Tiny DevOps episode #31 Charles Max Wood — Level Up Your Career

February 8, 2022
Charles Max Wood is the founder of Top End Devs, a platform focused on teaching developers how to achive top 5% status in their chosen field, and in this episode we talk about what that means.

Charles Max Wood is the founder of Top End Devs, a platform focused on teaching developers how to achive top 5% status in their chosen field, and in this episode we talk about what that means, and how six simple practices can help you achieve that goal.

We discuss whether everyone ought to aim for the top 5%, and why most people don't make it. We talk about the daily, weekly, monthly, and other habits that can help anyone climb the ranks quickly.

Adventures in DevOps Podcast
Top End Devs
Book: The MaxCoders Guide To Finding Your Dream Developer Job

Charles Max Wood
Top End Devs half off!
Twitter: @cmaxw


Voice Over: Ladies and gentlemen, The Tiny DevOps Guy.


Jonathan Hall: Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Tiny DevOps, where we talk about DevOps for small teams, tiny teams, 1 to 20 developers, or something like that. Today I'm excited to have Charles Wood with me today or Chuck, as he goes by sometimes. Chuck, thanks for coming on. Some of you guys may know him, some of you listeners may know him as one of the co-hosts or the principal host, really, of the Adventures in DevOps podcast.

He also runs several other podcasts, which I think we'll talk about here in a few minutes, but before we do all that, Chuck, would you give us a brief introduction? Tell us about your career, what about DevOps, and why we should care about what you have to say? [chuckles]

Charles Wood: Oh, where do I start? I started programming in a TI-85 calculator in junior high. If you're not in the US or don't know what junior high is, I was like 12 or 13. I was also really into math at the time and so we learned a little bit of Pascal just to make mathematical thingies, draw pictures. I got into that, got into electronics in high school, went to Brigham Young University. I worked in the office of information technology is what they called it, and I specifically worked in the operations center.

That's how I got into DevOps or into operations anyway. I was working janitorial services, met a girl. She introduced me to her friends, later became roommates with those friends and they were working in the ops center so that's how I got in there. Never really dated the girl. Anyway, it's another story.

Jonathan: Is that like happily ever after there, but I guess that happened later?

Charles: Not quite, but anyway, I worked there for four or five years. I did a brief internship looking at maybe going into law. That didn't work out. Went back, I worked on the server provisioning team and so initially we'd go in and we'd put the CDs in the servers in the back room of the operations center. Then, they figured out how to PXE boot so it would load the media off of another server on the network.

Then, eventually, we got into VMware ESX at the time, which was a precursor to some of the provisioning we do now where it's like, take that image and put it over there. All of our servers had fun names at the time. That's something I miss [chuckles] because now all my servers are, this is the website that's on this server.

Anyway, that's how I got in. I picked up programming at the time as well. I had a friend that was building e-commerce sites in LAMP stack. I started doing that and majored in computer engineering, which was more hardware-focused, but eventually, I got into software. I was actually running a support team for the company I was working for and we needed a support portal. I went to the CEO and the CEO looked at me and said, "We're not paying for that," and so we built it. We built a support portal.

That's how I really got into it because ops made sense to me. It was fun, it was interesting, but that's how I got into dev was that project and it was like, "Oh, wow, this stuff's actually useful."nAnyway, I've been doing Ruby on Rails since then. It's been 15 years. I got into podcasting at that same job. I had a coworker that bought an iPod. He helped me get set up listening to podcasts on the Mac mini I was using to run the Mac beta for the product we worked on.

At the same time I was getting into programming, I was also getting into podcasting, started my first show Rails Coach, which is not out there anymore. I morphed it into Teach Me To Code podcast when I took over the Teach Me To Code screencast series. Then, I'd been doing that for several years, like three years, I think, and a friend of mine posted on Twitter that, "We ought to have a podcast called Ruby Rogues where we have a panel that talks about Ruby.

