IC to Lead: Building Confidence In Your Skills with Lindsay Barrett

Show Notes

In this episode, you'll hear Lindsay's path from graphic designer to support engineer and how she now manages a team of support engineers. We discuss what this transition has looked like for her as well as the training and learnings she undertook along the way.

In the second half of the episode, we dig into more specific tactics that her and her team have encountered like supporting customers through API version migrations, authentication issues and squashing bugs with their product engineering team.

Questions or feedback for the show? You can DM us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/buildandlearn_

Full Transcripts

Colin: Welcome to Build and Learn. My name is Colin.

CJ: and I'm CJ and today we're joined by our really good friend Lindsay Barrett, and we're gonna talk about her developer journey. Lindsay is a team lead now on a technical support team. And we met a really long time ago through some meetups in Reno, and I know Colin and Lindsay, you've worked together on some stuff before and historically, like you also have a podcast episode that you did on Colin's old podcast. So if you're interested in that, you can go check it out. I dunno if that's still up.

Colin: What's up?

CJ: Yeah. How you spend your days. But I've always really admired Lindsay's grit and bias for action, and so we're really just excited to chat. And so, yeah. Welcome Lindsay to the show.

Lindsay: Hi, everyone. Glad to be here.

CJ: Before we get into it, just so for framing about when we're recording this episode, this is just a few days before the Christmas holiday and there is a, like once in a generation storm happening across the us. I don't know how that's impacting people in Reno, but damn it's, it's hitting us hard here in the, in the northeast of New England. And we're, we live in like this really old house that we just moved into, and today we discovered there's a crack in the foundation. And so there's water like pouring through the wall in the other room right now. , like into a bucket that will we'll, we'll have to figure out what to do with that after the show.

Lindsay: Yeah, so I'm back home for the holidays, so I'm in Phoenix. It's 70, sunny. I didn't even know, I think I just saw today on the news that there's a storm.

Colin: I think where our CEO is at, it's like negative 14 C whatever, it's eight degrees or so. I think what it, what I'm seeing though is it's a lot of like, feels like way colder than what it says on the thermometer too. Yeah, that's, that's just how it goes.

CJ: Totally. Lindsay, you moved to Reno as like part of taking a new job, or you moved to Reno from a really far away, not originally from Arizona, right? It was like from, am I guessing Nashville? Correct.

Lindsay: Yeah. So gosh, I moved to Reno almost, yeah, in 2015. And it was just after college. So I was looking at like, all right, what's the next adventure? Where's someplace I could live? And I kind of heard about Reno through a job board from where my college is based, which was in around Knoxville, Tennessee. And so I was ready for the next thing, and I always wanted to learn to snowboard. And I heard, oh, Reno's close to Tahoe. I said, all right, perfect. And then I, so I was looking at Reno, but then also Colorado and I thought, what has more commerce, you know, where I could maybe get a, a job? And I learned more. Colorado was a lot of, unless you were in Denver, everything else was just the ski town jobs. So I heard about Reno and I kind of think of it as like I hit the jackpot at just the right time. 2015 was when kind of Tesla just came in. A lot of other big. Distributors and the downtown of Reno was getting rebuilt. So yeah, I moved right outta college, drove across country. It was just kind of like out of ignorance of just like, okay, let, let me just go see, and I had a job lined up. It was with the local Girl Scouts in town, so working for a nonprofit. I was gonna be a part of their communications team. So yeah, that's kind of what brought me out to Reno. And it's kind of how I started to get involved in tech from moving to a brand new city and like looking for ways to meet people and make friends.

CJ: I love that because I think that a lot of people are really comfortable where they're at and they're, they might be frustrated or depressed where they are and they feel, they don't feel like motivated to make a really significant change and just uproot and move really far. And so I think that it takes a lot of guts to do something like that. And, and also, I. At, at that transition point, like right when you're coming out of college, it seems like it might be a little bit easier, right? But like still, it takes a lot of guts to go somewhere where you don't know a bunch of people and you don't have this giant network of friends and you haven't sort of built up this established life somewhere. And so at that time when you were moving, did you know that you wanted to start getting into tech or was that something that came later?

