Online Security and Being Super Productive, with Azat Mardan

We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you up to 65% off web hosting, plus free access to the entire SitePoint Premium library (worth $99). Get SiteGround + SitePoint Premium Now

Azat Mardan on the Versioning Show

In this episode of the Versioning Show, David and Tim are joined by Azat Mardan, a software engineering manager at Capital One, author, teacher, conference speaker, Node expert and Paleo enthusiast. They discuss online security and social engineering, speaking at conferences and knowing your subject, writing blog posts and books instead of playing video games, cool books to read, going grain free, and DDoS rental services.

Show Notes

Conversation Highlights

Before React, it was mostly Node.js, Express.js and JavaScript on the back end. Because before Node.js, you couldn’t use JavaScript on the server, right. So, we had to use some mother language or a framework, like Java or Python or PHP and any other developer. I was doing exactly that; I was using multiple languages, and with Node.js, I could use just one language, so it was just magic for me.


Then I taught myself Python. Actually, I wrote my first book while still at university, doing my Bachelors. And then a year later, my classmates had to use my textbook to do the labs. They didn’t like that, so … that was a funny story.


Basically, I’m sharing my lessons about writing and sharing some of the tools and tactics I used. That I wrote basically on a train from a conference. I took a train from Portland back to San Francisco — to Emeryville, California — and I had one day and one night. I wrote 5000 words. That was the basis. It’s a small book, but still, it’s kind of a book — 80 pages.


I think if you’re confident and you know what your subject, the actual mechanical process of typing your thoughts out, it’s not that long. Maybe two weeks if you haven’t done it before, a few days if you did.


Once you play the video game right, you get that satisfaction. My satisfaction is creating a book. … my motivation is like, okay, the video games — other people are not going to benefit from that. I won’t get extra income from that, or get any amazing opportunities like, for example, traveling to a cool city and speaking at a conference …


there is like so many more benefits of doing that stuff versus just playing video games, so for me it’s just no brainer. I come home and it’s like, Okay, so what I’m going to do with my next two hours before going to bed? I’m like, Oh, I’m going to learn something, write a blog post or work on a new online course.


You’re not going to master something unless you teach it, right? When you’re there in front of a class of people, of 50 people, and usually they’re very smart and they know a lot … If you’re giving a talk at a conference, teaching a class, you better come prepared. That’s like an extra motivation. Without that, it’s harder to learn.


For some reason, security cameras actually are good bots — all those Internet of Things devices — and then you rent it to other people.

Azat Mardan on the Versioning Show

Transcript

Tim:

Hey, what’s up everybody. This is Tim Evko …

David:

… and this is M. David Green …

Tim:

… and you’re listening to episode number 26 of the Versioning podcast.

David:

This is a place where we get together to discuss the industry of the web, from development to design, with some of the people making it happen today and planning where it’s headed in the next version.

Tim:

So, today we are going to be talking with Azat Mardan, and we’re going to be speaking about JavaScript, having a career in tech, and engineering culture. So let’s go ahead and get this version started.


The Versioning Show is brought to you by Squarespace. Squarespace helps creative people stand out. With an all-in-one platform that lets you create a beautiful website without worrying about limitations, designer templates, and a simple interface, Squarespace is the best way to make your next move.

With Squarespace, you can run much more than a portfolio site. You can run your online store on Squarespace, with detailed analytics, domain registration, G Suite integration, and tools that help you scale your business.

Squarespace have a special offer for listeners of the Versioning Show. Try out their service for free. Then, when you decide to subscribe, use offer code SitePoint to get 10% off your first website or domains purchase.

Go to SitePoint.com/squarespace to get started.


David:

Hey, Azat. Welcome to the show.

Azat:

Hello everyone. Thanks for having me, David and Tim.

David:

We’re really glad to have you here, and since this is the Versioning show, we usually like to start off with a philosophical question, and our philosophical question for you today is this: In your current career, what version are you, and why?

Azat:

What version … that’s a great question. I should have been prepared better! [Chuckles] I think there’s the alpha and beta, so I’m definitely beta, right? But then, I would like to consider myself, alpha, not a beta type of person, so … here you go.

[Laughter]

David:

Is that alpha as in dogs or alpha as in —

Azat:

Alpha dog, alpha dog, yeah.

