VV Day, DevRel & More with Jen Looper
Thanks so much to Jen Looper for being our guest today! You can find her at:
Other helpful links:
- Vue Vixens Website: https://www.vuevixens.org/
- Vue Vixens Day Website: https://vvdayus.vuevixens.org/
- Vue Vixens Slack Invite: https://communityinviter.com/apps/vuevixens/vue-vixens
- Donate via Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/vuevixens/posts
- Partner with them to create experiences
- Donate time to help with code reviews
- @VueVixens Twitter account: https://twitter.com/VueVixens
- Slack is a great way to get in touch
Chris: This podcast is brought to you by our friends at Linode. Whether you're working on a personal project or managing your enterprises infrastructure, Linode has the pricing, support and scale you need to take your project to the next level. Get started on Linode today by going to linode.com/vue.
Ari: Hey everybody and welcome to Enjoy the Vue. I'm Ari and today on our panel we have Elizabeth Fine.
Elizabeth: Hey, hey!
Ari: Chris Fritz.
Ari: Ben Hong.
Ari: And today our special guest is Jen Looper. Jen, would you like to introduce yourself?
Jen: Hi everyone. I'm so honored to be on the inaugural podcast of Enjoy the Vue. I love the name by the way, it's spectacular. It's very friendly feeling.
Jen: Yeah, my name's Jen Looper and in the Vue community I'm kind of known as your drunk auntie, but maybe it's better to introduce myself as ...
Chris: I have never thought of you like that! [Crosstalk 00:01:06].
Jen: Oh Chris, I know you lie.
Chris: My drunk auntie!
Jen: Yeah, your drunk auntie. This is true though, so sorry. In reality I'm actually the founder and CEO of Vue Vixens Inc., which is a 501C3 non-profit, which we're also tax exempt so ... Those two things are not exactly the same but we're basically a charity that our mission is to educate women in all types of software development and specifically at the moment in Vue.js.
Jen: So, that's what I do within the Vue community and my, actually paid job, is that I'm a Cloud advocate lead on the academic team at Microsoft. I've been there since May, not on that team. I just joined the academic team. This for me is a bit of a dream job and I have an amazing bunch of colleagues. It's a really cool team to be on and we deal with all types of students, all types of faculty, we deal with Microsoft student partners which is sort of our ambassador program. We deal with the Imagine Cup, which is their hackathon and other hackathons, lots of events, lots of content production and lots of conferences. So, that's what I do.
Ari: All right, tell us more about Vue Vixens. What does Vue Vixens do to help out the Vue community?
Jen: Right, so I should probably back up to the beginning.
Ari: Yes, the origin story.
Jen: The origin story, oh boy.
Chris: I don't even think I know this one.
Jen: And as I was doing this entrée into the Vue community it seemed to me that, wow, wouldn't it be cool if we could do ng-Girls but for Vue. So that was an idea I started spinning around my community and I remember talking to Sarah Drasner on Twitter in a DM saying, "We should do this thing. What should we call it?", and she said, "There's got to be an alliteration somewhere". So immediately for me I thought, it's Vue Vixens, because I like foxes. It was just like "boom!", and really the first iteration of the logo is our final logo. It was that serendipitous of a situation. So I passed that over-
Ari: It's a good logo.
Jen: Yeah, it is a good logo. I really love our logo. It kind of all worked together just in a very serendipitous fashion and I launched on, a couple years ago, two years ago actually, on the Vue.js Amsterdam stage, that monster IMAX stage, said I'm going to do this thing, it's going to look like this, here's our logo, here's a not very pretty website. Who's in? And by the end people are figuratively storming the stage. So I got so much feedback after that event that it seemed to me this is the thing to do.
Jen: Since then we've just grown a lot and we're worldwide in two years. It's been an amazing, growing experience. It's been a really ... I've learned a lot. I've learned a lot about weird stuff like taxes for non-profits and filing your non-profit.
Ben: Oh my gosh.
Jen: Yeah, so actually I'm helping other ladies who are trying to do the same thing by just showing them all the paperwork. Like, here's my paperwork, if you want to do this here's the link to do it. Even like, at some point Progress wanted to take on Vue Vixens as a private foundation and we were talking to Progress legal and it was a real education. So very interesting. And I think that its been a great growth experience for me and I learned a lot. I've made mistakes, but I hope that I learned from those and that we are at a position where we can benefit people all over the world. Our hotspots right now I think especially are Africa and Latin America. Latin America came on really hot. So, those ladies, those ladies are amazing.
Jen: My first staffer actually was Diana Rodriguez who became our worldwide community organizer. And that cracked open LatAm, because our first event really was in Buenos Aires, which I was able to fly down to witness and it was one of those mind blowing, emotional experiences. Plus the steak, I am now ruined for steak. That's a problem.
Jen: Same thing happened in Japan. We launched Vue Vixens Japan and I am now ruined for shrimp. So this is a problem.
Ben: Shrimp. Oh yeah.
Jen: One of those good problems.
Ben: I thought you were going to say sushi, but shrimp. Interesting.
Ari: I know, I thought for sure sushi and then she took it in a similar direction but different.
Jen: It was all so amazing, it was so good. I kind of ate my way through Japan and that was a great experience too.
Elizabeth: Jen, each city that you have Vue Vixens group in, is that what you would call a chapter?