Lindsay: It's actually a funny story. So my college, they were. You know, there was small Christian college, about 2000 kids in East Tennessee. And when I, I remember like when I started college there, they had kind of just announced that they were getting rid of their computer science program. I remember thinking like, oh, that's kind of a bummer. I would've liked to learn more about that. And so I was, I was on track to do graphic design and communications major, and then my last semester I learned that they were bringing the computer science program back. I thought, wow, like I really wanna take that class, like they're doing an intro class. And so I started signing up, but then, The, the professor said, Hey, we're already filled up, like you can't join the class. And I was like, ah. But I messaged him like multiple times like, Hey, I'd really like to join, you know, what can I do? And he's, no, not at all. And now, like looking back, if I'd known what I know now, I said I'm taking the class and I'm gonna just bring my own computer kind of deal. Cuz that was a problem. There wasn't enough computers. So that was in the back of my mind, like right before I was. Graduate. And then I was also hearing like, okay, yeah, you can have a job in graphic design, but you have to know some, some front end work. So that was starting to really intimidate me of like, I want to get a job in graphic design, but I don't know how to code yet. So I ended up, you know, graduating and then it was still like on the back of my mind. I'm interested in computer science, I'm interested in coding, but I didn't have like the resources at the time to, to learn that or even know where to start back in 2015. , but that's why when I moved to Reno, I was so excited to learn, Hey, there is a developer community here, and I can start getting involved.

Colin: Yeah, that's interesting what you bring up about computers. Like, I remember when I was at college, like we had to go to a computer lab and we had computers that we had to work on. And it's interesting to see how the shifts of access to resources, you know, even things like advent of code and the free code camp and things like these have kind of given. You know, you could do this on an iPad now, right? You don't have to use, you could do have code spaces. You can do Code Sandbox. It doesn't have to be this like thing that you have to have resources. You might still have to have someone who introduces it to you, right? Get that itch. But I think, you know, even 2015 was not that long ago, and it's so cool to see how much has changed in that. You know, the pandemic is a little bit to blame as well, where we're kind of forced to go online for most things. I think like even the meetups and things have started to come back too, which is good. People are getting curious and kind of like, okay, staying at home was great for a while, but now it's time to get out and brush up those skills, see people again talk about projects that we're all working on and all that kind of stuff.

CJ: You were studying graphic design and you felt like you needed to know front end stuff, was that sort of, because the job descriptions you were looking at had front end requirements. I mean, would is that, do you think that's still true today? Like if you wanted to be a graphic designer, that you have to know front end development?

Lindsay: So, so at the time it was definitely very heavy on like the job descriptions, you know, that nervous of like, I have to have the job right out of college, and that's what I was seeing. Must know HTML JavaScript, and that was super intimidating and just not seeing a basic graphic design job. Now looking back, I think it's changed a lot. I think people are starting to see like the importance of having specialization where it doesn't have to lean so heavy on knowing how to code. And I think we're seeing that more because of, we have product designers now where they just want to know the interaction and just somebody being very specialized in making the best user experience. So I believe it's moving away from having to know so much code and just having, you know, specific people for the jobs. So I think that is better. Now that I'm more on the track of like tech support development, I've kind of put that way behind me, the graphic design and product product designer. But yeah, it'd be interesting to know, you know, exactly how the job descriptions have changed.

CJ: So Lindsay and I worked together, and the last time we were working together, you were an individual contributor on the support team, and now you're a leader of that team. What was that transition like? And anyone else who's considering moving from an individual contributor to a lead, what are some things that they might need to take into consideration or think about? And , what was that like?

