The Bike Shed: 320: Remember The Fun: 2021 Recap

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To the Left, to the Left


Steph and Chris recap their favorite things of 2019 and 2020 and share their 2021 list. Happy Holidays, y’all!

Steph:

  • Feature flags and calm deploys
  • Creating observable systems
  • Debugging
  • Working in seasons
  • Don’t forget the fun

“The longer I’m in the software game, the more I want things to be calm” – Steph

Chris:

  • Pushing logic back to the server
  • Svelte
  • Remote work (but maybe hybrid!)
  • Vim
  • Joining a startup as CTO

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Transcript:

STEPH: Are we taking off the next few weeks?

CHRIS: According to Steph’s schedule I think we are.

STEPH: You know, that’s Steph and her schedules.

Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I’m Steph Viccari.

CHRIS: And I’m Chris Toomey.

STEPH: And together, we’re here to share a bit of what we’ve learned along the way. Hey, Chris, what’s new in your world?

CHRIS: Well, this will be our last episode for 2021. So that’s new collectively in all of our worlds, I think, which is exciting. We’ll be taking off the next few weeks for the holidays. But as has become tradition, I think it is time for you and I to review some top 10 lists from last year or two top 5 lists, and then maybe you share some new favorite things. How does that sound?

STEPH: Yeah, I’m excited. I love that we take this time to reflect about what we enjoyed about the past year and share our top things. It’s like Oprah’s list. You know Oprah has her list of favorite things, and we have our list of favorite things.

CHRIS: It is almost exactly like Oprah.

STEPH: It feels a bit blasphemous to compare our list to Oprah’s list but here we are. [laughs]

CHRIS: I tried to give the hyperbolic sarcasm there to be like, and let us be respectful of…but yes.

STEPH: Good. You got it. [laughs] So to prep for sharing our new list of favorite things, do you want to start by going through the list of favorite things from last year?

CHRIS: Sure. And just as a reminder, if anyone does want to listen to the episode and hear a bit more detail about our thinking on these, we covered this in Episode 274. But for me, the 5 items that I covered last year were Tailwind CSS. So the utility-first CSS framework which I continue to love and use on every project that I possibly can.

Remote work, that was a relatively new and novel thing for me at that point. Similarly, I have continued on with that and if anything, leaned into it all the more.

Next up is Svelte. Svelte is a JavaScript framework that I have grown to love even more over the past year. Spoiler alert, that may show up later in the episode.

Next up, we had Postgres, PostgreSQL, the database engine that is wonderful, and I had spent a lot of time with last year. Frankly, I haven’t spent as much time with it this year but it’s still something that’s near and dear to my heart.

And the last was Inertia.js, a framework that although it’s got js in the name, it’s both server-side and client-side and binds it together and gives a wonderful experience. I believe I’ve talked enough about that throughout the rest of this year that perhaps you’ve heard me mention it in a previous episode, listener.

But yeah, that was my top 5 for 2020. What about you, Steph?

STEPH: All right, so the things that I had from last year are one-on-ones. I don’t remember exactly what I said about them, but I am still a fan. I still very much enjoy them. I learned a ton from them either participating or leading them.

Rails, also still a fan. Async communication, yes, love it. It really helps more people be involved in the conversation when it’s async communication. feature flags, also still a fan. And Elixir and Phoenix is on the list also, still a fan although frankly, haven’t done as much with it.

CHRIS: So, Steph, I have a question for you. Actually in preparing for this episode, I re-listened to Episode 274, which had our top 10 list for 2020. And then I also listened to 273, which was the previous episode which had our retrospective on the list from 2019. So at this point, I’ve now reviewed all of these lists, which is now 10 items, and 10 items for each of us.

And what was interesting to me, at least from my side, and especially as I was preparing for this year, is stuff’s mostly stayed the same. I kind of still like most of the items on the list. And certainly, nothing has changed in a deep way where I’m like, you know, I used to really like this, but I don’t like it at all anymore. So I’m wondering, is that the same for you? Is there anything that you’ve changed your mind on amongst this set of items?

STEPH: Looking at the list, I still really like everything on the list. So there’s nothing that I’ve changed my mind about significantly. I’m realizing as we’re creating this list each year, it’s likely a list that I’m going to continue to grow and add to instead of subtract from.