Elizabeth: Is that how you-
Jen: Yes, we have special terminology at Vue Vixens, Inc. So we have chapters and those are the ladies on the ground who are doing things but work in their community. So I wanted to make sure that, for example in Mexico, you don't want to be wandering necessarily at night to a late night meetup, like what we have in the states, alone on the subway. So they do things during the day or there's other permutations of things that they do partnering with other groups.
Jen: In Switzerland we have a chapter and they do more kind of partnerships. Germany is doing things within a company context and Sweden, very interestingly, we have a lady who really wants to skill up individuals. So she runs a whole curriculum and these ladies are literally getting jobs. So this is a spectacular success in Sweden. So we want to do chapters but we want to give those ladies the flexibility to create what works. It's been very interesting to get to know all these ladies.
Chris: So instead of going in and just telling communities what they need, you're actually working with people who are enmeshed in those communities and helping them get the resources for whatever it is they need.
Jen: Yeah, so we are extremely grateful to our Patreon supporters and our sponsors. We have two pots of money, one is for our chapters so all of the Patreon money goes to the chapters. So if a lady says I'm going to have a meetup, I want stickers. I'll use TransferWise and just pop over some cash to the chapter. So that's been a really great experience to grow something grassroots and they come up with the ideas, they join our Slack, they get to know everyone and then they form a chapter. So very, very grassroots and I think that that worked really well for us. Everything is always free, there's no monetary compensations involved but we have folks who are needing a little budget and we are able to provide that, which I'm really grateful for.
Jen: The other pot of money is for scholarships. Our events budget is pulled out of that and if we do larger events that need a bigger budget, or if we want to buy tickets for a lady to attend a conference, that's another piece where that budgets going. That's my FreshBooks dump right there.
Ari: I will say the only reason I'm on this podcast right now is because I was the beneficiary of a Vue Vixens scholarship to VueConf last year where I met amazing people like Chris and Ben and Jen, in fact. And the rest is history. Great things.
Jen: I don't think that's the only reason. That's not the only reason.
Ben: I was going to say.
Ari: But I wouldn't have had the opportunity. It gave me an opportunity to really make meaningful connections within the Vue community and that meant a lot to me.
Jen: Yeah, the conferences are a big deal, and at Microsoft we are becoming a "write first, travel second" org because it's very expensive. A lot of DevRel organizations go through this. You send everyone to conferences all over and then people realize, ooh, that's expensive! So then we pull back and it's write first and I'm like oh man! Because you start realizing, yes, it's great to sit at home and write but then you miss meeting all the people and talking to everyone and really interfacing in a meaningful way, and conferences can do that.
Ari: I think that's a great segue into an upcoming event, Vue Vixens Day, which will be the day after VueConf US this year which is March 5th, is that right?
Ari: The conference is I think is the-
Jen: [crosstalk 00:10:49].
Ari: And then it's like three days before is VueConf, yup.
Ari: Okay, so tell us more about that.
Jen: Woo hoo! Yes, Vue Vixens Day. Boy oh boy, I did not expect to be arranging a conference this year, but again it grew organically from the community. So the first Vue Vixens Day was actually that first trip to Buenos Aires, so Diana organized a pretty decent sized community day, Vue Vixens Day. So what we did is we had community talks all morning, and then we had empanadas, which were amazing. Yeah, those are really good. And then we had our workshop all in the afternoon. So the first half of the day was mixed, all people were welcome and the great thing about that particular day is we had a grandma age 77, and her grandchild age 13. So we had such a fantastic spread. I have cute pictures actually. They're in my press pack. So abuela managed to make it, it was fabulous.
Jen: So Vue Vixens Day is basically talks in the morning and workshops in the afternoon. Oftentimes, women only workshops in the afternoon; although, we're always happy to have mentors of all walks of life.
Jen: And then the Columbia chapter got wild. They are the most amazing at organizing big events. In Latin America if you do something it will scale. So it becomes a big deal and the amount that they can do on a small budget it spectacular. So the Columbia gals did a, let's see they did Vue Vixens Day [Medellin 00:12:21], and then they did a very interesting Vue Vixens day in Eje Cafetero, which is the coffee triangle. It's a rural area where the coffee is produced, and so they had ladies from rural walks of life. There's a lady who had never programmed before I think there. I love those kind of events, to really go in deep in the grassroots and really engage folks where they are. I think that was a very wonderful and meaningful event. Good pictures on our website from that one, Eje Cafetero.
Jen: So, based on their experiences and how things worked for them, we thought we should do something in the US and it seemed logical to have it after VueConf because we figured there'd be a lot of Vue folks, Vue interested folks in the area. So we worked with that conference to figure out what would work and so we're going to follow that pattern of talks in the morning and we're going to have a lunch, and then we're going to do a few lightening ... is that right? Yes, we're going to do a few lightening talks after lunch. And then we're going to have a couple hours of workshops. We're going to have Kristen Ruben do a workshop on the Composition API using I believe Spotify or SoundCloud, I need to check. But it's going to create a music app using newish APIs and that will be women only. And then the other workshop overlapping that is going to be with Chloe Condon and she has a very famous workshop on how to build a fake boyfriend app.
Elizabeth: I saw that on there.
Jen: It's really good. It's Azure functions hooked up to Twilio and you create a little app where you can press a button and have an SMS or a phone call call your phone if you want to get out of an awkward situation. So you're like talking to someone and you really just want to extricate yourself, she'll create the fake boyfriend that will get you out of that situation. I think it's a really fun concept. So, those are the two workshops we're doing and that'll be the day. It's 8:00 - 5:30, it's packed. Five talks, three lightnings, two workshops, coffee, lunch, breakfast and we'll figure out the after party. I'm not quite sure what's going to happen.
