Speaking Topics for 2018

Last year, I added data science to my talks.  This year, I’m planning on growing more of my technical skills – learning React, Vue, and Node.js.  In terms of talks, servant leadership has joined the family of topics, and it’s a topic I’m excited to present.   These are just some of the topics I am presenting in 2018.

Data Science with Python, R, and SQL Server

In 2017, I had a goal to start looking into data science topics and see what’s in store.  By the end of 2017, I started talking about how you can use Python and R on SQL Server to bring the computations to the data, rather than bringing the data to the computing.  With regards to adventures in 2018, I plan on continuing looking into data science topics and continue talking about Python and R and how they can be used on SQL Server.

The next talk for this is:

  • The Polyglot Data Scientist – Adventures with R, Python, and SQL – CodeMash – 1/12
  • The Polyglot Data Scientist – Adventures with R, Python, and SQL – Cleveland .NET User Group – 1/25

Mentoring

Mentoring was a topic that came up a couple years back and continues to come up.  Whether it’s from the perspective of being a mentor and how to become a better mentor or from the perspective of being a mentee and how to find and engage mentors, I have talks that address various angles of mentoring.  My career wouldn’t be this successful if I tried to go this alone – I have wonderful mentors in various aspects (tech, business, and life) who have guided me along the way.  In my past roles, I’ve had the privilege to mentor over 200 career shifters who have wanted to go into development or who have been in development a short time.  I also am in the process of formalizing mentoring programs for those who want to do formal mentoring programs at their companies but aren’t sure how to implement it or how to administer it.

My upcoming talks include:

  • Bringing Up Future Techies – NEOISF – 1/17
  • Making the Most of the Mentoring Relationship – Developer on Fire Remote Conference – 1/22-1/24

Leadership

New to my topics in 2018, I am presenting a talk on servant leadership.  Growing up with a father who showcased servant leadership, as well as reading his cousin’s book on servant leadership, this is something that runs in my family and comes naturally to me.  I have had numerous leadership experiences as well as a few formal roles, and all of my experiences plus the guidance I learned early on come to life in this talk.  When I present on servant leadership, I present it from a tech’s perspective, working in the trenches with my tech support team,  coaching my junior developers, and alongside my fellow tech educators.  I include stories of things I’ve done that would cause people to raise eyebrows and yet realize why it’s okay – and sometimes necessary – to make decisions that may seem absurd but have underlying reasons.

For those who want to see it in action, it’s currently lined up at:

  • Becoming a Servant Leader, Leading from the Trenches – CodeMash – 1/11

Other Topics

There are other topics that I have talks for and am still interested in speaking on.  These topics include:

  • User Experience (UX) for Developers – why it matters and what we as developers can look for and do to make things easier all around
  • Social Media and Personal Branding – how we can take little steps to help stand out in the sea of developers
  • History of Women in Tech – can do a general talk or can tailor this to specific areas of interest (particular tech communities such as a particular language or user group)
  • The Importance of Professional Development and how to find opportunities – affordable ways to grow your skills and the importance of staying relevant in the field
  • Acceptance Test Driven Development / Behavior Driven Development – understanding the concepts and how to apply it in various languages (C#, Java, Ruby, Python, and soon to add JavaScript)
  • Growing and Supporting a Tech Community – geared for those who may not have much of a tech community and how to start it and get it going.  This includes talking about networking and how to promote your community.

Conclusion

If you are interested in any of these or would like to have me present these at a user group or conference, please reach out to me either via email, Twitter, or in the comments here.  I enjoy talking with others, sharing knowledge and learning from others’ stories as well.  Looking forward to meeting others and sharing more knowledge in 2018!

Thoughts of My Dream Job Situation

While watching Twitter, I saw this pop up in my stream:

As I have taken a twisty career – tech support to desktop admin/webserver admin/reports writer/DBA/developer (all under an IT analyst role) to web developer to independent consultant (mostly development) to teaching assistant to instructor to lead instructor – I have always wondered – what really makes up my dream job?  SwiftOnSecurity’s question has me thinking.  These are some of the things I’ve liked in past or current roles.

Flexibility – Not Tied to Certain Hours

As a mom, it is important for me to be in a job where I can volunteer at school every now and then and where I can be available to handle that call when the teacher has a hazmat situation where the kid needs to be sent home (you may laugh – I had this one happen in the past couple months).   I need to be able to address mom needs every now and then, unapologetically and without a lot of extra guilt.  As a working mom, I feel guilty as it is when I have to leave work early.  However, I end up working when my kids are asleep, so the time gets in eventually.

My strong productivity times are when my kids aren’t around – so when they’re at school and when they’re asleep.  Now, when they’re home, that’s my family time.  My guys are little – 3 and 5 – so I’m at a phase where I’m still an important figure to them.  I need to be able to have that time and not feel tied down by work.

Leadership – Two-Fold

I truly enjoy leading people.  Whether it is in an official capacity – such as leading my tech support team and leading an Online remote instructor team – or an unofficial capacity – such as mentoring juniors while I didn’t have an official “lead” title, I have enjoyed supporting others in their careers, being the voice of them against the business side (HR/accounting/etc.), and encouraging team morale.  Leadership is in my blood – it’s a part of who I am, and it’s something I’ve embraced.   My enthusiasm for leadership is quite clear in my servant leadership talk that I will be delivering in January 2018 at CodeMash.

As a leader, I thrive with other leaders who are communicative, transparent, honest, and know how to handle even the tough situations.  When the going gets tough, if my leaders are transparent with me, that makes it easier for me to be able to disseminate the knowledge appropriately to my team.  As a leader, I prefer to have that transparency and open door policy for my team and expect that of my own leaders.