I had been listening to panel shows as well because I was way into podcasting and sounded like a great idea to me so we started it up. That's how the rest of these started so we started Ruby Rogues and the JavaScript Jabber, The Freelancers' Show, iPhreaks, Adventures in Angular. I had a bunch of people coming to me wanting React and Elixir podcast. We started those. I started a view podcast at the same time.

Then I started Adventures in DevOps, Adventures in Blockchain, I think, which is no longer running, and a few other shows that we have out there. That's the history of where this is all gone and it was my full-time thing up until the fall of last year. Then, I took a job at Morgan Stanley, worked there for about a year, and now, I'm working a contract and building up Top End Devs.

Jonathan: Cool. Let's talk about that, Top End Devs. That's what I'd like to talk to you about today. What is a top-end dev? Of course, that's your brand. We'll talk about that, but what is the concept? What is a top-end dev to you?

Charles: It's interesting because the two were connected in my head. I went through some internet stuff, welcome to the internet, people suck sometimes. Most people don't, but it's just the way it goes anyway. It really made me think, what do I want? What do I really want to do? I realized that I wanted to help people become top-end devs. When I think about it that I have two definitions. One of them's a real short definition and that's you're within the top 5% of your field, top-end dev, that's easy. What does that actually look like? Practically, how do we help people get to that level? Who are these people? Some of them are easy to identify.

There are the celebrities in the space, for lack of a better term, you've got people that are out there that either have made major contributions to open-source that everybody uses and so everybody knows who they are or they're the people that are speaking at all of the conferences on a particular topic or a lot of times they're the podcasters that are podcasting about it. They're the people that have the YouTube channels about it.

Again, practically, for the everyday developer, it's like, how do I get there? Is that all of the top-end developers or DevOps folks? I think the answer to that is no, it's not the top 5%. That's like the top 0.5%. Maybe I'll have the tippy top-end devs or so, I don't know, but for the rest of the 5%, who are they?

When I really think about that, I think about, who are just the killer people that I worked with that were just amazing coworkers? Typically, they're the people that have an encyclopedic knowledge of whatever the topic is. It's what do we use here? It's like, I have played with X, Y, and Z. You're looking at them going now you have the same job I have and you have had that for a while. We haven't done that here or it's the person that will sit down and pair program with you or whatever and so you're sitting there and you get stuck and they're the ones that will help you find the answer.

There are some soft skills element to this too where they contribute to the team, they push the team forward, they help with the practices and things like that, but they're also experts. It's a bit of both and that's where I really put things. It's people effectively who are experts in whatever technology space they're in. They consistently push the team forward and they are actively participating in the wider community. Those are your 5% and I promise you, you're probably thinking, "I know a lot of people that do that." You really don't. There are not a lot of people that are doing all three.

Jonathan: If you're talking 5%, that means 1 out of 20, right?

Charles: 1 out of 20, yes.

Jonathan: Think of the last time you went to a meetup or maybe a lunch break. If you could remember far enough back that you were actually at a lunch break with physical colleagues and go around the table and think count 20, how many of those match that description? I'll bet one or fewer, in most cases.

Charles: The reality is that of those people that are sitting at the table, most of them probably fall within the top 15% to 20% because they're already actively participating.

Jonathan: I think it was Bob Martin who made the point in a video presentation he did several years ago that since essentially the beginning of time, which isn't that long ago in computer terms, but since the beginning of computer time, basically, Alan Turing onward, the number of developers has roughly doubled every five years and will continue to do so for a while. It won't forever because eventually, you would have more developers than there are humans on the planet and that won't happen. I expect won't happen unless we count AI. [chuckles]

Charles: That's interesting too, because I talk to a lot of these people coming and, boy, are they hungry to come in and nail this stuff. The other thing that's interesting about it is that when they come in and

they learn stuff, most of them most of the time are learning the new stuff. They're not learning the old crufty stuff that we're doing every day. That's the other element to this is these people are keeping up on the new stuff, like the top 5%. They're staying current. They know what they're doing and where they're headed with this.

