[00:00:20] Kate Martin: Welcome to the apprenticeship.io podcast, where we gather the courageous leaders the tech industry needs to talk about education, equity, job hunts, hiring in tech and you guessed it apprenticeships. Whether you're considering a career switch to tech currently studying or working and leading in tech, we hope to show you stories, ideas, and tactics to inspire you and equip you to make the tech industry, and our future together, a more equitable place for all of us. Let's get to know today's guest.
[00:00:50] Kamrin Klauschie: Today's guest is Meredith Jones. Meredith became a Senior Software Engineer at LinkedIn in September 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meredith was an apprentice in the first cohort of LinkedIn REACH. Before becoming a Software Engineer, Meredith was a Clinical Dietician for seven years. She studied Dietetics at Brigham Young. Meredith loves biking, the audio app Clubhouse, and Japanese culture.
[00:01:14] This episode was recorded in March 2021 and talks about travel and culture in Asia.
[00:01:20] We want to take this opportunity to stand in solidarity with our Asian brothers and sisters around the world against hate.
[00:01:26] We stand against anti-Asian and anti-Muslim hate, racism, and xenophobia, both at home in America and abroad.
[00:01:34] We're so sorry for what is happening and want to remind everyone to stay open-minded, think critically, and care for each other during these tough times.
[00:01:42] If you're unfamiliar with the rise in hate crimes against Asians in the United States and the rise in hate crimes against Muslims in India, Myanmar, and China, this is your prompt and opportunity to learn more.
[00:01:53] We hope you enjoy this episode!
[00:01:55] So welcome to the show, Meredith. I'm so happy to have you back.
[00:01:59] Meredith Jones: Thank you. It's been so long.
[00:02:00] Kamrin Klauschie: Yeah, two years, also, two wild years. What were some of the highs and lows?
[00:02:08] Meredith Jones: Oh boy. It's so hard to think about anything before the pandemic because that just consumed my and everybody's lives. So let's just count that as the low. It also served as a good opportunity to reflect in my life on what's important, pick up new hobbies, learn some new skills, think about habits. As far as work goes in the past couple years, I've just continued to learn so much and to grow in my career. I'm really happy with where it's going and where it's been in the past two years, so I would say that a big highlight has just been continuing to grow at work.
[00:02:48] Kamrin Klauschie: Yeah, that's awesome. The last time we chatted, just for context, Dev Bootcamp had shut down like a few months before. You were well into your Software Engineer role, but I think it was like April-ish of 2017, if that helps. It feels like the last year has been a century.
[00:03:12] Meredith Jones: Yeah. Before that it's just like what even happened. I don't know. A couple of things that happened pre-pandemic that were definite highlights outside of work was my husband and I got to travel. Most notably, he's from Singapore, so we went to Southeast Asia. We were able to go to Singapore, Japan and Taiwan. Those are all such special and magical places. That was one of the big highlights, back in the days when we could travel. Just getting out and seeing the world a little bit has been really cool for me.
[00:03:39] Kamrin Klauschie: That's amazing. I actually did a work study visa in Singapore. It's super gorgeous. What were some of your favorite parts of Singapore?
[00:03:48] Meredith Jones: Oh, man. How do I choose? Let's see, the food is amazing. Singapore is renowned for its incredible culinary diversity and the quality. This is really random, but I really liked their swimming pools. They have a ton of community lap pools and just being able to swim. It's hot there, and so going swimming is an awesome exercise to do. I was also lucky that LinkedIn has an office. I was able to work out of that office for a week and experience working life in another country, which was cool. There was a lot to love about Singapore, for sure.
[00:04:21] Kamrin Klauschie: Remember offices?
[00:04:23] Meredith Jones: Right? Back in the day when we went into work. Oh my goodness.
[00:04:28] Kamrin Klauschie: That's amazing. I love the street food in Singapore, especially... I forget what the little markets are called, but
[00:04:34] Meredith Jones: the Hawker Centers.
[00:04:35] Kamrin Klauschie: Hawker Centers. Yes. Yeah. Good stuff. So good. So good. I ate my way through Singapore, so much chicken and rice every day.
[00:04:49] Meredith Jones: Oh, that's the only way to do it.
[00:04:50] Kamrin Klauschie: So good. And then you said you went to some other spots. Where else did you go?
[00:04:53] Meredith Jones: We went to Taiwan on that trip and it was so beautiful. Got to do a little bit of hiking. We weren't there for very long, but again, the street food, anyone who listens to this podcast will be like, all this person does is eat but man, the food there is great. The milk tea there was great. The people were so warm and friendly. It was an amazing place to be.
[00:05:14] Kamrin Klauschie: Milk tea and boba. I have forgotten. Taiwan did fantastic with the pandemic. I've had friends talking about going to move there just so that they can resume life as normal.
