Rub[berDuck]yConf, I :mustache: you a question

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Rub[berDuck]yConf, I :mustache: you a question
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I :mustache: you a question. That's what I send via Slack to folks I'm reaching out to when I'm stuck. Over these first few years of my career, the reach outs are fewer and the problems more specific and/or challenging. Now? I often get that inquiry in a DM. What I'm discovering more and more: That whole rubber duck thing is no joke—moreover, it's often the unofficial mentoring of our industry. What do our own questions teach us? What do they teach others? How can you be a great rubber duck? Beyond that moment, what can the rubber duck do for your career--the easy way?
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really can't find ash you a question is the title of my talk as you know the problem is I plan to this part of the talk where I would say that I was just saying sentences because my voice usually shakes the beginning of these but get my voice is not shaking so OK but I have already got the 1st curse word out of the way normally my bodies amid the big betray here but I guess it's just not going to be trained this time which is kind of a betrayal right in this whole OK so we're gonna start strong now years ago I feel my PhD exams twice as that for certain strong and then I am really but I really wanted that piece of paper I worked 2 years to get the piece of paper so I bought a PhD from a diploma mill from a sort of SMI accredited by the university and and so I do have a PhD it's on my bookshelf at home I because I'm not
really proud of it I don't even post on LinkedIn where I put all of my really important certificates and that by the way in the background is terror the goat though which it's not a coincidence she was named after me and she's awesome but I actually take linked in very seriously but of that in the PhD years my 1st mentor agim shift who really ramped up his efforts to get passing the exams after I failed them horribly he helped to shape my understanding about how I learned how I process information and how I communicate what I learned and that he said to
me this is the 1st Ngô I he said to mate terror you like to walk around the bar on before going inside and that really sums up how I learned and how I approach different things and your all kind of discovering this during the talk is well we're sort of walking around the but that description has been essential to my understanding of how I process what I'm trying to learn or work can't seem to learn and 1 of the reasons I'm giving this talk is because I struggle with grasping concepts more than the average person and that this is a talk about learning and at all levels were always learning and but at least in terms of how we mentor or more informally often peer-to-peer how we mentor or or entered and that how we learn about ourselves is what I'm doing for
war my problem with learning it was really brought home to me again during coding bootcamp we paired with new people every single day in and day out we organized our way around the room as such that we started with like the slow people wanted to go slow were at 1 end of the room and the people I called the golden children were over at the other end of the I was like hanging out of the window over there as far as I could get it turns out of course that some of my perceptions about what people knew or didn't know was wrong but I did this I I got a clear impression from all the different people owes pairing with that's how I was learning was was very different I was making progress but it was very different and I wanna emphasize that while there was progress that knowledge of different skin do a real number on a person and I don't want to make this a talk about things that you can translate and your own experiences so you're just going after trust me when I say that might the struggle was real and it was beyond the norm
I'm so I'm just gonna stop for a moment because I'm in tell what the story so I figure I may as well make some actual points that you should learn how you learn it's essential to learn how you learn and it's helpful if you are helping someone else to learn and to help them figure that out but ideally you'll learn how you learn so that you can communicate weight you need I wish I could go back head to those PhD exams I feel like I have a better chance of advocating for myself and explained by Prof. is what I would need in some different test-taking strategies in order to succeed but I can't so I want you to learn how you learn so that you can communicate that with others and then learn how you don't learn fail all whole bunch of times I am very good at this right as it you know you go into coding you fail a whole lot trying to solve different things it's the same thing with learning how to learn and what failed 41 time might succeed for you the next and so you you really do have to try a variety of things in a restaurant that out and I mention this specifically in this talk because I think when you work with different people and you're trying to mentor folks even informally you really need to learn to look for a variety of different ways that they're learning as well and kind of modify which you doing when you can and then and even though some of your colleagues might attend a talk on being a good mentor you are really the person vested with event vested interest in learning and so I mean that I'm sure that is quite obvious it's it's really it it doesn't matter if somebody comes in and gives you the thing that tells you how you learned it's my responsibility now to take that communicate that with others and figure out how to make up for my weaknesses in learning and I want I will
