Career Progression Decoded: Angie Jones' Expert Tips for Entering the Tech Industry and Forging Your Unique Path
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🎙 About the episode
Meet Angie Jones 🇺🇸! Angie is a veteran software developer currently working as a global Developer Relations executive at TBD. Before that, she worked as an automation engineer at Twitter and as a software engineer and master inventor at IBM (where she worked for nine years)! Angie is also a teacher and an international keynote speaker who has authored 27 patents.
In this episode, Angie takes us through her career path, from falling in love with coding through automation engineering to eventually discovering her passion for teaching and DevRel. You'll learn the differences between large enterprises, medium-sized companies, and startups and find out what to look for if you're just breaking into the industry. Angie also talks about teaching, patenting your ideas, and finding specialization. Plus: decentralized technologies, changing jobs with the same company, and why it's important to keep learning new stuff.
🔗 Connect with Angie
- Angie's father thought she should familiarize herself with computers, so she took a C++ course. The rest is history! (01:41)
- What Angie loved about programming (03:14)
- Are developers missing out if they don't study computer science at university? (04:02)
- What makes a good teacher? (05:51)
- Community break! Your Tweets and LinkedIn posts (10:00)
- Angie got his first role in tech through an internship (11:23)
- How Angie spent nine years at IBM (12:54)
- What are the advantages of changing jobs within the same company? (13:31)
- How does working at a huge corporation compare to working at smaller companies and startups, and why should you try a bit of both (15:12)
- What does career progression look like? (17:17)
- As a beginner, should you prioritize learning opportunities? What size companies should you go after? (17:55)
- Pay attention to the ratio of juniors vs. seniors (19:18)
- Software development is about much more than coding (19:39)
- How Angie discovered automation engineering and, subsequently, DevRel (20:22)
- There are gaps in the market for specializations (23:56)
- How to find a slight specialization within frontend (28:06)
- Quick-fire questions: Java, decentralized technologies, Sarah Drasner and Kelsey Hightower (29:53)
- Angie Jones has 27 patents! Here's how that happened. (34:00)
- What does a patent look like? (35:24)
- What's it like to invent patents within a big corporation like IBM? (37:54)
- Closing advice: Aside from technical competency, what else should new developers focus on? (39:31)
🧰 Resources Mentioned
- Sarah Drasner
- Kelsey Hightower
- Scrimba Podcast with Chad Stewart: Tech Is Hiring, and Here's What You Need to Do!
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Angie Jones (00:00):
Alex Booker (00:19):
Hello and welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. This is a weekly show where, one week, I interview a recently hired junior developer and then, the next week, an industry expert like a hiring manager, recruiter or senior developer so that you can learn how to break into tech from both sides. I am your host, Alex Booker, and today I'm joined by Angie Jones who, listen to this, is currently VP of developer relations at a company called TBD. But before that, she was an engineering manager, automation engineer, senior software engineer at Twitter, by the way, teacher and inventor at IBM, yes, inventor where she worked for almost a decade and she's done some keynotes, too.
Do I need to say more? I don't know. I feel like Angie's credentials speak for themselves here and I can attest this is a fantastic insight into a veteran developer's career so that we can benefit from their hindsights. This is all to come and more but I wanted to quickly ask that, if you do enjoy the episode and the podcast in general, you take a moment to share it with a friend or on social media. The bigger outreach, the bigger and better guests will keep agreeing to come on the show and share their insights so thank you in advance. You are listening to the Scrimba Podcast, let's get into it.
Angie Jones (01:41):
I wasn't exposed to it at all growing up. I didn't really know anything about computers, certainly didn't know about programming or that that was even a thing. And when I went to college, I was so unsure of what I wanted to do. I needed to choose a major and I chose business because I figured, whatever it is that I do with my life, that will probably come in handy.
Alex Booker (02:05):
Angie Jones (02:05):
And my father was actually an accountant and he recognized that computers and technology was this emerging trend and so he suggested that, no matter what I focus on in school, that I at least take a course in computers so that I know how to use them whatever I do. So, silly me, I actually, not knowing anything about computers, I just looked at what was available and I enrolled in this C++ programming class.
Alex Booker (02:39):
Angie Jones (02:39):
I didn't know what it meant, it said something about computers so I enrolled.
