CHUCK: Alright! I’m hanging up right now!
[This episode is sponsored by Hired.com. Every week on Hired, they run an auction where over a thousand tech companies in San Francisco, New York and L.A. bid on iOS developers, providing them with salary and equity upfront. The average iOS developer gets an average of 5-15 introductory offers and an average salary offer of $130,000/year. Users can either accept an offer and go right into interviewing with a company or deny them without any continuing obligations. It’s totally free for users, and when you’re hired they also give you a $2,000 signing bonus as a thank you for using them. But if you use the iPhreaks link, you’ll get a $4,000 bonus onset. Finally, if you’re not looking for a job but know someone who is, you can refer them on Hired and get a $1,337 bonus as thanks after the job. Go sign up at Hired.com/iphreaks]
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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 91 of the iPhreaks show this week on panel, have Jaim Zuber,
JAIM: Hello from Minneapolis!
CHUCK: Pete Hodgson,
PETE: Hello, hello from Hollywood Boulevard!
CHUCK: Andrew Madsen,
ANDREW: Hello from Salt Lake City!
CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.TV and this week we have a special guest John Sonmez.
JOHN: Hi from Tampa Florida where it’s not cold!
CHUCK: Oh you suck! Do you want to introduce yourself for the folks who don’t know who you are?
JOHN: Sure! So, my name is John Sonmez. I blog and do business at simpleprogrammer.com. I am basically what I’m call myself a life coach for software developers, which is kind of a weird thing but I don’t think anyone else is doing it. But basically, what I do is I help developers to be better at their jobs but also at life in general with all kinds of areas from building their careers, to being more productive, to marketing themselves, which we’re going to talk about today – even fitness and things like that. So yeah! That’s basically what I do. I did a lot of software development for a long time I still do some coding but I found that I really like helping developers and so – that’s I followed what was working for me and I feel like there’s a big void here. So, I basically went into this and yeah!
CHUCK: Awesome! Now you’ve got a bunch of things going on. You just released a soft skills book; you’ve got your “How to market yourself as software developer” course; you’ve got a blogging course, which I keep telling people to go check out; it’s an email course, which rocks; and we talk every week on the Entreprogrammers podcast.
JOHN: Yeah exactly! Yeah! The biggest thing I’m excited about right now of courses is a book – that soft skills – the software developers life manual. It’s published by Manning it’s my first real published book (not self-published book). And it came out – It began January. And we’ve been breaking some nice records search for technical books get up in the charts on Amazon. It is basically a book about your entire life as a software developer. It covers on a lot of different areas and it’s really career-focused. It’s just – I just wanted to say that was a fun read that would provide just a huge amount of value. What I what I would want to read – what I would enjoy reading not something that I felt like a I could be a difficult period and it’s something that I wish I had ten years ago. So that’s what the book is about. It’s definitely – I think it’s pretty unique. I don’t think there are any books quite like that out there. So it’s a little bit of risk putting it out there. But so far it’s had some pretty good positive reviews. So –.
CHUCK: Now I know that some people heard the word “marketing yourself” and turned off the podcast. Why should people care about marketing themselves?
JOHN: The big reason really is because – the thing I liked it talk about all the time is – in fact I’ll say someone had just post this on Twitter – they had a brought to my attention they said that Judge Judy makes forty seven million dollars a year while a Supreme Court Judge makes two hundred and twenty-seven thousand. Now those are – even for a Supreme Court Justice, that’s a pretty big number. But the difference between those two is not really in skill. A Supreme Court justice is probably – let’s say that they’re at the same level as Judge Judy. I don’t know who’s better. I don’t really watch it Judge Judy. But I would assume that they’re pretty equivalent level of skill or maybe it’s the Supreme Court Justice maybe they should be better – in fact, I hope they are. So it’s not skill that’s determining the difference in pay there.
What it is is “name”. It’s name recognition – celebrity chefs! It doesn’t mean that we all have to be celebrities. Then we’re going to make millions of dollars per year as software developers but it does point out the fact that having some kind of a name, having some kind of reputation, building some amount of authority in software development, sharing what you’re – what you’re learning, what you’re doing and helping others is really valuable to your career. It’s immensely valuable. It’s like a multiplier for your skills.
So, you can be really skillful but if you’re sitting in your basement by yourself coding up these amazing things and no one knows about it. It’s not going to benefit you much. So, even though marketing has a bad word, all I’m really trying to do is to help developers to be able to get the message out; and to be able to reach more people and show off the cool stuff they’re doing while providing value for others. That’s the cornerstone that I think is good marketing is you’re doing things that are valuable for others. Just like this podcast. It’s not a money maker – super – you’re not going to get rich from this podcast and everyone that volunteers to do this podcast. But it’s something that has a huge value to people and it also is something that builds authority in this area for everyone that does this podcast.
JAIM: So a lot of the hesitancy with the tech community is they think of marketing as the slick guy with a Rolex talking a bunch of stuff, throwing his cards around but is that really what it’s all about?
JOHN: No. I think – like I said, I think the biggest thing is that at least – I mean some people you view marketing like that. And I think that’s – in the developer community, we’ve got that bad taste in our mouth. But the way that – the philosophy behind the marketing that I preach is – and it’s and it’s something I do – is give ninety percent of what you do you away for free and charge for ten percent because I think that’s the best way to market. Because, if you give someone value, then they’re going to come looking for more. And if you give them free value, they’re going to spread that and share that.