David:

Alpha dog, fair enough.

Azat:

Or the better software, I guess. I guess better software is better than alpha dog.

David:

I can agree with that.

Cool, we’ve seen a lot of your videos out there, read some of your books — you’ve been so prolific communicating information. Can you tell us a little bit about what sorts of things you’ve been writing about?

Azat:

Oh, thank you. Yes, trying to be as prolific as possible. So writing on React lately — React Quickly is my latest book. Been really fascinated with this small UI library, and it really, really, kind of reignited this passion about front-end development, because front-end development could be tricky. It has a lot of moving parts, and it’s not very convenient in terms of the developer experience and in terms of other, kind of, how do you connect all those moving pieces and develop. So, I was really passionate and excited last year about React.

Before React, it was mostly Node.js, Express.js and JavaScript on the back end. Because before Node.js, you couldn’t use JavaScript on the server, right. So, we had to use some other language or a framework, like Java or Python or PHP. And, as any other developer, I was doing exactly that: I was using multiple languages, and with Node.js, I could use just one language, so it was just magic for me.

David:

Made a difference for a lot of us. When you started doing your development work, how did you come into development in the first place? Do you have a degree?

Azat:

Oh, okay. If we start way back, yes, I did my Bachelors in Informatics and Economics. I did that back in Russia, and I came here to the United States to do a Masters in Information Systems Technology — so somewhat related to Computer Science. It’s kind of a blend between Computer Science and Project Management. That was interesting, because you could learn ASP.NET in a class, at university, and then apply it at your work, with some of the projects on your resume. So I like that.

And then just self taught — most of it self-taught PHP, self-taught a bunch of other languages. So learning never stops, right? Taking online courses and reading books, especially now in our industry. And right now, I’m enrolled in Harvard University — Harvard Extension School — so I’m taking a Cybersecurity certificate, which later will be a Masters Degree in Social Engineering. So I’m constantly updating my skills.

Tim [4:30]:

Well, that is certainly very impressive, and now I feel like I certainly have no excuse. I should go learn more things. But I’m very interested, how did you, from college, transition into web development?

Azat:

I actually was doing web development in college, so my professor had a project, and instead of just going to his lectures and learning by going to the lectures and doing some boring exercises, I just developed this project, basically, where people can online see their attendance and other professors and teachers, they can mark their attendance. So kind of an early learning management system.

Most of the universities, they have some type of system right now — content measurement system, you would say. That was like 15, 20 years ago, and I taught myself PHP and of course you have to learn HTML and CSS and JavaScript, just a little bit, to do that.

Then I taught myself Python. Actually, I wrote my first book while still at university, doing my Bachelors. And then a year later, my classmates had to use my textbook to do the labs. They didn’t like that, so … that was a funny story.

David:

It’s always intimidating when your classmates have to use the book that you wrote.

Azat:

Yeah.

[Laughter]

David:

That’s one way to establish that alpha position in the class.

Azat:

Yeah. Apparently the book got butchered, and there were a lot of typos also, along the way, because there were some editors in the middle I didn’t know about.

David:

Was that your first book?

Azat:

Yes.

David:

Yeah, you learn about editors along the way.

Azat:

Yes.

David:

Cool. You have a lot of books out now though, don’t you?

Azat:

Yeah, I said, I think like, 14 or 15, not counting those two books.

David:

That is amazing, I’m really curious how you juggle your work and your writing career?

Azat:

I write on weekends, holidays … Sometimes you can write a book in the weekend, in a long weekend. One of my books, it’s called, ProgWriter [programmer + writer]. Basically, I’m sharing my lessons about writing and sharing some of the tools and tactics I used. That I wrote basically on a train from a conference. I took a train from Portland back to San Francisco — to Emeryville, California — and I had one day and one night. I wrote 5000 words. That was the basis. It’s a small book, but still, it’s kind of a book — 80 pages.

Tim:

You wrote a book, while you were on a train.

Azat:

Exactly.

Tim:

You’re like, I have some time to kill here, let me just write a book real quick. After I just got done speaking at a conference.

Azat:

Yes, something like that. [Chuckles]

Tim:

All right, sure. Go on, go on, I’m just going to sit here and not do anything else.