Lindsay: Yes. I moved in from being a tech support engineer, individual contributor to a team lead, which has been about the past year, and I'm finding it's a completely different frame of mind, different work responsibilities, and I kind of realized, you can really succeed as individual contributor and being the best, you know, agent that's really strong at troubleshooting, knowing code helping solve customers problem, but being a manager or a team leader is totally different and I'm, I still like find myself very surprised by that cuz you kind of think, oh, if I'm really good at being a support agent, I'll be a really good manager. And I don't know if those always co coordinate as, yeah, the main difference I'd say is the responsibilities and like, how good are you at processes? And making really clear cut direction for your team and then also helping coach your team. It seems like good managers are very people oriented, but they're also like extremely type A and organized and yeah, that's been like a, a transition for me of like, I can be slightly those things, but I feel like to be the best, you have very, to be very focused on process and data. So for somebody who's wanting to transition from individual contributor to a manager, I think it really goes back to like really project-based work where you can show I can lead projects, I can change processes I can involve team members and like move things along so it becomes, you know, less individual thinking. But goal thinking and a process I think is a huge part of that. So it's an ongoing, like it definitely challenges you in totally new ways of thinking which has been good, but it's definitely pros and cons, I find.

Colin: As you move up in levels, you start to move a little bit away from self to team, to department to company goals. And like you said, then you switch over to that manager track and now you're not necessarily doing the individual work as much as one-on-ones and player coaching and things like that. And I don't do that in my current role that we have great engineering managers for that. So I'm more focused on being able to not only get my work done, but also make sure prs are closed and help get other projects done so that our team is successful. Which sounds like there's a lot of similarity there with you, Lindsay. As you're working with your team, are you helping them with their career goals or is it more on the work side of things? Like are you doing some of that, engineering management, personal development stuff as well and like helping them figure out where they want to go or how does that kind of pencil out for you?

Lindsay: in some ways, like I know. person on my team, they have like a specific goal of where they're headed. And so I aim to help facilitate that of finding ways they can get the skills that they need. So sometimes it's, you know, being an advocate for them to take certain courses. I also push, like for project-based work of, okay, how can you show the skills you wanna learn? Like how can you show actual output that you can do those skills. So it'll be the way I mentor or coach is through project-based examples. I think that will help them take them to the next level. But yeah, the main difference with management is it's a totally different way of thinking. Where as an individual contributor, it's very easy to be self-oriented and like, I'm measured for my goals only, and I don't have to think about anything else. I just gotta be a good person to work with. But as a manager, you understand more of like kind of how difficult it can be to be a manager because you're no longer looking at yourself for performance, you're being measured on other people's performance. And that's really like kind of a hard shift. But then I think with the proper training and learning how to coach people, you can get fulfillment in helping others succeed. And if they're not doing well, you don't take it. So personally, you just see it as like, how can I help push this along? What's going on with them? So yeah, I aim to like help push everyone along in their career. But it's also still like being a first time manager. I'm still figuring it out. Still trying to take more coaching and training. There's been a lot to it that I'm very painfully learning it feels like in some ways.

CJ: It sounds like and also intuitively, there's a massive component to this that involves empathy for all of the people on your team. And I think both of you, Lindsay and Colin, have like really, really high eq and I would love to report to either of you. So I think, you know, like good on you for being good people. And also personally, I mean, I think that it sounds really scary. For your success to depend on the success of others. So me personally, as an individual contributor, I think maybe it's out of fear of being measured based on the success of people that I'm managing, that I don't wanna be a manager. I think it would be terrifying to say like, okay, now, like the team's. You know, I'm accountable for the team's output. So is that something that you were worried about when you went into management, or you were excited about? How do you, how do you deal with that sort of responsibility without having that autonomy to just go and do the thing?

Lindsay: Mm-hmm. . I think I kind of had like a naive assumption going in that kind of everyone's working to do their best. They already have the skills. It's just how can we take the team and the work we do to the next level. So it's been an adjustment to be like, okay. how do I work with every individual team member and make them succeed? And it does get different of, you know, you want to like have one meeting and then that touches everyone. But you have to be so know everyone's an individual and works and thinks in different ways. So the work is kind of, it's almost how many team members you have, it's the individual to every person. So it can be so much work to, to influence someone to help them to succeed. But it is scary. But I think I've kind of, I've gotten past that of like, okay, I have to push somebody to make myself, you know, be measured and reported correctly. And I can see it as like, it's a job, we're doing our best. And then if somebody's struggling, they're not doing so on purpose, they just don't have the tools or the skill, the skillset yet. And as a manager, it's my job to help them get those tools, have that training time, and so they can move forward.