Jen: So that's a lot to take in, but we also have some amazing activities. I have to spill the beans on one of them which is Chloe is working with Tessa at Cloudinary, they're coming in as a sponsor. And they're going to create a ManyCam. So if you've seen, I think at the Oscars, you have a little box paved with a little fake grass and you put your hand through with your amazing manicure and you walk in front of the camera, you walk your fingers into the camera.
Elizabeth: So, if you come to Vue Vixens Day you should have your nails done so you can walk through.
Jen: Oh, we'll do your nails for you, we will do your nails for you. So we are bringing-
Elizabeth: You will do ...
Ari: She is so exited now!
Jen: Spoiler alert, I just bought off Poshmark hundreds of water slip decals that you can attach to your nails, and then making custom ones with the Vue logo, the Vue Vixens logo and [crosstalk 00:15:24].
Ari: We're only a little excited, if you couldn't tell.
Jen: Yeah. I thought this would kind of be a thing. So yeah, so some of our activities. We also have possibly, either we're going to do a crochet activity or a macrame activity. So, this is all extremely technical content but it does have to do with algorithms but, so-
Ari: I mean yes, absolutely.
Jen: Yes. So Tessa, in New York City, I think she's working on a design for a fox done in macrame. I think it's going to be crazy cute. I love it. Have you done macrame? I haven't done macrame in ages.
Ari: I haven't either.
Jen: It's where you're doing all the knots and making little designs with ropes and strings. So yeah, you thought you were going to have a technical thing in your podcast, but we're going to talk about macrame for the next [crosstalk 00:16:08]. No, just kidding.
Jen: Yeah, so lots of activities because I want people to engage on the technical level, have career building level. We're going to have a lady taking photographs for head shots, we always do that if we can. We did that in Buenos Aires, it's really helpful because it's expensive otherwise. And then the ManiCam, crochet a fox or macrame a fox. What other activities? I'm making an epic goody bag but I'm not going to tell you anything that's going to be in the goody bag because that's a secret.
Ari: Ooh, mysterious and exciting.
Jen: I've thrown one too many children's parties in my day. Yeah, I've got to take care of the children. It's all good.
Ari: Well I for one will definitely be there, so everyone else should definitely join us as well.
Ben: I will be there as well.
Ari: So excited.
Jen: Yeah, so excited. We'll get your nails done so pretty Ben.
Ben: All right, let's do it.
Elizabeth: Ben are you going to be wearing the unicorn outfit this year or is that?
Ari: Oh my God, yes please, please, please!
Ben: That is still TBD.
Ben: We shall see.
Jen: Unicorns, so cute. We have door prizes as well.
Jen: So, yes. If you are lucky enough to get a magical sticker, you'll get a door prize. I like door prizes because it's like just put a sticker under your chair and you win. This is like my kind of competition.
Ari: Yes. I was already excited, but now I'm like so excited about this.
Jen: Oh my gosh. Yeah, so we're just kind of arranging the details, the food, making sure my speakers are taken care of. So Sarah Drasner's coming to do the keynote, that's exciting as heck. And lots of great community folks too also speak with us. The information is on vvdayus.vuevixens.org, and just look at the schedule as it kind of evolves.
Ben: And so Jen, how much does it cost to come to this amazing event?
Jen: It's free! It's free, it's free, it's free [crosstalk 00:18:14].
Ari: Heck yeah!
Jen: I do accept hugs.
Ari: Aww, I can definitely pay in hugs.
Jen: Yeah, so this is due to our amazing sponsors. So we have some platinums came in, silvers and golds and we really are appreciative of our sponsors because without ... it turns out, it's kind of pricey to throw a conference, FYI. So I'm glad that we are building up our nest egg over two years. I think I'm going to burn that budget hard. It's for a good cause.
Elizabeth: So Jen, if we do want to register for Vue Vixens Day, is there a deadline that we need to do that by?
Jen: Not really. It would be nice to ... I know that a lot of folks, it's in Austin Texas, it's kind of depending on whether you're going to be in the area. So, if thinking of getting your VueConf ticket and figuring out workshops and that kind of stuff just consider doing that and then grabbing a ticket on our site for, and I think there's a link as well on VueConf website, just stay an extra day and join us, that would be awesome. But yeah, there's not really a deadline. It's a free event and free events tend to real flexible in terms of who signs up and who shows. I'm expecting a hundred'ish people. We have Capital Factory which is an innovation space in Austin, they put us on the eight floor. So I think we have the whole floor and we're just going to occupy.
Chris: Jen, something I've heard from a lot of people in the community who were introduced to the community through Vue Vixens or enter the community and then found Vue Vixens is the network of, not just women, but people in general that are available and that have provided mentoring, new job opportunities. I've talked to so many people who have made significant changes to their lives thanks to the resources that they found through Vue Vixens and not just learning resources. Was that a conscious design, or how did that evolve?
Jen: Yeah, it kind of was. Thank you very much for those kind words, that means a lot to me. It helped me too, I'm not going to lie. I have managed to leverage a career change as well. But I want to help build a pipeline. So a lot of women in tech initiatives are kind of like build the pipeline, build the pipeline, we got to get those young gals in and get them trained up and get them into that first startup. And that is awesome, that is spectacularly great. I'm like your auntie, so I'm like the old lady in the house. The stats are not good for my age group, the stats are something like by the time you're 40 even, 50 something percent of folks drop out of tech, ladies in tech drop out and find something else to do.
