Done playing Microsoft's corporate game with Suz Hinton

Suz Hinton talks about her transition from Microsoft to Stripe, mentoring and advancing one’s career and live coding.

We also talk about:
  • her role and responsibilities at Stripe,
  • how to understand what customers and users want,
  • why she left Microsoft,
  • how she now ensures the job and company culture matches her personality,
  • and about her style of mentoring junior developers.
  • Finally, Suz tells me all there is to know about live coding.
Picture of Suz Hinton
About Suz Hinton
Suz Hinton transitioned from Microsoft to Stripe.
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Read the whole episode "Done playing Microsoft's corporate game with Suz Hinton" (Transcript)

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Michaela:: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the software engineering unlocked podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Michaela. And today I have the pleasure to talk to Suz: Hinton. Suz: is a senior software engineer at Stripe. She's a full stack engineer that also loves tinkering with hardware and in addition, she regularly streams live coding sessions on Twitch. She's involved in open source and is a recognized international speaker. Today, she joins me to talk with me about her experience working at Stripe and her prior experience working at Microsoft. So I'm super thrilled. Thank you to that you are here with me today.

Suz:: [00:00:34] Thanks. I'm really happy to be here. Yeah.

Michaela:: [00:00:36] Thank you so much. So, so you recently started working at Stripe. Can you tell me a little bit about your role and what you're currently working on and what are your responsibilities? How does your day to day work look like?

Suz:: [00:00:47] I started at Stripe, I think about three months ago. And I'm a Developer advocate, I guess, in a way. Um, and so I work with basically a lot of people internally and also with the community and users of Stripe at large. Um, right now I'm actually focusing on. The terminal product offering that we have and terminal is an in-person payments product that we have. And so let's say you start out as an online business. Um, a really good example of this is Glossier who has really awesome cosmetics and personal care items. And let's say you become successful, but you'd then like to go and open a physical retail store. Like we, we actually have a story there and we can basically offer you some pre-certified readers. Um, And we have some really nice APIs that are in line with our regular payment APIs in order to get started with that. And so I focus on that particular product. I work directly with the product team. And so right now I'm working with the terminal product team and I'm trying to reduce the amount of time it takes for you to unbox a reader, to actually get it registered with your Stripe account, and then to start taking a test payment. Right now, I don't think that time is as fast as it could be. And so making a lot of tweaks and changing some of our software and our documentation in order just to get people up and running as fast as possible. So it's a really a satisfying project that I'm on right now, just because you can act actively, feel yourself improving the experience. And then that obviously has a multiplier effect to a lot of software engineers out in the wild who are actually using Stripe terminal.

Michaela:: [00:02:25] Yeah, that sounds really interesting. And it also sounds like you have to understand the customer. So are you really in contact with the customers?

Suz:: [00:02:34] Yeah, so Stripe does a lot of user research, um, and I don't necessarily have to always be out there sort of feeling the tough. And rough corners of products that we have in order to do that. And so we regularly perform a lot of user research. Every time we change our APIs, or every time we notice that we have a really interesting new user who has a really interesting case. Study that we can sort of look at. We tend to reach out to them and we have a whole team that does that. And we can invite along to those user research sessions as well for us to learn. Um, we also get a lot of feedback that, um, we solicit via online platforms and also just reaching out to people individually as well. So. I think that that's obviously one of the most important parts of my job is not just to see it from my perspective, but to actually understand how people use this every day. Um, and to kind of challenge a lot of the assumptions that we might make and totally about things like API signatures, um, how, how you can actually, um, error check and handle errors, but also just, you know, Uh, people understanding how to use our software based on how we're actually presenting the documentation to them as well.

Michaela:: [00:03:46] Yeah. I find it really fascinating. So can you tell me a little bit about, um, how you really work with this UX researchers? So you said you can invite yourself to the studies then I guess that they also write down their findings in some sort of documents, or how does that really look like? How do you consume those information?

