This video features a discussion with Raymond Camden, a developer evangelist at IBM. Raymond has a popular blog at raymondcamden.com. He writes for various online publications, speaks at a lot of technical events, is a book author, and is an author of Learning Learning content.
- Hey there, this is Ray Villalobos, and this week we're talking to Raymond Camden, a Developer Evangelist at IBM. Raymond has a popular blog at raymondcamden.com. He writes for various online publications. Plus he also speaks at a lot of technical events, and he's also a Linkedin learning, as well as a book author. He previously worked at Adobe also, as a Developer Evangelist. So how's it going Raymond? - It's going great, how about for you? - Super good man.
So really nice talking to you. I remember I actually met you at a Fluent conference, which was fantastic so... So Developer Evangelist isn't always a roll that everybody is familiar with so, can you talk about how you got into that, and what exactly it entails? - Yeah sure, so to me what the job entails is trying to get people excited about technology. Normally it should kind of sync up with what my company is doing.
But the best companies understand that having people out there talking about tech in general can be helpful, whether or not it ties to something that they're selling or whatever. So at IBM, my role entails working with LoopBack, which is a node.js API open-source tool. But it also involves node.js, as well as Apache OpenWhisk, which is a serverless technology, which is also opensource.
But normally my job involves making CAT programs. Various CAT examples, anything that relates to a CAT, I will build a program around that, and use it on my blog. - That's pretty cool, so you still, even though you are a advocate, you still get to do some development? - Absolutely yeah, so when I'm learning something, I build a bunch of programs, and as I struggle to learn something, I make sure I turn everything that I struggle with, I turn into a blog post.
It's because I assume that somebody out there is also struggling with the same thing. So if I can help them get past whatever I had a problem with, then that's good. And that's actually how it started. I started blogging and presenting shoot, maybe 15 years or so ago. And really it was just, this was hard, here's how I solved it. And doing that consistently and you know, talking about what I've learned, has been a great thing for me, and I've really enjoyed it. - Yeah, I often wonder if a lot of people would sort of be shocked that that's actually exactly how most people learn, even the people that speak at conferences you know, this is how we pick things up.
We sort of struggle through things and then perhaps what we do that's a little bit different is, we try to sort of communicate that, and to help somebody who hasn't gone through some of the issues that we went through, get to where we are at least. So how do you think that your education helped you to be successful in this career? Obviously you do a lot of writing and speaking, so maybe this has helped you in a number of different ways, so can you talk about that? - Sure, I was a Comp Sci major when I started, mainly because of Tron.
I was convinced I was going to make Light-cycle Games as a career. And I was also good at Math. And what I found out is that good at Math in high school, means absolutely nothing in college. There's like Math you're good at, and then there's like scary Calc three type stuff, and Calc three is where I hit my wall, and I was just done. No more math for me forever. And also like the Computer Science programs just, they weren't exciting for me. It wasn't you know, it wasn't the fun part of programming.
And so I switched to English with the focus on technical writing, and I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the writing part. I enjoyed the English as well, the literature. And around the same time, the Worldwide Web was launching. I remember running Mosaic on a Sun SPARCstation, and just exploring the Web, and starting to build on the Web. So my major gave me some writing chops, but to be honest, I live and breath by Editors, you know, thank God for Editors.
I can write a lot of stuff, but I really, really need a good Editor to come in there and clean up my mess. - Yeah that's funny, because very similar to what happened to me so, in high school I discovered Pascal, and I thought wow, this is fantastic, and then I started doing programming courses in college but, for me, like a couple of things that were super odd were like assembler, and also calculus two and three so, those actually were like this is not fun, like this isn't the fun thing that I thought it was going to be.
And I think like when the Web came in, it kind of showed me like here's something that I think you can do, and that you will have fun with. It combines design and everything else, so that's actually why I went into a journalist, because I enjoyed you know, my degree was little bit more focused on design, even though it's a journalism degree but, I had to still learn how to write sufficiently. So it's actually interesting that it's a similar sort of path for both us but, what kind of things do you think where, like for me I know that for me the writing was super helpful, because it's a lot of what I do now is writing so, what other things do you remember that maybe a degree has helped you with? - Yeah I think the Humanities in general for me, just helped me think better, helped me think more broadly about things, than if you're a Comp Sci degree, I'm definitely not putting that down.
I'd probably have a job at a big San Francisco company, if I had those Comp Sci chops. But it just worked better for me, and I've found a lot of people who work on the Web now have Humanities programs in their past, and for whatever reason, it's working out for them. - Yeah definitely, obviously the technical writing has helped you, because you are really prolific, like you write a lot of articles so that's probably something that people don't necessarily sort of think that they're going to do as computer programmers but, it's really helpful to like be able to almost like work through problems you know, and then write about them.