make a distinction and between what I experience with my slow learning and impostor syndrome which I you know I also have because I think somewhere in that circle have the key point for my PhD exam failure example is that I'm a real missed that when it comes to learning and communicating what I know and I realize that everyone kind of things they're special snowflake and I am but we all and that's why we all that's why we all think that
but I I wanna make sure my own failure is really clear I'm not sure why I want so badly but I do I want to make sure that you understand my failure and that it was beyond the norm of because prior to me feeling my PhD exams only 1 other person in the previous decade had failed the exams and then he admitted to taking a nap during that time exams and and and then filed a grievance and was allowed to write his dissertation continue and I'm not bitter in the slightest and and beta and this kid but I am I I mean this this was big and I have a large monthly payments that reminds me on the regular that I don't learn like other people learn and how I learned can be expensive and my story gets worse
and spoiler alert the reason the reason I'm sharing this there is that it isn't this dire for most folks and I hope that's encouraging even if things are in this dire in similar or different ways 1 can still succeed and I say that from the stage of the National Conference for my primary programming language while gainfully employed so that's that's my evidence of you can still succeed at all I have
the I really like you people and OK also I want to make sure that we have a common understanding of what I mean by the concept of of being rubber duck by the way my friend Robin I drew the she also designed the goat user stories stickers and in it so much better when it's done in VGA you just have to trust me that she's really talented have so if you it if you need a graphic designer and the idea of rubber duck I believe it originally comes from the book the Pragmatic Programmer where programmer is dividing by explaining the code line by line to with literal rubber that and that meaning has come to mean different things as things do but it usually involves something inanimate or say someone who doesn't provide technical knowledge to the solution anyways it's use now you might so you know certain e-mail slack message to somebody and you solve it simply through writing it out to the person so in that way is the kind of an animal
OK back to where it gets worse as I was saying but I have a new job I recently and I am trying to learn a ton faster and not be found out as a learning missed it I wrap up my day and then I start reading codebooks I'm taking online courses I'm watching YouTube videos about coding and trying to grok all things at once also learning a new programming language so that's part of it and my body is a betrayer I don't know if this is true for everyone but my body is and it's like the more I try to keep being a learning misfit a secret the more my food issues flare up and I gained weight and I mean a lot of weight and really good that and it's as if by hiding my Ms. Fitness my body makes me confront not fitting in in a physical way and that really
it's not so so now I'm a statue the most obvious question why the fuck am I sharing expensive failure my learning issues that are outside the norm and food issues of all things at a tech conference and I in a small part I am using you my own beliefs about psychology in the how and how it's connected to Physiology or correct then by confessing my true fears of being found out as a learning misfit by putting those out there I'm hoping that it might solve the problem that because I'm actually very good at losing weight when I'm not struggling with these things and you basically all being my rubber ducks right now realize you're not inanimate but just as being part of an audience and not necessarily a dialog with me you are my confessor rubber ups and Jewish by the way which is why it's a rabbinic that and not a priest so you are all being my rubber ducks right now and the theory for me is that once this is out there once I'm explaining the problem to you that the solution will be OK like I have confessed this thing that is really difficult for me and the hopefully you will freely after I have a problem when Colleen and then I wanna be freed from the from the search so so I want a case of another reason for sharing my personal shit with you
is that we are all vulnerable meets acts We're all vulnerable in the next and we might have come to this rumor this talk for different reasons but a key reason that I'm up here is so that you have knowledge rather than just information but knowledge you know from me how important smoothing the way for somebody else can be somebody else else's dealing with in outside the norm struggles or even inside the norm struggles because again we're all vulnerable he said so beyond the career related practical reasons that might be a good reason for being a good mentor I'm hoping to appeal to you on that level you might not put on 50 pounds every time you're under a lot of stress and trying to hide their learning Ms. fitness because you might not have any and but we all need folks to support our efforts and now had to support the efforts of other folks and and I'm hoping add that you
