it really shifted.

I, it kind of clued in on me of, okay,
whenever I haven't had good managers,

and it's typically, you know, someone.

It's either just a readout where
there is no action or like kind of

follow up, or it's a manager who's
just, Hey, do this, do that, and like

kind of know like, what do you think?

Or how would you tackle this?

So yeah, it really shifted my perspective
of always having that open-ended

question and empowering the person to
think, okay, actually I do have more

in my tool set to tackle this myself.

And yeah, I, I can take on what I need.

And I think through the management
training was really pushing on like,

what's the point of a open-ended
or of a yes or no question,

saying like, did you do this?

Do it this way it really kind of
just stops the conversation right

there instead of actually having
engagement in the back and forth.

So I highly recommend that of,
ask the open-ended questions and

push that person to, to solve it
themselves in a way themselves.

Colin: Yeah.

And you've been learning a lot
of like management styles and

management training, things like that.

Are there like technologies that
you're also still keeping up with?

Are you still in the code?

Are you still needing to keep up with
all the different things that are, you

know, inexplicably coming out every day?

Lindsay: That's another like interesting
part about being in management, being

in tech support, like constantly
staying up to date on the new thing,

like what my company's building.

So right now I've been pushing as far as
like new skills to learn with my team.

I know recently we're moving on
to Snowflake, so I'm gonna have

to really do some digging there.

But yeah, we're kind of constantly
staying up to date on like,

okay, new API authentication.

Our company's building secure measures
each day, and so my team needs to

be on top of how we talk to outside
developers about what we're building.

So I find like a lot of API training
and different ways to authenticate.

And then, yeah, most recently, one
challenge I'm finding is having my

agents be really skilled in like pulling
database reports, so some MongoDB

training and then Snowflake most recently.

And yeah, so we really plug into
what already exists out there.

I don't wanna be in a place where like,
I'm directly teaching, but instead of

giving like the resources to the sites
and then we have shared sessions, cuz I

find it so important, like I think what
really makes the difference in learning

new skills, you kind of can't just simply
like assign a course and that's it.

You have to start there as a base,
but then have like a one-on-one

kind of training session where
it does feel like open-ended.

And if you're stuck, you
have someone to go to.

So I remember even Colin
and I worked together.

He did an awesome job when I was learning
about REST APIs and I was really getting

stuck on just the authentication portion.

And you see a lot of like.

Just date out there where they'll
just show it a screenshot and they'll

show you, okay, you request it this
way, you get something sent back.

And like the picture is just so,
what in the world does this mean?

But then when you sit down with somebody
and you're doing it yourself, it's just

light bulb click of like, this is so much
simpler than the course makeup looks,

than some guy who's prepared the course.

So I find the one-on-one is really
important, and that's made all the

difference in my team of not just shucking
them off to take a course, but following

it up with the one-on-one training
and pairing them with a team member.

Colin: Yeah, and you've
learned these things, right?

You also are learning them.

It's not just, Hey, go learn this
thing and let me know how it goes.

So you have a little bit
of a advantage there.

I think that's an issue as we
grow in tech is that some people

lose that beginner's mind.

It's important to know where they're
coming from when you're learning

a new thing and when you look at
authenticating against an a p I, like

there's how many flavors of OA these days.

And you may not, when you're
beginning, you don't know why.

And maybe I don't know that.

I still know why.

But it, you know, you still have to
know all those different things and, and

it's good that you are able to support
your team in, in learning those things.

And I have some sympathy for anyone
who's dealing with API products.

Both of you, you know, have that where
standards are changing around you,

on top of your team are changing the
literal product that you offer people.

Have you had to do any like big
deprecations, have you had a V2

API or getting rid of certain
authentications and things like that?

Lindsay: Yeah, we actually, we
had a huge migration process where

we're moving from V2 to a v1.

end Point and yeah, the, the hard part,
it wasn't so much with like communicating

with the developers, it's the customers
of like, trying to make them make sense

cuz we needed them involved in some way.

But yeah, mostly I find a lot of it
just comes to, so being intimidated and

trying to push things off, you really
have to have like a roll up your sleeves

mentality and like, I'm gonna sit down,
I'm gonna learn this myself if I can't

get other people involved as a manager,
I really wanna know how this works.

So I can inform my
team, so be in the loop.

But yeah, that was a big recent component.

I had to take my team through.