So when I talk about marketing, I’m not talking about sending sleazy emails to people and trying to be like a used car salesman. I’m talking about them value. Like if you’re working on something – a project, do blog posts about it, do videos about it, tutorials, things that are going to be valuable. But is also going to help build a name for yourself so that people come back to you. Employers are more likely to hire you. They’re going to see your blog post. They’re going to hear you on a podcast. Clients are more likely to hire you for freelance work. You’re going to be able to charge a higher rate. And if you want to be an entrepreneur and you want to build an audience, that’s how you build an audience and you sell a product to people who want to buy from you because of you. Not because you chased them down and did some sleazy tactic to try to get them to come in the door and buy your thing.
CHUCK: So it seems like you’re focusing a bit on the outcomes – the things that people want. And I think that’s really the powerful place to go when we’re talking about marketing yourself or whatever. It’s not the process. It’s not necessarily what you’re doing. I mean that is essentially what marketing yourself is but really people want specific things. They want to go work at a place that provide certain factors a fulfillment. Where they make enough money, feel like they’re making a difference, they work with people they like things like that.
And this marketing yourself as a developer really just boils down to you putting yourself in a position where you can get those jobs. Or where you can get those clients if you’re freelance; or where you can provide whatever value you want to provide if you’re not necessarily coding all the time but you’re a project manager or something like that.
JOHN: Right exactly! Yeah! And that’s the key thing is it’s valuable for everyone. Because there is – I always talk about – the first time I realize that this was valuable for me being a – I was a career developer. I was just interested in working for a good company and having a job. It was when I was looking for a new job – or I was I wasn’t even really look at this point. But I’ve got an – out of the blue, an email from a recruiter that basically said, “Hey we want to hire you for this job.” Not “We want to interview you”! “We want to hire you.” Any I replied back I said, ”Oh! Don’t you mean interview?” They said, “No no no no no! We’ve already read your blog. We’ve been reading your blog here at this company for a while and we’re familiar. We just want to give you an offer.” And I thought “Wow! This is really interesting” because I never created my blog to do that. I never even imagined that. But I immediately saw the value. And then I realized that this is something that – just a little bit of marketing – just and again, the word marketing, it’s really just little bit of spreading knowledge and putting yourself out there – has a huge, huge value that’s going to help you in your career. And so that’s when I really started going on this and saying, “Okay we’ll I did this by accident but can I help someone to engineer this to be able to benefit from it?
ANDREW: There’s definitely that benefit. I had a conversation this week with someone in France that I’m talking about – it’s a client. He’s like, “You know I read your website; I saw your blog; I feel like I know you.” So we start off that conversation already on a good note. And my blog gets ten hits a day – nothing! But people that do you read it are the right people at times. So if they get a wind of who I might be, then it helps people explain – “This is how I approach problems. This is what I do.” So it definitely can help even if you’re not getting tons of views.
JOHN: Right! Yeah! And you’re absolutely right! It doesn’t really take a whole lot. One thing I always challenge developers to do is just type into Google their name. And that’s what the world – you can think what you want about what image you’re portraying to the world but that is who you are to the world in general. And so, if you type in your name – and you don’t have to have a super big blog or whatever – but if your blog comes up and then someone clicks that and they start reading – man! That’s – how – we always hear the advice like make your resume like one page or two-page – make it short then no one’s even going to read it. But if someone googles your name and finds your blog, they might start reading your blog for like two hours. And if they’re thinking about interviewing you, that’s killer! That’s going to help you so much.
And the same thing with the client. Like a client that’s really digging what you’re putting out there. They’re going to – instead of you having to go in and try to peddle and try to find clients, if they come to you, the hourly rate you’re going to be ask is going to be much better. You’re not going to have to jump through all these hoops to get that client because they want to work with you because they know who you are. And there’s just a huge value in even just a small amount of having a presence out there.
CHUCK: Now I know that iPhreaks is the pinnacle of iOS development right? So all of the developers out there are aspiring to work Thoughtbot or Mixed in Key so they can work with Pete or Andrew. So how do they go about – let’s get down to brass tacks. What kinds of things should they be doing so that they can get the attention of Thoughtbot or Mixed in Key?
PETE: ThoughtWorks not Thoughbot.
CHUCK: Oh! ThoughtWorks! Now I feel dumb.
PETE: That’s okay. it happens a lot.
CHUCK: Sure it does.
PETE: And a Thoughtbot would also be an awesome place to work. So the example applies just as well.
JOHN: To me, it seems like if you want to work for an app development company – a company that develops iOS apps; you should develop some iOS apps and have them in the App Store and perhaps blog about it. To me, that would make a lot of sense. If I were going to hire someone – and try to get the attention of one of these companies that I would like to work for, I would definitely make sure that I had at least a few app in the App Store so that I could show that I actually am serious.