Most of the stuff, I guess because we have a full year by the time we get to this point, I feel pretty good that this is something that I like in the world versus something that may be more of a month to month experiment that then I’d change my mind on. So everything on the list still rings true for me. And I have some new stuff that I’m going to add to that list.

CHRIS: Ooh, new stuff, exciting. Yes, this is what we’re here for. So, Steph, let’s dive in. What do you got?

STEPH: So in preparation for this episode, I started thinking through all the different ideas that I wanted to add to my list and all the topics I’m excited about. And I started to wonder what are the things that we really said? What can data tell us about these episodes versus just trying to think through my feelings of the past 12 months? Because it’s very easy that I forget things that were important to me at the moment. So I started wondering, what data could I collect from the different episodes?

And now that we have transcripts that started back in I think around May of this year, I built a small little Ruby program to perform a word frequency analysis and generate a very low version of a word cloud. But I wanted to find what are some of the top things that we said? And it came out rather poetic. And I tried to ignore some of the small words just prepositions, and a, and the, and things like that were that were less interesting.

So here I’ve got a couple of different lists, a couple of different facts that we can explore. So here are the top 10 words that we said. So there’s code, great, write, feature, question, idea, interesting, love, no, and laughs.

CHRIS: Laughs is in parentheses or brackets to say this is where they’re laughing?

STEPH: Exactly.

CHRIS: Wow. A, that feels true. B, that’s just delightful. And I’m so glad that you did this. For anyone listening at home, this is a complete surprise to me too. So I’m really enjoying going on this ride. But yeah, that feels like a representative list.

STEPH: There’s another poetic one because then I started looking at some of the episodes individually as I was building this out to handle all the episodes. This is over 28 episodes. And so I pulled a specific episode with Joël Quenneville where we talked a lot about debugging.

And so the top words from that episode are debugging, people, think, don’t, love, time, bug. And it’s fun no matter how you hear that or read that you get something new out of it each time. And now I’m really into this word frequency art or whatever it is that we’re going to call it.

CHRIS: That’s fantastic that I want a little bumper sticker of that amongst the bumper stickers that I’ve claimed I want from things we say on the show. I want that one with Joël’s face on it right there. That seems like a perfect item.

STEPH: So I also tried to figure out how many times we said it depends. And that one got a little trickier, and I was also surprised. But according to the data, we’ve said it depends around 10 times. And I feel like that’s low.

CHRIS: That feels very low, huh.

STEPH: It does. I agree. That one feels a bit low. And so those were the fun, more poetic like, what are the top things that we said? And then I started looking for more what are the technical things that we talked about, some of the different frameworks or languages? So I started looking specifically for those. So over these 28 episodes, we said Rails 200 times, which is a lot. [laughs]

CHRIS: Good job, Rails. Way to show up on the leaderboard.

STEPH: And then next in that list data, some form of test, tests, or testing. We said around 230 times database. Ruby’s next on the list at 140, then Sidekiq, retro. Monitoring is a big one. JavaScript, agile, REST. React, React is at 52. I was intrigued that React was spoken as much because I know I haven’t worked in React in a long time. So I’m going to give you credit for that one. Manager, Svelte, Svelte, and Inertia are both around 45, 40 times that they were spoken. Python, Postgres, Rust, Elixir, Elm, Vim, and tmux.

CHRIS: Wow. I like that list.

STEPH: One other fun data point is that we said the word hard 20 times more than the word easy.

CHRIS: That feels fitting.

STEPH: It does, right?

CHRIS: I love this work, but it’s not easy.

STEPH: Yeah, I appreciated that. I was like, that’s true.

CHRIS: [chuckles]

STEPH: So that was some fun with words and frequency analysis, and it was neat. So I’m excited to do this for more episodes and to do it per episode because it highlights some interesting themes for the episode.

So pulling just from the data, then I’d say the top things from my list are Rails, data, testing, Ruby, Sidekiq, and retro. Those are the top things. But I’m still going to be creative with it and add to the list the things that I want to include on there.

So the first one this one is a bit of a repeat, so that’s why I’m going to bring it upfront. But it’s feature flags and calm deploys. That is something I am still a big fan of that I really appreciate. It can lead to some slightly increased tedious workflows depending on how diligent you are in feature flagging your work and keeping new work behind that gate so then you can turn it on when you want to. Also, the data supports it. We said flag like 67 times over 28 episodes. And I’m betting that was coupled with feature flags. So I feel pretty good about that one.

