Pro Yearly is on sale from $80 to $50! »

Building a Career Building the Web

Building a Career Building the Web

Given to a bunch of Computer Science and IT students at Georgia Southern University. It's less about technology and more about working people people in technology and what skills you need to develop to work on a team and be successful.


Kevin Lawver

March 05, 2013


  1. Build a Career Building the Web Kevin Lawver -

  2. Hi, I’m Kevin. And now a very brief bio:

  3. AOL 1995 - 2008 • started after freshman year of

    college, never went back. • went from tech support to Systems Architect • Lots of standards work and speaking at conferences. • built a reputation as troublemaker, problem solver and guerilla
  4. Music Intelligence Solutions 2008 - 2012 • First startup experience

    • Chief Architect => CTO => Interim CEO • Lots of fun with ruby and music science.
  5. Rails Machine 2012 - 2014 • President & Magical Scaling

    Unicorn • First operations role, first real experience contributing to open source software other than using and bug reports.
  6. Planted 2014 - ?

  7. Let’s not talk about technology. I'm not going to spend

    much time on technology - because that changes all the time. Let's talk about what it takes for technical talent to survive having to work with other people.
  8. Let’s talk about companies There are more types and roles

    in those types of companies than we can go over here, but I want to call out the differences in a few.
  9. Big Technology Companies • Lots of process, meetings and bureaucracy

    • Easy to get lost in the system • Easy to compartmentalize and let your skill set calcify, or end up with a skill set that doesn't meet any other company's needs (because you will get laid off at some point). • Soft skills become more important than hard skills. • A guerrilla spirit goes a long way. • Lots of opportunities for standards work, big hard problems and working at huge scale. • Lots of layers of decision makers make it hard to feel ownership over the products you work on. • Lots of opportunities to try on different roles within the same company!
  10. Big Companies  with Technology • You're always going to

    be an appendage • If your skills are 10 year out of date, this is a good place for you. • You'll probably never work on the latest/greatest technology. • Your bosses will have no idea what you do.
  11. Startups & Lifestyle Companies • Great if you like learning

    under fire • Great if you have a hero complex • Great if you get bored easily • Not great if you like sleep or time off or your family. • Not great if you don’t work well under pressure. • Great way for technical talent to learn about the business side. • Probably better to do this early in your career when you can afford the risk.
  12. Building a Career

  13. Awesomeness vs. Competence

  14. Lots of people are competent, but they don’t get outside

    their little boxes and explore. Don’t be a Milton. It’s about creativity and constantly learning new things and finding ways to apply them to your work. Don’t be stagnant!!
  15. “I don’t know,  but I’ll find out.” Learn to

    say this and then follow through on it.
  16. Be the problem solver. Build a reputation as someone who

    solves problems. No one ever got fired for being too awesome.
  17. Jump in the deep end. Take on the big challenges.

    Don’t play it too safe. But, be somewhat safe. Crocodiles have lots of teeth.
  18. Share everything! • It's not what you know, it's how

    you use it. Use your powers for awesomeness. • Share everything. Knowledge is only valuable when it spreads. • Be passionate about what you do. If you’re not passionate, find something else to do!
  19. Teamwork

  20. Every role has value. Technology is not the end all

    be all of the project. It's just a piece. Without good requirements, good design and good marketing, all that technology is useless.
  21. Be Optimistic - Be the optimistic developer. The farther down

    the product lifecycle you are, the more cynical and pessimistic you tend to get. Don't fall into that trap. - Be the Golden Rule - make things easier on everyone else on the team by meeting them where they are and being awesome. - Don't get married to a single solution or jump to conclusions. To quote the ancient philosopher, Vanilla Ice... NEXT SLIDE
  22. Stop! Collaborate  & Listen!

  23. Communication • Learn to write clearly, succinctly, without emotion and

    without the possibility of misinterpretation. • Don’t bring problems without also suggesting a possible solution. • Learn to be diplomatic.
  24. Lexicon • Learn everyone else's lexicon. If you're talking to

    a designer, know what kerning and whitespace are. If you're talking to the product person, know what their goals are and be able to explain tradeoffs in terms they'll understand (money and time). • This is REALLY important!!
  25. All the jobs! • The possibilities are endless. • Development

    - you like writing code and solving problems. • QA - you like finding bugs and being an advocate for the end user. • Ops - you like not sleeping and being the hero. • Management - you like leadership and diplomacy. And paperwork. And meetings.
  26. Build Your Skills • Always be learning - even if

    you don't get a chance to play with the latest technology, pay attention. • Have a “future solutions” file of things to play with that might not be ready for primetime yet. • Seek out people smarter than you and learn everything you can from them! • Always be playing - it's a lot more fun for everyone that works with you if you have fun with your job. Always find a way to "level up" on every project. Tinker with technology and find applications for it to your day job.
  27. Polyglot Be a Polyglot - Learn how everything in the

    stack works, always ask why and always experiment with better ways to do things. Don't fall into the toolset trap (this is the hammer they gave me, so I have to use it)!! Also, support diversity - don’t be a BROgrammer! Monocultural teams stagnate easily and miss opportunities. The more diversity, the more solutions, the faster/better the progress and eventual product!
  28. Find your place: Work somewhere they value your talents and

    support your career goals.
  29. Goals, have some! Oh yeah, have some career goals. What

    kinds of things excite you? Find a place that lets you work on those.
  30. Balance Balance is important. Have something outside of technology that

    makes you happy. Make time to get outside of the technology bubble and see the world (even better if work pays for that).
  31. And, remember...

  32. HAVE FUN

  33. Questions? Requests? Rant?

  34. Thank you! • @kplawver • • •

  35. Credits • All photos taken by me and licensed under

    Creative Commons • All of them are from business trips! • Be the awesome you want to see in the world “borrowed” from http://