Jonathan: Should everybody try to be a top 5%? Obviously, it's not possible. For there to be a top 5%, there also has to be a bottom 95%. Should it be a goal of everybody to reach this? Or it's okay if you don't want to be one of those people?

Charles: I'm torn on this because everybody wants something different from their career. If you're ambitious, then absolutely. The reality is, also, that if you're doing the things that I recommend people doing, and I have six, I just added one this morning, I was talking to my neighbor, and I was like, "I missed this, I'll tell you what it is, you'll be the first to hear it." but if you do these six things on a regular basis, and it's really not a ton of stuff to do every day, or every week because some of them are daily or weekly, if you're doing these things, you're doing more than 95% of everybody. Even if you're brand new, if your expertise doesn't put you in the top 5%, these practices will, right?

Jonathan: Okay.

Charles: That's the other thing, too, is that, in a lot of cases, I have people come to me all the time, "How do I stay current?" The reality is, you don't have good inputs. You don't have good inputs coming in and telling you what you need to do next. That's why you're worried about this. You see new people coming in and learning the new technology and they have this intuitive grasp of it and you realize, "I may wind up just stuck where I'm at," or, "I don't know what to learn next and so I may wind up stuck where I'm at."

The reality is, is that these practices will get you out of that and give you good input so that you know what to go learn. That'll put you in the top 5%. It'll put you there pretty darn fast, even if you're newer in the field because 95% of the people that have the expertise aren't doing these things.

Jonathan: What would you say to somebody who says, "I want to be a top 5%-er, but I really don't like the public speaking. I don't want to blog. I don't want to do podcasting and YouTube. I don't care about that aspect of stuff but I want to be the best developer I can be," and so on. Are those contradicting goals from somebody? Because I hear that kind of thing frequently, but does that mean they're not going to be top 5%? Are they stuck in the top 15 or something?

Charles: No, it means they're not confident enough to go put out content. I don't want to say never, but it's almost never the case that they don't want to do that. They're afraid they're going to fail at it. They're afraid they're not going to be good at it. It's an excuse. One of the things that I tell people to do is produce content every week. I've heard that before. I've had people come to me and say, "I don't even know what I would blog about. I don't know what I would podcast about. I don't know what I would write about. I don't know what I would YouTube about. I don't feel confident talking on camera. I don't feel confident using the mic."

That's fine. Some of that's normal but the reality is, you're not doing it for anybody else so why worry about anybody else? The reality is, it's a practice that does a couple of things for you that are really, really important and so you need to be doing it. One of them is, is that you actually think about the content you're putting out. That causes you to think about what you're learning and what you're sharing. It forces you to organize your thoughts around the topic.

The other thing is, I've been podcasting long enough that I don't remember having a career where I didn't get hired because of my content. I realize that that may be different from other people's experience. The reality is if they can go and they can see your expertise on a long run blog or a long run podcast or a long run YouTube series, even if it's not popular, you get so much mileage out of that.

The other thing is, you really start to figure out where you fit within whatever communities you do interact with. That is an extremely powerful place to be because when you show up, you immediately know, "No, I don't want to be over there. I want to be over here." You also start to identify with other people within the community, who you have things in common with. You also know when you don't have something in common with somebody how to talk about it.

Jonathan: I can completely identify with that and confirm that it's been my experience as well. Long before I was doing a podcast or YouTube or anything like that, I had a blog. I would just post occasionally when I had something interesting or notes to my future self about, "Here's how I did this thing." Every time I would interview for a job, of course, the interviewers would read that blog. They were probably the only people in the planet who ever read that blog aside from myself but it was valuable to them. Writing a blog post, [chuckles] you're not going to get a million views but those three views from those people who are going to interview you in the future are worth a lot.