Alex Booker (02:44):
That was your introduction to computing, C++?
Angie Jones (02:48):
That was my introduction to computing, it was a C++ course and I loved it and I did really well in it and the professor was stunned that I wasn't a computer science major because I really took to it. And so, he convinced me to change my major and I did to computer science and that's what I got my degree in.
Alex Booker (03:14):
What did you love about it, Angie?
Angie Jones (03:14):
Well, I grew up playing games and puzzles and stuff like that so it was reminiscent of that vibe. That's where my mind went of trying to solve this puzzle, you have this blank slate, you have a problem and then you put these pieces together to realize the thing that you're trying to do. And so, it was challenging but fun and rewarding. And so, I would get assignments and I would be the first one to run to the computer lab and start all my homework right away because it was just that much fun to me, it felt like a game.
Alex Booker (03:50):
And that's just the perfect sign that this is something you should pursue if you genuinely enjoy it. You are racing to do computing like some people race to do the crossword in the daily newspaper.
Angie Jones (04:01):
Yes, that's exactly right.
Alex Booker (04:02):
What do you think on balance? Was doing computer science university something that really impacted your career? How do you look at it now you're looking back? A lot of new developers sometimes wonder if they're missing out by teaching themselves versus going to university.
Angie Jones (04:16):
I think for someone like me, back then, there weren't a lot of resources online or anything like that so I don't think that I could have taught myself or there weren't bootcamps or things like that. So, at that time, that period in time, this was the right thing. Now, today, there's just so many resources available and self-paced courses and stuff like that that you can take and so it's a different time but I certainly needed the format that I took it in just because of the state of the industry back then.
Alex Booker (04:55):
What I'm hearing from that is that people today should feel very lucky for all the resources they have at their disposal. It wasn't always this way.
Angie Jones (05:03):
Yeah. Because nowadays, you take one course, you don't like the instructor or you find it difficult, you could just find another one. That was not the case when I was learning, it's you're stuck with this.
Alex Booker (05:17):
Oh, my gosh. And honestly, that's such a terrible thing, really, because, I'm not sure how it works in America exactly, but often, in the UK, you'll tour a university, you might get a sample lecture but it's really more of an explanation of what you'll learn in the course. You have no way of knowing until you've paid your tuition and signed on the dotted line that maybe your professor, even though they're incredibly intelligent, just doesn't teach in a way that's conducive to you. So, maybe you learn after a few months, once you find your feet, that the technology isn't quite what you're interested in.
I've heard stories of people enrolling in CS, doing a lot of service side programming but they're more creative and they really enjoy front end development. That's what they take to, whereas, exactly as you're saying, online is amazing. On the internet, you can find the best teacher for you whether they're in the same town or in a different continent. You teach a lot these days, I feel like, in your courses and probably in person a little bit as well, what do you think are some of the characteristics of a good teacher?
Angie Jones (06:19):
I think empathizing with the student and putting yourself in their shoes. So, once you get to the level of teaching a course, you have a certain level of mastery there. And so, there's a lot of things that you can take for granted or assume is knowledge that everyone should know because you've just been doing it in a second nature to you. So, I really have to take a step back and dismiss all of those assumptions and remember the days of not knowing anything at all. Another thing is to not try to sound smart. And that sounds silly but I've taken courses where the instructor is more focused on sounding super smart than enabling other people to be smart.
And so, I really try to break things down as much as possible. Even if it might seem obvious, to someone it's not and so just being able to explain things in the most basic concepts to be able to relate the things to something that they may already be familiar with is super helpful. Examples are great. People need to be able to apply that knowledge to some concept and I feel like a lot of instructors miss that mark.
Alex Booker (07:44):
I'm really glad to hear that description from you because I think, for anyone listening, hopefully, they're learning on Scrimba and they're having a good time and they're vibing with the pedagogy and the content and things like that. But so often, when you're learning to code and you're doing this thing which is really, really hard, it doesn't help to have a teacher or a piece of material that just doesn't vibe with you.