It’s weird a lot of – I see a lot of [inaudible 12:29] and iOS developers that they are asking me advice on how to get a job and my answer is: “Well, what apps do you have?” And he’s like: “Well, not yet.” Well, if you don’t have any then it’s going to be a lot more difficult because it’s – the level – the bar is very low for creating an app. It used to be difficult to create a – but now, it’s so easy for someone to create at least a – a one-person team can create a pretty impressive local app. So that’s my opinion. What do you guys think? Obviously you guys are – be more experts in this area for getting into those particular companies.
ANDREW: I wanted to share an anecdote, which is that the last developer we hired for Mac team at Mixed in Key. His name is Chris. He was an iPhreaks listener. Before we hired him, before we knew who he was. And so that was fun because he did recognize me from the show. And he’s been absolutely excellent. We’ve been very happy with him. So iPhreaks would seem to be of a high-caliber…
JOHN: The reverse marketing thing, which is probably just as valid. We’re both by being on this podcast – whenever I blog or whenever I talk at a conference, I feel like I’m partly – partly I’m working on my personal brand. Candidly, that’s part of what I’m doing. But I’m also making sure people know that I work at this cool company and we’re hiring and also we’re – I guess also we’re available for consulting work is also kind of marketing in a couple different areas. But I see myself to an extent as an extension of the company I work at as well. It’s interesting. It goes both ways.
JAIM: You just hit the other slimy word – “Brand”.
It’s hard to think about a brand but as John said, you have one.
JOHN: Yeah! Whether you like it or not.
JAIM: On Twitter, that’s your brand! Or it might be “Who is X?” So, you have one.
ANDREW: For us at Mixed in Key and I think it’s true of a lot of companies hiring specifically for iOS developers – it’s almost like a – just a hard fast requirement that you have an app in the store. Or at least you can point to an app you developed for internal use at a company or something like. But we pretty much won’t even consider someone if they don’t have an app because we want somebody that can show they know that whole process. From an initial idea to something users actually have in their hands.
JAIM: Yeah! That makes a lot of sense. The other thing that you guys brought up that’s really important is the way that marketing helps a company as well. It’s like – a lot of companies that are afraid to let their developers speak out and market themselves because they don’t realize that – the value that it brings is because – like you guys sitting in this podcast, it brings a lot of value to your company. Because people aspire to be working with people that they know and that they like and that – that are good personalities in the development community. So, I think that’s one thing too. A lot of people are like “Well, marketing itself only benefits me as developer.” But no! It’s actually – to have a person who works at a company that is – has some reputation in the industry is very, very valuable for that company. So, development managers shouldn’t be afraid to help their employees become better at doing this as well.
CHUCK: Well, the other thing – going back to the personal brand. I’ve actually landed contracts that I wasn’t qualified for because I do these shows. And I have to go back to the client and say, “I appreciate the confidence that you have in me but I don’t have the level of experience that would make me comfortable actually taking this contract.” But they assume that because I have a back catalogue, in Java script for example, I’m pretty decent with Java script on the front end but the back, I really haven’t done the ton with node.js. Or iOS – I’ve actually landed a couple of iOS gigs and had to say, “Look, I’ll charge you a reduced rate and it’s probably going to take a little longer than somebody with experience would take but I’m happy to talk to you about your project.” And really what it boils down to is I have this back catalogue. I’ve had all these conversations with the hosts and other hosts and guests and so they just assume that I have the chops to do the jobs. And so this really does work out well if you have that stuff out there because people don’t even put you through the interview process. It’s just: “Oh! Well, I want you!”
JOHN: Right! Exactly! Yeah, exactly! It is a shortcut. It is definitely that path that will get you – I always talk about [inaudible 16:59] because I have a whole chapter – they keep the interviews and it doesn’t talk about the interviews at all. What it talks about is getting in the back door. Because the thing is – I’ve walked in an interview, shook the interviewer’s hand and the interviewer said, “Oh, I read your blog!” And then there wasn’t an interview at that point. It was just chatting because they’re already going to recommend you for hire as long as – in person, you’re not a complete goofball or whatever. But it’s such an important thing to realize that – is that you can actually bypass the interview process in a lot of cases if you either can make a personal connection or you can get – the interview knows you at some – or has heard of you online. They’re going to make certain assumptions based on the brand that you’ve built. They may not even be true but you’re going to benefit from it.
CHUCK: I want to ask though. Let’s say that somebody gets their app in the App Store and then they’ve been blogging pretty regularly – least once a week maybe – I don’t know we can ask you about that in a minute how often people should blog. But let’s say that they’re blogging with some frequency for six months and they’re starting to think, “Okay, well this job isn’t giving me everything I want so I’m going to switch.” What other things should they be doing to make themselves more exciting for a company to court?
JOHN: Well I think there’s a whole list of different things that you could do. As you being a person who does what – now you do like five podcasts or six podcast a week?
CHUCK: Five podcasts and I’m going to launch Kickstarter for this sixth.
JOHN: Okay so basically, what is the most difficult problem – I’m going to put you on the spot – what’s the most difficult problem with podcasting?
CHUCK: Just taking the time honestly. It’s just – it’s the time I spend. The most unpleasant part for me is editing, which is why I pay Manny to do it.
JOHN: Okay, I was going to guess at getting guests. I’m sure that’s probably somewhere on your list though right?
CHUCK: Yeah! It ranks. It depends on the month.