CHRIS: I think half of them were probably flag football is my guess if I remember what we talked about.

STEPH: We do play a lot of flag football, uh-huh.

CHRIS: It’s interesting that you’re leading with that. So one of the other items that I pulled out as I was reviewing the previous episodes was a quote that you made that resonated deeply with me in that moment and all the more so now. And everything I think about software probably falls a little bit under this bucket, which is…this is the quote from you, “The longer I’m in the software game, the more I want things to be calm.”

And I think my response in the moment, which is why this was primed in my head, was I want a bumper sticker of that. I want it on a t-shirt or get a tattoo of it. [laughs] And I stand by those words because that’s a beautiful sentiment and definitely, for me, speaks to a lot of the work that I want to do and how I think about what I put importance on.

STEPH: Thanks. Yeah, I find it makes a really big difference in terms of the quality of the work and then also, the happiness of the team. How about you, what’s first on your list?

CHRIS: First on my list this year is going to be…it’s a little bit of an abstract concept. So we’ll see how well I can define it in a small amount of time. But the phrase in my mind is pushing logic back to the server. Over the past many years, let’s call it like a decade or so, I’ve seen this gradual shift where more and more logic is being implemented client-side. And client-side can mean a bunch of things. It can mean a JavaScript client that gets downloaded and then runs. It has lots of smarts in it and knows about all the business logic but also iOS apps, Android apps, et cetera.

And every context that I’ve worked on that I felt the pain of now we’ve got our business logic distributed across all these different systems. I’ve seen some really interesting approaches to try and bundle up the logic and use it in a shared library. Perhaps in JavaScript, I’ve even seen some other approaches where this is a bundled C++ library that we somehow embed in every context that we want to run. And that’s where the business logic is. But fundamentally, I felt a ton of pain from that.

And I’ve always had this idea in the back of my head that wherever possible, I like to pull logic back to the server because the server is this safe space with all the knowledge that I want in the world. And I can have secret environment variables, and I can add the database. And I can combine different sets of data very easily. And I can have the logic implemented in a single place. And that’s wonderful.

And more and more, I’ve started to pursue this. Some of my work with GraphQL was an attempt to get this because a REST API is just like, here’s a bunch of data. Combine it how you will. Have fun, front end. Whereas the GraphQL API starts to be more about the relationships between the data and the connections. And you can ask more interesting questions of a GraphQL API in my mind and ideally then push some of that logic back to the server because the GraphQL API encodes it in relationships and whatnot.

But probably the thing that has helped me the most on this is Inertia.js which was on my list last year. It remains something that, if anything, I tripled down on my enjoyment of Inertia.js. But it allows me to continue building my logic such that it’s on the server-side.

And I don’t need to implement a client that knows hey when a user adds an item to their cart, I also need to update that little icon in the top-right corner. I don’t even need to think about that because Inertia uses the traditional request-response lifecycle, but then handles it in a smart, forward-thinking possibly animated way. And I’m just very happy with that and all of the explorations that I’ve had around pushing logic back to the server.

And actually, as I explore this even a little bit more, at my company, we’re now starting to explore building native mobile apps. And we’re trying to figure out what that means for us as I try and cling desperately to this idea of pushing logic back to the server. So that’ll be a topic that I would love to chat with you more about in future episodes. But I think I found a way to, as I said, cling to this idea of pushing logic back to the server. So yeah, that is item number 1 for me.

STEPH: I’m very excited for those future conversations. You reminded me of something that I’ve heard from someone else at thoughtbot. I believe it’s Stephen Lindbergh that said this. He was giving a presentation talking about forms. And one of the things he said was, “Stop using client-side form validations.” And that’s a bit of a blanket statement. And there are always some caveats with those statements. But when he said that, I thought, yeah, that sounds great because you have to validate it on the back end anyways. Let me rephrase that, you should validate it on the back end. A lot of applications don’t.

CHRIS: I would go with have to just some opt to not despite the fact that they definitely have to.

STEPH: That’s true. I just wanted to fuss at the people who aren’t doing it. [laughs]

CHRIS: Steph’s getting to fussing.