Angie Jones (08:05):
It's super easy to get frustrated and intimidated when you're learning something new and someone is flying through it and maybe you see other people online who seem to grasp it and it's easy to count yourself out but it might not be you. Sometimes we need to listen to something over again, sometimes we need to ... I call it hanging it on a hook. So, sometimes people will explain something to me and I'm like, "Okay, that just sounds like words," and it's because I don't have anything to hang it on. And what I mean by that is I need some example or I need to see it in context and then I have this base foundation that I can then hang that supplemental knowledge on.
Alex Booker (08:51):
Angie Jones (09:26):
Exactly. So, those examples, I love the pizza one specifically, asynchronous, that word alone is just like, "Ugh." And then you start talking about it and talking about promises and this and that and it's really easy if you are not giving an example for people to get lost. Okay, you're saying a bunch of words but I have nothing to hang it to. So, then you give the pizza analogy and it's like, "Oh, okay, now explain it to me again." So, you might have to go back and rewind that and listen to it again because you have something to hang it on now.
Jan Arsenovic (10:00):
Coming up. How Angie realized she should work in DevRel.
Angie Jones (10:05):
I would be staying in Europe, it's eight-hour time difference and I'm doing a workshop or something in the day and then I would need to go to my hotel and do my engineering job at night.
Alex Booker (10:14):
I'll be right back with Angie Jones in just a second. But first, Jan the producer and I wanted to read some of our favorite comments about the podcast from social media.
Jan Arsenovic (10:24):
On LinkedIn, Diego Aguero commented on our last week's episode with Jimmy saying, "This episode resonated with me since I've been working in the restaurant industry for a while. I almost finished the front end developer career path and the Scrimba bootcamp is next." Well, Diego, keep going and you'll probably also end up on the Scrimba Podcast at some point.
On Twitter, Krodesky says that the Scrimba Podcast is one of the best podcasts he would recommend to anyone. "I'm a regular. Loads of info and inspiration every week." Thank you. And Skulls tweeted, "Gabriel Pedrosa on the Scrimba podcast is a genius in his philosophy, follow your passion and good things will follow. Will definitely be my take home advice. Thank you, Scrimba, and @bookercodes."
If you would like to get a shout-out on the show just like these people just did, join the conversation on Twitter or LinkedIn or leave us a rating or a review in your podcast app of choice. And now, we're going back to the interview with Angie.
Alex Booker (11:23):
So, once you graduated Angie, how did you get your first role in tech?
Angie Jones (11:27):
Another good thing about university is there's college fairs and job fairs and stuff like this where companies will show up and they're looking at the talent there. I took advantage of that and I did a couple of internships when I was in undergrad. So, I did one at Boeing, the one that makes the fighter jets and the aircraft and stuff, and then I did a couple of internships at IBM. And so, once I was about to graduate, I already had connections. Now, even if you're not in a university setting, what that was that was networking, that was taking advantage of opportunities, you could still do that thing even without the university.
So, you would do things like internships, you don't have to be a college student to do those. You can do apprenticeships or open source. It was something that wasn't huge when I was in school but it is now. So, there's an abundance of projects that you can go and basically say, "I'm going to spend a couple of months dedicated to a specific project to gain some practical experience," and that's something that you can put on your resume as demonstrated experience in whatever it is that you were doing or learning.
Alex Booker (12:54):
Did you go on to work at one of those two companies after the internships or?
Angie Jones (12:54):
I did. So, I got an offer from both of those companies so that was great upon graduate ... You know what I mean? So, I had choices and I chose IBM and I was there for nine years, actually.
Alex Booker (13:06):
I actually didn't know that, that's fascinating. I often wonder, you would know better than me actually, but my impression of attrition and tech is that two to three years is quite a good tenure for most people at most companies. Every now and again, I learn of someone working at a company for almost a decade or beyond. What is it that kept you at IBM for so long? What did you enjoy about it? And I'm sure you were growing while you were there the whole time, otherwise, you wouldn't have stayed.
Angie Jones (13:31):
Yeah, definitely. IBM was a huge company, I guess still is. It was over a hundred thousand employees so it was really big, lots and lots of projects to work on. What you're saying is true about the two to three year mark but I was able to do that internally at the same company. So, I would work one job for maybe two years and then I could switch to another team, a whole different project, maybe learn a new skillset or new language on another team and so that was really great.
Alex Booker (14:02):
What are the advantages of doing that internally instead of going to another company?