Suz:: [00:04:06] It's very much like what you said. Um, a lot of the time it can be just a Skype video call and we talk back and forth some specific questions. Other times we will run a workshop in person, um, which my team has actually been responsible for running recently. We will help people onboard who, a new Stripe product, let's say it's billing or terminal, or, um, just. Just payments out of the box as well. And we will observe where they struggled. Um, we actually did this a lot in my previous job as well, which we're going to talk about about later and just feeling live and having to sort of point out things like, Oh, if you click on this link here in the documentation that will take you through, or, Oh, I've never seen that error before because you know, I've always. Taking the happy path when testing out, you know, some of our API signatures and things like that, it can be really illuminating to just what someone's struggled with. Something that you thought was already a good experience. And so we do like to, um, not just get, uh, online form information typed out from people we do like to kind of have that personal touch where we're actually feeling the emotions and watching the pain that people go through. So we will do in person and also remote interviews as well. Michaela:: [00:05:12] Yeah. I think that's a really a good approach to do that. And, um, I've done that several times as well. Yeah. How do you reach out to those customers? How do you reach out to the people and how do you, how do you get them to agree to spend the time helping you. Suz:: [00:05:28] I've been surprised at how willing and excited people
to talk to us at Stripe. Yeah. I think that even though our documentation is known to be very good, I think that everybody always is excited to talk about their business. They're excited to talk to us about how Stripe has really enabled them to take payments so easily and to be able to expand globally. And so. I've been surprised and really delighted to, to find out since I've joined that people are very willing to talk to us. People are very willing to dedicate time to writing up a lot of friction points for them because they know that this is a company that cares very deeply about the user experience and they feel like the investment's going to be worth it a lot of the time. Um, again, we might just spot. A lot of activity from a customer as they scale, just by looking at our internal metrics, which can cause us to reach out, or we even might bump into someone at a conference where they might ask us a question that's very interesting to us. Um, and then we will want to follow up with them, you know, um, via email, or via. You know, video chat later on. I mean, even this just happened to me this week. I got to a question when I was at App developer summit, and now I want to actually follow up because it seems like they're having a slight challenge in PCI compliance. I'm retaining that, but also like migrating to, you know, one of our new APIs, which is super interesting. So it tends to come up pretty organically. Um, but I do know that there are the user research team is actually actively, always trying to look at interesting businesses that, you know, a challenging out platform. Michaela:: [00:06:59] Yeah. So I was working with another company right now and they have some strugglers getting users, you know, to give feedback. And I really think it has all to do with how are you providing value, as you said, I think people recognize that Stripe is providing value to them. And not only that, if they talk to you and tell you the friction points Stripe will work on those friction points and make the product even better. Right. And if you can bring that message across, I think people are naturally. More willing to help. And, you know, it's a, it's a very, it's a synergy between the two parties. Suz:: [00:07:32] Right? Absolutely. Totally agree. Michaela:: [00:07:35] Yeah. That's really interesting. So, but how did you apply for this position? How did you decide that you want to work at Stripe and how did you apply? How did you come across this position? Suz:: [00:07:44] It's interesting because initially it was Stripe who reached out. However, at the time I was working at Microsoft, I had been there maybe seven months, uh, which to me doesn't feel like it's quite enough time to sort of evaluate a job and sort of accomplish what you want to accomplish. And so I did actually go into the office. I spoke at length with them, you know, I raised my concerns with leaving. I'm not leaving a company so early off to starting and things like that. So we decided to just table the conversation, um, and then, you know, pick it up at a later point. And so a little while later, I would say a year and a half later, um, I'd been at Microsoft for over two years at that point. And so I reached out to them again because I felt that it was the right time. Um, I've always really admired Stripe because I used, uh, Stripe's API when I worked at Kickstarter, um, a while ago, because kickstarter actually uses a Stripe to take, uh, pledges from, um, from backers the projects. And so it was already familiar with how good the documentation was. I was so inspired by that. It made me want to improve my own software and open source documentation. Um, and so it's always been a company I'd admired. It was more just that. I didn't think that I was, um, I guess like a good enough develop a quote unquote, to apply for a job like that. So when they reached out to me, I just thought it was this amazing privilege. And so I really wanted to eventually come to work for the company and just had to wait for the time to be right. Michaela:: [00:09:12] So then you reached out and how, how did the process go done? What's the application process that you have to go through? True. When you want to work at Stripe. Suz:: [00:09:22] So I reached out to the original person who I had all of those conversations with all that time ago. They were still at the company. Um, I asked them if they had head count for the specific role, which was to be in developer relations. And they said, yes. So I ended up applying by the official channels via the website. I submitted my resume and, um, that process. Because they were already interested in potentially hiring me. I did skip the initial phone and technical screening. Um, but then I still had a take home coding challenge. So the first step was really just doing that coding challenge. Um, after speaking very briefly with a recruiter on the phone so that I knew what the process was. Um, I turned that coding challenge around in basically like the next day, just because I wanted to churn through it. Um, and from there, um, We scheduled an onsite interview and that's very, a very similar, typical interview as far as, you know, it's a full day, you know, just like other large tech companies. Um, but it was done very empathetically. And so I was sent a giant document, um, basically informing me everything from what to dress, um, You know how to dress, which it wasn't telling me exactly what to wear. It was just telling me in a very comforting terms, like what is acceptable and like what people tend to wear to the interview and to just be myself and like wear something that I'm comfortable in, which was really great. Um, but it also just. Explained what I can expect to be tested on technically. So what signs are they actually looking for? So instead of walking in and feeling like you have no idea what they are, we're trying to, um, evaluate you on. Uh, I walked in feeling like I understood what I was supposed to be showing them, um, which was really, really great. Um, and every single interview was tailored towards the actual role that I was doing. Um, so I did everything from like a live debugging challenge where I was presented with a repository of code to clone down that when you run the actual main script, it doesn't actually work. It explodes and you have to figure out why I had to give a. A spoken presentation, uh, for one of the interviews. And that's because in my role, sometimes going to be speaking to customers and users at our user conference, which is called session. And then I spoke with marketing to try and segment different developers based on, you know, different ways to segments. Um, and then also just things like. Cultural questions and then more technical follow up as well. For me to describe things from a systems point of view, what experience I had writing my own APIs, evaluating my own APIs and actually like improving the software that I'd written. That was, there was a really, really huge, um, concentration on that as a skill as well. So I really appreciate it. Just feeling like. I got an idea of what the job was going to be like based on my interview questions. And they were also super open to me asking all sorts of honest questions too, which I really appreciated. And so that was pretty much Mo the whole process. Um, I came in very briefly to tour the local Seattle office just because that's not right interviewed and that's where I would be based and working out of. Um, and after that, the same day, they ended up sending me an offer. Michaela:: [00:12:35] Okay, well, so actually it went quite quick. Um, the whole interview process, even though it's a very, very sorrow, uh, process, but the whole experience was quick and positive. That's how you would describe it. Suz:: [00:12:48] Yeah, that would pretty high touch. Um, let's say if there were any delays in just, you know, there was a little bit of a delay between my onsite in San Francisco and coming onsite in Seattle just to, you know, speak with the site lead and things like that. There was a little bit of time in between that, but they were very good at being high touch and just keeping me updated. Um, so I thought that was really nice. Michaela:: [00:13:08] Yeah, that sounds good. So a way back actually tweeted about leaving Microsoft, and I remembered that you expressed that the job that you had to do at Microsoft did not completely fit your personality. Can you, do you want to elaborate a little bit on that? Suz:: [00:13:24] I can definitely talk about that. Um, I think that everybody's experience at Microsoft is going to differ. So I definitely want people to keep that in mind, you know, there's over a hundred thousand employees worldwide who work for Microsoft. So this is one tiny little grain of sand experience. Um, and it is very dependent on my personality as well. Um, but I think that my journey at Microsoft was. Mostly a journey of frustration, but obviously I had a lot of personal growth from it as well. So I don't regret working for the company, but in a nutshell, um, I feel that the roles that I worked in at Microsoft, specifically, the teams were developed to basically run against the grain of a lot of other teams internally. And what I mean by that is, you know, I was hired into a developer evangelism role, um, where I was working with customers and bringing product feedback directly back from the customers to the product teams. Um, and then I actually also worked in a role which was developed advocacy, which was more about trying to do outreach to users, improve, um, our samples, write demos, um, and go out to customers and actually give best practice talks about how to actually use our stuff. So there were two very different sides to the actual job and. I think that in both cases, we were supposed to be challenging the designs of the Microsoft products we were focusing on. So was focusing on IOT, for example, and we were supposed to be saying, and pushing back and saying, I know that we released this specific feature, but it doesn't fit the customer at all and we really need to change it. And here are the financial, um, you know, motivations behind it, changing this for this customer and I'm blocking them and things like that. And so you would constantly having to give quite critical feedback, um, and. Two teams who traditionally may not have necessarily had a team doing that in the past and having a mandate in to actually listen to our feedback. And so when you're really stressed out on a product team and you're trying to ship a lot of features and you're running against these deadlines and someone is coming and trying to undo that work and telling you you're working on the wrong thing and telling you that this is broken, and this could be better. Understandably, you know, you're going to get defensive about that. If you work on that product team and understandably, if you're the person giving the feedback, you can get burnt out very easily and you can feel like you're always the bad guy, you know, and you have to have, you know, a certain growth mindset in order for both parties to want to talk and work well together. And that was just incredibly challenging for my personality. Like I learned how to be less conflict adverse. Um, but at the same time, That was something that was very tough on me. Um, and so that was one aspect of it. The next aspect was just that I learned very quickly and I was told by a lot of people that, and this again, doesn't necessarily apply to everybody, but. In my experience, I was told that Microsoft is really just about playing a big game. Um, and that there was a certain hazing ritual you had to go through and you wouldn't understand how the company works for at least a year of working there. And then things would come into place and then you would build your network and then you would understand how to do your job. And then you would start playing this corporate game to get ahead. And I just rejected that from the very first week and got very frustrated at people. Gatekeeping their networks and expecting me to prove it, why I deserve to have access to that, the networks internally, and just having to constantly prove myself, even though I wasn't interested in playing that game. And so when I joined a company, I just want to. Do a good job. And I just want to, um, perform at the highest level I possibly can. And I want an environment that supports me to do that. Um, but I'm okay with just, you know, spitting by myself and being super motivated and ambitious and doing that by myself. And I, I want my work to speak for itself and I don't want to have to play these really weird social games. And so I just felt like. Certain things were rewarded that shouldn't have been. And if I did something that I thought was low effort, sometimes people rewarded that in a very exaggerated manner. When I just thought I was doing the bare minimum. Yeah. It was just a very scattered and mixed experience of trying to discover this weird board game that everyone else knew how to play that. I didn't know how to play. And that's when I figured out after two and a half years of kind of going against the grain, but also just like. Not wanting to work within that culture and trying two different teams just to see whether I could sort of find a good place. That's when I knew that it was, it was time for me to throw in the towel. Michaela:: [00:18:18] Okay. So you actually worked at different teams during your time at Microsoft?