Colin: That's awesome. Yeah. And for you, like what sorts of resources and coaches and things? Invaluable for you to go from where we all first met to where you're at today. Have there been any communities or I know for the software developers, there's like, lead dev has been really useful for that for me, but what sorts of things have you found useful for that?

Lindsay: Yeah. So in this support world, I've found a few communities out there to, you know, help managers and directors and heads of support. So one that I really kind of plug away is a site called Support Driven, and it's a Slack community where it's pretty mind blowing, but they have whole dedicated different Slack channels dedicated for certain, certain support issues. So it could be like, how do I. Staff up my support team. How do I know, what do I measure on to know I need more people? So some hiring stats. It also has like leadership ID ideas. It also they have. just a plethora of different, whatever problem you're facing in support, whether it's not hiring enough people, motivating people, training people just a great resource. So that's been something I've really leaned on cuz I didn't have, you know, like the exact training of like, okay, how do I know the exact support data I need to know how to run a support team. So that's been great. I also lean on a lot of like old mentors of mine. When CJ and I worked together, we had a great support manager, Amber Deal. She's now like a senior manager, support manager at GitHub, and I'm kind of leaning, I lean on her a lot to kind of help guide me with her experience. We've become really close friends. And then most recently, I'd say my work has really supported me in getting proper management training. We just went through a great program through growth space. It's called a new manager training, and that I kind of can look back now and see like, oh, I was really shooting in the dark of what I thought a good manager was but actually getting the proper coaching and going through a group led program, I like my confidence has completely shifted. So I think that there's a lot of stats out there that say like, new managers fail because they don't have the proper training and it makes sense. And I, so I really encourage like support companies or all companies in general to heavily invest in their management training and especially new managers.

CJ: What kind of stuff do they teach in there? I would wonder what a curriculum would look like for manager training. Having no training ever. I mean, I've managed some people, but never, yeah, never had any official training.

Lindsay: Yeah, so it was, it was a really cool program through growth space and kind of how I boil it down to of like what the whole purpose, it was like five week program and meeting just every week in a, a group led session. But what it really came down to is like how to respect and listen to people. It sounds so basic, but like that's the goal as a manager. Okay. How do I really listen? Be an active listener, and instead of being a person who's just like, okay, tell me more, tell me your problem, and then I'll get that information so I can solve it instead. You're always coming at a mindset of, okay, I'm listening, but how do I flip this back? So, that your direct report feels like they have power to help make changes. And so you learn like how to coach people by asking open-ended questions, by always putting it kind of on them to get their information. And you find by doing that, by asking them questions, you're respecting them. So that's was one big part of the training. Also, we talked about like influence of how do you. You know the work you're doing if you wanna move up and scale up, like how to build influence. So that was some good information and then also like how to, if you are having a support problem, knowing who's in your network, who you can work with other managers, how you can get help that way. So, so it was a great initial training and I wanna do more of them cause I think it really changed the way I think.

Colin: Awesome. Yeah, I actually just picked up I haven't, it's coming in the mail today. I think the Engineering Management for the Rest of Us from Sarah Dresner. And she's the director over at Google. I don't really have aspirations towards going the engineering management direction, but I think just learning and reading on this stuff like helps us be better ics working with our managers to some extent. When you're a team lead, you're doing some blended player coach role where you're still doing prs, you're still doing customer support, potentially you're doing those escalations, I imagine. When, when someone wants to speak to the manager, literally . So that's one I'll have to report back on how that book is. I'm a big fan of Sarah. She's a good follow on Twitter too.

CJ: When I think about the best managers that I've ever had, they often were doing some sort of like Jedi mind tricks where that were. Totally, exactly what you're talking about, Lindsay, and now that I realize that that's like taught to people in management training where they'll just sit there and listen to you and then sort of reflect it back to you. I'm like, okay, yeah. The best managers I've ever had, I would come to them frustrated and then walk away feeling like totally heard and supported and unblocked in ways that I could actually probably unblock myself or maybe something wasn't a big issue. Maybe there was a person that I didn't know about that I needed to connect with, or maybe there was a resource I hadn't heard about, or, you know, just an out-of-the-box idea about, okay, just use your education budget that you have over here to go buy this book that is gonna teach you about X and then come back and we'll talk about it. It is absolutely an art. I've had managers who were really bad and they just kind of showed up and told you what they were gonna do for the week and then left . But yeah, definitely the best, the best managers have that sort of respect and listening that you're talking about, so that's cool.