Charles: Yes. If you're trying to attract business, by the way, if you're a freelancer or consultant, you have to be doing this. The other thing that I left off, is that it makes you get disciplined, doing it every week. I had a bunch of stuff go down. Like this week, in my world, my virtual assistant that posts the podcast episodes and things like that, that stuff that I haven't thought about in months because she just handles it, her city got hit by a typhoon. She still doesn't have electricity or internet. Guess who's doing it? It's me. I'm still making it a priority.

I think that's just as important as just having the discipline to say, "No, I committed to doing this on a regular basis, this regular basis, and so I'm going to do it." This week, it might be, "I was working on this thing and I got this weird error and this is how I fixed it. Here's two paragraphs," but you post it. Anyway, it's really, really critical to be able to do that because then you have that habit.

Jonathan: Yes, I agree. I've been doing daily blogging for almost a year now. It's amazing how frequently I can just refer to something I wrote. Some conversation on social media or with a friend over beers happens and we're like, "Yes, I wrote about that. Here's the link." [chuckles] It's fun to do that. I don't know how powerful. It is powerful, but it's just fun, "Yes, I did that. Here's the link." Done. I don't have to spend an hour explaining myself anymore, just here. [chuckles]

Charles: Absolutely.

Jonathan: You talk about doing weekly blogging, I guess, right?

Charles: Yes.

Jonathan: Is that your start--

Charles: Blogging, podcasting. Podcasting is my deal. I am on several podcasts. I have more than one bit of content that goes out. Whatever you're comfortable with. Blogging is probably the lowest barrier to entry. My son, for example, he wants to be YouTube famous and so YouTube's probably his deal. He's 16. He wants to play video games on YouTube. It depends.

Some people like being on the camera and some people don't. Some people like talking and aren't comfortable with being on the camera also. It's natural to me just talk my thoughts out.

Jonathan: If somebody comes to you, they're new to this idea and they're like, "What should I do?" It sounds like your advice is, "If all else is equal, just start writing a blog and do something. Get a blog out there. You can always add a podcast in the future if you want to or whatever else."

Charles: Yes, because a blog, there are blogging platforms that you don't even have to set up. You just sign up for them. I'm not going to mention one of the more popular ones because I hate Medium. There are other platforms out there. You can set up a WordPress. There're static site generators that are real easy to get rolling. Just start writing. It doesn't have to be pretty. It doesn't have to be perfect.

Jonathan: LinkedIn [crosstalk] option to put long-form content if you want to create lists on LinkedIn. Not that it is the best interface, but that's not a concern, right?

Charles: Yes, but the other thing is, it's not indexed the same way. You want something that's Googleable. Just to put it out there. The other things that I tell people to do, number one, is you have to learn something new every day. I have some guidelines for this like, one thing should be for your future job, where you want to end up. One day a week should be that. One day a week should be some soft skills or the way you interact with people on your team. The other five days could be whatever you want.

If you're not following the exact guideline, but you're learning something new every day, you're doing great. You need to commit code every day is number two. Number three is you have to meet somebody new in the industry every week. Now, if you have a podcast or YouTube channel or something like that, that gets a lot easier because you just reach out to them and say, "You want to be on my show?" Then you get to talk to him and you have that kind of conversation.

Jonathan: How would you have responded, Chuck, if I had called you a year ago before we did podcasting together and I said, "Would you have an hour-long conversation with me? " Maybe you would say yes, but most people wouldn't.

Charles: I would.

Jonathan: You would have?

Charles: You'd be surprised, especially if you have a podcast audience. I've seen people with brand new podcasts, legit. It's like, people don't even know about it yet so it's got like five people listening to it. I've seen big names go on them. You would be surprised, but the thing is, there's a lot to be said for talking to your peers, talking to people that are maybe just a little ahead of you one way or the other, maybe a little behind you one way or the other where you provide mentorship, all of that's valuable content.