will do that's because I I why this stuff matters you were why this stuff matters and we to borrow all the name of 1 of my fear upon gas we're greater than code we're why the ship matters and within your own boundaries I want to be up here suggesting that you try to facilitate other people learning and growing in their careers and I'm not saying you have to go in and fix people's food issues but if you can ease the way in your career which you're in your colleagues in that kind of thing that can help them deal with the other shit that they've got going on so I started with this to give you examples other than your own especially if you don't have any about how easing the code building process can ease up other areas so now you may be asking why would anybody higher a slow learning terror and that is an excellent
question but 1st of all I mean hopefully will fully a nice person and people like the way well that's it thank you my God I love arena that I think you all get you your 20 dollars later so as you can see a free candlelight then but really I mean people who experience the world differently see possibilities and set of obstacles and that is a great trait to have when you're dealing with code my whole life for in terms of like the food issues and and the learning thing it's better my whole life has been obstacles and crimes so used to failure I just keep going I go back around the bar if it didn't if there was ready to go in the 1st I'm just going to go back around the bar and again I am a good person I have around that and in a dig in there and inability feature at but the problem it'll be fine OK I'm getting to the
practical stuff now we have certain the bomb and Sony up my 1st engineering mentor she was my official engineering mentor and she as she paid attention to how I learned and when we paired 1 on 1 as she would ask me specific questions about of the code that we were doing in the context we were doing it and she would say in things like do you understand what object . method is doing that was not the main thing that earnings but do you understand what object that method is doing here do you know why we changed that thing to do this thing and the specific in context check-ins helped me know that she cared about my progress and this is where the more traditional impostor single comes in is that I don't even know to this day whether she purposely asked me things that I would know who to instill confidence in me or did I just know more than I thought I that it's probably a bit of both that what we just never know these things but am I think to I got to the opportunity to be so Robert has are really brought very little technical knowledge to the table fresh out of boot camp but Ei-ichi asked questions of me that were really question she was asking for herself not these object our method questions but asking what she should do next so should she be concerned about this thing or that thing and that taught me what questions a senior engineer would be asking about the code and it it was a mentoring process and even though I was in that silent mostly silent role of kind of a rubber duck for her I learned a whole heck of a lot and so I think 1 of the things I do I want to give his as a takeaway is that 1st call people can learn from folks more seasoned lessees implement cells so it can be any pairing scenario but honestly there's an opportunity to teach and a learning in those pairing sessions and I hope folks take advantage of that had quite a bit
especially if you're hoping to well level somebody up a bit I I wanna talk about a different sort of a mentor that I had I have had a variety of colleagues who were all very good at and helping me the answer some of the questions I had but I had questions that I I called them stupid questions and you can talk to me later about whether I should ever say that again but I call them stupid questions and they were the questions like there were the questions that I knew was like a junior engineer and new we would acts can I ask those of across the team you know Jeremy here I ask you all kinds of questions but which may or may not know is that I save my stupid questions for Darrell there also there on the right and he had has stepped week he taught me how to rebase 1st small which was very exciting he walked me through my 1st 3 bases and he celebrated with me when I did 1 successfully by myself he was not there when I nearly passed out when I did something really horrible with the rebates once but and I was literally pale and claim and texting Carey Miller from the floor of my apartment where I stopped in some codon something happened but Gerald was therefore most of my stupid questions and and and here's here's what happened is he established trust with me with this rebase instruction and then I
asked him with 1 of my stupid questions that I knew would reveal that I should not have been hired and I asked him that and I asked him not to tell anyone that I ask that question and he did not tell anyone but so from then on I decided this is perfect and gonna limit my exposure and I'm gonna ask their or all of my stupid questions and only 1 person will know they've never should've hired me and and that is a fantastic technique what I want to suggest because most of you may be already have that 1st that 1st job as they you will establish trust with some of your last season partners ahead even near just you know same level colleagues establish trust with them and debt and develop a secret pact if you have to it's important in order to have those special moments and those people who mean so much to you it can level up your career it's important to 1st