Azat [7:10]:

It’s a scenic train. It’s actually a great way to see the United States and travel. They have those scenic cars, where there is no roof, so basically it’s like glass, so it was pretty epic, and you can meet cool people. I met someone from government from Oregon — from Bend, Oregon — so had an interesting conversation.

Yeah, but basically what I’m saying is like, if you know what to write about, so obviously I knew how to write books, so I wrote about writing books, right? So, I think if you’re confident and you know what your subject, the actual mechanical process of typing your thoughts out, it’s not that long. Maybe two weeks if you haven’t done it before, a few days if you did. The most of the time is taken up by research, by coding examples if it’s a technical book, by facts if it’s like a historical book or political book. If you can do it during your work — let’s say you’re learning React during your work, or you’re learning … what are the new cool frameworks? … view.js, or you’re learning Elixir at you work, and then you already know how it works, so now you just need to describe, that’s super fast. You just come home, you write a blog post You hve ten blog posts, that’s like one chapter or a couple chapters for the book.

So basically, you repackage your thoughts, your experience, your blog posts, you can repackage your conference talk. One of my conference talks is called You Don’t Know Node.js. I repackaged it as a blog post, and then I repackaged it as an online course.

David:

And is that one of the courses that’s available through … I think you’re also a part of Node University, right?

Azat:

Yeah, that’s right, thank you for mentioning it. Thank you for the free marketing.

Yes, Node University — node.university without the dot com. I started it a few months ago. Right now I have 14 courses. The plan is to create a new course at least every two or three weeks. If anyone wants to know Node.js or React or JavaScript, some courses are free, some courses you pay a little bit, but then eventually, they will also be free.

David:

Is that what you’re doing full time these days?

Azat:

No, full time I work at Capital One.

David:

So you’re working full time at Capital One, and on the side, every couple of weeks, you’re launching another course for this university program.

Azat:

That’s right.

David:

On top of speaking at conferences and —

Azat:

I’m going to do three books this year, at least three books. So I have the contract, I just need to review it and sign with Apress for two books. It’s going to be new editions of my old books, Practical Node.js and Pro Express.js, and then one more book with Manning. But I’m going to keep it a secret for now. But, it’s going to be a good book I think.

David:

I trust that it will be. And Tim, you can shoot me now; my ego is completely dead.

[Laughter]

Tim:

Mine too. Sometimes in my spare time, I play video games.

But, related to that, what keeps you motivated to continue pushing out work like this, because it seems like your schedule is packed to the brim with either a full time job or a course or a book. How do you wake up every day and look at your schedule and just feel ready to tackle every thing that you need to get done?

Azat:

Speaking of video games, I used to like video games, so I have Xbox and a few video games, but I get the same kind of motivation, the same kind of pleasure … Once you play the video game right, you get that satisfaction. My satisfaction is creating a book. So, okay, I have a book ready, React Quickly. It’s going to be in print in the next few weeks, so now it’s time to think about new books. I get the same kind of pleasure. But then my motivation is like, okay, the video games — other people are not going to benefit from that. I won’t get extra income from that, or get any amazing opportunities like, for example, traveling to a cool city and speaking at a conference — and a conference usually invites me to do that. I get to meet other cool people, whom I saw on YouTube and whose books I read.

So yeah, there is like so many more benefits of doing that stuff versus just playing video games, so for me it’s just no brainer. I come home and it’s like, Okay, so what I’m going to do with my next two hours before going to bed? I’m like, Oh, I’m going to learn something, write a blog post or work on a new online course.

David:

That’s remarkable. I don’t think most people out there, who are working in the field, they don’t spend their time, trying to publish information, trying to share all of this. But it seems like sharing information really is core to the way that you approach your career.

Azat [11:42]:

Yes, I don’t know where I read it or who influenced me. Maybe, Nathan Berry or one of those self-published authors, who are a little bit in the tech field, a little bit in Design and Web Development. But, yes, I think that there is a tremendous value in sharing. It not only helps your brand, your personal brand, but it also helps other people. And, as I’ve mentioned, if you like it, you can make a little bit of money. When I started really seriously writing on my blog, it helped me first of all — helped me to basically form my thoughts in a more coherent manner, helped me with my rhythm communication and it helped me also to document whatever methods or classes I was using, whatever commands I was using.