[00:05:27] Meredith Jones: Yeah. From what I understand, they had some experience with health crises in the past, and so they were very well prepared when it comes to responding to this. So mad props to them.
[00:05:37] Kamrin Klauschie: And if I am following the timeline correctly, you got promoted recently in pandemic times?
[00:05:46] Meredith Jones: Let's see. It was last September, so that was during the pandemic. So at LinkedIn, they have this thing called a promo packet, and I'm not sure how it works in the rest of the industry, but you basically put together a document of proof that you should be promoted, for lack of a better term. It's just things that you've done. It goes in front of the people who evaluate it and they give you a yes, no, or work on this and that, and then maybe come back next time. I was lucky to have my document accepted, so they decided to promote me. It's so funny because it's one of those things that I never thought would happen coming in as an apprentice and just a career switcher. You think maybe one day, but like probably not, just self doubt gets in the way. My boss was just amazing about being like, "no, like this is happening, let's put together the evidence, let's work on the document." I'm grateful for the encouragement and the leadership of my manager in supporting me in this. If it were left up to me, I would just be like, no I don't think I deserve it. It was a very rewarding process.
[00:06:50] Kamrin Klauschie: Yeah. It seems like another one of those instances where having a great manager is just so important and everything. Were you being managed over the three years towards promo? Was there context for you, how long the process would take and what the steps are, what you would need to demonstrate would be? Or was it something that got brought up quickly?
[00:07:13] Meredith Jones: Yeah. So it does happen the whole time, along the way we talk about the steps that are needed for promo. Just for a little bit more context, at LinkedIn, we have three sort of buckets where you want to make sure that you are meeting the requirements. They are leadership, execution and craftsmanship. In each of these buckets there's criteria, it's almost like a checklist. Do you demonstrate this aspect of leadership? Do you mentor people? Do you help bring top talent to LinkedIn? Do you lead projects? Things like that, and then execution is more focused on what work did you actually do? And then craftsmanship is focused on, how did you do that work and how did you improve the whole ecosystem? We work on all those buckets, from day one, even as an apprentice. You're held a criteria to finish the apprenticeship, and then the same three buckets, but slightly different criteria, and then as you move up, basically the buckets increase in scope. You're expected to have more influence, do bigger projects, think outside your team. By the time the promo came, we were set up for success because we were thinking about it the whole time.
[00:08:15] Kamrin Klauschie: It sounds like it's pretty clear and something that you're documenting as you go. If I put on my Career Coach hat and this is why you have to pay attention, not only to doing the things that are important for your job, but recognizing yourself and documenting the things that you did, so that you can show them off on your resume or show them off on your promo pack.
[00:08:37] Meredith Jones: I just have to say it is so much easier to document if you have a running list. If you try to go back and be like, okay what did I do? That is so hard. Any way you can have some sort of documentation , a list of what you've done from day-to-day or from month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter, that will help you so much in not only proving to the company, but also proving to yourself. Look, all these things I did. I deserve this.
[00:09:00] Kamrin Klauschie: I feel like that part must be hard still dealing with imposter syndrome. Is this one of your goals that you wanted to reach when you came in as an apprentice? Or is this something that you are pleased by, but it's not like something that you set out to do?
[00:09:19] Meredith Jones: Yeah, it was definitely a goal. But it was, like you said, with imposter syndrome, it's a delicate balance because you want to be realistic, and if you're struggling with imposter syndrome, it's just "should this even be a goal type thing? Do I even deserve this? Like at what point are they gonna find out that I have no idea what I'm doing?" But eventually when I became a little bit more comfortable in my role and in my skin, it was a lot more solid of a goal. It wasn't like a thing that hopefully will happen one day. It was a thing that, yeah, let's try to make it happen this year.
[00:09:49] Kamrin Klauschie: You've been at LinkedIn now for going on over three, almost four.
[00:09:53] Meredith Jones: Yeah, it was four as well.
[00:09:54] Kamrin Klauschie: So I'm sure you've seen potentially different managers, different teammates. You probably hold down a decent amount of institutional knowledge. How has your role shifted over time as you've stayed in the organization longer?
[00:10:09] Meredith Jones: That's a good question. I have a very strange and unusual experience of having the same manager the whole time that I've been at LinkedIn. That's because he's a good manager, so I try to stick with him. But as far as my role changing throughout LinkedIn, I think more and more I've tried to take on leadership type opportunities, like lead larger projects, think about what's important to me personally and how that fits in with my team and with LinkedIn's vision and try to match the two so that I can have an initiative or have a project that I'm both passionate about and will benefit LinkedIn.