It doesn't have to be somebody that you're going, "Oh, that guy has thousands of podcasts listeners. I'd love to get him on." Go for it, but the flip side of that is, is that you can get other people that you can create great content for that don't have name recognition, and that's just as valuable content.

Jonathan: Sorry, I interrupted your list, you were going--

Charles: No, you're all good. Learn something new every day, commit code every day, meet somebody new every day. We talked about one piece of content every day. The one that I just added talking to my neighbor, because we were chatting and I realized, people need to, and so I have two daily, two weekly, this one's a monthly. You have to participate in some community event every month. Now, that can be going to lunch with your colleagues. It could be going to a meetup. It could be anything like that, but it's somewhere where you're actually going and interacting with and talking to people about what you do.

Jonathan: Nice.

Charles: In relation to that, at least once every six months, it has to be some conference.

It can be a summit. I get that some people can't travel for whatever reason within or outside of the pandemic, but you've got to go and you've got to interact with people while you're there. You're going to get the latest and greatest from the experts that are speaking and you're going so that you can meet people in that setting because it's just different. There's just something different about it.

Then, the last thing is you have to sit down every three months and you have to look at your long-term goals, that's a year to three years out, and decide where you want to head. Then, decide what you're going to do over the next three months, what you're learning, who you're meeting so that you can get all those other things to line up with where you want to go. I have a lot of people go, "Chuck, I'm not sure where I want to be in three to five years." My answer is, pick something that sounds good. You can always change it later.

What you're going to find out is over the next two to three months, during that period where you're learning what you were learning to get where you want to go, you're going to say, "Oh, I thought I wanted to be in management. I've been picking up management skills every week for my future job skill." That stuff is boring. I hate it. I do not want to be a manager. I don't want to be anywhere close to a manager. I want to hire somebody to be my manager so that I don't have to do it. The reality is, is then you go back, and then when you do your next three months planning, you nix manager and you say, "I want to be a freelancer."

Then, maybe you start picking up skills for freelancing and you're going, "Some of the things that I have to do to market myself as a freelancer is super fun," or you may figure out that's not it either and you just want to be the top end dev expert guy on your team. That's fine too. Then, you have to be real concrete about what that means so that what you're learning over the next three months.

Jonathan: A couple of things that I noticed you didn't mention. I'm curious where you think if and where you think these fit in your framework, reading books. I read a lot and the people that I would consider top-end devs usually read a lot. They've read books by Bob Martin and Martin Fowler and Kent Beck, all the big names, you didn't mention reading. You did mention learning. Is that where you feel that that fits or?

Charles: Yes, absolutely. Top End Devs, I'm getting ready to launch the book club and we're going to be reading Bob Martin and Martin Fowler and all these guys. The other thing is that if you read a few paragraphs of a book and you feel like you really learn something. It just inspired you to think about whatever, that's enough.

I'm not setting the bar so high. It's not like you have to learn Kubernetes today. No, it's one thing. It's like, "Oh, I learned that I can configure Kubernetes to act this way with these couple of flags." Great. Now, go do something with it but you learned it. Committing the code is doing something with it. That's the plan.

When I say commit code, it's not at work. The stuff you do for work doesn't count. It has to be outside of work. It has to be stuff that you're not doing for work. Now, if you're an entrepreneur and you have a side project and that side project may eventually fold back into your business, that's fine. You're doing it to learn. You're not doing it to, "Oh, I committed code today because I showed up at work."

Books fit into that. I'm a huge fan of books. Honestly, on the entrepreneurial end and things like that, I consume, probably, three or four books a month. Then, I like to go pick up a tech book of some kind and consume one of those every month, but usually, they don't come in audiobooks.

I actually have to plan an out time to sit down and read. I've been doing a challenge called 75 Hard and part of that is actually reading 10 pages every day. I fit a lot of that in there. I can usually get through a decent size textbook in a couple of weeks. That's the thing. Books fit into there. I'm a huge fan like I said, but if you watch a 10-minute video on how to do a thing and you learn some, that's good.