It’s a great tool, it’s like open-source software, right? Why do people use open-source software? Well, most people — most engineers — want to learn, most people want to contribute to the community. But also, it’s great for becoming a better engineer, because your code is out there and everyone can comment on that. So, same thing with me. You’re not going to master something unless you teach it, right? When you’re there in front of a class of people, of 50 people, and usually they’re very smart and they know a lot, maybe not in this technology, but they know a lot about other things, so they’re going to drill you right? They’re going to ask you questions, so you better come prepared. If you’re giving a talk at a conference, teaching a class, you better come prepared. That’s like an extra motivation. Without that, it’s harder to learn.

David:

So, you’ve done the books, you’ve done the courses, but you’re not done. You’re starting to look into Cybersecurity. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that and how you got interested?

Azat:

Yes, Cybersecurity is all over the news, right? We have high profile cases offer this website, Have I been pwned?, where you can enter your email and it will scan the leaked databases. Our life basically, on average, revolves around the Cloud, and you have your password and the data is synchronized. Facebook, Google, Android, iOS, everything right? Life becomes digital, so it’s convenient but at the same time, if that data gets compromised, you’re out of luck.

And that’s funny. A few days ago, I was just on the phone with two companies. Both of them, they gave me passwords which is just welcome. So one company gave me password, welcome1, and another company gave me password, Welcome2, with a capital W. For one company, I had to give four digits of my social security number. (If someone is listening and not from the United States, it’s like one number they give you for the rest of your life, so it’s a pretty big deal.) Right now, we have the taxes, and so it’s very easy to get it from mail, because a lot of companies they just mail you in plain text, they mail you those forms and it’s in the post office, totally unprotected. And sometimes USPS even delivers it to the wrong address, so that’s kind of scary.

Another company, they don’t even ask for that; they will just ask for your email. If anyone knows that I’m a subscriber of that service and I probably post it on social media many, many times that I use that service. It’s a great service but if they know that I use this service and they know my email, which is easy to guess, I’m using obviously Gmail right, like most people. They can just call, get a new password, reset my password, get that welcome and steal all my purchases, so that’s kind of scary and ridiculous.

David:

This isn’t even just security from the perspective of development. This is security from the perspective of personal security.

Azat:

Pure social engineering. It’s everywhere, it’s personal, very personal.

Tim:

Is this a problem that you’re interested in trying to solve?

Azat:

Yes, of course.

David:

What’s the answer?

Tim:

Yes, please tell us.

Azat:

The answer, well … I traced the social securities, we already have the technology, it’s called Private Public Key, right? And you can regenerate it as many times as you want, so you’re going to keep your private key and then the companies will keep it private and that’s how they will identify you. Social security can get it only up to three times, and that’s it. You cannot get any new ones, so in terms of social engineering, yeah, it’s a human aspect.

Oh, another bad example, like websites — this is a more technical example — the website that tells you, Oh, your password cannot be less than eight characters and more than 12 characters. But that’s ridiculous, right? You’re eliminating your set of possible combinations right? So you’re making it easier: you’re telling what characters are not allowed. [Chuckles]

David [16:19]:

Exactly. Just for the listeners who may not be familiar, you used the term social engineering a couple of times. Can you explain that, please?

Azat:

Yeah, social engineering … A great book, I forgot what it’s called, but it’s about Kevin Mitnick. He was one of the famous hackers in 80s, I think? Right when Apple was becoming a big thing, and I think he’d be a pioneer. But, basically when I was reading his book, like 90% or at least in my perspective, 80 or 90% of his hacks were social engineering. So, what is social engineering?

Basically you’re not hacking, you’re not brute forcing your way, you’re not trying to find that password combination or private and public key combination because that’s 256-bit security, right, so that takes a lot of computer power. So you would call a phone representative, like a company contact on a phone; you pretend, you impersonate, you’d get some bits of information. For example, a lot of websites ask what CD you will burn? That information is very easily obtainable on social media, right? Also via phishing attacks: phishing is when someone sends an email and then pretends to be someone else, whom you trust. Also like, con artists / confidence men. Right now I’m reading a book about a confidence artist. They used it for hundreds of years, right? They pretend to be someone, they’re very confident, they usually use someone like higher up the rank, for example they could call you and say, Oh, it’s the IRS. Could you tell us your social security number, or tell us your bank account number.