JOHN: Okay, well you’re a pro. So maybe I’m asking the wrong person but a lot of podcasters that I talk to you, their biggest problem is getting guests. Including myself for get up and code, I have a hard time. If someone comes to me with an email and they have something good. They do the three things that I always say, which is – they have some credential that they identify, they identify what value they provide to my audience, and they take initiative, say I can – tell me how they can get this rolling. I’m really likely to interview them on the podcast and bring them on because I’m looking for someone. And a lot podcast host – so again now you’re going to get a flood of people but that is that one just one example of a good way is to reach out.
The first time I went on Scott Hanselman’s podcast, I was had no – was relatively unknown. But, I said, “Hey, I could talk to you about this thing!” I suggest a good topic and that it would be good for his audience. And I gave him some credentials any he gave me a shot. And that led to other opportunities. But, that’s one way to reach out. Be on a podcast. Another one is start a YouTube channel and start doing YouTube videos. They get ton of traction from that. You could write an ebook that you self-publish. It’s obviously hard to get a publisher. But, obviously in the app market, you should definitely have some apps out there. So if you’re definitely trying to – if you’re going to get in the door. So, definitely you start building some apps.
But there’s a bunch of different things – the way that I think about it is: “What are the things that – the media that you consume?” Whatever it is, you as a developer, do read blog posts? Do you listen to podcasts? Do you watch videos? Whatever it is, be there! You be there! You produce that type of content. If you really want to – it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to do all of this stuff because you’ve got other things to do. Not everyone can devote their full time. But, if you’re in those common channels that you consume, that’s where other people are going to come across you. And that’s going to be pretty impressive to a lot of people that would make hiring decisions at a company if you’re showing up in multiple channels, if you’re helping people, if you’re showing you have a big passion for the industry, and that you care about what you’re doing, if you care about building iOS apps.
ANDREW: Something I wanted to ask you about to bring up along those lines as another channel for putting yourself out there is open source. So, personally I think that’s pretty valuable.
JOHN: Yeah! I think that’s huge. It’s one of those things where I don’t focus a lot on it just because I’ve got so many other things on my plate. So I don’t talk about it as much but I’m glad you brought up because this is a huge thing for a lot of people. A lot of people have really built up good names and reputation for themselves in open source. And the nice thing about it is people can see your codes so they can see what – first of all, your habits are and then also what kind of coder you are.
As an interviewer, when I’ve interviewed people to hire at a company, I know that might biggest risk as an interviewer – this thing I fear most of all is they don’t actually know how to code. And it seems really silly but I’ve interviewed for Fortune 100 companies where I’ve interviewed candidates who had impressive degrees and experience and they could not actually code. So if you’re doing open source, if you have a repository out there you can show some work that you’ve done, it relieves one of the biggest fears because you don’t want to hire someone, as an interviewer and then have to tell your manager if you found out that that person actually cannot do the job. And it’s a lot of people – you’d be surprised at how many people fake the ability to actually write code – or they can fix bugs but they can’t actually write some real code and write a real application. And so doing open source is definitely a really good way to demonstrate that. And it’ll alleviate one of the most common fears that I think hiring managers and interviewers have
PETE: I think that’s definitely legit. And a lot of this stuff is definitely true where you’re essentially – you’re helping out a hiring manager or someone like that from – basically, you make it easy for the company to identify you as a good candidate. I do think there’s a risk though that with a lot of these activities, you’re certainly not intentionally but there’s a risk that what you end up doing is filtering out the type of people that you have in your company. So, there was a little bit the backlash recently in – around the idea if you don’t have to github profile, then I don’t want to continue. As an interview candidate, if you stick to that rule you have a bunch of people who are good at contributing to github. But you’re going to miss out on probably a little bit of diversity because you’re going to have the people who don’t have families or have time to do all this extra stuff outside of work. Now for some companies, maybe they’re okay with that. ThoughWorks for example – I’m not sure we have an explicit policy but we try really hard to not look that stuff outside of our interview process because we don’t want to exclude candidates just because they don’t have the privileges essentially to be able to do that kind of stuff in their spare time.
JAIM: It’s tricky right? It’s always a balance. But I think it’s important to realize that you are excluding some people by making this a part your hiring process.
JOHN: I think you’re absolutely right. Especially – I think it’s going to divide – like there are two things. There’s the ideal of what we’d like to see and then there’s the reality of how the world works. You got to balance between both right as someone who’s hiring, I totally agree with you shouldn’t be just looking at GitHub profiles. You shouldn’t just look to see if this person is doing a hundred different things outside of work. I think it does play some part to get it idea what their passion is and if they’re actually devoting any extra time to advance in their career. But then as a developer, you have to think, “Are companies doing this?” Are companies following what might be the ideal – or how are they actually basing their hiring decisions?
And I’m wanting to imply is Juries on famous cases – on famous court cases. The jury is supposed to be isolated right? The jury is supposed to be like how you’re describing the ideal interview process where they don’t know anything about that case or anything ahead of time. But on these big cases that have got media attention and stuff, the jury is totally biased. They’ve already heard about the case. They’ve already made up – you can’t stop them from being biased. So as an interviewer, of course you want to limit the bias as much as possible. You want to have the diversity you want to – but as a developer applying for jobs, you want to influence it by [inaudible 25:24] So, the practical thing to do is that if you have built up a reputation, it’s going to be to your advantage as a developer. So, I totally agree with you. I’m not trying to disagree because I do agree with you that ideally, we base it off as qualifications more so in – and it’s unfortunate to compete against someone just out of college who is spending 80 hours a week coding up on GitHub or repositories of their own. They don’t have a family. They don’t have the responsibilities. And so, it’s unfair to play against that person.