Play and Creativity

For me to be successful in any role, I need to be able to play.  No, I’m not referring to Nerf gun wars or Corporate Challenge type things. I’m referring more towards having fun while learning.  Is there a way for me to learn a new technology while having fun?  Can I put my creative ideas to work to make my work environment or the tech community a better place?  If I enjoy whatever it is I’m working on, there’s a much higher rate of me being successful.

Education / Training Others

I am enjoying the education space, much like I enjoyed academia while in college.  The one downfall to this is that I only have a Bachelors degree – but I won’t let that slow me down.  I did have my app in for a Master program but rescinded it recently due to a downturn of events.  Maybe one day…

What do I enjoy about the education space?  I enjoy teaching others with examples and real world applications of concepts.  I especially like taking concepts that seem difficult to others and making them approachable.  I enjoy writing curriculum and presentations.  Most of all, I enjoy learning and helping others grow in their careers by learning.

Mentoring

This is something I really enjoy – being able to share my stories and experiences with those who are just getting started in the field, and learning about their journeys and how to apply their journeys to where they are today.  I remind those who learn from me – I also have my own mentors!  Having mentors – especially ones outside of your company – give you a wider perspective on things, and being that person for others is something I really enjoy.

The Road to my Dream Job (of Today)

For now, I will continue to go down the path my career has taken me so far and see where it will lead.  Every day is an adventure, and every step changes who I am.  And each experience, I learn more about myself – my likes and dislikes, what helps me thrive, and what sets me up for success in the future.  I look forward to seeing where this path goes.

The Excitement of Mentoring

Mentoring is a topic that has always been an interest to me.  A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called “On Mentoring…” as I was curious about mentoring programs out there.  At Central Ohio Day of .NET 2008, Brian H. Prince mentioned the benefits of mentors as part of his “Soft Skillz” talk.  At CodeMash 2009, I caught a couple Open Spaces that referred to having mentors – “Getting Started on Speaking” and “Being and Choosing a Mentor”.  During CodeMash v2.0.1.0, my friend Joe O’Brien talked about all sorts of things in his “Refactoring the Programmer” talk, including  having a mentor and that an informal mentor relationship works well too. At devLink 2011, I caught Randy Walker‘s session on “Managing the mentoring process”.  I’ve always been intrigued by other people’s perspectives of mentoring, and even now, that intrigue continues.

Informal vs. Formal Mentors

Talking with friends at various companies, there are companies out there with formal mentoring programs.  They match people to colleagues who can help them navigate through various stages of their career at a particular company.  Sogeti, for example, is one of the companies with a formal mentoring process.

MentorNet is another program that is a formal mentoring program.  I heard about this through ACM, and it’s a great way for people in engineering to find formal mentors.

I’m not sure how companies necessarily match mentors to those who they’ll mentor. I do know that sometimes the mentoring relationship works and sometimes people just aren’t compatible – different learning styles, different approaches – and it doesn’t work.

I am part of a mentoring program that allows students to find mentors in the professional arena, and from what I know, the students have a portal of mentors to choose from.  The student I’m mentoring now is studying hardware stuff while tinkering with software stuff and lives in Jordan.  It’s the first formal mentor program I’ve participated in, and I’ve enjoyed it so far – helping him find out how to go further in his studies and enjoying his development on the side.  I’m also working on reaching out to my contacts to get them to help share their stories on how they got where they are, as that’s where my student mentee is aspiring to be.

Informal mentors, on the other hand, tends to be less structured.  These relationships come to fruition on their own.  There aren’t contracts or agreements.  These tend to be people who can help you get to where you are by learning from them and can be colleagues, bosses, experts in the field, and even friends.  Most of the people I’ve considered mentors would fit in this category.

Having Many Mentors

I have had many mentors throughout my career, as early as high school.  From getting an internship in the field right out of high school (thanks to a sibling’s friend’s dad who saw my potential) to working with very talented students in college, I had the privilege early on to learn and grow with their help.  While I don’t talk to some anymore as we’ve moved on in separate directions, there are still some who I stay in contact with and thank for helping me get to where I am today.

Right out of high school, I had a bunch of guys who I considered mentors – guys who’ve been in the field a long time and could teach me things.  One in particular stood out – a consultant who worked with me and introduced me to database people, who in turn showed me how Oracle and SQL Server databases differed and worked.  That really encouraged me to continue tinkering with databases.

In college, one of my fellow students who was a couple years ahead of me struck me as super smart, and he and I talked quite a bit about various aspects of software development.  Talking with him forced me to step up my game, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with him at a national programming conference and learn some Java from him while there.  While at the conference, I had a lot of time to talk with him and learn more about his job, and once we got back home, he introduced me to some guys he worked with who would later hire me and teach me the joys of being in an IT role (while the guy who introduced us would graduate and move on to a Fulbright grant program – super smart!!).

Even now, I have mentors who I learn from and grow with the things I learn.  I have mentors who force me to step up my game in the development arena.  However, I also have mentors who guide me in terms of business development.  My mentors in various areas are strong in their respective areas.  I choose to look up to strong figures, as I know they know what they’re about and if I learn from the strong, I stand a chance at developing (or sometimes even exceeding) their strengths.

Conclusion

While I may not have a formal mentor, I don’t find that a problem for me finding success in my career.  I’ve crossed paths with many talented individuals – developers, architects, business people, entrepreneurs, government officials, and others.  I find that I learn a little something from most of the people I encounter, and I take from those.  However, just because I haven’t had a formal mentor doesn’t mean I’m closed to that option.  It just means that I haven’t found a formal program with people that I’d like as mentors.  Overall, though, I recommend having mentors – formal and/or informal – to help further your career and/or interests.