Social engineering is basically preying on human trust, because we — especially in the United States — we have a very high trust, and that’s great for doing business because when you trust people, you don’t get afraid. So, everything is moving fast when you trust people. They prey on that trust, and they find vulnerabilities because the systems are not perfect in humans.

Another example they did — there is a video somewhere on the internet — they had a recording of a baby crying and the lady on the phone, the social engineer, the hacker, she’s a white hat hacker so she’s breaking the system, in order to show how bad it is, and not to gain some benefit. She was playing that baby recording and she was pretending like, she just had a baby and her husband is somewhere, to kind of get that sympathy.

David:

I can see how that can be very effective, and it’s just one more thing to be scared of in this terrifying modern world that we live in.

Azat:

Yeah.

David:

I’m curious how that’s going to reflect in the work that you’re working on next.

Azat:

We’ll see. So far it’s very interesting just to know how that whole underground world works, and I didn’t know there is even special service which you can rent to do denial-of-service attacks.

Tim:

It’s rentable?

Azat:

Yeah, it’s rentable, and it’s a better business than to do the DDoS yourself. You just hijack all those bots, like security cameras. For some reason, security cameras actually are good bots — all those Internet of Things devices — and then you rent it to other people. And apparently a lot of Minecraft servers get attacked by competitors, because when you want to play Minecraft, you don’t want the servers to be down so you will switch to another, to a competitor, and that’s how they compete by attacking and DDoSing each other.

David:

You see, Tim? Playing video games, you’re right in the middle of all this.

Tim:

I feel a little bit more productive now I’m helping, right?

David:

Exactly.

So the work that you’ve been doing, one of the things that really impresses me is you’ve been going out and talking at conferences, and I think that that’s part of what a lot of people who are interested in sharing information feel very intimidated by. Could you tell us a little bit about how you got started talking at conferences and giving those presentations?

Azat [19:56]:

Yes, speaking at conferences. Conferences are a great part of learning, which should never stop. And especially in our industry, a great way to talk with other people and find out what’s new.

For me, public speaking was the way to teach, right? So I started my first workshop a few years ago. I called it NodeProgram — kind of play on the program, like a computer program, and the class, on the course. I get to practice a lot of teaching and public speaking. So, when I joined Capital One, one of the job responsibilities was to put Capital One on the radar as a technology company, not just a bank, and attract talent. It became part of my job, and then, as I’ve said, it’s a great way to learn myself, about all the cool trends and hang out with people.

To expand on your question, people get intimidated: that’s true, obviously, as I’ve said. You have a lot of smart people in the room, they might ask you questions, so you really need to know your subject well, and the delivery must be good as well, because if someone gives bad body signals and is just reading from slides, hiding behind the computer, even if the content is really good, that delivery would diminish the effectiveness and it will be hard to comprehend that content. For someone who wants to jump a few steps in the career ladder, conferences are also good for the personal brand. In my book 5 Hacks to Getting the Job of Your Dreams, one of the hacks is actually speaking at a conference.

David:

That’s where I read it.

Azat:

It’s a great way to travel as well. I spoke at 17 conferences last year.

David:

Being that you’ve managed to accomplish so much, write so many books and articles and courses and all that, do you have books you read or mentors that helped you along the way or people that you look to? Because I can’t imagine that you just woke up one day and were immediately super productive at every thing that you tried. So I’m curious, what are the methods that you use to be able to accomplish all of these things?

Azat:

Yes, speaking of books, I like reading and listening. Through the past three years, I’ve read or listened to 200 books. That’s my mentors, that’s where I get the inspiration, the motivation — both strategic and tactical.

If you want some concrete examples, I have five top picks. Antifragile is a really interesting book about randomness and how we don’t really know what is happening and we’re just looking in the hindsight.

Deep Work, I believe everyone in software engineering should read that book. It’s by Cal Newport. He is a Computer Science professor at Georgetown University. So, basically, it tells that there’s shallow work and deep work, and if you want to provide really good value to your company, society, to other people, and benefit yourself, you should focus on deep work, not on posting on your Instagram food and tweeting every second. That’s all shallow work, answering email is also shallow work. Most of the people can do shallow work, but the deep work, that’s what’s valuable, that’s what’s rare.