establish trust in order to get to that place so here's some easy career boom mentoring and rubber ducking I can have is that once I felt more confident that I had reached at least be within their norm spectrum of junior developers I confessed the pack to boss their own I have the same mosque and I told him Darrell was not my mentor but he mentored me and dear old got promoted I don't think it was because I told so but it could of worked I dare was very talented and so I'm sure that is why he got promoted but it couldn't hurt that he even though he was not an official mentor he mentored the junior developer on the team and I made sure that is that his boss knew it was career-building for me and I wanted to make sure it was career-building for him so the takeaway there on probably obviously is certainly wanna show gratitude to those folks who do take the time to care about your learning and keep your secrets that you're asking stupid questions at but also build trust as a potential secret pact provider it's it's very
important at this happened to recently and I don't know if you can tell that point that they is that in the VGA it's washed out but can it can I mean you in my ruby Cocke talk and I'd get to name him as you can see Bryant Hall replied you can name me as long as it's either good or your calling me an asshole and this is an slack if you do not recognize its its lay out there the Brian was also a different kind of a mentor dear had been promoted me and moved on to different teams with really picked the right person to tell all my secrets to because he left the team no 1 was left on the team who knew I should never been higher so that was fantastic I had a solid footing coding and and and did appear much with Bryant when he worked at LivingSocial with me we did some SQL selective record or when we did some J. query together have but we didn't have a whole lot because soon enough the the dark days of the living social layoffs came and dad and we went our separate ways but fortunately we continued maintaining a slack with a lot of the living social employers and so Brian and I kept in touch and when I started my new job I still coding questions and of course I didn't want them to know I was stupid and that they should not why wasn't stupid I never thought I was stupid I just thought I'm a slow learner and and did think they should have hired and I'm glad that they did but I still don't want them to know how little I knew in those early days when I was trying to learn all the things and I was stressed out because I don't learn very well anyway I would contact Bryant via slack and without sharing proprietary information of course we would discuss the things that I was working on code and as soon enough by the way you would help me and that was great but soon enough we ended up having a reach out because I was asking fewer questions and that became a milestone that I think was important for me to recognize and I I would suggest that if you find yourself in a similar position where somebody is asking you questions and they start to dwindle it that's a great thing to point out to them like I don't know if you've noticed but you reach out to me less you're still welcome to do so but that's probably a cool thing that you're reaching out less you probably you you're probably feeling more confident and I and I was and then it what happened with with Brian is that he just turned into a real asshole no that's not true it's just this without so he told me that he had no he didn't know but he stopped being able to answer my questions because I I mean I'm sure he would have been able to have you'd been working on the code with me but I reached a level where I was now working on projects that were you know far enough along and asking more technical questions that I finally just sort of I could no longer at just asking a question at an inlet without us being in the same codebase he'd be able to help me and that's true was an important milestone and it was great he recognized it and endeavor and it helped me to really knowledge as well that's that's a pretty exciting thing to realize especially when you are a vulnerable meet Saku has learning difficulties it was it was pretty exciting at to realize that so as I've worked with developers where the me I've got to try out these questions which I think is kind of fun and I literally I pink to slack what to do this slide but this is when I sent evokes and you can tell ends up like yeah that I that who is that was actually early but I I sent this method and it's a pretty good icebreaker and it's hard not to smile when you get a mustache and an inquiry it's hard to turn down somebody who sends this and I know that because people that I have done that with have sent it back to me I've got it back and it just makes me laugh and and I just know this is the person I have a good rapport with and and work and were going to do some some mentoring knowing everything that part but but that's what that's what's happening and that is what is
happening and OK we've only got 3 more slots were were coming down to as I promised so I've tried to suggest that caring about the vulnerable meets acts that's around you might be a motivator for asking good questions and being a trustworthy mentor but also becoming a better version of yourself is a good reason as a motivator to would be a good mentor or a good Robert at everyone action learned from good questions including the person asking them and mentoring can be as easy is answering stupid questions and keeping them secret I don't know if I clarify that but he don't tell anybody I did eventually by the way tell Darrell that that I told her boss so that you could bring that up in as 1 on ones and performance of high who assistance if none of that humans stuff motivates you or I do want you to remember that Carol did get a promotion
