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Episode Transcription

Hello everyone and welcome to THE .NET Core podcast - the only podcast which is devoted to:

  • .NET Core
  • ASP.NET Core
  • EF Core
  • SignalR

and not forgetting The .NET Core community, itself.

I am your host, Jamie "GaProgMan" Taylor, and this is episode 13: Continual Learning with Steve Gordon. In this episode, I talk with Steve about some of his deep dives into the .NET Core source code, continually learning, and giving great talks.

You may know Steve from his incredibly accessible deep dive blog posts, or the .NET South East meetup group, or for his work on The Humanitarian Toolbox.

So lets sit back, open up a terminal, type in dotnet new podcast and let the show begin.

Steve's Introduction

I like to start by saying that I'm a purely self-taught developer. So I didn't study it at University; I did some stuff at college on it, but it was mostly self-taught. And I've been coding I guess, for 18 years, since secondary school, but on an off.

So playing around with things like QuickBasic, I think I then went on to VB6 and eventually VB NET, and then I moved to C# and WebForms. Throughout that time, as I say, it wasn't my main job it was a hobby. It was mostly something that I liked to do as side projects, and things like that.

But in 2015 I took a bit of a career switch and I moved over to professional development full time - and I haven't looked back since. It's been one of the great decisions that I've made in my life, and I'm very pleased that I did.

So today I'm a senior developer. I work for a company called Madgex and they're based in Brighton - so down in the South coast of the UK. And we do mostly Recruitment based software-as-a-service products. We're best known for our job board products and our range of the stuff that we do there - used by customers like The Guardian and Washington Post to run their digital job boards.

And so in the roles there, for the last couple of years at least, I've been mostly working with .NET Core and ASP NET Core. We started with that at Madgex when it was in the RCs, when we were hoping that it was fairly stable, and it did still bite us during that early release phase.

But it was a really nice decision, we had a greenfield project and were building for reporting and analytics. So we dived in with .NET Core services, Docker, and all of the fun new technologies that were available at the time. More recently I've been doing stuff with event source systems as well, where we'll building out for some machine learning products, too.

I like to consider myself a continuous learner, like I say everything is self-taught as much as possible. And I just really enjoy learning, diving into development technologies, and trying things out. But .NET Core and ASP NET Core is where I spend most of my time.

And on the side of that, I've started blogging - I think it was in early 2016 that I committed to starting blogging properly, after a few false starts. Since then I've done a lot of stuff on the blog, and more recently things like YouTube videos, public speaking, and just trying to share my passion with the community.

Advice on Public Speaking

Jamie:
You do a lot of public speaking, and your YouTube channel, and shows like this. Having done it yourself, what would be your advice for someone wanting to start down that path?

Steve:
It would definitely depend on your level of confidence, but I would suggest starting smaller. It's not just about having the confidence, I think it's also about developing a style and a skill set in order to present something concisely. So I think that diving straight in may work for some, certainly if you have some more experience speaking generally in other environments.

My personal experience was that I only started public speaking in about April, last year. And if you'd have asked me a year an a half ago if I'd ever be on a stage somewhere, speaking at an event I'd have said, "absolutely no way. You're crazy." Because I have a real fear - I almost refer to it as a hate feeling - for the concept of having to stand up and speak. Even in relatively small environments with a group of people I knew.

But I actually got into because I wanted to try and promote The Humanitarian Toolbox, and get more people involved in that. I was attending the ALT NET meetings and they were having a "show and tell" night, and they said:

Anyone who wants to do a 20 minute slot, let me know

I put my name down and I thought, "yes. I'm going to talk about Humanitarian Toolbox, and it's all going to be fine." Then immediately regretted the decision but stuck with it.

I had a month or two to put some content together, I started hashing out what I wanted to say, and in many places shamelessly stealing from Richard Campbell's talks that he'd given (I checked with him first, obviously). I put together the content and ended up giving the talk, and it went pretty well. I was hugely nervous leading up to it, but it was probably a small group of us, maybe about 25 of us.

It looked terribly intimidating when I stood up, but 25 is kind of a nice number. It's big enough that it looks like you're presenting to a larger audience, but it's not too big that you have too many eyes staring at you.

I was lucky actually, on that particular evening Dylan Beattie - who is a fairly well known name in the .NET community - was there, he was doing a 20 minute slot as well. He'd come down from London to join us. He came up to me afterwards and said that he's really enjoyed it, thought it was really well presented. And hearing that from someone I knew as a presenter was quite encouraging. He then suggested to me that I should submit to his conference that he helps organise at Skill Matter in London called "Progressive .NET".

...

The overall advice is definitely give it a try. Even if you're like I was, which was thinking, "I hate public speaking. I really don't want to do it."

Try and find an environment where you are comfortable enough to give it a go. So recently we had a new speakers night at .NET South East, and we invited people to give a 15-20 minute talk, ideally first timers from the local community. Some of them where, much like me, very nervous beforehand, but found that they really enjoyed it.

So: Start small; find somewhere that you can try it out; if you don't like it, don't do it again. But if you feel that you have even a slight enjoyment from doing it, then I recommend keeping going with it.

You don't have to have a deep a deep technical expertise in any one particular subject, I certainly don't consider myself an expert. I just share a story, that's what I've done with most of the talks that I've given so far:

  • This is the problem we were facing
  • This is what we decided to do
  • This is what worked
  • This is what didn't, or what we would do differently

That kind of thing. Because no one can really challenge that kind of talk, so don't worry about people telling you that you're wrong, because it's your experience and your opinion on what you did and didn't do right.

And yeah, see if you can do something like that, see if you enjoy it, and hopefully it'll roll from there.

Wrapping Up

That was my interview with Steve Gordon.

I'll be honest with you, shortly after we recorded this interview I was bitten by the public speaking bug. I can't say for certain whether Steve's advice was directly responsible for it, but I feel like it was part of my decision to get up in front of folks and give talks about things that I'm passionate about.

As always, be sure to check out the show notes for a selection of links, and a collection of text snippets from the interview. The show notes, as always, can be found at dotnetcore.show.

And don't forget to spread the word, leave me a rating or review on your podcatcher of choice, and to come back next time for more .NET Core goodness.

I will see you again real soon. See you later folks.