Jen: So for me it's about not just the pipeline, but also avoiding attrition. And sometimes we can kind of help, mentor each other, help pass along job information. We all have networks and we can just leverage them and then funnel them right over to the channels. We have a jobs channel that people are filling in and I just want all this information to be out there so that people can help us help them, and help them help themselves. That's kind of the goal.
Jen: So, yes pipeline, awesome. Attrition is brutal. And a stretch goal for us, because the other moment of attrition for girls in STEM is actually middle school. So this is a stretch goal for us and I'd love to reach the younger gals, even before they hit that pipeline, to try to help them stay engaged and stay excited about being a girl in STEM. I think we made a lot of progress, not Vue Vixens, but society in general. I think we made a lot of progress, but I think we can contribute as well here. It's super fun, super cool.
Ari: Yeah, I will say that the emotional support channel in the Vue Vixens workspace, not just for me and me saying things are there, but hearing stories from other, especially women in tech and the struggles they're going through, and being able to lend supportive words and advice has meant a lot to me. Because it reaffirms that we're in this together.
Jen: We are in this together, we are in this together. We can help each other tremendously. So I think that that is really a great thing to hear. The other very important channel in Vue Vixens Slack is pets.
Ari: I feel like that's the only one I'm not in.
Chris: Yeah, when I was talking about people changing their lives, that's the channel I was referring to.
Jen: Yeah, I figured. I figured I should mention it.
Chris: [crosstalk 00:22:39] a dog and it transforms. Yeah, the emotional connection to other beings.
Jen: Alinda has a very large sheepdog that likes to loll around on the floor but I just keep telling her that this is not the [crosstalk 00:22:54] rugs channel, some people get it better than others. But, we just have a lot of fun.
Chris: I have to ask has anyone ever posted a pet fox?
Jen: We've had a couple fox pictures.
Chris: Is that even legal?
Jen: So in Russia, there's a thing in Russia they're domesticating foxes and there was a gal who was wandering in the Moscow subway with a fox draped across her shoulders. I don't know-
Ari: That's crazy.
Jen: I feel like, yeah, some people are experimenting in this realm. I'm going to let them do their thing and just watch [crosstalk 00:23:26]. There's a den down the street of actual foxes and they hiss at you and growl and I just ... not the best pets.
Elizabeth: So can anyone join the Vue Vixens Slack and how do you find the link for that?
Jen: Yeah, great question. Absolutely, come and join us. You can look at vuevixens.org, at the farthest right hand corner is a teeny little icon but it will send you to a link and then you can just join and what we do is we ask that you're going be popped right into general. So put your real face if that's at all possible, and use your real name so that we know who you are, we can welcome you properly. And then come to the introductions channel and just say who you are and what you're looking to do with us and jump into code help, which is another channel, I just used it today. Jump into, of course, pets and jobs and conferences and all sorts of other cool channels that we've got there.
Jen: If you're part of a region and you want to start something regionally, link up with Diana. So she's Super Diana on our Slack and she can talk about chapters that exist or things that are happening. If you're in a conference and you would like to work with us, that's another thing you can always ... ow, this cat just bit me.
Ari: I bet that fox is looking good right about now.
Jen: Yeah, seriously, oh my goodness.
Elizabeth: Look at her. You did say before we started that she was licking her chops so maybe she had been waiting for this moment, waiting for you to just be distracted to she could go in for the kill.
Jen: She bites me but then she lets go because I'm not real tasty. Oh, here she is, incoming. Oh my goodness.
Elizabeth: She's coming closer.
Chris: Oh wow, right for the jugular.
Elizabeth: I'm getting nervous.
Chris: You're losing a lot of blood Jen, are you okay?
Jen: She doesn't like the taste of me, it's a long story with this cat. That's funny. So what was I saying? Oh yeah, join us on Slack.
Ari: I will say that from my experience the code help channel has been the best resource I have found for when I'm stuck on the Vue specific problem. Because people in there are incredibly responsive and they will respond quickly and even if they don't know the answer they'll try to talk through it with you so that maybe you guys can land on the answer together. But yeah, I've asked questions on the official Vue forms and I haven't necessarily gotten answers so, everyone is always very helpful in there.
Jen: Well that's good to know.
Elizabeth: It is, yeah.
Jen: There's also the Vue land discord which is ... the other big group is the Vue land discord so that's another place that people are going to for sure.
Ari: I will say people are much nicer in the Vixen Slack. There's just really high quality people there.
Jen: Good to know, good to know. That's the goal. And I am moderating so the one thing that I've learned about building communities is you've got to moderate. So, and people will come to me and be like, this person doesn't seem to be who he or she thinks she's saying that she is. And I don't want [inaudible 00:26:23], so moderation is the key.
Chris: That's why I message you sometimes saying, "She ain't all that and a bag of chips". Then you've got to do something about it. What kind of tips do you have for moderators? That is kind of hard and how do you help guide peoples behavior in a friendly way and help people get along and create a community where people feel safe and stuff.
Jen: Yeah, I've experimented with two bots. The greatest bot ever was Taco, which was a little bot and then they decided to monetize it and a lot of communities had to peace out. But that was a Slack bot that really encouraged people to give tacos to each other for friendly help, so it was a huge incentivization. There was even a taco store, if you got enough tacos you could buy merch or something. It was really a great concept, and then it got a little pricey. So, that's the first Slack bot. So I'm a big believer in automation and then personal touch. So Slack bots can be helpful.