That's what Top End Devs is supposed to be is, the brand is. We're working on getting series that come out every week. We'll have a Docker series and this series and that series so it's today I'm going to sit down and I'm going to learn something about Chef. I'm going to go watch the Chef video, and then tomorrow I'm going to go watch the Docker video. You get the idea. Then, the day after that, I'm going to go read a chapter out of this book.

Jonathan: What do you think about speaking at conferences? How important is that to people on this track?

Charles: It depends. I think it's a healthy thing for people to do, but I understand that some people just aren't going to be good at it. I also understand that a lot of people just aren't confident to go out and do it. I'm pretty fearless. I'm weird. I go do it, but I think a lot of that just comes out of, I've been podcasting for so long that if I'm going to say something stupid, I've probably already said it.

Jonathan: It's recorded. [chuckles]

Charles: Yes, it's out there in the world. You can find it. Honestly, it's one of the best ways to really get recognized as an expert. I will also put out there that if you are looking to get that top-end dev job where you want to be the expert in the company or you want to be recognized is that or the other or maybe you're thinking you want to be a developer evangelist.

Now, we're starting to talk career tracks, which is that three-month sit down and say, this is where I want to be in three years so this is what I've got to do in three months. Speaking might fit into that where you're sitting there and you're going, "You know what? I really do want to be recognized as an expert, but you don't have to do that to be top 5%. It fits and especially if you want to be in that top 0.5%, but reality is, is that you don't have to.

If you're showing up at the conference and you're mentoring people and you're talking to people and you're learning things and you're making those connections, a lot of times you'll be able to talk to and get to know those speakers anyway and move in those circles that gets you those better inputs that I was talking about earlier with staying current. Because now, you can have conversations with people who are involved, I guess, in a different way than you are. It's not critical a piece to this. It's something I encourage, but it's not something that I think is required.

Jonathan: For people who are interested that they want to be a top 5% developer, they just want a regular job. Maybe they want to work at Google or whatever. They're not looking to be the next DHH or whatever, big celebrity or whatever. They just want to get paid well and enjoy their job and be respected. How important do you think it is for these types of people to build a so-called personal brand, as opposed to just learning everything and talking about it, or is there even a distinction?

Charles: I think there is a distinction. I don't know that it's a very meaningful one. I see people and they just put content out. You can be more deliberate about putting content out, do a little bit more design work on your social media and on your blog or podcast or whatever and own a personal brand. Typically, the people who have strong personal brands are also people who have strong opinions and aren't afraid to put them out there, and so then you start moving more toward that celebrity status. There's a spectrum here.

As far as the rest of it goes, though, if you just want to show up at a great company, do great work and enjoy the rest of your life, that sounds pretty nice to me, to be honest [chuckles] I just want to take my kids to Disneyland every year or something. The reality is that you do need to do all this other stuff because you get hired on your personal brand. Effectively, if you think about it, what winds up happening is-- Let's say you want to go work at Google. [chuckles] I can't tell you how many people are like, "I want to work at a [unintelligible 00:30:35] company." I look at 'em and go "Why"? Then I help them.

I don't ask them quite that way because it is important to know why. Is it status? Is it something else? In order to have that job, they hire you on your personal brand? When people are hiring junior developers and they have a whole bunch of unknown show up. The person that shines the brightest wins, is really the way that works. This is somebody I think I can work with. This is somebody I think I can train. This is somebody that I think is hungry to get this stuff done. How do I know that? They have a blog. They committed to GitHub every day.

That's what this stuff is showing people is that, "Look, I'm the kind of person that you want to hire." That's a personal brand. It's not a personal brand in the way that we think of like a DHH or some of these other folks or some of the other ones that come to mind are like Wes Bos.He's created a personal brand, but he's done it around he's trying to sell courses and things like that. It's important to his business.

