MRS 064: Nathan Kontny
Panel: Charles Max Wood
Guest: Nathan Kontny
This week on My Ruby Story, the panel talks with Nathan Kontny who has been in the Ruby community since 2005. He once was a chemical engineer, and then got into programming after a broken ankle incident; after that...the rest is history! Today, Nathan and Chuck talk about Ruby, how to begin a startup company, Rockstar Coders, balancing life, and much more!
In particular, we dive pretty deep on:
1:05 – Chuck: E365 is the past episode you’ve been featured on.
1:14 – Nathan comments.
1:20 – Chuck.
1:56 – Nathan: Been in the community since 2005. I am a developer and entrepreneur. I do a lot of YouTube and videos nowadays.
2:50 – Chuck: How did you get into this field?
2:55 – Guest: It’s weird. I was a chemical engineer in the past. Back in the day 1996 I was learning...
My love for it started through an internship. It was kind of a scary place dealing with harmful materials. Make sure you aren’t carrying uranium with you, and wear multiple gas masks at all times. There was an acid leak through someone’s shoulder. I didn’t love it, but something fortunate happened. I broke my ankle in one summer, and when I showed-up they made me go to this trail where I couldn’t be near the chemicals. Well, the director had computer problems and asked him to help with him. I put in code and out came results. In the chemical industry it was/is: “Maybe the chemicals will react to this chemical in this way...?” It was this dopamine rush for me. After that summer, I wanted to do programming.
7:16 – Chuck: Same thing for me. This will manifest and then boom. I had a friend change to computer major – and this led me to the field.
8:45 – Guest: Yeah, I had a different career shown to me and then I had a choice.
9:02 – Chuck: How did you find Ruby?
9:05 – Guest: I got a job but they wouldn’t let me program because I didn’t have enough experience. I had to teach myself. I taught myself Java – 9 CDs back in the day. I stayed up late, and did anything I could to teach myself. I taught myself Java. I got promoted in the business and became a Java developer. After 5 years of that I started doing freelance work.
I love Ruby’s language and how simple it was to me. I have flirted with other languages, but I keep coming back to Ruby.
13:00 – Chuck: The same for me, too. Oh, and this makes this so much easier, and it extends so much easier. I have questions about being an entrepreneur. Anyways, you get into Ruby and Rails, you’ve done a bunch of things. What are you proud of and/or interested in with Rails? How do you feel like Rails helps with building things?
14:00 – Guest shares his past projects.
I was proud of just hosting Rails, because there were so many changes back in the day. I have helped with open source contributions back in 2009. There was a security problem and I discovered this. Nothing happened and I just went in and fixed the bug; an infamous contribution. I am proud of my performance work. I made a plug-in for that, etc. Also, work with Highrise.
17:38 – Nathan: Yeah.
17:50 – Chuck and Nathan go back and forth.
17:58 – Chuck: You’ve done all these different things. So for a start-up what advice would you give? People are doing their own thing – what’s your advice on an incubator, or doing it alone or raising capitol?
18:41 – Nathan: I take a middle road approach. You do what makes sense with your business. What works for you? I would do that. It’s hard to pick-on what incubators could be.
Ownership is everything – once you don’t own it – you loose that control. Don’t loose your equity. I wanted more control over my box. I would be careful raising money – do that as a last effort. Keep your ownership as far as you can. But if you are up against the wall – then go there.
22:29 – Chuck: Now I have 2 jobs: podcasting and developing this course. I guess my issue is how do you find the balance there between your fulltime job and your new fulltime job?
23:01 – Nathan: Yeah it’s tough. I do, too, now I am building something and trying to balance between that and Rockstar Coders. Clients have meetings and there are fires. There is no magic to it. I thought bunching your days into clusters would help me with focus, but it’s not good for the business. I don’t think the batch thing isn’t working for me. A little bit on, a little bit off. I think MT on Rockstar. Wednesday I take a half-day. Thursday all start-up, etc. It’s just balance. It can’t be lopsided one way or the other. Just living with my girlfriend and now wife was easy, but having a kid in the evening is tricky. I create nice walls that don’t interfere. I don’t know that’s it.
25:55 – Chuck: It sounds like they are completely separate. What I am building affects my people at work. I find the balance hard, too.
26:21 – Nathan: It’s also good to have partners who support you.
27:19 – Chuck: Do you start looking for help with marketing, or...?
27:27 – Nathan: Yeah that’s hard, too. Maybe? Some people aren’t in the US and they might be more affordable. My friend found someone in Europe who is awesome and their fees are cheaper. Their cost of living is cheaper than the U.S. There are talented folks out there.
28:50 – Chuck: Yeah, I had help with a guy from Argentina. I am in Utah and he was an hour ahead. So scheduling was easy.
29:27 – Nathan: I have a hard time giving that up, too. It’s hard to hire someone through startup work. Startup work needs to be done quickly, etc. BUT when things solidify then get help.
30:28 – Chuck: They see it as risky proposition. It seems like the cost is getting better so the risk is there.
30:48 – Nathan: There is tons of stops and goes if I look back into my career. In the moment they feel like failures, but really it was just a stepping-stone. It was just a source for good ideas, and writings, and things to talk at podcasters about, etc. I just feel like short-term they feel risky but in the long-term you can really squeeze out value from it. I am having trouble, right now, finding customers, it could be risky, and there might not be a market for this. But I am learning about x, y, and z. Everything is a stepping-stone for me now. I don’t feel like it’s a failure anymore to me.
32:50 – Chuck: What are you doing now?
32:55 – Guest: Rockstar.
3 / 4 teenagers want to be YouTubers! That’s just crazy and that will keep going. I want to be apart of that. I am making programs so people can make their own videos. That’s what I am fooling around with now.
35:06 – Chuck: Yeah we will have a channel. There is album art. I’m working on it. I will start recording this week.
35:43 – Nathan: It is hard to get traction there. I don’t know why? Maybe video watchers need quicker transitions to keep interested.
36:12 – Chuck: I could supply some theories but I don’t know. I think with YouTube you actually have to watch it. Podcasts are gaining traction because you can go wherever with it.
36:51 – Nathan: Right now commuting can only be an auditory experience. When we get self-driving cars then videos will take off.
37:14 – Chuck: Picks!
37:19 – Advertisement!
- Rockstar Coders
- Nathan’s Medium
- Nathan’s Twitter
- Nathan’s LinkedIn
- Nathan’s YouTube
- Past Episode with Nathan – DevChat.TV
- Writing is important.
- Book: Living with a Seal
- Book: Living with the Monks
- Sara Blakely – Spanx