The Next 100 Years, a really, really great book. Probably half of it’s not going to happen, but it’s interesting to hear those perspectives. So basically it’s predicting the future and some of the trends.

Sam Walton: Made in America. I tend to like autobiographies more, because they’re mostly cheerful. When you read a biography, you tend to get like black and white. You get to hear both perspectives, and that kind of skews the whole narrative. If you drink the Kool-Aid, just drink everything right?

Grain Brain: it’s about the diet, about how wheat and gluten could damage your brain. And being a software engineer, and being developers, the brain, that’s number one, our asset.

David:

Wow. So now I have a reading list. Absolutely.

Listen, Azat, I’m sure that a lot of our listeners are going to want to find out more about your courses, about your information, and get in touch with you too. How can people find you online?

Azat [24:08]:

Azat.co, without the M, so just Azat.co, C-O. That’s my personal website with all the links, so please connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, other social media, and Node University, so it’s Node — N-O-D-E.university without the dot com. I also got js.university but it will redirect to node.university, so that’s for online courses, if people prefer video format. For the written format, for my blog post, it’s webapplog so, W-E-B-A-P-P-L-O-G, so it’s like webapplog.com.

David:

Okay, we’ve given people a lot of things to look at.

Thank you so much for joining us. I’m sure people are going to be wanting to go out and read all of that stuff.

Azat:

Thank you. Thanks for having me.


David:

I’m excited to tell you about a new sponsor of the show, Rollbar.

One of the frustrating things we all deal with is errors …

Relying on users to report errors, digging through log files trying to debug issues … With Rollbar’s error monitoring, you get the full stack trace, context, and user data to help you find and fix impactful errors super fast.

You can integrate Rollbar into your existing workflow; send error alerts to Slack or Hipchat; or, automatically create new issues in JIRA, Pivotal Tracker or Trello.

Adding the Rollbar’s SDK is as easy as copy and paste. Start tracking and logging application errors in minutes.

We have a special offer for listeners. Go to rollbar.com/versioning, sign up, and get the Bootstrap Plan free.

Loved by developers at awesome companies like Heroku, Twilio, Kayak, Zendesk, Twitch and more.

Give Rollbar a try a today. Go to rollbar.com/versioning.


Tim:

It’s not very often we interview a super genius on the Versioning Show, but it seems that accidentally, we have. I say accidentally, because David and I would never intentionally schedule a super genius because that makes David and I look like not super geniuses. But in case you’re worried, we’re definitely super geniuses, you can trust everything we say.

David:

And if you doubt us, you can read the 17 books that we’ve published this year, and all of the 25 conference talks that we’ve presented. Oh, wait a minute — that was Azat, not us.

Tim:

That was Azat.

Yeah, can we just talk about that for a second. That was incredible, and I do feel a little bit bad, just a little bit. He is definitely a content powerhouse. It’s really amazing to see. First off, I’ve never written a book on a train. I’ve written a blog post on a train, it was very difficult and hard to concentrate so that’s pretty impressive.

David:

I have written a book, and it took me months, and it took forever to get published, and I can’t imagine the idea of writing one on a weekend.

Tim:

Yeah. I declined a book deal, because of that very imagination. So … I haven’t even gotten to the writing portion. I was just like, Uh, no, I’m too busy. Thank you. That’s as far as I’ve gotten in the book writing process. Maybe I’ll get a little bit further one day, but …

David:

But Azat seems so calm and so happy.

Tim:

Yeah, that’s the thing I was really admiring about him, is that he doesn’t take on all of this work because he feels that he has to and as a result, gets overwhelmed by it. He said he feels the same satisfaction that he does, the same enjoyment that he does, when he’s like playing a video game on his Xbox 360. I have to admit, I don’t often feel that same joy. To me, it seems like what he was saying was that, the work he does is his form of relaxation for him. He gets the same joy and satisfaction when he does those sorts of things. It really does seem to recharge his batteries, which is incredible. Because I — and I think you do too, as well, David — I look at those things most of the time as work. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes you enjoy it, but most of the time, it’s something that you do and then you say, Ah, I need a break, and your break doesn’t include writing another blog post.