STEPH: And I just really liked what he said because I understand why people started adding more client-side validations because then they think well, this creates a better experience for the user. We can give them faster feedback.

But if you get to the point that you’re actually hindering their experience…like if you’ve been filling out a form and it’s telling you that you’re incorrect, and it’s because you haven’t met the specific regex they’re looking for, that annoying behavior that you see on forms that’s often a result that I see from client-side form validations.

Also, if you’re at the point that you’re using form validations to drive the user to do the next thing, there’s a good chance that form is too big. And there’s an opportunity to break that up into a smaller workflow. So that way, you’re not using validations to essentially coerce or force a user into a particular path and use more helpful ways to help guide them through that process.

So I’m very excited for our future conversations about pushing more things to the server. And side note, stop using client-side form validations or just reduce it. Dial it down. Don’t dial it up, dial it down.

CHRIS: Oh yeah. That is such a great example of this theme. And again, hopefully, we’ll chat more about this in future episodes. But yeah, so that’s item number 1 for me. What is item number 2 on your list?

STEPH: So this one I really want to say thanks to you because I feel like you’ve brought a lot of topics and conversation about this particular idea to the show. And that has really resonated with me and influenced me as I’ve joined different projects that either have observable systems. And then that has been really helpful as then we are jumping into the project and debugging and then contributing to that system or where they’re lacking that observability. And that just makes work and life so much harder.

So thank you to you and everyone else that has contributed in having conversations about observable systems on the show. Specifically, I’m thinking of the episode with Charity Majors where she talks about observable systems. And so that is number 2 on my list.

CHRIS: Oh yeah. I do love some observability. It’s one of those ideas that once you get it in your head, you can’t shake it. You can’t unsee that you can’t see what’s going on in your runtime system.

I will say the app that we’re building, the core Rails application, we’ve instrumented it heavily because we’re trying to get in early on the observability game. But now we can see everything. And we’ve yet to really get to that deep understanding of like, that’s just noise. We don’t need to care about it. So let’s silence those. Let’s dial these up. These should go piped into Slack and how to sort of triage that.

So right now, it is a bit noisy in our world. I’d rather that than the silence, than the crickets of I don’t know, something happened. There is a form validation, but it seems fine. It’s happened a lot since the last deploy, but that seems fine. I’m trying to avoid that kind of stuff. But as a result, sort of the rough edges of the early times in observability, but yeah, huge fan of that. Glad that that made it onto your list.

For number 2 for me, this is a recurring theme from last year, but I’ve doubled if not tripled down on it. So this will be Svelte, Svelte the JavaScript framework that is just so fantastic. The more time I spend with it, the happier I am that I’ve leaned into it. I took I would say a tiny bit of a gamble in choosing it for the view layer for the application that we’re building. It’s not as popular. It doesn’t have nearly as much community, mindshare, shared libraries, et cetera, et cetera.

But A, because we’re working with Inertia, Svelte occupies a smaller portion of our application architecture. So that made me feel more comfortable with that decision. And I liked a lot of the fundamentals that I saw on the Svelte community. And over the past year, I’ve just seen each of those get reinforced. Svelte wonderfully leads with accessibility as a primary concern.

And one of the things that I see is although there are fewer packages out there in the Svelte ecosystem, the ones that there are very often like, and of course, we thought about accessibility, and screen readers, and keyboard navigation, and all of that. And so you don’t even need to worry about that. It’s like, thank you. That is wonderful.

Likewise, SvelteKit is a project that came out. I believe it was released, and I think it’s 1.0 now or at least it’s on its way to 1.0 now. And it’s starting to get real usage. And that’s a Next.js-like framework that takes your Svelte application and allows you to build it, run it, compile it. You can use it for packages. You can use it for apps. Wonderful stuff in there. And it’s a great answer to how do I actually build a Svelte app or a Svelte package?

Likewise, Rich Harris recently moved to Vercel. Vercel is one of the big names in this world of we’re building fancy applications on the internet. And so that’s a huge vote of confidence for the framework. And now Rich Harris the creator of Svelte will be working on it full time. So it’s just a bunch of signals that are pointing at although it’s still definitely not nearly as popular as even Vue or certainly not React, Svelte is a wonderful choice. And I have enjoyed every minute that I’ve worked with it.