Suz:: [00:18:21] Yeah, so I started as a technical evangelist and that's in the sales organization. Um, and that's when I knew that they didn't really screen a lot for technical experize and things like that. And I felt that I was being held back because when people see that you're in the sales org, they tend to not be as willing to engage with you from a technical point of view. So that's when a new team, um, spun up, which was in the engineering org. So when that started, I waited a few months for the dust to settle and moved over to that team to see if I could get any further in trying to do quality work, um, on the engineering org, instead of on the sales org.

Michaela:: [00:19:00] But your experiences were quite the same between those different orgs.

Suz:: [00:19:04] I would say that there were just different games. Um, and I would, I would say that I was rewarded for doing different things. I think that the second team in engineering was way better set up to succeed. Um, but that didn't necessarily mean that your relations with product teams were any easier to forge. If that makes sense.

Michaela:: [00:19:26] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Everything that you say. I mean, I can totally understand that you wouldn't like to be in that position. I think few people, I mean, some of them might strive in such a setting, but few people would really strive in that setting. Um, from my experience working at Microsoft, I see that there is. A lot of diversity in teams. Like the culture is very different. I worked with, with a lot of different product teams in the, obviously the engineering org, but even there, I could really see that. For example, the office engineering org is very, very different than for example, windows or, you know, visual studio, things like that.

Suz:: [00:20:03] Yeah. So.

Michaela:: [00:20:05] So that's really interesting to hear, um, your, your experience. So looking back there, things, can you say that you learn something that you would do different and when you now decide to join a company, even, you know, when you decided to join Stripe, which signs and signals did you look for that you think, well, these signals, somehow, if you will fit there and if you will be happy and if you can strive there