Angie Jones (14:06):
Good question. One is that tenure definitely looks nice on your resume, you're not a flight risk, but also you don't have to start over in building reputation or building a network of people. So, you start networking with your colleagues and then you go to another team. Well, you already know people within the company who are experts at a certain library or a certain language or a framework or something and so you don't have to meet friends or people who can help you. Also, if you're doing well at that company, then this could work in your favor because you have your job history basically recorded in the form of performance reviews.
So, let's say, for example, I worked the job for two years, I switched to another team but I'm in the same company and now I feel I'm ready for a promotion. Well, it's not, "Well, you've only been on the job for a year," they can look at my history here and say, "Well, yeah, she's gotten good reviews," they can even reach out to maybe a former manager or something and then you have a better case for promotions and stuff.
Alex Booker (15:12):
How does working at a huge corporation like that compare to some smaller teams? I think, a lot of the times, people like to maybe strategize about a starter to startup or maybe I'll try and find my way into a bigger company where there's a bit more of a career ladder and opportunity to grow internally and things like that. It's a very difficult toss up between the two, I think.
Angie Jones (15:33):
I do encourage people to get a variety of those companies, they have their pros and cons. So, yeah, I did the IBM, huge company thing, I worked at middle-sized companies and then I've even worked at startups. So, I told you the advantages of the big company and the network and the wealth of opportunities to switch teams and roles all within the same company. At a startup, there's so much to do but there's not a lot of people and so you start gaining additional skills in addition to just your technical skills. You might have to do some project management of your team as well as the development, not officially, but there's no one here to do it and it needs to get done. So, you start learning all of these other skills as well.
My last job before the one I'm in now was at a startup and I climbed the ladder there so quickly because I was doing so much because it's a startup, there's so much to do. So, I gained a lot of leadership skills and was able to advance my career much quicker than I would have somewhere like IBM, for example. I definitely recommend that especially as you go higher up. So, now I'm a VP and, right before I took this job, when I was talking to folks at Block, that was something that came up. They want to make sure you have experience with bigger teams. And so, that was a plus but then also some people want to know that you have that entrepreneurial spirit of a startup and you can roll up your sleeves and get stuff done.
And so, it's been very advantageous for me to have both of those as well as the mid-sized companies and so you show this array of experience.
Alex Booker (17:17):
You mentioned that you got to advance your career more rapidly. I am very curious because there is no, I guess, objective definition of what career progress is. What did advancing your career look like to you?
Angie Jones (17:30):
Promotions, more responsibilities, enabling other people so, not just myself, but being responsible for the growth of other people's careers. Setting strategy versus just following it but being able to see the bigger picture and business objectives and how our day-to-day tasks tie into those things.
Alex Booker (17:55):
I think that's a really good overview and something people listening can use to align bad decisions as they look to progress in their career. I wonder as well if, when you're newer, you can sometimes weigh opportunities and career advancement by where you feel there are the most learning opportunities.
Angie Jones (18:10):
Definitely. And if I could offer a bit of advice, you want to be able to take opportunities that present themselves because the market is pretty rough. However, if you have a choice, aim for companies that are a bit larger, mid-size to larger size, for your first role. The reason I say that is because they'll be able to support you more. There maybe you're not the only engineer on a specific product or project and so there will be people that are more senior who can help to mentor you and guide you. What you don't want to do is set yourself up for failure where you are employee number one or something as some startup and you are responsible for launching their visions and dreams and all of that's on you as a brand new developer.
That's really tough, not impossible, but really tough and you're going to have to sacrifice a lot in order to be successful in that versus a company with more structure or bigger team, you'll have that support, you'll be able to learn at a much more comfortable pace.
Alex Booker (19:18):
I think a good test, I suppose, is the ratio of new developers to senior developers that can mentor and support them because, if that ratio is off, then you're definitely going to be swimming without a paddle, so to speak. But obviously, if the ratio is right, you'll have a better structure around your ones a ones but also code reviews and even informal feedback and things like that.
Angie Jones (19:39):
Yeah. I love how you said so much more than the code itself, Alex, because that's what it takes for software development. And when we're learning, no matter where we learn, if that's university, if that's bootcamp, if that's self-paced, what we're learning is how to code something up. We're not learning about all that it takes to actually ship a product and there's much more than coding that goes into that and you don't know what you don't know. And so, that's why it's really good to be surrounded by others who understand how this work, they've done it before, they know all of the got yous that's not in the textbooks.