STEPH: I like how you’re doubling or tripling down on Svelte. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it. I feel like I should be a pro at Svelte at this point from everything that you have shared and brought to the show. But I’m still looking for that opportunity to get to test it out. So I’m excited to hear more about it next year.

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So third on my list, this one is more…it’s something that I’m toying around with. I don’t really have any concrete answers around how it’s going to look but something that I’m interested in exploring further. Based on earlier this year, I took a month’s sabbatical and that was phenomenal. I felt like this incredible reset, and then I came back more energized and interested in my work. And also, I got to explore other facets of life that I just normally didn’t have time for.

So number 3 on my list is the idea of working in seasons where you are focused and work really hard on a project. And then let’s say you take a couple of weeks off in between, and then you go on to your next thing. But I like this idea of chunking my work time because I found I’m very much a person that I’m on or I’m off. And it’s very hard to create that balance between those two parts of myself.

And this may be a nice way to do it to say, I’m committed. I’m doing this for six months. But then I know I’m going to book a vacation, and I’m going to take a solid two weeks off or maybe even a solid three if that’s something that my work and time allows. But I’m very interested in that idea.

I think it came from a conversation with someone else about academia life and how that is an approach they take where they work in those seasons where they work for the academic year, but then they take a summer off, and then they go back to work. And I very much like that idea and that approach to work.

CHRIS: This is such an interesting topic in my mind. I grew up both of my parents were teachers. So for the entirety of my life, I got summer vacation and my friends got summer vacation, and my parents got summer vacation. So clearly, everyone in the world got summer vacation. This is just a true thing about the universe.

And then spoiler alert, I learned the truth; it is different out there. So that took some getting used to. And then I have done an absolutely terrible job of this. This is an idea of like, I believe in this idea, the phrase that you used of living in seasons. It makes so much sense to me and seems like such a useful way to be. But I have at most taken two weeks off at any given point in my working career since I graduated college, and that was for my wedding. And that was it.

And between jobs, one time I left work like 15 minutes early on Friday, and then I started the next job on Monday. That was one of them. And then I did take a week off between my most recent job switch, just a whole week. Well, actually, that’s not true because we recorded The Bike Shed in the middle of it, and I took a bunch of meetings to be ready to start. I’m terrible at this. Even though it’s an idea that I believe in, that I want, I have never pursued this in a deep way. And it’s something that I would really love to do. But yeah, I’ve not really done it.

So you mentioned academia and so there’s the natural cadence to a year. But there are also sabbaticals. That’s a thing that exists in the world. It’s an idea that’s already out there. Once every seven years, you get to take six months off just to go on an adventure. That sounds fantastic. I would like that, please. So I got to make that work in the world somehow, probably not for a couple of weeks, though, because I’m in an early-stage startup at this point. And so I probably got to hang out for a little while and get some stuff done.

STEPH: I like how you pointed out that sabbaticals exist; those are a thing. You also mentioned that a lot of times, maybe there’s seven years or five years is what I’ve seen at companies before you get a month off. And while that is wonderful and much appreciated, I am interested in finding a way to include sabbaticals or at least those breaks more often in my life. Because I know I’m someone that I’m going to be focused on, and I’m going to work hard. And rather than just continue to do that and then one day burn myself out, find ways that I can have more of a structured this is when I’m on. This is what I do. It’s what I’m interested in. I’m excited about this.

But now that I’m done with this after six months, let me go take a solid two, three weeks off to reset, recharge, find some other hobbies, and then come back to this. And I think that will make for a much longer and happier career. So I haven’t worked out the details, but it is something that’s on my mind. So that is why it is my number 3. What’s your number 3?

CHRIS: My number 3 is perhaps in a similar space. And again, this is another one that was on my list last year, but I’ve leaned into it all the more, and that’s remote, working remotely, working from home, et cetera. I have embraced it all the more this year.

The new company that I’ve joined we are a remote-first company. And so that is the mode that we’re going to be working in. And that was something that I certainly pushed for because I feel like it is meaningful across the board. And if you’re intentional about it from the beginning and think about things like async communication, and how do we handle this, that’s all the more meaningful.

But also as vaccines and things like that have become available in the world, last year, remote was just the thing that we did. And this year, it was more of a choice and also was offset by the occasional in-person meeting. So the other folks that are in the company currently are co-located around Boston as well.