Jen: We tried a thing called Donut but it's very pushy.
Ben: A little bit.
Jen: It is pushy, so I think I dismantled it. Somebody rage quit it and the whole thing blew away from Slack.
Ben: I will say I met a number of people through Donut that actually [crosstalk 00:27:37] the donut from her. Like Clara from the Vue Vixen community, we got put in touch because of the donut app.
Ari: Maybe we should explain a little bit about what Donut is/was.
Ben: Oh yeah, okay.
Jen: Yeah, it's another Slack bot. It helps you create personal one on ones with people. So it will try to help schedule you, and it's a little pushy. So it's like, hey, you haven't chatted with someone for a while, it's time for you to schedule your one on one and I was like, Jesus Donut, leave me alone! But for some folks who are a bit shy it can be a forcing function which could be good. I hope it was a good experience for folks, but yeah.
Jen: So at this point it's manual moderation. We do have a locked channel of moderators who sometimes have a little chat just to make sure everything's okay. But yeah, I think another little thing I put in our Slack is when someone says the word "guys" I have a little [inaudible 00:28:30]. I do the same thing, it's a habit. Especially on the West coast it's a habit. Very interesting.
Ari: Yeah, which is where I grew up.
Jen: Yes, so a little Slack notification that says, let's try to use a little bit different language like "pirates". Just make it, don't be scoldy but be a little more fun [crosstalk 00:28:51].
Ari: I will say I have been so much more mindful of my use of "guys" as a general term since the Slack bot started yelling at me. And it's carried over to all facets of communication for me so, honestly very effective.
Jen: Me too. I try to say "pirates" as much as I can.
Chris: I just go to North Carolina so I can say y'all.
Ari: I've just adopted y'all for myself, but I say it in a very West coast way just like, yall. I'm not like y'all because I can't deal with that.
Jen: I like that a lot. I think Diana says all y'all which is even better lingo.
Ari: Yeah, y'all is one thing but all y'all is a very more specific, literally everyone here.
Jen: This group, yeah. I think that's good, [inaudible 00:29:38] that you're in the East coast like me. But, yeah in Boston-
Chris: Yous. What about "yous guys". Then we're in trouble again.
Jen: Do you say that? "yous guys". [crosstalk 00:29:48]
Chris: [crosstalk 00:29:48].
Ari: I've heard that.
Chris: I feel like that's a Mafia movie or something, yous guys.
Jen: Yeah, Boston I don't think we have a good moniker. Hey, West ... [crosstalk 00:30:00].
Chris: Hey, let's do [crosstalk 00:30:06].
Jen: [inaudible 00:30:06] so that might work too. That's very aggressive. Oh my goodness. Yeah, so those are some tips. I think we have to take, Ben remind me who this character is in Harry Potter who says "constant vigilance", it's Mad-Eye Moody, yes?
Jen: Constant vigilance! So that's kind of the, unfortunately the community builders mantra. It's constant vigilance!
Ben: So Jen I know that you mentioned you've been doing a lot of DevRel work, can you tell us a little bit more about what DevRel entails? I know a lot of people in the community have heard of this but there are probably a lot of misconceptions around what that entails.
Jen: So for me, I've been a software developer for about 20 years. I got out of my academic interests at the end of the .com boom in about 2000, when a monkey could do HTML and CSS and get a job. Thank God. Because I think it's a lot harder now which it is and the level I was at was like monkey. Not to disrespect monkeys. But, I jumped into my first startup as a developer and worked my way up. So I thought I'd be a designer, turns out I'm bad at design but I do technical writing, I'm not that great at that either. So, yay, I was saved by ColdFusion, yay! Adobe products. Everyone's like, what is that? I'm not going to tell you what ColdFusion is, you can Google it.
Jen: It was a lot of flash and using the Adobe stack to build up web presences and mobile presences. And with a lot of software development under my belt I got a teeny bit burnt out at my last startup and I was recruited by a friend of mine, Brian Rinaldi, into his company called Telerik at the time, to join their developer advocacy team, which is at the time called just the developer relations department. It was one of the greatest departments I've ever worked in, the Telerik team. So Telerik is a little company, a little scrappy startup from Bulgaria populated by an amazing group of Bulgarian engineers, acquired by Progress. So a month after I joined Telerik we were acquired by Progress and all of a sudden we're back in the fold of a big US corporation in developer relations with all the changes that means. And so at Telerik I became an advocate, so not a software engineer anymore but an advocate for various product lines.
Jen: So we were developer advocates and we were all about helping folks figure out what they want, figure out what they like and figure out what they hate. Try to fix what they hate, find the pain points and try to offer solutions. If they have problems with our products then we can form a liaison between that community person and our product team. We do a lot with Microsoft with that kind of advocacy. At Progress it was a lot of going and speaking at conferences and talking about a technology with maybe a little product tie-in at the end, but for me it was always easy because NativeScript is open source. So it's really easy to advocate for an open source product because you're never in that position where people want to try it and then they have to start coughing up cash very quickly.
Jen: So it's a different story currently here at Microsoft. So I'm not on the open source team anymore. So I'm happy to be on the academic team where we can help students because we have Azure for students offering and we have GoodHub which is a great platform for students to come and talk to us. But for me, developer relations is all about advocacy, it's all about helping. And I find that the four pillars of advocacy is writing, coding, speaking and helping. Helping can be helping on stack overflow, or helping in a forum. But for me those are kind of the four things that a good developer advocate has to do while always maintaining your clout as a decent software engineer, or a great software engineer. So that's the trick, finding that balance.