Because actually teaching how it's found, helps me learn things better, when I have to dig into a subject. So you're definitely somebody that has a lot of experience with just a lot of different technology so, how do you stay motivated, because I see you trying out different things. I saw some of your articles on like React, and I think that that's something I'll view and you know, I know of your background with cold fusion and you've got all of these technologies in the Web, and sometimes it's a bit overwhelming, especially for somebody who has a job so, how do you keep motivated to you know, stay up with the pace of everything going on? - It's hard sometimes for sure.
It's definitely overwhelming at times. I try to be realistic about how much I can do, which is hard to do when you're on Twitter, and you see 5,000 new blog posts about whatever, and so and so talking about some topic. So I get off Twitter, that's helps. And you know, I try to set my goals to be very broad. So like my two main goals now are Serverless and General, primarily with the IBM Apache open with stuff, and also Vue.
But I'm not looking at that as like you know, I'll be an expert in January or February. It's like 2018, that is my goal is to become very good at those two things. So that's a real long time to ramp up, and to write 800 blog posts on, and do presentations and stuff like that. And it's just two things I mean, they're two kind of broad things. But I can now leave it open in terms of what I will focus in on both of those, and how deep I'll get.
- Yeah, that's a good idea like the ability to focus on something, have some sort of goals, but you understand that maybe in six, eight months, your goal might change, but that's perfectly fine I mean, if there's something that comes along that is perhaps better, I don't know, React or something else, then you have the flexibility to move, and that's totally okay. Give yourself permission to explore something else, and change your plans. You can't, in this industry, really can't have like a five-year plan, because who knows what's going to be around like in five years.
So you stay pretty busy with speaking engagements. So for somebody that's just getting started you know, I run into a lot of kids who don't want to sort of engage socially, so what are some of the advantages of, that you have found from sharing and just generally being social within the industry? - Its helped me a lot, so a lot of my writing just helps me submit my own knowledge of stuff, so from a purely selfish reason, if I struggled with X, and I blog about it, it helps me remember it more.
- Like, I feel like, has that helped you in terms of like making connections for perhaps projects or jobs, or that kind of stuff? - Absolutely. My current job, it was word of mouth. I think it was definitely based on my history, on my blog and presentations and stuff. It helped a lot. I would definitely say to people you know, don't think of presentations as just like conference-type things. Most companies I know, they would love, like your own company. They would love you as an employee to say hey, I want to talk to my coworkers about X, and that's extremely informal, probably like four or five people, your own team, your friends hopefully.
It's not the same as like submitting a CFP, and speaking to a room full of strangers. So there's a lot of opportunities to share, and obviously at local meetups as well. So maybe some strangers, but you know, not the same as a giant conference. - It's busy I mean, start by maybe sharing where you're at, I think it's for I mean you know, I've mentioned this before in different places, but I'm an introvert by nature, so it was really hard for me to learn to get out there, but for an introvert it's much more comfortable to get involved with people that I already know.
It's really easy if I know somebody, to help them. So that's a great point like start maybe with your own company, and then find a way of turning that around, and seeing if you can maybe go to a local meetup, and then maybe like a bar camp, or something else that's kind of local. It's definitely difficult to start at you know, doing a request for a proposal, or trying to get a gig at a big conference. So start you know where you're at, and I think like for me, almost every job that I've ever gotten has been as a result of some sort of other thing that I did to get out there.
My first job in the industry was me volunteering at a group, and because of that volunteering experience, somebody knew you know that there was an opening at Tribune Interactive, and that's how I got that job you know. It wasn't, if I would've applied for that job, I would've never gotten it. Because you know, if you read like the formal sort of request for what you need to have for a job, you know, sometimes I think you get overwhelmed. And having like a good contact, to kind of get you in the door a lot better, and a lot quicker.
- Yeah definitely. At my job now, it was a former Adobe person who mentioned me to his boss, and he reached out to me, so that definitely helped. - Yeah definitely. So I know that you live in Louisiana, which isn't necessarily a huge tech hub. So what advice would you give to those who maybe aren't in a major coding location like San Francisco, but they're still looking to get into the industry, and perhaps have aspirations to work remotely? - Just keep trying.
I would you know, if somebody reaches out to you about a job offer, make it the very first question, because typically that's the deal-breaker. So just get it out of the way like right away like, will you hire me remote? I'm definitely pro remote. I you know, I flat out refuse to believe that you can't make it work you know. It's worked for me. For many years I've been successful. - So is it just that your current job that you have been remote, or were you remote before at all? - I've been remote since '98 or so.
I'd did move to California, you know I did that thing, and it was school for a year, and then I moved away, and my rent went down by half. And we always joke about that, oh San Francisco is so expensive. But like it really is, and I think a lot of these tech companies who insist that you move there, have a blind spot to that, and just don't acknowledge it. I would not have been able to have a family, or the sizable family I have now. I'm 44, and I can imagine probably maybe still not having a house, unless I drove two hours every you know, back and forth, and that's not life.
You know, I wish some of these big tech companies would move out of San Francisco you know. Move to like Iowa or something. Find a super cheap couple million acres of square footage, and just build a town there. That sounds horribly dystopian as well, to say but yeah-- - That's coming, like I feel that's definitely going to happen in the future you know, because even those companies can't even afford to be where they're at in a few places, so you know, I really, I'm hoping like you, that that happens.