So we’ve had a number of days where we’ll go downtown meet at a WeWork or some other shared co-working space. And we can have the occasional bit of in-person time. But we try and be very intentional with that. We try and make sure that when we’re going to do that we have an agenda, even if that agenda is just connecting and socialization, which I think is deeply important. And that is incredibly hard to do just over Skype or Zoom or any of those tools.

But then the vast majority of the time I get to not have a commute. I get to work out more easily. I can cook dinner more easily. I can go for a longer walk with my dog. All of these things are just options now that are so, so meaningful and allow me to have a slightly calmer cadence to my life which is a thing that I want both in the work and in the life.

So I’m all for remote and perhaps tinged with a little bit of hybrid in person, kind of figure out how to get that right optimization. But yeah, big fan and will be continuing to do it with the caveat, and this is something we talked about the previous time we talked about it. This makes a lot of sense for a certain point in your career. I still wonder about how to make this work for folks that are newer to the industry. Junior developers joining a team being remote feels like it would be very complicated. So at a minimum, needing to be incredibly intentional around that. But also, is that even the right answer in that case? I don’t know.

STEPH: I have feelings about that one. But I’m going to punt for now for another episode because I think that’s a really great topic to dive into. And yeah, we should talk about that more.

CHRIS: I look forward to that conversation. But yeah, remote, that is my number 3. And with that, I will send it back to you for your number 4.

STEPH: I love that one. I’m a big fan of remote work. All right, for number 4 it’s debugging. So I feel like we’ve had a number of conversations. Joël Quenneville has been on the show to talk about debugging and debugging not just for the art of it and the necessity of it but really building concrete skills around how to debug and then finding ways to share that information with others is really powerful.

And I feel like it’s something that a lot of people just pick up on the job as you go, which is great. But it’d be great if we could create shortcuts for people. So then that way, they can have that information sooner rather than just waiting for a painful experience and then happen to pick up new tools for debugging. So debugging is a big one for me.

I also think that’s representative of the type of projects that I’ve been on this year where a lot of them have been more triage-focused and how important debugging skills are in that moment, which I’m sure is also why observable systems is on the list. So for my number 4 is debugging. And we’ll link to Joël’s episode about debugging because it’s delightful.

CHRIS: Debugging, one of the most pointed examples of alchemy in our work is the intersection of art and science and craft and all of that. And yes, debugging, what a fun topic.

But for my number 4, this is a return from two years ago, and this is Vim. I finally feel like Vim is starting to catch up, the promise of the language servers and VS Code, and the way that it works. I guess I’ve said this every year. I know. I’m aware.

STEPH: I’m laughing because I thought for a moment you’re going to be like, I finally feel like it’s working for me. [laughter]

CHRIS: I finally learned how to quit Vim. I’ve just had one instance of Vim open for the last 13 years because I didn’t know how to quit it. But that has been fine. And then I finally learned how to quit it. No. Vim is finally catching up.

The Neovim just came out with a new version that’s got tons of deep integrations VS Code-like features. Thanks to the wonderful work of the VS Code team and the respective language servers from all the different communities. The promise of the editor ecosystem rising tide lifts all ships is coming true, I think.

And even right now, I haven’t even jumped to that new Neovim version. But the version of Vim that I’m working on with the current config is great. It works. It does the thing. And that’s awesome. And it’s only going to get better from here I think.

So 2022 is the year of Vim on the desktop. That is my strong bet. That’s a joke about Linux in case anyone doesn’t get it. It’s not a good one. But it is a joke about Linux. So that’s my number 4. Back to you, Steph, for your number 5.

STEPH: [laughs] And this is another count for our laughs in parens for next year’s frequency count. Well, I guess it is still this year.

CHRIS: I absolutely love that that made it onto the list of top 10 things just [laughs] laughter off to the side.

STEPH: All right. So for my final, number 5 is don’t forget the fun. And I say this because while work can be very interesting and fulfilling, I have found for myself this year that I also really needed some downtime to just play, to just experiment. And initially, sometimes I was worried where I felt like a lot of the work I was doing often wasn’t building, but it was more correcting or fixing systems.

And I started to lose some of the joy that I had around coding. And I started to worry about am I losing the interest, the spark that I have for this career? And while I’m very fortunate to enjoy my career, I have become accustomed to the fact that I really like what I do. And so when I felt that starting to fade, it was a concern for me.