Lindsay: Yeah, it really shifted. I, it kind of clued in on me of, okay, whenever I haven't had good managers, and it's typically, you know, someone. It's either just a readout where there is no action or like kind of follow up, or it's a manager who's just, Hey, do this, do that, and like kind of know like, what do you think? Or how would you tackle this? So yeah, it really shifted my perspective of always having that open-ended question and empowering the person to think, okay, actually I do have more in my tool set to tackle this myself. And yeah, I, I can take on what I need. And I think through the management training was really pushing on like, what's the point of a open-ended or of a yes or no question, saying like, did you do this? Do it this way it really kind of just stops the conversation right there instead of actually having engagement in the back and forth. So I highly recommend that of, ask the open-ended questions and push that person to, to solve it themselves in a way themselves.

Colin: Yeah. And you've been learning a lot of like management styles and management training, things like that. Are there like technologies that you're also still keeping up with? Are you still in the code? Are you still needing to keep up with all the different things that are, you know, inexplicably coming out every day?

Lindsay: That's another like interesting part about being in management, being in tech support, like constantly staying up to date on the new thing, like what my company's building. So right now I've been pushing as far as like new skills to learn with my team. I know recently we're moving on to Snowflake, so I'm gonna have to really do some digging there. But yeah, we're kind of constantly staying up to date on like, okay, new API authentication. Our company's building secure measures each day, and so my team needs to be on top of how we talk to outside developers about what we're building. So I find like a lot of API training and different ways to authenticate. And then, yeah, most recently, one challenge I'm finding is having my agents be really skilled in like pulling database reports, so some MongoDB training and then Snowflake most recently. And yeah, so we really plug into what already exists out there. I don't wanna be in a place where like, I'm directly teaching, but instead of giving like the resources to the sites and then we have shared sessions, cuz I find it so important, like I think what really makes the difference in learning new skills, you kind of can't just simply like assign a course and that's it. You have to start there as a base, but then have like a one-on-one kind of training session where it does feel like open-ended. And if you're stuck, you have someone to go to. So I remember even Colin and I worked together. He did an awesome job when I was learning about REST APIs and I was really getting stuck on just the authentication portion. And you see a lot of like. Just date out there where they'll just show it a screenshot and they'll show you, okay, you request it this way, you get something sent back. And like the picture is just so, what in the world does this mean? But then when you sit down with somebody and you're doing it yourself, it's just light bulb click of like, this is so much simpler than the course makeup looks, than some guy who's prepared the course. So I find the one-on-one is really important, and that's made all the difference in my team of not just shucking them off to take a course, but following it up with the one-on-one training and pairing them with a team member.

Colin: Yeah, and you've learned these things, right? You also are learning them. It's not just, Hey, go learn this thing and let me know how it goes. So you have a little bit of a advantage there. I think that's an issue as we grow in tech is that some people lose that beginner's mind. It's important to know where they're coming from when you're learning a new thing and when you look at authenticating against an a p I, like there's how many flavors of OA these days. And you may not, when you're beginning, you don't know why. And maybe I don't know that. I still know why. But it, you know, you still have to know all those different things and, and it's good that you are able to support your team in, in learning those things. And I have some sympathy for anyone who's dealing with API products. Both of you, you know, have that where standards are changing around you, on top of your team are changing the literal product that you offer people. Have you had to do any like big deprecations, have you had a V2 API or getting rid of certain authentications and things like that?