Elizabeth: I always wonder how developer advocates do find that balance because you spend so much time out in the community and so much time networking, how do you find a way to stay up as a top software engineer as well?
Jen: Yeah, that's a great question. It's surprising but I have never been a better software engineer until I became a DevRel, because we have to live on the bleeding edge because that's where people want to look. They want to see what's coming soon. So we have to stay on the forefront. I'm very closely watching Vue 3 and seeing what's going to happen. Hopefully we'll get some clarity on that because people are going to start asking us questions and we need to have an idea what's going on.
Jen: So for me it's been a great place to be on that bleeding edge and we also have to have demos ready, sandboxes ready for consumption. We have to have talks ready and writing ready, and it has to be maintained and kept up to date. So for us it's all about staying current, whereas in my old companies we were using older versions of ColdFusion, older versions of Flash and Flex because I was in the enterprise and we couldn't stay on the bleeding edge because the compliance wouldn't allow it. So it's a different kind of space to be in and it's a great, great privilege and I really appreciate it.
Ari: How do you come up with some of the ideas you end up using for demos? You have some of the most interesting collection of demos I've personally seen.
Jen: That is true.
Ari: Tell us, first maybe give a few examples of your demos. I will let you speak for them, not me. And how you arrived at those ideas.
Jen: Well, some of it is obvious. It involves a lot of drinking. So, no, it actually all stems from people you meet and places you go to and experiences that you have in your past career and your past life. I did a whole thing at Vue Amsterdam last year and I took it on the road about when you're on the road and you have to look in your mini bar and all you've got is a bunch of little bottles and you're not even sure what some of those bottles might be, but you can use a custom machine learning model to scan them and it would suggest combinations that would create a nice cocktail. So that's kind of the perfect mobile use case, plus machine learning, which I really enjoy tinkering with. So for me that was kind of the perfect example of something you can have and really engage in and talk about. Because who doesn't like cocktails, right? So, that was a plus.
Jen: Right now I'm working, I'm actually going back to my former training as someone, I have a Ph.D. in Medieval French Literature, that's an entirely different story. And so I'm at this point in my career where I can look back at what I used to do and draw on it. So I'm creating some machine learning models right now using 13th and 14th century manuscripts that I used to work with. I'm really excited about a project I hope to publish as a book, spoiler alert, called The Humanists Guide to Deep Learning, so kind of drawing on this humanistic background and using really bleeding edge technologies to create really engaging web and mobile experiences, this applied machine learning. I'm working with Gregorian Chant I hope. I hope I will be able to create a mobile experience you could scan and manuscript, look at the tablature and at the notation and it'll play it out for you, this kind of stuff.
Ari: What? That sounds awesome!
Jen: I know, so just stay tuned. I have so many projects, it's all in notion all under lock and key so I'm like, I keep having ideas, I'm thinking of chapters to add and projects to create, but it's an infinite, infinite amount of ancient stuff we can use. I'm actually doing a pilot right now for museums and libraries at Microsoft so I really fell into a tub of butter and I'm so freakin happy about this. But, my brother, for example, is one of the preeminent Maya specialists, but he always goes to Guatemala and looks at Mayan hieroglyphs and he has a huge knowledge base and huge database, and I'm thinking that we can create an incredible mobile app, an incredible mobile experience where you could scan a Mayan hieroglyph and it would tell you what it means, this kind of thing.
Jen: So, just drawing on the connections you have on your education, on the people you know and be as creative as possible, because life is too freakin short to be boring, in my opinion.
Ari: I think that's a good opinion to have.
Jen: Yeah, so much fun.
Elizabeth: Oh, that makes me feel bad about my current projects that I have going on that are super basic. I'm like, okay, I'm going to create a recursive component. That's my-
Jen: That's amazing! I don't know how to do that, I want to do that.
Ari: Yeah, just so you know. Everyone else out there, the rest of us do not have projects like Jen so don't feel bad.
Jen: I'm excited. It's been a long time, actually it's taken me 20 years to feel comfortable with speaking about my background because it's a danger zone. You can lose a lot of credibility if you say I have non-traditional training, I didn't come up in software engineering, I came from outside the industry and it's like finally I feel comfortable talking about it. So, and I'm lucky to be in this department on this team. Our spatial computing people, we have people from the game industry, we have a girl, April, who is from the fashion industry, we've got Chloe Condon, she reports to me, she's incredible. It's a fermentation of epic people in this department of 100 Cloud advocates who are all thought leaders. So, it's a tub of butter and I'm really, really excited and happy to work with them.
Ari: I feel like you are very much a testament to why non-traditional backgrounds in software are important because without your background I feel like you wouldn't have ever come up with these amazing, crazy ideas that help connect software to people who don't normally care about software by relating it to something that they might be interested in that's totally outside of that realm.
Jen: Yeah, and it's had-
Ari: Personally, I think that it's amazing that you are comfortable with that now because it's a great example for a lot of people.
Jen: It's great but you know I also want to like shout out the people who came up the hard way and came up as CS majors. My amazing colleague Francesca who has a Ph.D. in Data Science, what a pleasure to work with someone that rigorous because I'm like bouncing like a rubber band off the wall and she's like, "Jen, calm down. Let's get some rigor in here". So it's wonderful to have a balance there.
Ari: I totally agree.