But then I started picking up just some little fun things like one of them is Advent of Code which is created by Eric Wastl. And during the month of December, a new programming challenge is released each day, and there’s a leaderboard and you can be as competitive as you like. You can use any programming language that you like because then you essentially solve the problems and then provide the answer. And then Advent of Code will let you know whether you have the correct or wrong answer for that exercise.

And that sparked some joy, and it reminded me, oh, I really do enjoy this. I like a lot about this. But I have been so heavily invested in triaging that I was missing some of the fun that comes from just building something. And so that is my number 5 is don’t forget the fun.

CHRIS: I’m so glad you added that to the list because this podcast is depressingly serious at times. And I’m glad that we now have this on a list formally so that we can remember to not take things too seriously. But more seriously, [laughter] I do think that’s a wonderful item. And we do have the possibility of really loving the work that we do.

I find this work to be very fun. And there are different versions of it. And there are different companies and ways that it can go. But for me, this is something that I love to do that I find so much fun in but can get mired down in the details. And so being intentional and saying, “This should be fun. If it’s not, what’s going on?” That’s at least something to look at. And where can I find the fun? And how can I revisit that? So I really enjoy that that is the final item that you’re capping your list off with, in fact.

So for me, the way that I’ve thought about this list as we’ve composed it over each of the years is what are the major themes? And for me, probably the biggest theme is that I have joined an early-stage startup, and I’ve joined on as CTO. So it’s a very different role. It’s a very different type of interaction. I’m not sure I’ve ever said the company’s name before on this show because I’m a terrible salesman. The company is Sagewell Financial. And so we are trying to do something very ambitious.

And the role that I’m in is a very interesting one. It’s composed of pieces that have always been part of my work. There have been bits of mentoring, and hiring, and architecting, but then also doing the individual contributor work and all of those different pieces, and those will all be present but to varying degrees.

And the amount of ownership I have over the thing is very different than the long history of consulting that I’ve done. And so I’m really excited to lean into that and to explore that and to find out what it feels like to code less because I think that’s just kind of a given. It’s already started to happen even this early on in the project, and I know it’s probably only going to continue, which is an interesting one relative to your “Remember the fun.” I find coding very fun. So that’ll be an interesting one to see how it plays out.

But I also find all of the other aspects of managing and guiding the technical portion of an organization really interesting. So I’m super excited to continue pushing on that, to go on that adventure. But yeah, it’s very different. Or it’s every single dial on all of those different measures is just turned up to 11 now is what it is. And I’m like, okay, cool, strap in. Let’s go for a ride. This will be fun.

STEPH: I really enjoyed those discussions about how your role has shifted and the different responsibilities that you’re taking on as I have often felt that tension between managing and then coding. And I enjoy both, but then making time for both, and then which ones do you grow in? Because I’m still always growing and striving to be a better manager and a team lead. But then I also want to continue to grow and be a better individual contributor. And focusing in those two areas or trying to grow in both directions is hard.

So then I often have to pick one to focus on. Maybe it’s for a day, maybe it’s for a week, maybe it’s for a month. And I’m like, hey, for a month, I want to grow in this particular manager skill. But then that way, I feel like I have this more achievable goal. So all that is to say I really like your number 5. And I’m really looking forward to more conversations about how it’s going and all the different things that you learned from being a CTO.

CHRIS: Well, I think on that wonderful note, we should probably wrap up this episode and wrap up this wonderful year of The Bike Shed. As always, Steph, it’s been such a pleasure getting to chat with you on these weekly tech talk and nonsense adventures that we go on.

STEPH: Likewise. This has been so much fun. And when I mentioned earlier about having sparks of joy, Bike Shed is always one of those. I love these conversations that we have. It’s been a wonderful year.

CHRIS: Cool. Well, I will see you in 2022.

STEPH: On that note, shall we wrap up?

CHRIS: Let’s wrap up. The show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm.

STEPH: This show is produced and edited by Mandy Moore.

CHRIS: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review on iTunes as it really helps other people find the show.

STEPH: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us at @_bikeshed or reach me on Twitter @SViccari.

CHRIS: And I’m @christoomey.

STEPH: Or you can reach us at [email protected] via email.

CHRIS: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we’ll see you next week.

All: Bye.

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