David [28:04]:

It’s interesting, because there are a couple of things you can be talking about here. One of the issues is the question of, is it public work or is it private work? And is it like this thing that you’re going to put out there in front of the world — which I personally find very stressful — or is it something that you’re diving in too deeply and you’re spending hours and hours at the computer working on? Like a project that you’re developing, there’s some code on a website that you’re working on. I personally find that second one very refreshing, but I find it stressful when I know that what I’m writing or what I’m saying or what I’m recording is going to be going out into the world, and that’s the sort of thing that I always feel like I need to recover from. It’s amazing to see somebody who finds that life affirming and self supporting.

Tim:

But in the same right, I think that’s a good character quality that you have, because, to be honest, I’m way too self aggrandizing to be worried about the content that I’m putting in front of everybody else. My main thought is, O my goodness, everyone’s going to benefit from this and I’m going to be famous. I can’t wait to put it in the public domain. And that never happens; nobody says this is amazing, and they shouldn’t, because most of it is garbage anyways. But, I think that’s a good thing that you have when you look at something and you think, I really want people to benefit from this, and as a result of that, I’m a little bit stressed in the process. I think that’s a good thing to have.

David:

No, the things that you put out, Tim, are not garbage. I’ve read some of your work. Let’s be honest. I mean, we can be sarcastic or we can be self deprecating. Azat is putting out good stuff, you’re putting out good stuff, I think I’m putting out good stuff. But —

Tim:

You definitely are.

David:

Thank you. But, it’s a question of that motivation that you asked him about. Where do you find your energy? What gives you the source of the energy to keep on moving forward in doing this. Personally, I find it so much more comfortable to be working for hours and hours and hours on a project that’s just sitting on my computer and it’s just local and I don’t have to think about what it’s going to interface with the real world. I just think about the problems that I’m trying to solve and the project, the structure of the task that I have in hand. That kind of work, I find very self supporting, but when I start working on something that I know is going to be out there in public, if I’m presenting a talk for a conference or if I’m putting together a presentation or a class or a blog post, anything like that, I get stressed about the fact that there is going to be somebody out there responding to it.

Tim:

Yeah, I understand that. I think deadlines definitely do that for me. When I know that, all right, here’s the thing, and whether it’s a self-imposed deadline or it’s a deadline coming from somewhere else, mostly there’s a deadline on the table. Then it becomes stressful for me, and not stressful in the sense that I’m tripping over myself and sweating as I type. But, stressful in the sense that it’s in the back of my head and it’s something that’s poking me in the back of the neck saying, You need to get this done.

But I was thinking when I was listening to Azat talk about all of the work that he does. I was thinking that, he gets joy from doing all of this work. This is clearly something that he’s intensely passionate about and just really loves to just continually produce books and learn and read. And if that’s not you — and that’s definitely not me, I like to be lazy a lot. Not necessarily a lot, but I do like to go to work and then come home; I’ll do a little bit of studying and then I’ll kind of relax, and that’s okay. If you don’t get passionate about constantly putting out hundreds of words and audio clips and conference talks … if that’s not you, I don’t think you should ever feel that you have to become that.

Of course, it’s okay to get motivated and say, Wow, this person is doing a lot of great, great work for the open source community. I, too want to contribute. Sure, but don’t feel like you have to compete with the amount of work that anybody else is doing, especially when that stuff mostly goes towards helping other people for free.

David [31:50]:

It’s absolutely true, it’s not a competition. And we all have our own career paths, and I think that it’s something that Azat would agree with. He talks about finding your own career paths and being successful and hacking your own career. One of the things that he — I don’t know if he says it specifically — he talks about the conferences that he’s presented at, and I was asking him how he got started with that, and he said he got started by doing presentations on behalf of his company. Which is a really interesting thing, because it means that you don’t have to go off and independently carve your path in order to become somebody who has a public image and a reputation. He took the job that he had in the company he was working for, he stayed there as a full time employee, working for that company, and at the same time, while supporting his job and while supporting the business, went out and built a name for himself by taking advantage of the opportunity he had as an employee, to represent his employer.

Tim:

Yeah, it sounds really like a web evangelist kind of role, and I think that is a genius way to get started. I know for me, one of the things that really quelled my fear of public speaking was speaking at company events, because it’s a little bit smaller and a little bit more intimate of a setting, and you know all the people that you’re talking to. So it gets a little bit easier to go up there and speak when you know that, All right, I’ve done this before. What’s the worst that can happen, really?