Suz:: [00:20:28] For Sure. Um, I think the first thing that I learned was to ask really tough questions in an interview. I think that because the Microsoft door opening for me, it came so sporadically and out of the blue. Um, I always sort of just like really swept up in the excitement of the fact that Microsoft, you know, Actively reached out to me and that, that were excited about hiring me. And I spoke to a few people on the team who had only actually been there for about three months. Um, so they were still obviously really excited to be there. And I think that it just didn't do my due diligence because I got too excited and I always feel like I don't have the power in that dynamic. And so I sort of realized that if Microsoft reaching out to me that. Maybe I have safety and asking some of the tougher questions in the interview and not being afraid of asking them and just trying to find people within the company that are of a similar personality to me that I can talk to you. And I've definitely done that since, you know, I asked much more tough questions at Stripe. Um, I, I also interviewed at Google and Amazon as well at the same time. And I asked. Very very, very specific questions and actually asked to speak to more people even after my interviews. So, you know, I wanted to follow up with someone who let's say works on open-source or Google in their spare time. And like, you know, what are the challenges behind IP ownership and things like that. And so I tried to be a lot better at that. Um, this time around in doing that, given that I was in a, obviously a very privileged position, I was interviewing for a, you know, several large tech companies. I sort of sized up whether or not, you know, I was. In a position where I had the safety to do that, and I did this time. So that was really good. Um, I think also just the signal to look for once you join a company, is, uh, people giving you weird advice. Like they're trying to teach you how to play a specific game. I think that's something that I was. Very frustrated upon running into it, Microsoft early on, but I definitely feel that maybe I stuck it out a little too long and didn't trust my gut. Um, I think it's important to mention that changing jobs for me is not just. Sneaking out doing an interview and signing on the dotted line and giving my two weeks notice. I'm actually not an American citizen or an American permanent resident, but I do work in the United States. And so I required, VISA sponsorship, which is a multi month. Very stressful. Yeah. Very bureaucratic process. Every time I want to change jobs. And so I do tend to dig in a little longer, um, just because psychologically and mentally, it takes a huge toll and financially to take some massive toll on me to change jobs. Um, but I think, I think that that's just more important on me asking the right questions before I joined a company. Um, and I think that that's actually been a really positive outcome. That's come from that. If that makes sense.

Michaela:: [00:23:23] Yeah, I totally understand that I was also a US visa sponsor and I was always super frightened that one day I would get fired and I don't know what to do.

Suz:: [00:23:33] Yes. I absolutely relate to that.

Michaela:: [00:23:37] I don't know, it wasn't very realistical event or something, but you know, if there were layoffs, I was like, completely shut down. I was like, Oh my God, the company is laying off people. And what happens, you know, if they would decide to lay me off.

Suz:: [00:23:51] Yeah. Because it was terrible. Very

Michaela:: [00:23:53] tricky. Right, right. Yeah. It's tricky. It's not that easy if you don't, if you cannot just stay at, I don't know if I recall correctly, but I had in mind that within two weeks, I actually have to find a new job. That would fit to the visa that I had and things like that. Suz:: [00:24:10] So it's scary. Michaela:: [00:24:12] It is right? Yeah, it is. It

Suz:: [00:24:14] is. That's really Michaela:: [00:24:15] true. Um, so, well, can we talk a little bit about the software engineering process at, as Stripe? Because I'm super interested in how either. Different companies and different people, different teams developed software. And one of my favorite topics code review. So I would love to talk about code reviews with you.Um, what code you have your practices have you experienced during your career, the different companies and what stands out for you where you think well, that's really, that makes a good code review practice.