I mean I happen to live in Florida, which is not a great tech hub either, although we do have a lot of opportunities, but you know, I don't really you know. I was offered actually moving, and I said no I'm like really happy with where I'm at. But one of the options they gave me like the three options, like you can move over here, you can work from home, and I don't know if you know this, but I have eight kids, so working from home when you're recording courses is not good if there's eight children running around screaming.
So it wasn't an option. And then the third one was actually to get an office, and that worked out pretty well. So really I would say for people who are looking to maybe getting into it to just, like you said, hey, ask right away if that's an option. And then just be looking for those kind of opportunities. So since you mentioned VueJS, and what other technologies have you found like super exciting, that you think people should be learning about to be marketable? - Serverless for sure I mean, I know it's a giant (mumbles)-- - Yeah, explain that a little bit, because I don't know that everybody knows what that is.
- Certainly, so my take on it, and this may not gel with how others talk about it as well. What serverless system means, is the ability to put my business logic, or my functionality, or whatever it may be. For example return a list of CATs from a persistent system. So something as simple as that, give me a list of CATs, I'll put it in JSON. For me to like put that up with no js, I could do that in five minutes, that's not that bad, I could fire up an express server.
I could set up the routing so you know, that this particular URL path goes to the code that actually gets the CAT. I could use IBM Bluemix, I could use another solution at a command line, and deploy a server. Again, all of that within five minutes. But I do have to actually put a server up there. I have to worry about the routing, I have to pick something for how much RAM I'm going to use, and stuff like that. With Serverless, I literally just worry about the business logic. So select * from CATs, and then I'll put that in JSON.
I'm not worried about the actual routing, I'm not worried about managing a server. I'm literally just writing the code. And a Serverless platform actually does handle all that stuff behind me, so there definitely still is servers involved, but the management part is all gone. And I don't want to manage servers, I want to write code, I want to create logic, and make it available. So to me-- - With security as well, I mean is that also part of the Serverless experience? - So security is 100% still a concern, that's not going away.
It's more about the management of the server. So security in terms of like my Apache server may have a vulnerability, that goes away. But security in terms of what my business logic is doing. So is everyone allowed to see the CATs? I still have to worry about that. If you have to be authenticated to create a CAT, I definitely still worry about that. But the security of like the Linux OS behind it is not my concern, the security of the Web server that fires up to actually handle that.
I should still be aware of how my provider is working with that but, security would be just the actual application logic security concerns, if that makes sense. - Super cool, so one more question. What's your experience been like in getting hired? So you mentioned you got out of school, you had a technical writing degree. Give me kind of a little bit about your path and maybe give some people some tips for improving their chances that, to get hired.
So for that, you'd want to study those stupid Google test questions. I have bad opinions on those. So yeah study those, because people use that, whether it makes sense or not. But yeah again, all my blogging-- - But then as you mentioned like word of mouth trumps all that. Like I know so many people, and Chris Coyier and I talked about this that, some people can get a job without having to go through that, because somebody really knows them and trusts them.
And you know, you're code can sometimes speak for you. You know, so having you know like a good portfolio, and repos of stuff you've done, and projects that you've worked on, that speaks volumes. And then just also being you know, the kind of person that shares, I think is pretty awesome as well. - I know, I mean I would rate that highly if I was hiring. If I saw you blogging a lot, and you weren't using the perfect Comp Sci algorithm for your loop, I'd be much more happier with you sharing, and the way that you solve problems, the way that you try to get things done, versus algorithms.
- Alright, so one more thing, and this doesn't have anything to do with you know with like work or anything but, I'm really curious, I know you're a big Star Wars fan, so if you were to you know, maybe find somebody who hasn't seen anything, what would you have them watch first? Would you go episode four, five, six, would you have them go in the original order, or how would you have them approach it? - Oh definitely four, five, six. I mean you have to start with it. Yeah, and just you know be aware that it was the 70's, early 80's so, I have to kind of deal with the CGI of that time.
- You've been grading that-- - Of the story, yeah. Yeah the story, it's just great and then yeah, watch one, two, three. You know, they're not great. I don't hate them like a lot of Star Wars fans do. To me, it's more the fact that they had an opportunity, and they didn't really claim that. They had a great Kenobi, they had a great Palpatine, but they needed a great Vader, and they failed to get a great Vader, which is unfortunate. But still watch them, I mean it's still part of the story. And you know what, it's freaking Star Wars you know, it's not Godfather.
Just have-- - I mean, I personally loved like the Django Fad sort of storyline in there so, definitely a lot of good things so... Well that's everything I have so thanks a lot for your time, and I'll go ahead and add links to your contact info. And as I normally say, if you have any questions that you've been asked, or have asked somebody in a job interview, that you'd like to share, you can get a hold of me at Linkedin, or through almost any social media network at planetoftheweb.
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