[00:10:50] As a software engineer, as an apprentice, you're doing the smaller tasks or the smaller projects. And as you grow in your role you're also growing in your scope. Instead of having a project or a task handed to you, you start to think about like, how can I personally contribute to the roadmap in a meaningful way, or how can I contribute to the company in a meaningful way?
[00:11:14] One of the things that I started, let's see, was last year, after I got promoted, I started getting involved more with the Women In Tech Program at LinkedIn in a couple of different ways. The first is leading one of the tracks in charge of helping women within the organization grow personally and professionally. We do things like talk, have forums about career goals or mentorship and help other people grow.
[00:11:41] Another role that I took on recently was starting to think more about how we can encourage young women, like in high school and middle school, to know about tech, that this is something that they can do. I'm working with a team at LinkedIn to try to figure out how to outreach.
[00:12:01] Long story short is that these things are things that I'm passionate about, and so I've just found ways to incorporate them into my job.
[00:12:08] Kamrin Klauschie: It sounds like you're able to expand the horizon of what you can see. Yeah. Just working on immediately, what's handed to you and I empathize with this a lot, but like stressing out a whole lot about not knowing just the thing that's in front of you. It's you feel a bit more confident that the stuff that you will get, you'll be able to work on, and then you pick your head up and you're like, what's on the horizon that I can anticipate.
[00:12:36] Meredith Jones: Exactly. I've heard it referred to as zooming out or like a bird's eye view. You start to see the big picture and you think about where do I fit in this big picture and how can I contribute to it? Instead of just focusing on the next, like putting one foot in front of the other and it's really rewarding to have that vision and to have that potential for impact.
[00:12:57] That's one of the things that growing in a software engineering role is really rewarding. It's interesting how going into engineering I thought you'd be coding most of the time, but as it turns out, the more you grow in your role, the more you are working with people and with product and with, overall vision. It's so much more than just engineering. It's leadership and it's impact.
[00:13:20] Kamrin Klauschie: It sounds like your interests and passions really align well with the LinkedIn product, so you get to contribute in ways that's dynamic and across different functions.
[00:13:33] Meredith Jones: Yeah, for sure. I think especially with LinkedIn Learning, it's really important to me to be able to build a tool that will help people get to where they would like to be with their skills and make the path to those skills available to anyone who's willing to put in the time. It's a really neat product to be a part of because the future of learning is developing skills and finding the right skills for what you want to do.
[00:14:01] Kamrin Klauschie: Yeah, absolutely. We can give some background context for folks who aren't familiar, who are new to the tech industry. There used to be this site called Lynda.com that was a course website, it was very popular, that LinkedIn acquired, and has been building out and productizing the LinkedIn Learning. My understanding is a lot of the original content came from Lynda, but I assume now it's a lot of newer courses. I personally see a lot of new courses all the time and they seem really exciting. I assume Learning also ties in with some of the Certifications and Endorsements and things that are on LinkedIn profiles. So what are some of the features that you've worked on, and what are the goals? You touched on democratizing access to skills and things like that, but curious if you can get into the user journey? What are some of the things you're trying to do with the features you're building?
[00:14:58] Meredith Jones: One of the big initiatives that my team is working on is this persona called "The Curator," and that is a role that basically allows users to upload their own custom content—documents, videos, or make learning paths, which is a series of content for people to learn from. When we think about the skills that we want to acquire there are skills that are technical and across industry the same, and then there are skills that you want to learn from your peers.
[00:15:33] It's knowledge that's specific to the company and maybe eventually knowledge that's not specific to the company. Right now it's like in-company sharing of knowledge. We're giving the tools to create content and to curate content to more people so that so that we can establish a broader learning base for learners, so that learners can learn from their peers and gain skills from subject matter experts around the company.
[00:16:01] That's been really exciting because the Lynda videos and the new LinkedIn.com videos are incredible. They're so good, and they're so professionally done. There's definitely some skills that you learn within your company and if you're at a company for a long time, and if you have knowledge that maybe isn't documented in other places, the ability to add that knowledge to this knowledge base, I feel is really powerful. That's what we've been working on. I think the team is really excited about the direction that we're going with that.
[00:16:31] Kamrin Klauschie: Yeah, I think anyone who's been dropped into a dumpster fire onboarding process probably really understands the value of employees and teammates, curating knowledge and videos around how to do things. Sounds like almost making playlists similar to how you'd make them like on Spotify, but instead for your colleagues, here's how I do my job or here's how we run this process at our company.
[00:17:03] Meredith Jones: Yeah, exactly. One example of how I use it on my team is we have this group of UI engineers and Learning and we meet and if we talk about things that we feel are going to be helpful for people down the road, we'll record the session, and when we put the session in a playlist. Someone coming into our team specifically will be able to know a catalog of what we've talked about in the past. It's definitely been helpful in a number of ways so far.