Suz:: [00:24:49] Most of the code review practices I've been through at companies have been pretty similar to each other. Um, I think that the first job I worked in there was actually code review because that wasn't always a thing in my career. Uh, somebody would write an entire feature. They would take maybe three months to write this too. Um, and sometimes in isolation, because if you're working for a startup, sometimes you're just owning the entire product and. Before bundling up to deploy the, basically like the highest ranking person in engineering within them, would sit down with that person and just go through it together, which to me is like incredibly laborious and isn't necessarily productive to catching easy things that could have been caught early on. Um, and so I saw like a lot of major refactors being needed, um, at that time. And so as I've sort of worked at a variety of places, the most common approach to this, which is very different to that is to. Look into continuous deployment, which means that you're actually just bundling up a couple of different commits, whether that's in git or. You know, another source control method. Um, usually you just bundle up something small, something that's sort of self encapsulated, and then you ask for at least one person to review it. So Stripe is no different from that. Um, Stripe deploys, lots and lots of times a day. Um, and they have a lot of different engineers actually working on the like, you know, the same service slash services. And so, um, It's the same kind of mentality. So you work on something, it doesn't necessarily yeah. To be the full feature, complete you, right. Open a pull request and you assign a specific person. And then we have a bunch of Gates in the way, um, such as automated testing and also, you know, human reviewers in order for that to then become mergeable and then deployable out to production. Michaela:: [00:26:40] And the Stripe have any guidelines or real policies around at least one person of that team or with that expertise has to look through, or is that your diligence to, you know, select the right reviewer for your code piece? Suz:: [00:26:57] So we are pretty strict about requiring at least one person to look at it. And part of that is just the nature of the payments industry, um, when you're handling people's money and when you're writing software in order to do that, um, there are certain requirements and compliance. Requirements that we need to actually satisfy in order to keep our code secure in order to keep people's information secure. And so just as a general rule, we always have at least one person, um, looking at the code that someone else wrote just to remain compliant with those requirements. Um, beyond that, though, you are allowed to choose who you think is the best. Person to look at something, um, it's, it doesn't necessarily fall down to this mandatory hierarchy and you are trusted to choose the correct person, you know, with the right knowledge. Um, but also with the right amount of fresh eyes, to look at something that you've written, um, in order to gauge whether or not, you know, everything seems to check out. Okay. So I really liked that. I think that's very empowering and also it's a really nice opportunity to pair with people and learn from other people. And given that, you know, we always require that out of the gate. Michaela:: [00:28:02] Yeah. So one of the topics that I wanted to talk with you about is mentoring junior developers. And I know that you, you do that. Um, can you tell me a little bit about how you do that and what you focus on when mentoring junior developers? Suz:: [00:28:19] So I definitely got into mentoring accidentally, and I still feel that I still do that. Um, what I've found is that. You know, I've been a senior engineer for a number of years now, you know, this is my 15th year in the field and that. That industry that we're in has just changed so quickly in that amount of time. Um, and I think now that juniors who are entering the field have to know a lot more than I did when I first got started. I think that, um, back in the early two thousands, it was a lot more scrappy. Uh, there was no concept of cloud computing. There was no real JavaScript on the front end because it wasn't performance. Um, and things like that. There were just so many. I guess like extra things that I just didn't have, have to learn that people have to learn these days. So I have a lot of empathy for Juniors entering the field. I would say that there are at least two to three times more qualified to, um, to not qualify because that's kind of like a judgy thing, but yeah. But just the, the two or three times more knowledgeable entering the field, um, compared to when I entered. Right. Um, and so I think that that's something to be respected and also they're probably feeling very overwhelmed because they also, even though they know a lot more, they also know how much more they need to know. So a lot of the time, you know, I would see juniors get hired into companies that I've worked at. And then I would come in on their first day and I'd be like, Oh cool. So where are they going to sit? And then I would find out nobody had. Assign a seat to them. And then I would say, Oh, okay. So like, who was their buddy? And they'll be like, Oh, it's like, it's Steven over there, but Steven's actually in meetings all day. And then I would just start tearing my hair out because I thought, Oh, if, if that was me starting, I would just feel so unwelcome. And so just like left in the deep end and I would feel a lot of imposter syndrome and things like that. So it came out of just like, Heart ache and a bleeding heart to just help smooth over that experience. But I found that a lot of other senior engineers who I worked with were not actually super stoked or, you know, to mentor or if they did put their hand up, they didn't really understand what the commitment was. So it came out of an arrogance on my part of I can do better than this, and I really, really want to make their experience a lot better than it is. Um, and so usually I would voluntarily reach out to someone and say, Hey, I know that you've got. X person that you're studying with, or I know that this person onboarded you and that onboarding is now complete, but would you like to have someone going forward, who you compare with, you know, maybe at a minimum of two hours a week, but if you wanted to bug me for questions, you can also do that. And my prerogative was to mentor them technically. Which then kind of bleeds into helping them level up their career and learn how to work with teams and things like that. I think if you start with the technical call, it sort of fans out to them. So asking other questions about how their career relates to the technical side of what they're learning as well. And so it just came out of an, a want to make other people stronger in order to make my own engineering team stronger. And also, uh, I have a teaching background, so I do miss teaching a little bit. Um, and so it kind of helps me. Express that as well. Michaela:: [00:31:27] Yeah. I mean, when you explain that, like that, I feel like, Oh, I want to be a mentee. It sounds really cozy and dinner. I would have, if somebody reaches out and offers, you know, to, you know, answer some questions, I actually didn't experience that in my career. It felt like, Oh, I can go there. And. It would have helped so much and still worked. Right? I mean, right now, actually I'm seeking out mentors a lot more pro actively, but I've never had a person come up to me and say, Oh, you know, do you need some help? Suz:: [00:32:03] yeah Michaela:: [00:32:03] So right now I'm really seeking out mentors and, you know, proactively approach people and ask questions. I don't think that they think they are my mentors. I feel they are my mentors, but yeah, I totally, you see the value in that. And I think it's so wonderful that you do that. And so you also said that you're starting with the technical side, which I like a lot, because that's concrete. Right. That's, you know, you're sitting down, you're looking at the piece of code, they have questions, you know, about Michaela:: [00:32:30] how to do something. Yeah. And yeah, it's, it's, it's very concrete and it's very clear. And then it evolved into something more. So you also said that you're helping them advancing their career. So, um, how do you do that for yourself? How do you develop your soft skills, communication, conflict management, empathy, and also, you know, fitting into a team and things like that. Suz:: [00:32:55] I actually find this side of. Engineering really, really challenging. And so you discussed before how you didn't really have any mentors in your career so far, and you've only just started doing that. I didn't have a single mentor until I actually started at Microsoft and the person they paired me with was just. Like so incredibly the same as me, which was very helpful. Um, and so I would say that developing those skills for myself was a lot harder and came a lot later in my career. And so that mentor, because I knew that there were a very similar personality to me, but they'd been at the company a year and a half and in had enjoyed quite a lot of success. I knew that if it was possible for them to achieve success, even though there were different things at play, for example, uh, Uh, this, this mentor was a man, I'm a woman. And so obviously we have different sort of cultural things that we can, uh, different cultural challenges we can run into. I figured that if they were able to be, um, successful with their mindset and their approach to things, then maybe I could be successful too. So I just tended to ask them a lot of questions. I, I tended to interrupt them a lot and say, hi, I've run into this challenge where I want to work with X person, but it seems like they're not. Super willing to work with me. Have you bumped into that before? And how did you solve it? And so it was a very slow process of me just saying, do you ever feel like this? And they'd be like, and I'm like, well, how did you solve that? Um, mostly because I think that I've gone through. Like a huge chunk of my career being the only developer or the only front end developer or the only technical person in a company, you know, that was my first seven or eight my career. And so landing on a team when you wrote that many years into your career is incredibly challenging. And I really just had to bunk it down, observe people, try and mirror the behaviors until I figured out enough to be competent. And then from there, I could sort of ask some of the harder questions. And so it definitely just, if you don't have a mentor trying to kind of model yourself after others, you admire can be a very effective way of sort of upgrading your skills, so to speak. Michaela:: [00:35:03] Yeah. That's what I'm doing now a lot. And so, and so have you ever thought about, you know, becoming a leader manager thing like that, or do you want to stay in the individual contributor role? Suz:: [00:35:19] Yeah, this is a huge challenge in my career. I think just given that there aren't, there aren't actually that many women who I encounter very often now who have been yeah. And the industry, as long as I have. And, um, there, there are like quite a few don't get me wrong, but you just don't encounter them very often. So sometimes I feel alone in this, but I've been a tech lead twice. That's the closest I've gotten to management and I've had people unofficially reporting to me. Before bed, it's been more of a mentoring role and it's not like a pay grade. Or official title. It's more just that, Hey, this person really likes learning from you. So can you just check in with them and do one-on-ones every week, but I'm not actually doing their expenses? Um, I think that's the closest I've ever gotten. It's not something that I'm interested in, in the slightest. I love sitting down and just coding every day. I mean, in developer relations, you don't get to code like, you know, for the entire eight hours, but I still get to ship stuff. I still get to focus on. APIs. And I still get to like sit around and mess around and Docs seeing if I can, you know, make an experience better. And, and I still get to actually open PRS and look at other people's code and talk to people and have those technical conversations. Some managers are able to juggle a little bit of both. Um, but I just don't think that I'm the right person for that. I think that I still would need to work on my conflict resolution skills, um, and things like that. I just don't know that I have the right stuff, but I'm also not super interested in becoming so good at this stuff. That being a manager would be easy. Um, I would rather just be. Really good at working with other engineers, really good at talking to the business and really good at coding. If I could just have that lovely trifecta stay in individual contributor and keep shipping things, that would be my perfect balance. And so I've definitely turned down almost every management role or anything that looks like management. These days. I tend to run away from just because my tech lead experiences weren't particularly, uh, fulfilling either. Michaela:: [00:37:23] And do you have the feeling that at Stripe you can stay and progress as an individual contributor? I know that at Microsoft is individual contributor path can really, you know, you can advance your career and really become a thought leader in the company. Right? So it's something similar happening at Stripe. Do you see that?