But at the same time, even I’ve got it a wife and a kid and I have a lot of other responsibilities. But in now I ideas full time but before then in my career, I would always devote at least – I will say, wake up an hour earlier each day and spend that one hour just improving your career. Whatever it is if it’s writing blog posts or if it’s contributing open source or if it’s building your app that you’re going to put in the App Store. Like most people can give an hour a day and yes it’s not going to be as impressive as the whiz kid who in his college dorm develops fifty iOS or whatever. But it’s going to make a huge, huge impact that most – it’s going to put you in the 95 percentile. It’s really easy to get in the 95 percentile is what I think she versus trying to get to the 99 percentile is very difficult.
CHUCK: I’m going to jump in here just add something to this. This is something that I tell a lot newer developers to do is to basically find the open source projects that the company they want to work for uses and then find ways to contribute to that just because. Then you are actually speaking directly to those biases. I understand the problems you’re trying to solve and the tools you’re trying to use to solve them. And it really does pay off in a lot of ways because you’re already speaking language. And ultimately – and this is just another piece of guidance I give to a lot of people and that is picked the companies you want to work for and then figure out what their biases are or what tools are using or things like that so that you can tailor what you’re doing to getting that job that you want.
JOHN: That’s good. I’m actually going to steal that one. That’s a really good idea I’d ever thought about advising people to work on the open source projects that the company that they’re applying for is using. That would work wonderfully.
CHUCK: Yeah and some of the companies out there – I won’t mention any ThoughtWorks names – but some companies out there actually publish the tools and practices that they use. ThoughtWorks publishes their tech radar every year. And if you want to know what they’re bullish on. That’s knew that they’re adopting right now. All you have to do is look at it. And then you can go and write a bunch a blog posts about it. And get involved about it. And find out what projects and tools are involved with it and then go to ThoughtWorks and say, “We’’, A. I looked at your tech radar.” And what managers aren’t going to be impressed by that.
“Oh, you actually cared enough to come check us out?” And then, “I went and I tried out some of things you recommend and I like them for these reasons and I don’t like them for those reasons” And you can have a reason to conversation with them and you’re just light years ahead of everybody else because you’re speaking a language that they’ve already brought into the discourse in their company.
PETE: Yeah! I was listening to a podcast from Adian Cockcraft the other today He’s the former CTO or Chief Architect or something like that of Netflix and he said that that was explicitly one of the Netflix – the reasons why Netflix open sourced a lot of their internal tooling is – they needed for a variety of reasons. But one other reasons was it’s a hiring pool for them they can look through the contributors to their open source tools and say, “Hey, you’re already working on this in your part-time for free. How about you come and work on it and we’ll pay you. So, again it’s like this two-way street where the companies are marketing themselves to the candidates they want to hire. And you can short circuit that I guess is what you’re checking and put yourself right into that loop that they’re looking for.
CHUCK: Yeah! And honestly, I’ve had the most success picking the company want to go work for because either because somebody I wanted to work with was there or because I heard good things about your way that they do things or stuff like that. And just taking advantage a those opportunities to build impress them. And with a little bit of work, you can figure out what it takes to get hired there.
JOHN: Yeah! That’s a really good point I think a lot of – just in general, a lot of people when they start their job search, what they do is say blast out 50 resumes to 50 different companies and then they get maybe three or four interviews from that but it’s so much more effective use of your time to instead of applying for fifty companies, apply to five companies or six companies but really really hone in on that company and custom tail your resume for each one of those. And really try and do the things that are going to you increase your chances that make you the perfect fit for that job for each one of those five or six jobs. And then you get interviews for all five or six those companies. And your success rate is going to be a lot higher than this blanket approach plus your offers are probably going to be better in that case.
CHUCK: Yeah! I do want to change the topic a little bit though because we’re talking about marketing yourself. I think targeting your marketing is a good idea that’s why I brought it up but let’s go back to blogging and stuff for a minute and talk about how targeted you want to be there. So I know some people like simple programmer, which is John’s blog. There are a lot of posts and videos across a lot of different topics. But in a lot of cases, it pays off more to build your reputation around one community or on technology or one set of technologies. Do you have a recommendation one way or the other?
JOHN: Yes, there’s two ways to do this but there’s an overarching principle here. So it’s funny because sometimes people look at my blog just like you said they say “Well, wait a minute, John. Are you telling me to specialize but you are not specialized?” So, I’ll get to what I’m doing in a second but the general principle of advice that you want to pay attention to is it’s almost always better to be a big fish in a small pond. Being a small fish in a big pond, it’s very difficult to make a splash so what you want to do is try to figure out how can you be a big fish. Especially when you’re starting out, you want to be the big fish in a small pond. So I always recommend that developers specialize! Specialize!