that so that's OK 1 more circle around the bond back in the Ph.D. days my god you cannot even see that fucking trust me this is a really great slide of how kicked out back in the Ph.D. days I I took a few feminist theory classes and that shit bored me to tears I still don't really know what was happening in those classes but the significance was haughtily lost on me I didn't know why it was important it made no sense to me this is maybe why feel the PGA's no they're actually women's studies was not 1 of my ears concentrations who was by but I never could have imagined that joining the tech industry would teach me so much about feminist theory and lest you think that I am going somewhere else with this it's it's this community and especially the ruby community from what I can tell from the various conferences I've attended and people that I've talked to you but it's this community that's topping to see commonalities alongside difference I had to learn better communication in the presence of difference and to appreciate difference and a series of mentors both formal and informal have helped me level up to a place where I get to learn more about my betray your body and then reveal it to a large crowd of of of folks in in this setting and and most small to a pre I've like that being able to appreciate the difference is so important to me and you all spirometer share what I've gotten from you too so that I can return it all back to you and so I'm sharing this because I want you all to keep the shit up in in a more conscious ways even when you have already and expand on grow because it it is it is then so life-changing for me I think I'm eternally grateful for it and I you give me hope that we can all treat 1 another in a way that honors our differences are rather than hiding them and I'm just an extremely grateful for
that OK of shared some stories I've offered some specific questions to ask of others and of your cells and I hope that you give your best for yourselves and for those around you and I am again deeply thankful that you have all been my rubber ducks at least a half hour or so so thank you
very much I don't have no idea of have time for questions and I don't really have to dash but I do have stickers there if anybody is interested in those and I do have a question if nobody else has which by the way I'm totally blind appears so you'll have to say something if you have a question I have 10 minutes OK I'm gonna start because I've already got the much of it out yet but I do have a question because people it I thought of this far too late and some of my slides don't translate well for visually impaired folks but I went to a slide share I think and I could add captions are anything but to my slides and I was at if anybody has like a tool that they know where I can like POS besides but add captions to them so that people who can't see my are some pictures like you none of you can see the whole and then that would be great if you might tweak that I thought my gosh you can even see my Twitter excellent media remedial is my is my Twitter handle and thank you Jennifer so that was my question are there any others that that is a really good question especially I am considerate so considering I think most people of heard about man's claiming before and nobody knows nobody should go there that I think the and I think 1 of the best things to do is to put the hello I but there's there's a there's a balance of power and there is a power structure that comes into play with the more seasoned engineer and be not a seasoned engineer and that that could be just and say this 1 particular scenario and I think a great thing is to put the action of and the manpower for that action in the other person so even just asking a question I I'm a big fan of questions is let you know I I know of a bit about member JS components would you would you like to talk about that or there's some question in that way in there I'm more than happy to hear a from other folks in the audience who have ideas but for me asking a question asking whether they want to that assistance is a great place to start certainly do not stop with well actually I don't care who's involved in that situation that at the
I was going to try to recap it but now it you've lost me and I noticed you flailing but I was going to recap a two bit per offered the video presentation but I we were asked how do you know when to step in and 1 of the suggestions from the back of the room that I can't see was that you ask it you know what the person's doing how how they're doing and and they can explain what they're working on in a very neutral way and then they will as you as you mentioned get to the part that maybe they'll just get to the part where they're flailing about right you don't actually have to say that and that the a shout out right before that and what you've said is great I'm kind of going to recap at a little bit which is just that on the 1 hand if you're asking what they're working on and how they're doing it then you might just end up being a rubber duck they made during the course of explaining it to figure out what's going on for themselves for as Benson points out where they are a struggling might be due to how their understanding what's going on in there because they're explaining to you in the way that they understand things you might get a clue on what they actually might need some assistance on so that's an excellent thank you
I really like having same in a meeting so the suggestion which I'm repeating for the sake of audio is that if you have an opportunity did you see someone you think might be struggling in a particular way and it I you are willing to do it asks the question you think that they want to ask that might be a little nervous about asking and at that also I think builds that trust as well even if they don't know for sure that you did that on there have they know you're a person who has similar questions and that itself can build build a bond so I I think that's great how much time do I have left and know there's like this huge OK I'm done you have to know the that this
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