Lindsay: Yeah, we actually, we had a huge migration process where we're moving from V2 to a v1. end Point and yeah, the, the hard part, it wasn't so much with like communicating with the developers, it's the customers of like, trying to make them make sense cuz we needed them involved in some way. But yeah, mostly I find a lot of it just comes to, so being intimidated and trying to push things off, you really have to have like a roll up your sleeves mentality and like, I'm gonna sit down, I'm gonna learn this myself if I can't get other people involved as a manager, I really wanna know how this works. So I can inform my team, so be in the loop. But yeah, that was a big recent component. I had to take my team through.

CJ: That is so important, having a roll up your sleeves mentality, and I think that's what differentiates the more senior folks to the more junior folks is that as a senior person, It is expected that you can be dropped into any technology or framework or whatever, and that you'll figure it out. Like you can, you have the skills to go figure out what you don't know and how to learn something. Whereas someone who's more junior, maybe if they're just a year outta college or something, if they encounter something that they don't know, maybe they're gonna be really, really intimidated. And it sounds like you've got a system set up so that you can support all of your reports and also you've kind of like built up the confidence and the courage to go into anything and be like, I can figure this out. Like I can learn this and come back to the team and work together with other people to figure out how to support it and talk about it to external devs. And I, it's like such an important skill. If you're out there listening and you're nervous about starting a new job because it uses a programming language you've never used, or it requires some understanding of a system that you've never used, I would say just go for it and figure it out as you, as you go. , I, I mean, I think As a little side tangent, I saw today that Google is doing this like red alert because of chat G P T, where they're like, oh gosh, like chat G p T is gonna take over and no one is gonna Google things anymore. But I think between chat G P T and Google and Stack Overflow and your network, and if you wanna reach out to, to us on Twitter, come hit us up and we can together figure anything out. One thing that we were chatting about recently was a Django app, or you were spinning up a Django app. Was this like a side project? What, like, can we, can we get into that? What were you building and, yeah can you tell us more about that?

Lindsay: Yeah, so I've been really taking on like learning Django and I have a project in mind. I wanna build like a backpackers app where you can kind of connect with friends and plan trips. Learning a new framework has just been really enjoyable. I found the level of confidence of like learning something new and when it actually clicks and you kind of realize like I was putting off learning something for so long cuz I thought it was way more difficult than it was. Like with my management, the team I manage, like when I've been pushing them to learn new skills and take on new things, like the level of confidence I've seen them go through of like starting kind of from really just base skills, but like them being so devoted to their work and learning and then putting it into practice, the confidence has gone through the roof. And I'd say most recently I'm dealing with quite a bit of raise request from the confidence, which really surprised me. But I get where they're coming from where I kind of lean on to anybody in support, like I really want to learn the tech and the hard skills, like soft skills are so important and that is always gonna be the majority of work, but the level of confidence you get, like as a support agent or as anyone starting out, it's so important. So I have been pushing that with myself of learning a new Django app, putting it into practice, and yeah, it's been taken off, so it's still in the works. CJ builds a really cool tutorial of connecting Django and Stripe and so I've been learning more about Stripe, so I kind of put the two together and yeah, paired well, I really recommend William Vincent's Django books. Like he has like a very special skill set of taking difficult content and gearing it for beginners. I think that can be a challenge to find somebody who's a really strong writer that can help beginners coming out.