CJ: That is so important, having a
roll up your sleeves mentality, and I

think that's what differentiates the
more senior folks to the more junior

folks is that as a senior person, It
is expected that you can be dropped

into any technology or framework or
whatever, and that you'll figure it out.

Like you can, you have the skills
to go figure out what you don't

know and how to learn something.

Whereas someone who's more junior, maybe
if they're just a year outta college or

something, if they encounter something
that they don't know, maybe they're

gonna be really, really intimidated.

And it sounds like you've got a
system set up so that you can support

all of your reports and also you've
kind of like built up the confidence

and the courage to go into anything
and be like, I can figure this out.

Like I can learn this and come back to
the team and work together with other

people to figure out how to support
it and talk about it to external devs.

And I, it's like such an important skill.

If you're out there listening and
you're nervous about starting a new job

because it uses a programming language
you've never used, or it requires some

understanding of a system that you've
never used, I would say just go for it

and figure it out as you, as you go.

, I, I mean, I think As a little side
tangent, I saw today that Google is

doing this like red alert because of
chat G P T, where they're like, oh gosh,

like chat G p T is gonna take over and
no one is gonna Google things anymore.

But I think between chat G P T and
Google and Stack Overflow and your

network, and if you wanna reach out to,
to us on Twitter, come hit us up and

we can together figure anything out.

One thing that we were chatting
about recently was a Django app, or

you were spinning up a Django app.

Was this like a side project?

What, like, can we, can we get into that?

What were you building and, yeah
can you tell us more about that?

Lindsay: Yeah, so I've been really
taking on like learning Django

and I have a project in mind.

I wanna build like a backpackers
app where you can kind of connect

with friends and plan trips.

Learning a new framework has
just been really enjoyable.

I found the level of confidence of
like learning something new and when

it actually clicks and you kind of
realize like I was putting off learning

something for so long cuz I thought
it was way more difficult than it was.

Like with my management, the team I
manage, like when I've been pushing

them to learn new skills and take
on new things, like the level of

confidence I've seen them go through
of like starting kind of from really

just base skills, but like them being
so devoted to their work and learning

and then putting it into practice, the
confidence has gone through the roof.

And I'd say most recently I'm dealing
with quite a bit of raise request from

the confidence, which really surprised me.

But I get where they're coming from
where I kind of lean on to anybody

in support, like I really want to
learn the tech and the hard skills,

like soft skills are so important and
that is always gonna be the majority

of work, but the level of confidence
you get, like as a support agent or as

anyone starting out, it's so important.

So I have been pushing that with myself
of learning a new Django app, putting

it into practice, and yeah, it's been
taken off, so it's still in the works.

CJ builds a really cool tutorial of
connecting Django and Stripe and so

I've been learning more about Stripe,
so I kind of put the two together and

yeah, paired well, I really recommend
William Vincent's Django books.

Like he has like a very special
skill set of taking difficult

content and gearing it for beginners.

I think that can be a challenge to find
somebody who's a really strong writer

that can help beginners coming out.

Colin: That's cool.

I was gonna ask earlier, I think
you just answered it a little bit.

Where does that confidence come from
or how can you mentioned, EQ and

confidence and I, I do believe that
there's skills that you can develop.

I think a lot of people, especially white
men in tech, we get this wrap for like

having undue confidence and ego and all
this stuff, but I think a lot of it tends

to be putting in the reps and like just
doing the thing over and over again.

Like if you make a thousand API requests,
you're gonna see a lot of stuff, right?

You're gonna see errors, you're gonna see
different authentication types, you're

gonna see stuff so that when it comes up
and you're doing support, you're gonna be

like, okay, I know what this is and I can.

Pretty good confidence using
your own product, right?

Like using your own API if, or
using if your company doesn't have

an api, just using the product
will make you more confident in it.

And I would say like just
building a Django app.

Great example.

, right?

I know CJ, you flip between lots
of languages and frameworks in

your job, and so you probably see
more than most in terms of like,

okay, in Ruby it looks like this.

In Python, it looks like this.

But I think doing that exercise,
I personally, I don't know how

to best describe it, but like I
kind of, it's like a spidey sense

of like when something's wrong.

I have some ideas on where to
go look, but those are based on

things that I've seen before.


And you don't develop that
unless you do it a lot.

So I think it doesn't mean that you
have to be building a side project for

backpackers on your nights and weekends.

I think that's cool because, because
you're so interested in that,

you're gonna stick with it and
you're gonna go through with it.

I know a lot of people coming out of
boot camps are always trying to figure

out what they should build next.