David:

One of the things that worked for me was, I started posting meetup groups, just small groups of people with a shared interest, and it was an interest that I had. I started with people who were reading books about JavaScript, and I just had them gather and talk about those books that they’ve been reading. And ideally, we’d all read the same book, and we’d have something to talk about. And I used to try to get the authors to come and talk at these events as well.

It was fun, and it was a small community, and out here in San Francisco, there are basically you just have to walk out the door and whistle and you’ll run into a friend and engineer, so there were a lot of JavaScript folks around. But, another meetup group that I started was for photographers, because I’m also interested in photography, and we have a San Francisco photography meetup group that gets together and does photo crawls in the city, and I’m hosting these things. It’s an opportunity to put myself in the position of being the host and get some practice with talking in front of a group. But it’s a group of people who have a shared interest and have come together because they want to do the same things that I want to do.

Tim:

You know what I’m thinking? I have an idea for another episode. We should talk to a public speaking professional.

David:

Interesting, interesting.

Tim:

Right? Yeah, we can get tips on how to not look like idiots in front of large groups of people, which I could use a couple, maybe like one or two of those tips, and just generally be a better speaker. Because the thing that I’ve found is, I learned the most when I speak about something to other people. At least in preparing the talk, I learn about — do I really know this topic that I’m speaking about? You learn to get up in front of people and present an idea which you really need to know fully, or at least a decent amount about, in order to deliver a talk, and then you learn how to take questions from people about said thing, and how to deliver coherent responses. I mean, it’s a learning experience for you as much as it is for the people that you are presenting to, so speaking is good. We should all do it if we have the chance. And, yeah, getting some professional tips, I think would be a good resource for our listeners.

David:

And it’s an opportunity to explore topics that you’re curious about, too. If you look at Azat’s career, and you see the things that he said he was passionate about, and the things that he was publishing books about, they match up. And now he’s talking about learning React, and at the same time, he’s writing books about React, and that’s probably part of how he’s learning it.

Tim:

That’s something I noticed when we were talking to him. It seems like his method is to get curious about something and then go immediately to step of, all right, I’m going to either publish a blog post, write a talk or a book about this thing. And, well, you have to know the thing to be able to do that, so you just get started. That’s really a genius way to go about both learning something and helping others learn something.

David:

Yeah, I came away from that interview really inspired, and I have at least four books I need to read. I’m already grain free, so I don’t need to read the fifth one.

Tim [35:56]:

Oh, you’re grain free.

David:

I am, indeed.

Tim:

I’m nearly grain free. I eat about 80 to 100 grams of carbohydrates a day — mostly coming from vegetables, but a little bit from pasta with lunch. But, yeah so I’m close. But not quite there. I don’t think I can give it up, David, I’m not strong enough.

David:

I find that if I have any carbs at all in my diet, I have all carbs in my diet. If I don’t cut them out completely, my appetite just takes over, so I cut them out completely and then I don’t even miss them.

Tim:

You’re very strong. That’s what we’ve learned today, everybody. David is very strong for not eating any carbs. Send him a congratulatory tweet or a support email. Just let him know that you’re rooting for him.

David:

But don’t send me any donuts.

Tim:

No, no donuts. Unless they’re Paleo, made with almond flour, because that’s a thing.

David:

Almond flour? I baked almond flour bread today.

Tim:

Wow, okay, so … apparently the goal is to make me feel demoralized. You are baking bread, Azat is doing everything else. I just sat on my couch and worked from home, because it was snowing, So, thanks.

David:

That’s all right, Tim. We love you anyway.


Tim:

Well, thank you so much for listening everybody. We always enjoy getting to talk technology with all of you.

We would also like to thank SitePoint.com, and our producers, Adam Roberts and Ophelie Lechat, with production help from Ralph Mason. Please feel free to send us your comments on Twitter — @VersioningShow — and give us a rating on iTunes to let us know how we’re doing.

Tim:

We’ll see you next time, and we hope you enjoyed this version.

We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you up to 65% off web hosting, plus free access to the entire SitePoint Premium library (worth $99). Get SiteGround + SitePoint Premium Now