Colin: That's cool. I was gonna ask earlier, I think you just answered it a little bit. Where does that confidence come from or how can you mentioned, EQ and confidence and I, I do believe that there's skills that you can develop. I think a lot of people, especially white men in tech, we get this wrap for like having undue confidence and ego and all this stuff, but I think a lot of it tends to be putting in the reps and like just doing the thing over and over again. Like if you make a thousand API requests, you're gonna see a lot of stuff, right? You're gonna see errors, you're gonna see different authentication types, you're gonna see stuff so that when it comes up and you're doing support, you're gonna be like, okay, I know what this is and I can. Pretty good confidence using your own product, right? Like using your own API if, or using if your company doesn't have an api, just using the product will make you more confident in it. And I would say like just building a Django app. Great example. , right? I know CJ, you flip between lots of languages and frameworks in your job, and so you probably see more than most in terms of like, okay, in Ruby it looks like this. In Python, it looks like this. But I think doing that exercise, I personally, I don't know how to best describe it, but like I kind of, it's like a spidey sense of like when something's wrong. I have some ideas on where to go look, but those are based on things that I've seen before. Right. And you don't develop that unless you do it a lot. So I think it doesn't mean that you have to be building a side project for backpackers on your nights and weekends. I think that's cool because, because you're so interested in that, you're gonna stick with it and you're gonna go through with it. I know a lot of people coming out of boot camps are always trying to figure out what they should build next. And for me, I always have so many ideas on things I could be building, so that's never been an issue, but it's like, find something you really love. We had a friend, in the early days of the iOS app ecosystem, he built a knitting app for keeping track of yarn schemes and in terms of like SKUs and lot numbers because I guess it's a very niche problem, but when you buy yarn of certain colors, they're all dyed differently and so you need to keep track of these SKUs and like it was featured by Apple, he made, you know, it's hard to make money with apps today, but back then like was able to actually make a pretty good living as a indie iOS developer and it came from people around him really having this issue and he stuck with it. So always finding a little project that is a passion of yours, like pairing backpacking in tech is, is a great way to do that. And then you can go backpacking and get away from your computer too. So that's good.

CJ: As a lead who is working with a bunch of support engineers, one of the challenges in my experience is keeping all of the engineers engaged and feeling like they're growing their own career. And so by using a learning process, like, oh look, you're learning Django, or you're learning Mongo, or you're learning whatever. That is one way to make everyone feel like you're growing, you're growing your career, and you're growing your skillset. I know that you've used Rails before, and so going from zero to one is always the hardest, and then going from one to two, I think people are often surprised by like, oh, actually there's all of these things that I can draw lines between the old version that I know and this different, maybe it's a different language, different framework, different whatever, but like, okay, this is how it works in Django and this is how it worked in rails. And that also can kind of build up your confidence. And this actually came up in our last episode too with Eric, and that was that. When you're exploring front end frameworks that you might want to use in 2023, go out and make a to-do list or make something very simple. Just do the hello world in a bunch of different ones to figure out kind of which direction you want to go. In this case, it sounds like, you know, if you're an early career individual contributor that's doing, you know, support engineering or even if you're just, you know, junior dev at some company and you want to increase your confidence in those skills, go out and try to build a bunch of things, so, Yeah. Are there other resources that you like to share with people who are on your team that you know, that are looking to, to grow their skills?

Lindsay: I'll kind of find a way if I can get like a developer involved at some point, like a special request of, Hey, can you, can we schedule a training of something that special skill and have them lead that talk with the support engineers, I find that's really engaging for my team of they kind of see like the developers as the gods of the company in a way. And so if they find like that one-on-one time of just getting more touchpoints on maybe something they're learning on a course, but then also hearing like a developer speak about it and see how it applies to the work they're doing.

CJ: I think maybe something to throw out there is that developers are not gods . Like there's nothing special about a developer. I think if, if a team is trying to like pick up dev skills, then pulling in someone who knows those skills is, is great. But I think support engineers don't often get the credit that they due because they're the ones who are there through the holidays answering questions, and they're the ones who are there balancing and juggling 20 different questions from developers who are using, coldfusion over here, WordPress over there, and Ruby over here, JavaScript over there, and trying to figure out how to do this really weird thing with the api. I just wanted to throw that out there. That the skills that these support engineers have to be able to balance and jump around in context switch is really, really valuable and. Yeah. Circling back to all of those raise requests that you're getting, give them the raise! What does that process look like? If someone comes to you and says, I want a raise, you've gotta go, do you just go to your manager and say, okay, all these people want raises. Let's do, let's do raises, or do you have to put a packet together? Does it happen on a certain cycle?

Lindsay: Yeah, it's kind of still being built out, I'd say. For where I'm currently at, but definitely come down to, okay, what's the reason for the raise? Like what work have you shown? It's not just, hey, it's, it's been a while, but I wanna have confidence as a manager where when I'm taking it to the next level, I can vouch and say, yes, this person is contributing in this way. here's some cool recent projects that really transformed our team. So yeah, just taking, kind of the previous work they've done, they're also how they're measuring and support, that's very big of their individual stats, how much work they're doing, if they have good customer satisfaction scores. And then from there, taking it to upper management and making that a pretty simple process through just like yes or no, HR approves. As long as our budget allows for that.