And for me, I always have so many
ideas on things I could be building,

so that's never been an issue, but it's
like, find something you really love.

We had a friend, in the early days
of the iOS app ecosystem, he built a

knitting app for keeping track of yarn
schemes and in terms of like SKUs and

lot numbers because I guess it's a very
niche problem, but when you buy yarn

of certain colors, they're all dyed
differently and so you need to keep track

of these SKUs and like it was featured
by Apple, he made, you know, it's hard to

make money with apps today, but back then
like was able to actually make a pretty

good living as a indie iOS developer and
it came from people around him really

having this issue and he stuck with it.

So always finding a little project
that is a passion of yours,

like pairing backpacking in tech
is, is a great way to do that.

And then you can go backpacking and
get away from your computer too.

So that's good.

CJ: As a lead who is working with a
bunch of support engineers, one of the

challenges in my experience is keeping
all of the engineers engaged and feeling

like they're growing their own career.

And so by using a learning process,
like, oh look, you're learning

Django, or you're learning Mongo,
or you're learning whatever.

That is one way to make everyone feel
like you're growing, you're growing your

career, and you're growing your skillset.

I know that you've used Rails before, and
so going from zero to one is always the

hardest, and then going from one to two, I
think people are often surprised by like,

oh, actually there's all of these things
that I can draw lines between the old

version that I know and this different,
maybe it's a different language, different

framework, different whatever, but like,
okay, this is how it works in Django

and this is how it worked in rails.

And that also can kind of
build up your confidence.

And this actually came up in our last
episode too with Eric, and that was that.

When you're exploring front end
frameworks that you might want to

use in 2023, go out and make a to-do
list or make something very simple.

Just do the hello world in a bunch
of different ones to figure out kind

of which direction you want to go.

In this case, it sounds like, you know,
if you're an early career individual

contributor that's doing, you know,
support engineering or even if you're

just, you know, junior dev at some
company and you want to increase your

confidence in those skills, go out and
try to build a bunch of things, so, Yeah.

Are there other resources that you
like to share with people who are

on your team that you know, that are
looking to, to grow their skills?

Lindsay: I'll kind of find a way if I
can get like a developer involved at some

point, like a special request of, Hey,
can you, can we schedule a training of

something that special skill and have them
lead that talk with the support engineers,

I find that's really engaging for my team
of they kind of see like the developers

as the gods of the company in a way.

And so if they find like that one-on-one
time of just getting more touchpoints

on maybe something they're learning on
a course, but then also hearing like

a developer speak about it and see how
it applies to the work they're doing.

CJ: I think maybe something to
throw out there is that developers

are not gods . Like there's
nothing special about a developer.

I think if, if a team is trying
to like pick up dev skills,

then pulling in someone who
knows those skills is, is great.

But I think support engineers don't often
get the credit that they due because

they're the ones who are there through
the holidays answering questions, and

they're the ones who are there balancing
and juggling 20 different questions from

developers who are using, coldfusion
over here, WordPress over there, and

Ruby over here, JavaScript over there,
and trying to figure out how to do

this really weird thing with the api.

I just wanted to throw that out there.

That the skills that these support
engineers have to be able to balance

and jump around in context switch
is really, really valuable and.


Circling back to all of those
raise requests that you're

getting, give them the raise!

What does that process look like?

If someone comes to you and says,
I want a raise, you've gotta go, do

you just go to your manager and say,
okay, all these people want raises.

Let's do, let's do raises, or do
you have to put a packet together?

Does it happen on a certain cycle?

Lindsay: Yeah, it's kind of
still being built out, I'd say.

For where I'm currently at, but
definitely come down to, okay,

what's the reason for the raise?

Like what work have you shown?

It's not just, hey, it's, it's been a
while, but I wanna have confidence as a

manager where when I'm taking it to the
next level, I can vouch and say, yes,

this person is contributing in this way.

here's some cool recent projects
that really transformed our team.

So yeah, just taking, kind of the previous
work they've done, they're also how

they're measuring and support, that's
very big of their individual stats,

how much work they're doing, if they
have good customer satisfaction scores.

And then from there, taking it to
upper management and making that

a pretty simple process through
just like yes or no, HR approves.

As long as our budget allows for that.

CJ: Very cool.

Do you have control over
the budget at all or?

Lindsay: No.

So that's kind of support
directors and then VP of support.

We are in tune of our hiring
needs if we need this many number.