[00:17:29] Kamrin Klauschie: That's awesome. And then I imagine years back, you were working on different features. What were some of the things you worked on in the past?
[00:17:37] Meredith Jones: We've worked on a lot of things that help make content more discoverable and more relevant. For example, one of the things I worked on in the past is the ability to add a custom tag to your custom content. So that makes things more discoverable. We've worked on total refreshes of really old looking pages, so while that's not necessarily a big like behavior change drive, having a visual refresh can be just as important because you're keeping up with the other industries and their UIs. What else have we worked on? We only used to have video uploads and we added document uploads, and various settings to help users who are uploading content have an easier time doing so, whether that's being able to make your content discoverable, being able to label your content with the name that you'd like to label it or the author. Being able to upload custom like thumbnail images, things like that. So everything to make uploading content and curating content easier, prettier, more intuitive. That's pretty much the charter of our team.
[00:18:44] Kamrin Klauschie: I'm envisioning this tagging feature that you worked on as being super accessible conceptually to other non-traditional engineers who are more junior and I'm wondering, for the apprentice level or maybe someone who's still in school, who's imagining their coding process, like maybe if they're doing an Airbnb clone for the first time and they have a feature that tags whatever it is that someone may be trying to rent. We could say a house if we're doing an Airbnb clone, if they're adding a tag, they're probably closing their own pull request potentially. They're really not interacting with a lot of conflicts. How does it look for you at LinkedIn getting a feature rolled out at a huge organization that might differ from what someone who's like building a CRUD app for the first time might experience? Can you give us a sense of what it might look like when you roll out something that you've built?
[00:19:49] Meredith Jones: Yeah, of course. After we get the product requirements from RPM and the designs from our designer, we work with our backend partners to make sure that what we're getting is what we expect from them and we're giving them what they expect. So the feature let's say is dev complete, and that's after having your code review to get it submitted and deployed to prod, which is, the process where you take it from I guess the experimental or the staging environment to the production environment where other people can see it. If we start there, then before we ramp it, so basically in the beginning we only show a new feature to test accounts. And we use this platform to basically do just checks to only show that the feature is based on a key that we add in. And so at first it's only ramps to test accounts and on those test accounts, we do something called a bug bash. In bug bashes, we get together as a team and we try to find all the ways we can break the feature. We get a bunch of tickets for bugs and we take those tickets and we triage them and we say, "Okay, this one is serious. We need to do this one right away. This one is less serious, gotta do this before we ramped everybody, but maybe it's okay to ramp up to a few more people, before we fix it."
[00:21:03] Basically, we prioritize the bugs, then we start fixing the bugs. Once the most critical bugs are fixed, we start ramping to more people. In my team, what that looks like is we ramp to our company first, basically everyone in LinkedIn can see the new feature and then we wait a week or so, and fix more bugs, and ramp to as a series of beta customers. In another week, make sure it's really polished, and then we would ramp to all customers. As part of ramping to all customers, we also work with marketing partners and product partners to let the customers know that this feature is coming out, so that's go to market. Sometimes the go-to market is only the marketer saying, "Hey customer, this feature is coming out," like maybe send them an email or something, and then sometimes it's in product go to market, so we would add like a tool tip or an announcement somewhere in the product saying, "Hey, this feature is new, it's coming out." That's also part of the development process is figuring out how to show people, "Okay, hey, this exists now go ahead and use it. And this is how you use it."
[00:22:12] Tagging is not a huge feature. It's an important feature, but to your point, it's something that is not too difficult to implement, but when you compare the feature in a big company to a sandbox environment, a lot of the difference is making sure it's scrutinized enough. Make sure this is the quality that will suit the customers, and then make sure the go-to market is efficient so that people know that it's there and they start using it.
[00:22:37] Kamrin Klauschie: That's incredible. You said something that caught my attention, which was backend partners. As a front-end deep person I was like, who are these magicians? What do they do? What are they? Are they helping you basically think about how to scale the feature you're building? What are these backend partners?
[00:22:58] Meredith Jones: So the main way I ended up working with my backend partner is when you call an API, you expect the data to be in a certain shape. So maybe, you expect that you'll have certain values in an object and you'll expect those values to be in certain formats, expect it to be a number or a string or Boolean. One of the things that I do with my backend partner is just say, "Hey, I'm expecting if I call a post to this end point, this is what I'll send you. Is that what you're expecting?' And that's the conversation that we have. There's some times when we need to make some adjustments, because we don't realize that it's hard to distinguish people from companies, or there's sometimes when we have to go back and forth a bit, but the main thing that we discussed with the backend partners is the contract between the front end and the back end. This is what I'm giving you, and this is what I expect and make sure that we're on the same page as far as like the contract goes.