Alex Booker (20:17):
You know what you know, you know what you don't know but it's what you don't know you don't know that's going to get you.
Angie Jones (20:21):
Alex Booker (20:22):
I noticed you've done automation engineering, DevRel as well as, I guess you'd call it, normal development. How would you explain this career path to a newer developer?
Angie Jones (20:31):
My software development is, I think everybody probably understands that, building products and things like that. The automation engineering piece is a mix between software development and then software testing. And so, as I was building products, I became pretty obsessed with clean code and quality software and making sure that it works and, not only that it works, but that it meets the user's needs. And so, a lot of software developers that I would work with, they only would be focused on the building of the software and not so much on the users or the customers and their perspectives and how it feels to them. Automation engineering gave me a closer position to the user and the customer and coming up with test scenarios and then making sure that the software that was built actually met those scenarios.
I would code those test scenarios up and have them automatically execute as part of the build. So, anytime a developer would check something in, those tests would automatically run. So, beyond just unit tests, but in the end test or user interface test or maybe even API tests. So, I became fascinated with testing as a skillset and began teaching people how to do that because it got to the point where I was a senior engineer on the team and I needed to hire a couple of more automation engineers but I couldn't find people that had that skill. And so, I started writing, blogging about it, I need to share all of this stuff that I'm learning with the broader industry.
Developers need to know how to test their code better and then, certainly, automation engineers as well. And so, I started blogging and speaking at conferences and that took on a life of its own. It got to a point, I was actually working at Twitter at the time as an engineer, and I was doing conferences maybe about 75, 80% of the time and I still needed to do my engineering task. So, I would be staying in Europe, it's eight-hour time difference and I'm doing a workshop or something in the day and then I would need to go to my hotel and do my engineering job at night.
And so, I was burning out and I realized that I really enjoyed teaching other engineers. So, I wanted to do that and I learned about DevRel as a career. DevRel is developer relations and it's just that it's basically relating to developers, it's teaching them how to write better software. It could be using specific technology or products but more so as just general education for developers.
Alex Booker (23:25):
I can't believe how nicely you tied that all together from getting into automation engineering to then having to go out into the world to attract more people to the industry and the roles and then later getting into DevRel, I think that's awesome. And again, it's just so fascinating to speak with someone who's been in the industry for a while because, when you're at the beginning of your journey, you have this temptation, I think, to want to plan everything really nicely. But again, you don't know what you don't know. Sometimes it's only by taking the next step that you reveal what the next options are.
And one takeaway I wanted to highlight from what you just said, I think, is that it seemed like back then, and maybe still today, there are gaps in the market for slight specializations. Automation engineering is a form of development you couldn't fill those roles so easily. Even DevRel could be seen as something similar. What do you think about this strategy where you, as a newer developer, specialize a little bit to get you're in the market because it's less competitive potentially?
Angie Jones (24:24):
Yeah, I'm really glad you asked that question because I tell people this all the time and they don't believe me. When I see newer devs trying to enter the field, they all think they have to go in through the front door or the front end, I should say. All of them are learning about web development and specifically front end development and that's a really crowded space and a really competitive one. If you learn that, that's fine but know that you're competing with thousands of other people for those roles, especially entry level ones that don't come around as often as the senior roles do. Whereas, there's a whole lot of other jobs, development jobs, as well.
So, you should explore some other courses and tutorials to see if you like those too. Back end is a thing and I tell people all the time, "Go through the back door."
Alex Booker (25:20):
Angie Jones (25:21):
In my opinion, back end is much easier to learn and grasp than front end is. And some people who are front end specialists, they don't agree with that but it might just be a preference thing. But yeah, you learn about APIs or you become a wizard in databases or you learn about server technology or, like you said, automation engineers. People are always looking for great automation engineers. DevRel, yes, I put out recs and it's really hard to find good developer advocates and stuff. And so, yeah, there's all sorts of things. AI is really hot right now, maybe that's something you want to focus on and become a machine learning engineer, for example. There's lots of different specialties.
Alex Booker (26:09):
I've often felt that there are ways to specialize a little bit, whether that's DevRel or something else, but I never thought about it like you just put it which is that front end in particular is pretty saturated, isn't it, when you think about it.