Making sure that's matches up with
what the budget is saying, but kind

of, yeah, keep it basic as far as like
motivating the team, the actual work

we're doing, our KPIs and everything else
can be like a little bit higher level.

CJ: Cool.

Colin: It's something we didn't touch
on yet, but I think you mentioned it

in working with the developer side of
the house is how often do you work with

the development team in terms of like
you are receiving all of this feedback

about the product, the api, you might
be identifying bugs, there's probably

a whole lot of EQ on the customer side,
but then there's this whole dance of

working with and verifying and saying,
here's reproducibility of bugs.

I know you're not necessarily,
you're not qa, right?

But your support engineers are kind of the
ones in the field seeing these firsthand.

I think solutions engineers
also see this a lot too.

They're like, we have to use this api.

Can you please just add this
pagination token or something,

just so that our lives are easier?

How much of that is part of your job,
part of your team's job, and the pushback

there in terms of getting developer
time sometimes can be challenging.

How does that look for you guys?

Lindsay: If say there's an issue with like
our API documentation and for whatever

reason it got out there, it's not clear.

If we're dealing with a
developer who's having an issue.

with an endpoint.

It's a process of still,
the ticket coming in.

Our team pushes back we found, we're
not gonna get any action from developers

unless we have the curl request.

What's the actual problem?

So I've built up the confidence
with my team to push back with

developers and say, we need this.

Please send it.

Simplified manner.

So yeah, so we, you know, we take in once
we know exactly what they're doing and

that's really built up the confidence
of my team of, hey, we recognize

exactly what a developer's telling us.

They take that curl, can reproduce
it and say, yes, I'm having the same

problem, or no, I'm not the, the
customer just needs to be educated

on how to authenticate usually.

And then we, you know, make a
self-service model of, okay, if it is

an issue, we go through the typical
flow of reporting a Jira, doing that

route, but then there's always those
gray areas sometimes of, okay, it's

not a genuine issue, but something's
just not clear of how it works.

So we have a really active with my team
and developers slack channel and it's

really cool to see, I've seen like when
I was brought on, just how the confidence

of my team has transformed where there
really can kind of go back and forth,

talk with the developers of like how this
works, how the customer actually wants it.

So we'll have our VP of engineering
in there, the lead devs and yeah.

So we can solve a lot of problems that
way right then and there and then update

our docs or our processes versus it
having to go through the whole Jira

phase, which we're small enough now.

We can kind of do that, but
as it gets bigger, yeah we'll

lean more on the Jira process

Colin: Oh, that's cool.

that's very cool.

Yeah, and I think to clarify it,
so you work with developers who are

consuming your api, but then you have
developers in your company that are

building features, and so there's
developers on both sides of that.

Lindsay: Colin and I talked a while
back, like if someone wants to be a

developer, like if they do take first
job into support, really making it

clear to their manager that they're
working towards development and

having their manager support them
and helping them make introductions,

get the skills work on like projects
and support then require dev skills.

But yeah, I always vouch for
every company I think needs a

support team to really succeed.

Colin: I like that because there's a
lot of tickets that can, some of them

can be more technical and then so if you
know someone is trying to head towards

that development ladder, that's a great
way of knowing, okay, these tickets

are gonna be great tickets for you.

You're gonna get more familiar
with the code base and, and we'll

help support you in that journey.

And again, I think that's a great
path for people getting into tech.

And I would say, we need to work on fixing
that stigma around support engineers or

even like, to some extent, last episode
we talked about developer advocacy,

like almost being treated as a lesser
developer role, and I think that they,

they all require such different skills.

As you've shown today, there's just
so much nuance to it that you can

absolutely make it into a career and grow.

CJ: Thanks Aton.

Lindsay, I think it's a, a
good place to wrap it up.

As always, if you're interested in
the show notes, you can head over

to Build and learn.dev where we'll
drop links to all the resources.

Thanks again so much for listening.

Lindsay: Thank y'all.

Colin: Thank you.

CJ: All right, that's
all for this episode.

We'll see you next time.

View episode details

Creators and Guests

CJ Avilla
CJ Avilla
Developer Advocate @StripeDev. Veteran. 📽 https://t.co/2UI0oEAnFK. Building with Ruby, Rails, JavaScript
Colin Loretz
Colin Loretz
I like to build software and communities. Building software at @orbitmodel 🪐 Coworking at @renocollective 🎙Sharing software learnings on @buildandlearn_
Lindsay Barrett
Lindsay Barrett
Technical Support Manager


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