Suz:: [00:37:42] I've looked at the engineering ladder is there's a slightly different engineering ladder for develop relationships just because we're not just sitting around shipping stuff all day. Right. So you have to show leadership and not just writing good code. Um, and obviously engineers have to also show good teamwork skills and technical leadership skills too. I'm not discounting that. Um, but yeah, we do actually have different career ladders, even just within engineering for different roles, which I really like because that's tailored towards, um, Making it clear what's required and making it clear what your opportunities are. So in a lot of the engineering letters that I've read internally at Stripe, there are actually focused in the road where you can go towards the manager track, or you can fork off the other way. And the manager track is kind of seen as a, is more treated as a career change as well, which I really liked just, just from a cultural perspective. Um, and so I think that that's been a really. Good thing to give me the confidence that I'm going to have long-term success here, because I can already see examples as well on different product teams and engineering teams of people who have succeeded at that. And people who I can talk to in order to find out, you know, like what was successful for them to reach that level. Michaela:: [00:38:51] Yeah I really like those career change mentality that you think a management is a career change and isn't the progression, right? And if you are not becoming a manager, it means that you somehow stack which. Is somehow implied that some companies, but I see more and more companies that really have, as you said, these career change mentality where just, you know, can go on with what you're really passionate about. And, uh, well that's technology, right. And thinking with your code and things like that, then that's what you become an expert on. Right? Suz:: [00:39:24] There's also another distinction within the, I guess like the individual contributor track, which is, there are certain career levels where you can communicate that you don't want to proceed to the next level. Does that make sense? And so for a lot of people, that sounds counterintuitive and it sounds really unambitious, but I don't. Necessarily think that's the case. And so you can reach a certain level where you can just say, I would like to stay on this level now for X amount of years, or I would like to stay here forever, or I would like to stay here until I changed my mind. And what that means is when people have different abilities, different capabilities, different thresholds, for things they might just. Really, really, really, really love the work that they are expected to do on a certain level. And they don't want to give that up. And, and, you know, they don't want to feel pressured to move to the next level of taking on things that aren't necessarily, um, something that they would really want to get up. Out of bed in the morning to do, I think that's an enormous privilege to have in a company where you're, you know, where a lot of the time, the mentality, you always need to be like being the absolute best, you know, but that's a really subjective term because moving up levels doesn't necessarily mean you right. Actually improve at what you do. It just means that yeah, you satisfied certain requirements or you got really lucky and got a really large responsibility project and, you know, The, the CEO noticed it in, you know, thought that that should be recognized. I think it's really wonderful to just say no, actually I think I'm actually really good here right now. And that can be really supportive as well for people who may not be in a certain situation in their life where they can take on that extra challenge either. And I just, that was something that really stood out to me when I started at Stripe where you can actually. Um, opt to stay at a certain level. Once you've gotten to a certain competency within the company, Michaela:: [00:41:10] I really loved it because, um, there is there, I think it's a comic or something where you see that people, you know, they always progress to the next level until they are completely out of their competency. Right. So they're incompetent in what did you and yeah, you're, you're totally right. If you are good at what you do, right. And you love what you do have a passion for it. Why change. Maybe sometimes, and maybe it's for a several years, maybe it's for half a year or whatever. Right. It's just right to be where you are. And I think it's really about seizing the moment and it doesn't have to always be the change that you're striving for. I really like if you can have both, right. So I know that there are some companies that when you're hired into it, it's expected that you always stay in that. I don't think that's really a good thing, but. Michaela:: [00:42:00] I love that if you have, if you, if you can choose right now, I'm feeling that I can do something else I can take on a new challenge. Or as you said, I am staying where I am, because I'm actually doing really good work right now. And I like it. Suz:: [00:42:14] Yeah, I think it gives people space to do that best work. And sometimes their best work is not necessarily going and learning something new. You know, sometimes it's just that they're just going to be so ultra valuable on something and, and, and an Alliance so well with the team and, and them as well. And I think that's a wonderful thing to celebrate and something that tends to be judged as being on ambitious. And I think that that's the wrong way to think about it