Chris: So Jen, where can people ... you talked a little bit about how people can support the stuff that Vue Vixens is doing and take part and you talked about the Patreon and obviously there are a lot of volunteers, how can people support the work that you and the other Vixens are doing?
Jen: Yeah, that's a great question. So we're starting year three, I'm going to be writing in depth to a retrospective and getting a roadmap and a link to our annual report which I posted on Twitter, but yes, it's awesome if you can donate time and money. But a lot of people, I don't want to be like shaking the tin can all the time. So for me it's not really all about money. We can find corporate sponsors. We love our Patreons but for me it's all about just joining with us, partnering with us to create amazing experiences.
Jen: We're looking to maybe expand out of the Vue community and into the React community, for example. I'm not quite ready to reveal the details on this project, but we're looking to take our workshops and spin them up to React and I would love for people in the React community to come to us and help us with our content. I did a React Native app and expo, I would love to have a code review. So if someone could donate an hour of their time to do some code reviews, this kind of thing would be so helpful. If you're involved in organizing a conference and you think we might be a good fit to do a free workshop for the ladies at the conference, hit me up, absolutely.
Jen: So, it's never all about money. It's all about time commitments of any amount, half an hour to your entire life. No fear there. But yeah, if you want to come and engage with us we have all kinds of ways that you can get involved, for sure. Just reach out. And you can reach out [inaudible 00:42:55] on Twitter.
Chris: Yeah, so should they reach out to ... what Twitter accounts, or we talk to you personally, or they'll be Vixens accounts?
Jen: Yeah, come to @vuevixens, you can also come to any of our chapters. They also have their own Twitter accounts. It's probably easier to talk to individuals if you hop on Slack and talk to us there. Oh, my cat is meowing. Ouch Audi.
Chris: How do people join the Slack? Is there a link on the Vue Vixens website or something?
Jen: Yep. So you go to the bottom of vuevixens.org, it's the farthest one I believe on the right. It's a small little icon and you can click the Slack icon and that'll take you to a signup.
Chris: And then you also talked about this book, Deep Learning for Humanists I think it was?
Jen: The Humanists Guide to Deep Learning.
Chris: The Humanists Guide to Deep Learning, yeah. Is that coming out soon?
Jen: I have to pitch it. I have to get my ... it's actually hard to write a book it turns out.
Chris: You don't say?
Jen: I know right.
Ari: I tried that once, it did no work out.
Jen: Yeah, I need ... there's a lot of paperwork. You have to fill out to pitch the exact thing you want to talk about and then work with a publisher. So what I'm trying to do first is get my ideas together on Notion. I would love for that to be this years project, maybe for publication next year. The field is of course moving relatively fast in machine learning. I would want to use TensorFlow but I got to watch TensorFlow too and where it's evolving. So I want to work with that team to make sure I don't mess it up too dramatically.
Jen: But, I have about six projects. What I'm going to do is I'm going to be taking these ideas, spinning up conference talks and articles so people can see the prototypes, take a look and come back to me with feedback, then turn it into a chapter for each one of these projects that I'll create. The problem with writing technical books is that everything gets out of date yesterday so I need to make it generic enough so that it won't get out of date so quickly, that's the challenge.
Chris: And then a new edition every year, and make the big bucks.
Jen: Oh yeah, make the big bucks. Because my dad will buy it and maybe my brother, if I feature them [inaudible 00:45:05] my brother will chip in.
Chris: Is there a place where people can sign up to get news on Vue Vixens or other stuff that you're up to at Microsoft or with the book?
Jen: Yeah, you can visit me online at jenlooper.com, so just my name .com. I have links to a lot of stuff there, speaking, writing, try to keep my blog up to date. Follow me on Twitter, that's for stream of consciousness, it's just @jenlooper, and those are my two main channels I think.
Ari: And with that it's time to move onto this weeks picks. Ben, would you like to go first?
Ben: And the other one is a short story called "Juliet's School of Possibilities". And so basically it's a short story about a woman named Juliet who is a super ambitious go getter and she's busy and productive all the time but she gets this bad performance review from her company that kind of lands her in hot water and she's trying to reconsider whether her efforts are really being as effective as they are, even though she's busy all the time. So it covers this idea, it's sort of like a fable about time management, priorities, the kind of lives we lead, and what's important and really how to make the most out of your time and energy. I blew through that book in like two hours. It's a really short read. Really great if you're having some ... just reconsidering your priorities, the weekly read. So, those are my two picks for this week.
Ari: All right, Elizabeth. Do you want to go next?
Chris: In case your resume's missing a creepy face.
Ben: [crosstalk 00:47:34].
Chris: I think I would've gotten that job at Microsoft if only ...
Jen: [crosstalk 00:47:43], oh my gosh.
Elizabeth: I just like these random things.
Jen: How cute.
Elizabeth: Yeah. And my other one is a thing that exists in actual physical real life. I think Jen is doing that, doing the cursor in real life with her finger in front. My other pick is if you have a Trader Joe's near you and if you like and can eat pecans, you should get the lightly candied pecans because those are the best thing in the whole world and the thing that I like about them is that they're lightly sweetened, so they're not quite as bad as normal candied pecans and they are so addicting. And, I guess they make you more full than regular candy would make you or something like that because they're nuts. So there's at least some nutritional benefit there. So yeah, those are my two picks. I'm super addicted to those right now. I've been blowing through bags and bags.
Jen: I'll have to get some of those.
Ben: I live close to a Trader Joe's, I might have to go pick some up after this.