Angie Jones (26:24):
It is, it really is. And not to discourage anyone who's learning that-
Alex Booker (26:28):
No, no, not at all.
Angie Jones (26:29):
We do need folks and it's a really good skill to have. So, I specialized in backend development but I still learned front end because I just think that that's useful and it got to the point where I'm basically a full stack developer where I can build a complete product, the back end and the front end. And so, it's definitely a nice skill to have but you don't have to stay here. You can look at other areas that are not as saturated and you might find your way through there.
Alex Booker (27:27):
I feel bad that we almost put down front end development as a career path, that's not the idea at all.
Angie Jones (27:33):
No way. I have so much respect for front end developers. That's the part of my job I hate the most because it challenges me so much. Making things look pretty, having them just work asynchronously and that whole user journey and all of that is really complicated to me versus calling an API on the back end. I'm definitely not putting it down, if anything, I'm lifting it up but I'm also saying there are other paths as well.
Alex Booker (28:06):
And to be clear, I think it was my faux pas almost to say it was saturated, I didn't want to discourage anybody with that. It's not about pivoting from front end, it's about packaging up your front end skills in a slightly specialized way so maybe you become more specialized in data visualization or maybe you become a demo developer. Big companies like Salesforce, for example, they have people on their team who develop demos and they have to be functional, they have to be conscious of the user experience and how they position the product and things like that.
Security is a broad topic, things like cybersecurity but there is a front end element to that, absolutely. Another thing which I've known people to be extremely successful and remarkably lucrative at doing is cross browser specialization. They get very good at helping teams make their websites work across different platforms. Another thing is CSS architecture, there are genuinely consultants who come in to big companies and they help them architect their CSS so they can work more productively. I don't think that's the kind of thing you do as your first role, you need to see quite a few different code bases to really see the abstraction there to be helpful but it is something you can be mindful of and use as you talk about your skills and position yourselves.
Another thing I thought about was build tools. For example, the front end tool chain is becoming more complex. I often think, when it comes to a candidate, you need to tell a story a little bit, where you've been and where you want to go. There needs to be something memorable there and it could be your project but it could be your aspiration as well. And maybe your project was very data vis heavy, for example. It's not hard for a team to say, "Oh, actually, we've got a new dashboard project coming up. We're not hiring you as a specialist but we can see why this experience is relevant." I just think, in general, going a bit deeper in one area can be a great way to stand out for all the reasons we just spoke about, Angie.
Angie Jones (29:51):
Yeah, totally agree.
Alex Booker (29:53):
The ideas are really flowing today on the Scrimba Podcast. I think we need to shift gears for a second and we have no pre-warning, Angie. Normally, I let people know but I totally forgot to tell you. We're going to do a round of quick fire questions. What do you say?
Angie Jones (30:06):
Oh, wow. Okay.
Alex Booker (30:11):
So, Angie, what is your favorite technology to work with?
Angie Jones (30:14):
Alex Booker (30:44):
Angie Jones (30:52):
They are not the same thing.
Alex Booker (30:52):
Oh, so that recruiter got it wrong in my inbox. Okay, good to know. What about looking forward, are there any technologies you are curious to learn more about?
Angie Jones (30:59):
Yeah, so right now I'm learning a lot about decentralized technologies. That's what I'm doing at my job now, making products and protocols that will allow developers to build decentralized applications. And what that means is your user will own their own identity across the web and own their own contents. There's actually a new social network that was recently launched called Bluesky and they're a decentralized app utilizing decentralized technology. So, if you want to see it in practice so you have something to hang your head on, Bluesky is a good example in AT protocol.
Alex Booker (31:38):
Incredible. I need to learn more about that and get involved.
Angie Jones (31:40):
Yeah, like I say, you're always learning.
Alex Booker (31:42):
By the way, Angie, when you code and work, do you listen to music?
Angie Jones (31:46):
I don't listen to music much while I'm coding because I get such in a zone. But if it's something tedious where I don't have to think too much, it's basically, "Oh, I know how to do this," I might put something on then, usually something like lofi. There's a radio station, I don't remember, what the name of it is.
Alex Booker (32:08):
Like the Lofi Girl thing.