[00:23:53] Kamrin Klauschie: This is incredible. This sounds like almost a pairing relationship. Are you all on the same team or is this just what you're doing in order to get the feature out, like you have to find this person?
[00:24:04] Meredith Jones: Most of the time we're all on the same team. It was a time when our whole team was all UI Engineers and the org was structured a little differently, but right now we've got a team of half and half front end/backend. And a lot of the features we work on are together. Although sometimes we'll work cross team, and then we have different backend partners. It really depends on the feature and the scope of the feature. But, generally, it's in your team or it's in a sister team.
[00:24:32] Kamrin Klauschie: That's amazing. So this leads me to one of the questions I had for you, which is often when I'm career coaching earlier stage non-traditional engineers, maybe if you go back in your memories back to the days, folks are always scared to commit to a specialization, or I see it as very common. I've diagnosed, sometimes, it's a fear that you're not going to get paid as much if you don't go after just straight software engineer as a title, or if you don't be a generalist somehow, being anything deviant from full stack, is going to somehow affect your pay. Sometimes I'm able to diagnose that fear. But a lot of the conversations I have with folks is follow your curiosity, commit to the thing that you want to learn and go down in order to become known for something or to be valued and not overlooked. You are focused around a certain product area, but how do you think about specialization in your career in terms of your role as a Software Engineer? Do you think of yourself as being super knowledgeable in a specific area?
[00:25:43] Meredith Jones: Yes, and to your point, like when I was first way back in the day when I was a bootcamp student and looking at where I should go, what should I do, as far as specialization goes, I had that same fear. I think one of my fears was "What if I choose something now, what if I miss opportunities later?" If I say I'm a front end engineer now, what if a back end engineering opportunity comes and I'll not get that opportunity? I think that's a valid fear. I also think that if you're able to focus early on and I actually specialize you're going to have an easier time, both getting that first job and also ramping in your scope. If you're working in a big tech company, It's very rare to be a full stack engineer. I would say that, unless you're going to a startup, the fear of if you're not a full stack engineer, then you won't get paid as much, I would probably argue that may not be true. I see my role, I'm definitely a pretty strict UI or a front end engineer. It took me getting to LinkedIn to actually choose that. I started as a backend engineer and then I got lured into the front end and I stayed there ever since. But as far as how knowledgeable am I across the board? I have a lot to learn on the backend about how things work. I feel pretty comfortable with the front end. I feel like that's my wheelhouse. I'm solid there. I still have quite a bit to learn about the architecture of the backend and how things are working over there. That'll come with time and I'm happy to be specializing in the front end. I think it's really interesting and it's a fun field to be in.
[00:27:22] Kamrin Klauschie: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like it's important to emphasize the idea that the backend engineers that you're working with in this scale that you have to work in is very rare in the global sense. How many people know how to scale to the degree that you have to at LinkedIn around the world? You're really in a world-class environment is what I want to say.
[00:27:47] Meredith Jones: That's a good point. I think I don't see out of my bubble because I'm at a big tech company, all companies must be big tech companies too. But to your point, I do agree that, probably that's more the exception than the rule, so you're right.
[00:27:59] Kamrin Klauschie: Yeah. The way that I talk about it is that you've become an Olympian, but you're still disappointed that you got bronze or silver.
[00:28:07] Meredith Jones: That's perfect.
[00:28:08] Kamrin Klauschie: You're in the Olympics. So also curious, just out of being naive, what does being a Senior Software Engineer actually mean at LinkedIn? Does it imply that you, at some point soon, will have to choose between management and technical leadership? Because that's a thing I hear about often is, at a certain point, you have to decide whether you're going to continue down a technical track or down a management track. Is that relevant for you or the Senior Software Engineer?
[00:28:41] Meredith Jones: No, you're right on the money. There's a couple more levels after Senior at LinkedIn there's Staff, there's Senior staff. There's Principal staff. There's really fancy ones after that. But once you reach Staff, so one level above Senior, then you are in that F that fork in the road that you described. You can choose to continue being an individual contributor, or you can choose to start looking into people management. Once I reached Senior my manager had a conversation with me, it was pretty soon after he was like, okay, let's talk about getting you to Staff.
[00:29:15] And then after Staff you need to think about which path you want to take. It's top of mind for sure. I do think that there are really interesting trade-offs when it comes to choosing a people management role versus an individual contributor or IC role.
[00:29:31] I'm still in that process of thinking through "Oh man, what does my future look like?" Because as a senior as a staff or senior staff or above individual contributor the nature of your work changes because the scope gets bigger and, so I think then it becomes a matter of where do you want your influence to lie? Do you want it to lie in technology, primarily, or do you want it to lie in people and the team's roadmap, primarily? It's definitely something that I have to think about. I have time to think about it, but it's certainly something to think about.