DHH does a lot of the same things and I think it does bring business to base camp. You don't have to go that way, but if you want to go work at a great company, having all this stuff under your belt, they've been blogging every day or blogging every week for three years. They obviously know what they're talking about because I read some of the articles and it's not this wimpy here's yet another intro to Docker that I've written eight times. They're learning new stuff and they're thinking about it and they're sharing it. They show what up at the community events. They're actually driven to learn. Those are the people I'm going to hire everyday dang day.

I was just talking to my neighbor over here and he mentioned that he had one guy on his team and he's like, "He's a technical genius. He just left my team and boy, is that a relief? " The reality is because he has to push him to do anything to move forward. Some of those interpersonal skills, soft skills that you're going to pick up once a week are going to be important.

The other end of it is, is when people hire, when they hire somebody new, they want to be able to see who they're going to bring in, and doing all this stuff gives you that baseline. The other thing is having the connections. I can't tell you how many people out there're like, "I can't find a good job." I'm like, "How many people do, you know?" All of these things play into that. Even if you're just thinking, "You know what? I don't need to be the celebrity. I don't even need to be well thought of at the company I work at. I just want to sit down and do my job."

The reality is that all of these things are going to help you get a better job. They are going to put you in a better position to get the thing that you want to get. Then, honestly, I've seen companies hire people at insane salaries that have been in the industry for two or three years. The reason is, is because they've gone out and they've put in the time to learn stuff that the guys that have been in 10 years won't go learn, won't go do or at least 95% of them won't.

There's no reason why this can't just accelerate your career either to the point where you're actually moving into the position you want. If anything, a lot of people, they just want to show up and do cool tech and solve cool problems and feel like they're a part of something. That is totally fine but if you're going to do that, you may as well be the best you can at it and go put yourself in the best position you can.

Jonathan: What should you look for in a job to help you with this journey? You don't want to end up in a dead-end job, but how do you define that? How do you know what to look for when you're on the job search?

Charles: You remember how I said that 95% of people don't do these things? This fits right into that, "Where do I want to be in three to five years?" Because if you can figure that out, I want to be a CTO or I want to be a technical lead of some kind, not a manager necessarily, but a technical lead at a company where I'm making some of the technology decisions and really relied upon or I want to go surf, I want to live on the beach and surf, and so I just want a place that'll just pay me, whatever, any of these are valid. I want to take my kids to Disneyland every year, whatever. I'm probably going to keep saying that one because I like it.

Jonathan: [chuckles] Do you take your gifts at Disneyland every year?

Charles: I don't.

Jonathan: Oh, is it an aspiration still or it's just something you heard?

Charles: No, this year, honestly, what I'm looking at is I want to take them each on an individual trip of some kind.

Jonathan: Oh, nice.

Charles: I could go into all the details, but we haven't been to Galaxy's Edge. My 10-year-old is nuts about Star Wars. Disneyland's an easy win there. My 12-year-old is crazy about Harry Potter. Universal Studios is an easy win there. You get the idea, right?

Jonathan: Yes.

Charles: Again, it's down to, what do I want? What's it going to take? Let's say take my kids to Disneyland every year. I know that that's going to be an outlay of cash and let's say that it's $15,000 for the whole trip. I have five kids, that's a lot of people that take to Disneyland. I live in Utah so we can drive there. Anyway, it's a long drive, but anyway, the point is, is that I can sit down and I can say right now, let's say, we're living on $70,000 a year. I don't know, I haven't done the budgeting, but let's say $70,000 a year. Now, I need to get to $85,000 a year and maybe account for inflation. Let's make it an even $90,000 a year. What do I have to do to get there and still what I'm doing at my job?

Then, I can start to write down, what are all the things that I want in a job? I want a good boss and it needs good benefits. I need this, I need this, I need this, and I want a $90,000 a year job. I can go look and see job listings that are listing for $90,000 a year. I can backfill this, then I can say if I'm making $70,000 a year now-- By the way, if you've been there for more than a year or so, you might be able to get $90,000 a year, just saying, but let's say that I can't seem to line something up. What do I need to learn? I can go look at those job listings. I can talk to people that work in those companies-- I wrote a book on this, by the way, and make the connection.