Angie Jones (32:09):
Yeah, basically. And you just put that on in the background.
Alex Booker (32:12):
Yeah, love it. Last question and I've got an interesting anecdote to tell you afterwards. Do you look up to or follow anyone in the tech community that we can check out?
Angie Jones (32:21):
One is Sarah Drasner. She is incredible, she's a director at Google. I call her the goddess of the web because she runs Google web projects. And so, all of the things we see on the web and the technologies that build it is under her remit and so she's absolutely phenomenal. And then another person is Kelsey Hightower, a brilliant engineer. He happens to also work at Google coincidentally but he has a knack for understanding technologies, specifically newer ones. He's always at the bleeding edge of something.
Even if he's not working on it, he's learning it and that just goes to show, no matter how senior you are ... He's a distinguished engineer at Google and so distinguished engineer is the highest level of engineer and most people never reach that level but he has. And yet, if he sees a new technology, he's over on Bluesky with me learning about the AT protocol and stuff because, when it's something new, we want to learn it and consume it. And so, I really look up to him. Not only does he learn it for himself, he then talks about it publicly so that others can learn from him.
Alex Booker (33:36):
Kelsey Hightower and Sarah Drasner, we'll link them both in the show notes. I'd love to get them on the pod one day as well. I ask this question every week and, recently, I had Chad Stewart on from techishiring.com and, when I asked him who he'd recommend we check out, he said you.
Chad Stewart (33:51):
My entire career came from really following her.
Angie Jones (33:55):
Aww, very nice.
Alex Booker (34:00):
Angie, I read that you have 27 patents. I know you know that's really impressive and that's why it's in your Twitter bio. How did you come to offer almost 30 patents? That's remarkable.
Angie Jones (34:13):
Yeah. Again, it's basically being on that bleeding edge of technology. So, that was one of the great things about working at IBM as well is that, they were such a huge company that they were able to explore newer technologies or cutting edge things that might come to realize or might die, it's okay but they had the bandwidth to take those things on. And so, as I'm learning new technologies, especially something that's cutting edge, no one is really doing stuff with it yet, I turn on this inventor mindset and say, "What if I wanted to realize this certain use case, would this technology enable that?" And it might or it might not and, if it's not, then I get really excited because that's an opportunity for me to invent how that works.
So, okay, if not, how could this be possible? And the great thing about patents is that I don't have to do the work to actually implement them. As long as I can architect this and explain it, how it will work from a technical standpoint and specifically say, "Okay, you could use this, you can use that, tie this with that and then, boom, you would be able to create this thing." So, you basically write out a architecture guide, a blueprint of how it could be done but you don't have to actually do the work to do it.
Alex Booker (35:34):
What's an example of a patent you've created that even I could understand, hopefully?
Angie Jones (35:39):
Let's say, when you go to the supermarket. This has happened to everyone where you end up picking the wrong queue. You're going to get in the line that's taking the longest.
Alex Booker (35:50):
Angie Jones (35:51):
This is one that I actually came up with. As I'm standing in line, you get a little frustrated, you start thinking, "How can I fix this problem? How could I use tech specifically to fix this problem?" The patent calls for a lot of different things. What if there were sensors in the cart? We see that that technology exists where, if you put something in a cart, it might be automatically keeping track of all what's in there that's being used somewhere elsewhere. It might tally the total but I don't need that, what I need is just putting it in the cart.
So, we know how many things we have here and then, if I get in a line, there could be sensors to see how many things need to be scanned in front of me. It could take into consideration the cashier's scan rate. So, I used to be a cashier, I know that that matters. Some cashiers are much faster than others.
Alex Booker (36:42):
That's a metric they have.
Angie Jones (36:45):
Yeah. Well, some of them. I don't think they do anymore because they're moving quite slowly sometimes. And then taking maybe loyalty program metrics, is this person someone who is going to buy a lottery ticket or cigarettes or alcohol or something that's going to basically prolong the transaction. Are they going to write a check? That was back when people were writing checks. So, are they going to write a check? Are they going to pay with cash or credit card? Are they going to pull out 50 coupons? Consider all of that and then you're able to accurately calculate how long it'll take to ring up every person in line and you can present that over the registers. This one is going to be a 15-minute and that one's 12-minute, oh, well, let me get in the 12-minute line.