I just did an interview with Taysir Judah who started his blog like a year ago like just barely over a year ago and he’s getting like a hundred thousand page views a month. Now, when I interviewed him and ask him why, one of the key things that came back – and he’s done a lot of things right but one of the key things was because he chose to make his blog about ASP.net Web API security. So, it was specialized in this very narrow frame of technology and then security within it. And so it was – he was able to deliver a very solid message, get all the people that were using that technology. A lot developers that are into mobile development say, “Well, I want to create a blog on mobile development.” And I say, “Well, okay there’s a lot of blogs on mobile development. No one will no notice you if you do that but how about if you focus on – I use this example as the Android listview guy or the iOS list…
CHUCK: UI table view.
JOHN: Yes. UI tableview. Exactly! There was a blog. It’s not there anymore but datagrid girl – I remember this when I was doing ASP.net and she built a nice name for herself because every time I have a data grid problem – but let’s say you are the iOS UI tableview person. And you blog about that and you write about that and you go over all the intricacies and details of that just like CSStricks.com. If you do that, what’s going to happen is that everyone who wants to – like all iOS developers who end up using tableview, they’re going to come across your stop as soon as they – with Google tableview – UI tableview. And if you have videos about it and all this stuff, you’re going to be known as the expert. When you go to – asked to speak at a conference and you have a specialty here and no one in that specialty area, guess who they’re going to want to talk about UI tableview? It’s going to be you. You have this talk on that. If you submit for magazines or things like that it’s going to be so much easier to go on a podcasts and we’re going to talk about I’m the expert on UI tableview. So having that specialty is going to be immensely valuable especially starting out because it’s going to let you get the audience quicker. People are going to recognize you quicker. If you’re just iOS – I’m cool iOS developer guy, it’s really hard to get an audience because it takes so much more impact. You have to be in so many more places for someone to recognize you as a name in iOS development. But it’s much easier to be a name in iOS development slash UI tableview because that’s a very specific thing. So, I usually recommend to narrow down.
And then you can always expand out later as you build an audience and then you find you expand your circle. Maybe you start out with that specialty on UI tableview. And then you expand out to UI for iOS. Or maybe expand iOS and generalize as you’ve got more of an audience then you’ve got somewhat of a name. And that’s what I did with simple programmer. Obviously, I didn’t architect this is well as I am able to give advice to people now looking hindsight. But now, simple programmer is basically – the theme is making the complex simple. The idea is life coaching for software developers. I’m the guy that it gives the motivational like the Tony Robbins type of thing for software developers. And so that’s – but starting out with that would have been really difficult because who’s going to listen to me? But once I start to build an audience.
And then that brings me to the second part of this, which is instead specializing, you can also go with theme – being unique in some way. So there was a – if you’re familiar with Iris Corazon, she’s had some pretty big popular in the Dev circle and she was able to come right onto the scene it make a really big splash with her red hair and pink hair and the way that she blogged and just her personality and attitude. It’s harder to do that. But you could also theme – you could be the angry coder, you could be whatever it is. And that could also work for you. It’s much harder to go that route so that’s why I usually recommend to specialize. But if you try to just create a generic blog on some topic, it’s going to be really really hard to gain traction. That’s my short answer.
JOHN: Yeah! That’s a good point. I think a lot of people are afraid of this are they don’t know how to – there’s two common complaints I get about what I’m saying with this. One is being pigeon-holed. They don’t want to be stuck in this thing and think that that’s all that they can do. And two is they like to do a lot of stuff. And I totally can relate to the second one. I like to do a lot of stuff. I do iOS, Android, Java, C#. You name it, I’ve done it. Tutorials on [inaudible 36:55] and all those topics but here’s the thing: is you don’t have to quit doing all this other stuff. It’s just that if you can make the focus a little bit narrower – especially for someone just starting out. You having more reputation, it’ll be probably easier for you to have your hands and more things but someone just starting out is definitely easier for them to build a reputation faster if they specialized.
But there’s a difference between what you build your personal brand around in what you actually do. So, an example I always – I always have to use this example the one conversation but I always say it like a plumber. Let’s say that your garbage disposal broke down and you go and you look for plumbers to fix it. And you’re going through a search on plumbers and you see ABC plumbing. And you see Jack’s plumbing service and then you see Mr. Garbage Disposal fix it man plumbing. First of all, you’re probably going to call that person because they targeted really well. But just because Mr. Garbage Disposal fix it plumbing fixes garbage disposals doesn’t mean that they can’t fix your toilet and get all this other business as well from you because they’re general plumbers as well.
That’s – it’s the same thing with developers. Is you could specialize in an area. Let’s say that you want to specialize and say that, “I do Java concurrency” or whatever it is. And when people come to you, they will see all the other stuff that you do. Or you can let them know about the other things. So it’s just – it’s more of being effective. Really than – the most effective thing is to have a very clear concrete message of what value you provide and what you’re about rather than being spread out. It’s like getting in an elevator you hear about the elevator pitch. It’s really hard to elevator pitch someone to be like, “Okay, well here’s what I do. So I do this iOS development but then I do this and that.” You got to pick one and go with it. Otherwise, if you’re doing that elevator pitch to get a job for land a client or something, the more scattered it is, the more difficult it’s going to be to sell someone on something. There’s obviously exceptions to the rule and as you build up an audience, it becomes less and less of a thing. I always pick Uncle Bob Martin right out because he’s – he just got a name. It doesn’t matter what language he’s coding in. He can be doing fifty million things but he’s just known as an excellent software developer. So, at that level the specialization is not nearly as important. But at the lower level where you’re trying to build a name it’s more and more important.