Michaela:: [00:42:37] yeah yeah, I agree. So one of the things that I want to talk with you about is the regular live coding events that you have on Twitch. So, first of all, can you tell me a little bit more about that I've coding and also to the listeners as well is live coding. Why do you do it? How did you start? You know, everything, we want to know everything. Suz:: [00:42:57] So live coding tends to fall into two different tracks. Um, I'm on one of them, there's the track that you actually perform at a, like a DJ and new live code visuals and things like that. So sometimes I can get con people can get confused about the two definitions. So that's one definition. I have friends that do that. The other definition, which is. Probably like a more recent one is the phenomenon of, um, of coding, but then sharing yourself, coding live via the internet. So that's usually sharing your screen. Um, sometimes it's sharing your webcam as well and your voice, and then people can just watch and listen to your process, um, and actually see that live via a video stream, essentially. Um, and so that's what I do every Sunday. I've been doing it for around three years. Um, I take breaks if I need to travel or if. Or whatever, but it's usually almost every single Sunday and we just sit down for two hours and I explain some pull requests that I'm looking at to potentially merge, or I'm preparing a demo for a talk that I'm giving, um, that's coming up or just really anything that I need to get. Done on that Sunday that I'm going to enjoy working on. Um, you know, I like to kind of show that and I think it's, it's fun for people to learn from, but it's also fun for me cause I learned from other people as well. And it just provides me with a little company while I'm working on something. Michaela:: [00:44:17] I imagine it's super stressful, to be honest. I mean, I'm very afraid of interviews for example. And it also, if somebody looks over my shoulder that I'm not very familiar with. I mean, if it's a colleague that I trust that's okay. But so some stranger, for example, looking over my shoulder, I sometimes forget where the keys are on my keyboard someday. I can't type anymore. So, how do you deal with that? Do you enjoy it? Do you enjoy it from the beginning? And that people actually see what you do? Do you get nervous? And if I would like to do that, what would you advise me? How can I go get over my fear of being observed and judged and things like that? Suz:: [00:44:59] I think this is a very valid concern. And just for the record, I still perform super badly in interviews, especially white boarding interviews and things like that. Like if you ask me the question casually, when I was in my house, I would be able to immediately solve it. Um, but if. You put me on the spot in a power dynamic where someone is literally judging me on my abilities, and has something that I want to such as I would really like this job and impressing this person relies on that. Then I completely fall apart. I forget basic programming concepts. I just don't know what it is. And I've tried to overcome that for years with live coding. It felt very similar at first. So you're not actually wrong likening that. Um, and I used to rehearse what I was going to do the night before, which meant essentially I was doing double the work because I would basically type it out, see where I was going to get stuck. And then the next day I would do exactly the same thing, which, which, which is very counter intuitive. And you could tell at first I was trying to impress, but I was also trying to provide a really good experience for other people. It was more about them than it was about me, even though it was also about me trying not to look like I. Hadn't you know, trying not to look like I'd forgotten how to program. Um, but I eventually became comfortable just because you start out with a really small audience when you live code, because not. Not a lot of people know what you're doing. You don't even have to tell anyone what you're doing. And you could just sort of like very slowly ease into it and get used to that's the technique that I used, you know, I, for the first month I rehearsed every single project I was going to work on and also just didn't really tell anyone about it. Um, then I started watching my videos back, looking at what, you know, issues I was running into and things like that. Gaining the confidence, looking at what I actually liked that I did. Good. Um, and gaining confidence through that. And then I just slowly kind of stopped caring about it. Um, And, and I actually couldn't live code on stage much easier now, too, if I'm doing a demo or something, I think for me, it's when people are looking at my fingers, I forget how to type I'm exactly the same as you. Um, but on the stream, they can't actually see your fingers. They can see how slow you're typing, but they can't necessarily see your fingers. The, the one thing that I will say, though, is. When you're coding by yourself and you're listening to the perfect music or you're listening to silence or whatever, you're always going to be very productive compared to when you're on the stream. You know, I'm looking at the chat, I'm trying to talk aloud while I'm programming, I'm running into bugs. And again, I'm feeling those judging eyes on me when, when I run into bugs and I do the exact same thing in interviews where my mind goes blank. So. It's going to happen and you have to be comfortable with the fact that some people are gonna think that that's literally your coding ability and you can't do anything about that. But I tend to try these days to communicate and defend that live coding is much harder than it looks and you will never, ever be as smart and fast and productive as you are when you're alert. Michaela:: [00:47:52] Yeah. I mean, I have two kids and if they make a scene in a wild and then all the other parents look at me and I feel super Josh, this reminds me on that. Oh my God, I'm not that bad parent. You know, it's just, it looks like. Suz:: [00:48:13] Exactly. Yeah. I actually spoke to a young parent who she said the same thing to me this week and she's a programmer as well. And it was funny that we were comparing. Michaela:: [00:48:22] So, um, why do you use Twitch and not YouTube? Um, there's is there something like a streaming community on YouTube as well, or is Twitch the platform, if you want to do that, Suz:: [00:48:32] there is, it's kind of odd because I think that conceptually YouTube makes more sense because YouTube is a variety platform. Um, whereas Twitch is more geared towards gamers. I think the difference is that Twitch started out as a streaming platform like live streaming and YouTube has more sort of expanded into that offering. So I think that Twitch has a better foothold and a better and deepest story about the nuances of how different live streaming is to prerecorded videos. I think that YouTube is catching up, but I find that. The discover-ability of live streams on Twitch, based on categorizations and things like that. And then also just the different and very nuanced moderation tools on Twitch. Also just better in general, even though it's designed for gaming platforms and it can be a very strange phenomenon of weird cultures of remotes and, you know, Different ways of getting streams, his attention and things like that. I think that it's just a more mature platform is to knowing what stream is need and the tools that they need in order to get the job done. Michaela:: [00:49:43] So I watched some of your past streams because they are actually on Twitch as well. And you can go there and you can just replay one of those. And they started, well, there's a lot of chat going on and I've wondered, how can you even, you know, how can you not only chat? I mean, there are several people, I mean, a hundred people. Writing to you and your one person that has to respond or read every comment, and then you have to do the other task as well. So do you, do you do that on your own or do you have another person that actually looks at, because I know for example, for webinars, do you sometimes have a team then, you know, you're giving the. talk. And if I, for example, have a webinar, they teach something. Then I have a team. Maybe that's handling the questions with the audience, but for that, it looks like you do everything yourself.