[00:30:03] Kamrin Klauschie: Interesting. So that's top of mind right now. Do you have any inklings or a sense of what goes through your mind when you think about that choice?
[00:30:12] Meredith Jones: There's so many trade-offs. If I had to choose today, I would lean toward people management, because when I think about the work that is rewarding to me and how, when I can help people be successful, how that feels to me, I love that, that's something that is one of my favorite things.
[00:30:31] If I can support someone who will be successful, help them with their career goals that's super important. When I think about what managers do with product roadmaps and with their team's charter, carving a path for their team, that's exciting to me.
[00:30:45] When I think about technology roadmaps, I think it's really interesting, but I don't get that same buzz off of it. I guess the trade-off is there's that fear that if you move toward people management, are your technical skills going to get rusty? That's one of the things that I'm fighting with is if I were to pursue that path, how would I maintain technical skills?
[00:31:06] Kamrin Klauschie: Sounds like a thing that it's good. You have time. There's no rush.
[00:31:11] Meredith Jones: Yeah. It's really good that I have time because there's so many things to consider. I will say that I know people who have gone back and forth between manager and individual contributor. That's a thing, people do it. It's not if you choose one thing, then that's it. You can always say, "Ah, I dunno, maybe I'll go back and do this instead," at least at LinkedIn.
[00:31:31] Kamrin Klauschie: Totally. So now today when you're mentoring or bug squashing with junior engineers, what stands out to you and what do you recommend or advise when you're working with junior engineers now?
[00:31:44] Meredith Jones: One of the biggest things is just developing that confidence in the work that you're doing, being able to look at a problem and list the pros and cons of the different solutions and being confident with the decision you make. I see the struggles that I myself had in the past.
[00:32:05] So it might even be less, less technical and more just strategic. Teaching and mentoring problem solving and coming to an informed decision coming to the table with an opinion. There's always the technical side of what's the best way to debug, what's the easiest way to solve your problem.
[00:32:24] There's another thing that I sometimes see in other people that I had struggled with, and still sometimes struggle with, is knowing when to post the code for review versus iterating on it to make it perfect. In the past, and sometimes still now, I had a tendency to fine tooth comb just to make sure every I is dotted and T's crossed. I'm still very careful now, but you gotta think about the time that you're spending versus several people taking a look at it. If there's something really wrong, hopefully a reviewer will also be a good second pair of eyes. If I go through the code like 15 times, is that really a good use of my time? Time management, managing perfectionism, bug identification, and debugging are all things that I would chat with when I mentor junior engineers.
[00:33:10] Kamrin Klauschie: That's awesome. It sounds like you have more context for what is a good use of your time versus a bad use of your time and when to call it.
[00:33:19] Meredith Jones: I think so. I hope so. Although I'm still learning, it's definitely a process.
[00:34:27] Meredith Jones: When it comes to worrying about technology and am I advancing fast enough? Am I moving with the technology fast enough? Speed, to be honest, I'm still using Sublime Text, so I think we're good, but I'm thinking about switching, a lot of Senior and above Staff think that is inconsequential. It's a very personal choice. You use what you're comfortable with, what you're familiar with, and if you want to try to branch out and learn something new, then by all means, but I don't think any reasonable person is going to judge you for using one text editor over another.
[00:35:02] I can definitely relate to just feeling "Are the things that I'm doing enough? Do I know enough?" One of the things that my manager told me over and over that I would probably tell to anyone who is more junior or who's in the early stages is just be patient with yourself. All it will take is what he called butt-in-seat time, like basically your hands on the keyboard, doing what you do over and over. You're going to learn tips and tricks along the way. When I was being mentored, my mentor taught me like probably 15 keyboard shortcuts, and I remember maybe three of them, but eventually I picked up more and you don't have to know it all right now. If you try to hold yourself to that standard, you're going to be super disappointed, but the more you practice and the more butt-in-seat time you get, the more comfortable you'll be with your skillset and you'll expand it naturally. Be patient, don't expect yourself to be at 100%, from day one or even day 100.
[00:35:57] Kamrin Klauschie: This is that anxiety that makes people go in 20 different directions. I think it's a book called Minimalism, I used to give it to as many students as I could. It shows a line going in every direction and then the same amount of line going in one direction, and they're both right next to each other. I always think about that, but it's funny when you're going through it, like I'm going through it now, you do, you just have this emotional sense of worry and anxiety and that's what's driving you. I almost think being able to discern that you're having an emotional reaction to your skills or to your sense that you're not good enough, as opposed to actually changing what technology you are using or forcing yourself to learn something new, there's wisdom there essentially.