JOHN: It’s true. I think you’re right. There’s always going to be matter of trade-off. That’s what you have to decide as an individual developer. It’s like is it’s – I would I pose this argument to you as I would say “Would you still be better off than the completely no-name developer?”
PETE: Good point.
JOHN: It’s a trade-off. You’re going to have to choose that and decide for you. I know a lot of people that have switched. They’re known for one thing and they’ve jumped over to another thing and they’ve been able to successfully transition. But almost in all cases I would say that it’s better to have a name for something in development. Even crossovers like you see it all the time in this celebrity world.
I’m not going to say anything bad about Shaq because he’s really large and he could pound me to the ground but he is a really good basketball player. I don’t know about his rapping. I know that he made a rap album. I don’t know if it’s good. But I know that his name is being at basketball player is probably what got him there the contract. I don’t think it was like he submitted a demo reel and there was a double-blind – where the person they’re like, “Oh this guy! He’s just a good rapper.” Maybe he’s a good rapper. I don’t know. I didn’t listen. But I think there’s this little bit that carry over. So, you can benefit from it but there are trade-offs.
JAIM: Who’ll go with this anonymous tall guy he seems like a good musical artist.
PETE: I totally agree to what you said.
CHUCK: Alright! Well we’re getting close to those hard stops we talked about at the beginning of the show. So I’m going to push us toward picks unless there’s just something else that will dazzle the mind and inspire people to go out and do great things for their careers.
JOHN: I thought I would give away or do like a maybe some give away and a little promotion for your audience if you’re cool with that?
CHUCK: Yeah! Sounds great!
JOHN: So if someone wants to get my how to market yourself as a software developer course, they can go to devcareerboost.com and get it. That’s devcareerboost.com. And I will give a hundred dollars off for listeners of the show and you could just use the code let’s just say “iPhreaks”. As I’ll make it nice and easy. So yes, that course – it’s a lot of what we talked about today on the show. It’s got videos that show you how to create brand and how to create a blog and how to – and e-books that talk about using social media and networking and all kinds of cool stuff to help you boost your career so 100 dollars off. Devcareerboost.com. Just use the code “iPhreaks”. And then I’d like to give away – I mean I it’s nice to get a discount on a thing but I’d rather just to like to give away something as well. And so I think the best thing I could probably give away is signed copy Soft skills book.
CHUCK: I want one of those. How do I get one of those?
JOHN: I sent you one of those!
CHUCK: I know. I’m just being funny. Anyway.
JOHN: So what I would say is for people that comment on this show, I’ll send out three of them to someone who comments on the show. I will pick it randomly just comment on the show and just say what you’re going to do you to improve your career this year. It’s near the beginning the year. So, just say what you’re going to do. What step are you going to take? Are you going to create a blog? Are you going to do something? Just something that’s going to benefit you and help your career. Because lot of people don’t think about managing the career and hopefully, this conversation get more people thinking about that. So, three free copies. I’ll send out that are signed just for commenting on the show.
CHUCK: Awesome! We’ll let it run for a few weeks and then we’ll announce winners.
CHUCK: Alright! Well let’s go ahead and do picks. Pete, do you have some picks?
PETE: Pick number one is Airbnb for those of you that haven’t used Airbnb. It’s a service for people to rent out their space to you if you are traveling for work for example and you’re sick of staying in hotels that don’t even have a coffee maker. For example, a hypothetical example. Airbnb is a good option – I just – I never had to use Airbnb before apart for vacation stuff but for work travel I’m actually really, really liking having an actual apartment I can stay in rather than the tiny hotel room the has just enough room for a bed and doesn’t have enough room for coffee maker. So, Airbnb is pick number.
I’m going to one pick an article that Martin Fowler recently published on his blog about the Diversity Mediocrity Illusion. So, this is inspired by some of the discussion earlier. And this is a conversation about how if you value really good employees or you want really good developers on your team for example, you’re probably going to get better options if you work harder to increase the pool of applicants essentially to increase your diversity. It’s hard work as an employer but the outcome is you get better employees. So probably a good deal for a lot of people.
My last pick is going to be a beer. This week, I’m going to pick Deschutes Fresh Squeezed Hop IPA. This is the season of fresh hop beers and Deschutes do really good one. I think I actually picked one of their fresh squeeze – or one of their fresh hop beers before but this is this season’s one so if you can get Deschutes Fresh Squeezed Hop IPA is my recommendation. And that’s my picks
CHUCK: Awesome! Andrew what are your picks?
ANDREW: Just got one pick today and that is – also Sundance is going on right now is we record this. It’ll be over by the time she was published but I try to go to Sundance every year so I wanted to pick Sundance but also pick film festivals in general. I think there are a lot in – all around the country and the world there are film festivals and it’s just really cool great chance to get to see movies that you definitely would not see otherwise. A lot and don’t ever end up making it out in the theaters. And you get to often see and there are Q&As and panels with filmmakers and the people in movies. And I saw a really cool documentary last night about smuggled VHS tapes and communist Romania. And it was funny and interesting and the lady who dubbed all those tapes was at the show. So, try to find film festival near you and make it a point to go. It’s a great experience. That’s my pick.