CJ: Very cool. Do you have control over the budget at all or?

Lindsay: No. So that's kind of support directors and then VP of support. We are in tune of our hiring needs if we need this many number. Making sure that's matches up with what the budget is saying, but kind of, yeah, keep it basic as far as like motivating the team, the actual work we're doing, our KPIs and everything else can be like a little bit higher level.

CJ: Cool.

Colin: It's something we didn't touch on yet, but I think you mentioned it in working with the developer side of the house is how often do you work with the development team in terms of like you are receiving all of this feedback about the product, the api, you might be identifying bugs, there's probably a whole lot of EQ on the customer side, but then there's this whole dance of working with and verifying and saying, here's reproducibility of bugs. I know you're not necessarily, you're not qa, right? But your support engineers are kind of the ones in the field seeing these firsthand. I think solutions engineers also see this a lot too. They're like, we have to use this api. Can you please just add this pagination token or something, just so that our lives are easier? How much of that is part of your job, part of your team's job, and the pushback there in terms of getting developer time sometimes can be challenging. How does that look for you guys?

Lindsay: If say there's an issue with like our API documentation and for whatever reason it got out there, it's not clear. If we're dealing with a developer who's having an issue. with an endpoint. It's a process of still, the ticket coming in. Our team pushes back we found, we're not gonna get any action from developers unless we have the curl request. What's the actual problem? So I've built up the confidence with my team to push back with developers and say, we need this. Please send it. Simplified manner. So yeah, so we, you know, we take in once we know exactly what they're doing and that's really built up the confidence of my team of, hey, we recognize exactly what a developer's telling us. They take that curl, can reproduce it and say, yes, I'm having the same problem, or no, I'm not the, the customer just needs to be educated on how to authenticate usually. And then we, you know, make a self-service model of, okay, if it is an issue, we go through the typical flow of reporting a Jira, doing that route, but then there's always those gray areas sometimes of, okay, it's not a genuine issue, but something's just not clear of how it works. So we have a really active with my team and developers slack channel and it's really cool to see, I've seen like when I was brought on, just how the confidence of my team has transformed where there really can kind of go back and forth, talk with the developers of like how this works, how the customer actually wants it. So we'll have our VP of engineering in there, the lead devs and yeah. So we can solve a lot of problems that way right then and there and then update our docs or our processes versus it having to go through the whole Jira phase, which we're small enough now. We can kind of do that, but as it gets bigger, yeah we'll lean more on the Jira process

Colin: Oh, that's cool. that's very cool. Yeah, and I think to clarify it, so you work with developers who are consuming your api, but then you have developers in your company that are building features, and so there's developers on both sides of that.

Lindsay: Colin and I talked a while back, like if someone wants to be a developer, like if they do take first job into support, really making it clear to their manager that they're working towards development and having their manager support them and helping them make introductions, get the skills work on like projects and support then require dev skills. But yeah, I always vouch for every company I think needs a support team to really succeed.

Colin: I like that because there's a lot of tickets that can, some of them can be more technical and then so if you know someone is trying to head towards that development ladder, that's a great way of knowing, okay, these tickets are gonna be great tickets for you. You're gonna get more familiar with the code base and, and we'll help support you in that journey. And again, I think that's a great path for people getting into tech. And I would say, we need to work on fixing that stigma around support engineers or even like, to some extent, last episode we talked about developer advocacy, like almost being treated as a lesser developer role, and I think that they, they all require such different skills. As you've shown today, there's just so much nuance to it that you can absolutely make it into a career and grow.

CJ: Thanks Aton. Lindsay, I think it's a, a good place to wrap it up. As always, if you're interested in the show notes, you can head over to Build and learn.dev where we'll drop links to all the resources. Thanks again so much for listening.

Lindsay: Thank y'all.

Colin: Thank you.

CJ: All right, that's all for this episode. We'll see you next time.