[00:36:48] Meredith Jones: Yeah, I do think it can be considered an emotional reaction. Our former CEO, Jeff Wiener, always talks about being a spectator of your own thoughts. I think about that a lot because I can get stuck in my head. I'll go down a downward spiral of negative thoughts. Meditation has helped me with this, but when I'm able to sit back and listen to myself think, watch myself think, you realize that, to your point, this is an emotional reaction. I am doing great work. I have all this proof that I've made so much progress. Just sit back and realize that. It puts your thoughts in check. I do think that it's important to think about how far you've come and compare that to the thoughts that you're having right now. Based on those two things, are your thoughts valid or is this an emotional reaction? It's a tricky balance, it's hard.
[00:37:36] Kamrin Klauschie: It's so hard, so hard. I have a lot more empathy for it now. Now I've finished a whole program and I'm just like, I thought I knew, but I had no idea.
[00:37:46] Meredith Jones: That's awesome that you're continuing to learn and just pushing yourself. I think that's so inspiring.
[00:37:52] Kamrin Klauschie: Yeah, it's an adventure for sure. I came out of my bootcamp during the pandemic. That's fun. Oh yeah. It's fun. It's really fun. Which brings us to pandemic life. How did your work change due to the pandemic? What does work look like now?
[00:38:07] Meredith Jones: So the environment of course has changed completely. I was in the office, eating LinkedIn food, getting coffee with coworkers, and now I'm home and having to make my own lunch, which is more of a struggle than I ever thought it would be and doing work in an isolated manner. The environment is completely different, but I've tried to keep the work itself mostly the same. A lot of people really struggle with isolation. When you are in a work environment that's highly social and then that suddenly becomes a work environment where it's just you and your computer screen, and sometimes people on Zoom, it makes it hard to keep the same momentum and the same attitude. I have tried things like just hanging out with coworkers on Zoom and not necessarily talking about work, and getting outside for walks instead of eating lunch in front of the screen. It's definitely been an adjustment. I think we're all just doing the best we can and still doing our best work and hopefully eventually we'll be back in person. We'll see, I guess I don't really know what the future of remote work is, but I definitely could use some more face-to-face time with people, so I won't complain if I have to go back to the office.
[00:39:20] Kamrin Klauschie: Absolutely. I totally, I felt you on so many levels. Are you a fan of Allie Wong?
[00:39:27] Meredith Jones: Yeah.
[00:39:29] Kamrin Klauschie: When you said that you missed the lunches at work, I immediately had to flash to that bit where she's "I made his lunch every day. I did that to make him dependent on me." Like now the employees are dependent on the cafeteria food. It's very hard to open the fridge every day and see ingredients instead of meals. That's a hard reality. Food prep has become a different level. I feel like I have a much more profound appreciation for the entire supply chain of food in general, because we're so reliant on ourselves now to feed ourselves.
[00:40:08] Meredith Jones: It's such a fatiguing process. It's three, like I can't, I should probably get into intermittent fasting just so that I have to think about less meals. It's so hard to think about, what am I going to eat multiple times a day?
[00:40:21] Kamrin Klauschie: Totally. I've found it's helpful to focus on the smallest things these days in order to find joy and to get through. You touched on sitting down to lunch as being one of the habits, like getting away from a screen, but curious if there are any other habits or routines you've been doing during quarantine that have brought you happiness or peace?
[00:40:44] Meredith Jones: Yes. Two things. First, my therapist told me about this, and it's called The Five Minute Journal. The premise is you sit down in the morning for five minutes and you answer the following questions. Today I am grateful for? And you write three things. What would make today great? So you prioritize what you want to get done. And people I am grateful for? So you write those down and then in the evening you write down three of these categories. Great things that have happened today? What would make today better? Obstacles I learned from today, and then goals for tomorrow? I found that practice of five minutes in the morning, five minutes in the evening has been really beneficial to start and end my day to focus on gratitude, to focus on prioritization, and to think about ways where I could learn from anything that went wrong. That has honestly changed my life, like I'm going to write an article about it cause I keep telling people about it.
[00:41:40] And then the second thing is meditation. And for me, it's just five minutes via an app in the morning to get my head in a good space before I start work and sometimes it's in the evening when I'm going to sleep. But meditation, I was always not interested in the idea because it seems a little far out there for me, but work had a challenge where they promised a free hoodie if we meditated for 30 days and I can't pass up free hoodies, and so I tried it and I just fell in love, so I'm still doing that.
[00:42:14] Kamrin Klauschie: That's amazing. Things that get people to change their habits.
[00:42:17] Meredith Jones: Exactly.
[00:42:18] Kamrin Klauschie: Sounds like a good way to develop emotional intelligence at work too. Have you picked up any new hobbies or interests during quarantine?