CHUCK: Yeah the big celebrity party in Park City Utah!
ANDREW: Yeah! So I was going to say about that. Sundance’s in Park City and it’s famous for being – it’s famously in Park City but they actually show – every movie has at least one showing in Salt Lake and then they also show movies in Augden so you don’t even have to go up and deal with the Park City crowds to see Sundance movies.
CHUCK: Oh cool! I didn’t know that. Alright Jaim, what are your picks?
JAIM: Alright! I’ve got one pick today. This could be a plus one pic. Andrew you pick that Bose QuietComfort headphones a while back and I think Andrew and I are on the same page here. When we hear Bose, we pretty much mean buy other sound equipment. But these things are really solid they’re lightweight. I do quite a bit of work at a coworking spot. This big open space and it’s just loud. So, if you try to focus, it’s difficult. And I need something that I can just throw in my bag. So lightweight canceling is pretty good. They’re not Audiophile headphones but generally when I’m listening to headphones, it’s a loud environment so suppression and the noise cancelling – noise cancellation’s very, very solid. So that’s my pick QuietComfort® 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones.
ANDREW: I can’t survive on an airplane without those anymore. They work so well.
JAIM: And they got the microphone so we have a meeting, which another reason I got them. So I can have meetings from the coworking spot without running to a quiet area. So they’re great. Not cheap but worth it.
CHUCK: Yeah! I’ve got a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones and they’re pretty awesome. They’re not by any means the newer ones. I’ve had them for a few years but they’re really nice.
So I got a couple picks. The first one is actually John’s blog course. I was going to pick at this week anyway and then we wound up having him on the show. You can get it at devcareerboost.com/blog-course and it is awesome. You basically get one email every day for like seven days. [Inaudible 49:10] start up a blog and it is really great. I’m not going to give away all of John’s secrets he can do that when you signed up for the course. But if you’re new to blogging, he starts at the very beginning and then he has some terrific advice for people to build a blog and get started with writing those first articles. So, go check that out.
My other pick is something that we discussed on the Entreprogrammers podcast. I also got an email about it while we were recording and it’s called Interviewed.io. And you can go and look and see where people that you want to know about have been interviewed on podcasts.
So my list is relatively short John’s list is quite a bit longer but you can also go look at other people. So, some other people that I went and looked at were John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur on fire and Pat Flynn from smart passive income and you can see all the places where they’ve been interviewed and then you can go check out those show’s if you’re interested in seeing what they had to say. Those are my picks. John what are your picks?
JOHN: I’m glad you got that one because I was trying to remember. I knew there was something I needed to pick and that Interviewed.io. It’s also a good tip just for developers that like if you try to get on a podcast, Just look for someone similar to you has gone on podcasts. And then that tool is going to be awesome. I’m going to totally use that tool to figure out where I need to be what podcast do I need to be on. So that’s good.
As far as my picks. One of them that I have is workflow. It’s a tool that I use. It’s a workflow Y. Workflow.com. And it’s just basically this list-making tool of nested lists and I’ve – they plan everything out in there now. It’s pretty cool and it’s like a to do list that has taken all these levels of nesting and you can basically like zoom in and move things around. So, I find that it’s really a good way to brainstorm things to make lists of things I need to do. I capture I all my ideas in here in different lists. So, I found it really useful.
And then another one that I have on the marketing yourself and blogging type of thing, this guy that keeps on showing up on my radar. You’ve probably heard of him he’s got a site called quicksprout.com and it’s Neil Patel. He’s the founder of crazy egg, hello bar and kiss metrics. He’s got just super good content. It’s like every time he sent me an email and he’s got a blog post in it, I click it because I want to see what’s in there. And then he has really long articles you select a couple thousand words just packed with great, great content. And he’s extremely prolific. So for people that are looking to get traffic to their blog and to figure out how to really optimized some of these things, he’s just got tons of hacks and doing things that that would help you to get your name out there and to generate traffic takes like that. So Neil Patel at quicksprout.com.
And then I got one final one, which I’ve been really enjoying this guy’s YouTube channel his name is Mark – I think it’s Marques Brownlee. It’s MKBHD he’s like a 19-year-old kid or maybe he’s twenty. He’s in college. He’s got this phenomenal YouTube channel with millions of subscribers and he goes over tech stuff and it’s just it’s awesome. It’s super, super high quality video. I like it for two reasons. One, because he keeps me up to date on all the Android, iOS, and smartphone for 4K monitors, stuff. But also his video quality is so good. I learned a lot of video production and audio production techniques from this. And just what he’s doing is pretty inspiring. So, and he’s a young guy that just has super passion for this. So, I really like to support him because it’s just pretty awesome what he’s been able to do and that’s my picks.
CHUCK: Alright well thanks for coming John! It was a great discussion and hopefully we inspired some folks to go out and take some action on their career.
JOHN: Yeah! No problem. I really appreciate you guys having me on in the discussion.
PETE: Thanks John!
CHUCK: I think we’re done we’ll catch you all next week. This episode isv ponsored by Matt.
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