Those are the people that I want to meet every week, people that work at those companies that are working in those $90,000 a year jobs. Then, I can say, "Do I qualify for the $80,000 a year job?" Maybe that's the jump or maybe I can get into that company as a junior technician or a mid-level technician. Then, just let them know, "What I'd like to do is I'd like to prove to you that I'm worth $90,000 a year so I'd like to come in at $80,000." If you tell them you want $90,000 and they tell you no, just say, "Then let me come in at $80,000 and within a year if I do these things--" You start thinking what's the next step to that.

If I want to become a CTO, for example, and I'm an individual contributor, the next job for me is probably going to be some management position. It may not be mid-level, it may just be two team lead. It's like I'm going to go talk to my boss, "Boss, my goal is in five years to be CTO of a company that I'm a part of. I feel like the next step is to have a job kind of like yours. What should I be learning in order to go talk to other team leads?" You can figure it out.

What job should I be looking for next really depends on where I want to end up and the best way to figure out how to get that job is to talk to other people who have that job or talk to their bosses because if you talk to their bosses, their bosses are going to tell you what they want, "I had this really great team lead that worked under me as a middle manager. He did X, Y, and Z ABC. He dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts here." It's like, "Then I need to learn how to do all that stuff."

You can dedicate some of your learning to that, and then go start applying for those jobs because, the other thing is, once you start applying for those jobs, you start getting feedback, "We hired somebody else." What two things can I learn in the meantime so that the next job I apply to, I can be more qualified on? A lot of people will tell you that if you get that specific. If you talk to people who are a couple of steps ahead of you, they can tell you what you need, and then you can go learn it and learn something new every day that will get you there.

Jonathan: Chuck, you mentioned a book title, a book that you wrote. What's the title of that book for people who want to find it?

Charles: I'm currently revising it, I'm going to retitle it. Right now if you go on Amazon and you type in MaxCoders you'll find it. MaxCoders was the brand that I settled on before Top End Devs and so it's The MaxCoders Guide To Finding Your Dream Developer Job or something like that.

It's just going to be, Find Your Dream Developer Job, I think, is what I'm going to wind up titling it and it just walks you through how you update your resume. It tells you to commit often too, have a side project, how to get involved in the community because those are the biggies, and then from there, how to leverage connections in order to find the job you want and how to identify what companies offer what you want.

Jonathan: Really good. How can people get in touch with you?

Charles: The best way to do it if you go to topenddevs.com/tinydevops, I'll just put all the information there. I have a two-week email course that I'm working on that should be available when this goes live. If you get in there, it'll just walk you through a lot of this stuff. I'm also on Twitter. I'm not that hard to find.

Top End Devs is the best place to find a lot of that stuff, and then you can go listen to some of our other shows like Adventures in DevOps and click my face and you'll get the info there too. But topenddevs.com/tinydevops is going to get you what you want. I'm also going to put out there that if you go there, it's also going to give you an opportunity to sign up for Top End Devs offering at half off.

Jonathan: Awesome.

Charles: Anyway, it'll give you both. It'll send you an email and tell you how to do it.

Jonathan: Great. Thanks, Charles, for coming on. Is there anything you'd like to add before we say our goodbyes?

Charles: No, honestly, it's not a ton of work. I mean you can do everything that I just talked about in less than 20 or 30 minutes a day. If you just get up a little bit early and go do it, I can't tell you what a difference it'll make in your career. I mean people just rocket ahead because they're talking to the right people. They're learning something new. They're committing code and they're showing people what they're capable of. Once you've done that, you're not a risky hire and people will offer you what you're worth.

Jonathan: All right, everybody. Thanks again, Chuck, for coming on. Thanks for listening, and hope to see you next time.

Charles: Thanks, everybody.


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