[00:42:26] Meredith Jones: Yeah, so I was cycling a bit before, road biking. When quarantine started, I picked up a hundred notches and just started cycling a ton. The nice thing about cycling the Bay is, the bike infrastructure is pretty good. There's a lot of really beautiful routes. It can be socially or I guess physically distant. I don't really like the term social distance, cause it seems so like anti-social, but it can be done in a safe manner. It's outside. It gets your heart going. It's meditative. So I'm a super fan of cycling now, even though I look really dorky in my clothes.
[00:43:02] Kamrin Klauschie: That's awesome. Do you have one of those, I've seen some really aerodynamic helmets, the outfits. The outfits in cycling. I would say cycling is up there. Gymnastics is up there. Figure skating. Cycling has some great outfits. Do you have one of those, one of those colorful ones?
[00:43:19] Meredith Jones: Mine are a little bit boring to be honest, but I do have some good LinkedIn jerseys, which I'm proud of. I don't have an aerodynamic helmet. I'm not quite at that level yet, but maybe one day. We'll see.
[00:43:32] Kamrin Klauschie: What is your favorite technology today? I'm saying technology to be broad. I don't want to be like, what's your favorite language or what's your favorite framework? What is your go-to technology that you love right now?
[00:44:38] Kamrin Klauschie: I've had a tough time getting on Clubhouse, but I'm trying again. It gives me a lot of FOMO and I feel like I can't manage my schedule as effectively with it, but they've gotten a little bit better it seems like over time.
[00:44:54] Meredith Jones: Yeah, I join mostly when I know somebody is having a room that I'm interested in. I don't usually go in and browse and look for something. It's more of just "Oh, I know this person from my work is speaking about products and I want to hear what they have to say."
[00:45:09] Kamrin Klauschie: If you could go, safely, anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
[00:45:13] Meredith Jones: Ah, just everywhere. Oh my goodness. Let's see, but I need to choose one place. I'd probably go back to Japan, to be honest. The experiences that I've had there so far have been so unique and interesting and vibrant and memorable. I haven't been to Tokyo yet, and so I would just love to experience the rest of Japan.
[00:45:37] Kamrin Klauschie: That's awesome. I love Japanese culture as well.
[00:45:40] Meredith Jones: Yeah, it's a cool spot. Where would you go?
[00:45:44] Kamrin Klauschie: Whew. Being quarantined abroad, there's a part of me that's like I would go home. 'Cause even if I do go back to the United States, there is this sense that I can't really see my parents 'cause I'd be potentially endangering them, so there is that idea that I would go home. The ideal place in the world, in my opinion.
[00:46:05] No, we debate this a lot in my house. We love Bali and surfing beaches. I love the rice fields. I love the really fantastic yoga there. I really love Hindu culture, also. The idea that there's many Gods and it's a lot of embracing of chaos, I really love. Bali often comes up, but it's just so far away and so isolated. I got a pandemic puppy and I think she actually really enjoyed the longer flight that she had to go on because she got to snuggle me the whole time, so it was like her ideal situation, but I just, I feel bad traveling so far with the dog. What parting words do you have for our crew of non-traditional folks? What inspirational things would you like to close with?
[00:46:52] Meredith Jones: I think the thing that just comes to my mind over and over, and I mentioned this a bit ago, but I'll just mention it again because it's so important to me. Be patient with yourself. This process, even though the bootcamp process can be crazy and rapid, the process of growing as an engineer and growing into an engineering role is long. Sometimes it's hard and a lot of times it's extremely rewarding, but you need to grant yourself that time to be patient and put in the work, but also just let it happen. Be open to opportunities, be open to learning, keep a growth mindset, but just overall, be patient and you'll look back on the past four years, like I am right now, and think, "damn, I've done a lot. I've come a long way” and be proud.
[00:47:41] Kamrin Klauschie: It's amazing. I can't believe it's been four years. It's so wild.
[00:47:45] Meredith Jones: I can't believe it either. It's a marathon. People say it's a marathon, not a sprint, but marathons are super hard, too. It's still gonna be hard. It's just going to last a little longer.
[00:47:55] Kamrin Klauschie: That's amazing. The bugs that you have today, people, will not be the bugs that you have tomorrow. That's what we have to focus on.
[00:48:02] Meredith Jones: Yes. Yes, and you are not your code. So even if you create bugs, you're still a worthwhile human.
[00:48:09] Kamrin Klauschie: Ooh. I love that. That's important. Ending on that one for sure.
[00:48:13] Kate Martin: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the apprenticeship.io podcast. You can learn more about apprenticeships and find us online at www.apprenticeship.io. Don't forget to follow us on Spotify, and subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
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[00:48:39] Until next time, we're rooting for you.