Alex Booker (37:33):
I guess it could potentially be adopted in other circumstances as well. You are just using the example of a supermarket but I'm sure there are others.
Angie Jones (37:40):
Exactly. And you got to put that in a patent, too. You got to say, "Okay, I gave this example but this could be applicable to anywhere where there's a queue." So, it doesn't even have to be physical, it could be a virtual queue as well.
Alex Booker (37:54):
I'm curious about this aspect of it. If you worked at them at the company, they're your patents, right? Your name is on them, absolutely, in association with the company?
Angie Jones (38:02):
Yeah, and it depends on the company. And so, one reason to do it with the company is they'll take on a lot of the costs. It's very costly to even apply for the patent, it doesn't mean it will be granted. They take on all of that, they hire the lawyers, the lawyers are the ones who have to write it all up in legal jargon and submit it and work with the patent office of your country and all of these burdens. And then the company, some of them do, some of them don't, will pay you for them. Some of them might say, "Well, you work here and your thoughts are mine," but, fortunately, IBM had a patent program where they would pay you for the ideas and stuff. And if it got granted, you would get more money. If it's used by other companies or in litigation, they would pay you. So, they took pretty good care of the inventors.
Alex Booker (38:52):
Good to have those incentives especially at a company like that. Although I'm sure they have many products making revenue, when you're at that size, you have to be looking forward as well. It sounds like just an awesome time at IBM, to be honest. You were there for nine years, you've worked in such a huge company, different roles, got exposed to all this stuff. I actually advocate, personally, for getting an opportunity, even if it's not the perfect one necessarily. It's that old adage that it's easier to get a job once you have a job and, in a competitive market, I think that matters but it's nice to know what the options are and what kind of paths are available to you if you want to pursue them or maybe you're just more heightened to spot that opportunity now because you've heard Angie talking on the podcast.
So, we're almost out of time, I want to end it here on just one question. Seeing as how you've been in the industry for a while and it's great to get your perspectives on career development. I know you've started new roles, I know you've seen other people start new roles while you're already on the team. Aside from technical competency, which I know everyone listening is working at, they're training, they're practicing, they're building side projects, what do you think is one of the most important other things they could be focusing on in terms of their career development and getting their foot in the door?
Angie Jones (39:58):
Yeah. One of the things that is not taught is the networking part. That is so important and it's really critical as you're trying to progress in your career. So, that could be switching jobs or getting mentors or just other opportunities for things in the fields. You may have heard the saying it's not what you know, it's who you know and there is definitely truth to that no matter what industry you're in and it's certainly true in tech as well. And so, you want to network as much as possible. The people you work with, don't just get on the calls, do your work and leave, try to build some rapport with them.
Go to external things like meetups. Meetups are usually free, they're local, you don't have to travel, this might be something you just want to go to a couple of times a year. And when you go, don't sit in the back and just be quiet, actually try to meet people, learn about what they're working on, tell them what you're working on, tell them your interests and your desires as well because you never know. So many times, people who I've met, they might contact me six months later and say, "Hey, you said that you were interested in X, Y, Z. I just met somebody who's looking for someone to do that, can I connect you?" I have had amazing opportunities that most people do not see in their career and I attribute all of that to my network.
Alex Booker (41:26):
Absolutely. It takes a little bit of vulnerability, I think that's what you're describing, but it massively increases your surface area to get, quote, unquote, lucky. Angie, thank you so much for joining me on the Scrimba Podcast, it's been a pleasure.
Angie Jones (41:39):
Okay. Thank you for having me, Alex.
Jan Arsenovic (41:43):
Check out the show notes of this episode for all the resources and the ways you can connect with Angie. And next week, a recently hired junior developer, Shaun, will tell us about his coding journey.
Shaun Jackie Hickman (41:53):
I feel that I will and I will continue to fail. I'll fail another thousand times but, as long as you try again, it's not so bad. The things that I can do now that I'm okay at, when I started, that's [inaudible 00:42:02].
Jan Arsenovic (42:03):
Shaun is next Tuesday on the Scrimba Podcast, subscribe so you don't miss him. Thanks for listening. The show is hosted by Alex Booker and you can find his Twitter handle in the show notes. I've been Jan, the producer, and we'll be back with you next week.