Elizabeth: Yup, try them. You'll thank me later.
Ari: Okay, Chris, do you have your picks?
Chris: All right, so I have three picks. The first one is Cadbury Mini Eggs. I had to two of which today and that is my quota, I cannot have more than two or else this would be a three hour podcast. And mostly about eggs and chocolate. That's the first one. They are so delicious and also part of my childhood so I'm kind of nostalgic for them.
Chris: And then the next pick is Star Trek Picard. There's a new Star Trek out and this is the first Star Trek in a while where I feel like wow, it's good actually. I'm really, really enjoying it. I've only seen two episodes so far but really digging it. I was prepared to be disappointed, have not been so far. And especially in the first episode so many good lines, so many great lines in the first episode. I'm not going to spoil anything for you, go watch it yourself.
Chris: And the next pick is another show that's on Netflix called Outlander which was recommended to me by a friend. It's I think one of the show runners, is one of the show runners on DS9, which by the way is the best Star Trek, if you disagree with me you can let me know @gloomyloomy on Twitter.
Ari: We're still going with that joke?
Chris: Oh yeah.
Ben: That will never die.
Chris: It's not a joke. I'm serious, that's how you can reach me. And Outlander is about this time travel Scottish romance which does not seem like my thing, and I watched three episodes and was not impressed. And I was encouraged to watch a little bit further and I don't know when it happened, but somehow maybe around episode six there's a moment where I was so invested and so just rapt that something happened, I won't tell you what because no spoilers, and I just stood up, screamed at the TV, said "Are you kidding me?", turned away in disgust, then immediately sat in front of the TV like I'm a little kid watching for more. Like seeing what's going to happen next. I'm in it now. I think I'm on episode ten, it's got me. It's got it's hooks. I don't even know why I like it, but I like it. I think, I can tell you some reasons why I like it. There are some great, great costumes and also ... make sure you watch it with a window open during some of the steamy scenes. My goodness. I do declare.
Ari: So it sounds like you might have-
Chris: I had a case of the vapors.
Ari: TV show Stockholm Syndrome?
Jen: Chris, I've never seen you like this.
Ari: Like you watched it for too long and you started to empathize with your captor.
Chris: Oh my gosh, this is so good. There is one scene I had to pause and just take a few deep breaths.
Jen: Heavens to Betsy.
Chris: Heavens to Betsy indeed Jen.
Ari: Is that it for you this week?
Chris: I'm going to stop now, I need a break.
Ari: All right, Jen. Do you have any picks this week?
Jen: So I have rediscovered Lottie. Anybody use Lottie for animations?
Jen: It was in my library built by the amazing books at Airbnb design and it is SVG Animations but it's ... what you do is you create them in After Effects which is kind of an issue because I don't have access anywhere, but I used to have access to After Effects. So if you're good at After Effects and you want to create these animations you can learn how to do that at Lottie and I think the website I'm looking at is lottiefiles.com, that's where all the exported animations are added in here. I hadn't used this stuff for a while, and then I went back to LottieFiles and I realized wow, it's really come a long ways. You can click on any animation and then you can change background color, you can edit land colors and then you can ... right online, and then you can download the animation that you like. A lot of it's for free and it's just absolutely lovely. There's a Vue plugin that you can use it for your Vue apps. I know for a fact it works with NativeScript. I was blown away with how far they've come with Lottie. So yay Airbnb, we love you, and very nice work with Lottie.
Ari: All right, I guess it's my turn. So I'm actually going to be starting a new series of picks for myself. I don't know, I'm sure a lot of you are like me and when you're coding you can't listen to music that has words because then the typing is just a mess and you're typing what you're hearing and you have variables names completely ridiculous things like, I don't know, some Taylor Swift lyric. I was pointing at two of you.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I was going to say that doesn't happen to you.
Elizabeth: Also Chris, I expect next week-
Chris: Yeah, did we infect you?
Elizabeth: Chris, I expect next week you're pick is going to be Miss Americana.
Chris: Why is that? Oh, are you talking about the-
Chris: Oh gosh, it is coming out on a very special day for me.
Elizabeth: Is it?
Ari: Way to hijack my pick. Sort of my fault but whatever.
Chris: I'm so excited for it, yeah.
Ben: You did this to yourself Ari.
Ari: I know I did, I totally did. But anyways, each week I'm going to, as one of my picks, if not my only pick, I will be picking a song from my personal playlist of songs I listen to while coding, and this week it is a song called CS60 by BADBADNOTGOOD. That's all one word, by the way. Actually while I was Googling to find links to various streaming services with this song, I think I have determined that CS60 is actually a reference to a Yamaha synth. It seemed like the most plausible thing. It's I guess considered instrumental hip hop though, traditionally BADBADNOTGOOD is a modern jazz ensemble so it has some jazz influence, but I'm not a big fan of jazz but I love this so, if you don't like jazz I think you'll like this. So, that is my one pick.
Jen: Can I add one pick to mine, since we started talking about music?
Ari: Go for it.
Jen: You jogged my memory. We should do a shout out for the song Codaritus by Tamira James who is an absolutely fabulous lady in our community. She's also a past recording artist and she's recorded the song called Codaritus and you can look at it on Spotify. [crosstalk 00:55:40], it's really good and it's great for a conference walking on song or whatever.
Elizabeth: Awesome, my interest is piqued.
Ari: Well I believe that is all for this weeks episode. Thanks for listening and until next time Enjoy the Vue.
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