Suz:: [00:50:33] It's so hard. It is really hard. And this is where I come back to. You just become the worst programmer in the world because you're basically. It's like, it's like people dancing in front of you and like, and like asking you questions about every character you're typing to get work done in an office that was like that where everyone it's like yelling at you all at once while you're trying to type something. Yeah. So you are correct. And I have between 250 and 300 people, every stream that watch me. And on average, I have around a hundred people in the chat. So you, you are correct that it is really hard. Um, I try to just sort of. Subconsciously have like a time box where I'll code them. Talk for a bit, then I'll look at the chat. Maybe I'll have to scroll up a little bit. Cause it was too much activity. And then come back at the, you know, sort of answer the questions, come back and then keep coding. Um, you'll, you'll notice. And that when I watch my own streams back, just for analysis, you'll see that there are some questions where I'm like, Oh, I missed that question. Or she ignored that person. So, you know, there's no way to do it perfectly. Um, but I found that. After I've made some of my, my regular viewers who are really, really. Good community members. I've made the moderators a lot of the time, I will answer questions that have very common that come up such as what font is that in your terminal? Or are you using theme or, you know, like what project are you working on right now? So we have chat, command, chatbot short cuts that can help answer some of those common questions, which leaves me more time to kind of look at some of the more meety questions, but I don't have a. Perfect answer for this because it is actually really hard. I just trained myself to, after a certain amount of time, just, you know, feel like, okay, I should look over him and have a look at it. But yeah, it is, it is, it does feel like a one man band a lot of the time. Um, even though I do have moderators that helped me out with some of the most simple stuff. Michaela:: [00:52:24] And so why do you do Don? Why do you do live coding? What, what do you get out from out of it? Yeah. What motivates you to do that? Suz:: [00:52:31] I think initially I was feeling frustrations with, um, a few things, which was why I started the first thing was like, when I mentored people one on one that didn't scale very quickly. Um, and I felt that. People kept, I guess, putting me on a pedestal because of the open source work I did because it's like hardware and IoT related, but they didn't understand no matter how many times they tried to communicate it that well, if you want us to contribute to this project, you don't necessarily have to have. Any electronic knowledge, because I am still coding it all in JavaScript. So if you know JavaScript, then there is still, you know, a lot of areas of my software where you could improve certain patterns or you could help me update dependencies, or you could fix documentation, or you could just, um, You know, refactor small parts to a more modern version of, you know, um, the JavaScript language, you know, because I have a lot of stuff that I wrote in the ES5 that's all we had back then, you know? And so I try to convince people of that and they just sort of smiled and nodded. Um, and so I sort of sort of thought, well, I'm just going to show people. And I'm also going to show people that I'm not some hardware wizard that gets everything perfect. Every time I do make mistakes. And you know, I want people to see why I enjoy working on open source. In my spare time as well. And maybe people will be less afraid of contributing and maybe I'll be able to make some more friends via open source, you know, that way.
Michaela:: [00:53:59] And do you feel that you made some friends in that community now on Twitch? Suz:: [00:54:03] Definitely. In fact, in, I think just over a week's time, I'm going to meet two of them in Europe, which I'm really excited about it. There are two people who, uh, have been contributing to one of my projects for almost. I think a year and a half now. And they're just the most wholesome, wonderful people, uh, who turned up in my stream a lot. Uh, they're both moderators as well. They helped me, you know, moderate, any bad behavior I have. And. Honestly, the project is so much better as a result of contributions from not just those two people, but a lot of other people. And so it's, it kind of is this reminder every Sunday that there are nice people on the internet. And I think that. In enough is a reward to me knowing that yeah, there's people out there who understand why I'm doing this. You understand that I'm trying to create nicer communities and are willing to be part of that and help me defend that community. Michaela:: [00:55:04] Okay. That sounds really nice. So Twitch is really a cornerstone for you to build your community, to make open source, more welcoming showing, you know, show you to the people, communicating on a on again. I think it comes to me back to how you mentor, right? You start, you said you start with code. You're actually start with the problem with, with the hard facts. Right? And if you are. Using Twitch and is showing how you code, how you approach problems. You're again, back at the very basic of what programming is about. Right. Well, even though you said you started three years ago, I think it's a very new phenomenon. And, um, it's just getting, it's just starting to get traction all over the place. What do you think what's the future of live coding? Suz:: [00:55:52] Yeah. I mean, there were people before me too, such as handmade hero and, um, phlegm Flamborough game studio. But I think that now people are starting to actually understand why it's beneficial. Um, and I think that a younger generation who loves to learn from videos is definitely, you know, rising up into our field. And, and, and, and so it's gaining a lot of relevancy from that too. So yeah, I think this was an insightful chat about it. Michaela:: [00:56:17] Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I think we've talked a lot about very different topics areas. So if we want to reach you, we can go on Twitch. Well, how do I find you there? Suz:: [00:56:32] Yeah. So in most social media, my, um, username or handle is NoopKat or new Paquette. You can pronounce it any way you like, and that's N double O P K a T. Um, and so I am twitch.tv/noopkat. And on Twitter, I am twitter.com/noopkat as well. Michaela:: [00:56:51] Yeah, I will link everything in the show notes so that people can find you. Thank you so much for showing me, you know, your work and also, yeah. Getting me some insights into live streaming. So thank you so much for joining my show. Thank you so much. Suz:: [00:57:06] Thank you. Michaela:: [00:57:07] Okay. Bye. Bye. I hope you enjoyed another episode after software engineering unlocked podcast. Don't forget to subscribe. And I talk to you again in two weeks.

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